Mar. 11—MONONGAH — On the bottom floor of Monongah Middle School, in a corner classroom the students call "the dungeon," a defunct computer lab has been transformed into a studio.
"Welcome to The Roar everyone. We're coming to you from Studio 109, located in the bowels of the dungeon here in Monongah Middle School," Seventh Grader Hannah Devine said to open the group's pilot podcast episode. "My name is Hannah, I'm in seventh grade and my favorite food is tacos."
Under her voice, plays the intro song "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns n' Roses.
Hannah is one of four students chosen to be the first cast of The Roar, an initiative conceptualized by School Principal Brad Harker. He and Andrew Weekley, an English teacher at Monongah Middle, came up with the idea of turning the printed school newsletter into a monthly podcast.
Once the idea came together, Harker and Weekley selected four students who excelled in improvisation and communication skills. Those four students are Seventh Grader Emma Cunningham, Sixth Grader Jerry Broscious, Fifth Grader Elise Moorehead and Devine.
Sometimes in middle school, a student's outspokenness and quick wit can create a problem in the classroom, but for this project it was exactly what Harker and Weekley were looking for.
"When we first got the equipment, we had a few students come in and — especially in a podcast when you go off script — you sort of have to have that knack," Harker said. "You have to have that charisma, that ability to talk and wing it and we knew a few students that might fit that bill."
Earlier this week, the students met with Weekley to talk through the second episode of their podcast due to be released later this month. Since this will be only their second episode, the group is opting to keep things simple.
Their first episode, which released in February, mainly included school events, sporting events and general announcements with a dash of small talk between the four students. With future episodes, they hope to expand out into having guests such as athletes or coaches on the show.
"We really wanted to get that first episode out there so we could use it and build upon it," Weekley said. "Now that we have a basic structure we know works, we can build upon it and add segments the students want to do. That's where it's the students podcast, it's not mine — it's all theirs."
The students know that they've improved their improv skills and comfort behind the mics since recording the first episode last month. Now they're excited to get into the studio and see how they can make it even better than their first outing.
"I'm looking forward to listening to the first episode versus the second one because I think they'll sound really different," Emma said. "I feel like we were really stiff in the first one but now that we've done it once it's going to be nice to hear the difference."
On top of interacting with her castmates in the episodes, Emma also operates the podcast soundboard. She's in charge of fading microphones in and out, playing sound effects and making sure the recording runs smoothly.
For Jerry, he's just excited to see how the show grows while he's behind the mic and once he leaves Monongah Middle.
"I'm looking forward to the journey of this podcast. I think it has a bright future," Jerry said. "I think there's going to be a lot of improvement from our first episode all the way through to the last one."
Elise, the youngest of the group, knows she'll be a member of the cast for the longest. She recognizes the growth that the show has already undergone and is excited to see what else comes along in the next few months and years.
Once Emma leaves Monongah Middle, Elise will take over operating the board.
"The Roar just keeps expanding. We just got these new chairs and we have this whole room we've made into a studio," Elise said. "I'm really just excited to see what the future of The Roar is."
Hannah hopes she can use each episode as a learning experience, reflecting on her mess ups and fumbles and use them to improve her skills. In the episodes, she acts as the host and usually guides the rest of the cast from topic to topic.
"There are definitely things that I look back on in the first episode where I know I really shouldn't have done or said something," Hannah said. "But I think I can learn from that and use it to make the second one even better."
The first episode of The Roar is online for anyone to listen. To hear the first episode, go online to 5il.co/1nxfr.
Reach David Kirk at
304-367-2522 or by email