DIY your own student video contest for your class – a step-by-step guide.

It would be hard to estimate (and impossible to fathom) how much time kids these days spend watching videos on sites like YouTube or TikTok. Don’t even get us started on what it used to be like (remember staying outside until the streetlights came on, anyone?). 

Yes, videos are all the craze and they aren’t going anywhere. 

There’s something about the phenomenon that’s causing us to spend less time critiquing this generation and more energy on trying to come alongside who they are and what they’re into

We want to engage students in ways that are most…well, engaging to them.

So, let’s leverage what’s already working and invite them to create their own videos. 

Creating Your Own Student Video Contest

Research shows that when young people find their true passions — those activities that uplift, motivate, and inspire them — and are supported in these choices by family, friends, school, and community, they are more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol

At Natural High, we believe in creating a positive message — guiding students to find and pursue their natural highs. We want to give students the opportunity to think reflectively about who they are, what lights them up, and how to take ownership for making the best choices. 

In years past, Natural High has hosted a student video essay contest. Our educators and their students loved it! While we’re not running a video essay contest this year, in this post we’re detailing how you can run your very own video contest. 

So how do you get students interested? 

Involve them in the planning process. Let them know what you’re looking for, and then invite them to give shape to what the assignment will look like.

One of the key parts of a successful student video contest is ensuring that it’s fun. You don’t want an assignment that feels like busywork. Or irrelevant to their real lives outside of school activities. 

Assign each student to consider their natural high(s).

Your students may or may not be familiar with the concept of a “natural high” yet. Show them a Natural High Storyteller video. You may choose one from our Storyteller Library or check out this year’s Red Ribbon Week Playlist

You may even choose to assign one of our activities related to discovering a natural high: Document Your Natural High or Research Your Natural High

Dig deeper into the science of addiction: Natural High Storyteller Psychologist Matt Bellace, Ph.D. explains the Science of a Natural High.”
Science of a natural high

Ideal Outcomes

A Natural High video contest will help students think about their unique identities and interests. We want to give every student an opportunity to reflect on what makes them come alive.

When students are assigned to be reflective, the research shows there’s more chance for them to identify the good, positive parts of their life and realize how choosing the good can lead them down a better path. 

Flexible Tools

Maybe they want to use FlipGrid. Perhaps they’d rather use their phones and editing software like iMovie and upload to YouTube. Or maybe they’d like to build a presentation as a slideshow, with a voiceover app like Loom. Ask them. Give them options. 

Clear Rules

Regardless of the format or tools you go with, make sure there are clear rules. Let them know the minimum and maximum time you’re looking for. Clarify what kind of quality you’re looking for, and offer several examples and illustrations to show them the level of detail and depth you want to see from their submissions. Set clear deadlines and clear expectations for the feedback they’ll receive. 

Here Are Some Examples

Show your students one of Natural High’s Video Contest Winners’ submissions on our YouTube channel. 


2008 Video Contest Winner

Alternate examples from Influence The Choice’s student video contest: 

Some Questions to Consider

  • Will students be asked to watch each other’s submissions? 
  • Will you expect them to give thoughtful feedback to one another? 
    • If so, in which format? 
  • Will you watch each one and make comments, ask questions, or assign points or letter grades? 

The clearer you are with the rules and rubric upfront, the more likely you’ll see quality work turned in.

Evaluation Criteria

Here are a few examples of video contest criteria:

  • Creative design
  • Quality of production
  • Authenticity
  • Humor
  • Narrative detail and description

You can also break the criteria into several groups, such as technical requirements, creativity, and clarity.

Clearly Defined Activity Prompts

In Natural High’s past experience with video contests, videos should include a student’s thoughtful and creative response to the following prompts:

  • Why do you choose a Natural High over an artificial high?
  • How has living naturally high impacted your life?
  • Tell us how the Natural High program impacted you the most. 
    • Was it a Storyteller you watched, an activity, or a program you participated in? 
  • Identify your Natural High. “ My name is ___ and my Natural High is ____.”

What You Put In…

The more weight you put on this assignment, the better the experience will be for students. If it’s just a time-filler, they’ll treat it as such. 

But, if you see this as a great opportunity to help kids engage with self-reflection and expression to their peers, this can have a lasting impact on the healthy choices your students make.

If you decide to hold your own student video contest, we’d love to hear about it!

Please share with us your version of the activity. How did you make the activity your own, and what were your results? Email us at info@naturalhigh.org or share it with us on social media!