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Podcasts tackle the thought-provoking

Research, writing, delivery, tech skills honed

Kenowa Hills — Cara Gregory’s seventh-graders became writers and podcast hosts for their final English project.

The middle schoolers tackled difficult and thought-provoking questions after learning about the Holocaust and reading “The Diary of Anne Frank.” 

“My students are making podcasts around the question, ‘Are people really good at heart?’” Gregory said. “Through learning about the Holocaust and who Anne Frank was, we’ve been grappling with empathy, compassion and what it means to be a bystander.” 

Thanks to a grant from the Kenowa Hills Education Foundation, Gregory purchased five desktop microphones and a subscription to an online recording tool. The foundation awards grants for innovative projects beyond the district’s general operating budget. Gregory’s students’ podcasts were for their teacher only.

Gregory’s students did their research by listening to existing podcasts, and learned about narrative storytelling and how to write a cohesive script.

“The heart of a podcast is its story,” Gregory said. “They have to master the elements of a podcast, including music, conducting interviews and providing anecdotal evidence for why they believe people are or are not good at heart.” 

Ty’aire Ross partnered with classmate Xzarriano Alonzo to make a podcast that explored reasons why not all people are good at heart. 

“People want to be famous or popular … or sell their souls to be famous, but don’t actually care about people,” Ty’aire said. “We’re interviewing different people and perspectives, so we gotta have the facts and tell the truth.” 

He also said he was grateful to Gregory for trusting her students to use the fancy microphones. 

In the classroom next door, co-teacher Wendy Gravelyn’s students also used the microphones and recording software to create podcasts on issues in their communities. 

After reading the book, ‘Hidden Figures’ by Margot Lee Shetterly, Gravelyn’s students had to answer one of three questions for their podcast: 

  • Who are the hidden figures in my community? 
  • Who are the people who are “the first” to try something? 
  • What are the hidden issues in my community?

Brinley VanderMeer researched and wrote about Helen Claytor, the first African American woman elected president of the YWCA West Central Michigan, for her podcast. 

“She was a really interesting person,” Brinley said. “I learned that we should go for stuff even if you don’t think you’ll be able to do it, and (to) have confidence and courage.” 

From making a podcast for the first time, Brinley also said she learned how to make her research interesting and entertaining by adding transition music and fun facts. 

Lindsey Akers said making a podcast is like writing a book. 

“You are putting the topic in your own perspective and can add your own opinions,” she said. 

Read more from Kenowa Hills: 
Different ways to play   
Card club pays it forward 

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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