C.C. Griffin STEM Middle School brought together two grade levels to complete a podcast project last school year. Through collaboration with David Baxter of CabCo-TV (Cabarrus County Channel 22) and the help of the Cabarrus County Education Foundation, students shared their own personal stories with the “What Matters to Me” project.
The Cabarrus County Education Foundation is a nonprofit which supports Cabarrus County Schools with funding, scholarships and other programs benefiting students and teachers. This year the foundation announced its newest program, Cabarrus LINK, which matched educational needs at a school with time and talent resources of local businesses.
Schools were asked to develop a project idea and apply for the opportunity to be part of the experience. C.C. Griffin staff modeled their plan after a project they have done in the past where 8th graders created a TED Talk. TED Conferences LLC is a media organization that posts talks online for free distribution under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.”
“We met with David Baxter and started talking to him and we had done a project last year where they had to create TED Talks. The kids did not like to video themselves and we ran into some recording issues and just the quality,” Jennifer Caligan, STEM coach at C.C. Griffin said. “That’s when Dave said, ‘Why don’t we do a podcast? Let’s take the face-to-face recording out.’”
After more brainstorming with principals and Megan Gomiz, an English language arts teacher, the group landed on a way to also get the 6th grade classes involved.
“Our assistant principal asked if we could create a recording booth. Eighth grade science doesn’t include sound, but 6th grade science does,” Caligan said. “We had no intention of making it a 6th and 8th grade project but we thought it was perfect. The project allowed us to bring really great PBL (project-based learning) to 6th grade and a PBL to 8th grade. So we got everybody in two grade levels.”
Bradley Yelton of Tarheel Media Systems Inc. came in to speak to the 6th grade classes about sound waves and was there to guide them along the way as they built their portable recording booth.
The grant from the education foundation was used for supplies to build the booths, which the young students worked on without knowing what the 8th graders were planning to use them for.
“They all created a design and he helped us narrow down the top 24. Those 24 worked with me and the technology facilitator to create their plan with material,” Caligan said. “At the very end we said, ‘We are going to have somebody come in and check out your design and see if they can use them.’ Then we brought in 8th graders. For the 6th graders it was awesome.”
While the 6th graders were building their booths, 8th grade classes were brainstorming podcast topics. Baxter visited the students on several occasions and talked to them about storytelling and writing to reach an audience. For this portion of the project, the school used more grant money to purchase high-quality microphones.
“It was so awesome to watch him (Baxter) work with those kids. He was really invested and always following up,” Caligan said. “We had some really personal topics. We had some that were picking topics like their sibling who overdosed, taking a knee.. some of the content was really personal to them and they did a great job.”
When the project was complete, the 8th graders presented their podcasts to the 6th grade. The students listened to the quality of the podcasts and discussed what could be done to make them better the next time around.
Caligan said plans are already in the works to make the project bigger and better this year.
“I love it, it fits so well in Cabarrus County and STEM in North Carolina,” she said about Cabarrus LINK. “I just returned from a national STEM conference and I shared about the Cabarrus LINK project and what we do. There were school districts all over the county that were in awe of that.”
She also said the project gave C.C. Griffin something to be proud of.
“C.C. Griffin has really struggled with self-image, the past five years as being labeled a failing school. I’ve been there for three years and there’s none of that that is true,” Caligan said. “We are really working on building a good community image and trying to educate the parents on all the great things we’ve got going on. This project, the kids are talking about it and the parents are talking about it.”
Moving forward, Cabarrus LINK will be held twice a year and allow more schools to bring more project ideas to life with the help of the business community.
For more information on the Cabarrus LINK project or other ways to get involved with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation visit https://cabarruscountyeducationfoundation.org/.