The students position themselves on stage and check their microphones. In the control room, other students signal they’re ready. Out on the set, another student frames his shot.
Then, the magic happens.
Students from Beth O’Leary’s 11th grade U.S. History and Jim Hoogstrate’s television production classes at work together on a regular basis to produce “From All Angles,” an episodic series broadcast on MSG Varsity and channel 77 on cable.
“It’s the future of education,” said student David Ostern. Ostern is the student executive producer of the show. “It’s not your typical class where you take notes and listen to a lecture. You’re taking the knowledge that you’ve obtained both in and out of the class and working together to create a cohesive product.”
The series began late last academic year out of debates that occurred in O’Leary’s class, which paralleled the way the legislative branch of the federal government is structured. Students are elected to leadership positions and assigned to committees. Those committees formed the basis for the debate teams featured on the show.
“We thought, ‘okay, let’s take the whole debate process and televise it’,” O’Leary said.
Students from O’Leary’s class rotate being on the show. One episode a student may serve a moderator, another as a panelist. Students choose and research the topic for each show. Students also created the logos and artwork for the show.
This year, students discussed the Republican presidential candidates, analyzed the ever-mounting phenomenon of student loan debt. An episode exploring the right of same-sex couples to get married is being produced now. A fourth episode will address the redistribution of wealth in the United States.
“We take themes and break them down. We start with where the topic is now then we ask ‘how did we get here’,” O’Leary said.
Panelists are also required to examine where the topic is going and analyze where it could be going. O’Leary wants her students, and those watching the program, to have a holistic view of the topic being discussed.
Each episode contains a “Kids in the Hall” segment where Stefano Tavella goes into the hallway and asks a student what he or she thinks about that show’s topic.
A group of students from Hoogstrate’s class films and produces the show. The students are in charge of making sure the microphones are on, cameras rolling, and shots properly framed.
Unlike O’Leary, Hoogstrate has the same students participate in every episode that’s filmed.
Hoogstrate worked in television for 10 years before becoming a teacher. His students have a track record of producing award-winning work. Several students and several students from both Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley high schools are up for awards this year.
“I try to keep it consistent and they’ve gotten really good,” Hoogstrate said. “You’re show is only as good as it sounds and it looks.”