By Evan Wechman
Years ago, many elementary schools publicized their events through newsletters or direct mail. Today, at the Frank J. Smith Elementary School in East Hanover, the students and the faculty are letting the community know what is going on through a podcast.
The elementary school which serves students in grades K-2 might not seem like the most traditional setting for a podcast. However, under the leadership of Principal Matthew Tuorto, this podcast is helping students tackle different topics.
Tuorto, who has a strong technological background, knew about a year ago he wanted his students to challenge themselves and do something different. He solicited feedback from students, parents, and faculty, and shortly thereafter the podcast was born.
Tuorto gives most of the credit to Dana Aagard who is the Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, but between the two of them, the podcast has exceeded expectations in its popularity with everyone. Now, in its second year, more and more students are having a chance to be either on the show or help behind the scenes.
Tuorto loves the idea of getting students who otherwise might be reticent to participate in such a social activity more involved. “We try to get different types of podcasts to attract a lot of students so at any point, one of our students could be involved in the podcast.”
Tourto, who also has a background in studying psychology as a collegiate student, is very much in favor of helping his young pupils develop themselves and become more confident. He enjoys having instructive conversations with them to find out both their likes and dislikes.
He is seeing great progress in a lot of different areas as a result of the podcast. Tourto has witnessed many students develop great social and technological skills from being around this new concept.
Tuorto is very enthusiastic about the success of this program. He states “what excites us the most about the podcast is being able to interact and collaborate with so many people. The podcast allows us to learn from each other and share information that will help others.”
In order to get the word out about the podcast, they are not buying advertisements or broadcasting on iTunes, but are relying on good old-fashioned word of mouth. The school is putting the webcasts on their website, Facebook page, and emailing information to the parents.
The principal is proud of the work that everyone in the community has done in helping develop this adventure, and also likes that there is no large additional expenses needed.
Due to its success, Tuorto and the faculty are hoping to consistently have a new show at least once every other week.
The content of the shows is intentionally not planned far in advance so that Tuorto could gather feedback from his colleagues, students, and families. He wants as many different ideas as possible, but the subject matter will most likely be connected to something educational.
This past September, a podcast was dedicated to the beginning of the school year and the preparation involved. However, according to Tuorto, “we also do some educational topics with reading tips or strategies for certain subjects. We also focus on events for the school and highlight certain work the students are doing so it reaches a variety of topics.”