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Meet the middle school finalists who entered NPR's Student Podcast Challenge

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

What's the toughest thing about fifth grade?

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "SELF-CARE FANFARE")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: I'm most stressed out about...

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2: I'm most stressed out by...

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #3: I'm most stressed about...

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #4: I am most stressed out by...

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #5: I am most stressed out by family expectations.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1: Schoolwork.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2: My parents.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #3: Getting good grades.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #6: School.

MARTIN: For these students from Charles N. Holden Elementary School in Chicago, a big challenge is dealing with stress.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

So they made a podcast about it. One of the more than 3,300 entries our education team received from across the country in the fifth annual NPR Student Podcast Challenge.

MARTIN: This morning, we run down our list of finalists in grades five through eight. In their entry "Self-Care Fanfare," Etta Nevius and Leslie Herrera Godinez map out a plan for dealing with those school pressures.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "SELF-CARE FANFARE")

ETTA NEVIUS: Today, Leslie and I will dive into the ins and outs of self-care.

MARTIN: They surveyed their classmates to find out the major causes of stress, and they interviewed a school counselor who recommends solutions.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "SELF-CARE FANFARE")

ETTA: In my fifth grade classroom, where it seems like a competition of who is louder every day, it is important to let my ego take over and slow down. But lots of kids don't know how to do this. That's where Ms. Muzzy's job comes in.

LINDSAY MUZZY: I do work with a lot of kids on how to be mindful and practice self-care 'cause a lot of times, it does take practice to learn.

MARTÍNEZ: Our student podcasters this year took on a wide range of issues - the opioid crisis, mental health and this piece from Emma Forges and Brynna Colmenares at Highlands Intermediate School in Pearl City, Hawaii. Their podcast looks at efforts to free wrongly convicted inmates in their state.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "HAWAII INNOCENCE PROJECT")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #7: The Hawaii Innocence Project's job is not too easy. When Ian Schweitzer was wrongly incarcerated, there was no way to prove it. Since then, forensic science has changed drastically, making it easier to help prisoners.

MARTIN: Sadly and not surprisingly, we got quite a few student podcasts this year about gun violence and mass shootings. It's clearly a sign of the times.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "AN ASSAULT ON OUR FUTURE")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #8: Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007 - 33 victims.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #9: Sandy Hook Elementary School, December 14, 2012 - 28 victims.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #10: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, February 14, 2018 - 17 victims.

MARTIN: Cole Anderson, Iris Beachy-Quick and Julia Walkowiak from Compass Community Collaborative School in Fort Collins, Colo., tackled the devastating numbers and the implications for children in their podcast "An Assault On Our Future."

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "AN ASSAULT ON OUR FUTURE")

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #9: We need to provide our youth with a safe, stress-free environment without the looming threat of a shooting just around the corner.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #10: A simple way to help keep our school safe is to be aware and report any suspicious behavior.

MARTÍNEZ: Our finalists include podcasts about dance, sports, the arts and this one about - well, let's let this podcaster from Maret School in Washington, D.C., explain.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "CLASSICAL COMPOSERS AND THEIR FURRY FRIENDS")

DALYAN AGCA: Hello, and welcome to "Classical Composers And Their Furry Friends." My name is Dalyan Agca, and I will be your host today. Do you love classical music and your pets? If so, keep listening. We will be talking about classical music composers whose work was influenced by pets.

MARTIN: You got to hear the rest of this. It goes into how dogs and cats played a role in some famous pieces of classical music, like Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata In G Minor, K.30."

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "CLASSICAL COMPOSERS AND THEIR FURRY FRIENDS")

DALYAN: The theme of this piece was actually inspired by Domenico Scarlatti's cat, Pulcinella. Pulcinella had walked on Scarlatti's keyboard, hitting the notes G natural, B flat, E flat, F sharp...

MARTÍNEZ: A little help from a four-legged friend. To hear more of this podcast and the rest of our middle school finalists, go to npr.org. And later today, on All Things Considered, we'll feature our high school finalists. And tomorrow, we'll announce this year's grand prize winners. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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