It's innovative, it's investigative, and it's interactive. Introducing Futures Public Radio (FPR), a multimedia platform for student storytelling making waves at the International School of Beijing (ISB).
FPR is a middle school initiative run by nearly a dozen seventh-graders, who meet each Monday to pitch and discuss story ideas.
Funded by ISB's research and development grant, FPR enhances students' media literacy skills through writing, interviewing, podcasting, web design, and video production.
Although modeled on US-based National Public Radio, everything about FPR is original including its logo, theme music and, most importantly, compelling content.
"It's about highlighting the power of journalism to build seekers, critical thinkers, and problem solvers, as well as celebrating community and communication," explained Steve Sostak, who together with Aaron Moniz, John Lemley, and Paul Wicks facilitates FPR.
"Although it originated in the Futures Academy, FPR welcomes any middle school student interested in investigative journalism," Mr. Sostak added.
Shawn Q, lead interviewer for FPR, described it as a "club" that has evolved into a high-quality hub for digital content since its inception last year.
"I feel like all our planning has paid off. Now, our system is working well and we're producing great stories. We're all passionate about what we do, which definitely helps," he said.
"Public speaking and storytelling come naturally to me. FPR provides a useful outlet to improve these skills and, more importantly, pursue stories that interest our community."
Although run by a small team, FPR's vision to "think big" is reflected by its diverse offerings. Its website hosts seven categories, each offering something to every middle school student.
AQI (Airing Quality Interviews) features in-depth conversations with ISB community members; Culture Shock profiles those making their mark in music or art, like eighth-grader and aspiring electronic music producer Mell M (aka Young Metro); FPR Reads is a roundup of book reviews, recommendations, and author interviews; Desktop Concerts captures musical highlights on campus; Authors' Chair features student narrations of original works; Outreach puts community service in the focus; and Full-Court Press serves up the latest in ISB sports.
Lyndon B, the website's administrator, said it continues to grow as a dynamic platform for multimedia journalism.
"At first, we decided we wanted to just do blogs. But as time went on, we realized there was more we wanted to do and more people wanted to see," he said, adding that the goal is to include new content in each section every week.
Sunny R, an editor for FPR, said investigating self-chosen topics in a collaborative environment had given her a deeper understanding of ISB's L21 skills. From the leadership and responsibility needed to meet deadlines to the communication and collaboration essential for storytelling, FPR prepares students for real-world success.
"I really like the idea of providing stories for students to read, listen, and watch – that was what attracted me in the first place. If you know something is by someone the same age as you, you're automatically more engaged," she said.
As for the ingredients of a good story, Sunny explains that piquing audience curiosity is the key.
"It has to have a good hook, so that you get people interested and keep them interested throughout," she explained.
"There are story ideas everywhere in our community. It's just a matter of finding them – and telling them well."
Interested in following the latest from FPR? Scan the QR code above to follow its WeChat account!