Chagrin Falls Middle School Students Win Honorable Mention in National Public Radio’s Student Podcast Challenge

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By Chagrin Falls Middle School 7th-Grade Students Sofia De La Cruz and Marie Cain

Last school year, Mrs. Katherine Owen’s second academic class won an honorable mention in the NPR (National Public Radio) Student Podcast Challenge. The qualifications of the contest were for students to create and record an original podcast with the help of a teacher and submit it to NPR. The podcast-creating process for Owen’s students began with discussing the meaning and purpose of a podcast and then listening to examples. 

All students were involved in brainstorming topic ideas for the podcast. They decided to make a podcast focused on whether or not kids are put under too much stress and pressure by teachers, coaches and parents. The title of the podcast was Under Pressure: Are Adult Expectations Taking a Toll on Today’s Kids? Students brainstormed expert opinions to listen to and interview questions for students and adults. Owen had her students write down each different sound they heard in an example podcast to really think about all the noises that went into a podcast. 

Six students, (Claire Hoelzel, Charlotte Rhor, Eveleen Malley, Tess Snyder, Marie Cain, and Sofia De la Cruz) volunteered to be “hosts” on the podcast, and also worked as the “production team.” They interviewed students and teachers about their personal experiences with stress and pressure. Owen’s students made sure to practice and perfect their interviews before they recorded them. They used websites called Soundcloud and Vocaroo to record and organize their interviews. Senior William Bazzone, in charge of creating a daily podcast at Chagrin Falls High School, visited the classroom several times and gave guidance and shared his expertise.

After the dramatic events of Covid-19 sent students home for the rest of the year, Bazzone and Owen put the finishing touches on the three podcasts (one for each of her academics) and submitted them to NPR.  Owen received a wonderful surprise in an email from NPR in early June announcing that “Under Pressure” won an honorable mention. This is quite an honor because it was selected out of thousands of entries from all around the country. 

Owen’s students all agreed that creating the podcast was a great opportunity to learn new things and use their creativity inside the classroom.

“For me, making the podcast Under Pressure was a great experience because I got to relate with a lot of other kids and it was enjoyable,” said Claire Hoelzel, Host of Under Pressure and Production Team Member.

“Making the podcast Under Pressure was a great experience,” said Eveleen Malley, Host of Under Pressure and Production Team Member.  “It was really cool to see how other people were having the same experiences as me. My co-hosts were the friendliest people you will ever meet and it was just a joy to work with them.”

“I never thought I’d ever do something this cool and unique in class,” said Sofia De la Cruz, Co-host of Under Pressure and Production Team member.  “I loved how I could really relate with my peers about the topic and it was so fun to make it. The best part was just doing it with people who had similar experiences and I’m just really excited that something we created together won an Honorable Mention Prize!”

“It was a great project, and unlike any other assignment I’ve had before, said Marie Cain, Host of Under Pressure and Production Team Member.  “It gave us the opportunity to think about all the hard work that goes into a podcast. It was interesting to interview students and learn all about their personal experiences, and it is an honor to win an honorable mention from NPR!”

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