This year, NPR held its Student Podcast Challenge and received more than 6000 entries. Great Oak Academy, a small 6-8th grade school in Harrisonburg recently sent WMRA about a dozen podcasts their students produced and asked us to pick our favorite.
It wasn’t easy, but we chose 8th grader Mia Hernandez and invited her to come to WMRA, along with her teacher Sarah Gorman. They sat down with WMRA’s Chris Boros who asked Sarah to talk about the class she teaches.
Sarah Gorman: I teach a class at Great oak Academy called Literacy Workshop. We look at a variety of topics but we wanted to focus in on our garden and our tree at our school. We have this beautiful 300 year-old oak tree and then we have a school garden we tend throughout the year. And we thought what better way to express their research than to do a podcast and present their research in a way that could be shared with others as opposed to just being on paper.
WMRA: So Mia, I want to talk to you about your podcast. Did you know about podcasts before this?
Mia Hernandez: Sort of, because I kind of listen to the radio a little bit.
WMRA: When you sat down to do your reading, how did you feel about that?
Mia: It kind of felt awkward. It was like I was talking to myself in an empty room.
WMRA: So you were given something to read?
Mia: Well I made it myself.
WMRA: OK, so you wrote it yourself?
WMRA: I thought so. We were curious about that because we thought, Mia really sounds like she wrote this and it’s coming from you. Let’s hear a little of Mia’s podcast.
WMRA: Mia, what we loved most about your podcast was your delivery. How did you do it because you don’t sound like you’re reading? It sounds like you’re having fun. Tell me how you did it.
Mia: It was fun because I got to put my own music behind it and I got to research my own things. I’m a photographer, I take pictures of plants.
WMRA: And did that inspire you to do the podcast because it was about gardening?
WMRA: We’re you surprised we chose yours among all of them?
Mia: Yeah, I kind of didn’t really want it because I’m an anxious person.
WMRA: How did you feel when you heard it back?
Mia: I felt happy because it actually sounded like I tried.
WMRA: What did your classmates say when they found out we chose your podcast?
Mia: They were all clapping. And they were all excited.
WMRA: What about your parents?
Mia: I didn’t tell them.
Sarah: I told your sister, so she knows.
WMRA: Sarah, tell me about the school you teach at, Great Oak Academy.
Sarah: Great Oak is a school within a school housed within Thomas Harrison. We serve grades 6th, 7th, and 8th. And our motto, or our slogan, is that we’re a caring community of engaged learners growing together. And so we’re small, we have about ten students per grade. And we like to focus on project based learning and so this podcast project was an example of how we’re doing hands on learning in the garden and with our tree – making our learning real by taking our research and making it into a podcast that Mia is now happy to share today.
Mia: We had two options: the Greak oak Tree or the garden and I chose the garden.
Mia: Because a garden is really pretty. It has flowers and we even have chickens.
WMRA: Do they have names?
Mia: (Laughing) Yeah.
WMRA: Did you name them or were they already named?
Mia: We all named them.
WMRA: What are their names?
Mia: Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. And midnight snack. (All laughing).
WMRA: That’s hilarious. Those are the funniest names I’ve ever heard for a group of chickens.
WMRA: If you could do a podcast on any topic, what would you choose?
WMRA: BTS? What’s that?
Mia: BTS is this Korean boy band and they really inspire me.
WMRA: What’s so cool about them?
Mia: They made this era called “Love Yourself” and they have really touching songs and this leader called Kim Nam-joon always talks about loving yourself, even if it’s your identity, your gender, always love yourself.
WMRA: What do you think you want to do when you’re an adult?
Mia: I really want to be on stage – be a dancer and singer.
Sarah: She’s a really talented dancer.
WMRA: I think you could be a professional broadcaster. I could learn some things from you, Mia, the way you read that it was excellent.
Mia: Thank you.