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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
For the past five years, sixth-grade students from Ketchikan Charter School have been helping members of the Ketchikan community perfect their social skills in the comfort of their own cars and homes.
A group of students visited KRBD Community FM Radio on Friday to record public service announcements that they’ve been working on in their social skills unit at the school. The students talk about topics such as being patient, conflict resolution, how to take no for an answer and how to disagree appropriately, among many other skills.
Erin Henderson, an English teacher at the school for the past 10 years, spearheaded the project. She wanted to find a way to bring the school’s new social skills unit to life.
“Each year, we do a persuasive writing unit in sixth grade,” Henderson said. “I was trying to come up with each year something that would make it more real, like they’re actually persuading someone to do something. We had done posters, we had done plays that we went around and did for different classes.”
After helping her coworker and friend Halli Kennoyer with her show at the community radio station, the idea popped into Henderson’s head — the kids could write and record their own public service announcements.
Now, the students write their 30-second PSA with a few of their peers as a base for the project, and then expand on it by writing a five-paragraph essay on the subject at school. Henderson said the students are able to see how their messages can help the community firsthand, like the student who heard a man being rude at the grocery store.
“Sometimes what you do at school it feels like, you know, they’re just going through the motions, or it doesn’t have a lot of real-world value,” Henderson said. “But this is a way that they can feel a part of the community and like their voices are being heard and what they say is important.”
Kennoyer, who joined Henderson and the group of sixth-graders at KRBD on Friday’s snowy afternoon, said she’s also noticed how their announcements are able to influence the community.
Kennoyer was at the store one day when a woman came up to her and asked if she’s the person that “works with those kids that talk about social skills on the radio.”
“I said, ‘Yes I do work with those kids,’” Kennoyer said.
The woman said one night, she and her husband were arguing and then one of the kid’s announcements came over the radio. She said they were both “pretty embarrassed” that they were getting advice from children.
Although it’s advice coming from children, the topics can be useful for all ages, according to Deb Turnbull, the general manager of KRBD.
“People love the announcements. We get feedback all the time about how wonderful it is to hear all of your young voices doing so well at what you’re doing,” Turnbull told the group of students.
Turnbull and Stuart Whyte, the development director at KRBD, brought groups of students back to recording rooms at the station. Turnbull took the first group, which included sixth-graders Sophie Cron, Maddox Davis and Yeil Bryant.
She told them to leave behind their coats and anything else that makes noise, as the microphones pick up every sound. On their way back, they saw and heard the many dogs that hangout at the station during the day with their owners.
The students made their way into a room with acoustic insulation on the walls, which Turnbull explained to them is for making their voices sound “soft.” When the walls are concrete, she said, the sounds would bounce off the hard walls and they wouldn’t sound like themselves.
The students had to take turns, reading their two sentences of the PSA into the recording microphone twice to make sure the sentences were flawless. Turnbull edited the PSA’s together right in front of them so they could see how it’s done — and hear their final product.
The first group’s PSA, which will play with the song “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter, was all about being patient. The students advised their listeners to sit or stand quietly and wait for their turn to talk or until they’re called on; and they said “being patient is better than being angry and annoying someone.”
“If you’ve never listened to KRBD,” Turnbull said to the students, “you should start to after today because you’re going to hear yourselves on it from time-to-time.”