The Coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to adapt to a new reality of social distancing. For kids, this reality has been especially hard.

To help middle and high school students across Montana document this unprecedented time in their lives, the Montana Media Lab launched a state-wide, oral history project. We asked high school and middle school students to document their experiences by recording interviews with grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and friends.

Head over to Montana Public Radio to listen to these heartfelt conversations.

Miles City students report on historic theater renovation

One stop on our summer news literacy and audio storytelling tour was at Custer County High School in Miles City. Students covered the re-opening of a historic movie theater, capturing the feel of the space by recording the sound of popcorn being made and the squeals of children waiting to see a matinee.

Students reported and collected amazing sounds for their audio story all around the city. Then they cut and edited interviews they conducted with the town’s historical experts and community members into a compelling story.

Students chose their sources and scenes carefully so their story would tell a complete story about the theater.
A highlight of the week was a behind-the-scenes tour of the theater from its new owner.

Great Falls students report on local art festival

This summer we taught high school students in Great Falls about news literacy and digital storytelling. The workshop yielded a story on the new murals on downtown buildings. The story aired around the state on Yellowstone Public Radio.

Students learned how to find reliable sources of media

Students found sources who could speak about how the arts festival impacts the community

The workshops also gave students tools for finding reliable sources of news. Teens are exposed to a lot of media, and it can be difficult for them to determine what information is trustworthy, and what is misleading.

Students practiced capturing the signature sounds of different parts of Great Falls

Students looked closely at URLs and usernames, opened many tabs about one topic, and used fact-checking websites to identify false claims online. They said they learned new ways to identify misinformation, and they left the workshops understanding the reasons accurate news is important to them.

Lodge Grass students report on the Ultimate Warrior Competition

Last summer the Media Lab team hosted a workshop in Lodge Grass, where students interviewed people in horse stables and at tribal offices for a story about an annual race rooted in Apsaaloóke culture.Their story aired around the state on Yellowstone Public Radio.

Students interviewed Ian White, who has competed in the competition. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life,” he said.

The Media Lab taught students how to make a radio story

Students interviewed officials at the Crow Tribe Executive Branch Offices

The Montana Media Lab teaches audio storytelling skills so people can tell their stories. This summer our team taught high school students around the state how to make stories for radio or podcasts. UM Journalism School graduate Dante Filpula Ankney led audio storytelling instruction.

Students interviewed officials at the Crow Tribe officials

Students learned how to find a good audio story, and how to operate microphones and audio recorders. They practiced writing scripts, narrating stories, and editing audio. Students left the workshop with all the skills they need to put together great audio stories.

Students shared their story and their audio reporting process with their community at the end of the week.

Harlem students make an audio portrait of their home

The first stop on our summer 2022 high school workshop road trip was in Harlem, Montana. Students took to the streets with microphones and notebooks to report an audio portrait of the quiet town just off the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Their story aired around the state on Yellowstone Public Radio.

One of the interviews featured in the piece was with the students’ classmate Darrius Longknife “I would just have to say that there is nothing else like Harlem,” Longknife said. “Harlem — it’s its own special place.”

Reporting in Indigenous communities

Students developed a reporting plan they thought would capture the most important facets of Harlem

One focus of our summer high school workshops is teaching students how to report stories in Indigenous communities. Tribes and Indigenous people are at the center of a lot of news in Montana, yet they are underrepresented in media.

Students captured sounds like the notorious Hi-Line wind in the trees for the story

Student instructor JoVonne Wagner, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, taught students and teachers how to find stories, research and connect with Native communities, and accurately report stories that involve Indigenous people.
JoVonne gave students tips on building relationships to include Indigenous voices in their journalism without perpetuating stereotypes or inaccurately reporting on tribal affairs. Students put these skills to work in their reporting on Harlme, where many residents are Indigenous.

This group of brilliant young journalists put together an amazing story

Teens learn audio storytelling and news literacy skills in Montana Media Lab workshop

This summer the Montana Media Lab criss-crossed the state in a silver minivan, visiting rural and Indigenous communities. The team taught students how to tell their own stories with sound and find reliable sources of news. The trip was a great success–workshop participants made stories heard across the state on Yellowstone Public Radio, and both students and their teachers said they would use their news literacy and audio storytelling skills in the future.

Do you think we should teach teens in your community? Get in touch at [email protected] to let us know you’re interested, and you might be the next stop on our journalism education road trip.

Student instructor Hunter Wiggins captured our 2022 road trip in this video.