Sophomores Engage in This I Believe Project

In English 10 Literature and Composition: The Assertion of Self, sophomores  learn to explore and assert personal beliefs while developing the concept that values can simultaneously change, evolve, and anchor us. Through discussions, debates, and Socratic seminars, students practice asserting their ideas as well as actively listening and responding to the ideas of others.

For their final project, sophomores spent the last month of the school year engaged in the “This I Believe” project, an opportunity to solidify and express a core belief that they would stand up for in their life. The project included a writing component (an individual assignment) and a 20-minute podcast (a group project).

Created this year by faculty members Sari Rotskoff ’00 and Tim Kohler, the project was inspired by This I Believe, a 1950s radio program of the same name that is now an international project that engages people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values and beliefs that guide their daily lives.

“Mr. Kohler and I wanted the project to be a meaningful culminating experience, to give our students the opportunity to do what we’ve been talking about all year which is to assert a personal value or belief,” said Ms. Rotskoff. “The course is called The Assertion of Self so creating a project based on This I Believe complemented the theme of 10th grade English and challenged students to showcase their writing, presentation and collaboration skills.”

To begin the project, students examined what makes a This I Believe essay unique by reading and discussing several examples before brainstorming, drafting, and writing several of their own. Then, working in groups of three or four, students chose a topic to guide their podcast. Topic examples include transformation, motivation, fear, love, dreams, aspirations, exhilaration, escape, and identity. Once their topic was selected, each student wrote an individual This I Believe essay that connected to their group’s topic, and recorded the final, polished essays using Adobe Audition. In addition to developing a script, students were required to come up with a creative podcast and episode name, create cover art, and interview someone outside of Whitfield who they considered to be an expert or authority on their topic. Each group presented their final podcast in class and received feedback from their peers.

“Students realized that the more successful podcasts were the ones in which the groups delegated tasks, worked together, made sure no one fell behind, and held each other accountable,” said Mr. Kohler. “As we go through the year, students discover how one person’s voice, one person’s experience, can shape a community and really impact the group,” said Mr. Kohler.

Click here to listen to several podcasts.

Student Reflections

"I thoroughly enjoyed this project, as it incorporated many concepts from our English class and other practical skills into one fun end-of-year final. The combination of collaboration, self-initiative, independence, and creativity, made this project a very social and fun way to express yourself at the end of sophomore year." David Goldstein ’24

Creating a podcast isn’t something that I have been interested in making so creating one for English class was really cool because we could collaborate and share our ideas and we had the freedom to make it the way we wanted it to be. This project makes you dig deeper, which is what my group members and I did.” Mia Devrouax ’24

I enjoyed the project because I was able to collaborate with my friends and I enjoyed talking about something that I truly believed in.” Max Megargel ‘24

“I liked that we were able to choose a topic from a very broad list that we could approach from any angle. I had a great group to work with and we all got along well and our strengths complemented each other. My favorite part of the project would probably either be scripting the podcast or making the cover art. I think the project’s open-ended nature made it really enjoyable and it did a great job of teaching us how to manage our time properly and set deadlines. Overall, this project was a great way to end the year!” Isabelle Zhang ‘24

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