Bright Ideas Grant Sparks Podcasting Revolution at Franklinton High School

Tracy Prince using the podcast equipment purchased with her 2023-2024 Bright Ideas grant.

When Tracy Prince applied for the Bright Ideas educational grant this past year, she never anticipated it would have such a significant impact within her school. As a Digital Literacy Media Coach, Prince always had the goal of expanding the Media program at Franklinton High School. This ambition led her to initiate a student-led podcast club after speaking with interested students who frequented the Media Center.

Sean Bachand, an English teacher at Franklinton High School, was in the process of launching a News Crew club. Recognizing an opportunity for collaboration, they joined forces to establish the RAMblings podcast club as co-advisors. With the club established, the next step was securing equipment. Prince explained, “I spoke to a few students who loved the idea of having a student-led podcast club, but we needed the funds.” Setting up a podcast studio can be a significant investment, with quality microphones alone ranging from $50 to $500 each, and additional necessary equipment like mixers, headphones, and recording software quickly adding up. Faced with these financial hurdles, Prince had an epiphany: “I received a Bright Ideas grant several years ago and decided I’d like to try again.” Prince has been awarded multiple Bright Ideas grants throughout the years.

The impact of the grant quickly extended beyond the podcast club; it influenced Bachand’s English classes as well. Previously, podcast assignments were simulated, but with the acquisition of the podcast equipment, actual recordings made by the students became part of the Grade 10 English Honor’s curriculum. The project puts power in the students hands to promote the good news about the goings on of Franklinton High. Bachand explained, “It is [currently] only the honors students, Grade 10, that are developing the project, but I hope to extend beyond that as the year progresses.” Bachand even has set his sights beyond his own classes and hopes to include other educators within Franklinton High School, expressing that he’d also like to reach out to other teachers.

Prince strongly believed that the students in Bachand’s English class and the members of the RAMblings club could benefit from listening to a speaker who had knowledge about the podcasting medium. “I wanted the students to hear from an actual podcaster. I wanted them to have the opportunity to ask questions, learn tips for making a successful podcast, and I wanted it to help get more students excited about participating in the club,” Prince explained. Upon learning of this, Wake Electric collaborated with Prince and arranged to send Don Bowman, VP of Engineering and Operations, and Maria de Pedro, Communications Assistant to speak to the students about their experience working as hosts and producers on Wake Electric’s Changing Energy Podcast. Changing Energy was established at Wake Electric in 2022 as a tool to educate members and industry colleagues on the dynamic energy landscape.

On March 11th, Bowman gave a presentation to the assembled students in the Media Center at Franklinton High School. During the visit, Bowman engaged with students, sharing his experience in creating and running the Changing Energy Podcast and offering insights and practical guidance on podcast ideation and production. Students were provided with the chance to ask questions covering various topics, such as creating engaging podcast segments, incorporating music and sound effects into episodes, and managing episode recordings effectively.

Looking back on the experience, Bowman emphasized the importance of supporting local teachers in the community, remarking, “Engaging with Tracy Prince and the students during our visit was incredibly rewarding. It’s essential to extend our support beyond just awarding grants; we want to ensure that educators and students have the resources and guidance they need to succeed. Podcasting is a powerful tool for expression and learning, and by sharing our experiences and insights, we hope to inspire students to explore this medium further and unleash their creativity.” Prince expressed her gratitude for the knowledge share opportunity, saying, “Having an experienced podcaster come and talk to the students helped us all understand the in’s and out’s and how to get started and be a success.” Bachand felt similarly that his English students gained a lot from the experience. Regarding Wake Electric’s dedication to the community, he remarked, “It is so great that Wake Electric truly cares about the community and wants to establish a sustainable future through education, both in the classroom and through [the Changing Energy] podcast.”

Both Prince and Bachand are hopeful that the podcasting equipment will open up more opportunities for students. Prince expressed her vision for the students at Franklinton High School, “Through podcasting, students will be able to improve on their communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration techniques. They will enhance their digital literacy as well as media literacy skills. They will feel important because they have a voice.” Prince continued, “My hope is that they someday find they have thousands of listeners across the country, not just people in Franklinton. I want them to see just how much of an impact they can have on this world. All of this is important for us to foster in our students who are the future of our world.” Echoing Prince’s sentiments, Bachand emphasized, “I think the biggest takeaway is that there is life outside of high school and that if you put your efforts out there, there is a community ready to embrace you and work with you.”

Fortunately for all educators with innovative ideas, Prince is ready to share her wealth of knowledge when it comes to applying for Bright Ideas. She has already informed several teachers about the opportunity and offered her assistance. Prince offered some words of encouragement to other educators who might be interested in applying for the 2024-2025 Bright Ideas grants this year: “My motto is that you have a 50/50 chance if you apply…if you don’t, there’s no chance.” For educators who might be intimidated by the process, she wanted to assure them that, at the end of the day, “All they need is an idea!”

As of April 1st, Bright Ideas grants are now open, marking their 30th anniversary and empowering educators like Prince to transform innovative ideas into tangible experiences for students. For those eager to apply and follow in Prince’s footsteps, Bright Ideas offers an exciting opportunity. Early-bird applicants who submit their project proposals before August 15th have a chance to be selected to win a $100 gift card. The deadline for the 2024-2025 Bright Ideas grant applications is September 15th, 2024, providing ample time for educators to develop and submit their ideas for consideration. Learn more about Bright Ideas grants here.

A group photo of the 2023-2024 Bright Ideas grant winners taken at the 2023 Bright Ideas Luncheon. Tracy Prince is positioned third from the left. | Left to right: Don Bowman (WEMC), Tracy Prince (Grant Winner) and Sean Bachand (FHS English Teacher)