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Project | 4-6 Weeks

Statues, symbols, and stories: how public spaces reflect America’s past and present


statues and symbols

Look around your community. Who gets put on a pedestal (literally)? What kinds of statues are in your town/city/region? Whose names are on public buildings, such as schools, and who is featured in public art, such as murals?

Have any of these things changed, been renamed, removed in recent years? If so, let’s find out why.

A 2021 report by Monument Lab, an organization advocating for more inclusive history, examined more than 50,000 monuments throughout the United States, and found they were overwhelmingly white and male. There were more mermaids featured than congresswomen, and more people who fought for the Confederacy than abolitionists. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a racial justice and anti-hate organization, maintains a database of schools named after Confederates.

For this assignment, think about how communities decide which historical perspectives and people to honor in statutes, murals/paintings, and public spaces.

Are these symbols important? How do they connect to the present day? Who gets lifted up and who gets left out– and why does that matter?

This project is part of PBS's Iconic America, a documentary series exploring America’s history through iconic national symbols, places, and archetypes.

DEADLINE: March 15, 2024


  1. Removed: produce a story about a public monument in your community that has been or is in the process of being removed. The SPLC created a map of Confederate memorials in the U.S.
  2. Changed/renamed: produce a story about something in your community (a school building, road, river/creek, ect.) that has been renamed recently. A 2022 analysis by USA Today found 82 schools across the U.S. had been renamed in the wake of the racial justice protests in 2020, following George Floyd’s murder.
  3. Forgotten history: who is left out of public spaces and monuments? Produce a story about a historical event, a group, or individual(s) from your community that have not been historically recognized for their contributions.


  • Profile (2-4 min. long): A profile is the story of one person. It has voiceover (VO), b-roll, pictures, nats (natural sound), interviews of family members or peers of that one person. Here’s an example of a profile.
  • Explainer (2-4 min. long): A video explaining a concept. Often it includes a host/narrator speaking directly to the camera. The tone could be serious, funny, or informative. Here’s an example of an explainer.
  • News package (3-5 min. long): Video stories about newsworthy issues and topics. A news package has factual information, balanced reporting, research, voice overs, multiple interviews soundbites, b-roll footage. It may also include things like infographics, a reporter standup, nats (natural sound from filming b-roll). Here’s an example of a news package.
  • NAT package (2-4 min. long): A video story guided by the natural sound from interviews and the environment where you’re filming. Natural sound, commonly known as “NAT sound,” puts the viewer in the place the story was told by enhancing the scene(s) with video containing rich audio such as a musician singing at a train station, a storm approaching, or the sound of a tractor plowing the field. This kind of story would often not have a voiceover narration. Here’s an example of a nat package.



You must also have this release form completed to confirm your participation in Student Reporting Labs (SRL). NOTE: The SRL team evaluates pieces based on this criteria. Please be sure your story incorporates these requirements.

NOTE: students are encouraged to publish their stories on their school/club/program website or through video/social platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or Twitter and tag Student Reporting Labs. Check with your teacher to find out instructions for class submissions.





Estimated Time

4-6 Weeks