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From a molasses flood to 'Titanic,' 6 podcasts that offer a glimpse into kids' minds

LA Johnson

From discussions about teen mental health to explorations on the possibility of alien life, the 2022 Student Podcast Challenge offers a glimpse into the mind of kids and teens from across the country. This year, the contest received well over 7,500 minutes of podcasting from 45 states and the District of Columbia. While all the entries spotlight a different topic, one thing is clear: we need to listen to kids more often – and we don't often get the chance to.

Your opportunity to discover what they've got to say starts here – with a compilation of a few early entries from this year's pool of submissions that made us smile, laugh or stop to think for a minute.

The finalists for the contest will be announced next week. Until then, check out these six podcasts to tide you over.

High School Entries: on neurodiversity, stage fright and The Titanic

We are all different

What happens when students don't get the right support at their school? Fazli Qadir, a student at Wolcott College Prep in Chicago, discusses the challenges, stigmas and strengths of the neurodiverse population in the U.S. In his podcast, Fazli compares his own experiences between two different high schools and offers insights on how to keep all types of students engaged in the classroom.

Carnegie-bound: inside Ramsay High's state-of-the-art choir class

The choir students at Ramsay I.B. High School in Birmingham, Ala. are preparing for a performance at the one-and-only Carnegie Hall and ninth-graders Reign Jones, Darrious Moore, and Joselynn Walker are here to document it all. Their podcast touches on stage fright, creative self-discovery and what they learned about Black history along the way.

Did Jack Dawson have to die?

"Did we really have to cry at the end of The Titanic?" asks Samantha Quiroga, a student at Morton East High School in Cicero, Ill. The podcast investigates the iconic movie scene where (spoiler alert!) the character Rose is saved from the frigid waters on a fragment of a door while her romantic interest, Jack, dies of hypothermia in the water. Samantha provides her own opinion on the movie she's seen "over 100 times," refers to a Mythbusters episode to get an expert opinion and conducts her own interviews to get to the bottom of the question that has been plaguing us since 1997: was there room for Jack on that door?

Middle School Entries: on molasses, protective hairstyles and Nvm, IDK

Unnatural Disasters: Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Calling attention to a rather, ahem, sticky situation. Eighth graders Alma Woods and Ella Horvath at Clearwater Fundamental Middle School in Clearwater, Fla., use their entry to guide us through the very real disaster of the Boston Molasses Flood, an incident that caused millions of gallons of molasses to flood city streets. The podcast oozes with highly detailed, (albeit fictionalized) interviews based off of historical research and their storytelling takes you to the scene, where you learn just how quickly molasses can move.

Black hair care

You can learn a lot from your mom. In her podcast, Arielle Lawrence from Chestnut Hill Middle School in Liverpool, N.Y., interviews her mother, a licensed cosmetologist, about Black hair care. We learn how methods of taking care of hair were passed down through generations of women in Arielle's family – from trimming ends to staying moisturized. Arielle and her mom discuss her mom's hair journey – navigating curl patterns, relaxers, and her decision to go natural.

Texting troubles

Nvm. Idk. Btw. All of these are textisms. As explained by Dylon Grimaldi and Liam Azzaoui at Indian Hill School in Holmdel, N.J., textisms are prevalent enough in today's world of language that they're having effects on test scores. Hold your cynicism, though – positive results were found in some categories! The students debate the pros and cons of textisms with their literacy teacher and a professional copywriter.

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