The NPR Student Podcast Challenge inspired thousands of students across the country to submit, and one student at Clancy Elementary School in central Montana inspired his teacher to take the challenge a step further.
Seventh-grader Jack Johnson’s entry focuses on prejudice and discrimination in Montana and mentions one incident in particular.
“In May 2018, Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez, friends who lived close to each other in Havre, were shopping for groceries,” he said in the podcast. “As they conversed in Spanish, a border protection agent who was in line overheard them talking.”
Johnson connected this case of alleged discrimination to the history of Chinese people in Montana.
His submission, along with an entry out of Crow Agency, won honorable mentions in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge.
In an interview with YPR, Johnson said his dad told him about the competition.
“And he thought it would be a good idea for me,” he said. "And I really feel passionate about human rights and equality, so I thought that would be a good topic.”
In his submission, Johnson talked about Montana’s diverse population in the 1860s and ‘70s, and said it was around 10 to 15 percent Chinese.
“These Chinese Montanans helped build the railroads, mined the state’s precious metals, and started vibrant communities across the state,” he said in his entry. “However, they too faced discrimination.”
His social studies teacher, Ryan Fetherston, helped him submit his entry.
“When Jack brought this to me, I was like man, we could do more projects with this. This could be a better way for them to present,” he said. “And so our idea is to make our own Clancy Public Radio.”
Fetherston, who is an avid podcast listener, thought it would be a good learning tool for his public speaking class, where he’s already introduced interactive projects like vlogs.
“If we want to be stagnant, then it’s boring for them. By him bringing it up and listening, it allows them to kinda take charge some of their learning as well,” said Fetherston. “I’m here to teach them skills and the necessary skills and direct them in the right direction, but it really is up to them, and by him bringing this and allowing us to do this, it makes me as a better teacher, it pushes me to get out of my comfort zone, which I love the challenge as well.”
He imagines he could involve his other classes, too, and that’s eventually what he proposed to the school administration. The school district is providing microphones, boom arms, and laptops for the project, which Fetherston says will begin next year.