RTA students create Internet radio for kids

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By Stephanie Bomba

“Look above you! Look below you! From out of nowhere, it’s the Math Marvel!”

Raised on the Planet of Mathematics, the 6-foot tall, purple-eyed math hero rushes into the studio at KidSPIRIT (Student Produced Internet Radio and Interactive Technologies) and asks for help. The evil Dr. Dreadful is holding the Math Marvel’s friends hostage in his castle and the only way to rescue them is to crack the secret alarm code with algebra.

But the Math Marvel can’t do this alone: he needs the help of the “cyberspiders” who listen to KidSPIRIT radio. Hosts Mark Luciani and Rekha Shah (an RTA graduate and former host on TVO who now worst at Toronto Star TV) repeat the Math Marvel’s questions as well as the show’s E-mail address so the cyberspiders with the right answers can win a prize.

KidSPIRIT, an interactive audio program broadcast exclusively on the Internet for kids aged 8 to 12, is produced by five fourth-year RTA students: Charity Barfoot, Megan Leach, Eric Clifford, Jennifer Graham and Kim Di Girolamo. They call themselves Resurgam Productions.

“It took a whole semester to get it up and going,” says Barfoot, who explains that these students have been working on the seven shows since the beginning of the school year when she pitched the idea to them in class. Since then, the students have auditioned potential hosts, written scripts, developed characters and secured prizes — including a birthday party for eight at Playdium and books donated by Random House.

The show is complemented by a Website, where kids can listen to past shows form the archives, look at a gallery showcasing artwork from the KidSPIRIT “school of the week” and read descriptions of the show’s five characters: Jungle Jim, Professor Ellie Ment, Rita Goodbook, the SoundWave Surfer, and the Math Marvel.

“We wanted them to be educational,” says Barfoot of the characters, who teach kids everything from science and math to safety in outdoor sports.

Safety is a major concern for Resurgam. Both the show’s sponsors and the Internet sites of the week (posted on the KidSPIRIT Website and mentioned during the show) are checked for safety issues concerning children.

“We don’t use any kids’ last names and there are no pictures of the kids on the site,” explains Barfoot. “We’re trying to protect them as much as we can.”

Resurgam pays two visits to a different school every week. On the second visit, two kids are chosen to co-host with Shah and Luciani. But even those students who weren’t chosen get a chance to be heard over the Internet. The program features a segment titled “Our Two Cents Worth” where the opinions of the students are aired.

Unfortunately, there are only two shows left. After that, the future of KidSPIRIT Radio is uncertain because the students are paying for the production themselves. But Barfoot explains that the members of Resurgam put a clause in their contracts — the show’s future will not be discussed until after the final show.

So for now, the members of Resurgam are just enjoying it while it lasts.

“I think we’re all getting something out of it,” says Di Girolamo.

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