NYC Middle-Schoolers Detail Coronavirus and Racism in Winning Podcast The middle-school top prize for NPR's second annual Student Podcast Challenge goes to ... The Dragon Kids.

Coronavirus, Racism And Kindness: How NYC Middle-Schoolers Built A Winning Podcast

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Our next story comes to us from the classroom, specifically Mrs. Karin Patterson's room at PS 126. That's the Manhattan Academy of Technology in New York City. Her podcast club won the middle school top prize in NPR's Student Podcast Challenge. The students in the club, most of them sixth-graders, call themselves The Dragon Kids. Here's NPR's Cory Turner with the rest of their story.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Let's start with some introductions. World, meet The Dragon Kids.


LEO: I'm Leo.

BECKY: I'm Becky.

ZOE: I'm Zoe.

NICOLE: I'm Nicole.

SI CHEN: I'm Si Chen.

ANGELO: And I'm Angelo.

TURNER: They were all sixth-graders this spring when they made their winning podcast called "Masked Kids."


NICOLE: As in surgical masks that doctors wear during surgeries.

TURNER: They chose to devote a whole podcast to, well, the reality we've all been living in these past several months - life in the time of the coronavirus. And they did a few things that really set their story apart. First, the students are all Chinese American, and they wove in a few quick vocabulary lessons in Mandarin. So the word mask is...


ANGELO: (Speaking Mandarin).

BECKY: Now you try it.

ANGELO: (Speaking Mandarin).

TURNER: Since their podcast was made back at the beginning of the outbreak, The Dragon Kids also included a few useful tips, like, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water.


ANGELO: And remember to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze into your elbow. The Mandarin word for sneeze is...

LEO: (Speaking Mandarin).

NICOLE: Like other viruses, the coronavirus is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing like the flu is spread.

BECKY: A famous saying in Mandarin is...

SI CHEN: (Speaking Mandarin).

LEO: Which means, sickness comes in like a landslide but goes out as slow as spinning silk.

TURNER: But this lovely bit of COVID poetry is just a warm-up for The Dragon Kids. A few minutes in, they get down to the business of journalism, cutting through the swirl of misinformation that followed COVID-19 into their community.


LEO: There are a lot of rumors on the Internet about the coronavirus. You should only believe your doctor or the CDC and WHO.

TURNER: Before their New York City schools shut down, The Dragon Kids say those rumors also led to hurtful, racist comments in the hallways and even in the classroom.


LEO: We have some high school students who have experienced harassment about the coronavirus because they are Chinese.


LEO: Amanda used to go to our elementary and middle school. Now she goes to a different New York City high school.

AMANDA: So they're basically saying how we have coronavirus because we are Chinese. And then later after that, my other group of friends came back from their lunch. But we had to walk past by that upper grade, and then they were saying how us Asians are joining together trying to spread the virus.

TURNER: The Dragon Kids then shared the story of another high schooler, Joyce.


JOYCE: Also, I was in my history class, and a female student asked me how to cook bat soup because it was a rumor that the coronavirus was caused through bat soup. And she was laughing through the whole thing, and she was taking it as a joke.

TURNER: But Joyce and Amanda both told The Dragon Kids that these jokes really hurt and that it was hard speaking up for themselves.


BECKY: So what do you guys think kids should do if they are experiencing harassment about the coronavirus because they are Chinese?

LEO: Kids should tell an adult at their school. And if that adult doesn't do anything, tell another adult.

TURNER: And The Dragon Kids close their podcast with one last vocabulary lesson.


BECKY: The most important word in Mandarin that we want to teach all of you is...

ZOE: (Speaking Mandarin).

NICOLE: Which means kindness.

LEO: Please be kind to one another.

NICOLE: That's all for today. Thanks for listening to our podcast.

TURNER: Again, that was The Dragon Kids out of PS 126 in New York City, reminding all of us to please be kind.

Cory Turner, NPR News.


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