The Challenge

There has been a major disruption in one of Earth’s ecosystems, completely altering it. Life as it was has been irrevocably changed, and your challenge is to create a radio program that effectively communicates this devastating information.

Here’s what your team needs to do:

  • Choose an existing ecosystem on Earth and a plausible physical or biological disturbance that could alter it so that it doesn’t return to its original status.
  • Research background information about the ecosystem, using at least two different media formats – the Internet, newspaper, magazine, or book.
  • Try to determine what your ecosystem would be like once it has undergone the plausible, unstable disruption. Focus on one area in specific: e.g. insect life.
  • Develop and produce a 3 – 4 minute radio drama about the effects of this change. These are just a few examples (not to be used).
    • What would happen if a meteor knocked the moon and moved it closer? What if a widespread plant mutation or a certain pesticide caused nectar to become scarce?
    • Be sure to specify the time frame of the change. Does it happen over the course of a day? Or over the course of three generations?
    • Your story should describe 3 consequences of ecosystem disruption.

Deliverables include:

  • Radio Drama (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
  • Idea Summary Paper (at teacher’s discretion)
  • First Draft Script (at teacher’s discretion)


Assumptions and Logistics

Time Frame – We recommend that this Meridian Stories Competition takes place inside of a three to four-week time frame.

Length – All Meridian Stories submissions should be under 4 minutes in length, unless otherwise specified.


Submissions – Keep in mind that each school can only submit three submissions per Competition (so while the entire class can participate in the Challenge, only three can be submitted to Meridian Stories for Mentor review and scoring).

Teacher Reviews – All reviews by the teacher are at the discretion of the teacher and all suggested paper deliverables are due only to the teacher. The only deliverable to Meridian Stories is the media work.

Teacher’s Role and Technology Integrator – While it is helpful to have a Technology Integrator involved, they are not usually necessary: the students already know how to produce the media. And if they don’t, part of their challenge is to figure it out. They will! The teacher’s primary function in these Challenges is to guide the students as they engage with the content.  You don’t need to know editing, sound design, shooting or storyboarding: you just need to know your content area.


Digital Rules/Literacy – We strongly recommend that all students follow the rules of Digital Citizenry in their proper usage and/or citation of images, music and text taken from other sources. This recommendation includes producing a citations page at the end of your entry, if applicable. See the Digital Rules area in the Meridian Resources section of the site for guidance.

Location – Try not to shoot in a classroom at your school. The classroom, no matter how you dress it up, looks like a classroom and can negatively impact the story you are trying to tell.


Slate – All media work must begin with a slate that provides:

  1. the title of the piece;
  2. the name of the school submitting;
  3. the wording ‘Permission Granted’ which gives Meridian Stories the right to a) publicly display the submission in question on, as linked from or related to or in support of Meridian Stories digital media; and b) use it for educational purposes only; and
  4. We strongly recommend that students do not put their last names on the piece either at the start or finish, during the credits.


Collaboration – We strongly recommend that students work in teams of 3-4: part of the educational value is around building collaborative skill sets. But students may work individually.

Presentation – We strongly recommend that at the end of this process, the student teams present their work either to the class and/or to assembled parents and friends as a way to showcase their work. The workforce considers Presentational Skills to be a key asset and we encourage you to allow students to practice this skill set as often as possible. These short videos provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills.

Our research indicates this to be a really useful exercise for two additional reasons:

  1. Students actually learn from their peers’ presentations – it is useful to hear a perspective that is not just the teacher’s; and
  2. The public setting – painful as it is for some students – provides them with an opportunity to ‘own’ their work and to be more accountable.



During Phase I, student teams will:

  • Choose an ecosystem and do some preliminary background research.
  • Based on that research, brainstorm a destabilizing disruption to the ecosystem – research the plausibility of the disruption.
  • Then take that information and research possible consequences to this eco-disruption.
  • As suggested above, it may be important to focus on one specific element of change that would occur: weather patterns, water supply, insect life, urban life, air quality, day length, etc. The more focused and specific you are about the ramifications – the more scientific and insightful you are, staying away from obvious conclusions – the better.
    • Teacher’s Option: Idea Summary Paper – Teachers may require that teams hand in a summary of their eco-disruption and their predicted consequences.
  • With a general understanding of the plausibility and consequences of your select eco-disruption in hand, conduct in-depth research on the ecosystem, using a variety of sources, and keeping track of all the sources used for your Resource Citation Paper.
  • Select three repercussions to focus upon. It can be useful to research if there is any historical precedent.

During Phase II, student teams will:

  • Begin to brainstorm the creative format in which your team will want to present this information.
Radio Dramas have a rich history. The most famous example is the broadcast of an alien invasion on a radio program called, “War of the World” in 1938. There was apparently a coterie of listeners who didn’t know that this was a radio drama and panicked, thinking that there really was an alien attack.


Following that format, your radio drama could begin with your characters listening to a ‘Sudden Interruption Radio Report’ that reports this new eco-disruption and your drama can revolve around what your characters do in reaction.


The creative storytelling could be visitors from the future coming back to a devastated earth and through scientific exploration, they discover what happened.


In short, there are numerous creative dramatic approaches to how you want to tell this audio story; how you want to paint a clear picture of the visual nature of the disruption and the resulting behaviors of your main characters.


Researching some of the history of radio drama could provide you with some interesting models for the scene you are going to create.


  • Outline the story or creative format that will be used to communicate the scientific information.
    • Keep in mind that these are characters we only hear and never see. So, keeping your characters down to a maximum of four is recommended.
    • In an audio story, we recommend keeping this to two locations. You can only deliver location via sound effects and verbal description. Taking your listener to two locations – two places for them to imagine in their heads – should be enough in the short time allotted.
    • In the end, you have a) characters and their voices, b) sound effects and c) music to tell your dramatic story. Add to that pacing and rhythm and you have your full inventory of audio storytelling tools. Have fun making the most of them.
  • Write the first draft of the script.
    • Read your script aloud several times with your team playing different characters. Often, it’s only when you read the script aloud that you can discover what’s working and what’s not; what sounds like real conversation and what doesn’t; whether a character sounds right or wrong.
  • Teacher’s Option: First Draft Script – Teachers may require that teams hand in their first draft script to check for scientific accuracy and narrative cohesion.
  • Finalize the scripting and voice casting.

During Phase III, student teams will:

  • Rehearse then record the radio drama.
  • Brainstorm the sound of this show. What does each location sound like and how you will create those sound effects? And will you underscore this with music, in order to build the dramatic tension?
    • Sound effects can be created and recorded by the team – this is called Foley – the art of reproducing every day sounds – or found online on royalty free sounds effects sites. Creating your own sound effects can be a lot of fun.
  • Post-produce the radio drama by adding music and sound effects
  • NB: Meridian Stories may only accept this as a YouTube video. So your audio format may need to be delivered inside of this video format. But no imagery necessary.

Meridian Media Resources Support

Meridian Stories provides two forms of support for the student teams.

1.    Media Innovators and Artists – This is a series of three to four-minute videos featuring artists and innovative media professionals who offer important advice, specifically produced for Meridian Stories, in the areas of creativity and production.

2.    Meridian Tips – These are short documents that offer student teams a few key tips in the areas of creativity and production.

Recommended review, as a team, for this Challenge include:

Meridian Innovators and Artists Media Resource Collection
On Sound Design – Chris Watkinson

On Making Horror Films – Aviva Briefel

On Radio Plays – Margaret Heffernan

On Music in Film – Mary Hunter

“Creating Radio Stories”

“Sound Editing Basics”

“Creative Brainstorming Techniques”

“Producing: Time Management”

“Royalty Free Music”



Evaluation Rubric – Eco-Disruption Radio Drama

CONTENT COMMAND – Clear understanding of the selected ecosystem and accurate scientific projection of ramifications due to a systemic disruption
Criteria 1 – 3 4 – 7 8 – 10
Communication of Content – Ecosystem Understanding of the ecosystem is not evident Some understanding of the ecosystem is evident Thorough understanding of the ecosystem is evident
Communication of Content – Disruption Consequences The disturbance consequences are missing or not presented clearly The disturbance consequences are evident, but are not communicated clearly or consistently The disturbance consequences are thoroughly developed, and clearly communicated
Plausibility of Ramifications The ramifications are unlikely The ramifications are somewhat plausible The ramifications are plausible
STORYTELLING COMMAND – Effective creative approach to create an engaging narrative
Criteria 1 – 3 4 – 7 8 – 10
Creative Approach The creative concept does not service the content clearly or appropriately The creative approach does not consistently service the content The creative approach services the content effectively and imaginatively
Script The narrative is hard to follow and/or the scripting is lackluster and ineffective The narrative is presented clearly, but the scripting is inconsistently engaging


The narrative is presented clearly and the scripting is engaging and effective


Tone and Mood The tone and mood detract from the overall intent of the narrative The tone and mood are interesting choices that match the content of the narrative The tone and mood are well chosen and enhance the content of the narrative


MEDIA COMMAND – Effective use of the media to communicate narrative
Criteria 1 – 3 4 – 7 8 – 10
Editing The piece feels patched together and the overall editing detracts from the narrative The piece works, but there are occasional editing distractions The piece is edited cleanly and effectively, resulting in a seamless audio experience
Sound Effects to Create a Sense of Place

The sound effects – or lack of them – do not enhance the overall listening experience The sound effects help to enhance the overall listening experience The sound effects effectively place the listener inside the moment
Music The selective use of music detracts from the drama inherent in the scene The selective use of music works inconsistently to enhance the overall listening experience The selective use of music enhances the drama inherent in the scene


21ST CENTURY SKILLS COMMAND (for teachers only) – Effective use of collaborative thinking, creativity and innovation, and initiative and self-direction to create and produce the final project.
Criteria 1-3 4-7 8-10
Collaborative Thinking The group did not work together effectively and/or did not share the work equally The group worked together effectively and had no major issues The group demonstrated flexibility in making compromises and valued the contributions of each group member
Creativity and Innovation The group did not make a solid effort to create anything new or innovative The group was able to brainstorm new and inventive ideas, but was inconsistent in their realistic evaluation and implementation of those ideas. The group brainstormed many inventive ideas and was able to evaluate, refine and implement them effectively
Initiative and Self-Direction The group was unable to set attainable goals, work independently and manage their time effectively. The group required some additional help, but was able to complete the project on time with few problems The group set attainable goals, worked independently and managed their time effectively, demonstrating a disciplined commitment to the project


Essential Questions

  1. What aspects of an ecosystem lend it resilience? What aspects of an ecosystem make it tend towards instability?
    1. Why do some disturbances cause an ecosystem to return to its more or less original status, whereas others result in the transformation to a very different ecosystem?
  2. What is the nature of the relationship between organisms and the ecosystem in which they reside?
  3. How do you know the ramifications and fluctuations caused by your physical or biological disturbance are plausible?
    1. By imagining and elaborating upon the possible changes to an ecosystem, how has your understanding of the ecosystem changed or deepened?
  4. What techniques did you use to make your story about the shifts in an ecosystem compelling and dramatic?
  5. How has immersion in the creation of original content and the production of digital media – exercising one’s creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy skills – deepened the overall educational experience?
  6. How has working on a team – practicing one’s collaborative skills – changed


Student Proficiencies

  1. The student will gain a deeper understanding of the fragile dynamics of ecosystems and what happens when the environment changes.
    1. The student will better understand how the ramifications in an ecosystem, due to a biological or physical disturbance, reflect its resilience.
  2. The student will better understand how organisms interact with their environment and what the effects are of these interactions.
  3. The student will understand the process by which one can accurately use data to project into the future to understand possible consequences.
  4. The student will understand the power of narrative, and its constituent elements, to communicate effectively.
  5. The student will utilize key 21st century skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating STEAM content into a new narrative format.
  6. The student will have an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards of team collaboration. Collaboration – the ability to work with others – is considered one of the most important 21st century skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.


NGSS Core Curricular Goals

The Eco-Disruption Radio Drama Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that are articulated in Next Generation Science Standards. Below please find the standards that are addressed, either wholly or in part, depending on the ‘eco-disruption’ the student teams choose.


Middle School

MS – ESS2 -2 Earth’s Systems – Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.


MS – ESS2 – 6 Earth’s Systems – Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.


MS – ESS3 – 3 Earth and Human Activity – Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.


MS – ESS1 – 4 – Earth’s Place in the Universe – Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6 billion-year-old history.


MS – LS2 – 1 – Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems – Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.


MS – LS2 – 4 – Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems – Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.


High School

HS – LS2 – 6 – Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy and Dynamics Evaluate claims, evidence and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.