Sometimes the key to making an education story really stand out is finding and highlighting a key detail that’s so memorable and unique that it’s hard to forget. Extra points if it’s a dramatic visual or sound.

That’s what NPR’s Cory Turner did in this recent segment about DC-area kids using pasta and glue to make bridges (Teaching Students To Use Their Noodles).

The detail that turns out to be so important in this case is the sound that strong bridges make when they finally give into the weight (more than 50 lbs!) being applied.  

“You can tell how well a bridge is built not just by the weight it holds, but by how it breaks,” narrates Turner. “A weaker bridge will quickly bend, then collapse. A strong bridge will hold firm until it shatters.”

On the air, you hear the sound, which I’d describe as a brittle cracking. Online, it’s an 8-second sound bite that’s pulled out and presented (above) so that even those reading the piece might take a chance and click the play button.

Other details that have made education stories stand out for me in the past: Kids walking in the middle of the street in order to get home safely (in This American Life’s “Harper High”); a little girl changing her given name (Rayola) to try and fit in at a new school (Chicago Tribune). What are some of yours?

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at