George Lucas Educational Foundation Celebrating our 25th Anniversary!

Schools That Work | Practice

High Tech High School

Grades 9-12 | North Bergen, NJ

Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies

Engage history students with the challenge of creating and producing their own radio program to share their knowledge and ideas with a wide audience.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies (Transcript)

Joseph: The collaboration with the teachers fuels our students, they get interested and engaged and work on projects. It just makes education real.

John: There are no walls between departments. The collaboration between the academic and the vocational is one of the core pieces of what makes High Tech work.

Joseph: We accept students based on interest, such as performing arts or science, and with that goes the hope that their interest in their vocational program will drive their interest and accomplishments in their academic programs. The integration between broadcasting and the social studies started this year. Mister Jefferson said, "I'd like to bring my students into this studio. Mister Pluchino, your students could run the studio."

John: John and I sat down and talked about doing a history show, something where we can invite the students. The first week that I offered the students the opportunity, we could either sit here and do the regular stereotypical history class, or we could do a year's worth of radio shows and still learn the same stuff, it was ten out of ten. Everyone wanted to do the radio shows.

Good morning, welcome to another episode of the Jeffersonian Show. Today we'll be talking about Vietnam, so let's talk about the protest side of the Vietnam experience. What are some of the protest songs that stick out with some of you ladies?

Kelsey: There was one particular song where it caused a lot of controversy. It was, "You're old enough to kill but not for voting." In 1971, the US Constitution was amended and they lowered the age, the voting age to 18. So music is not only a way to express yourself, it's a way to make it change.

I'm just going to call it really awesome. My major is broadcasting and now that I can combine history and broadcasting together, it's a very different approach to learning.

John: You think that the war was a good idea to fight in the first place?

Student: The war was good to those who were in the arms creating factory, the bomb making, but as a country it was bad, because we went in blind and we lost a lot of men.

John: We have a planning session at least once a week before we do the show. John goes over the background of the show. The kids have to go home and research. I want them to come informed, you know, we just don't want, "Yeah, I heard about that." That doesn't make a show.

John: We'll have a goal and then we'll backfill on how to reach the goal. Thursday is the radio show and Wednesday is the team teaching prep day with John Pluchino. The Monday and Tuesday, we'll usually spend on instruction.

How should we open the show?

Student: We could lead up to the Watergate scandal in the end.

John: They'll come to me with ideas, so they'll read things on their own and they'll bring me articles that they've found. They'll come up with bullet points and things that they want to hit on and we'll build a discussion around those things.

Michael: We step away from the textbooks, which is refreshing. I like to bring what I've learned and what I've exposed myself to the show.

Help prevented North and South Vietnam from unifying, because they didn't want them both to become Communist. A year after the war ended, the entirety of Vietnam became Communist anyway.

John: The way we prep non-broadcasting majors is we try to be basic and simple, how to talk into the mic. Learn how to listen to each other, let the knowledge that you have drive your communication.

John: The big thing with the skill sets is not so much learning how to operate the mechanics of the broadcasting, but how to be comfortable talking to an audience that you can't see.

John: I consider the radio station a great learning laboratory. So it allows them to take the next step with their studies.

Joseph: We have a collaboration that gets the students more excited, because they have a perspective from two different areas.

John: Instead of just writing book reports and tests, they now can express what they've learned. I told the students, it's larger than your grade.

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.

  • Producer: Kristin Atkins
  • Field Producer: Sarita Khurana
  • Managing Producer/Editor: Julie Konop
  • Editor: Amanda Whittenberger
  • Production Coordinator: Julia Lee
  • Camera: Adams Wood
  • Sound: Rod Murphy
  • Graphics: Cait Camarata, Doug Keely


Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies

At High Tech High School, students choose one of several vocational majors that are offered. These include architecture, engineering, culinary arts, graphic design, film/video, science research, theater, or dance. In addition to the vocational majors, students take all the regular academic courses required of high school students, including language arts, math, social studies, and science.

High Tech teachers find ways to collaborate and integrate vocational and academic content through projects that span multiple disciplines. Teachers have found that student interest in their vocations helps to drive their learning in many of the academic areas. When teachers collaborate and build these connections into the curriculum, students thrive, feel more engaged in the learning, and make real-world connections to what they are learning.

How It's Done

High Tech High School encourages vocational and academic teachers to collaborate and integrate as they can. Sometimes this is done across the grade level, so that the 11th grade math teacher is working with the 11th grade dance teacher. At other times, it's done with a whole cohort of teachers working within a grade level. Teachers meet during common planning times or before and after school. They also have a summer planning sessions that allow them to explore new ideas or build themes across classes and disciplines.

Social Studies on the Radio

At High Tech High, the broadcasting and social studies teachers collaborate to create a unique semester-long radio show featuring social studies content.

John Jefferson teaches United States History II, which meets every day for a 40-minute class period. There are about 15 students in the class, all in 11th grade. During a typical week, usually three days are spent on learning and discussing content (i.e. the Vietnam War, Watergate, etc.), and two days are spent in the broadcasting studio. Instructional days are filled with discussion about the content, which helps students engage in good conversation and think about what they may want to discuss on the air.

In the Studio

On studio days, the class is split into two groups. One typically preps and does research for their studio show, while the other is on the air. Each on-air broadcasting session lasts about 20-25 minutes, giving students enough of the class period to settle into broadcast mode and wrap up afterward.

The social studies students don't worry about how to operate a broadcasting studio. The broadcasting teacher John Pluchino, or one of the many broadcasting majors in the school, will operate the board. In this class, there were a few social studies students who were also broadcasting majors and could play both roles.

The radio show is always done with John Jefferson, the history teacher, at the table. Often he hosts the show, but as the semester progresses, students take turns hosting as they feel comfortable. Mr. Jefferson is always there to push or add a bit to the conversation if necessary, but students always take the lead.

Behind the Scenes

The broadcasting and social studies teachers meet once a week for a common planning period. Sometimes the broadcasting teacher will come into the social studies classroom to help students think about framing conversations and questions for a radio audience.

Each week, a theme is selected for the radio show. Topics include the end of the Civil War, the Reconstruction era, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Reagan Administration, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and 9/11 and terrorism.

Students are responsible for researching and preparing an argument for the radio show. They complete reading assignments and independent research. Often they will come to the history teacher with ideas such as, "I want to talk about nuclear weapons and Japan." So they'll read on their own and bring in articles that they’ve found.

Real-World Skills

Social studies students don't need a lot of technical skills, but they do need to know some of the basics about what it's like to be on the radio. These are simple things like speaking into the microphone, not making random or restless body movements while on air, and most importantly, how to be comfortable talking to an unseen audience. This means coming prepared with a few bullet points and the background to build a discussion around them. The basic goals are:

  • Having a good argument
  • Doing adequate research
  • Having something to say

All of this motivates and excites students to think about content and how to present it in the real world. Of course, some students do get nervous and say "um" a thousand times, but that's part of the learning process. Mr. Jefferson has seen that by the end of the semester, all the students have come a long way in feeling comfortable and more conversant on the radio.

Start Small!

The show is broadcast on High Tech High's own radio station, WHIT, in New Jersey. And while not every school has a fancy broadcasting studio on campus, high-end technology isn't a requirement for putting student voices on the air. Initially, the social studies teacher at High Tech started the project with $70 worth of materials from Staples and Radio Shack -- a few microphones and a digital recording device was all it took to create a podcast. This could even be done on an iPhone. The point is to engage students in creating something that takes their learning to the next level. This can be done by posting a podcast on the school's website, or sharing it with an audience of family and friends.

Student Engagement and Real-World Connections

The benefits of creating a collaboration like this are innumerable. Students feel like it brings the learning alive, and they get to apply what they know in a real way. Engaging and exciting students like this is the big payoff.


Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

CarolynNicole's picture

This is a really cool idea and I think it would work well with Language Arts, too. Maybe I could have my students create a podcast. I'm not sure it would be the next "Serial" but it would get them talking about literature and learn some new skills.

J.Fish827's picture

I love this idea of incorporating social studies and broadcasting. It allows the students to be involved in the research that goes into each show. This is a very engaging activity for the students.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.