D.C.’s Eliot Hine Middle School launches television broadcast program


D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson fields questions from sixth-graders during the launch of Eliot-Hine Middle School’s television broadcast program. (Emma Brown/Washington Post)
March 7, 2014

Students at the District’s Eliot-Hine Middle School formally launched a new joint television-radio broadcast program Friday, choosing Chancellor Kaya Henderson as their interview subject for the half-hour show.

“It’s actually kind of exciting,” said Javon Dumas-Johnson, one of three sixth-graders who quizzed Henderson onscreen. “The chancellor, she’s the boss of everybody!”

Among the questions: What would you tell parents who are considering sending their children to a D.C. public school?

“I think DCPS has a particular reputation, and I think If you haven’t been to a DCPS school recently, come and visit,” Henderson said. “There are amazing things happening in so many of our schools that are not generally what you hear about. ... Come check us out! Our students are awesome, our teachers are awesome.”

[To see the full Henderson interview show, click here.]

Eliot-Hine teacher Mandrell Birks launched a radio broadcast class two years ago, teaching students how to plan for and produce a live online audio stream. Birks added television this year, and he said students are electrified by the chance to learn concrete, hands-on broadcast skills — and to apply those skills in a real way.

So far, Eliot-Hine students have interviewed D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) as well as Grammy Award-winner Regina Bell and sportscaster James Brown. On Monday, eighth-graders are slated to interview former NAACP Benjamin Jealous.

Birks said it takes “thousands of e-mails, thousands of follow-ups” to secure such high-profile interviewees, but he has his eye on an even bigger target: The White House. “We’re itching to get to the president,” said Birks, adding that he has a ready-made answer whenever people ask him if he really thinks he and his kids can manage such a feat.

“Yes we can,” he said, smiling.

The Eliot-Hine network will include a range of student-run shows, including a poetry segment and a variety of music segments. All of Eliot-Hine’s broadcasts are streamed live online and recordings are archived at Ustream.tv.

Birks has been able to run the broadcast class with financial support from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation and from a DCPS Proving What’s Possible grant. But he said he’s on the prowl for more donations; the class only has two video cameras and he could use four or five.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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