On Friday, May 3, three fifth-grade students from Central Park Elementary School sat on a couch in a classroom. Reading from their notes, the trio conducted a taped broadcast to be aired on the following Monday at their school. Announcements included that it was Teacher Appreciation Week and testing was going on. The school’s compost program was introduced. Launched at the beginning of this school year, this news broadcast program is Chameleoncast, named after the school mascot.
“Chameleoncast is a student-run news show that communicates news and activities throughout our campus,” said Jennifer Zeitler, Central Park fifth-grade teacher and Chameleoncast faculty adviser. “The show is run by the fifth-graders. I’m there to support them but they do the show on their own. After students see the script, they do editing by making suggestions about what they want to add and change. They decide who gets assigned to say what. They do a run through and then the show gets taped.”
According to Zeitler, Chameleoncast tapes every day for the following school day. Most teachers watch it with their students the first thing in the morning.
“Students get to choose how they want to participate in Chameleoncast,” Zeitler said. “Some students want to do video editing and add sounds, music or clips to the videos. Some students who don’t want to be a news anchor for Chameleoncast have done art work for the show. For example, they’ve done art work for the T-shirt we’re going to make for the show. We have about 51 fifth-grade students. About 20 fifth-grade students have participated in Chameleoncast. We’re using a program called TouchCast — it’s an app.”
Participating students have been building their public speaking skills, among other life skills.
“In the beginning, the student news anchors were shy. They weren’t looking at the cameras,” Zeitler said. “But now they’re able to stay focused on the camera and look at each other while they are talking. At first, students were afraid to mess up on camera. I told them they might stumble on a word or mispronounce something, and I told them that it’s okay. They can just keep on going. This is learning a life skill of going with the flow, persevering and taking care of each other. They also have to exercise time management because they often come [to tape] before school starts.”
Zeitler explained that when Central Park Elementary School first opened, the principal delivered announcements outside in the morning. Students were all lined up by grade level. In the first year, the school hosted a small group with only kindergarten through third-grade students.
“Now we have more classes and we have all the other grades. While our group grew, it became hard to hear the announcements,” Zeitler said. “We want to broadcast news so everyone could hear and feel included and build community so we all know what’s going on in the classrooms and around the school.
“We’ve had students from other grade levels come and ask to make an announcement,” Zeitler continued. “For example, they would make announcements about lost and found, a new clean up crew committee after school and a student-run magazine a student was starting. Our next steps would be going into classrooms and interviewing other students about what they’re doing in class so we can continue to build community throughout our campus.”