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How kids are making sense of climate change and extreme weather

Angela Hsieh

When three fifth-graders in Washington state sat down to make a podcast, they didn't have to look far to find a good topic.

"Wildfires are a problem and they're dangerous," they say in their podcast from Chautauqua Elementary School, on Vashon Island. "But there's ways to prevent them, so respect wildfire safety precautions and do your best to prevent these fires."

This entry from Roz Hinds, Jia Khurana and Sadie Pritsky was among more than 100 podcasts this year in NPR's Student Podcast Challenge that touched on a topic that's increasingly important to young people: climate change. Over and over again, student journalists tried making sense of extreme weather events that are becoming more common or more intense: flash floods, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires.

Here are four student podcasts that offer a glimpse into the minds of students and what they have to say about climate-related news in their communities — and what they hope to do about it.

Behind the Scenes of the Mosquito FireIn a 10-episode series, a sixth-grade class at the Georgetown School of Innovation in Georgetown, Calif., shares stories from the devastating Mosquito Fire in 2022. This group of eight students asks two firefighters from the Georgetown Fire Department what it's like to fight fires and protect loved ones in their hometown.

Fires: Set AblazeAt Chautauqua Elementary, the Vashon fifth-graders talk about the far-reaching and lasting impact of wildfires and wildfire smoke — and the direct effects on their lives, like waiting for the school bus on a smoky day. The students also interview experts and share their research on wildfire precautions.

Flowing Through Time: The Past, Present, and Future of WaterIn this podcast from Peak Academy, a group of eight middle schoolers reports on dealing with water shortages in Bozeman, Montana. They trace the history of their growing hometown's water supply, which has been dependent on mountain snowmelt. As that source becomes less reliable in a warming world, the students turn to the grown-ups to ask what they can do to conserve water.

Washed AwayThe deadly flooding in eastern Kentucky last year forever changed the lives of high schoolers Ryley Bowman, Carolina Johnson and Hunter Noble. The three classmates at Morgan County High School in West Liberty, Ky., share firsthand accounts of their own and their family's experiences during the floods.


Audio story produced by Michael Levitt
Visual design and development by LA Johnson
Edited by Steve Drummond and Rachel Waldholz

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Janet W. Lee

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