Learn more about PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs here.
Amy Woods’ dedication to her students as youth storytellers was clear the moment she became an Student Reporting Labs (SRL) Connected Educator in 2017. In less than a year, her students have produced pieces for NewsHour platforms on the uncertain futures of DACA recipients, what the recent March for Our Lives meant to youth of color and how young immigrants view gun violence. Amy’s ability to guide her students through major successful productions that focus on the untold stories of minority communities demonstrates an extraordinary level of excellence and passion that embodies public media’s mission.
What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?
Once my students learn how to construct a story, I leave it to them on how they will tell it. My job as their teacher is to give them instruction on structure and tools across a variety of visual storytelling genres and then let them loose to create, write and tell the story. I encourage them to use storytelling as an outlet in their very busy lives. For some students, that entails writing fiction screenplays, some focus on editing, while for others it is reporting on important news stories.
How can student journalism help promote a greater understanding of the world?
As cliche as it may sound, our students are our future and this generation of youth are realizing just how strong their voices really are. Students have a completely different view of the world and current events than adults. To hear what they find important and relevant through student journalism can help the rest of the world understand what values our society holds and where was are heading. They are our future voters and leaders, and they’ve learned from our past mistakes. I think our youth are highly underestimated in their strength, their intellect and their resolve. We can learn so much about our world through the youth journalists of the world.
How can we get youth more interested in the news?
Hopefully by demonstrating the consequences of an uninformed public, youth will see just how important unbiased news and media literacy is to our society. I also think that getting students involved in telling news stories in their schools and communities gets them more interested in being critical consumers of information through news. And they like to see themselves on screens big and small. Representation matters.
What would life look like without public media?
Dull. Public media is the best of storytelling at its core. Every moment on public media is a learning moment, and in creative ways. From podcasts on every subject imaginable and live radio shows, (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is my all time favorite hour of listening each week) to thought provoking shows and video segments on PBS and PBS Digital, public media makes our lives rich. And without it, who would teach my sons cute songs to help them express their feelings?
What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?
My hope is to continue allowing my students to walk through the doors of opportunity that SRL provides. This is our first year as a Student Reporting Lab and we have already learned so much about student journalism and storytelling. Our experience has absolutely exceeded our expectations of what this partnership would mean. My students are eager to have as many real-world experiences as possible in journalism and storytelling, and SRL gives them the outlets to share their stories with the world. Working with SRL producers and PBS journalists has been invaluable to our learning experience and I definitely look forward to future students having that same opportunity.
Amy Woods is a teacher at Northview High School in Covina, CA. This story was originally published on PBS NewsHour’s national Student Reporting Labs site and can be found here.