When MacArthur Middle School realized it had an information distribution problem, the faculty turned to their student body for help.
Enter the “Mac Minute,” a regular video broadcast created by MMS students to keep their classmates, teachers, parents and the community informed.
Overseeing the project is the school’s yearbook adviser Elijah Morlett, who said the videos were, in part, inspired by Lawton Proud, a campaign that spreads news and information through online videos, highlighting activities happening in and around Lawton.
“I saw that and thought ‘Why couldn’t we do something like that?’” Morlett said. “Now the kids are really picking up on it.”
The project kicked off last school year, but has really come into its own this year. And though lots of students are trying their hand at video production, four eighth graders are leading the charge: Kierstyn Doyle, Dane Edwards, Garrett Herring and Bailey Lowder.
Edwards serves as the group’s producer and said he first developed an interest in video production when he attended a videography/photography summer camp at Great Plains Technology Center.
“It’s been cool to have a team that cares about (Mac Minute),” Edwards said. “We work well together.”
Morlett said Edwards has been the leader the project has needed. According to Edwards, this is his first leadership role, and he’s now involved in MMS Student Council.
“It’s fun to lead a group,” Edwards said. “I’m doing the best I can, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Herring is often behind the camera when the group shoots the videos at various locations around the school.
He has quite an eye for detail, calling attention to out-of-place items in the background and ensuring his subjects get their enunciation just right, even if it means 10 takes.
“A lot of people like to pay attention to the big things, but I notice little things and I like fixing them,” Herring said. “I think when you fix the little things, everything else is better.”
And his team appreciates the effort.
“It makes our job so much easier,” said Doyle, who often backs him up on the camera.
Doyle and Lowder said they have fun brainstorming ideas on how to keep their viewers engaged. From hilarious skits to informative props, they find interesting ways to keep everyone up to date on book fair schedules, holiday events and fundraisers.
In the beginning, as the adviser, Morlett was feeding his students the info they needed to include. Now, they often bring ideas to him, things they hear around school or events they want to give exposure to.
“Every week we learn something new,” Doyle said. “And it’s fun to see that we’re helping our school do better and bigger things.”
And they know they’re getting views.
“My mom will tell me, ‘Hey, I saw the video, thanks for the info,’” Lowder said.
They also post their vides nearly every week on the MacArthur Middle School Facebook page and their YouTube channel, and the stats speak for themselves, with their videos averaging 1,500 views.
“Parents love seeing their students in the video,” Morlett said. “When they see them, they want to share them.”
One of their most-viewed videos celebrated the school’s undefeated volleyball team.
“It got tons of views,” Morlett said. “It took me by surprise; I knew we could reach more people by video, but I didn’t know how much more.”
Often, their most popular videos involve the crew shooting “on-scene,” at a rally or event.
“We can’t just say it’s important to participate,” Morlett said. “We have to show that we do it, too.”
The students might be having fun, but Morlett knows this kind of experience is invaluable as his students consider how to spend their high school years and even future college and professional careers.
This semester, Morlett took his students on a field trip to the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
“They were pretty excited about that,” Morlett said, adding toured the school’s television studio and learned about their print and web design projects.
With as much media content as today’s teens consume, Morlett said it’s important they peek behind the curtain once in a while.
“I want them to understand how and where and why it’s being created,” he said.
He’s also seen the students who invest in Mac Minute grow in confidence and maturity, especially when they take on leadership roles. And ultimately, that’s enough.
“I just want to keep them growing and learning,” Morlett said. “That’s all I could really hope for as a teacher.”