At 7 a.m. each weekday morning - an hour before school starts - a group of young broadcasters at Wellington Middle School show up, talk into the microphones and record material to be aired throughout the day on their on radio station, WMS.
Their morning show runs from 8 to 11 a.m., the “lunch box” show airs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the “homework show” goes from 2 to 5 p.m. The students talk about sports weather, tell “dad jokes,” which are popular, and do some free talk. They also play 30 second commercials they wrote and recorded, themselves.
Different students have found their own niche with the radio station. Eighth grader Gavin Witham likes being an on air personality and sixth grader Hank Shinliver likes to talk sports. Eighth grader Kendall Janzen likes to work behind the scenes, calling sponsors and selling ads, but she also talks on the air.
Along with selling ads to stay on the air, there is a media team on their website for buying items like t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and stickers. They have a Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter site, but don’t have a Facebook page because it isn’t as popular with young people, but they may add one so their parents and other adults can keep up with the station and what they’re doing.
Gavin came up with the idea for a radio station when he was in sixth grade and approached social studies teacher, Ryan Jenkins, about starting one. It started as a podcast and was not too consistent at the beginning.
The next year, they had one microphone and were broadcasting out of Jenkins’ classroom. Through grants from Kansas Star Casino and Sumner Communications, the students have added two more microphones and a mixing board. The whole class recently made a video in applying for grant from Samsung for more equipment. That grant is still pending.
“Going from one microphone to three makes the station sound a lot better,” sixth grader Kylan Gregory said.
The students seem at ease talking into the microphones, but it’s a skill they have developed. “In the beginning we were all shy,” Kendall said. “Now we just talk.”
Kylan said, “If you played my first recording versus now, you wouldn’t know it’s the same person.”
The students listen to radio disk jockeys, looking for ideas on how they can improve.
“That’s what we talk about a lot,” Jenkins said. “You listen in a different way now. You listen to learn as a student, rather than just listening for enjoyment. You still get enjoyment but you want to learn how to do this.”
Right now, the WMS media team is just a club, but students have been told they meet 95 percent of the standards to turn it into a class. Jenkins said he would like to teach it. Gavin and Kendall would like to see a radio station at the high school, which is where they will be attending next year.
For now, Gavin and Jenkins are working on launching a show where they will interview leaders in the community. It will be called “Four Wheels and a beard.”
“I’m on four wheels,” Gavin said, referring to his wheelchair. Motioning to Jenkins, he said, “And he has a beard.”
Some of the students see the club as a side activity, others are experimenting with it to see if they might like a career in broadcasting, and others like Gavin know they want a career in broadcasting.
“I like the television side of it too,” Gavin said. “Probably even a little bit more. I’m not sure just yet, but I think anything with communications would be a fun job.”