Saint Thomas Aquinas Halo students are broadcasting pros and they’re showing younger students how to do it.

 

Junior high students from Holy Cross and Prince of Peace Catholic Grade Schools recently spent an afternoon broadcasting from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ recording studio. But that wasn’t all they did. Under the direction of Al Miner, Technology teacher and Halo Club moderator, the students took part in building a teleprompter for use at their own schools. For these junior high students it was their first ‘field trip’ in a very long time - pre-COVID to be exact. For our Halo students, it was the first time a group of grade school students broadcasted from the studio.

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Holy Cross and Prince of Peace teachers delved into broadcasting this year mostly as a result of COVID. They were determined to find a way to make their students who were learning from home feel connected. So they started broadcasting the morning prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and daily announcements. Once they got going, they found out their students loved it! Getting the chance to tour the Saint Thomas Aquinas broadcasting studio and speak with our Halo students was an opportunity to show their students how they could continue broadcasting in high school.

Aquinas students and Halo producers, Michael Payne and Charlie Luther, were excited to show off the equipment and the stylish recording studio, and share their knowledge. Broadcasting is more than just standing behind a monitor and reading from a teleprompter.  You need to be prepared with a script especially when recording live.  There’s also the technical side of producing.  As Charlie told the students, “I thought I loved broadcasting but then I realized what I really enjoy is the video production side of it.” That is something the younger students know little about. For now, the teachers at both of the grade schools have taken on the brunt of the production side.  But they’d like to see their students take on more responsibility. Michael and Charlie shared with them the types of microphones, sound systems and accessories used - including what color of green paint was used on the back wall of the recording studio. (By the way, if you’re wondering, it's Behr Ultra Base 1753, DC4B-50-5). Soon after, the students were led downstairs to the Innovation Lab to dive into the production side by building a teleprompter with Al Miner.

The students helped cut the corrugated plastic board and attach the pieces together in the shape of a box using good old duct tape. The glass from 8x10 photo frames was positioned in the ‘box’ at an angle. They discovered that the glass is used to reflect the script off the iPad (or other such video source) so that when they read the script they are actually looking straight at the camera.

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Both Holy Cross and Prince of Peace are hoping to broaden their broadcasting, and getting the chance to learn from our Halo students was invaluable.  When asked to share a bit of advice on broadcasting, Michael told the junior high students, “Start creating stuff you want the world to see. A lot of the stuff we’ve done here has been self-directed”. And Charlie chimed in saying, “Explore opportunities (with broadcasting) and figure out what you like to do”. The most important thing is to just get started.

Two reasons to  teach your students to broadcast - STEAM and PBL

Al Miner, Technology teacher and Halo club moderator has years of experience in teaching students how to create videos for storytelling. Broadcasting is multifaceted and by nature a collaborative effort involving many individuals. It naturally falls within STEAM and Project Based Learning (PBL).

“As with any high school STEAM endeavour, the concepts and possibilities behind broadcasting are more important than the granular skills learned with any one piece of hardware or software. The students are learning how to be confident and powerful together in front of and behind the camera in a fast-paced collaborative environment.”

When it comes to PBL, broadcasting fits right in that wheelhouse as well. “The regular production schedule of a daily news program is cross-curricular - from the writing components of a composition class, the creative elements of an art class, to the application and knowledge demands learned in a technology class. The whole team of people from script writers, to producers, camera operators, on-screen talent, etc. works together to create a finished product, and, as it’s a daily effort, they have to build those professional relationships to do it again the next school day.”

What do you need to start teaching students broadcasting?  Al says, “As long as you can record video and audio you can make videos to share”.  To live-stream, all you really need is an iPad and a microphone.  From there you can step up to a computer with an external connected camera (either a “web-cam” or a real camera/camcorder with a capture card) and some dedicated video streaming software like “OBS” (free) to do things like multiple cameras, transitions, and overlays.”

Once you’re up and going, you can begin to improve the components like adding a nicer camera, more mics, nicer software. Additionally, a real physical set has the benefit of being in the camera with the people, but a virtual set and green screen lets your people be anywhere in the world!

About STA Halo

STA Halo is Saint Thomas Aquinas High School’s student-led broadcasting and video news club. Under the direction of Al Miner, the team broadcasts daily morning announcements in addition to sporting events and more. Content is entirely created and produced by students. It has been officially added to the course catalog as a ‘for-credit-class’ starting in the 2021-22 school year. This will allow the students the potential to produce higher quality and broader coverage news pieces, as well as expand their offerings to entertainment and educational programming.

During COVID, Halo didn’t stop. As a matter of fact, when the decision was made last March, 2020 to finish school virtually from home,  the Halo kids were insistent that it continue. Students pre-taped segments on their phones from home. They took turns recording the daily prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the daily birthdays, the announcements, the fun fact of the day, and other elements. Students sent Mr. Miner their recordings and he would edit them together the night before so every morning at 8:00 a.m. the Saints could pray together before class, just like they did every school day before COVID. Administrators, faculty, students and parents commented that having Halo as a regular part of their morning was an important point of connection to the Saints community. It helped provide a rare feeling of “normal” in that abnormal moment of their lives.

When students returned to school in August, for the 2020-21 school year,  the Halo students stepped in again. This time live streaming Mass. In order to maintain distancing protocols, classes were assigned a designated spot from which to watch mass - either the Commons, the Theater or the Gym. Mass was said live in the Gym as was customary. Halo students position the cameras between the bleachers, in order to film mass and stream it live to the other two locations.  Screens are in place for students to watch. At Communion, student Eucharistic Ministers distribute the hosts to each location. COVID imposed lots of changes, but with help from Halo, it hasn’t kept Aquinas from celebrating the Mass as a community.

A brief timeline of Halo’s creation

2007-08.  The name Halo originated out of a collaborative project between the English and Tech departments.  A cohort of students took Journalism Composition and Video Creation taught by Mr. Hallauer and Mr. Miner. They created two News Magazine type programs and voted for “The Halo”  as the name of their project.

2016-17. A studio for video and audio production was included as part of the Innovation Lab plans.  Originally to be a corner of the main Lab itself, the relocation of some offices on the second floor made possible a small but perfectly isolated dedicated Studio space. 

2018. In May, a group of students approached Mr. Miner with plans for a broadcast video club which would do occasional news and sports videos. The name Halo was ‘resurrected’ as the name of the club. When it came to branding, the Halo logo, virtual set, animated Halo logo, animated transitions, custom thumbnails, were all created by senior Michael Payne (class of 2021). The Halo opening theme sequence was created and scored by Arden Meade-Esvang (class of 2020).

2018-19. Classrooms were equipped with either a 72” touchscreen monitor or a video projector and 96” screen. Devices were placed in every classroom so that teachers could, with relative ease, turn on their screen and tune in to Halo while it was streaming. In February of that year, morning prayer and announcements transitioned to being entirely on Halo and streamed to the classrooms.

2019-20. The student leaders of Halo researched and improved the technology (hardware and software), making the morning routine and streaming much easier and better looking.

2020-2021.  Halo expanded into mobile streaming and sports “broadcasting” with regular coverage of home-games of varsity teams. Some of our intrepid stream-team even made the journeys to Omaha and Raytown to cover Football games.  We’ve heard from coaches that our video is higher quality than the “film” they usually use to review games!

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Al Miner, Technology teacher and Halo Moderator