Classroom Connections

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Radio BCAM is a project by Mr. Mendola’s class at Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School. Mr. Mendola's students worked with Adobe Youth Voices and Radio Rookies to create their own radio stories.

Mr. Mendola, BCAM Teacher and Radio BCAM founder:

I’ve been admiring Radio Rookies’ work and using their stories in class for years. I could always find a Rookies story that explored a theme we were reading about.  Listening to other young people reporting topics they relate to is always an engaging break from other routines.  Plus, students practice making thematic connections between texts and from texts to their own lives-- essential higher-order skills which can be a challenge to teach.

This year we used Rookies’ stories to help explore Monster, a staple young adult novel by Walter Dean Meyers about a Harlem 16-year-old on trial for his life because he’s associated with a robbery/murder.  Discussions of themes of race, being labeled unfairly, the nature of justice, loyalty, and self-respect were all assisted by relevant Rookies’ stories.

But we also stepped up our game this time by creating radio stories of our own, with support from Radio Rookies producers Courtney and Veralyn, and Hillary Kolos from Adobe Youth Voices.  While students were writing essays about Monster, they were also developing story ideas based on the themes we were exploring.

Anytime my students get to share their work in the real world, something special happens.  Sure, most students want to make their teachers proud, but does the thought of disappointing me hold a candle to that of a bad look in front of peers, family, or the world at large? 

Stories about being unfairly labeled were popular, as well as those dealing with teenagers being “two-faceded”, or less-than-loyal to friends.  A couple of students used the project as an opportunity to celebrate lost loved ones and explore how death and violence can affect young people.  One student focused on themes of justice and oppression by looking into the plight of a powerless group, the animals used in brutal dog fighting matches.  Another reached out to members of our Brooklyn community who are still affected by the consequences of the Haitian earthquake, one year later.  Still another, following the example of the attorneys in Monster, used her mic to gather testimony from her family members and get to the bottom of a household dispute.

Opportunities to work directly with Courtney and Veralyn were definite high points of the project. We had already been listening to stories Veralyn made when she herself was a Rookie Reporter, and a teenager like them.  Now, it was like them seeing someone they knew as another kid reporter grown up into a successful producer.  And the opportunity to tour a working radio station and actually record audio in a real studio?  Brooklyn bragging rights for the year.

Hillary gave essential guidance and help in planning the project and getting myself and the students up to speed with unfamiliar sound-editing software.  She’s helped us share our work with other young media makers from around the city. Congratulations to Tia and Deion, whose stories were presented at the culminating Adobe Youth Voices Live! event.

The students might not realize it yet, but we’ve been building valuable storytelling, research, and revision skills that we’ll be using soon to become better readers and writers. Please take a listen to all the Radio BCAM stories and let us know what you think!