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Listening to Teens - Through Their Own Podcasts
Heart attacks. Overdoses. Depression. Cancer. Hear high school students step up to the mic and take on these big topics, and find out what their teacher has learned about making podcasts with youth.
Teen Podcasts Take on Big Health Topics
The students in health teacher Bonnie Rose Weaver’s class closed out the year by producing this amazing series of podcasts on health topics in conjunction with local public radio station KALW.
Today, I’m featuring a few of the students’ recordings, as well as an interview with their teacher, who explains how the series came to be, and gives some advice for teachers who might want to try a podcasting project with students.
Chelsey Pingul is passionate about increasing awareness about anemia, where people lacking iron and healthy red blood cells can feel tired or weak. LISTEN
Overcoming Drug Use
This story comes from Edison Lee, who helped a friend find alternatives to vaping. LISTEN
Anderson Ortega shares some solutions to improve access to healthcare for the Latino community. LISTEN (in Spanish)
Jimena Torres talks about how therapy can help young people dealing with depression. LISTEN
Jasmine Gomez wants to spread awareness about schizophrenia and make sure people are better informed about mental health. LISTEN
More Podcasts From This Series
To hear all of the podcasts students for this series, check out this special page from KALW.
Teacher Reflection: “What I Learned From Making Podcasts About Health With Teens”
All of the podcasts featured here were made by students in Bonnie Rose Weaver’s Health Academy class. In this interview, Bonnie Rose reflects on what they learned from the project, and shares tips for making podcasts with youth.
How did you decide to do these podcasts with students?
As the 12th grade teacher for the Academy of Health Sciences at Burton High School, I was expected to do a Capstone project. After getting trained in Project Based Learning, I was compelled to find "real-world" projects for the students to complete. Because KALW is the radio station supported by SFUSD, it is housed on Burton's campus. So that made some of the logistics of working with the organization a bit easier (no field trip permission slips required!). Plus, it exposed the students to the work-place environment of working in audio production and journalism, which is a big win for us in CTE (Career Technical Education). Lastly, I wanted something that would last beyond high school; these audio time capsules are something the students will be able to use on resumes, and look back on as they move forward in school and career.
How did students select their topics?
Students did a variety of activities to help them choose their topics. They completed a reflection assignment about what topics had stood out to them throughout their four years of studying in the Academy of Health Sciences. They also considered what aspects of health were important for them and their communities. There was a focus on personal connection. Once they had chosen a preliminary topic, I asked each student to find their personal connection. Many students choose health issues that affected them, their families or their communities. Their driving question for the project was, “How do we bring greater understanding of the origin, symptom and solution of a health issue in our community?” The goal was for their radio show to answer these questions in under two minutes!
How did you feel about the project once you heard the results?
I'm really proud of these projects. The diversity of topics, solutions and insights we recorded are quite varied. My personal favorite (don't tell my students) is Anderson's, because he chose to record in Spanish about the inequity of access to healthcare in the Latino population of the U.S. I think this really speaks to the audience that he hopes to empower through his radio show. Another effective show is Jialin's show about memory loss. She highlights research that shows the positive effect of coffee and Viagra to reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. All of the shows bring together concrete scientific evidence and a personal conviction to spread knowledge.
What do you think the students learned during this project?
The students started in the school library learning research skills from academic journals. Together we worked on building specific research questions. They practiced their writing composition. They met journalists from KALW, and learned how to write an effective radio script and they experienced working in a recording studio. Finally, they worked with a graphic designer to create visuals for their projects on social media. In the end, they gained the understanding of how creating something for the "real world" is not the one-and-done experience of turning in homework. Rather, it is a multi-step project that builds on itself.
Do you have any advice for teachers who would like to do a similar podcast project with their students?
Personal Reflection on Improvement: This project was the "Journalist" option of our capstone project (the others being "Entrepreneur," creating a wellness product, and "Teacher," creating a health class for 9th grade) and so this project was the shortest (read: easiest) one of the three. In the future I would also ask students to write a longer magazine-style article to go alongside their radio show.
General Advice: Lean on feedback protocols in the classroom and peer review. Get students to read each other's work and give feedback. Again and again and again. Edit, edit, edit. These kids don't get to appreciate the beauty of the long game, and it exemplifies how writing composition skills are also a part of science. Hard work makes the pearls.
If you want to learn more about doing a podcast project with young people, check out the free professional development sessions offered by KQED Education or sign up for its free, self-paced “Making Audio to Inspire Learning” class.
Thanks for reading! A few updates and reminders:
If you are facing challenges with a boy in your life, we’d love to offer support. You can ask for our advice - anonymously if you like - by using this simple form.
Trying to plan or improve health education in your school? I keep a curated list of excellent resources on my website, MrHealthTeacher.com.
San Francisco Unified School District, where I work, has several openings for health ed teachers for 2023-24. We’d love to hear from potential candidates - even folks who don’t yet have a California teaching credential. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions.
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