The all girls boarding school in the U.S. wins our monthly award for the second time for its creative engagement with News Decoder in an Ethics class.


Westover has now won the Decoder in the Spotlight award twice for its creative engagement with News Decoder. (Photo by Kathryn Taylor)

A high school class in Ethics might not offer an obvious teaching opportunity for News Decoder, but students at the Westover School in the United States are leveraging the educational news service to explore thorny topics ranging from the death penalty to whether animals should be kept in zoos.

The boarding school in the state of Connecticut wins this month’s Decoder in the Spotlight award for its creative engagement with News Decoder. It is the second time the all girls school has won the prize.

Students in Kathryn Taylor’s class in “American Voices & Choices: Ethics in Modern Society” have been working with News Decoder since the start of this academic year, using our publishing guidelines — Pitch/Report/Draft/Revise — to identify topical issues at the intersection of ethics and public policy.

At the start of the year, Taylor’s students participated in a virtual workshop run by News Decoder explaining how the publishing process can help them identify a topic and then drill down into subject matter to produce a unique and distinctive story.

Thirteen students have pitched stories on topics as diverse as the effect of online learning on teenagers’ health, police brutality in New Jersey, whether poor people can afford to follow an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, whether abortions should be made available to all women, whether countries should distribute COVID-19 vaccines before they are certified as safe and the impact of alcohol on youth.

Each student has received detailed feedback from a News Decoder editor, aimed at helping them narrow their research and produce original reporting.

Six Westover students submitted stories to our most recent Storytelling Contest — more than any of the 19 schools in News Decoder’s network. A News Decoder editor offers advice to each author on how to increase its chances of being published on our global website.

Westover has now won the award two times.

Director of the Rudolph S. Rasin Center for Global Justice and director of Global Programs at the all girls school, Taylor spearheads News Decoder’s partnership at Westover, one of our founding academic partners.

We asked her some questions about how she is using News Decoder in her classroom this year and why News Decoder makes sense at Westover.

ND: Why did you decide to include News Decoder’s publishing process — Pitch/Report/Draft/Revise — in your classroom?

Taylor: I thought that this process would fit very nicely with what we hope our students achieve through their writing and the recognition that it is an on-going process.

ND: You’re teaching a class in Ethics. Many people think News Decoder is mainly for subjects such as Global Studies, History, Social Studies, Politics or languages. How does News Decoder complement your Ethics class?

Taylor: It’s a great complement to the course — “American Voices & Choices: Ethics in Modern Society” — because one goal of the course is for students to be able to explore what it means to have a voice, and this type of assignment aligns with that. Additionally, an exploration of ethical theories and applying those to current events uses some of the very same skills that News Decoder supports.

ND: What do you think your students have learned from working with News Decoder this term?

Taylor: They are still working on their culminating projects, but I hope that they hone their discerning eye and ear. I want my students to engage in civil discourse responsibly and that means investigating the multitude of perspectives involved in contemporary issues. News Decoder’s process helps move them in this direction.

ND: You head the Rasin Center for Global Justice at Westover and have been working with News Decoder since its inception in 2015. How has News Decoder supported the Center’s work?

Taylor: The Rasin Center for Global Justice has been supported by our partnership with News Decoder because our work centers on fostering global citizenship and it has been beneficial to incorporate partnerships, such as this one, in our collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to educating for these skills.

(Nelson Graves is the founder of News Decoder.)

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Students in the SpotlightDecoder Spotlight: Westover School stands out — again