Former Student on the Radio – Again!

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The work of Joey, one of my at-risk students, will be featured again this weekend on public radio’s This American Life!

Last October (2010), I wrote a blog post called, Try Not to Cry, in which I tell the story of Joey, an incarcerated teenager in the alternative learning environment I created with Seymour Papert. For three years, I helped lead The Constructionist Learning Laboratory, inside Maine’s troubled prison for teens, The Maine Youth Center (now Long Creek Youth Development Center). This work is chronicled in my doctoral dissertation, An Investigation of Constructionism in the Maine Youth Center.

In Try Not to Cry  I discuss how some students in the Constructionist Learning Laboratory engaged in radio production, including Joey who won a national radio-production award and created deeply poignant, sad and at times hilarious radio programs. You can (and IMHO should) listen to three of Joey’s radio programs and learn more about our learning environment here.

From Try Not to Cry

After my work in Maine ended, my partner came running into the house screaming that one of my “prison kids” was just on This American Life. I refused to believe it! Surely, there was no way that something from “The LEGO Lab” (as the kids called our classroom) could have made it to the best storytelling program on radio. I checked the web site and sure enough, Joey’s piece of Mike Wallace-style investigative journalism, “Who Peed in the Pudding?” was played on Ira Glass’ show from coast-to-coast. You MUST listen to this short piece to be reminded of what kids, all kids, are capable of and to hear Joey remain calm during a stressful situation when all of the adults around him behave badly. Hilarity ensues!

I met Ira Glass, host of This American Life, a few years ago and he told me that Joey’s piece was one of his all-time favorites. This American Life seems to repeat it at least once a year. (including this weekend)

This weekend’s episode of This American Life reruns one of their most popular shows, “20 Acts in 60 Minutes,” Joey’s contribution may be heard at the 13 minute and 33 second mark. I hope his work will inspire you and your students.


Veteran educator Dr. Gary Stager is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. Learn more about Gary here.

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