TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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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.
February 25, 2021
Between 1920 and 1948, Black baseball players were excluded from major league teams, so they formed their own group, the Negro League. While Major League Baseball (MLB) carefully charted the stats of its white players during this period, many top players in the Negro League went unacknowledged. Now, on the Negro League’s 100th anniversary, the MLB has welcomed its players into the majors retroactively. Its star players will assume their rightful place on the leaderboards, shifting and diversifying the names that appear there. Listen to hear a Negro League museum founder react to the long-overdue announcement, and learn about the painstaking process he used to compile stats on Black ballplayers.
February 24, 2021
Bats and humans may look very different, but it turns out they have something surprising in common. A bat researcher discovered that mommy bats change their voices when they talk to their babies, just like human mothers often do. For both species, this special tone is a way to help the young learn language. Listen to hear recordings of adult and baby bats vocalizing, and learn more about how mother bats teach their pups to communicate.
February 23, 2021
Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation has prioritized those who speak the Cherokee language to receive the coronavirus vaccine. The language declined hundreds of years ago, when native populations were forced off their land, and today there are very few Cherokee speakers left. Mastery of the language is highly valued because it preserves native culture, and those who speak it can pass their knowledge to the next generation. Listen to hear a Cherokee sing a hymn in her native tongue, and learn why she changed her mind about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
February 22, 2021
A huge power outage in Texas has left millions of people without electricity. The crisis occurred when a storm brought frigid temperatures causing equipment to freeze in every part of the state’s power generation system, including wind turbines, natural gas wells, and coal and nuclear plants. The cold weather was unusual for Texas, but experts say the state needs to prepare its power systems for more extreme weather events in the future. Listen to learn more about the crisis and how politicians are discussing it in the media.
February 21, 2021
Listen to hear about a woman who cooked over a thousand lasagnas for her neighbors.
Vocabulary: fund, furloughed
February 19, 2021
Remote schooling during the pandemic has negatively affected both the learning and the mental health of many students. As schools start to resume in-person learning, some people are suggesting that summer school could help. They argue that extending the school year would allow time for intensive programs to help students catch up academically and reconnect with teachers and peers. Summer school programs cost money, though, and require teachers to work extra hours. Listen to learn about programs that have helped struggling students in the past and then debate: Should learning time extend into the summer?
February 18, 2021
In his second impeachment trial, the Senate acquitted former president Donald Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection. The vote to convict Trump was 57-43, with seven Republicans siding with the Democrats, but it fell short of the 67 needed for a conviction. The acquittal meant the Senate could not take steps to bar Trump from holding office again. Listen to learn why Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump after voting to acquit him, and hear a reporter explain how the impeachment trial could impact the former president’s legacy.
February 17, 2021
The height of the world’s tallest mountain is changing. The height of Mount Everest, located on the border between China and Nepal, was recorded at 29,029 feet. But over hundreds of years, natural events, such as earthquakes and moving plates in the Earth’s crust, have caused the mountain’s height to shift. In recent years, Chinese and Nepalese scientists have worked together to re-measure the giant peak. Listen to learn about the methods used to measure the mountain and challenges involved, and hear a climber explain why the height of the mountain matters to her.
Note: Since this story aired, the height of Mt. Everest was newly measured at 29,032 feet.
February 16, 2021
Recently a group of more than a thousand produce market workers in New York went on strike for higher wages. Banding together and organizing into labor unions can give workers more power to advocate for their rights. Especially during the pandemic, when providing essential services often means risking their own health, more workers are joining with others to demand the pay and working conditions they feel they deserve. Listen to learn more about why workers are organizing and what gives them more, or less, bargaining power.
February 14, 2021
Listen to hear about a very old shipwreck found on the coast of Italy.
Vocabulary: merchant, archaeologist
February 12, 2021
After the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many people are calling for national unity, but opinions differ as to how it can be achieved. Some say unity will only come through a process of reconciliation, or examining past wrongs and holding those who are guilty accountable. They argue that seeking justice allows a country to move beyond its painful past. Others say focusing on the past diverts energy from the task of looking ahead, keeps anger and divisions alive, and slows the healing process. Listen to learn parallels between post-Civil War America and today and then debate: Are unity and accountability mutually exclusive?
February 11, 2021
Before the pandemic, a snowstorm often meant a day off from school because it made transportation difficult. Now, with many students learning from home, snow days are often unnecessary. After a recent storm, one school superintendent in West Virginia decided to declare one anyway, although they were remote, to give kids and their families the chance to experience the many joys a snow day brings. Listen to a school leader explain why she called off school and how people responded.
February 10, 2021
A lot of new baby elephants have recently been born in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Elephants need just the right environmental conditions to have babies, and the mothers spend years nursing and rearing their young. The unusual baby boom means that elephants are thriving in one part of Kenya, but their rising population could also mean trouble for their future survival. Listen to hear a journalist and his guide search for baby elephants in a safari truck, and learn how long the babies stay with their moms.
February 9, 2021
Mardi Gras is a festive occasion celebrated in New Orleans each year with parades, music, art, and other cultural events. The annual parades have been canceled this year because of the pandemic, but organizers have invented a creative alternative. They founded Hire a Mardi Gras Artist, a program pairing talented artists with New Orleans residents interested in installing “house floats” at their homes. Money raised from the project supports the city’s “culture bearers” – artists, musicians, and performers who embody the special culture of New Orleans. Listen to learn how the project is inspiring the city during a challenging time.
February 8, 2021
President Biden has nominated New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would become the first Native American to hold a Cabinet-level position in the government. The Interior Department oversees public land such as national parks. In the past, the U.S. government removed indigenous people from much of their land, and some say Haaland’s Native American background gives her a unique perspective on issues of land use and rights. Listen to hear more about Deb Haaland and reactions to her nomination, and learn what she hopes to accomplish as Interior secretary.
February 7, 2021
Listen to hear about a rare hybrid turtle competing in a sea turtle race. Track Maisy’s travels here.
Vocabulary: contender, migration, hybrid
February 5, 2021
Lawyers have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) saying its policies discriminate against Black athletes. The NCAA requires college sports teams to reach certain academic benchmarks and punishes teams that fall short. The program was designed to encourage student-athletes to focus on their studies and keep the demands of their sport in check. However, teams from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been disproportionately punished under NCAA rules, leading some to claim the program puts Black athletes at an unfair disadvantage. Listen to learn more about the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program (APP) and then debate: Are academic requirements for college athletes discriminatory?
February 4, 2021
President Biden is bringing pets back to the White House. After four years without animals, the White House has become home to Biden’s two German shepherds, Major and Champ. Biden adopted the dogs from a shelter, and they are helping to raise awareness of the joys of rescue animals and the benefits that shelters bring to the community. Listen to hear a past president howling with his hound and learn the story of Major’s journey to the Biden household.
February 3, 2021
The world's billion-and-a-half cows produce huge amounts of methane, a gas that contributes to global warming. Methane is made in cows’ guts as they digest their food. When they burp and fart, they spew the gas into the air. Now, scientists have found a simple, unexpected way to reduce methane production in cows. Listen to learn about a surprising solution to the problem of gassy cows and how it may help address climate change.
February 2, 2021
President Joe Biden has issued a detailed national plan for fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The 200-page document outlines the federal government’s strategy for testing and vaccinating Americans, restoring U.S. leadership in the world, and more. This audio story features an infectious disease doctor discussing Biden’s plan, including his views on both its merits and its shortcomings. Listen to a medical expert explain how well the plan meets the challenges he has seen as a doctor, and why he calls the plan “very U.S.-centric.”
February 1, 2021
The U.S. Senate is preparing a second impeachment trial for Donald J. Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection. The Constitution says officials convicted by the Senate will be removed from office, but Trump already left when his term expired. Some members of Congress say impeaching an ex-president does not make sense and want the trial called off. Others believe Trump should be held accountable for his behavior in the final weeks of his presidency and prevented from holding future office. Listen to learn more about the penalties that Congress can place on impeached leaders and what to expect in Trump’s second impeachment trial.
January 31, 2021
Listen to hear about a dog who traveled a long way to lounge on a porch.
Vocabulary: resident, lounge
January 29, 2021
Fifty-five West Point cadets caught cheating on an exam have been placed in a rehabilitation program and allowed to remain on campus, sparking controversy. West Point is an elite military academy that prides itself on its high ethical standards. In the past, students who have violated the school’s honor code have been expelled. Some say the more lenient policy gives young cadets the opportunity to make amends for and learn from their actions, resulting in stronger leaders. Others argue that not taking cheating seriously enough could undermine the school’s core values of integrity and responsibility. Listen to a West Point professor discuss the scandal and then debate: Should West Point students be expelled for cheating?
January 28, 2021
Poet Amanda Gorman never expected to become a public speaker. Although she composed poetry from a young age, her speech impediment made it difficult for her to pronounce certain words. Recently, though, she stood at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and delivered an original poem at the inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden. At age 22, she is the youngest poet ever to receive that honor. Listen to Gorman describe why the event held special meaning for her, how she prepared for it, and why she sometimes revises her poems at the last minute.
January 27, 2021
Beavers love to build dams – even inside houses. That’s what an animal rehabilitation worker discovered when she agreed to raise an abandoned baby beaver in her home. “Beave” gathers shoes and other household objects for his dam and displays other typical baby beaver behaviors, like whining for his dinner. Millions of fans watch his antics on TikTok. Listen to hear more about a popular rescued beaver and learn why living with others, even humans, is important for his health.
January 26, 2021
A new strain of coronavirus is spreading in the U.S. New versions of the virus are constantly developing from mutations, or slight genetic changes that occur as the original virus copies itself inside the human body. The new variant, which originated in the U.K., is more contagious than the original, raising concerns that infections could increase quickly in the U.S. and other countries as well. Listen to learn how the new strain may be causing infections to spread more easily and what scientists say is the best way to stay safe.
January 25, 2021
Joseph Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th president on January 20, 2021. The inauguration ceremony took place at the U.S. Capitol, two weeks after violent extremists stormed the building in an effort to overturn the election. Vice-president Kamala Harris also took the oath of office, making history by becoming the first female vice-president and also the first Black and Asian American. Biden and Harris take office as the country faces extraordinary challenges, including a worldwide pandemic and a deeply divided nation. Listen to hear more about an historic event and how it differed from past inaugurations.
January 24, 2021
Listen to hear about a jeweler’s giant treasure hunt in Michigan.
Vocabulary: dramatically, participate
January 22, 2021
Following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, big tech companies have taken action. Facebook and Twitter shut down the social media accounts of thousands of people involved in the attack, including President Trump, who has been impeached for inciting insurrection. Some say big tech companies have grown too powerful, and should not be able to restrict speech or business transactions. Others point out that private companies have the right to make and enforce their own rules for participation on their sites. Listen to learn more about the power of online giants and then debate: Is big tech too big?
January 21, 2021
A teen diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes created an app to help himself and others manage the disease. Thirteen-year-old Drew Mendelow felt overwhelmed by all the data he had to keep track of as a diabetes patient, like food intake and blood sugar levels. He designed an app to help him, and he’s sharing it with as many other patients as he can. Listen to hear how a teen entrepreneur took action to manage his illness and help others, and learn why one medical professional thinks his efforts will make a positive difference.
January 20, 2021
As a successful college soccer player, Sarah Fuller knows how to kick. So when her university’s football team needed a kicker for an upcoming game, she stepped in, making history as the first female athlete to play in a Big Five NCAA football game. Before that, Fuller had spent years struggling to overcome injuries. Listen to hear a groundbreaking athlete explain how it felt to join the football team, why she was emotional on game day, and who most inspires her.
January 19, 2021
A week after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection, which is a violent uprising against the government. He is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. Ten Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump, indicating more bipartisanship than his last impeachment garnered. The process now moves to the Senate for a trial, although that will not occur until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Listen to hear the voices of lawmakers arguing for and against impeachment and reporters considering what might happen next.
January 17, 2021
Listen to hear about a coffee shop barista who was generously rewarded for his efforts.
Vocabulary: shame, haul
January 15, 2021
Breakdancing is the latest sport to be added to the Olympic games. Breaking is an athletic dance style incorporating acrobatics, dance moves, and freestyle footwork. It was first performed on New York City streets in the 1970s, typically to hip hop music. Some say becoming an Olympic sport could cause breaking to lose its character as it moves farther away from its urban roots. But it might also inspire a new generation of young breakers. Listen to hear a veteran breakdancer’s response and then debate: Should breakdancing become an Olympic sport?
January 14, 2021
Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol could be charged with sedition, or an attempt to “overthrow, put down, or destroy the government by force.” The mob attacked legislators as they were carrying out a fundamental duty of American democracy: certifying the electoral votes confirming the country’s next president. Although sedition is hard to prove in court, some say that holding violent extremists responsible for their actions will help prevent future attacks. Listen to learn more about the meaning of sedition and how it has been used in the past to prosecute terrorism.
January 13, 2021
Dogs and humans have long had a special relationship. Part of the reason they get along so well is that dogs can understand human language, at least some of it. But why can’t they learn more? To find out, researchers played words for dogs and observed how their brains responded. Listen to learn what scientists discovered about how dogs learn words and why it’s unlikely they will ever be able to understand Shakespeare.
January 12, 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced nonviolent protest and advocated for racial harmony. The racism and violence he experienced throughout his life, however, sometimes filled him with rage. King believed anger could be a useful, positive force if it was channeled productively. Listen to hear more about MLK, Jr.’s views on the strong emotion of anger and how he used it to help him accomplish his goals.