C-SPAN’s 45-foot bus and studio has hosted state leaders, lawmakers, U.S. presidential hopefuls and even a couple presidents.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than 70 Friedell Middle School seventh-graders got a chance to step inside.
With the presidential race underway, the mobile studio and production vehicle has been covering town halls and campaign events. By day, C-SPAN staff give tours to students and the public.
“It’s a great opportunity -- any time you can get it where it’s more physical and tangible for students,” said Levi Lundak, Friedell Middle School principal.
The Friedell stop followed a visit to Kellogg Middle School on Wednesday morning.
The bus offers interactive displays that feature archived footage of presidential candidate speeches, interactive electoral maps and other items for students to browse.
C-SPAN staff took turns telling students about the cable news gathering network.
Doug Hemmig, a C-SPAN representative, showed students how C-SPAN captures entire speeches, hearings and proceedings instead of choosing and editing sound bites. C-SPAN is funded by cable companies with a per-subscriber fee and doesn't rely on commercial or government revenue, he told students. Hemmig encouraged the students to look to multiple sources of news to be informed.
“I want you to be critical consumers of media,” Hemmig said.
Hemmig and his colleague Joel Bacon showed students how they can access more than 240,000 hours of video students can use to generate clips for projects and research.
Sydney Summerson, a seventh-grade student, used the screens to learn more about some of the presidential candidates.
“I just feel like I want to know who’s going to win and might be our next president,” she said.
As for the mobile studio?
“It’s a lot better than the school bus,” Summerson said.
Rowan Vercnocke browsed electoral college maps.
“I like to look at the past presidents and see which ones were most popular,” she said.
And the bus?
“The electricity bill must be pretty high,” Vercnocke.
Hemmig said the Rochester students were fun to talk to and host.
“I’m really impressed with these kids -- how polite and energetic they are,” he said.
Lundak said that when he was approached with the possibility of the visit, he spoke to U.S. History teacher Todd Ellerbusch about having students come aboard and explore.
“With the 2020 election around the corner, I thought this would be a good opportunity,” he said. “I just wish we had more time for everyone.”
Since 1993, C-SPAN producers and staff have used buses to cover events and visit schools. This tour, called the Battleground States Tour, kicked off Sept. 4 in Iowa, where the first precinct caucuses in the nation will be held in 2020. From Rochester, it will be driven to La Crosse, Wis.