The compelling issue:
Climate change has been called the defining issue of the next generation. As students grapple with the chemical and physical science associated with how humans are impacting our climate, they have one question: what can we do?
Creating a podcast not only gave the students an outlet for expressing their knowledge but also empowered them to use their voices to create social change. A series of informational essays during the three case studies—Physical Change, Chemical Change, Social Change—provided ample content for students to join into groups to write, edit, record and publish a 10-episode podcast. Podcasting not only provided an excellent vehicle for content understanding but also allowed for demonstration of ELA standards.
During the process, students used information from research projects, texts, and expert presentations during field studies to generate content for the episodes. Before recording, students were able to get feedback on their scripts from a professional podcast journalist. Students chose from roles such as lead writer, sound engineer/audio editor, research journalist/fact-checker, or copy editor/publisher, and split into topic groups to write, record, edit and publish their podcasts. In addition to the podcast, students worked with a local Makerspace to craft a collaborative art project that included symbolic and literal elements of the Weather We Change expedition content. A woodworking group created a background from repurposed lumber while another group cut student drawn art using a metal plasma cutter. Student art and poetry were also burned into wood using a laser printer and salvaged bike frames were cut apart and welded into the word CHANGE to represent the message that students wanted to convey. The mural was mounted in front of the bike rack at the school in hopes of inspiring social change.
We Asked the Teacher
1. What was compelling for your students about this?
Podcasts are everywhere and climate change has been called the most important issue facing the next generation. Needless to say, experts and fieldwork were easy to come by and students really felt like they were creating a relevant product that was contributing to an important issue, which was motivating for all involved!
2. What were the challenges?
Creating consistent audio volume and quality was challenging. We ended up creating a "recording studio" in the back of the classroom with a parachute draped over some stools surrounding a table to allow students to record without feeling like they were in a fishbowl with the rest of the class watching. This also provided a high stakes opportunity for the rest of the class to demonstrate character traits working quietly during recording sessions.
3. What makes this particular piece a model for other students?
I would encourage educators everywhere to evaluate how much climate change-related science is incorporated into the curriculum. It is a topic that will affect everyone and it is more important than ever for the future generations to understand the facts and science surrounding this topic in order to have fact-based discourse when creating solutions and adaptations that may be necessary. Even if climate change is not your topic of study, podcasts require a focus on researching, writing, and presenting that is matched by few other mediums for final products. Lastly, online tools and resources have never been as easy to use and classroom-oriented as they are now.
4. What would be your advice to a teacher that is inspired by this project?
Informational essays can be written and graded, then turned into scripts for podcasts creating a standard based grade and a meaningful product. Additionally, a well-structured rubric and criteria for your podcast are important to create the final product you are looking for. Create your own mini-podcast trying out the free online soundtrap.com sound editing software and upload it to the soundcloud.com hosting platform. There are many how-to videos and many resources out there.
How This Project Can Be Useful
- An excellent model of middle school students tackling the format of podcasting
- Addresses an issue of great concern to today's students
- Demonstrates excellent use of outside experts culminating in a very authentic and useful product
Common Core State Standards
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