In a bid to amplify the voices of budding journalists and audio enthusiasts across the nation, NPR's Student Podcast Challenge has become an opportunity for students in grades four through 12 and college students. In its sixth year, the challenge continues to evolve, reflecting the shifting interests and concerns of today's youth.

The challenge isn't just about creating content; it's also about creating a supportive learning environment to foster that growth. NPR provides educators with resources and curriculum materials to bring audio journalism into classroom settings.

For students, the challenge represents an opportunity to make their mark. The contest, open until May 3, invites students to submit podcasts ranging from three to eight minutes in length. Winners will have their podcasts featured on NPR and receive a visit from NPR's education team.

NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge

NPR's Steve Drummond and Janet Woojeong Lee, two of the people behind the competition sat down with Morning Edition host Pamela Kirkland to shed light on the impact of the challenge during an interview — and how the initiative not only offers students a platform to share their narratives but also enhances their own journalism.



Pamela Kirkland: If you were listening to All Things Considered a couple of weeks ago, then you heard Peter Biello's interview with Mercer University student Eliza Moore, a finalist in NPR's 2024 College Podcast Challenge. I recently sat down with NPR's Steve Drummond and Janet Woojeong Lee, two of the people behind NPR Student Podcast Challenge and College Podcast Challenge, to talk about some of the amazing projects that they come across. Stephen, Janet, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Steve Drummond: Oh, it's our pleasure.

Pamela Kirkland: So, this challenge has gone on for six years now, and you've expanded it to include actually a younger set and some older students. What does it mean to you to hear from some of these young, budding journalists?

Janet W. Lee: It's been a really rewarding experience for us. One, as journalists, it really helps us understand what young people are thinking about. Each year, the topics of podcasts we get changed a little bit. So in the earlier iterations, we were getting a lot of stories of things like young people in social media, to now getting more things about like mental health or how climate change is impacting school.

On top of that, I think it also has allowed us to open up some opportunities for these budding and up-and-coming journalists, and audio folks. So, one really exciting example we love sharing is our first ever college winner. Anya Steinberg is now working on on of our NPR podcasts, Throughline. So, we're really also hoping that this kind of serves as a pipeline for students around the country to be like, "Oh, like, I can do this, and I'm pretty good at it." And then, "I want to keep going at it." And sort of open up opportunities for them to get feedback for their work as well.

Pamela Kirkland: And Steve, you guys provide a whole curriculum for high school classrooms, for teachers and for the students. Do you see more schools formalizing audio journalism in their journalism or their writing classes?

Steve Drummond: Oh, very much so. We've seen from the very first year we've heard from a lot of teachers saying that it was a lot of fun. It was a chance to do group-based learning, that their students, you know, it was a it was a really, exciting way for their students to get to talk in their own voices and tell stories.

And so from that first year, we also heard from teachers saying, "How do we do this? How do I teach my students?" You know, it all seems really complicated. And we've tried to break it down to the simple fact that with a cellphone and a laptop computer, you can make a really great podcast. And we have all kinds of resources about how to use music and how not to use music. How to write for the ear — all of this stuff that all of us do in our jobs all the time — and we're trying to help young people do that and help teachers help their students do that.

Pamela Kirkland: So, Janet, can you give us some information for students who are interested in participating in the podcast challenge? What do they need to do? What are the steps?

Janet W. Lee: Yeah, so the contest is open right now for students in grades four through 12. And it will close on May 3. You can find all the information we talked about on And the two rules I'll just kind of point out that I would just make sure that you follow are 1) Make sure your podcasts are between 3 to 8 minutes and 2) Double-checking that you aren't using any copyrighted music. So copyright free music, rights-free music, that's all OK. If you aren't sure, I would lean on not including any music.

Steve Drummond: Other than that though, anything goes. Any story you want to bring us, we're happy to listen to.

Pamela Kirkland: Awesome. And what kind of prize are we talking about?

Janet W. Lee: Yeah. So the prize for the middle and high school and now fourth grade contests, you get to hear your story on NPR. And as a part of that, our team on NPR's education desk will visit you wherever you are at your school, in your community. And you get a certificate and a trophy to go with that as well.

Pamela Kirkland: Janet, Steve, thank you so much for joining me.

Janet W. Lee: Thank you.