Posted by: calloftheandes | June 12, 2017

Field Trip to a Radio Station: Fourth-Graders Cross a Street to a Galaxy Far Away

Fourth graders from Alliance Academy International visited Radio Station HCJB and learned about media messages.

by Ralph Kurtenbach*

Amid a continuous cascade of media apps, websites, video and social media in the hands of young people, has interest in radio entirely dried up? Not if a recent field trip by the fourth-graders of Alliance Academy International (AAI) to Radio HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, offers an apt measurement.

“I learned how the radio works,” wrote Isabela, who also cited “all the cool stuff you got” as having held her attention during the visit by 36 fourth-graders and several teachers.

Arriving at the station just across the street and a half block away, the youngsters were formed into tour groups with teachers as guides. Then they made their way to the different points of interest.

Afterwards, Isabela’s note to the tour guides (including this writer) had been done in colored pencils, showing a person wearing headphones at a radio console. She summarized her appreciation with “my favorite part was learning the history of HCJB.”

While it’s true that the thank-you notes fulfilled a post-trip requirement, the comments seemed authentic. They reflect a good level of student engagement on the Reach Beyond campus where the radio station operates studios, offices and a tall tower.

The tour guides strove to put their presentations at a fourth-grade level, giving short shrift to such technicalities as the electromagnetic spectrum, the speed of sound and audience research statistics. For Reach Beyond’s Tammy Kooistra, this meant that at the tall tower’s guy wire, she did not demonstrate its purpose but instead its sound production.

Each time she flicked the cable with her finger, a student—with an ear laid on the guy wire—heard what sounded like a Star Wars blaster gun. “Kapaw! Kapaw!” was how Daniel described the weird sound he heard while another student, Eliana, characterized it more as “Kwaping!”

As with Isabela, both Daniel and Eliana included in their thank-you notes hand-drawn pictures in color. Eliana showed a smiling Mrs. Kooistra demonstrating the little-known guy wire feature of the green area near the station; Daniel drew a heavy diagonal line (representing the cable) and above his name, a blaster pistol.

Kooistra also shushed each vivacious bunch of kids before ushering them into Studio 9 where the brightly lighted “On Air” light told people that the program hosts were indeed talking to the listeners.

Anabella Cabezas, who spoke about programming and marketing, is the director for HCJB Ecuador which owns and operates 89.3 FM in Quito (where the station ranks seventh among dozens of FM outlets) and its repeaters throughout Ecuador. Adapting to changing listener habits, she and her production team have added to traditional media Control Z (, an online youth-oriented website with a continuous music livestream.

The onsite learning at HCJB reinforced the students’ unit in English Language Arts, according to Kat Wing, who teaches one of the fourth-grade sections and has headed up the visit for two consecutive years.

“The students are learning about media messages including visual and auditory,” Wing said. “We thought that it would be a neat thing for the students to see the HCJB radio station that is so close to us.”

The scope of ministry was also grasped as noted in Miranda’s appreciative words: “I am so happy that we went to HCJB ‘cause I learned that you had [sic] a hospital and my favorite part was recording our voices.”

Photo showing Dr. Ev Fuller vaccinating a Shuar leader, Tsantiacu, against polio in 1961. Fourth graders’ attention was directed to the bending needle.

In Studio 10, program producer Veronica Saavedra recorded and played back the children’s voices, to the amusement of all. A student who adorned her note with two multicolored microphones wrote, “I learned the history of HCJB, and it means: ‘Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings.’ My favorite part was recording my voice on the microphone.”

*Ralph Kurtenbach explained to the students the integral role of HCJB in the creation of electronic media in Ecuador. In the station’s gallery of historic photos, he showed how in a pre-Photoshop photograph touch-up could “paint open” the eyes of people who blinked as the camera shutter opened. Also tying in Reach Beyond’s healthcare ministry, he pointed to a photo of a Shuar Indian chief receiving an injection from a doctor, the needle bending as it penetrates the tough old Indian chief’s skin.

Archive photo shows early staff of HCJB. (Front, left to right) Francisco Cruz, Mariana Aguilera, Nelson Chavez, Grace Larson and Clarence Jones. (Back, left to right): Adriano Jaramillo, Jose Canelos Victoriano Salvador, Stuart Clark, Raul Cedeño, Pablo Williams, Luis Fernando Ayora. Cruz was station manager and Cedeño and Ayora became HCJB voices familiar to listeners.

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