TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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January 28, 2020
In a new movie version of Little Women, based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, actress Saoirse Ronan plays the independent, rebellious Jo March. Little Women depicts the lives of four sisters and their mother, Marmee, as they struggle to survive while their father is off fighting in the Civil War. Ronan explains how the economic constraints on women at the time shaped the sisters’ life choices. Listen to hear more about the making of Little Women and why the lead actress believes the story remains relevant today.
January 27, 2020
The impeachment of President Donald J. Trump has focused the nation’s attention on a short section of the U.S. Constitution. Along with treason and bribery, the Constitution says presidents may be removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but what exactly the phrase means is open for discussion. Listen to hear an expert explain where the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” came from, why the framers decided to include it, and how it has sparked exactly the kind of debate the framers anticipated.
January 24, 2020
Unmanned drones are already being used for photography, inspections, and other local projects, but now companies plan to launch them on longer trips to neighborhoods, homes, and health clinics. Some say drones can save lives by delivering medicines and organs for transplant to clinics and reaching people in rural areas with limited access to healthcare. But drones bring added noise to neighborhoods and could cause injuries. Listen to learn more about the pros and cons of drone delivery and then debate: Should drones be used to deliver packages?
January 23, 2020
A striking sculpture by artist Kehinde Wiley is moving to a Virginia street alongside several statues honoring Confederate war heroes. Wiley’s sculpture is called “Rumors of War” and features an African-American boy on a horse wearing a hoodie. It is meant to challenge how the Civil War and its aftermath are memorialized on the street and throughout the country. Listen to learn more about the sculpture and to hear a professor explain why it is sure to spark conversation about how we remember the past.
January 22, 2020
A crunchy new apple has hit supermarket shelves. A cross between Honeycrisp and Enterprise varieties, the new Cosmic Crisp apple is the result of years of genetic cross-breeding by plant scientists at Washington State University. Listen to hear the lead scientist describe the mouth-watering qualities of the new variety, and why she hopes it is a hit with consumers.
January 21, 2020
Iranians took to the streets in angry protest after government leaders admitted to accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing everyone aboard. The protest came just days after Iranian citizens had gathered on the streets to condemn the killing of their beloved general, Soleimani, by the Americans. Listen to hear why protesters are angry with their supreme leader and how the government is responding to the unrest.
January 18, 2020
Listen to hear about a man who built a pyramid out of pennies.
Vocabulary: demolish, unconventional
January 17, 2020
Students sued the University of California to force it to stop requiring applicants to submit standardized test scores. The complaint claims tests like the SAT and ACT are biased against low-income and non-white applicants, and scores are closely linked to family income. Defenders of the tests say they are the most objective way to evaluate skills and point to other countries that rely heavily on testing while producing high-achieving students. Listen to hear more about the lawsuit and then debate: Should college admissions use the SAT and ACT tests?
January 16, 2020
When someone borrows money and pays it back on time, they build credit, and good credit allows them to borrow more. People without a good credit history are often blocked from important economic transactions like renting an apartment or buying a car. Low-income people, immigrants, and others often have trouble getting their first loan to build a good credit history. Lending circles offer a community-based solution by arranging for people to borrow from each other. Listen to hear participants explain how lending circles work and how the loans they receive can improve their lives.
January 15, 2020
The first person to ever cross the Antarctic alone decided to attempt another dangerous, icy expedition. Colin O’Brady wanted to row from South America to Antarctica with a team of daring travelers. Although he had never rowed before he decided to take this journey, he made sure to prepare himself both mentally and physically for the challenging trip. Listen to learn what motivated O’Brady to go on this thrilling expedition and find out what he needed to do to prepare for it.
Update: Since this story first aired, O’Brady’s team successfully completed the journey across the Drake Passage.
January 14, 2020
Wildfires are raging in Australia, threatening human and animal life. As the climate warms and rainfall and humidity decrease, large parts of the land have become dry and brittle – ideal conditions for fires to start suddenly and spread quickly. Listen to hear how intense heat and smoke are affecting daily life and what residents are doing to stay cool when temperatures reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
January 13, 2020
The United States launched an airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and Iranians responded with grief and anger. Soleimani was Iran’s most powerful general and a beloved national hero. He had organized deadly attacks on Americans over many years, prompting the strike. Listen to hear how mourners at Soleimani’s funeral, including his daughter, expressed their rage and sadness, and how they want Iran’s military to respond.
January 13, 2020
Listen to hear how a group of "fantastic grandmothers" are helping researchers study sea snakes.
Vocabulary: citizen scientist, venomous
January 10, 2020
Renewable resources are said to provide “clean” energy that does not harm the planet. Some say wood is renewable, arguing that trees can be replanted, and that the carbon dioxide released by burning wood is eventually reabsorbed by the new trees, making them “carbon neutral.” Others dispute the math used to calculate carbon neutrality since it takes so many years to regrow a forest. Listen to hear why the U.S. is sending millions of tons of wood pellets to Europe for burning and then debate: Should wood be considered renewable energy?
January 9, 2020
Gifted autistic teens can have trouble finding summer programs that push them academically while also supporting their particular social needs. The University of Iowa’s College of Education summer program welcomes teens with autism spectrum disorder and provides the social and academic supports necessary for students to explore advanced subjects in math, science, and the arts. Listen to hear teens with autism spectrum disorder describe their experiences and how this unique summer program has made a difference in their lives.
January 8, 2020
A man recently received a shocking phone call: a shelter had found his beloved lost cat, Sasha. Five years had passed since Sasha’s owners had last seen him, and Sasha was over a thousand miles from his home in Portland. No one is quite sure how, but Sasha made his way from Portland, Oregon to Santa Fe, New Mexico safely and survived without his owners for all that time. Listen to learn more about Sasha’s story and find out what happened when he returned home.
January 7, 2020
Extra food thrown into landfills produces harmful methane gas as it rots, contributing to global warming. Farmers in Massachusetts are combating the problem by converting gas from food waste into something useful: electricity. The results have helped to power thousands of homes. Listen to hear a farmer describe how he makes electricity from discarded food and why he calls the process a “home run.”
January 6, 2020
Listen and learn how researchers have taught lab rats how to drive cars.
Vocabulary: navigate, maneuver, extraordinary
January 6, 2020
A Mississippi memorial to a teenage boy murdered on the banks of the Tallahatchie River has been rededicated for the fourth time. Emmett Till was an African American boy from Chicago visiting his Southern relatives when he was kidnapped and killed by two white men. Images from the horrific act helped to start the Civil Rights movement. Since the 1955 killing, three memorials have been installed to honor Emmett Till, but all have been vandalized. Listen to hear the director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission explain why the group decided to put up a fourth marker and how it will be protected.
January 3, 2020
It’s official: A team of students from MIT can toss a hotdog farther than anyone else in the world. The young scientists recently beat the existing Guinness world record in the hotdog throw, a title once held by an NFL quarterback. To prepare for competition, the group systematically tested different throwing techniques, cooking methods, and types of wieners. Listen to hear a STEM student explain what motivated her to take on the challenge and how her team’s scientific approach helped lead them to victory.
January 2, 2020
A Pennsylvania animal shelter put up a horse and a goose for adoption – together. That is because, as best friends, the members of this unlikely duo cannot bear to be apart. Listen to hear a surprising story of friendship between two animals from different species and learn how their bond developed.
UPDATE: Since this story first aired, the pair has been adopted.
December 30, 2019
Listen to hear what happened when a man signed up his dog to run for Governor of Kansas.
Vocabulary: qualifications, disqualify
December 26, 2019
President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 for high crimes and misdemeanors. The first article of impeachment charges the president with abuse of power, and the second with obstruction of Congress. Trump is the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached. In a deeply divided Congress, the voting was split along party lines, with almost all Democrats voting to impeach and all Republicans voting against impeachment. The articles of impeachment now go to the Senate, where a trial will be held to determine whether or not to remove President Trump from office. Listen to learn about the historic impeachment.
December 23, 2019
Listen and learn about a family of eagles who adopted a baby hawk.
Vocabulary: avid, observe
December 20, 2019
People who mail their DNA to a genetic testing company typically do not imagine that their data will be viewed by the police. But law enforcement finds genetic databases useful in solving crimes and has asked the courts to give them better access to people’s genetic information. Citizens worry that the data they thought would be kept private will be used without their consent. Listen to hear a legal expert discuss the benefits and risks of sharing information with law enforcement and then debate: should police have access to genetic data?
December 19, 2019
Students who are the first in their families to attend college face unique challenges. They often feel like outsiders, unfamiliar with common campus practices like “office hours” and unsure how to navigate college life. Their sense of isolation leads many “first-gen” students to drop out of college. One small private college is taking steps to help these vulnerable students adjust to campus life and graduate on time. Listen to learn how role-playing, free lunches, and a list of first-gen employees on campus help first-gen college students succeed.
December 18, 2019
Many years ago, poor children known as “mudlarks” used to dig through garbage along the Thames River in London. One modern English woman has been mudlarking for years, but for a very different reason: she searches for ancient relics of everyday life in years past. It is dirty work, but rewarding. She has discovered all sorts of artifacts from periods throughout history. Listen to hear a modern mudlark describe the excitement of digging for buried treasure and what she has uncovered in the process.
December 17, 2019
An electric eel is lighting up a Christmas tree at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. The eel, named Miguel Wattson, emits pulses of electricity that cause the lights to flicker and blink. Visitors are delighted, and the aquarium hopes they gain a new appreciation for the species. Listen to learn how Miguel’s meals affect the brightness of the tree lights and what his Twitter followers are seeing.
December 16, 2019
The first shipload of enslaved people reached the American colonies four hundred years ago, in 1619. Although the event marked the beginning of a system that profoundly shaped American life, the date is likely unfamiliar to most people. The 1619 Project aims to change that by exploring how the legacy of slavery still impacts our country today. Listen to hear the journalist behind the project reveal truths about slavery that schools often do not teach and why the project has personal meaning for her.
December 13, 2019
Incidents involving racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic speech are on the rise on college campuses throughout the U.S. But the First Amendment protects free speech, and colleges want to create spaces where students and professors can explore all kinds of ideas, even potentially offensive ones. Listen to learn about the recent rash of hate crimes at one college and a professor’s inflammatory comments at another, and then debate: Should free speech be protected on college campuses?
December 12, 2019
Can a first-day-of-school dress or a pair of mismatched cleats reveal anything important about history? The author of a new book argues that examining clothing from the past helps us remember historical moments and view them in a new light. Listen to hear a fashion historian explain how a belt from the Holocaust and an outfit worn by Princess Diana in a minefield can make history come alive.
December 11, 2019
Trained dogs regularly report for duty at police stations and military agencies throughout the country. These obedient animals loyally serve their human handlers, often assisting with difficult, dangerous tasks. But what happens to police dogs when they retire? Texas lawmakers recently settled this question when they voted to amend their state constitution. Listen to learn what they decided and how the new law will affect Texas police dogs who have completed their service.
December 10, 2019
In 1811, hundreds of slaves in Louisiana took up arms and marched to New Orleans in the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. The event inspired current day artist Dread Scott (named after the famous slave who petitioned the court for his freedom in 1857) to organize a reenactment of the march with a new ending. Scott’s rebels end up victorious, unlike the originals, and his event celebrates the slaves’ heroism as well as the culture of New Orleans. Listen to hear an artist describe the inspiration for his reenactment and why he chose a positive focus for the event.
December 9, 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Judiciary Committee will write articles of impeachment against President Trump. The announcement follows weeks of hearings where witnesses testified about the president’s actions in Ukraine, which Pelosi says showed that the president abused his power. If the House of Representatives votes to approve the articles, President Trump will be impeached, and then the Senate will hold a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear Speaker Pelosi explain why she believes impeachment is necessary and learn what charges may be included in the articles of impeachment.
December 6, 2019
Smartphones can help kids wake up on time, stay connected to their parents and friends, find information quickly, and access other useful resources. But children with smartphones are also vulnerable to cyberbullying, harmful content, and other risks. A recent national study found children are getting smartphones at younger ages, raising questions about how they are using smartphones and concerns about how to best protect them. Listen to hear more about the survey results and then debate: should kids have smartphones?
December 5, 2019
Inventors are not always famous people like Thomas Edison. They can be ordinary folks who think up new ways to solve everyday problems. Anyone can design a new gadget and patent it to protect the idea from being copied. Most inventors in the United States are men, leaving young women with few role models, but creative women hope that changes. Listen to hear female inventors describe how sticky tape and rainy days inspired their first inventions and why they believe more women inventors would benefit everyone.
December 4, 2019
Residents of Asheville, North Carolina find bears eating out of dog bowls, rummaging through garbage, and shaking seeds out of bird feeders. Instead of controlling the large population of black bears living in the area, the city lets them roam free. Asheville citizens have found ways to coexist with the large and sometimes dangerous woodland creatures that wander into their neighborhoods. Listen to hear a bear-friendly resident share strategies for living safely with local black bears.
December 3, 2019
A filmmaker has brought an American heroine to life. The movie Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who risked her life many times to lead hundreds of her fellow slaves to freedom. The filmmaker wanted to show Tubman’s superhero qualities, along with her humanity, to make a legendary historical figure seem more real. Listen to hear the filmmaker explain why she was drawn to Harriet Tubman and how a hero from the 1800s can still inspire us today.
December 2, 2019
Recent reports of serious lung illness resulting from vaping have scared many, but there are many other health risks that are not as obvious. Nicotine inhaled through vaping can damage the developing brain. It binds to receptors throughout the brain, disrupting areas controlling memory, learning, and alertness and puts teens at risk for long-term learning and attention problems. Nicotine is also addictive, especially in young brains, and teens drawn to vaping’s appealing flavors often find themselves unable to quit. Listen to hear a young woman describe her vaping-related illness and learn from experts about the many health risks of teen vaping.
November 27, 2019
How much allowance money do kids typically get these days? A group of accountants recently conducted a survey to learn the current going rate for kids’ pocket money. They also asked parents whether kids have to do chores for their allowances and polled kids on their savings habits. One expert called the survey results “a shocker.” Listen to learn more about what the expert thinks kids should be learning about managing money and how families can help.