The Class of 2026 created a new tradition this spring as the first Out-of-Door students to participate in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. The exciting nationwide competition is open to middle school students in grades 5-8, and requires a combination of creativity, academic skills, and technological prowess.
Initially introduced by Mrs. Kymberli Rivers and Mrs. Erin Mulvihill as a collaborative project idea between English and History, the idea was immediately embraced by the entire 7th grade team who were eager to be involved. Each faculty member gave students mini TedTalk-style presentations about a topic that had meaning for them with the intent of inspiring the students for their own projects. Teachers spoke about a variety of topics; using math in the real world, art in protest, challenges in Venezuela, poverty, climate change, and more.
Mrs. Rivers says that the overall project, and the combination of teachers and students working together was “a true collaboration, not parallel working. Partners were working together, guiding each other.”
“It was a collaborative learning effort,” adds Mrs. Mulvihill. “The students needed each other to successfully complete their project.”
From the start, Mrs. Rivers says the students were 100% invested in the project. “We were surprised at how vast and varied their interests were. They were self-motivated, constantly helping each other, and fully engaged. We were impressed at their willingness to learn new skills and how brave they were with the topics they chose.”
Working in teams, the sixty-four students in the Class of 2026 spent the month of February brainstorming, researching, interviewing, recording, and fine tuning their podcasts. The subjects they chose to cover were amazingly diverse and showed an enormous range of interests. Topics covered included botany, survivor games, climate change, body positivity, sports figures, mental illness awareness, fears and phobias, and intergenerational survival during the pandemic.
Students found that beyond the academic learning involved, they also learned about themselves through the creation process.
“I learned that I love storytelling,” says Emerson Miller ’26 whose podcast focuses on keeping busy during quarantine. “In our podcast we shared lots of stories about cross country, plants, and more. This taught me that everyone has a story that can connect to others!”
William Bergerat ‘26 and his partner Zach Papper ‘26 focused on climate change. In addition to learning about the devastating impacts of climate change on our planet, William also gained insight into how he learns. “I didn’t know that I could work so well on a tight schedule,” he explained. “It taught me that I can work efficiently, and that teamwork is everything in these types of projects.”
After turning in their finished podcasts, the students assembled in the Thunderdome to listen to a selection of their classmates’ projects. After some fine-tuning, Mrs. Rivers and Mrs. Mulvihill will submit a selection of podcasts to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge for consideration. Winners’ podcasts will be aired on NPR.
Listen to a sample of the students’ podcasts: