Desks remained empty for two full hours as South Aiken High School students moved around the classroom in at least five directions, conversing all the while.
In an English or math class the scene might be chaos, but in Craig Kessler's broadcast class, constant activity is part of the creative process.
Each week Mr. Kessler challenges students by having them produce an innovative, quirky broadcast that features 15 minutes to 20 minutes of news, sports and humorous mini-movies.
"Everyone wants to take this class," Jermaine Dunbar, 17, said. "Like in art and PE, they have set standards, and in here we have choices."
Mr. Kessler's class offers something different from traditional learning environments.
"There isn't a class like this that allows you to be this creative, and it's not super-structured," John Muscarella, 17, said. "We get an assignment and a deadline, and we're free to go."
Jermaine said he never would have been able to create his commercials or music videos on iTunes and iMovie if he wasn't in the class.
Last week he created a commercial about lunch cookie sales, called You Know That Smell. The jingle was set to hip-hop music and made to look like a video from MTV.
"This is what I want to do when I get older," he said. "I want to act and produce, and I couldn't get practice anywhere else."
When he created the class, Mr. Kessler said, he didn't really know what to expect because he had no formal broadcast training.
"We try to simulate a real studio atmosphere," he said. "About 90 percent of it is hands on, which I feel all education classes should be. So many teenagers are kinesthetic learners, and we accommodate that."
Each class learns how to film and produce the program, which includes learning several computer programs on Macs and PCs.
In between serious news and sports, students create humorous commercials and videos to keep viewers interested in the program.
"We broadcast at lunch because there are not TVs in all the classrooms, so we have to compete for students' attention," Mr. Kessler said.
This week, the laughs come from a Thanksgiving Day piece in which students hunt for a turkey, but the turkey outsmarts the hunters by "bonking" them on the head. One of the students was dressed up like the turkey. The whole package was filmed within an hour.
Mr. Kessler's program has grown so popular over the past five years that he requires students to apply. Students must have a B average in English and an overall C average with no discipline problems to be admitted.
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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