Starting a School Radio Club for Dummies

You’ve decided you’d like to help a local school start a radio club? Good for you! A school radio club is a great introduction to hands-on STEM learning opportunities and develops communication skills, worldwide friends, and a lifetime hobby. But where do you start?

When I got into this hobby, one thing I thought about was whether or not my high school had an amateur radio club that I just never knew about. There were many clubs and activities that I, for one reason or another, didn’t know about. When I looked closer, I didn’t find one existed then or now. Could I get one started though? I will take you on my journey in starting 2 school radio clubs in 2 separate school systems and the lessons I learned in doing so.

Where do I start?

First, you need to know that starting a school program is not something that can be accomplished in a short time period. Think more on the timeline of months up to a year. Our ambitions started very strong but there are many hurdles and obstacles that must be overcome first. Nothing major – just the natural progression of events and regulatory in a school system.

This is not a project to take on by yourself. You will need others to help with communications to school boards, attending school board meetings, and, most important of all, assisting with running of the new school club.

Another thing to consider is that your school radio club may need physical things to get going. Some, like radios, antennas, and materials to build equipment can be provided by yourself or donated by other club members. If you plan on introducing an educational element to the club, and I would highly recommend it given it is a school club, you may also want Technician class books.


Our local radio club is an established 501c(3) and was willing to help with grant writing to several non-profits that provide funding for civic and amateur radio activities. I will say that this is a great way to get funding to help ease any financial burden on the already stressed school system and/or parents. Some grant deadlines are far in the future and may require writing skills you will need to seek out. If you plan to get funding to help start the school radio club, keep the award dates in mind for when you can actually start activities.

Prioritize your goals with the school radio club and put those items needed to achieve those goals. We started out with W5YI Technician Books, some handheld radios, a mobile radio to use as a base station, a power supply, and a case to hold the mobile radio. The rest needed for the station will be supplied or sourced using our sponsoring radio club.

Use a writing assistant or tools like Candid to help with writing your grant. Keep in mind through the theme of the grant that your focus is on not only starting a school club, but one that can help kids augment their current school learning with hands-on activities that give a lifelong thirst for knowledge and community.

Barring any imminent deadlines for proposals, don’t submit for any grants just yet.

School Board

I would love to say that every school system will welcome a new club with open arms. Truth is, schools are stretched thin with all of their resources. You will more than likely need a sponsor from within the school for your club, which means that you will first need to convince an already busy teacher or administrator to devote even more of their time with your venture. A science teacher would be great for this as they will understand most of the concepts you will teach the kids but any teacher will work.

If you cannot secure a sponsor, all hope is not lost. Still continue forward with your next step – contacting your school board to get on their agenda. In some cases, just getting a meeting with the school superintendent will work as he likely sets the agenda. If you are unsure of who to contact, reaching out to any of the school board members should be able to get you in touch with whoever is necessary to get on the agenda. Patience is key here since it is likely you will not be in the very next agenda.

Your presentation to the school board needs to be very precise in what you want to accomplish. What are your goals? Who will benefit? Who will support the club? What activities will they do? Don’t anticipate time to do a full-on demonstration with radios. The school board, as with all others in the school system, have limited time. Their agenda is likely already full and you may only have 15-20 minutes to convince them that a radio club is in the kids’, and school system’s, best interests. If you can provide a write-up they can read ahead of time, that would be ideal. A 4-5 slide presentation to supplement is also useful, but not required.

How do you start a school club then?

The logistics of actually starting a club within your local school system will vary from system to system. You may need to come up with permission slips for parents to sign, ways of communicating with kids and parents alike, days and times to meet, scheduling around other school activities and sports, plan a call-out meeting to get new members, and structure of the new club.

Your thoughts and dreams for this new club may or may not include anything that could be considered “dangerous” at any level. Or, you may decide to bring the kids into the world of through-hole soldering and building instead of buying. Even if you end up buying all equipment, you will still be communicating with local and worldwide operators. Parents may want to have a bit more say in all of the above so ask the school superintendent or principal whether permission slips are required.

I know the easy way of communicating with the kids would be to put a radio in their hands. You can get there eventually, but starting out you will need a way to communicate with them and their parents. Our school uses an app called “Remind” to communicate with clubs and special field trips. A group text may also work but seek other means as not all kids will have a cell phone.

Teachers and administrators are not the only busy ones in a school system. Kids can be active in many other clubs and sports. Your request of their time will need to work around all other things going on in their lives. Take all of this into consideration for discussion during a call-out meeting for kids and parents alike to come see what your new club will entail.

A call-out meeting is generally a place for prospective members to learn more about the new club and become members and can be a critical component to starting your club. You can have literature and graphics/advertisements but you’re starting a radio club. Let’s set up radios! My recommendation would be to get local operators on a repeater ready to talk to kids if they wish. Also have a couple of HF stations for digital ops and SSB voice. Think of it like a mini Field Day! Our call-out meeting also included several foxhunts with homemade tape measure Yagi antennas and an attempt at using the cross-band repeater on the ISS. Show the kids and parents what all amateur radio can be about!

You and your team will be a core piece of this club being successful. You will help plan activities and oversee the safe operation of all equipment. You should also consider putting the kids through a Technician class and will need support there. All of this requires teamwork; however, you will not be leading the club. The club’s structure should include the normal leadership positions of President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. You can decide to collect dues or not but these positions will lead the club with your guidance.

How do you keep a school club going?

Word of mouth! Your biggest recruiters are your members. Remind them to talk to their friends about the fun and cool things they are learning/doing in the club. Talk about the hidden transmitter locators or talking to astronauts. Sending pictures halfway across the world without the internet. Using digital modes to communicate with people in Antarctica!

Take any chance you can get to have club meetings or club activities in view of other students. You will get a lot of students coming up curious as to what you are doing. Use the opportunity to bring them in to the activity and see if they’d like to participate. Even having FRS radios handy could entice students over to just chat with their friends across the room.

Work with the school to find out when club days are. There are generally days at the beginning of the year where clubs set up for recruitment specifically. This is usually done during school hours like a lunch hour or free hour. This is also where it would be helpful to have support from other amateur radio operators to assist with demonstrations or discussions.

Lastly, keep in constant contact with school administrators. Principals, superintendents, and school boards like to see the positive impact you are having on the students. They can be a great ally in gaining more students to the club by assisting with announcements, pictures in their social media, school newsletters, local newspapers, etc.

Remember, keep the club fun, informative, and radio active!

First post

I’ve not built a website since before WordPress was even an idea. I’ve used tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver and straight HTML editing but this is a bit new to me so bear with me as we get going as many things will likely change.

This blog is primarily going to be used to document my exploration into ham radio. I’ve been licensed since October 2017 and currently hold an Amateur Extra license. My oldest son is also licensed currently as a Technician, KD9SYJ. My youngest is trying to get his license and will very soon.

Having already started my journey now 4.5 years in, I’ll likely post a few blogs about how I started and some highlights of what I’ve done. I’m also currently finishing up a Bachelor’s degree in Cloud and System Administration so these next posts may or may not be on any regular cadence.

Have a question or want to send me a note? Feel free to comment here or shoot it in an email to!