Grandview Heights Schools students accept NPR Student Podcast Challenge

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School fifth-grader Aaliyah Acevedo-Monjaraz downloads music for a podcast with help from 21st Century Learning coach Jessica Fields on Feb. 17 at the school. Students will enter their podcast into National Public Radio's National Student Podcast Challenge.

Fifth-graders at Grandview Heights Schools' Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School are stepping up to the mic – literally.

The class is participating in National Public Radio's Student Podcast Challenge.

Each fifth-grader at the school is researching, writing and recording his or her own podcast, which will be entered in the nationwide contest.

The podcast challenge is open to students in grades 5-12, and a panel of judges will select winners in two age categories: grades 5-8 and grades 9-12. The winning entries will be broadcast on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" programs.

Two teams of students at Grandview Heights High School also are creating podcasts for the challenge.

The fifth-graders are creating podcasts to answer the question of what moment in history all students should learn about, said fifth-grade social-studies teacher Jenny Callif.

Callif is coordinating the project at Edison/Larson with fifth-grade language-arts teacher Lydia McLaughlin and 21st Century Learning coach Jessica Fields.

Students are spending about six weeks creating their podcast, with a March 15 deadline for submitting the three- to eight-minute pieces to NPR, Callif said.

The various aspects of the project "cover many of the objectives we have for fifth-grade students in social studies and language arts," McLaughlin said. "They have to research the topic they choose, write their copy and then revise it. The challenge is for them to craft a story to tell."

The teachers chose the prompt for students so the project would align with their social-studies and language-arts standards, Fields said.

Unlike a traditional written report, "this is something they're writing not just to their teacher or even to read to the class," McLaughlin said. "They have to figure out how to make it interesting so that other people will want to listen to it."

"Something I've been telling the students is that they have to have their feet in three worlds to create a podcast," Fields said. "There's a research component, a storytelling component and a creative component to the process."

"They need to think about a wider audience they are trying to reach," Callif said.

Marc Alter, Grandview's director of 21st Century Learning, is coordinating the high school podcast project. 

Freshmen Sabrina Li and Lilia Pryszc are creating a podcast about stepping outside the comfort zone, Alter said.

They are interviewing teachers and students about times they have challenged themselves by trying to do something new and the personal growth they have experienced, he said.

The podcast challenge gives students an opportunity to explore a format – podcasting – that they likely have never tried, Alter said.

Real-world applications are involved in the project, he said.

"Whatever career field they may end up going into after they leave school, there is probably going to be collaboration involved, and they will be using technology of some sort to communicate with others," Alter said.

Fifth-grader Jude Haack chose the Beatles as the topic of his podcast.

"I think it's important for people to talk about the Beatles because they changed music in such a creative way," Jude said.

He said he has been researching some of the ways the band "made music more creative."

"They used amplifiers and guitars in different ways," he said.

One instance was when John Lennon had leaned a guitar against an amp to create feedback, one of the first times feedback was used on a recording, Jude said.

He said he is enjoying the creative challenge of finding an interesting way to explore his chosen topic for five minutes.

Ady Calvin decided her podcast would be about Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School fifth-grader Ady Calvin gets some help from her teacher, Jenny Callif, as she works on a podcast Feb. 17 at the school.

"I'm finding out how she inspired other women to join the supreme court, like RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)," Ady said. "So far, there have only been four women who served on the court."

Her goal for her podcast is "to tell the who, what, when, where and why" about O'Connor.

"You want to find a lot of information but not include too much information," Ady said. "The question I'm asking myself while I'm writing my podcast is, would someone be interested in this?"

If she thinks a nugget of information is gold, she'll include it, she said.

Students are learning how to create a podcast, which might encourage them to continue to work in the format on their own, Fields said.

After the students' podcasts are submitted to NPR, the plan is to provide links to them on the Edison/Larson website at ghcsd.org and through an online newsletter, she said.

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