Lights, camera, action shine in LHS classes
Maybe Dan Wessel's classroom is separate from the main high school building for a reason.
"It's not like your math or English class," Wessel said.
Instead it's an oasis of creativity that at times resembles organized chaos: An oasis because students have the freedom to plan and execute their program from scratch, something unique in a structured school environment; organized chaos because 16 students in the video production class are channeling energy into producing their first show of the semester. The show is set to air Jan. 21 on Channel 2, Lansing's public access channel.
For the past four years, students in Wessel's classes have been airing their student-produced segments. Shows made in the video production class are broadcast within the high school; the Leadership Media class produces shows that can be seen throughout Lansing on Channel 2 and on lansingcurrent.com.
In both classes, students take the reins in their learning. Allowing the students to take initiative has been a catalyst for creativity, Wessel has found.
"I've tried to make the class more structured, but I have found that kids learn more by finding their own way," Wessel said.
The lack of structure does not hamper the students' productivity. If anything, it enhances the learning experience.
Two seniors, Jeff Hoins and Chris Bristow, recently collaborated to produce an LTV segment based on the Comedy Central show "South Park" about their personal experiences in the high school. The segment featured voiceovers from foreign language teacher Marla Spellman, Principal Steve Dike and Wessel. Hoins stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it.
"No amount of teaching could help us learn it better than by learning things on our own and doing it ourselves," Bristow said.
The first time around, new students have the opportunity of working with someone who has previously taken the class, but after that Wessel expects them to produce segments on their own.
"I hate to be up front right now," Wessel said as students huddled up to plan next week's edition of LTV. "OK, ready, set, break."
They divide into two groups, one responsible for producing segments about sports and the other responsible for executing segments about academics and activities. It's a new tactic the class decided to use this semester. In the fall semester, they formed two groups that alternated the weeks they produced the show, which usually comes out once every week and a half.
They use combinations of applications such as Photoshop to create graphics and Ulead to edit and produce their video segments.
When Wessel switched from teaching math to teaching the video production class seven years ago, only six students enrolled in the class. Now, because of the popularity of the classes, students have to apply to either Video Production, a class that produces segments that air throughout the high school, or the LTV class. This semester, 16 students have enrolled in each class.
"It's grown into a pretty big monster," Wessel said.
The projects Chris Bristow has done in class have helped him gain video editing skills and become better prepared as a videographer, he said.
"I've really learned to think things through while I plan and do them," Bristow said.
Bristow and Hoins will take what they have learned in video production class to the outside world next year. Both plan to attend Kansas University.
The Lansing program boasts many successful alumni:
¢ Staley Dietrich, the student founder of the video production department, has worked for television stations across the country.
¢ Nick Bristow, Chris's older brother, works for an advertising agency in Atlanta and has produced commercials for the Georgia State Lotto.
¢ Christina Lyon went to Brigham Young University and worked with the BYU-TV station.
¢ Angie Horner is now a video editor for KSHB 41 in Kansas City and is finishing her degree at Park University.
¢ Kasey Weber now works for the Kansas University Athletic Corp.'s Rock Chalk Video.