BROOKINGS – Every day, Dakota Prairie Elementary School staff and students are treated to news delivered by some familiar faces, with the school’s third-graders dutifully delivering school announcements.
They inform their classmates of such news as the next day’s lunch, the weather, birthdays (a popular feature), any events and end with an inspirational quote and a joke.
This has been done since Dakota Prairie Principal Kirstin Girard came to Brookings in 2016. It was something that was done at the Dallas school she worked in before coming here. The school’s fourth- and fifth-graders used secondhand equipment passed down from the high school to deliver a live show each morning, with the kids even running the camera.
Of course, that kind of equipment isn’t available at Dakota Prairie, but a laptop with a webcam and posting the announcements to YouTube gets the word out there just as effectively.
Even though it’s being done not by fourth- and fifth-graders like in her Dallas school, but instead by third graders, Girard said, “You’d be amazed by what they can do if you let them loose.”
Each third-grade teacher’s class gets two months’ worth of announcement time. From the class, groups of four or five third-graders are tasked with working together to deliver the announcements before rotating out for another group. Each group should get to do two – typically nonconsecutive – weeks of announcements.
The students decide among themselves who takes on what role, and they make basic scripts to plan what they’re going to say. They spend some time on the Friday before their week of announcements doing that.
When their week in the spotlight comes, Girard tries to have the announcements done at 7:45 a.m. If they need to hold it later – if one of the announcers rides the bus, for example – then they typically do the announcements after the 8:15 bell.
Videos are posted onto Girard’s YouTube channel, which is called Kirstin Girard, and are viewed mostly in the afternoon on classroom SmartBoards.
“Kindergarteners still say, ‘I saw you on TV!’ But by first grade, they start asking, ‘When do I get to be on announcements?’ ‘You get your turn in third grade.’ They are all pumped about it,” Girard said.
Teachers have been supportive of the student-led announcements, too. They’ve also realized that it’s a fun way to get out the word about different activities. A few teachers have appeared on the announcements as special guests.
“Mr. (Matthew) Baker, our music teacher, or Ms. (Emily) Charlson, our art teacher, will usually come one day and share what’s going to be going on in their rooms for Genius Hour because they’ll offer different courses based on interests that may not normally be a part of their curriculum,” such as soap carving, Girard said.
Genius Hour is a time on Friday mornings when students can work on just about anything they like.
Girard said doing announcements with the students has been a great way to get to know her oldest students a bit more, and they do sometimes surprise her. Students she wouldn’t have thought would want to do something like this go through with it and do well.
“We’re looking into a computer camera, and so it’s not as intimidating as standing in front of their class, but then they’re proud when they go and get to watch it in their classroom, too,” Girard said.
Even though it is a fun time for the students giving the announcements and their peers watching them, there are skills being learned through this, too. It takes leadership to do it and cooperation to sort out who does what. They also must exercise responsibility in preparing for their turn.
There’s also an element of internet safety in doing this, since it is done through YouTube. The students never say anyone’s last names, whether their own when being introduced or announcing someone’s birthday.
This is something that Girard sees continuing for a long time at Dakota Prairie. Even though it’s still relatively new to the school, it quickly has become a part of the school’s culture.
And it might change and evolve as it continues. New segments could be incorporated; if they get different equipment, they perhaps could have some students help with more behind the scenes work; and they could work on other social media platforms, uploading pictures they take to the school’s Facebook page, for example.
“Here at Dakota Prairie, our motto is leadership,” Girard said. “That’s the culture of our building. Everybody in here is a leader. Teachers, students, support staff. Everybody has an opportunity to be a leader, so that’s why this is worth it.”
Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected]