Radio, it’s as easy as ABC

Excursions are a pain to organise. The sheer volume of paperwork makes you question whether or not it is essential to leave school premises so when someone asks you to tag along on their trip you leap at the opportunity. Why? Because the worst behaved kids are generally unrecognisable once you get them out of the classroom because it is that environment that brings out their worst – put them in public and they often perform at their best. Today I was out with some of our best kids… it was hilarious.

Today’s students were part of my school’s gifted and talented program and they were out learning about how radio works under the guidance of a fantastic English/media teacher whose ability masks her inexperience. My primary role was bus driver but I think I brought more to the table thanks to my excursion-within-an-excursion. More on that later.

We boarded the bus and the initial leg was filled with an energy built on anticipation and excitement. The kids were tasked with an impromptu research assignment while we traversed the freeway which they soon completed and reported back to their peers – I told you they were our better students.

The ABC studios was our first stop. The national broadcaster houses facilities for radio, TV, and film and we got to see everything. We were greeted at the door by Sarah, the manager, and Mike, the security officer and fire warden. Sarah walked us through the building. We started in the radio broadcast room where we saw the producers hard at work behind the scenes, the presenter talking into the microphone in the adjacent soundproof booth. It was likened to a duck on water; the presenter was the surface level calm but beneath that was a flurry of activity.  It was fascinating to see the producers having hurried phone conversations while surfing the net and watching TV. All the while they engaged our students and answered their questions, no doubt a difficult task.

We then got to see the front and back end of a recording studio followed by a sound stage. In this space we saw remnants of film and television projects including the movie, Blue Dog, and the classic to show, Countdown.

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The students were mostly fascinated by a unreachable door that opened onto the second floor but could only be accessed by crane (and wasn’t an architectural joke like they hoped it was). This was the first of many things that excited the kids. The tardis booth was a high point for some but the drama room (used to record radio theatre/drama) was loved by all, including me. I relished the opportunity to use coconut shells to mimic the sound of horse hooves and was intrigued by a set of stairs which had three different textures per step so that it could be used to suggest a variety of settings when you hear them being stepped on during a broadcast.

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I think the kids dropped ten years at this point of the tour – they were as excited as toddlers at Christmas.

Sarah bid us farewell at this point and we hit up a cafe for lunch before moving on to our next venue. We arrived at RTR earlier than expected so I suggested we hit up Planet Books before continuing along the initial program. We ended up just browsing at this point but we popped back in afterwards for people to buy things they’d previously eyed off – this included a student spending in excess of $100.

RTR was amazing. Chris, presenter and operations/volunteer manager, had his knowledge of their segments tested by students who felt as if they’d found a new home – in fact, one asked if he could stay indefinitely and many will look to do work experience there in the future.

The opportunity to see a community radio station after the bells and whistles of the ABC was an eye opener. It’s amazing to think of what Chris and his colleagues produce when you know they lack decent funding.

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ABC vs RTR

The bus ride home was a lot more sedate. The students had been excited and eager for the whole day so it was not surprising that they crashed. I’ll probably crash soon too but for now I’m still buzzing.

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