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Added elective courses bring podcast, cooking, and film history to curriculum

Students requested new courses

Godwin Heights — Seniors Kierra Stimoff, Jackie Yanez and ninth-grader Lianelyz Martell reminisced about their elementary years.

They chatted about friends, grade levels and changing schools, sharing memories of being much younger students. 

It might have sounded like a casual conversation, but the microphone they passed back and forth was a clue that it was something more than that. The students are participating in one of the high school’s newest electives: podcasting. 

In the semester-long course, students learn to put together a podcast from beginning to end. They select a theme, choose the format, record and edit the final piece.

“I feel like you get a behind-the-scenes look at how podcasting works,” Kierra said. “It is not an easy job as you have to consider the topics and put together the script and elements. You definitely get a better understanding of what it is about.”

Senior Kierra Stimoff, left, listens as senior Jackie Yanez talks about her elementary years

More Options to Explore Interests

The podcast course, along with a young adult literature class and a film history class, is among several new and returning electives added to the high school this year. The goal of adding the courses was to provide students with opportunities to broaden their skills and knowledge while also giving them the ability to explore different fields of interest, said Principal Chad Conklin.

“We felt it was really important to have relevant courses to increase our student achievement and increase student engagement and participation in the classroom setting,” he said.

The process of adding classes started last year with multicultural literacy and a science of food, which explores chemistry through cooking.

Building on those, the high school conducted two surveys last spring, one for students on what electives they would be interested in and one for teachers on what they would be willing to teach. The goal was to align courses with curriculum standards and catch students’ interests, Conklin said.

The survey showed students also wanted courses back that had been removed from the curriculum. That led to the addition of theater and Career and College Readiness, Conklin said.

The response to having new options has been positive from students and teachers, Conklin said. A majority of courses have filled up quickly, and teachers have expressed that they liked having a voice on what they would be teaching.

Sophomore Shani Valdez, left, and senior Da’Naja Brown make some final decisions on their podcast before recording

More Than Talking Into Microphone

In podcast class, senior Da’Naja Brown and sophomore Shani Valdez were planning their final podcast. They decided to compare and contrast how they celebrate different holidays. Shani’s family has a Secret Santa gift exchange on New Year’s Eve.

“Everybody gets two gifts on Christmas so for New Year’s … it is just to keep us entertained,” Shani said. “It is just something fun we have been doing for the past couple of years.”

Putting together the final episode comes after a lot of research and practice. Students start by analyzing other podcasts to learn about style, script and other details. By the end of the semester, they’ve created their own podcast by selecting a theme, writing a script and recording and editing three episodes, Panella said. 

Along with technical skills, students learn organization, creativity, communication, teamwork and public speaking, Panella said. In fact, Senior Diego Revolorio said he felt the class has taught him to speak more clearly while remaining focused on the podcast topic and its discussion.

Da’Naja, who had listened to podcasts, said the behind-the-scenes look at what is involved in creating, recording and maintaining a podcast was interesting.

“I think that the one thing that surprised me is how much planning and scripting goes into a podcast,” he added.

Read more from Godwin Heights: 
Students explore HBCU, HSI options at expos
The impact of a story

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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