NPR Student Podcast Challenge 2023 announcement, rules and key dates The 2023 national podcasting contest for middle and high school students is open for entries. It will close on April 28.

Announcing NPR's fifth annual Student Podcast Challenge

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NPR's Student Podcast Challenge is back for a fifth year. We're accepting entries starting tomorrow, and students have until April 28 to get their podcasts in. Janet Woojeong Lee from our Education Desk is here to tell us more. Hey, Janet.


KELLY: OK, for people listening who have no idea what we are talking about, what is the Student Podcast Challenge?

LEE: Yes, so the Student Podcast Challenge is an annual podcast contest for students in 5th through 12th grade. And like every year, we will select one middle school and one high school winner. There is a new thing we're trying this year. We're adding a thematic award for the best podcast dealing with mental health. It's a topic we're really passionate about over on the Ed team. And there's no set way we're defining this. So feel free to explore whatever story that speaks to you.

KELLY: OK, an award that's set aside for mental health. Beyond that, are there other topics you would steer people toward, other subjects you're particularly interested in?

LEE: No. So your podcast can be about any topic you're interested in. You can ask questions you want answered, interview someone you're dying to talk to, tell any story that's important to you. Let me play you a couple of examples. One of our high school finalists last year explored gender and queerness in the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Many queer people found each other and made their own spaces. Finding these people and being able to shape and mold your world to be exactly what fits gives us the kind of control we don't often have outside of D&D.

LEE: Here's another one. Our grand prize winner from a couple of years ago talked about her Indian American heritage. She did her podcast about working through complicated feelings about her given name, Kriti.

KRITI SARAV: I hate my name. I want to change my name. I'd be like, to my mom, let me just go by Kiki or things like that.

LEE: Last example - one of our recent high school finalists from Illinois sent us what I describe as a teenager's love letter to tattoos.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: As long as the tattoo has a strong meaning, I feel like it is not wrong to get one at a young age. People are automatically ready to say no when a teen wants a tattoo. But they should take time and talk to the child to get a better understanding of why they want it. Then it will probably change the parent's whole view on it.

KELLY: Oh, my gosh, those are great. They're reminding me of so many fights I had with my parents as a teenager. Those are all pretty serious topics, Janet. Is there room for just total silliness, total joy?

LEE: You know, Mary Louise, I just want to say there's no topic that's too silly, either. Every year there's this one podcast that we keep coming back to - three minutes of deliciousness. And it's all about...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Tater tots, one of a very good snack to have.

KELLY: Tater tots. I hope that that was a total winner. OK, I will get serious and ask, are there rules that students or teachers who are nominating them - that they should keep in mind?

LEE: All right. OK, here's the most important rule to keep in mind. Your podcast can't be longer than eight minutes. And if it is, it will be disqualified. Also, if you're under 18 years old, you need a teacher or any adult mentor to submit your work for you.

KELLY: What about - I'm thinking if I were a teenager, a kid listening to this and I'm really interested but I have never made a podcast - any tips on getting started?

LEE: Yeah. I first want to say, if you've never made a podcast, that's OK. Many of our former winners - it was their first time making a podcast like this. You have over three months to make something. And you're going to have so much fun. I'm going to plug some amazing resources we have. First, we have a newsletter. You'll hear from me every week. I'm going to be sharing tips from former winners, tricks on scripting and recording. We also have a podcast on how to make a great podcast. And everything I just talked about and more - you can find it on

KELLY: OK, and a reminder - the deadline is April 28. Janet, thanks so much.

LEE: Thank you for having me.

KELLY: That's Janet Woojeong Lee from the Education Desk. And the Student Podcast Challenge is open for entries starting tomorrow.


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