Students in area school districts are learning about current events through one of their favorite mediums television.
A number of districts in the surrounding communities including Eudora, Tonganoxie, McLouth, Perry-Lecompton and Oskaloosa have approved the use of Channel One, a news program produced by Whittle Educational Network.
The 12-minute programs feature fast-moving segments, MTV-style graphics, music, young newscasters, and feature stories of interest to junior high and high school students.
"As visually oriented as a lot of kids are, it's designed for their level," said Lewis Faust, McLouth High School principal. "But the content has good value."
The company provides installation of the service, a satellite dish, two videocassette recorders and one television set for every 23 students, all free of charge. In return, schools must promise that 90 percent of the student body will view the programming a certain number of days during the school year.
THE NEWS programs are broadcast to schools and recorded overnight, and television sets in the classrooms switch on automatically at a designated time each day for students to view the show.
Roberta Michael, Tonganoxie district library director, said the two minutes of advertising included in the Channel One programs have triggered national criticism. However, teachers in Tonganoxie have used the commercials as a learning tool. "We teach them to be critical of what they see," she said.
Michael said Channel One's strongest appeal was the ability to whet the interest of children for current events.
"They felt like children were not taking the opportunity to learn about their world," she said. "You could tell them to go home and watch the news and maybe they would and maybe they wouldn't. They needed to learn what was going on in the world."
FAUST, OF McLouth, said the system also offers additional educational programming through the "Classroom Channel." Like regular television, the channel broadcasts a number of programs, which are described in a teachers' guide. Teachers can request that the district media specialist record a particular show to view with their classes at a later time.
One program that caught his eye was a live hookup between an Ohio high school and a school in the Soviet Union, Faust said.
Charlie Watts, Eudora High School principal, said Eudora junior high and high school students will view Channel One starting Monday. In addition to the program's successful format, the opportunity to use the equipment for other educational purposes was appealing, he said.
Watts said he'd like to see students eventually creating daily video announcements or a drama production to be broadcast over the Channel One monitors.
"When the technology's available for us like this, I think it's important for us to have as much of it as we can," he said.