Audio Storytelling in the Classroom: Rachel Hansen

Audio Storytelling in the Classroom: Rachel Hansen

Learn how Rachel Hansen, National Geographic Certified Educator and 2019 National Geographic Storytelling Grantee, integrates podcasting and storytelling into her social studies classroom.


5 - 12+


Professional Learning, Storytelling

Developed in partnership with
Adobe 6

Rachel Hansen is a social studies teacher at Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa, United States. She holds both Geo-Inquiry Process and National Geographic Educator Certification from National Geographic, and was awarded a National Geographic Storytelling Grant in 2019 for “The Human Story” podcast project. She is also part of a team that received a 2020 Explorer Collaboration Grant to carry out podcasting, storytelling, and conservation work in Akagera National Park in Rwanda. In addition to these projects, Rachel and her students launched the podcast Locally Global in which students examine each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in both local and global contexts.

Storytelling plays an important role in Rachel’s classroom, and has had a profound effect on student engagement. Researching, developing, and producing their own stories has enabled Rachel’s students to harness the power of their own voices, and deeply examine issues from a local to global perspective.

This video was developed in partnership with Adobe, as part of a series of courses called Storytelling for Impact.

Transcript (English)

Thousands of years ago, our human ancestors were telling stories to entertain, to inform, to educate, and pass down knowledge from generation to generation, and today, we've inherited that. Stories still serve that same purpose. Stories are inherent in history, right? History is just stories. And so there was a really enticing element to try to do narrative in social studies.

My name is Rachel Hansen, and I teach high school social studies at Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa. I've always known that I wanted to be a teacher, but at no point did I envision that I would somehow be at the helm of a podcast production company staffed entirely by teenagers.

We started on this podcasting adventure looking to become good storytellers, and also trying to find our voices as storytellers. I saw a request for a proposal go out to use Paul Salopek's Out of Eden Walk in the classroom, and so I wrote a grant to do some podcasting using Paul's work.

So "The Human Story", really, we're trying to answer the question of what's been the impact of blank on the human experience, and into that blank, we could insert a humanitarian, or an environmental issue. And students had to tell that story, that human experience, looking at the past, the present, and the future of that issue, through not only their own perspective, but someone else's. And to do that, you're gonna have to talk to some people.

In audio storytelling, because you have to seek out an interview, you have to interact with someone to get knowledge, and to get information. You have to learn to do that responsibly. Because it's one thing for me to tell students okay, this is good journalism, this is how you do journalism responsibly and with integrity. Here's how you ask good questions. But it's an entirely 'nother thing to bring a storyteller into the room and to have them walk through their process.

- I usually have prepared a list of questions.

When we began, the very first thing that we did was have Gena talk with them.

- Because, to me, the way that interviews work best is if they're more like a conversation.

The other thing that was essential was that we brought in Katie Thorton, who makes podcasts. She works in audio as a medium.

- When you're doing storytelling, which is different than writing a paper, you can sort of reveal what the issues are as the story flows, and you can sort of let them tell themselves, and build some of the anticipation.

The entire podcasting process starts with student interest. It's important to determine what are students interested in, what stories would they like to tell? Last year, we created our first season of "Locally Global". We examined the sustainable development goals from a local to a global context, and we're continuing that on this year in our second season. Hi. We're- A bunch of high school from Muscatine, Iowa, trying to make a dent in the universe, and this is our podcast.

- [All] "Locally Global"!

- And once they've settled on an interest, it's time to investigate their topic. So here's Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, Mark Cady, retelling that amazing story. And if you ask students what make a good story? They'll tell you it's gotta have some action, and it's gotta have some drama, and it's gotta have a relatable character, someone who experiences the same human emotions that I do, who I can relate to. I can put myself in their shoes, I can see myself in their story.

- [Dan] But what about that girl? I keep thinking about that girl.

- [Student] That's Dan Clark, local Clark family historian.

- In audio storytelling, everything is up for grabs. They get to determine everything, whereas in a paper, they often get locked in to a structure that they need to follow in order to develop an argument, but in audio, it gives them complete freedom and flexibility to develop their argument in a way that is meaningful, not only to them, but in a way that will be meaningful to the audience, as well.

We're engaged in an endless loop of feedback throughout this process. The best way to become a better writer is just to write, and get timely feedback, and write again. And in the same way, the best way to become a good storyteller is just to practice telling stories. There are a few really important skills that students learn through this process, learning to question, learning to be responsible, learning to make keen observations of what people have to say, and how they feel, and to respond appropriately. Learning to collaborate, learning to communicate effectively and clearly, with audiences who may have entirely different worldviews and perspectives than your own. When we empower students to tell their own stories, I think it helps them develop their critical consciousness. It helps them evaluate the world that they experience with a critical lens. They see themselves as being within the world, not just part of it.

Transcripción (Español)

- Hace miles de años, nuestros antepasados humanos contaban historias para entretener, para informar, para educar y transmitir conocimientos de generación en generación, y hoy, hemos heredado eso. Las historias aún cumplen ese mismo propósito. Las historias son inherentes a la historia, ¿verdad? La historia son solo historias. Y entonces había un elemento realmente atractivo para intentar hacer narrativa en estudios sociales.

Mi nombre es Rachel Hansen, y enseño estudios sociales en la escuela secundaria en Muscatine High School en Muscatine, Iowa. Siempre supe que quería ser profesora, pero en ningún momento imaginé que de alguna manera estaría al frente de una compañía de producción de podcasts compuesta completamente por adolescentes.

Comenzamos en esta aventura de podcasting buscando convertirnos en buenos narradores, y también tratando de encontrar nuestras voces como narradores. Vi una solicitud para una propuesta para usar la Caminata Fuera del Edén de Paul Salopek en el aula, y entonces escribí una subvención para hacer algunos podcasts utilizando el trabajo de Paul.

Entonces "La Historia Humana", realmente, estamos tratando de responder a la pregunta de cuál ha sido el impacto de algo en blanco en la experiencia humana, y en ese espacio en blanco, podríamos insertar a un humanitario, o un problema ambiental. Y los estudiantes tenían que contar esa historia, esa experiencia humana, mirando al pasado, el presente y el futuro de ese problema, no solo desde su propia perspectiva, sino desde la de alguien más. Y para hacer eso, vas a tener que hablar con algunas personas.

En la narración de historias en audio, porque tienes que buscar una entrevista, tienes que interactuar con alguien para obtener conocimiento e información. Tienes que aprender a hacer eso de manera responsable. Porque es una cosa que yo les diga a los estudiantes está bien, esto es buen periodismo, así es como se hace periodismo de manera responsable y con integridad. Así es como haces buenas preguntas. Pero es completamente otra cosa traer a un narrador a la sala y hacer que ellos expliquen su proceso.

- Normalmente tengo preparada una lista de preguntas.

- Cuando comenzamos, lo primero que hicimos fue hacer que Gena hablara con ellos.

- Porque, para mí, la forma en que las entrevistas funcionan mejor es si son más como una conversación.

- La otra cosa que era esencial fue que trajimos a Katie Thorton, quien hace podcasts. Ella trabaja en audio como medio.

- Cuando estás contando historias, lo cual es diferente a escribir un papel, puedes revelar cuáles son los problemas a medida que fluye la historia, y puedes dejar que se cuenten por sí mismas, y construir algo de la anticipación.

- Todo el proceso de podcasting comienza con el interés del estudiante. Es importante determinar qué es lo que los estudiantes les interesa, ¿qué historias les gustaría contar? El año pasado, creamos nuestra primera temporada de "Localmente Global". Examinamos los objetivos de desarrollo sostenible desde un contexto local a global, y estamos continuando eso este año en nuestra segunda temporada. Hola. Somos, Un grupo de estudiantes de secundaria de Muscatine, Iowa, tratando de hacer una marca en el universo, y este es nuestro podcast.

- [Todos] "¡Localmente Global!".

- Y una vez que han decidido un interés, es hora de investigar su tema. Así que aquí está el Juez Principal de la Corte Suprema de Iowa, Mark Cady, relatando esa increíble historia. Y si le preguntas a los estudiantes ¿qué hace una buena historia? Te dirán que tiene que tener algo de acción, y tiene que tener algo de drama, y tiene que tener un personaje con el que se puedan identificar, alguien que experimente las mismas emociones humanas que yo, con quien pueda identificarme. Puedo ponerme en sus zapatos, puedo verme en su historia.

- [Dan] ¿Pero qué pasa con esa chica? Sigo pensando en esa chica.

- [Estudiante] Ese es Dan Clark, historiador local de la familia Clark.

- En la narración de audio, todo está en juego. Ellos llegan a determinar todo, mientras que en un papel, a menudo quedan atrapados en una estructura que necesitan seguir para desarrollar un argumento, pero en audio, les da completa libertad y flexibilidad para desarrollar su argumento de una manera que sea significativa, no solo para ellos, sino de una manera que también será significativa para la audiencia.

Estamos involucrados en un ciclo interminable de retroalimentación a lo largo de este proceso. La mejor manera de convertirse en un mejor escritor es simplemente escribir, recibir retroalimentación oportuna y volver a escribir. Y de la misma manera, la mejor forma de convertirse en un buen narrador es simplemente practicar contando historias. Hay algunas habilidades realmente importantes que los estudiantes aprenden a través de este proceso, aprender a cuestionar, aprender a ser responsable, aprender a hacer observaciones agudas de lo que la gente tiene que decir, y cómo se sienten, y responder de manera adecuada. Aprendiendo a colaborar, aprendiendo a comunicar de manera efectiva y clara, con audiencias que pueden tener visiones y perspectivas del mundo completamente diferentes que las suyas. Cuando empoderamos a los estudiantes para contar sus propias historias, Creo que les ayuda a desarrollar su conciencia crítica. Les ayuda a evaluar el mundo que experimentan con una lente crítica. Se ven a sí mismos como parte integral del mundo, no solo como parte de él. Créditos.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Last Updated

April 8, 2024

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources