Leaning into a microphone inside a studio at Ashland's low-power radio station KSKQ, 10-year-old Andrea Colin assumes her most menacing, high-pitched voice and contorts her body into the gnarly movements of a wicked witch.
"You stop," she shouts at seven dwarves who are trying to rescue Hansel and Gretel from her pot of human soup, "or I'll turn you all into dwarf hamsters. ... Bite-size dwarf hamsters. Yum."
The skit, "Hansel and Gretel and the Woods" by Jeannette Jaquish, was performed by Andrea and nine other children from Kids Unlimited's after-school program at Oak Grove Elementary School in Medford. It was broadcast live on KSKQ's Kids Radio Club throughout Ashland and other parts of Jackson County where the low-power signal reaches.
"Everyone is doing a good job; everyone's level is good," says KSKQ host Carson Bench. "This is kind of an impromptu, on-air production."
The kids show, a joint effort by KSKQ and Kids Unlimited, provides young listeners with radio theater, music, variety shows and even some news.
But for the children who perform in and host Kids Radio Show through their participation in the after-school program, it is a unique learning experience and a glimpse into radio journalism.
The program began as a pilot last summer through a $2,400 grant from the Carpenter Foundation.
"One of our mandates is to provide a voice for target audiences that have been traditionally left out of mainstream media," says KSKQ Station Manager Jason Houk. "We identified youth voices right away."
Students join the show for a four-week period. During that time, KSKQ employees visit the campus' after-school program at least once a week to teach the kids interview, broadcast and storytelling skills, sound effects, different types and purposes for media and journalism ethics.
"I learned never to have dead air," says Jace Greener, an Oak Grove fourth-grader. "No one wants to drive around listening to nothing."
KSKQ staff also introduce the students to different kinds of music.
On Fridays, the students put their new skills to use to perform a skit, host a variety show or music show and even practice sharing the news. Oak Grove students recently practiced interviewing each other.
"The interview was really fun," Jace says.
Jace interviewed his schoolmate, sixth-grader Damian Young.
"It wasn't just about being on the radio," Jace says. "It was about learning about your friends."
Kids these days communicate through a variety of media, including Twitter, texting, YouTube, Facebook and others.
"It's important for kids to realize the importance and integrity of their words no matter what medium they're using," says Suzia Aufderheide, a KSKQ co-founder who developed the Kids Radio Club curriculum. "We have the kids deconstruct and reconstruct media so they really get a feel for how they're being manipulated."
After that lesson, the students go on a media scavenger hunt at their school in which they find ubiquitous items with hidden media messages.
"They can be dangerous messages, and they never say what they are," says Marissa Wagner, a fifth-grader at Oak Grove.
So far, about 50 kids have participated in the program, Houk said.
To hear Oak Grove students' perform "Hansel & Gretel and the Woods" by Jeannette Jaquish on Kids Radio Club, visit www.kskq.org.
For more information about Kids Radio Club, call 541-482-3999.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.