If it's free, give me three

photo of students working on broadcast

From our Educator Guest Blogger Series

As an educator, there are several phrases I hear among my colleagues. One is to not "reinvent the wheel." Another is "work smarter, and not harder." But one mantra I live my life by is "If it is free, give me three." 

Yes, this is more comedic, but educators have limited funds and when something is free, I scoop it up. PBS Student Reporting Lab's Story Maker provides endless resources to help educators integrate digital production into their classrooms. And guess what? It is free. Since it is free, I have to give you three -- my three favorite ways to use Story Maker in my classroom.

Story Maker is a free resource developed by PBS Student Reporting Labs. Story Maker provides free lesson plans, storytelling resources, and tutorials.

  • Lessons

    My favorite things about Story Maker are the online resources and lessons. They are easy to integrate into any curriculum. They provide a variety of topics and they are easily adaptable. They break storytelling down and provide examples to help students create their original content.

    One of my favorite lessons is the one on script writing. I like it because students get to work with tangible pieces of the script and build it out. Then they can see the finished product and compare it to what they thought. Sometimes picking the best sound bites from an interview is the hardest part of the writing process for students. This lesson gives them some practice before they have to do it with their content.

  • Challenges

    Throughout the year, Story Maker posts various challenges and calls to action for students across the country to tell stories in their community and voice their opinions. Some of these are even contests.

    I enjoy this component because it motivates students to produce their best work. They have the potential for a wider audience. The challenges are usually timely to things happening around them and they have the opportunity to tell a story beyond the typical high school coverage truly. This challenge typically produces stronger stories.

    Last year, my students produced a video for one of the challenges. It asked how their school was preparing them for life after high school. They chose to focus on how their school introduced them to a variety of college options, including HBCUs.

  • Facebook Group

    Finally, Story Maker provides a community for educators. Once you join, you get free access to the resources, but you also can join the SRL Facebook Group. This group has over 700 educators from across the country. Educators post resources, and questions, and participate in various discussions. One of my favorite activities is the online spirit weeks.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and Story Maker are free resources that provide endless resources and support. It is completely free. And if it is free, give me three!


A.J. Chambers is a middle and high school teacher at Horse Creek Academy, a public charter school in Aiken, SC. He is the JEA 2021 National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. His students are state, regionally, and nationally recognized scholastic journalists. You can contact him at achambers@hcacsnet.


Note: This guest blog does not necessarily reflect the views of ETV Education.