Perkins students explore a “day in the life” through NPR Student Podcast Challenge

First ever NPR Student Podcast Challenge gives platform to students in Perkins’ Secondary Program

A sign says "Radio," the word printed in braille next to it.

At Perkins, the music studio and radio station are both always open to students interested in exploring different storytelling mediums.

May 9, 2019

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live a day in the life at Perkins School for the Blind? A handful of students recently set out to share their first-hand knowledge on the subject, writing and producing a podcast exploring their social and educational day-to-day activities.

Created as a submission for the first ever NPR Student Podcast Challenge, the 11-minute audio-driven story follows four students in Perkins’ Secondary Program as they go to class, work with teachers, hang out with friends and more. The episode is further brought to life by sounds common around campus – school bells ringing and students chatting – while the narrators highlight some of the different ways students with a wide variety of abilities build academic and life skills.

“They were interested in being able to tell the story of what it's like for a high schooler who is blind, and what issues they've encountered,” said Matt Rutkowski, studio instructor in Perkins’ Technology Center who supported the project. “One of their main areas of excitement was being able to create that story with sound.”

The piece, appropriately titled “A Day in the Life at Perkins,” also provided students with a number of great learning opportunities, both around technology – including audio editing and sound design – and storytelling. And though their podcast didn’t win, those opportunities remain available to all students at Perkins, Rutkowski added, as the music studio and radio station are always open to story ideas from students interested in exploring the medium.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

Transcript: A Day in the Life at Perkins

*Bell tower bells ring over muffled chatter*

Mike: Hi my name is Mike (Hi can I help you?).
Sai: Hi, this is Sai. I can’t hear you (In singing voice, mimicking Spongebob).
Hope: Hi my name’s Hope (Mmhmm).
Ashley: My name’s Ashley, Hello.

Mike: I begin my day in Keller-Sullivan Cottage.
Sai: I begin my day at home sweet home.
Hope: I begin my day in Glover, the independent living apartment.
Ashley: I begin my day also in Keller Sullivan, which we call “K.S.”

All, speaking together: Welcome to “A Day in the Life at Perkins.”

All, taking turns speaking: Perkins is a school for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. Some of us come for the day, and some of us come for the night. We also have a Deafblind Program and we also help students with different abilities. Perkins School for the Blind is one of the oldest blind schools in the United States. Perkins has so many geese flying around! It was founded in 1829.

*Electronic bells ring*

Mike: Well it's time for me to go to Marie Vollemans’ room. Have a nice morning guys!
Hope: There’s the bell, and the bell means that we have to change classes. Everytime a different class is starting, you hear the bell. And today you guys get to come with us. Lucky you guys!
Sai: put your personal belongings down, and enjoy the ride.
Hope: OK, lets go.

Woman speaking: Ok so why dont you meet with me in the lobby, we’ll get our keys, and then we’ll go to the store.
Mike: Okay, but we’ll have fun later.

Mike: Have you ever wondered how blind people like me and the rest of us at Perkins, and all blind people for that matter, get around? Well I’m here to tell you, with one foot in front of the other, with the right materials, and with a determined, set heart and focus, we can! And it’s fun too. We just worked on cane usage.
Woman speaking: Sweep your cane on the right, and at the next intersection sidewalk, take a left turn.
Mike: In Watertown and surrounding areas, and our beautiful Perkins campus.
Woman: Where do we go next?
Mike: Frozen section, aisle 11.

Mike: We have determination, thought and fun in mind to go where we’re going, because once we get to where we’re trying to go for the first time, or anytime, its a goal accomplished, and a feather in your cap if you’re starting out.
Woman: Alright Mike, we found the Brussel sprouts.

*Beeping noise of a grocery store scanner*

Mike: I’m alright, how are you? All together.
Mike: Forward and onward, friends!

*Car door slams*
*Electronic bells*

Mike: Okay Sai, where do you go next?
Sai: I have music.
Mike: Have fun!
Sai: Okay, let’s go.

*Piano notes*

Sai: And now we’re going to Arnie Harris! He plays music with me, and other students. He teaches all kind of songs. He teaches guitar, drums, piano, anything.

Sai: Hey Arnie! What’s your favorite instrument?
Arnie: Lately, I’ve been playing mostly piano. I also play bass guitar and trombone. Those are my three favorites.
Sai: How long have you been teaching here?
Arnie: I have been the music director here at Perkins for 34 years.
Sai: 34 years? How?!
Arnie: Well, because every year, I say, “boy, this is a great place to teach!”
Sai: Are there things that students who are blind can do more easily than students with vision?
Arnie: I think that possibly, students who are blind, memorize quicker than students who have vision. I find it the same as teaching sighted people, except for a coupe of little, additional things, maybe to help know where to put your fingers. Many of the students here are very talented musicians.
Sai: I’m talented too!
Arnie: Yeah, well, you’re one of the students I would say is a talented musician.

*Symbol crash*
*Bells ringing*

Sai: Hope, what do you have next?
Hope: I have technology with Kate.
Sai: Hope you have fun, do some good stuff.
Hope: I’ll try.

Kate: Here we go, we will continue with your sentences, and we will use use the place-marker command, and delete the blank...
Hope: Computer is a class where we get to use slash learn about computers and different technology and how to use it, and different screen readers.
Kate: Find the word, select it, alt-tab back.
Hope: A screen reader is basically… it tells you what you type and it reads out the screen to you.
Kate: I love it, how it’s like this, because it’s doing things you need to do in computer class, as well as getting your homework done. So it’s very awesome, period.

*Keyboard clicking*
*Electronic bells ringing*

Hope: Hey Ashley, what do you have next?
Ashley: I have OT next.
Hope: Oh that’s cool.
Ashley: Uh, sometimes.

Ashley: I didn’t wear my braces because I figured we were going to work on proprioception with the brush and the lotion, so I just didn’t bother putting them on today.
Woman: Alright, do you wanna dive right in?
Ashley: Occupational therapy is where we work on feeling in my hands. I started learning braille over the summer, I just got frustrated with it.
Woman: It’s hard for you to feel the individual dots, yeah?
Ashley: Exactly. I get to use my arms a little bit better.
Woman: How’s your shoulder doing today?
Ashley: Um, it’s a little better. It still hurts a little bit, but not as bad as it did a couple of weeks ago. Brushing and lotioning to get receptors back in my arms and my hands. What kind of brush is that? Because I don’t want them thinking it’s like a hairbrush.
Woman: It’s a nylon, surgical scrub brush, that’s very soft.
Ashley: We hold it and I go up and down my arm, applying pressure. This gets the sensation back in my arms, and helps me know where my body is in space.
Woman: What else do we say about proprioception? It helps you control your force of movements, it kind of works together with your balance system. Your brain is used to having your vision to understand where your body is.
Ashley: Do we have all the information we need?

*Electronic bells ringing*

Ashley: Mike, what class do you have next?
Mike: I’ve got the Perk Cafe.
Ashley: Oh, hurry up, you don’t want to be late.
Mike: Definitely.

Woman: Remember, this is a low-stress environment. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, we’re a team. We work together.

Mike: Now, we’re going to talk about our restaurant on Perkins’ campus. Marie Vollemans wants an Italian grinder. I love greeting and serving customers, providing fast friendly service, and going the extra mile to make sure everyone is happy!
Mike: Hi, Vo.
Vo: Hey Mike. Long time, no see. How are you?
Mike: I’m doing good, how about you? What can I get for you today?
Vo: Can I get the chicken parm?
Mike: Anything else?
Vo: Can you repeat what the dessert is?
Mike: This is a Wow Butter Chocolate Bar.

Mike: One chicken parm and another dessert.

Mike: A lot of people can learn a lot from working in restaurants, like the Perk Cafe, where I man the register.

*Cash register and coin noises*

Mike: Stay strong and happy, and remember, don’t let things get in the way of your dreams! Hope you’ve enjoyed. Out!

*Electronic bells ringing*

Mike: Okay Sai, what do you have next?
Sai: Well, it’s my free period, so I’m off to 3D print with Betsy Sennott.
Mike: Have fun.
Sai: I wonder what I’ll 3D print today. Let’s go down to the instructional materials center and check out what Betsy Sennott has in store for us.

*Mechanical whirring, computer beeping noises*

Sai: And what do you do here Betsy?
Betsy: Well, Sai, I’m in charge of the IMC. It has a lot educational materials, assistive devices, videos, and resources for teachers and students to use in their classrooms.
Sai: They have models. What surprises people when they come down?
Betsy: People are really taken aback that they can touch all of the animals and other models  and rocks and minerals.
Sai: In the IMC you can feel from a shark to a shuttle.

*Electronic bells ringing*

Sai: Hope, what do you have next
Hope: Next,  I have community fitness with Meghan. Maybe we’ll get to go to the YMCA today. I forgot, we have archery.
Sai: Don’t shoot me!

Meghan: Alright, here we go. Grab an arrow. Let’s try it out and see.You can figure it out as we go.
Hope: Has anyone wondered how blind people play archery? To be honest, I don’t like it and it’s not my thing. When I first thought about a blind person playing archery, I was thinking about, “Huh, how would that work? You have students and flying arrows, and “oh, they’re going to hit each other. This or this might happen.”

Hope: I think it’s important for blind people to have adaptive PE so they can have an actual gym class, with some exercise in their life and they don’t have to worry about not participating in public school. In public school, gym is like, really hard, and not accessible to blind people.

Hope: Hey Ashley, what do you have next?
Ashley: I have H&PM.
Hope: That sounds like fun.
Ashley: Sometimes, when we make food.

Woman: Teacher for the blind… doesn’t know how to use a can opener.
Ashley: Home and Personal Management is something that helps with daily living.
Woman: That’s one of the biggest pet peeves of mine, when people think that I teach cooking. I do not teach cooking.
Ashley: You have to explain, this is not home economics. We do not just cook and learn how to sew and stuff. It’s much, much more than that. Whether its cleaning, laundry, learning how to do something. It’s pretty much centered around your home environment, and better ways on how to adapt things in your home life so you can be independent.

Ashley: If I hold it here, I’m not going to get like electrocuted or something, right? I might jump.
Woman: That’s okay, I’m right here.You’re okay, I’m right here.
Ashley: Can you help me? Now I’m scared.
Woman: You’re fine.

*Blender noise*

Ashley: We are making muffins. So now we are using the blender, so I can blend all the ingredients together more independently, and do it more successfully.

Ashley: Any advice you could give to someone who doesn’t know about H&PM or vision loss?
Woman: How about blindness? For someone who doesn’t know anything about blindness – don’t be afraid. Don’t stare at them across the street when you’re at Target and be like, “oh my God, it’s a blind person. Holy cow!” You know, if they look like they’re struggling, ask if they need help. If they look independent, don’t grab their hand and say, “I’m gonna help you.”

*Electronic bells ringing*

Ashley: My second favorite bell, you know, opposed from the lunch bell. Last bell of the day, that means school is over. Hooray!

*Students talking, bell ringing*

Ashley: Class is over, I guess I gotta go back to K.S. and start on my chores. Hey, Hope, where are you off to?
Hope: I’m off to my apartment to go relax and then make some dinner, probably some pizza. Mike, where are you off to?
Mike: I’m off to K.S. to take care of my room. Sai, where are you off to?
Sai: I’m off to get picked up by my mom.

Ashley: Thank you for listening to “A Day in the Life at Perkins.”
Sai: We hope you’ve enjoyed a day in the life of Perkins. As you exit, please grab your personal belongings. Thank you. Goodbye.


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