Deer Lodge teens explored the relationship between their town and mining in a podcast series they finished during a workshop with the Montana Media Lab. The project was inspired by the great Montana podcast, “Richest Hill,” which tells the story of the Superfund cleanup in Butte, Montana. Students conducted interviews with everyone from mining professionals to an employee at the local movie theater. Then, they did independent research and wrote scripts that explored the topic from a diverse array of angles. Each student recorded their own narration, and edited the project to include music and natural sounds. The result was a local perspective on the history of mining companies shaping one Montana town.
This winter our Youth Voices program headed to beautiful Ronan, Montana for a high school audio storytelling workshop. Students learned the basics of journalism, practiced using their audio gear, and making a radio news story. And along the way, they realized that their expertise on their hometown contained a story valuable to listeners across the state.
The group chose to cover a road construction project that could disrupt traffic in their town. On first glance, highway design might not seem like the most thrilling story. But local knowledge led these young reporters to uncover the depth of the project’s potential impacts.
They found that the path a road takes changes peoples lives. They heard resident’s worries that the new highway could turn their home into a ghost town. Others told them the new road could increase business profits. Their peers said they feared the new route of the highway could prevent their beloved trips to the local Dairy Queen for lunch.
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.
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 learned how to find reliable sources of media
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 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.
The Media Lab taught students how to make a radio story
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 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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
In Heart Butte, Montana, students reported on news unfolding right in their backyard using skills they learned at a News Literacy and Digital Storytelling Workshop. Construction crews were installing a new solar array that would supply energy for the school and for community members. Students made a radio feature that included the sound of construction equipment and wind whistling across the hills surrounding the school.
Middle school students in Polson spent the week of their News Literacy and Digital Storytelling Workshop gathering stories about the Flathead Lake monster for a video story. An elder shared the Kootenai story of a lake monster creating Flathead lake. The students visited a judge who believed he saw a monster in the lake. A museum director shared her theory that the monster was actually an ancient fish. A biologist applied his knowledge to the idea of a lake monster.
Watch the video below.
The news literacy and digital storytelling projects were made possible by support from a Hearst Literacy Grant and the Greater Montana Foundation.
Are you interested in hosting a Montana Media Lab News Literacy and Digital storytelling workshop at your school? Contact us here.