Irma is Your Homework: Local Students Get Experience as Reporters

“I learned that hurricanes are something not to be messed with.”

Parents, pretend you’re a teenager for a moment.

You watched all those TV news reporters covering Hurricane Irma and you may have thought; "That looks interesting. I’d like to try that." Of course, as parents there’s no way you would allow your children to do that, but what if it was their homework?

A teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School decided to use Irma as a learning experience for his TV production students. David Ruiz told his class to use their cell phones for something other than social media for a change and actually shoot video of the storm and its aftermath, but, he emphasized, only from safe locations.

"It was a perfect opportunity for them to take what they learned and apply it to something, not just a school project, but something real-life that affected everybody in South Florida," Ruiz said.

So this week in class, Ruiz’s students are showing their videos and sharing their experiences with each other and with their teacher.

Sophomore Damian Champone lives in an apartment building with a sheltered courtyard. He ventured out a few feet and stood under an overhang while protected by a wall from where he shot video of sideways rain and fierce winds bending palm trees in the distance.

"Very exhilarating, that's for sure – standing outside; feeling the wind hitting you; hearing the rain falling, hitting the roof, smashing against the windows," Champone said, describing his experience. “I learned that hurricanes are something not to be messed with.”

His classmate, Yanilly Machado, felt the same way about her brief foray into the storm, shooting video from the porch of her house.

"Interesting, also, not scary but a little nerve-wracking because you saw the wind and branches and everything," Yanilly said. "I was just nervous of the aftermath."

So what did the kids get out of this assignment? They gained a sense of what TV news crews experience during a hurricane but they also learned about the value of documenting history.

"Without a doubt, it was a double lesson. They're able to edit their own work, present it to their classmates and also document what happened," principal Lisa Garcia said.

After Irma passed, twin sisters Angely and Nicole Garcia went for a ride around town with their dad.

"And we noticed there was falling trees, there was falling signs, lots of debris on the streets,” Angely said. “I didn't really know what a hurricane was until Irma hit and that really opened up my eyes for the next hurricane, if we ever get one."

For this age group, Irma is the first hurricane they remember.

"They could feel the wind. They could feel the rain if they stood outside, and I think that gave them a life experience they'll probably never forget," Ruiz said.

It also gave them a homework assignment they actually enjoyed.

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