Sixth-graders who used the power of two languages — Mandarin and English — to express how Asian students in their city suffered during the early days of the coronavirus.
And high school seniors who looked at inequality — and the activism that seeks to change it — to demand they be heard in the fight against climate change.
Meet the grand prize winners of the 2020 NPR Student Podcast Challenge!
Our judges chose these two winners from more than 2,200 entries overall — ones that came from 46 states and Washington, D.C. There were podcasts about science, sports, siblings and natural wonders, about historical events and books and, in many cases, about the shutdown and the pandemic. In addition to the grand prize winners, we've recognized 25 finalists and 215 honorable mentions.
Congratulations to all our winners and to the thousands of students who submitted entries, finishing their podcasts amid the challenges of school shutdowns. Many students recorded, produced and edited their podcasts from home. This year we saw a notable increase in quality, which made the judging all the more difficult.
The winner: Grades 5-8
By sixth-graders Leo Yu, Angelo Chen, Becky Liu, Si Chen Xu, Joyce Jiang, Zoe Jiang, Nicole Zheng and Amanda Chen
PS 126/Manhattan Academy of Technology in New York City
Teacher: Karin Patterson
In their podcast, the students interviewed high schoolers about the harassment they felt as the coronavirus hit New York City. Along the way, the students taught listeners relevant words such as mask, sneeze and face in Mandarin.
They even taught some Mandarin sayings such as: "Sickness comes in like a landslide, but goes out as slow as spinning silk."
Our judges found the format both innovative and informative. "I was impressed that these students took on the story of the century in such a thoughtful and creative way, putting it — literally — in their own words, both in English and Mandarin," said Chuck Holmes, one of our judges and executive director of NPR member station WBHM in Birmingham, Ala.
N'Jeri Eaton, director of programming and new audience at NPR and another judge, agreed. "I actually found myself sounding out the words as I went along," she said.
The entry was submitted by Karin Patterson, who teaches English as a new language and runs the Dragon Kids Podcast Club after school.
The winner: Grades 9-12
"The Flossy Podcast: Climate Change & Environmental Racism"
By seniors Jaheim Birch Gentles, Jamar Thompson, Joshua Bovell, Brianna Johnson, Kamari Murdock, Isaiah Dupuy, with music by Ieszan McKinney.
The High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media in New York City
Teacher: Mischaël Cetoute
After attending a climate march in Manhattan, the seniors began asking tough questions about why they didn't see many black protesters. "Climate change is racial injustice," the students concluded in their podcast. They interviewed protesters, cited research and discussed their own observations about how global warming disproportionately affects black communities.
"This one was my absolute favorite," said Kenya Young, one of our judges and executive producer of NPR's Morning Edition. The judges agreed that the students' passion and honesty were key factors in making this podcast a winner.
The work was submitted by Mischaël Cetoute, a restorative justice coordinator who helps run the Men in Color after-school program at the school.