The campaign 2008 C-SPAN bus made a pit stop at Grizzell Middle School last Friday. Although the presidential campaign is over, C-SPAN is still educating students about the importance of being involved in the political process.

The campaign 2008 C-SPAN bus made a pit stop at Grizzell Middle School last Friday. Although the presidential campaign is over, C-SPAN is still educating students about the importance of being involved in the political process.

"It's democracy parked in the parking lot," said middle school social studies teacher Shawn Kaeser. "It gives the kids more excitement than the textbook. This makes government tangible. They can go and touch government. The students get to feel important and like they're a part of it."

While waiting for their turn on the bus, many of the students recalled seeing it on television with President-elect Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain standing in front of it.

"I like how the (side of the) bus has these young faces on it waving American flags," Kaeser said. "It's almost like they're saying, 'It's our country and it's our government.' It's never too early to get involved in the process."

Students filed onto the 45-foot long charter bus in groups of 10 to 12 for a 20-minute educational lesson on media and government. The students sat on a couch that stretches half the length of the bus. In front of the couch are several big-screen televisions and editing machines. A studio is located in the back of the bus.

"I like how it was set up, the studio in the back with the glass doors," said eighth-grader Cole Miller. "It was soundproof and they showed us how they interviewed Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani on the bus."

Doug Hemmig, a C-SPAN marketing representative, spoke to the students about how lighting, camera angles, sound bites and editing can affect a person's opinion of a topic or situation.

"We want you to be a critical consumer of media," Hemmig said. "We want you to see it straight from the source."

While many news stations will show a 30-second clip from a speech, C-SPAN will air the event in its entirety, Hemmig said.

"We think that allows you to get the information and make your own decisions," he said. "We're not a breaking news network. We show your government unfiltered."

Hemmig stressed the importance of getting involved in the political process as early as possible.

"You guys are the future," he told the students. "What's happening now has a big impact on you."

Hemmig encouraged students to enter C-SPAN's StudentCam competition. Students are asked to create a five- to eight-minute video documentary that answers the question: "What is the most urgent issue for the new president to address after taking office, and why?"

When asked what issues they felt were most important, students said the environment, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the historical significance of having an African-American president and how that will change history.

For more information about the competition and how students can use C-SPAN, go to www.c-spanclassroom.org.

bdunlap@thisweeknews.com