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Adding Our Voice to the Global Conversation — Alaska Public Radio Showcases Riverside Elementary Podcast

Nearly every day, our students have the opportunity to speak with people from around the world. SMART team members Skype with researchers for guidance about 3D molecular modeling. Middle school students interview award-winning authors for a behind-the-scenes look at authorship. Eighth graders discuss personal experiences with people who made their mark on history. Today, it doesn’t matter how many miles separate a student from a resource — all it takes is an iPad to open the door to real-world personal experiences and expertise.

While technology has allowed our students to bring the world to our doorstep, it’s also provided students with the chance to venture “out and about” — sharing their voices and perspectives with a global audience. Last week, Mrs. Treptow’s fourth grade classroom at Riverside Elementary ventured into the homes of Alaskans (and Iditarod fans around the world) thanks to Alaska Public Radio (APRN). Josh Edge, who hosts the Iditapod (a podcast devoted to the Iditarod) on APRN, showcased the Riverside Elementary students’ I-Kid-a-Pod podcast. I-Kid-a-Pod is a 100 percent student produced podcast that provides listeners with lessons in mushing lingo, the history of the Iditarod, special race moments, profiles of the dogs and mushers, and daily race updates. Students developed the logo and theme music and are responsible for all of the research, scripting, editing, recording and voiceovers.

The podcast is an amazing exercise that involves critical thinking, communication, performance, artistic and collaborative skills. Students are divided into five groups — named after the Iditarod’s checkpoints — and while they each are required to speak once during a broadcast, they are free to develop their own roles within the group based on their natural interests and strengths. As Felicity noted in the Alaska Public Radio Iditapod interview, some students choose to edit the soundtrack using GarageBand; some prefer to dig into the research and writing; and others prefer to be the voice of the podcast. Prior to the race, each student must research two mushers and create musher trading cards on their iPads. The cards are then printed and featured with an Iditarod map that takes up an entire wall of the classroom. The map is updated every morning and afternoon, charting the progress of each musher.

I spoke with Mrs. Treptow about students’ enthusiasm for the project. Because the students have 100 percent ownership of the project, they are passionate about every aspect of it. They each have a favorite musher — often one of the mushers they personally researched or a musher from Wisconsin. They play Iditarod games on the playground. And they take pride in the fact that their podcast can be heard around the world.

What amazed me was the depth of knowledge the students develop about the race and the manner in which the podcast is integrated across the curriculum. As Josh noted in the podcast, “I’m blown away by how deep they dive into the race.” Students’ language skills are sharpened by reading newspaper articles and drafting summaries. They hone their writing skills with script writing and editing and work on fluency with voiceovers. Their math skills are used to calculate the pace of the race via a GPS tracker and determining how many calories the dogs burn. Geography comes to life via the interactive Iditarod map and science becomes tangible as students research how the dogs are able to perform at such high levels. History becomes personalized when students have the opportunity to Skype with racers and their dogs while sitting in a classroom in Wisconsin. And students participate in a race of their own: the I-dit-a-read — reading one page for every mile raced. 

It’s no wonder Alaska Public Radio was eager to interview Mrs. Treptow! I encourage you to listen to the podcast (the interview begins at minute 13:44). Josh Edge’s enthusiasm for I-Kid-a-Pod is infectious — he even notes that the students’ I-Kid-a-Pod podcast has been around longer than his own Iditapod podcast. He was kind enough to feature a question from one of the Riverside Elementary students. The question was addressed to Ally Zirkle — a musher who has become a favorite of the students because of the personal connection students have been able to establish with her. They have spoken with her via Skype, she has listened to their podcasts and sent them a postcard thank you note in return. Thanks to the inquisitive nature of the Riverside Elementary students, Iditarod fans around the world were able to join the conversation between Riverside and Ally as she kindly addressed the student’s question about her dog-hugging habits and provided a one-of-a-kind perspective of life on the Iditarod trail. More questions from Riverside Elementary students are featured in Episode 9.

Thank you to Mrs. Treptow and her students! Mrs. Treptow admitted that at first she was a bit hesitant to try a podcast because she’d never done it before. But together, she and her students ventured into the unknown and launched a podcast that is creative, engaging and informative. As a result, their voices, questions and passion have helped bring a new perspective to Iditarod fans around the world. 


Iditapod — Alaska Public Radio interview with Mrs. Treptow (Minute 13:30)


Wausau Daily Herald Article features I-Kid-a-Pod

Iditapod — Alaska Public Radio speaks with Riverside Elementary Students (Minute 22)


ikidapodtimeline kids working with other students via Skype

Dr. Kristine Gilmore