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Dunbar Magnet Middle School PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab

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In October, we were proud to have the talented broadcast journalism students from our PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab at the Little Rock School District Dunbar Magnet Middle School join us for the 2014 U.S. Senate Debate. What does their NewsHour Student Reporting Lab do, and what did they learn at the “Elections 2014: AETN Debates”?

To get started, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs connect middle and high school students to local PBS Stations and news professionals in their communities to produce original, student-generated video reports. The students who participate in the project learn how to think critically, problem-solve, synthesize information and investigate important topics, in addition to developing critical 21st century communication and collaboration skills. The PBS NewsHour audience at large benefits by gaining unique video reports from authentic young people’s voices — something often missing from our national conversation. To support PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs in Arkansas, AETN partners with Searcy High School and Dunbar Magnet Middle School. At both schools, we work with teachers to connect the labs with a local news professional and provide support as needed for their projects, often by inviting students to participate in AETN events.

Dunbar Magnet Middle School, which is historically and currently linked  to Little Rock Central High School, is one of several magnet schools in the Little Rock School District with specific focus on Gifted and Talented education and International Studies. Many of the school’s elective courses are designed to broaden the scope of middle school education, and the Broadcast Journalism elective is no exception! 

Mr. Jason Raymond teaches seventh and eighth grade students how to develop video news packages and short narrative films on a varies of topics specific to the history of Dunbar and the middle school experience. Through his interests in television production and documentary film, Mr. Raymond works to give Dunbar students with the opportunity to find their digital voices by empowering them to investigate their school and community through digital media production.

At the “Elections 2014: U.S. Senate Debate” Broadcast Journalism students from Dunbar Magnet Middle School taped interviews with spectators on why the vote, who they thought won the debate and what each of the political parties represent. The students also asked at least one official question during the post-debate press conference. This process helped introduce the Dunbar "Broadcast 1" students to formal press events and provided the opportunity to see a college campus — some for the very first time.

After attending the “Elections 2014: AETN Debates” in the University of Central Arkansas Reynolds Performance Hall, Mr. Raymond shared a bit of what his students did and learned:

“Two of my 7th grade students went with me into the press room and, with some coaching, they successfully asked a candidate a question on education. When the candidate called on the ‘gentleman in the back of the room,’ my student (who stands under five feet tall) spoke clearly and with a sense of purpose, ‘I am James Wilson, from Dunbar Magnet Middle School and PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. What are your plans for improving education in Arkansas?’ The room did a collective turn. One reporter from Channel 7 came over and gave James his card after the interview, inviting him to come to the studio.

Overall, I believe that this experience is immeasurable, potentially broadening the scope of what [all of] these students might now deem as possible for their future. This is why we, teachers and professionals in the community, need to partner more often and across a broader range of subjects and events. The experience of simply being a part of the process introduces many who do not, or have not been included prior and leaves them with a sense of inclusion and purpose within the larger community that they (or most of their peers) have never had before. This is why experiences like these are urgently needed and why we, Dunbar and myself, cannot thank AETN and PBS enough for the opportunity to attend.”

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