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Local Column

Heimerman: Putting students on camera, ahead of the curve

Taking a tour of the Sycamore High School broadcasting clubs’ setup brought back fond memories – of college.

The sets, the equipment, the coordination – I couldn’t have dreamed of it in high school.

And I went to a pretty doggone big high school – Manitowoc Lincoln High, home of the Shipbuilders and home of about 250 graduates every school year. I’m told that, at the time, we had a pretty great multimedia program.

What I saw today at Sycamore High School was light-years ahead of anything we dabbled with back in Manty.

Of course that’s the case, you say. Technology has not just moved forward but accelerated exponentially. True, but it’s the little things the Sycamore School District is doing that will prove huge for kids trying to figure out whether they’d like to go into digital media arts.

Through SpartanTV and Spartan News, they’re creating actual coordinated, bona fide broadcasts.

“We always say if someone walks out of here saying it was a high school production, we did something wrong,” said David Olson, the groups’ advisor and district’s communications director. “We don’t want to be known as the high school group. We want people to leave here saying, ‘Wow.’ ”

That creates aspirational value for kids, and removes the temptation to mail anything in.

Whereas any film we shot in Manty was a graded project that didn’t leave the walls of the school, Sycamore students’ work has been streamed online for years. The next step, not far down the road, will be newscasts shown on local cable, and turning the clubs into credit-earning curriculums.

Speaking of curriculums, over the past couple of years, I’ve written a lot of stories about aligning curriculums, Common Core and 21st-century learning environments, and the common thread for successful school districts is getting all their schools on the same page. From as early as kindergarten until high school graduation, streamline what kids are taught, so they can keep picking up where they left off the previous school year.

Sycamore High is doing just that with these broadcasting opportunities, thanks to Spartan Jr. in the elementary school and another club in the middle school. Those kids are going to be sharper as high school freshmen than I saw in my first year in J-school.

If I’d had the sort of opportunities the district has created, maybe I wouldn’t have toiled in music education for three years in college. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so old (tongue is in my cheek, folks) when I finally started my career.

Maybe I wouldn’t still be paying off student loans. That, sadly, isn’t a joke.

• Christopher Heimerman is the news editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2221, email cheimerman@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @CHeimermanDDC.

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