EPWORTH, Iowa — Brenna Penner and Paige Koetz, both 9, had never been on TV before, but they were thrilled to make their debut.
“It’s really fun,” Brenna said. “The whole school gets to see it.”
On Thursday, the girls’ faces were projected in every classroom and hallway at Epworth Elementary School as they read morning announcements to their peers.
Making news anchors out of its students is just one of the objectives of Epworth Elementary’s new investment in broadcast technology.
Using a $6,500 grant from the Dubuque Racing Association, school officials invested in equipment to turn one room into a miniature broadcasting studio.
“It was something that we had to do piece by piece,” said Dan Butler, principal of Epworth Elementary School. “It definitely has evolved as we have gone on.”
Butler said school officials initially planned simply to install some television monitors in the hall to project daily announcements.
However, Butler and his colleagues quickly saw an opportunity, he said.
“We started out with me just reading the announcements, but we really wanted to get the kids in there,” Butler said. “It was one of those chances that we couldn’t let go of.”
For the past three weeks, Epworth Elementary School students have been reading announcements twice per week.
School staffers have had no trouble in coming up with other creative ways to implement the broadcasting technology.
“We live-streamed the entire presidential inauguration,” Butler said. “We have a game that we play where we play a song on the broadcast, and the first class to tweet or email me the song gets a prize. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Butler said the new technology has helped connect the school’s staff and students.
Many students have expressed excitement for the new program.
“We get to hear all the different voices,” Paige said. “It’s not that hard to do. As long as you can read, you can do it.”
Butler said allowing students to broadcast the announcements has become an excellent way to boost their confidence and public-speaking skills.
“It’s such a great way to boost kids’ confidence in themselves,” Butler said. “They are getting some great experiences that they are going to remember long after they leave this place.”
Currently, only fourth-graders are allowed to read the announcements. Butler said he plans to expand the program to include all grade levels and add more television monitors throughout the school.
Right now, he is working on funding those endeavors. But there is definitely not a lack of volunteers.
“I already have third-graders asking me when they can get up and read the announcements,” Butler said. “It seems like everyone wants to be on TV.”