Six Mount View Middle School pupils are members of a select group from Maryland and Virginia having an impact on their peers by sharing their views on a national program.
The seventh- and eighth-graders traveled from their rural Marriottsville school to a television studio in Washington last week to tape "Mind Over Media: Voices From the Middle School," a program about media literacy scheduled to air in October.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for the kids to be a part of a national program that focuses on middle school students and their needs, that will be viewed by every middle school in the country," said Lorraine Quinn, Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher.
In an interview after the taping, the pupils said they enjoyed being featured in a professional television production at a studio with stage lights, microphones, producers and makeup.
Sean Song, 12, enjoyed meeting youths from other schools. John McGowan, 13, had fun learning production methods.
"We were VIPs for three days," said Collin Corbliss, 13, referring to three days that included riding in limousines, lots of food and meeting NBC personality Al Roker, who was co-host of the program with Court TV's Catherine Crier. All got photographs and autographs from Roker, who they said was a lot of fun.
"Mind Over Media: Voices From the Middle School" is part of the Court TV initiative "Choices and Consequences," which began in 1997 and produces programming and educational materials about issues facing adolescents.
This year's program looks at media literacy and explores strategies for teaching middle school children to think critically and make smart choices about what they see on television, hear on the radio and read in print and online.
Put together by Court TV, the National Education Association, the National Middle School Association and Cable in the Classroom, the program features unscripted discussions with 24 pupils from middle schools in Maryland and Virginia about the media's impact on stereotyping, self-image, consumer habits, gender roles, violence and aggression.
It's a worthwhile and important project, said Quinn, who has participated in "Choices and Consequences" for three years.
"I think kids need to see that the media is trying to influence them," Quinn said. Pupils deal with the media every day and need to become "media-savvy," she added.
Mount View teachers recommended 25 pupils, who filled out questionnaires about the media. Some had taken a media literacy course at the school. Court TV producers visited the school with discussion questions and were impressed with the group, selecting six to participate in the taping.
After the taping, the group described its experiences.
"The bombardment of messages goes into shaping what you are, the choices and stuff," said 13-year-old Clare Sengupta.
The rest of the group agreed. Rhea Udyavar, 13, said the media influence self-image and the need to fit in. Emily Townsend, also 13, said the media prey on children when they are finding out who they are. Another 13-year-old, John McGowan, said media set style and fashion trends for kids.
Subtext, the underlying meaning in a message, was another concept addressed.
"I'm never going to look at things the same again," said Collin, referring to commercials, billboards and television shows. "The first thing I'll think is: What is the subtext?"
Quinn thinks it is important for kids to sort out the barrage of mixed messages they receive.
"I think it's a wonderful way to learn some tools to deal with the media or how to interpret the media," she said.