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Woodland Students Impress in NPR Student Podcast Challenge

Woodland Students Impress in NPR Student Podcast Challenge

For the past five years, Lakota Innovation Specialist Kim Carlson has been working with Woodland Elementary students on the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. This year, almost 100 students participated, and Carlson submitted podcasts from 23 groups.

"I love this project because it is applicable to students in every subject, at every ability level," says Carlson. "The NPR Podcast Challenge ties in writing, research, collaboration, and the use of digital tools. Students have choice in their topic, so it feels more meaningful to them, which increases student engagement."

The competition is usually part of ELA since there is a big writing component. This year, Carlson worked with sixth grade ELA teachers Jessica Lewicki and Bonnie Scearce.

Each year Carlson meets with the students to explain what a podcast is, goes over the competition rules, and gives students instruction on how to create a podcast using WeVideo (a district purchased digital tool).

The effort has paid off for Woodland students in the past, and this year will probably be no exception. "Last year, Bonnie Scearce and I challenged her advanced ELA block to really think about an issue that they felt strongly about,” said Carlson. “And our students’ podcast, ‘Why Dancers Shouldn’t Wear Leotards,’ was a Top 10 Finalist!!"

For Carlson, seeing the growth of her students' podcasts is the highlight of the project. "I love watching the podcasts progress from the brainstorming stage to the amazing final pieces that are worthy of winning at the national contest level," she says.

The feedback Carlson receives from students is overwhelmingly positive. Samuel Mahaffey, Avery Lawrence, and Savanna Marshall, three students in Jessica Lewicki's class, created a podcast this year called ‘Fur, Scales, Feathers- They Help Us Get Better!’ about the effects of therapy animals on mental health. "We wanted to do something that was personal to us,” they said. “Our inspiration was Woodland's therapy dog, Loxley. We interviewed the president of Circle Tail to ask her about the process for training therapy dogs and the benefits. We really liked having a choice in our learning.”

Results for the NPR Student Podcast Challenge are expected to be released by the end of May, and Carlson is hopeful that Woodland's entries will once again make a strong showing.