San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Radio Upe, Where Kids Do the Work

Radio has always been a medium for reaching children. We can all remember shows we listened to faithfully: storytelling for the small fry, action classics such as the Lone Ranger for older ones and teen-type music and dance for the high school crowd. But Radio Upe, which airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on Radio Nacional, 101.5 FM, is radio for kids by kids.

The name comes from the common greeting “¡Upe!” when calling at the front gate or door, whose origin, according to historians, is the colonial-era greeting “Ave de Guadalupe,” which has since dissolved into the one word.

Radio Upe is 45 minutes of kids’ comments, jokes, riddles, tongue twisters and interviews with kid announcers, kid contestants and kid commentaries. Moreover, the program is taped where kids congregate: schools, the Children’s Museum and the National Amusement Park.

What did one traffic light say to the other? Don’t look at me. I’m changing. The programs are geared to the 9-14 age group, but it’s mostly fifth, sixth and seventh graders who do the show and listen to it. Call-in contests with tickets to the amusement park as prizes draw responses from this age group.

The show’s planning board is made up of 12 students chosen from various schools in the Central Valley. They meet weekly to make the important decisions of what topics to cover and whom to interview. Then, kids do the work of getting it together.

Taping takes place Tuesday afternoons, with kid participation at the chosen school.

This is then integrated into a live portion at the studio at SINART, the national radio-TV station in La Uruca, in northwestern San José. Teachers at the chosen schools sometimes use the topic as classroom material to solicit thinking on the subject.

Keeping order in what could easily turn into chaos as kids nervously forget their lines, the sound equipment comes unplugged, a gang of second graders comes running through at recess or a sudden shower drowns out the sound, is Eva Ulmer of Sulda, Germany. Ulmer got her experience at a German state radio station and at Radio Nederland here. She is assisted by Yorleny Ulate, a communications student at Universidad Latina. And the nonprofit Rasur Foundation helps make the group legal and sort of solvent.

Topics for the show may include holidays in other countries with guests who’ve lived there, current events, group pressure, recycling, school dropouts or any topic about which kids can express their feelings. If gaps in the program leave listeners puzzled, it’s all part of the learning process.What do you do when the interviewee shrugs or giggles instead of answering? Or forgets to press the button to turn on the mike? The show’s been on the air a mere eight months.

What did the moon say to the sun? You’re much bigger than I am, but you can’t come out at night.

“I like the idea of learning more and meeting people through the radio programs,” said María de los Angeles Cavillini, 12, one of the radio jockeys who does the show.

Kevin Salazar, 11, who shared the microphone with her at a recent taping at the Pan-American School in San Antonio de Belén, northwest of San José, agreed.

“I learn a lot of different things and I like talking to other kids,” he said. Ulmer chooses interested candidates based on interviews.

With an audience of sixth graders and a few teachers and observers at the Pan-American School, they were “on the air” with introductions, comments, jokes, riddles, tongue twisters, questions and answers by the announcers and the audience on the topic of the day. There were also musical interludes, the songs chosen by the kids but reviewed by Ulmer and Ulate to make sure they were okay for that age group. The final segment gave all the kids in the audience a chance to say hello to mothers, fathers, grandparents and special friends.

Two men dressed in black saying to each other “me first, me first.” Who are they?*

Shared fun is an important part of the programs, and it need not be limited to the pre-teen set. Can you repeat this tongue twister? Si Samson no sazona su salsa con sal, le sabe a sosa.

*A pair of shoes.


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