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Radio reaches parts that school can't

A radio show run by children from schools in one of the poorest areas of New York City is attracting up to 4,000 calls a week, with its phone-in mix of chat, advice to teenagers and special guests.

PS15 is in the New York borough of Queens. Known as the Jackie Robinson School, it is named after the champion baseball player who, in 1947, broke the colour bar by playing in the US Major League.

It is one of a number of New York schools seeking ways to motivate pupils and has linked up with WYNC, a public-service radio that broadcasts New York Kids on Sunday evenings.

This is the weekly show that teachers in the city's five boroughs are using as a way into areas of the curriculum, including geography, science and maths.

Producer Lou Giansante sees pupils' involvement in making the programme as an essential factor; it's fun, it sounds good and it is the way to ensure the children's sense of ownership.

Roberta Mayerhoff said the show gives her fifth-grade pupils a purpose for their written work. Book and film reviews, reports, quiz questions, a general knowledge spot called New York Factoids and the style and listings report, What's Hot and What's Not are all written by pupils and pre-recorded, each week in a different school.

The show's resident scientist, The Dirtmeister, conducts various practical experiments in the studio with at least two New York children on the phone following his instructions.

Other regulars and special guests such as an American Indian singer, a Japanese artist or a Chinese cook bring experience from the multicultural life of the city into thestudio.

Each week, two children get the chance to co-host a programme. They turn up at the Manhattan studio of WYNC to meet the regular presenters Florence Barreau and David Gonzales who help them put the two-hour show on the air.

Children also participate by phoning in. Calls are free and a line stays open all week to record questions, messages and dedications and, according to a telephone company report, the show is now attracting anything up to 4,000 calls a week.

A survey of 180 teachers said they encouraged children to listen to the show because it is listened to by all the family and because it "provides a useful transition to Monday morning".

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