Why is Michigan the best state of all time? How is dating in high school these days different from previous generations? Why doesn’t everyone in New York City care about the sound of sirens? do you want?
These are just a few of the many questions posed and answered by thousands of middle and high school students across the country who participated in NPR’s 5th Annual Student Podcast Challenge.
This year, we received over 3,300 entries from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. This is a significant increase from last year and the highest number of entries since the competition began in 2019.
The NPR Ed team spent weeks listening, pondering and judging their work. And finally, we are happy to share our achievements. 13 Middle school and 13 high school finalists. From among these outstanding podcasts, a jury will select her one middle school and one high school grand prize winner.
The Student Podcast Challenge is 5 years old. Perhaps, dear teacher, you have been with us since the early days of the pandemic. Or maybe you recently started listening to or teaching about podcasting and discovered our contest. Either way, we had so much fun hearing from our students and hearing the stories they brought to us. Thank you for staying with us until the end. We hope to see you again next year!
Below is an alphabetical list of the 13 middle school and 13 high school finalist podcasts. congratulation!
Content Warning: Some podcasts on this list deal with sensitive topics, such as trauma and school shootings.
junior high school
All About Tourette Syndrome – Victor Intermediate School, Victor, New York
Students: Tyler Pickard, Eva Chappell, Zach Palliflon, Andrew Norson
Teacher/Sponsor: Amy Smith Faxan
Four classmates share the story of a friend with Tourette’s Syndrome. Their podcast tells listeners how the disease affects student life and how to be good friends with someone with the disease.
Amelia’s story – Hawkins STEMM Academy, Toledo, Ohio
Student: Amelia Hankinson
Teacher/Sponsor: Rodney West-Estelle
In this fun first-person podcast, Amelia imagines what it’s like to be the shortest person in her class. In her fictional story, she tries everything from eating garlic to stretching to reaching for her toes to change the situation.
attack on our future – Compass Community Collaborative School, Fort Collins, Colorado
Students: Cole Anderson, Iris Beechey Quick, Julia Walkowiak
Teacher/Sponsor: Alison Horsh
To better understand the lasting effects of school shootings, three students interview members of the Colorado community who survived the 1999 Columbine Massacre.
conscientious consumerism – DeWitt Middle School, Ithaca, NY
Student: Coralus Meeks
Teacher/Sponsor: Rosina Belcourt
Born and raised on a small family farm, Coralus has some knowledge of processed meats. Her podcast explores the ethics of where our food comes from and the food choices we make. “A simple change in food choices can have a huge impact on our farming system and take another step toward a more ethical world,” she says. “
Dalyan AgcaNRP Podcast – Mallett School, Washington DC
Student: Dalyan Agca
Teacher/Sponsor: Senay Agca
This podcast asks, “Do you love classical music…and pets? If so, keep listening!” Dalyan explains how some famous classical works were inspired by the composer’s cats and dogs. “And maybe your pet will be the inspiration for your next piece,” says Dalyan.
Hawaii Innocence Project – Highland Middle School, Pearl City, Hawaii
Students: Brynna Colmenares and Emma Forges
Lecturer/Sponsor: Kelly Kajiwara
Two middle school students from Hawaii share the origins of the Hawaii Innocence Project and the nonprofit’s efforts to free wrongfully convicted inmates in the state.
J&D Podcast– Milburn Middle School, Milburn, New Jersey
Students: Jambi Wong and Devin Wong
Teacher/Sponsor: Emily Thurman
how TRUE Measure the impact of phones and social media on young people’s lives? The brothers challenge this long-standing question when Janvi lets go of her cell phone for a week while Devin observes. The first day begins with conflict. “I try not to think about my cell phone. Sometimes I reach for it thinking it’s next to me. I really want it back.” learns an amazing lesson.
NWEY middle school today – Presidio Middle School, San Francisco
Students: Nora Weiner and Erica Young
Teacher/Sponsor: Jenny Chio
Middle school isn’t like it used to be. The constant threat of gun violence. Widespread concerns about mental health. Instagram and TikTok. As this podcast points out, previous teachers didn’t keep cat litter in their classrooms in case the lockdown forced them to DIY their own litter boxes. And then there’s the peer pressure that social media brings. Nora and Erica conclude that middle school has changed a lot, for better or worse.
self care fanfare– Charles N Holden Elementary School, Chicago
Students: Leslie Herrera Godinez and Eta Nevius
Teacher/Sponsor: Mark Stickler
Leslie and Etta embark on a journey of self-care discovery. They spend his five days trying different ways to reduce stress, such as reading books, baking bread, listening to music, and sleeping. Through the experiment, the two junior high school students learn that people value themselves differently.
story of embarrassment– Charles N. Holden Elementary School, Chicago
Student: Maisie Marshall
Teacher/Sponsor: Mark Stickler
We all have those embarrassing moments. For Maisie, it’s a memory of having to stand in front of the whole class and throw a tantrum and apologize. Along the way, this student invites classmates and teachers to reflect on embarrassing stories and explore what we can all learn from such moments.
undocumented– Seward Communication Arts Academy, Chicago
Students: Anian Andrade, Carlos Morales, Gabriel Mendes
Teacher/Sponsor: Greg Mitchie
Three eighth graders from Chicago set out to tell the stories of illegal immigrant youth in their area. Part of a three-part series, this episode features an intimate conversation with Luna, a high school student who immigrated from Mexico at a young age.
we students – Luria Academy of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
Student: Mia Tuel
Teacher/Sponsor: Chiara Cafiero
How can you love democracy after losing an election? Brooklyn middle school student Mia asks this question through the newly formed student council.
women’s life freedom – Northwest School, Seattle
Student: Nina Goldin
Teacher/Sponsor: Susan Fine
Fourteen-year-old Nina tells the story of Iran’s first female-led revolution and asks listeners for their attention and support.
Bulletproof– After School Matters, Chicago
Student: Natalie Martinez
Teacher/Sponsor: After School Matters
Natalie tells the haunting story of a Chicago shopping mall shooting in 2022. “When I heard six gunshots and fled to the back of the store, I suddenly felt terrified, appalled and paralyzed. I told him I missed him and I loved him.” The high school student talks about how he survived this deadly incident and interviews a Chicago police officer about what to do in a situation like this. I asked for advice.
Cracking the Nutcracker: Balancing Tradition and Progress – University of Chicago Experimental School, Chicago
Students: Kriti Salav and Sarina Zhao
Teacher/Sponsor: Menaka Sarav
Popular holiday ballet, nutcracker Perform a variety of culturally inspired dances. Her two high school students in Chicago venture into the outdated side of the show and observe how a local dance company is modernizing her classical ballet.
Confronting Fentanyl: Exploring the Opioid Crisis in Our County – Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland
Students: Caroline Burton, Maxwell Ahlebacher, Lily Miller
Teacher/Sponsor: Sarah Forman
School districts in Maryland face a life-threatening threat from fentanyl. Three students report on their own and their classmates’ experiences: fear, trauma, and loss. They will also interview school officials to report on policies in place to address the surge in overdose.
sadness and the power of art– Cypress Woods High School, Cypress, Texas
Student: Cameron Wallace
Teacher/Sponsor: Lori Andrade
Cameron talks about the interconnected nature of art and grief, how art-making can help deal with negative emotions and even bring people together.
Impact of the Jackson Water Crisis on Education – Mississippi School of Math and Science, Columbus, Mississippi
Student: Georgiana McKennie
Teacher/Sponsor: Thomas Easterling
Media coverage of the water crisis in Jackson, Michigan earlier this year focused on a blame game. Who was to blame? As usual, Jackson’s students had a hard time coping while the “grown-ups” argued. Georgiana tells this story, drawing in part on her experience with her cousin Mariah, who recently attended Jackson Public Schools. “Mariah starts her day by going to the bathroom to see if the water pressure is working properly before she gets ready for school,” Georgiana tells us. “No water comes out of the faucet.”
Jia Fan’s Podcast – Stanford Online High School, Redwood City, CA
Student: Fan Jia
Teacher/Sponsor: Estefanie Arenas
In this personal and emotional podcast, Gia opens up about her relationship with her sister and how seeing her confront and overcome discrimination at school strengthened the relationship between the two brothers.
OCD 101 – Emma Willard School, Troy, NY
Students: Patti Consomjit and Narmene Omer
Teacher/Sponsor: Laszlo Bardos
Two students with obsessive-compulsive disorder interviewed a psychiatric nurse to explain its complexities and why it is important to raise awareness about how OCD impacts daily life. Explore.
American Soccer: My Obsession with America’s New Favorite Pastime– Branson School, Branson, Colorado.
Student: Ayah Al-Mashabi
Teacher/Sponsor: Ann Hermann
Aya explains the history of American soccer, interviews soccer players and fans, and tells how she fell in love with the game. “Football has been my life. I’ve had many miserable 90 minutes and moments of overwhelming joy, but more importantly, my memories of football.” Dear people I love. “
The Down Low – Enloe Magnet High School, Raleigh, North Carolina
Students: Leeya Chaudhuri and Jacob Harrenstein
Teacher/Sponsor: Brian Hedgepes
The Down Low Trace the important but little-known history of Oberlin Village, North Carolina’s historic Reconstruction-era freedmen’s colony.
wish for happiness – West Adams Preparatory High School, Los Angeles
Student: Sarah Roshan
Teacher/Sponsor: John Foley
“Hello, my name is Sarah.” Thus begins this powerful first-person story about an Afghan refugee, her journey to the United States, and the importance she and her family place on education. “Of course you can’t make big changes for me,” she says. “But for myself, for my friends, and for everyone in my country, I can study more.”
transaction– Clayton High School, Clayton, Missouri
Student: Stella Plain
Teacher/Sponsor: Amy Doyle
This collage-style podcast features the voices of five transgender teens who share their experiences growing up in St. Louis, where gender-affirming care was banned by the state.
american trans kids – Marblehead High School, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Student: Dylan McDonald
Teacher/Sponsor: Jennifer Billings
A Massachusetts teen opens up about his experiences as a transgender youth in a heartfelt conversation with his mother. “Children like me are why we have to fight anti-trans legislation,” Dylan says.
non documentary – Palos Verdes High School, Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Student: Shia Presser
Teacher/Sponsor: Christine Lyons
These students interview classmates who immigrated from Mexico and the challenges they faced after arriving in the United States.
Honorable Mention winners will be announced later this summer.
All finalist certificates will be mailed to schools in the fall.please contact Studentpodcastchallenge@npr.org If you have any questions.