This year’s favorite: 2021 SPC finalists

Brother drama, identity crisis-too many climate changes-and of course: school and life challenges in a pandemic. This year’s NPR Student Podcast Challenge has all of this.

For the past few months, students across the country have been doing what NPR is doing: recording interviews, editing tapes, creating home studios, and reading stories into microphones. This year’s contest received over 2,600 podcasts from 47 states and the District of Columbia.

We are announcing the finalists today! We listened to all the podcast entries and narrowed the list to 12 junior high school finalists and 15 high school finalists.You can read and listen Click here for a complete list (Or just keep scrolling!)

From this list, the judges will select two Grand Prix winners and announce them within about a week. (We have also identified about 200 prestigious references and will announce them shortly.)

Among the many good entries that have created the list of finalists are:

  • Three high school students from Bethel County High School in southwestern Alaska interviewed their classmates about the family activity that really connected them during the pandemic: self-sufficient hunting.Listen to chase Here..
  • More than 100 years ago, in Columbia, South Carolina, a politician shot dead a newspaper editor in the daytime.A historian, two local journalists, a famous South Carolina prosecutor, and a nephew of the victim are helping students at Heathwood Hall Episco Pulse School. Tell a lost story..
  • In the wise words of Lucille Bornando, a fifth grader at Richland Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, “Slugs are underrated!” Learn more about those adorable “garden chunks.” Here..
  • Have you ever heard of George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England visiting the United States in 1939 and having a hot dog party? No, I’ve never heard of it.Young Writer’s Institute student in Cary, North Carolina Please fill in..

One thing we’ve noticed about this year’s student podcast is that they’re getting better. I’ve heard many students devoted to video chat and telephone interviews. Okay — NPR reporters are doing the same! The students did a great job of making those interviews feel natural and intentional.

And, as always, we were amazed at the creative problem-solving. In one case, a group of 7th grade students in Canton, Georgia surveyed students via text messages and collected data on this question. What do you want your parents to know? Students then read the answers aloud and create dramatic readings for the podcast. “Real life of future adults.. “

Another big trend — University category — It was a new focus on the family. Students interviewed siblings, parents and grandparents about family history and major issues.

In this category, one podcast that stole our collective mind was from Baltimore sisters Astrid and Zouri Johnson. Astrid (16) and Zori (9) are self-proclaimed best friends who share their thoughts on everything.You can hear Here..

And, as in the last two years, students have been very open and honest in talking about their identities. Andrea Marsh, a first-year junior high school student, describes how he became black in 2021 while interweaving history and current events.My melanin.. “Chicago’s Kriti Sarav talks about her complex emotions behind her culture and identity.”My own bully.. ”

Judges love when it is clear that students have spent a lot of time applying. These types of podcasts are generally good sourcing and background research studies. This year, more than ever, I saw students investigating what they knew best: their backyard. Eight of the 27 finalists undertook a local survey.

In West Windsor, NJ, Christian Gobo and Anna Rubenstein investigated the community’s reaction to local controversy. On December 1, 2020, a van full of angry protesters arrived at the Ten family’s home. Protesters stayed for 37 days, accusing their father of being a spy working for the Chinese Communist Party. Listen to the reaction of your neighborhood.Shout quietly.“”

Throughout Ashland, Oregon, high school students investigated what a year without theater performances meant for their town and its main source of income, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The pandemic was more than just a break in the performance. It was an existential crisis. Twelve students from Ashland High School saidTea, toast, and truth: should we live or die?“”

In Lexington, Kentucky, 7th grade Brennan Williams, Bo Porter, and Dominique Jean investigated what’s happening behind the scenes to keep the school running smoothly. They asked their classmates, “How many maintenance personnel do you think you need to take care of this entire campus?” The answer ranged from 25 to 50, but to find out how many people are actually caring for Sayre School, Listen to the podcast.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Copyright 2021 NPR. For more information, please visit

This year’s favorite: 2021 SPC finalists

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