Siblings Kali (left, 9), Emma (center, 11) and Ben (right, 6) Palmer of Harrison introduce themselves in their inaugural History in the Hills broadcast.

HARRISON — When COVID-19 forced schools closed last March Emma, Kali and Ben Palmer of Harrison found that learning at home away from teachers and friends could be rather boring.

“The kids are always making their own videos anyway, so they decided distance learning assignments would be more fun if they recorded them,” said mom Laura Palmer. “As the lesson boards arrived they would choose the themes they wanted to focus on.”

The kids began recording their projects, and when SAD 17 announced a district-wide time capsule unit “History in the Hills” the Palmers took it to the next level and turned the project into a weekly video broadcast show.

The kids called their History in the Hills program “Everyday Broadcast about being quarantined and staying safe from COVID-19 and keeping everyone safe!” and recorded it as a news/talk show with the siblings acting as hosts and guests.

Each episode includes several segments centered on cooking, at-home science experiments, family interviews and skits. The shows are about 10 minutes long. They were all recorded and edited using their mom’s smart phone and video app.

Laura Palmer uploaded each broadcast directly to Emma’s Google Classroom. Emma’s STEM teacher Rob Ripley was tasked with distributing the video to the kids’ teachers in other grades and subjects.

“When I first received the family newscast, I was astonished at how creative, well planned, interactive, and high quality it was,” Ripley said. “It reminded me of a morning newscast you would see on local/state television. I particularly liked in the first episode, how they included family and friends from outside the local area with the passing of the [spreading love] note.”

In one segment, “Cooking with Emma,” oldest daughter Emma added a twist to baking cupcakes by introducing her own ingredients to change the texture and taste.

“We do a lot of baking, so I already knew from trying different things I could change the recipe and make cupcakes that taste better,” Emma said.

Emma’s cooking lesson segued into the kids acting out scenes from the young readers’ book When you Give a Cat a Cupcake,” with Emma narrating and Ben and Kali taking on the roles of Cat and Human, respectively.

Ben Palmer, right, demonstrates how a cat does karate in a skit of the children’s book ‘When you Give a Cat a Cupcake.’

Young Ben went deep into character, even taking a dip in a nearby stream in his portrayal of a cat taking a swim at the beach. Despite it being early spring Ben insisted that the water was warm, although he had to go through the duration of the skit wearing wet clothes.

In another cooking segment Emma and younger sister Kali prepared Kali’s Zesty Trail Mix, followed by a commercial promoting the quarantine cuisine snack. In a third cooking piece, Kali and Ben role-played as customers of Emma’s restaurant and included math and etiquette lessons on calculating proper tips.

The Palmer’s Everyday Broadcast included family interviews about sheltering at home during COVID-19, conducted by Kali, which was her favorite part of the month-long series.

The kids also broadcast public service announcement-type messages about staying safe during the pandemic, giving thanks to essential and front-line workers and educators and, in an interview with “Dr. Ben,” on the safeguards medical professionals have to follow every day to protect themselves, their patients and their families. That segment was followed by a commercial parodying fashion in facial covering as they promoted Corona Face Wear.

And on a serious note, the three kids posted a special thank you to the medical workers at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, Mass. who cared for their Aunt Kristen and infant cousin Richie, who was born at the height of the pandemic in that state.

One of Ben’s on-camera experiments was to demonstrate the effectiveness of hand washing to kill germs. In the inaugural episode he sent hand-drawn hearts to family members near and far in a segment about spreading love. Each drawing was fashioned into a paper airplane and his loved ones submitted videos of catching, opening and receiving his message.

“I appreciated that even though the siblings were in different grades, they worked collaboratively to allow them all the ability to contribute and participate,” said Ripley. “And the weekly acting out of a story book; a wonderful literacy, art, and technology connection!

Kali (left) and Ben Palmer calculate how to leave a tip when dining at a restaurant in their show documenting distance learning.

“The editing was great quality and it appeared to jump between locations. The interviews with other family each week really added to their presentation, and showed their planning.”

The Palmer kids give varying reviews to the three months they spent in distance learning.

“I really wasn’t for it,” said Emma. “It’s better to learn along with your friends and be able to ask your teacher when you need help. The delays, sometimes people were busy when you were working on something and when you emailed the teacher you might have to wait for them to be able to answer.”

Kali said the biggest challenges for her were not being able to learn new things every day, although she quickly added that she knows everyone did their best.

“Sometimes the books that we needed weren’t always available when we wanted,” she said.

“I liked it,” said Ben, who completed first grade while in quarantine, learning alongside his older sisters. “I thought it was good, like the reading. But writing was harder. You still need to practice it to make it perfect.”

Having gained experience in video production, script-writing, editing and serving as lead host of the Palmer family’s Everyday Broadcast, Emma is considering becoming a journalist herself someday. And while Kali was not able to show off her singing abilities in the video shows she is learning to play keyboard and said she would one day like to be a singer. As for Ben, he is in no rush to make any career decisions right now.

The digital episodes of Harrison’s Palmer family’s Everyday Broadcast can be viewed in their entirety at SAD 17’s digital time capsule website. Each school in the eight-town district has its own capsule posted on the website.





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