Every year, Student Reporting Labs releases prompts on different topics or themes tied to national and newsworthy issues, and asks participating Labs to create digital stories around these topics with specific instructions and guidelines.

SRL releases MOST of its prompts at the same time for planning purposes. Each prompt outlines expectations for submissions and guides for teachers to help guide classroom discussions around the topics with intro activities.

2020-2021 SRL Prompts By Type and Skill Level

Social Media Prompt:

Returning to School

After a year of online learning, millions of students are heading back to school in person amid surges of the Delta variant. What does returning to in-person learning look and feel like amid new Delta variant concerns, vaccination debates, and mask mandates? Student experiences are necessary to inform and broaden public conversations. Read more

Rapid Responses:

Skill Level: Beginner

Students practice basic interview & production skills

9/11 20 Years Later

The September 11 attacks marked one of the most significant events of American history. Current high school students were born years after the attacks, but are surrounded by people with vivid memories of the events, either from the news or in-person on that day. How are students today learning about the September 11 attacks and the world events that resulted? Read more

Pop Culture That Made Me Feel Seen

Mass media like movies, books, TV shows, and songs have the power to inspire and entertain us. They can also show us new ways of thinking, help us explore our own identities, and showcase underrepresented perspectives. SRL wants you to share a time when you “felt seen” by something in pop culture or in the media (a movie, book, TV show, song, podcast, comic book, etc.) What did it do for you? How did you relate to it? Did it feel like it was an accurate depiction?  Why was it so good?

TikTok Challenges

A viral TikTok trend (known as the “devious lick” challenge) swept schools across the country. The trend encourages students to commit and post acts of vandalism, such as stealing soap dispensers and damaging bathrooms. What kind of TikTok-inspired acts have happened at your school and how is it affecting students and staff?


Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Students practice interview, b-roll and editing skills

Back to School, Big Debates

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting and stressful time. This year is particularly challenging as many communities debate how to operate schools safely during a pandemic.

At the same time, the country is grappling with how to address present-day discrimination, racism and the legacy of slavery, as school boards, parents, and lawmakers argue about what students should be taught. New laws and policies are also emerging to regulate how transgender students participate in sports. SRL wants you to explore some of the big debates in your community as the new school year begins.

What they didn’t teach me in school

This school year, there’s a national conversation going on about how things like history, current events and specific books should — and shouldn’t —be taught in schools. But we know that young people are looking to sources outside of school — online and otherwise — to learn about the world, too.

Letter to my middle school self

Student Reporting Labs is looking for creative and thought-provoking “video letters” reflecting lessons you’ve learned about MENTAL HEALTH and WELLNESS. Videos should be under 2 minutes.

Invention and Design Stories That Inspire Us

Fixing, making, designing and invention are all part of figuring things out and following your curiosity. For this challenge, you are going to produce a story about someone who has created something new by tinkering and building.


Skill Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Students practice pitching ideas, interview, and editing

Education’s Big Debates

SRL is producing a digital special premiering on NewsHour’s platforms and distributed through PBS Plus examining how today’s biggest civic debates are impacting education. For this advanced storytelling assignment, SRL needs your help to produce video news stories or explainers for our education special.

On Our Minds (Season Two)

SRL is producing the second season of our podcast “On Our Minds” about teen mental health! For this special reporting project, SRL has two opportunities: 1. apply to be a student host and/or 2. pitch and produce an audio story.

Art and social change

Art is often created to address social, political, religious and cultural issues. No matter the medium, artists engage audiences with their work as a way to explore activism, cultural changes and difficult topics. For this project, your challenge will be to produce a FEATURE STORY about art and social change in your community.

What does climate change look like in your community?

Wildfires, droughts and flooding, health effects on animals, insects and humans — these are just a few of the many ways the climate crisis presents on a local, national, and world stage. SRL would like to know: What does climate change look like in your community? For this project, your challenge will be to produce a FEATURE STORY about climate change in your community.