Last month I asked the question, “As a TV Broadcasting or Film Teacher, how can you provide a valuable service to your community and give your students an authentic experience?”

My answer was to offer to create Public Service Announcements or PSA’s for non-profit or government agencies in your area.

Depending on your program and school situation, this may be too much to ask of your students. Even if partnering with outside agencies is out of reach, I believe this model could work within your school by creating PSA’s for school clubs or afterschool programs. The same process would work in either situation.

Last month I discussed the Project Based Learning (PBL) model for delivering projects and how creating PSA’s can fit nicely into this model. It starts with the driving question, an entry event/document and then a “know/need-to-know” (K/NTK) chart. The Buck Institute for Education has some great resources for creating PBL projects and in-depth background on the PBL process.

After generating a K/NTK chart the research begins. I show them professional as well as student produced PSA’s. The Ad Council is an excellent resource for top-notch, professionally produced videos. Remember, when working through the project use the K/NTK chart as a guide of what the students already know and what you need to teach or help them with.

Now it’s time to get started. First, who will be the potential “clients?” I use our local United Way Agency. I have a representative of the United Way of St. Charles present to my students all of the different local agencies they partner with and fund. The United Way of St. Charles funds a wide variety of non-profit agencies from a therapeutic horse-riding center for handicapped kids to battered women’s shelters. I ask my students which agency “touched” them and how they can provide a valuable service by creating a PSA for them.

Next I have the students generate ideas and come up with a storyboard and script to “pitch” to the class. We then discuss the idea as a class to refine the idea and hopefully improve upon it. The goal is a :60, :30 and :15 second PSA on their agency.

The next step is for the students to contact the agencies they have chosen to set up a meeting and explain the project. The students can either set up interviews in the studio or even better go out to location and record.

Now it’s time to create. The students then edit their first cut of the PSA’s. Again, they have to play their videos to the class for a critique. I ask questions such as:

• Is it clear what agency your PSA is supporting?
• What’s the message you are trying to get across?
• Would you want to support this agency after viewing the PSA?
• Is there a “call to action?”
• Does it need a “call to action?”
• As a casual viewer, why should I care?

Now it’s time for the re-cut, and the re-cut again. Are there any audio problems? Is the student using royalty-free music? If not, did they get permission to use the music? Are the titles readable on a big screen TV as well as the web? Are any logos used the right aspect ratio, i.e. not squished or stretched. Are the PSA’s EXACTLY :60, 30 or :15 seconds. If you hope to have any chance of them being played on commercial broadcast or cable TV the length of the PSA is critical, down to the frame.

After the PSA’s have been re-cut, re-worked and revised it’s time to present them to the client. I usually invite the agency representatives and the United Way representatives. During the presentation the students should explain their concept, why they chose the shots they chose, why they chose the music they chose and what they hope to accomplish with their PSA. I usually shoot for a 3-5 minute presentation on each PSA and then some question/answer time as a group.

I believe this project could work really well as an in-school project. You could also in the first semester do in-school PSA’s and then move on to outside community agencies. Either way your students can provide a valuable service to your school or community by getting the word out on the programs or valuable services they provide. I’ve never had anyone say to my students, “please don’t make us a video, we don’t need the publicity!”

As a final check, has this project met most of the requirements for an authentic PBL project according to the Buck Institute for Education? Outside audience? Student critique of work-in progress? Student voice and choice? Collaboration outside the classroom? Content significant to your subject area? Check, check, check, check and check!

Ed. Note: To view Part One, please click here.

Buck Institute for Education


Student Produced PSA’s from Satellite Center

United Way of St. Charles

Albert Bio