WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — When Summit School eighth-graders Olivia Garner, Emmie Littlejohn and Zoe Howerton signed off Thursday on Screamin’ Eagle Radio – the school’s student radio station – they finished the show heard ‘round the world.
Or at least a show available for listening around the world, via Internet live streaming, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Since July, the Winston-Salem private school has been streaming its radio shows live online.
In its third year, the programs hosted by Upper School students (grades 6 through 9) were once relegated to on-campus play only. Last summer, Henry Heidtmann, a classroom technology specialist who teaches the radio course, was able to build the capabilities for online streaming and archiving. On the way to school, parents and students can listen to the school menu and calendar. Artists from around the country can hear their songs playing online.
“All of these people can listen now,” Heidtmann said.
Heidtmann’s been teaching the ins and outs of radio broadcasting for the past three years. Eighth-grade students take a four-week broadcasting class as part of rotating, optional “studio” classes.
During the course, students spend several weeks learning the history of radio, how it’s evolved and what types of radio programs are out there today. For the final two weeks, student teams plan and create their own shows. Each team is responsible for two half-hour broadcasts. The shows feature music, live in-studio interviews, short feature pieces the students write themselves and public service announcements.
While one team is broadcasting its 30-minute show, the other students listen and critique. They learn things and get ideas from watching others on air, Heidtmann said. Usually, the second show goes more smoothly.
Tommy Hopkins, one of Heidtmann’s current eighth-grade students, said he was glad to have one show under his belt when he took to the air for his second show on Wednesday. Hopkins and his team rewrote their show to break the news about the passing of Maya Angelou.
“I was still nervous because of the breaking news, but I felt a lot more confident,” Hopkins said of his second time on air.
Most students said they probably won’t pursue a career in radio broadcasting, but they come away from the class with skills that will serve them just as well off-air.
“We learned how to interview someone, which can help with job interviews,” said eighth-grader Michael Noll. “I’m looking forward to using that skill.”
Heidtmann says he can see the students’ confidence grow from one show to the next.
That change is especially evident in the hosts of the morning programs. In addition to the half-hour afternoon shows, Heidtmann organizes a 17-minute morning program that runs throughout the school year. A dedicated group of student hosts rotate through the studio, coming in before school starts to produce a show of music and information. The morning program is run by volunteers, which Heidtmann opens up to students outside of his eighth-grade class.
“Three days a week its run by ninth-graders,” he said. “The other two days, it’s whoever walks through the door.”
More often than not, it’s sixth-graders Jackie Rose Sparnicht and Caleb Rollins in the studio half an hour before school starts. They’ve been regular hosts this year and are naturals on air, Heidtmann said.
“It’s something fun to do,” Sparnicht said. “I like working with computers.
“And Mr. Heidtmann is awesome.”
When Screamin’ Eagle Radio got set to begin live streaming on the Internet, Heidtmann put out a call for local music the station could put on the air. Artists from Minnesota to Florida answered the call, responding with more than 80 albums worth of tunes so far. The station got music it could play, broadcast and archive with full permission and students got to learn about local music.
“I really enjoy it,” said Rollins, one of the morning hosts. “I get to hear new music that I haven’t heard or been exposed to.”
Screamin’ Eagle Radio is always looking for more music to play on air. Digital downloads can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hard copy CDs can be sent to or dropped off at Summit School, 2100 Reynolda Rd. WS NC 27106.