At a time when young people are witnessing the disastrous effects of COVID-19 play out in their communities while physically isolated from peers, educational institutions and other support systems, storytelling and media-making is an opportunity to exercise agency and produce content that responds to the current circumstances. As COVID-19 continues to change the way we move through our daily lives, educators are having to adjust and adapt their curricula, not only to accommodate online student learning, but also to keep their students active and inspired.
During this undeniably stressful time, all of us at YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists, want to make sure we’re showing up for our community in ways beyond continuing to produce high-quality coronavirus-related coverage. Our media education programs and Teach YR (TYR) digital learning resources build skills that support young people to leverage storytelling and media-making to inform and add their unique narratives to current conversations. These skills have only become more essential during this time of global crisis and remain a lifeline to staying connected, socially active, and civically curious through isolation and confinement.
For these reasons, we’re making an online version of our latest in-house equity-driven media arts and journalism curriculum publicly accessible online for the first time ever. You’ll find it here: YR Media Journalism Primer. This collection of lesson plans, activities, and resources breaks down journalism techniques and formats to teach students to report on coronavirus and other news with a foundation in how to pitch, interview, fact-check, and publish student work.
The primer is part of an extensive digital learning library, which also includes toolkits on topics including telling stories with data, capturing the best footage for videos, and creating compelling visuals for stories. TYR lowers barriers and builds scaffolds so more and more young people are connecting with one another, with their community and with an audience. Together with national and local contributors, we have continued to produce powerful stories throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these stories are:
- No Surprise: Pandemic Hits Black and Brown People Extra Hard, a first-person essay that explores racial disparities in those affected by COVID-19 from the perspective of Rainier, a child of an essential worker.
- Canceled Ceremonies Hit Different for First Generation Students, which captures stories that highlight the specific pain for first-generation students and their families when graduation is canceled.
- Mental Health Tips for Students Facing the Pandemic, a Q&A between a young reporter and a student counselor to share tips for navigating quarantine and social distancing with anxiety, depression and other mental health illnesses.
- Coronavirus Comes to Campus, an interactive map embedded with hundreds of high school and college students’ TikTok, Twitter and Instagram reactions to coronavirus from all 50 states.
Our world has always needed more stories, especially stories from our underrepresented populations. As we go through this coronavirus experience together, stories like Rainier’s remind us how this time can land on each student differently. Our young reporter Etta represents another experience: “It is such a scary but also static time, and it feels good to create something out of nothing and make a difference and not just feel like there is no point to my days.” Using the YR Media Journalism Primer and its hands-on media-making projects, students can explore how to tell stories that matter to them and hold those in power accountable as we move forward from this crisis into a new reality none of us can predict. Our students will be the makers of that reality, “establishing a future when the future itself is uncertain,” in the words of Antonio Villaseñor-Baca, one of our writers.
And for young people and educators looking to tap the arts as a way to find insight, expression and connection through this crisis, our Remix Your Life and All Day Play teams are sharing playlists, interviews, how-to’s, and other creative content to make space for imagination when we need it the most.
This primer, in addition to all of the other resources that we provide, are invitations to tell stories through Q&As, listicles, news stories, and first-person essays. We’re with you through this challenging time as you adapt this curriculum and invite your students to make our projects their own.
Guest blog post by Nimah Gobir, Teach YR Producer & Project Manager