With $15,000 grant, WQED Steeltown Film Academy develops content for kids, created by kids

Photo above courtesy of WQED Steeltown Film Academy.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Shortly after WQED acquired the teen-focused Steeltown Film Academy in February, the station learned that WQED would receive a $15,000 youth content grant.

WQED is one of 12 public media stations to receive the grant from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The grant recipients are tasked with collaborating with kids to create public media content for tweens and teens. The effort is part of the By/With/For Youth: Inspiring Next Gen Public Media Audiences project.

Each station is taking a varied approach to its mission, using local platforms while experimenting with podcasts, TikTok and YouTube videos. For example, at KWMR community radio in Point Reyes Station, Calif., the voices of Native American kids will be featured in the radio program “Indigenous YOUth Nation.”  South Carolina’s ETV is working on an animated educational series co-developed by Black high school girls. WBUR in Boston welcomes kids to develop a series of live events on topics that are relevant to today’s youth.

In Pittsburgh, the newly christened WQED Steeltown Film Academy will use the grant for its “Building Bridges and Bridging the Gap” project, in which the teen media makers work with grownup professionals.

Photo courtesy of WQED Steeltown Film Academy.

“We have a couple of pieces of media that will come out of this,” says Mary Ann McBride-Tackett, director of WQED Steeltown Film Academy. “The first thing is Teachable Moments that our students helped produce, in partnership with the production team at QED.”

Teachable Moments “is really about talking to parents about how to engage with your kids anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” says Gina Masciola, WQED managing director of education.

The Teachable Moments series includes a segment on creating a collage out of objects kids find around the house. Another shows how to design an outdoor obstacle course. And yet another offers instructions on how to start to code without having access to a computer.

The second effort of the Building Bridges project, says McBride-Tackett, is the development of two Learning Labs, “which are our TED Talk-esque videos that we record whenever we have a guest speaker who is a professional from the industry who is speaking to our students and sharing their knowledge.” These collaborations create masterclasses with a youth viewpoint.

Both Teachable Moments and the Learning Lab videos will be published on the WQED and Steeltown websites, as well as on YouTube.

The grant enhances and accelerates the burgeoning relationship between WQED and the Film Academy, as well as the work that’s underway with teens.

“This grant opportunity just kind of came at the right time to give us the kind of support that we needed to jumpstart the relationship,” Masciola says.

McBride-Tackett agrees: “I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface,” she says.

”It’s jumpstarted those types of overlapping departments that we were hoping to have. So being able to pull the QED production folks into the room with our students and have them actively mentoring and teaching and interacting, and then having the education department engaging with our students and getting student feedback and having that influence and type of content that they’re creating … It’s all the things that we wanted to happen and enhancing everybody’s work. So I do feel like this is just the beginning.”