The hardest part of putting together the Weekly Panthercast isn’t writing the scripts or interviewing students and teachers, or even producing the show — it’s trying not to laugh.
“It’s always fun and it’s never hard, it just sometimes gets somewhat out of hand,” said Finn Valderhaug, who with Jaidon Gupta, recently anchored one of Palm Crest Elementary’s increasingly popular video bulletins.
“We’re supposed to be smiling, but we’re not supposed to be laughing, and sometimes that’s the hard part!” said Gupta, who said he had to excuse himself from the “set” recently because he was so tickled by the name of Keukenhof gardens in the Netherlands (which happened to be one of the picturesque green-screen backdrops the videocast has “visited.”)
Every week this school year, student council members, with help from their advisors Mariana Valderhaug and Amy Tsai, have enjoyed writing, producing and filming Panthercast episodes, fun 10-minute-or-so segments that serve to inform students and their families of the goings-on at the school that week.
“At first I thought it would be fun to do a school newspaper,” Mariana Valderhaug said. “I teach special education and so I’m always thinking of ways to encourage kids to write for fun, so I thought newspaper. And then I thought, logistically, that’s probably really hard, with paper and printing costs. Then I thought maybe we could do a videocast, but I didn’t ever think that once we got going that we’d be doing it every week.”
Groups of three or four students at a time have been responsible for putting together the show, starting with a Tuesday lunch meeting to discuss who will play what role that week. Then, from Tuesday through Friday, they’ll work on the script and run around interviewing students and staff members, including Principal Karen Hurley.
“She’s usually kind of strict, so we just wanted everybody to see the fun side of her,” said Ellie Kim, who conducted the interview with the school’s top administrator.
And how does a 5th-grader achieve that? Well, by asking the truly important questions, such as: “Would you rather find 100 cockroaches in your bed or 100 rats?”
To her credit, Hurley responded honestly (with a pained expression on her face): “That’s a tricky one; I don’t think I’d want either. But if I had to choose … I’d probably say cockroaches because I don’t think they bite as much as rats.”
Discussing the Panthercast prior to her appearance on it, Hurley commended the students for their work.
“It’s really gotten to be a big thing,” she said. “And it gets better and better.”
Finn Valderhaug said he and his peers have learned the technical part of broadcasting, and how to collaborate and to write scripts.
But they’ve also learned about public speaking and, maybe most important, about self-confidence.
“There were a few who are just naturally timid kids, and you’d say, ‘Cut!’ and they’d say, ‘I’m dripping with sweat!’” said Maria Valderhaug (who is Finn’s mother). “But then after they do it a couple times, they got used to it, and that’s been neat to see. Because it’s hard being in front of peers and feeling like you might be judged.”
“At first when I would watch Panthercast with my class, I would hide under my desk,” Gupta said. “But then I got used to it, so now I’m just sitting there, ‘Oh yeah, that’s me.’”