This past spring, Ms. Kymberli Rivers and Mrs. Erin Mulvihill designed a seventh grade collaborative project between English and History–creating podcasts for the 2021 NPR Student Podcast Challenge. The competition, open to all students in the U.S. in grades 5-8, required a combination of skills, including creative writing, editing, researching, and technical know-how.
For four weeks, students worked in teams brainstorming, researching, interviewing, recording, and fine tuning their podcasts. The subjects they chose to cover were diverse and showed an enormous range of interests.
Katya and Hays chose to work together when they discovered they shared a common interest in the topic of global warming. Although both students were working from home as virtual learners, they quickly developed a system to organize their efforts.
“We decided to divide up some of the tasks,” said Katya. “I created the introduction animation and Hays edited our individual videos together. We both worked on the script writing and researching; working as a team, I think we split the tasks quite evenly. There was a lot of collaboration and communication.”
As editor, Mays needed to be sure their final file met contest specifications for content as well as length. “I think the toughest challenge was deciding what to cut to meet our eight-minute time limit,” he said. “The script with all the spontaneous additions was about ten minutes before the scalpel came out. The other hard bit of that was our editing software–let’s just say iMovie isn’t ideal for tiny cuts.”
After working through several rounds of tweaks and polishing, Ms. Rivers and Mrs. Mulvihill encouraged the duo to submit their podcast for entry in the contest.
“Katya and Hays' project presented a 7th grader's perspective on a world issue. We spent a good amount of time at the beginning of the project listening to winners from previous years,” said Ms. Rivers. “It seemed that that was a constant, the ability to provide an interesting perspective on a major issue. Secondarily, they told a complete story. Our students worked on a series of podcasts, and had three entries that worked together to tell a story. The one that they selected brought all of the important pieces together beautifully...They took our feedback and applied it. They just worked so well together. I mean talk about the 4 Cs. They demonstrated mastery of every single one.”
“Katya and Hays were both remote students at the time, but because of their wonderful work ethic and collaborative spirit, you would never know. They listened to each other and built upon one another's ideas, creating a true collaborative effort,” said Mrs. Mulvihill. “One of the things that perhaps set them apart was their polished but conversational script, the natural expression in their voices, and their interview with a scientist at MOTE Aquarium, which added credibility and additional interest to their segment. We are so incredibly proud of Katya and Hays for receiving this honor.”
"I literally ran to Mrs. Bianchi's office and then to Mrs. Mulvihill's room when I saw that envelope in my mailbox," said Ms. Rivers. "We have such creative, talented, hard-working students, but to be recognized out of 2,600 entries, some MUCH older and more experienced than them, definitely with more experienced adult support; I can't believe it. I told everyone. I am over the moon with pride."
In a few weeks, Ms. Rivers and Mrs. Mulvihill will be presenting virtually at the FICS Conference about Using Podcasts as NonTraditional Texts. They are excited to share the success that Katya and Hays experienced and to promote the exploration of creative, collaborative, out-of-the-box projects.