Peculiar Elementary is diving deep into the philosophical questions about music, and a group of fifth-graders is leading the way. The school’s music teacher, Katie Schork, has started a podcast called “Music Movers” written and produced entirely by her students.
Schork got the idea from a graduate class she was taking and, on a whim, applied for a grant from the Missouri Retired Teachers Association. With the $500 grant, she was able to purchase the equipment.
“We’re not talking about rhythm or sharps or flats. We’re talking about bigger ideas, like, ‘Why do people like certain types of music?’ or ‘How does music affect a culture?’” Schork said.
The first podcast addressed the question, “Does a performance have to be public to be meaningful?”
Any fifth-grade student could sign up for the podcast, and 40 decided to participate. They meet every Tuesday and Friday during the school day.
For each episode there are several different teams that work on the various tasks. Every team has four students, dividing up responsibilities such as brainstorming questions, writing a script, doing the actual recording and editing it afterward.
The preparation team chooses one of those larger questions and comes up with three or four related questions to promote discussion.
“I had heard a lot of podcasts before, and I always thought it would be fun to make one. It kind of got nerve-wracking once we started to actually do it,” said Chloe Hansen, 10. “It was really fun being able to hang out with friends while also learning how to do new things. … When we bring it all together, it can be a really nice sounding thing.”
The students use Schork’s MacBook, along with some USB microphones and the editing program GarageBand to create the finished product.
For each podcast, the student rotate roles, and by the end of the school year, they will have gotten to try three different podcast-related jobs.
“Since we don’t get to be in every single podcast, we get to help prepare and train (the next team) in what works out what doesn’t. I’m looking forward to being able to help other kids,” Chloe said.
Ten-year-old Bentlee Ritter said that helping the next group get comfortable in their roles, “reminds me of a retired person passing on stuff to a youngster.”
One key tenet of the project is that the students take charge and do the work.
“I’m just a guide. I don’t really have a lot of input into it,” Schork said. “I just try to keep them from going down unrelated rabbit holes. It’s basically student created.”
Over the course of the academic year, Schork hopes to have the kids create seven podcasts. Having them in the driver’s seat encourages them to develop skills in creativity, critical thinking and communications.
The first podcast featured the students asking each other questions, but Schork said her students are already talking about interviewing some of the school’s third-graders for their December podcast.
“The kids seem to be really enjoying it, especially once they see the finished product. At first, they’re just coming up with these questions, and they don’t see it connecting to the whole process, but then they see, ‘Oh, we did contribute to that,’” Schork said. “Especially as the kids start coming in for the second and third time, they’re going to know how important each job is.”
For the moment, the podcast is available on the school’s web platform on Seesaw that parents can access at home. The 3-minute podcast isn’t fancy, she said, but it shows the kids what they’re capable of doing.
“I think it’s important to connect the kids to ‘the outside world.’ We tend to think inside the walls of our school building. Kids don’t think they can access or connect with the adult world,” Schork said.
“When you do a project like this they really can. It doesn’t have to be large and complex. You can keep it simple and still be pretty successful and build on that success.”