Unique Partnership Across Sacramento Region Transforms Public School Classrooms into Hi-Tech TV Studios
For more than five years, the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium has partnered with public schools, school districts and the local cable TV commission to create near-magical makeovers throughout the greater Sacramento region – transforming ordinary classrooms into hi-tech TV studios and learning laboratories.
Since September 2013, this unique partnership has invested about $1 million in the creation of TV studios at 29 Sacramento County elementary, middle and high schools spread across nine school districts – both large and small.
The SEVA Studio Labs program is an innovative collaboration of the region’s public schools, public school districts, the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission and the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) – which programs Sacramento’s Comcast channels 15 and 16. The program’s mission is to work hand-in-hand providing them with the training opportunities and equipment needed to create meaningful educational video content to share with the community. Those video productions are then recognized and honored annually at the SEVA, or Student Educational Video Awards, competition with teachers and students.
The schools and districts ensure that the work done in the SEVA studio labs – in many instances, student-produced videos and weekly or monthly campus news programs – is integral to the academic curriculum and pathways of continuing study through college and the professional world.
“It’s about creating 21st century learners,” said Erica Swift, a computer resource teacher who runs the two-year-old TV studio at Herman Leimbach Elementary School (Elk Grove Unified School District). “It’s more about process than content. Students are learning how do you collaborate with others? How do you communicate your ideas? How do you tap into your creativity and critical thinking to actually produce something?”
“The goal is to put the equipment and training in the hands of teachers and students,” said Abby Pane Jaske, producer at SECC, a non-profit partnership of area K-12 school districts, Sacramento State and the Los Rios Community College District. “Then we step aside, and let them begin to learn and create.”
At Leimbach Elementary, for example, Swift says second graders are working on weather report videos as part of their reading and science studies. And fifth graders are producing “how to” instructional videos in connection with science experiments and projects for a science fair. Meanwhile, students also produce the weekly principal’s announcements and the monthly “Leimbach Newscast.”
At Inderkum High School in the Natomas Unified School District, teacher Melissa Crowley May – a 20-year broadcast veteran – leads more than 150 students in a class called “Broadcast Media 1,” which is part of the high school’s new Broadcast and Media Arts Pathway. The pathway will feature group projects for students that might integrate English and the sciences.
Broadcast Media 1 students shoot video outside the classroom and work inside their three-camera TV studio to produce their “Tiger Talk” high school news program. In line with the pathway concept, students who succeed in Broadcast Media 1 can advance to Broadcast Media 2 and, eventually, Broadcast Media 3, which will involve college credit and internships.
“It gives you the communication skills that everybody needs in a competitive workforce,” May said of her broadcast classes. “Being able to deliver your message and story is a really important skill … It’s also a lot of hands-on learning, and I think it’s a great way to see what’s outside our walls.”
An important linchpin for the TV studio lab program’s success is how the TV studios are funded: every participant must make a financial investment in the TV studio labs. In most instances, the individual school and the school district typically contribute a combined two thirds of the total cost of the lab – the school and the district work out how much each will invest – and the remaining third usually comes from a Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission equipment fund.
SECC’s involvement doesn’t end there.
“We also provide the outlet of the educational cable channels 15 and 16 to greatly expand the audience for these students, many of whom have a weekly time slot for their broadcasts,” said SECC’s Jaske. “And we also provide recognition for the great work that comes out of the studio.”
That recognition comes in the form of the annual SEVA – or Student Educational Video Awards – program. The contest celebrates the talent and vision of the region’s top student video producers. The entry deadline for the 2017 competition is March 3, and the awards ceremony is scheduled for April 19 at the Sacramento State Ballroom, with Red Carpet – yes, Red Carpet! – at 6 p.m., and the awards gala at 7 p.m.