Their assignment was to research the global extinction crisis currently facing amphibians. With over 1,900 species of amphibians currently facing the threat of extinction, we run the very real risk of loosing 1/3 of all amphibian species in our lifetimes. These alarming statistics helped to grab their attention, but what really inspired them to make a creation worth sharing was simply the fact that I planned to share it with a wide audience.
Recently I found myself with the TED-Ed recording unit that I used to record the narration for this animated video http://ed.ted.com/lessons/sex-determination-more-complicated-than-you-thought. I included my students in the process when I was making the video and I shared the rough draft of the animation with my students before it was released on ed.ted.com. My students were fascinated with the process of me creating and sharing my own work with the world. Since I still had the recording equipment that TED had sent me, I decided my students should use it to record their own creations. This set the stage for them as they began creating their own podcasts. I think they really got a kick out of using the portable sound recording booth (a well designed hood of sound dampening foam).
I asked them to write and record 30-90 second micro-podcasts that would each highlight the plight of one individual amphibian species. While it might not be a very big step towards world wide amphibian conservation, I hope that it helped my students see that they have the power to create and that it is now easier than ever to share your creations with the world.
Here is what they came up with: http://endangeredamphibians.blogspot.com/ It is a blog telling the world about the endangered amphibians that they learned about. They have been thrilled to see it shared online. For them, and for many high school students, the important things are worth sharing.