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Hi-tech political learning on wheels

Hi-tech political learning on wheels

Students board touring C-SPAN bus, interact with government

October 18th, 2017 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Catherine Markway, 8, and her sister, Anna, visit the touch screens on the C-SPAN bus during its visit to Jefferson City on Tuesday as part of its 50-state capitals tour. The sisters were on board with their mom, Jennifer, and brother, Benjamin, 9. The bus was parked briefly at the Capitol where a number of residents toured the customized tour bus filled with electronic communications; it also visited Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson middle schools.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Government belongs to the people — it's a tenet of American democratic society that came to Jefferson City in the form of a touring bus Tuesday.

C-SPAN is on a 50-state capital tour, and Jefferson City's stop also included visits to Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson middle schools.

The bus is a hi-tech rolling TV studio complete with a soundproof area, cameras, and lots of interactive TV and tablet screens to access and explore C-SPAN video content. C-SPAN media specialist Steve Devony said everything broadcast on C-SPAN since 1987 is available online.

TJMS sixth-grader Jyla Grinston was impressed with the 360-degree video station aboard, which allowed users to navigate scenes of a protest, a military ceremony, a White House news conference and aboard a submarine with their fingers.

"I think it's all awesome. It's all cool," said Jessica Price, a library clerk at Thomas Jefferson, adding while several social studies classes there watch CNN sometimes, students usually don't get the digital archive access the bus offered.

"It's a neat way to get students engaged in the political process," said Eric Hucker, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Lewis and Clark.

Hucker said he tries to keep students engaged with news and current events. His class is learning about the original 13 colonies; given that the American Revolution and crafting of the U.S. Constitution are coming soon for his students, he said the bus experience will be a good connection point.

Technically, C-SPAN is not a news outlet. The network's name stands for Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network — a non-commercial entity that broadcasts federal government affairs without editing or commentary.

TJMS sixth-grader Alfreda Edwards liked hearing about how C-SPAN's cameras aren't geared to zoom in on emotion but instead let a scene speak for itself.

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"The information is what's important, not us," Devony said. Devony and C-SPAN community relations representative Doug Hemmig talked to local middle school students Tuesday as they boarded the bus in groups of about 12-15 at a time.

For most students, the occasion seemed to be the first time they'd heard about C-SPAN. Most students cited local or national broadcast outlets or social media when Devony and Hemmig asked them where they get their news — something that didn't surprise either representative.

Beyond what C-SPAN does in its day-to-day operations, students also learned how to be critical consumers of news.

Hemmig told students he always asks "who else was there?" and "what else was said?" when he tries to get the full story.

Also discussed was C-SPAN's annual "StudentCam" national video documentary competition, which "encourages students to think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation," according to the contest's website.

Devony encouraged students to interview people, including government officials, and to show multiple viewpoints if possible.

The theme of this year's competition is "The Constitution & You," which requires students to "choose a provision of the U.S. Constitution and create a video illustrating why it's important to you." Full information on entry requirements, deadlines, judging and prizes is available at

"You have an opportunity to say something and have it heard by millions of people," Devony explained, adding it's the kind of opportunity he wishes he could have had as a student.

"That's what we want as elected officials: we want to hear your voice," Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin told students.

"You are a part of it;" government doesn't just happen to people, she said. "Government is interactive," and she encouraged students to reach out to leaders like City Council members or County Commissioners, if nothing else just to ask how to get involved in their communities.

C-SPAN has video-based materials for social studies teachers available at

People interested in Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's interview with C-SPAN on the bus Tuesday can view it at Ashcroft spoke about his decision to turn over state voter information to President Donald Trump's voter commission, as well as Missouri's voter ID law.

As far as the question of how a bus will eventually make it to Hawaii and Alaska long after stops in Ashland and Columbia today, Hemmig said while much of that is above him, C-SPAN is going to put the bus on a boat — "a logistical adventure."

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