TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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April 14, 2021
The residents of Vancouver, Washington have said goodbye to a beloved old friend: a 194-year-old apple tree. The state of Washington produces more apples than anywhere else in the country, and the old apple tree was widely considered the “mother” of the apple industry there. Residents protected her when city planners threatened to chop her down and celebrated her life at an annual festival. Listen to learn who planted the apple seeds that grew into the famous tree and why she has so many descendants.
April 13, 2021
The Suez Canal is a 120-mile waterway dug in the Isthmus of Suez, between Africa and Asia, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. When it was built in 1869, the Suez Canal cut the travel time for ships bringing goods around the world, and global trade increased. Over the years the canal has been the site of conflict between powerful nations, and occasional disaster. Recently, a giant container ship got stuck in the canal and jammed water traffic for six days. Listen to learn more about the history and importance of the Suez Canal and why experts say accidents there are likely to recur.
April 12, 2021
A new study has found that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children as young as 12. The vaccine is currently approved for people aged 16 and older, but the drug company Pfizer has successfully tested its product on thousands of young people and will continue its research until a vaccine can be approved for all ages. The news is especially welcome because, like adults, children can become infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others. Listen to learn more about the study and what next steps are needed before the process of vaccinating kids can begin.
April 11, 2021
Listen to hear about a video game that sold for a very high price.
Vocabulary: anonymous, auction, remarkable
April 9, 2021
Many students have struggled academically and socially during the pandemic. Some education leaders are suggesting that a longer school year could help fill the learning gaps. It would allow at-risk students to get the academic support they need and give all students a chance to reconnect socially after a year of relative isolation. Summer jobs, camp, and family time would suffer, though, and some are unwilling to give up these valuable activities. Listen to a school superintendent discuss his plans for extending the school year and then debate: Should kids go to school all year round?
April 8, 2021
The term “Hispanic” refers to a broad array of Spanish-speaking people from various countries, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Many Americans associate the word primarily with Mexicans or Spaniards, though, and do not fully appreciate the diversity it represents. A narrow understanding of “Hispanic” can lead to stereotyping and historical narratives that exclude certain groups. Listen to Hispanic Americans discuss the assumptions people make about them based on the Hispanic label and why it’s important for people to appreciate the complexities of their identities.
April 7, 2021
Sharks are known as the ocean’s top predators, but some of them have a skill that is less widely known: they can glow. Several species of sharks are bioluminescent, or able to produce their own light. Many other ocean creatures have a similar ability, which leads scientists to believe that it is easier than it may seem. Listen to hear how one scientist hunted for a glow-in-the-dark shark and learn about how sharks benefit from bioluminescence.
April 6, 2021
In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami set off explosions at a nuclear power plant near the Japanese town of Okuma. The disaster killed more than 20,000 people in the region and forced many others to flee their homes. In this audio story, a reporter returns to Okuma ten years after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to check on the city’s rebuilding efforts. Listen to newly-returned residents discuss the town’s past and future, and learn how removing the top of a mountain could help protect them from future devastation.
April 5, 2021
Georgia recently passed a series of laws restricting voting in the state. For example, the rules reduce the number of drop boxes where voters can cast ballots and forbid handing out food and water to people waiting in line to vote. The laws disproportionately affect minority communities. Other states are considering similar laws, and some see the trend as a deliberate effort to suppress voting among people of color. Listen to learn more about Georgia’s new voting restrictions, how they fit into U.S. history, and what they mean for voting rights in America.
April 4, 2021
Listen to hear about a perfume that smells like space.
Vocabulary: campaign, fragrance
April 2, 2021
Filibustering is a strategy used by U.S. senators to delay or block a vote on a bill they oppose. In the past, it involved non-stop speaking on the floor of the Senate to prevent the vote from taking place. Now, however, a simple email is enough to trigger a filibuster and require 60 votes to pass legislation rather than a simple majority. The filibuster was designed to encourage compromise, but in today’s highly divided Senate, it is often used as a tool by one side to obstruct the other side’s agenda. Listen to hear arguments for and against the current rules and then debate: Should the Senate filibuster be changed?
April 1, 2021
Title IX is a civil rights law banning sex-based discrimination in school activities, including sports. In the decades since the law was passed, girls’ and women’s sports have grown tremendously, but there are still inequalities between how men’s and women’s teams are treated. A female basketball player in the March Madness tournament recently tweeted a video showing that the training spaces given to women’s teams were inferior to those of men’s teams. Listen to a sports writer explain why the tweet caused such a strong response and how language can reflect respect.
March 31, 2021
Cold-blooded animals like turtles depend on their environment to maintain their body temperature. When water in the Gulf of Mexico recently turned freezing, thousands of sea turtles were “cold-stunned,” or forced into a trance-like state where they could no longer swim, which is life-threatening. A group of volunteers joined in a huge effort to collect the turtles and bring them to an animal rehabilitation center. Listen to learn more about the largest “cold-stun” event in history, and hear what happened to the turtles after they were rescued.
March 30, 2021
On March 13, 2020, police raided the apartment of a young Black woman, Breonna Taylor, and fatally shot her while she slept. The incident followed other killings of Black people by the police and sparked outrage around the world. This audio story features an interview with a leader of Black Lives Matter, an organization fighting racism and police brutality, on the one-year anniversary of Taylor’s death. Listen to an activist reflect on why Beonna Taylor’s death affected people deeply and how citizens can help prevent similar acts of violence in the future.
March 29, 2021
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced new guidance recommending that students should stay three feet away from others, rather than six feet, which was the previous recommendation, provided they are following other safety guidelines like wearing masks. The updated guidance is based on new research showing that COVID-19 transmission rates did not differ among schools maintaining three feet of distance in classrooms versus six feet. Many school leaders welcome the change, as it will help more schools return to full-time, in-person learning. Listen to learn more about the CDC’s new guidelines, the research behind them, and how they could affect school schedules.
March 28, 2021
Listen to hear about a golden retriever celebrating a milestone birthday.
Vocabulary: milestone, breed
March 26, 2021
Mandatory mask requirements have been lifted in Texas, giving restaurants and other businesses the freedom to set their own pandemic safety rules. Those in favor of the move say people, not the government, should take responsibility for the health and safety of their businesses. They note that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, and lifting restrictions can help businesses recover. Opponents fear that it’s too early to roll back safety rules. They argue that it’s the government’s job to safeguard public health, and that masks should not yet be optional. Listen to Texas restaurant owners react to the change and then debate: Should business owners be allowed to decide their mask policies?
March 25, 2021
Half of the world’s population uses feminine hygiene products at some point in their lives. Access to these products is crucial for girls and women to participate fully in school, work, and other daily activities. The cost of menstrual products can be high, though, and some women have trouble accessing them. Advocates for menstrual equity argue the government should do more to ensure that all women can get the products they need. Listen to an advocate explain why menstrual equity is an important public policy issue and which laws could change to promote equitable access.
March 24, 2021
The International Space Station is a large spacecraft and science lab orbiting Earth. The astronauts who live and work there temporarily sometimes miss the foods and other conveniences they enjoyed at home, but there is nowhere to buy them. Instead, they often trade, or barter, with fellow astronauts for the things they want. With astronauts from different countries with various skills and preferences, there are plenty of opportunities to trade. Listen to hear about a lively barter economy in space, and learn what the astronauts all agree should never be traded.
March 23, 2021
Recently a gunman in Atlanta killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The attack followed a year that saw a dramatic increase in verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans, accompanying a rise in racist rhetoric that scapegoated China for the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-Asian discrimination and racism have a long history in the U.S., and tend to worsen during periods of tension and fear, according to a former professor of Asian American studies. Listen to learn about the history of anti-Asian violence in the U.S. and how today’s situation parallels the past.
March 22, 2021
In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden set an aggressive timeline for getting Americans vaccinated and back to normal life. He said he expected the pace of vaccinations will be fast enough to allow friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July holiday together safely. Biden also expressed excitement over his recently passed $1.9 trillion package designed to bring economic relief to Americans. Listen to hear more about Biden’s optimistic remarks and plans for moving the country forward after a very difficult year.
March 21, 2021
Listen to hear about a 90-year-old grandmother who climbed a mountain in Scotland without leaving home.
Vocabulary: scale, summit, charity
March 19, 2021
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Even full-time workers often find it difficult to support themselves or their families at that rate. Democrats have proposed a dramatic boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing it would energize the economy by encouraging people to spend more and would help address income inequalities. Opponents argue the economy would suffer under a higher federal minimum wage, as some small businesses could be forced to lay off workers and raise prices. Listen to business owners discuss the pros and cons of a $15 minimum wage and then debate: Should the minimum wage be raised?
Update: Since this story aired, the COVID relief bill passed Congress and became law.
March 18, 2021
After being canceled during the pandemic, many high school sports are starting up again. This audio story focuses on a high school girls’ tennis team in California where athletes are both nervous and excited to resume play. Listen to learn how one school community is handling the reopening of school sports, and hear high school athletes describe what this moment means to them.
March 17, 2021
Coral reefs, home to fish and plant life in oceans throughout the world, have been severely damaged by climate change, among other human impacts. In the Caribbean Sea, the dead and dying reefs have been taken over by seaweed that has choked out any new coral reefs trying to grow. To tackle the problem of dying reefs and to figure out a way to restore them, scientists paired up with an unlikely partner – the Caribbean king crab. Listen to hear a marine scientist explain how seaweed hurts coral reefs and how crabs may be able to help bring them back.
March 16, 2021
In a recent television interview, Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth of England, and his wife, Meghan Markle, aired their grievances against the British royal family. The couple spoke publicly for the first time since stepping back from their royal duties a year ago. Meghan, who is biracial, objected to what she felt were racist comments from family members as well as the palace’s insensitivity to her mental health needs. Listen to hear more about the young couple’s disappointment with Buckingham Palace and why they chose to leave the royal life behind.
March 15, 2021
A small but powerful band of Kurdish women has led the fight against ISIS, or the Islamic State, a group of militant Islamic fundamentalists, as they tried to overtake northeastern Syria. The women of the YPG force trained as warriors to defend their neighborhoods and towns, and fought side by side with American forces. Becoming fighters was unusual for women living in a traditional society, and their actions helped advance their goals of gender equality. Listen to learn what motivated the women to take up arms against ISIS and how one warrior’s uncle treated her differently after she fought.
March 14, 2021
Listen to hear about an endangered Australian mouse that has proved to be a survivor.
Vocabulary: rodent, location, extinct, endangered
March 12, 2021
People caught shoplifting less than $1000 worth of goods generally do not go to prison. But American businesses lose billions of dollars each year to shoplifting, and some are pushing for more serious penalties to help deter the crime. They argue that longer jail sentences would stop people repeatedly caught shoplifting and those involved in schemes to resell the stolen goods. Others say sentencing rules often result in punishments that are overly harsh, and prison time does not help address the root causes of shoplifting. Listen to learn more about the controversy over punishing shoplifters and then debate: Should shoplifters go to prison?
March 11, 2021
For people with physical disabilities, sometimes simple but important daily tasks are impossibile. That was true for Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. CP left Walzer unable to tie his shoes, which he worried might interfere with his ability to attend college independently. At age 16, he wrote a letter to Nike asking for a hands-free sneaker, and the company responded. Listen to Walzer describe some of the challenges people with disabilities face each day and how he inspired Nike to design a cool new sneaker that anyone can wear.
March 10, 2021
Two photographers in Atlanta have undertaken an unusual project: turning kids into real-life versions of their wildest dreams. Whether it’s a creature from a fairy tale or an ancient prince, kids are invited to imagine who or what they might like to become, and to express their personalities in creative ways in front of the camera. Listen to hear the reactions of kids who have participated in an imaginative photo shoot, and find out what the photographers hope to accomplish through their project.
March 9, 2021
One of the NASA engineers responsible for sending the Perseverance rover to Mars is a young Latina woman. In this interview, Christina Hernandez recounts what made the mission exciting for her both personally and professionally. She credits her upbringing and her family’s immigrant past, in particular, for her present success. Listen to hear a Latina scientist explain what she loves about her work and why she believes Latinas are well equipped to take on the toughest challenges.
March 8, 2021
The city of Washington, D.C., hosted a mass COVID-19 vaccination event for its public school employees. It was a huge operation requiring hundreds of volunteers and provided vaccinations to thousands of workers in one day. For this audio story, a reporter visited the event and asked attendees to share their thoughts on getting vaccinated. Listen to hear from a school custodian, a teacher, and a principal who received their shots, and hear a doctor explain how he addresses peoples’ fears about the vaccine.
March 5, 2021
Some people say universal basic income, or a regular cash payment from the government to each American, is one of the best ways to address economic inequality in America. They argue that guaranteed income would help everyone, especially those who are struggling financially, to cover basic living costs and feel supported during hard times. Opponents argue that guaranteed income could reduce the labor force by encouraging people not to work, and the costs of such a program would be high. Listen to a former mayor explain Martin Luther King, Jr.’s views on economic equality and then debate: Should there be universal basic income?
March 4, 2021
NFL coaching has become more diverse in recent years, but most top positions continue to be held by white men. Only five of the league’s 32 head coaches are minorities. While more people of color and women have become qualified for leadership positions, they are not being hired for the top jobs. Listen to a sports writer describe the problem of discrimination within the NFL, and learn whom he blames for the league’s failure to diversify its leadership.
March 3, 2021
A 9-year-old boy in Colorado has raised thousands of dollars for food banks by writing and selling his own newsletter. He was inspired to help after learning that many people are unemployed during the pandemic, and some struggle with hunger. Writing his kid-friendly newsletter has connected him with neighbors and taught him what it means to be a journalist. Listen to an interview with a young writer to learn why he started a fund-raising project and what he likes best about the job.
March 2, 2021
In a landmark 2020 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against gay and transgender workers. Soon after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order that broadened these protections beyond just the workplace. The order says discrimination in housing, healthcare, and other areas is also illegal, and the LGBTQ community is welcoming the news. Critics, though, say Biden’s order represents a misuse of executive power. Listen to hear why one attorney called Biden’s approach “transformational,” and learn about possible next steps to solidify protections.
March 1, 2021
NASA’s Perseverance rover has landed safely on the surface of Mars. It had to slow from a traveling speed of 12,000 miles per hour and complete a complex series of steps to make a safe landing. The rover landed in the rock-filled Jezero Crater, an area scientists believe was once flooded with water. Listen to learn what scientists hope to discover through the mission, and hear how they reacted when the rover finally touched down.
Update: Since this story aired, the Perseverance has sent videos of its landing back to Earth, which are available online.
February 28, 2021
Listen to hear about a pair of emus who were banned from a pub for bad behavior.
Vocabulary: ban, establishment, emu
February 26, 2021
The Tokyo Summer Olympics were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but the pandemic forced a year-long delay. Now, as the new date approaches, controversy is raging over whether to postpone this one too. Organizers insist they can manage the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks with a set of rules, outlined in a handbook, designed to keep athletes safe. The Japanese people overwhelmingly favor cancelling the event, though, saying the rules are inadequate and leave too many questions unanswered. Listen to hear more about the controversy over the upcoming Olympic Games and then debate: Should the Tokyo Summer Olympics be held in 2021?
Update: Since this story aired, Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, has resigned.