TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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February 24, 2020
Where did the new coronavirus start? Scientists believe the highly contagious virus spreading quickly among humans probably originated with bats. Bats’ amazing immune systems allow them to carry viruses without getting sick themselves. Just as with past viral outbreaks like SARS and MERS, scientists believe bats infected other animals with coronavirus, and those animals then passed it to humans. Listen to learn more about the origin of coronavirus and why scientists believe studying bats could unlock secrets about fighting disease.
February 24, 2020
Listen to hear about a batch of chocolate-chip cookies sent from outer space.
Vocabulary: cargo, capsule, orbit, experiment
February 21, 2020
Filmmakers often make movies based on popular and beloved books, prompting audiences to wonder whether to read the book or watch the movie first. The argument has been made that movie adaptations can broaden the audience for books, especially older classics. Another view is that people who see the movie version of a book first will miss out on the benefit of fully engaging their imaginations while reading. Listen to hear a discussion about popular books and movies that raises points on both sides and then debate: Should you read the book before you watch the movie?
February 20, 2020
Several universities are offering students the chance to major in a subject unheard of just a few years ago: competitive video gaming, or esports. Esports have gained a huge following in recent years, allowing athletes to earn money through sponsorships, merchandise, and tournament winnings. Fans watch games not only online, but also at arenas that can draw thousands of enthusiastic spectators. Listen to hear how schools are preparing students for careers in this growing field and how some people are working to make esports more inclusive.
February 19, 2020
An exhibit at a Philadelphia museum explores how ideas about infection have changed over two thousand years. “Going Viral” examines early views of illness, when people believed body fluids like blood and snot regulated the body, and helps visitors understand the devastation brought by epidemics like the Black Death and Spanish flu. It even demonstrates through an interactive display how germs might spread on a modern-day subway. Listen to hear more about the exhibit and what museum curators hope visitors will learn from it.
February 18, 2020
The United Kingdom (UK), which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has officially left the European Union (EU), a partnership of 28 countries promoting peace and economic cooperation. Since the vote to exit the EU in 2016, known as “Brexit,” British leaders and citizens have struggled to determine what the move will mean for their economy and way of life, including the freedom to work and travel easily throughout Europe. Listen to hear what Prime Minister Boris Johnson says about Brexit now that it has finally happened, and why Brits across the country are reacting with glee, dismay, and calls for action.
February 17, 2020
Listen to this story about a cat who is famous for his ability to escape.
Vocabulary: agenda, contained
February 14, 2020
The College Board has dropped the practice of assigning an “adversity score” to college applicants taking the SAT exam due to objections from parents and students. The score was intended to provide college admissions offices with information about economic hardships faced by students. Supporters of the score say it can help colleges understand the challenges faced by low-income applicants compared to their more affluent peers. Opponents argue the score cannot capture the complexities of people’s experience and might be used against poor students. Listen to hear arguments on both sides and then debate: Should college admissions include adversity scores?
February 13, 2020
The World Health Organization and the U.S. government are taking action to keep a new contagious virus from spreading. The coronavirus is transmitted by air and can quickly infect large populations. To help prevent its spread, the U.S. government is restricting travel to and from China, where the outbreak began, and putting some travelers in quarantine, which means separating them from other people for a few weeks. Listen to learn how this virus compares to others, where it has already spread, and how the government plans to contain it.
February 12, 2020
A new NASA study is looking for ways to predict snowstorms more accurately. Weather forecasters can tell when a snowstorm is approaching, but they cannot predict how heavily the snow will fall. To help improve forecasts, the study is sending aircraft directly into the center of storms to gather information. Listen to hear a NASA scientist explain what they are looking for and how the data they collect will help forecasters make better predictions.
February 11, 2020
Poetry allows writers to express deep thoughts and feelings. In the classroom, it can strengthen bonds between teachers and students by helping them get to know each other better. For Valentine’s Day, poet Kwame Alexander asked teachers around the country to challenge their students to write poems about love. Listen to hear the whimsical, poetic, and practical responses of students of all ages to the prompt, “Love is…”
February 10, 2020
Listen to this story about an 18-year-old girl who discovers her long-lost stuffed animal that was missing for 14 years.
February 10, 2020
The Senate voted to acquit President Trump of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives had impeached the president on these violations in December, but the Senate’s decision means he will not be removed from office. Senators cast votes along party lines, with the exception of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the first senator to vote to convict a president in his own party. Listen to hear how Romney came to his decision and how Congress plans to move forward after an exhausting and divisive impeachment trial.
February 7, 2020
Students around the country may learn different versions of U.S. history depending on where they live. Textbook publishers often customize textbooks for different states in response to political pressure, covering specific topics differently. Some say that this is important because different regions have different populations and different priorities. Others believe that all students in the country should have access to the same information and that variations in textbook content contributes to deepening the political divide. Listen to hear more about how textbooks differ from state to state and then debate: Should everyone use the same textbooks?
February 6, 2020
More Hollywood films featuring Asian Americans are being made, with some hitting it big at the box office. According to one producer, the trend signals a change in the way Asian Americans are perceived and accepted by mainstream culture. Listen to hear a YouTube channel producer explain how digital media helps minority artists break through, and what the success of Awkwafina means for other Asian American performers.
February 5, 2020
Scientists have developed a new, more accurate way to count a dog’s age in human years. Until now, people have generally believed that one year in a dog’s life equals seven years of human life. But when scientists compared chemical marks on dog and human DNA to see where they matched, they found surprising results about the relationship between dog and human ages. Listen to hear a scientist explain how the new technique works and what the research on canine aging means for dogs and their human friends.
February 4, 2020
A new study finds that Latino youth face higher rates of depression than their black and white peers. The results reflect a range of problems Latinos in America are facing, including discrimination, violence, and for some, fear of deportation. Listen to hear a Latina teen explain how hateful words affect her and what she is doing to combat her sadness and anger.
February 3, 2020
President Trump is taking steps to remind students and teachers of their right to pray in school. Under the Constitution, students have a right to freely practice their religion. However, the Constitution also says that public schools may not promote any religion. Listen to learn which religious expressions are allowed in public schools and how the law aims to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion.
February 3, 2020
Listen to learn about the special beekeeping unit of the New York Police Department.
Vocabulary: deployed, expertise, extract
January 31, 2020
Felons in Mississippi often permanently lose their right to vote, even after serving their sentence. The practice has resulted in the disenfranchisement of 10% of the state’s population. Now, civil rights groups are challenging the law in court, claiming it discriminates against black citizens and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Those in favor of the law say although it was originally passed to suppress the black vote post-Reconstruction, there is no evidence of racial bias today. Listen to learn more about the lawsuit against the state of Mississippi and then debate: Should former felons be allowed to vote?
January 30, 2020
Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, have agreed to stop using their royal titles and give up their official duties in order to have more freedom to live their lives on their own terms. The couple is seeking more independence than the queen will allow and therefore leaving their official roles as senior members of the royal family. Listen to hear more about the terms of this unusual break in royal tradition and learn how the British public is responding.
January 29, 2020
A high school senior interning at NASA has discovered a new planet. The young scientist was monitoring a telescope when he picked up clues that an unidentified object was circling. He alerted senior scientists who confirmed the object was a planet. Listen to hear a teen researcher describe the new planet and how he managed to find it on his third day on the job.
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 27, 2020
Listen to hear about a young boy who caught a six-foot fish with a lasso.
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 20, 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.”