Show puts spotlight on schools

Bimonthly TV program informs community about programs, events

February 25, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,special to the sun

With a video camera capturing their every move, kindergartners Austin Klunk and Molli Rymer dropped clay into buckets on either side of a scale.

"What happens if we put another piece of clay in only one of the buckets?" teacher Anne Heidenreich asked Molli.

"It gets bigger," the 6-year-old said.

"Bigger means you grow," Heidenreich said. "It gets heavier."

"Yes, it gets heavier," Molli agreed.

The students at Forest Lakes Elementary School were taking part in a math lesson that was being filmed as part of Your Public Schools, a bimonthly TV program that focuses on what's happening in county schools. About four shows are filmed each school year and aired on Harford Cable Network. Each show airs about twice a week for two months.

Topics for the program, which started six years ago, include media centers and technology in the schools, academic programs and school transportation.

"We try to feature things we think are of interest to the public," said Don Morrison, the director of public information for county schools. "A lot of people aren't aware of what happens in our schools."

The idea to start the program came when Morrison saw Behind the Badge, a program hosted by the county sheriff's department.

"That program got a positive response," Morrison said. "I thought we should try an education-based show."

He worked out an arrangement with the Harford Cable Network to film the show quarterly.

Morrison hosted the program until this year, when he turned it over to Teri Kranefeld, a publications specialist for the school system.

The show includes interviews with faculty, staff and administration and features on programs and events in county schools. The show filmed last week highlights early childhood education programs.

"We chose early childhood to show parents what young children are getting out of the programs in our schools," Morrison said. "Are the programs a baby-sitting service, a chance for young children to socialize, or do they prepare children for future grades?"

Parents want to know the progress their children have made in light of a growing number of changes to the programs this year, said Ginny Smith, coordinator for early childhood education for the county.

For example, all kindergarten and some pre-kindergarten classes are full-day, and both programs offer a more intense curriculum.

"When parents first heard about the curriculum, they were concerned that our programs would push the children too hard," she said. "But once they get a chance to see how well their children are doing, and how much they are capable of learning, they fight to get into the programs."

The feature was taped at North Harford, Forest Lakes, Riverside and Edgewood elementary schools.

"We want to be sure to get an array of schools involved," said Morrison. "Our biggest limitation is that we have to shrink the events of the whole year into one half-hour show. And we have one day to get everything done."

Planning for the show begins several weeks before taping, said Kranefeld, who sat down with Smith for an overview of the early childhood program.

From that meeting Kranefeld compiled a list of questions to have answered: How do you teach kindergartners math? What are the benefits of teaching a formal math curriculum at the kindergarten level? How are the full-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes going?

In a recent interview for the show, Heidenreich listed some of the benefits of teaching the new math curriculum.

"There are more hands-on manipulatives," she said. "The children have already used calculators, and they are learning standard and nonstandard measurements. They are learning the skills needed to do well in first grade."

The full-day prekindergarten classes offered at William Paca and Magnolia elementary schools include art, music and physical education.

"This is our first year offering full-day prekindergarten, so we don't know how it will impact the children in future grades," Smith said.

The show will help answer questions and give parents a look into the classroom, she said.

"The kids in the full-day program have far surpassed kids in the half-day programs," Smith said. "Kids are going home and counting everything. Last year, kindergartners had to be able to count to 15. This year they can count by fives to 120."

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