By Nick Yates, ISB Communications
International School of Beijing (ISB) students with a passion for storytelling last week hosted a conference that saw seasoned journalists teach the secrets of their craft and Middle and High Schoolers hit the streets for their own version of US documentary show Out of the Blocks.
With the slogan "One hour of radio. One city block. Everybody's story," Out of the Blocks blends grass-roots interviews from the culturally diverse city of Baltimore with original music from producer Wendel Patrick. He attended the ISB Journalism Conference and guided students in a project interviewing local members of the community around ISB on Saturday.
A packed schedule of workshops on campus on Friday included sessions run by Mr. Patrick; National Public Radio Beijing Correspondent Anthony Kuhn (pictured below); and Marcus Ryder, who is Chief International Editor for CGTN in Beijing after a long career at the BBC. They and student broadcasters from the ISB Middle School's Futures Public Radio (FPR) led discussions on a range of topics including sound design, media ethics, editing, and photojournalism. Around 40 students from Seoul Foreign School, and Keystone Academy in Beijing were also invited to the conference.
The two days were a practical how-to in reporting and also encouraged students to become more community-minded through service- and project-based learning. The mission of the conference centered on the power of the media to spark empathy and create positive change in our challenging world. It took a number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as its guiding principles, including empowerment of women through technology, universal access to information and communications technology, and encouraging effective partnerships.
The conference was coordinated by FPR mentors Steve Sostak and Aaron Moniz. "The greatest thing was watching the students deliver their keynotes," said Mr. Sostak. "They were really heartfelt. The students helped set the mission for the event, set up the website, the supporting podcast. They cared about this because they built it."
Highlighting the importance of media literacy in education, he added, "The workshops were incredibly well received. The schools that attended were so impressed that this event was mostly student driven. Through FPR, there was no fear about putting students in the driving seat. We're very keen as teachers to let students share their knowledge. Isn't that why we're here?"
Wendel Patrick agreed. He said, "The fact that so many elements of the conference were planned and executed by students is extremely impressive, and the level of engagement and willingness of the students to experiment, to be open, and to try new things was both evident and commendable. I hope that students gained valuable knowledge in regard to the universal art of storytelling, and that their lasting memories of the conference will be both positive and powerful."
ISB students explain their Out of the Blocks project
"I found a lot of the students had a really strong moral compass and were able to think through some difficult ethical dilemmas that many adults struggle with," said Marcus Ryder. "They all understood basic principles of the right to privacy and were able to apply it when we discussed difficult journalistic issues such as secret filming. I just wish every journalist I worked with was as thoughtful and intelligent as some of the students I met."
Stay tuned for the conference's own version of Out of the Blocks!