Education

Students: Report for VTDigger with the Underground Workshop!


For the past two school years the Underground Workshop has brought excellent student journalism to VTDigger's readers and empowered young Vermonters to shape the conversation in their communities. This year the workshop's student editors are planning another ambitious collaborative reporting project, and our Thursday workshops are up and running, ready to support Vermont's student reporters.

Students: you don't need any experience to participate! Teachers: we're eager to work with you to publish your students' work! Readers: please help us spread the word!

Please sign up here to join our mailing list. You'll receive updates from the Underground Workshop's editors about our collaborative projects, workshops, and other opportunities!


What is the Underground Workshop?

The Underground Workshop's collaborative project for 2022 was the Climate Report Card, a five-part series evaluating VT schools' progress toward sustainability. Students contributed reporting from more than 15 high schools, and the series had wide-ranging civic impacts: the project's student editors were interviewed by Politico, a reporter was invited to meet with her town's Energy Committee, etc.

The Underground Workshop is a collaborative network of student journalists from high schools and colleges across Vermont, reporting and writing for VTDigger's statewide audience.

VTDigger introduced the Underground Workshop in September of 2020, with support from the Rowland Foundation. Since then, students from more than 40 Vermont high schools and colleges have stepped forward to participate, publishing a wide range of impactful stories and bringing a much-needed dose of student voice into Vermont's public discourse. 

This year the project is taking a step toward authentic student leadership. Our projects are being designed and facilitated by a board of student editors, representing ten of Vermont's high schools and colleges. We gather on zoom on Thursday evenings, with student work at the center of each meeting.  Any student is welcome to attend, to pitch ideas for stories, to submit drafts for feedback, or just to listen in.  Let us know if you'd like to attend and we'll send you a link.

The Underground Workshop seeks to maintain a high standard for publication and also works to support students in any way possible. Please refer to our checklist for publication, and reach out to our student editors at any time, at undergroundworkshop@vtdigger.org.

We're also eager to work with teachers to develop class projects for publication – in any subject area, not just journalism. Teachers (or students) can reach Ben Heintz, the workshop's editor, at ben@vtdigger.org.


Five kinds of stories we publish:

  1. Collaborative Reporting Projects
The Underground Workshop's collaborative project for 2021 was a six-part series of feature stories chronicling the history of the BLM Flag in Vermont's schools. The series was used as a teaching resource in several classrooms, and closed with a call for student commentaries. Students from across the state shared a range of views, demonstrating the promise of a more civil discourse.

Each year the Underground Workshop pursues one ambitious collaborative project, collecting reporting from schools across Vermont. These projects offer readers a deep, comprehensive look at complex issues, with a special focus on young Vermonters' perspectives. Our first major collaborative project was a six-part series of feature stories chronicling the history of the BLM flag in Vermont's schools; last year's project was the Climate Report Card, a five-part series that collected reporting from more than 15 high schools, evaluating our schools' progress toward sustainability.

The Underground Workshop's student editors have been working this fall to organize our collaborative project for this school year-- look for an announcement in the next few weeks!


2. Feature Stories

Last year students from UVM & Champlain College collaborated on a feature story: "Why we are frustrated": The strained dialogue around sexual assault on Burlington's college campuses.

Students can pursue feature stories independently, and can bring ideas or drafts to our Thursday Workshops for feedback at any phase of their process. Two examples of features that came to the workshop last year: this story about the failed Harwood School Bond, and this profile of a Syrian family in Rutland.

We're also interested to publish positive stories about our school communities, in our ongoing series, Bright Spots in Our Schools. Check out this story about Mill River Union High School's music program persevering through the pandemic, or this story about Thetford Academy's Founder's Day.


3. Photostories

A black and white warbler in Perkinsville, May 2021. Photo by Rue Stahl, of Woodstock High School, for his photostory on climate change and Vermont's birds.

The Underground Workshop is eager to celebrate the work of Vermont's student photographers, and photojournalism is a great opportunity to seek publication without the same time commitment for writing and revision that's required for feature stories.

Three great examples from last year: a students' view of housing issues in Winooski; a celebration of one community's efforts to combat food insecurity at the Manchester Community Cupboard; and reporting with photographs on the impacts of climate change for Vermont's birds.


4. Interview Projects & Q&A's

Last spring Isabella LaFemina, a Rutland High School senior (since graduated) and the student representative to the school board, collected dozens of students' opinions about the school's mascot, in an effort to bring student voice into the public debate.

Some of the Underground Workshop's most impactful work has come in the form of edited interviews, simply collecting voices and views from underrepresented Vermonters. One of our first collaborative projects was Red State Vermont, a series of Q&A's with conservative Vermonters, including students.

The above-mentioned story about housing in Winooski combined student voices with photographs, giving an on-the-ground image of how young people are impacted by the housing crisis. The Rutland mascot: what students have to say was one of our proudest moments last year, putting a range of student voices on the record after they had been conspicuously absent from most media coverage of the ugly debate over their own school's identity.


5. Stories from Vermont's School Newspapers

Last year Adelle Macdowell (one of the Workshop's student editors and now a freshman at Middlebury College) wrote a story for her school paper about a controversial meme account at Lamoille High School, which was sometimes used to out people for alleged sexual assault. Accounts like this, and the issues they raise, are common in Vermont's high schools and colleges.

Sometimes a school newspaper produces a high-quality piece of journalism with statewide relevance. Often these stories require some revision for VTDigger and can benefit from a visit to a Thursday Workshop for some last polishing. This kind of cross-publication promotes the work of school newspapers and inspires students at other schools to be ambitious in their reporting.

This story about a meme account at Lamoille Union High School was originally published in Lamoille's school paper, the Blue and Gold, but the difficult situations and issues it describes are relevant in many school communities. This story about the challenges of discussing race in our high school classrooms originated as a story for the U-32 Chronicle, but it speaks to challenges familiar to most of Vermont's students and teachers. This profile of a student race car driver and announcer was written for the Castleton Spartan but has broader appeal.

Please let us know if you see a story in a school paper that deserves a wider audience!


How to be involved

We'll be announcing our collaborative project for this school year in the next few weeks, and we're eager to connect with any students or teachers who are interested to participate, any time. Please sign up here to receive updates about opportunities for publication this school year, and feel free at any time to email our student editors at undergroundworkshop@vtdigger.org.

Help us spread the word! If you know a student who might be looking for this kind of authentic civic engagement and rigorous learning experience, please let them know about the Underground Workshop.

Several of the Underground Workshop's student editors meeting over zoom with VTDigger's founder Anne Galloway in June of 2021. Some of these students are still involved in the workshop; others have graduated or moved out of state, etc. The Underground Workshop is an open, inclusive community, and always evolving: student editors are simply those students who have demonstrated commitment through participation in projects and workshops, and who are eager to support peers engaging in this challenging work. Please encourage any student who's serious about journalism and civic engagement to come to a workshop!

If you want to keep tabs on Vermont's education news, sign up here to get a weekly email with all of VTDigger's reporting on higher education, early childhood programs and K-12 education policy.

 

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Underground Workshop

About Underground Workshop

The Underground Workshop is a collaborative community of student journalists from across Vermont, reporting and publishing for VTDigger's statewide audience, and made possible by the Rowland Foundation. The Workshop gathers on zoom every other Thursday night, with student work at the center of each meeting. Any student is welcome to attend and can submit work at any time in a range of formats: feature stories, news briefs, Q&A's, photostories, etc. We are also eager to work with teachers to develop projects for their students. For more information please contact Ben Heintz, the Workshop's editor, at ben@vtdigger.org.

Email: ben@vtdigger.org

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