TALENT, Ore. —The devastating Almeda Fire left many local families displaced nearly a year and a half ago. Now one group of students in the Phoenix-Talent School District are speaking out about their loss, and getting creative in doing so.
A few weeks ago, inspiration struck for one of the teachers at the Talent Elementary Outdoor Discovery Program. Jessica Ward, who goes by teacher Jess, says she got the idea after seeing an ad for NPR’s student podcast challenge.
“They were doing this podcast challenge and I thought it sounded interesting so I looked into it, read all the rules and requirements, and decided to give it a try,” said teacher Jess.
The podcast challenge is open to all 5th through 12th graders. NPR gave some suggestions for topics, like experiences in your community or what it’s like being a young person today. Ward started asking her third, fourth, and fifth graders questions, from growing up in a Covid world, to their Almeda Fire experiences.
“When you give them a platform you get a lot of really deep meaningful conversations out of it, some of them were fun and silly, some wanted to just get right t it but all of them were really thoughtful reflections,” said teacher Jess.
With the help of her students, she was even able to create a make-shift recording studio with only paper, blankets, and pillows. Some students were nervous about the idea, others jumped at the chance to let their voices be heard.
“I think it was a pretty good opportunity to share what you would like to get off your chest,” said one student. “We’re creating a podcast I mean it’s pretty awesome,” said another student.
Over an hour and a half of interviews, all recorded by phone were cut down to just a six and a half minute podcast. Teacher Jess submitted it to NPR. She hopes it’s an experience her young students will be able to keep with them, as they grow.
“I am really interested in giving students a voice and so I just wanted to have them share their thoughts and also create a time capsule for them to reflect on,” said teacher Jess.
She says the winner of the podcast will get the opportunity to be featured on NPR.