The future of media production is happening at Studio 107 at Pilgrim High School, and a four-person team of educators is just as excited about its potential as the students they’re instructing.
Last Thursday, students from all different grade levels in an introduction to media class got a crash course in one of the core essentials of many media-related industry jobs – how to wrap up cables properly for storage. In the shadow of an enormous wall coated in green paint – making it the largest green screen in the state – two students raced to see who could properly wrap up their cables quickest, with instructor Christopher Pratt looking on as a judge.
“The kids are enthusiastic about these opportunities,” Pratt said. “It’s good for the kids who maybe don’t excel in other areas but perform better here because it’s much more hands-on.”
“It provides real-world applications because what we’re teaching, we’re also doing,” said Brian Callahan, an English teacher as well as a part of the Studio 107 team.
Relatively new to the district, the Studio 107 curriculum provides students at Pilgrim the chance to learn a vast array of real-world skills in communications fields. Everything from learning how to operate a camera, putting together their own short films, recording and editing audio for podcasts and a host of industry standard software tools are available to the kids through classes and extracurricular activity opportunities.
The studio also enables high school educators to implement more creative ways to teach classically book-bound topics, such as English, through inventive methods like creating storyboards and bringing their work to life on film or through other forms of media that the students shoot and produce. Students are able to earn required credits in technology and fine arts through participating in the Studio 107 curriculum.
“There is a lot of creative license, but it is all guided by the curriculum,” said Richard Denningham, English teacher and Studio 107 instructor. “They seem to be more interested in it.”
As of this year, the Studio 107 curriculum has become CTE certified by the state, opening up the program to students from elsewhere in the district and also creating the potential for additional funding from the Rhode Island Department of Education as a technical education program. Pratt and Director of Secondary Education, Bob Littlefield, said the long-term goal now is to continue to progress the program so that students can receive relevant college credits upon graduating.
“It’s not our job to put out professional audio/video engineers, but we’re teaching these kids lifelong skills that they’re going to be able to use throughout their entire lives,” said Pratt.
The program already boasts over 350 students between the four grade levels at Pilgrim with more than 10 classes utilizing various aspects of the studio for instruction. At their disposal is a fully equipped audio lab along with a separate room full of Mac desktops decked out with powerful software capable of performing many different media-related tasks.
“There’s an opportunity for every kid in this school to get in this room,” said Andrea Place, audio/visual technology instructor, who mentioned that kids can get exposure to the Adobe Suite, Avid Pro Tools, Apple Logic Pro X and music composition program Finale – all of which are used today by professionals in their respective fields.
Considering the expansive studio space used to be utilized as an in-school suspension room – with remnants of oil-soaked machinery from its days as a metalworking classroom – Place and her fellow instructors were enthusiastic about the current possibilities of the program, which they hope will continue to blossom moving forward.
“The opportunity for any student to come down here and work on a variety of things, from video recording to student-led projects, is tremendous,” Place said.