University High Documentaries



Program Type:

Grant-funded Project

Participation Details:

No participation details specified


No address has been specified


  • 217-333-7300





Content Area(s):


Since 1995, Illinois Public Media has worked with students at University of Illinois Laboratory High School to produce radio documentaries.

Central to the 8th grade social studies curriculum is an extensive oral history project, involving all 60-70 students in each entering class.  Working in teams, these students prepare for and conduct oral history interviews with about 15 people from the local community who have some experience or expertise to share on the project's chosen topic. Interviews of one to two hours are conducted in a professional recording studio at the Illinois Public Media facility, Campbell Hall.  Students then transcribe their interviews and use them in written and multimedia work as a primary source.

Students who are interested in continuing to process the results of each oral history project may then apply to become "WILL interns."  A group of about twenty students from grades 9 through 12 are divided into two teams:  one team produces the various journalistic pieces to be disseminated through Illinois Public Media (short radio "spots," one-hour radio documentary, project webpage, etc.), while the other team helps to lay the groundwork for the next oral history project.  Thus at any given time, there are at least two oral history projects in the pipeline.

While the original interviews are done as a required part of a class, student interns do all of the other work involved in each project outside of class, as an extra-curricular activity.  The students who eventually become "producers" of a documentary or other end products have usually served for several years as interns, acquiring more skills as they rise through the ranks. 

 While these student leaders work closely with the adult sponsors from Uni and IPM, they are generally highly talented and independent students who demonstrate considerable initiative in designing and carrying out projects, training and leading their team of fellow "interns," and determining the content and form of the end products, with the expectation that their work will be of sufficient quality to be broadcast through IPM channels.


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