When Henry Puffer Elementary School third-grade teacher Christine Reynolds was brainstorming ways to bring real-life experiences into her classroom, starting a podcast came to mind.
“And I’ve got to be honest…I didn’t know what I was doing,” Reynolds said. “It was one of those things where I jumped in with both feet and it worked.”
The Henry Puffer Podcast Club (formally known as The Rockin’ Reynolds Third Grade Podcast), got its start in 2019. Today it has grown to 25 members, spanning from third to sixth grade students.
The purpose is simple, said Reynolds.
“I’m really big on relationships and building relationships and I thought, ‘I have these third graders and this social studies curriculum that wasn’t all that exciting,’” she said. “So how can I reach these kids? How can I get them to see and feel and experience what we’re learning? Podcasting was just coming around and I thought, ‘They’re old enough to research, ask questions and have conversations. And I’ve got a microphone and recording device, so let’s see what we can do.’”
With the help of her learning coach, Lauren Prosser, the club has become immensely popular. So popular, in fact, that there is a waiting list.
“I don’t think I can manage more than 25 because I’m by myself and we do meet once a week,” Reynolds said.
Past guests have included Circuit Court of DuPage County Ann Celine Walsh, Tik Tok influencer Connor Burns, Steve Greenberg, sports columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, and Lorelie Parolin, head of U.S. Learning and Development and Dean of Hamburger University for the McDonald’s Corporation, among others.
Most recently, students sat down with David Edwards, former Downers Grove North High School quarterback and current Los Angles Rams guard and Super Bowl champion. During his visit to the Downers Grove school on Feb. 24, club members also got to pose with Edwards for photos, get autographs and try on his Super Bowl ring.
“And it was just so cool,” Reynolds said.
There is a slightly rigorous vetting process before guests are invited onto the show, she said.
“We want to find people who make a difference,” Reynolds said. “Not only in their profession but in the world. That’s my requirement. So we ask them to tell our listeners, ‘How do you give back? You can do all these amazing things but how are you contributing to society?’”
Several of Reynolds’ third graders who began with the club in 2019 are now sixth graders.
“And it’s really become student-led,” she said. “My sixth graders take groups of students and break them up and discuss who’s going to be on the show. If a student wants to have a dentist on the show, they ask, Well, what do you want to know? And it’s been such a joy to see my kids grow into these little interviewees who have these authentic conversations. Their questions are beyond ‘How are you?’ and ‘What’s your favorite color?’ They keep following up with more questions.”
Club members enjoy giving the Henry Puffer community something to talk about.
“People are already listening to some kind of podcast somewhere so why not give them a site to listen to their own peers and learn something great? I think every school needs a platform where they can bring the community into the classroom and for kids to have a place to spread their voices,” Reynolds said.
She hopes to one day see some of her podcast club members return as guests.
“And share what they’ve learned and what they’ve become and what they’re doing now to give back,” Reynolds said.
More information about the club and its members can be found at https://www.smore.com/vb608. Podcasts can be found at https://anchor.fm/christine-reynolds.