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6 early entries we love from the 2023 NPR Student Podcast Challenge

We're two months into this year's Student Podcast Challenge, and we've already received entries from more than 200 students! It's the fifth anniversary of the contest, and like every other year, we've been getting a range of stories, from personal narratives to passion projects to class assignments.

But, in listening to them over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed one thing that many of our favorite podcasts have in common: a willingness by students to take on tough conversations that many of us, adults, walk away from. Others remind us of the joys in life, whether that's team sports, or holiday gift exchanges.

Below are six early entries we love (listed in alphabetical order), selected from middle and high school podcasts submitted on or before March 3.

A Homemade Holiday

Taking place during Christmas holidays, a high school senior from Portland, Ore. interviews her family about their appreciation for homemade presents.

Abi & Angelica's Podcast

In this entry, two middle schoolers in Irvington, N.Y. interview a high school art teacher about the connection between mental health and creativity. They discuss how students' mental wellness is reflected in their artwork and how art can help express difficult emotions.

Breakfest for Dinner

This episode from five middle schoolers from Weddington Matthews, N.C. discusses the benefits and drawbacks of co-teaching. They dive into what prevents schools from hiring more teachers and how this shortage affects both teachers and students.

HER: The Podcast

Created as a final project for an African American studies class, two students from King of Prussia, Pa. host a talk-show-style podcast that spotlights people of color whose stories are often left out of history books. This first episode, and their submission, zooms in on the iconic Black entrepreneur Madam CJ Walker.

What is Home?

In this entry, one Seattle high schooler asks this question to friends, loved ones and strangers: "What do you consider to be home?" She reflects on the meaning of home and how her quick chats on home can provide so much insight on different people's lives.

Why is dance so important to me?

Another one from Seattle, this podcast is all about dance. One high school student and lifelong dancer reflects on how dance has not only impacted the way she feels in her body but also shaped her identity.

Teachers, here's one potential group exercise: Listen to these episodes together and talk through with your students (1) what you like or (2) what you don't like about these entries. Think about the story, the narrator's tone, the sound quality, the music – what can you learn from each podcast?

Hope these can cheer on our early birds. And if you're inspired to enter, you still have plenty of time! Deadline is April 28. Find more info on this year's Student Podcast Challenge here.


Audio story produced by: Michael Levitt

Edited by: Steve Drummond

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Janet W. Lee