TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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October 1, 2020
Police responses to protesters in America have varied over the past century. At times, police have used force, including tear gas and riot gear, to subdue protesters. At other times, their approach has been softer, as when an officer recently took a knee to express solidarity with protesters’ demands. Listen to learn why policing strategies have shifted since the 1960s and why one expert thinks many modern day police have returned to a “militarized mentality.”
September 30, 2020
Are bees smarter than some people think? Scientists studying bee behavior noticed the insects taking tiny bites out of plant leaves. It turns out that this surprising behavior actually helps bees, though not immediately. Listen to learn how biting leaves benefits bees, and hear about another interesting trick bees use to get a good meal.
September 29, 2020
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts everyone living in the U.S., and the results determine state funding and political representation. The coronavirus pandemic is making collecting data for the 2020 census especially challenging, and last spring the Census Bureau extended the deadline. Soon after, however, the White House pressed the Census Bureau to finish counting earlier than originally proposed. The Census Bureau says the shortened window would prevent an accurate count, significantly impacting some communities for the next decade. Listen to hear how some leaders are trying to motivate people to ensure they are counted.
Update: Since this story aired, the court decided to uphold the extension of the census data collection deadline of October 31, 2020.
September 28, 2020
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. Ginsburg, the second woman ever to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, was a fierce advocate for gender equality. Her groundbreaking work as a lawyer and judge changed how both men and women are treated in the workplace. Ginsburg was a hero to Americans fighting for gender equity and is affectionately known as RBG. Listen to learn more about the life and legacy of RBG and hear about the discrimination she herself faced as a working mom.
September 27, 2020
Listen to hear about a mac-and-cheese accident of enormous proportions.
Vocabulary: tragedy, fiasco, damaged
September 25, 2020
The dramatic events of recent months, including a worldwide pandemic, protests over racial injustice, and raging wildfires in the West, are on the minds of students and teachers, and some teachers are incorporating them into the curriculum. They say placing current events in the context of classroom study helps students make sense of the issues and boosts their civic engagement. Others worry that these issues can be polarizing or upsetting and want the classroom to be an escape for students from the drama taking place outside of school. Listen to secondary school teachers explain their views on bringing current issues into the classroom and then debate: Should teachers address current events?
September 24, 2020
Systemic racism, also called structural racism, refers to the way institutions in our society are set up to disadvantage black Americans. Often the racist systems are rooted in the past, such as the “redlining” system banks used in the early 20th century to refuse housing loans to people of color, but they created racial inequities still felt today. George Floyd’s death prompted protesters and others to call attention to systemic racism in policing, education, criminal justice, medicine, and other key societal institutions. Listen to a writer explain how systemic racism works to keep minorities from advancing, and what she believes could lead to meaningful change.
September 23, 2020
An orca is about to become a mama – again. Tahlequah first became famous in 2018 when she carried her calf, who died shortly after its birth, next to her for several weeks. Orcas, also known as killer whales, are endangered in the Pacific Northwest. The event highlighted not just the whales’ capacity to feel sadness, but also the challenges faced by orcas as they struggle to reproduce. Now scientists have confirmed that Tahleqhah is pregnant again. Listen to hear why the pregnancy is giving scientists hope and what people can do to help orcas survive.
Note: Since this story first aired, Tahlequah gave birth to a healthy new calf.
September 22, 2020
A majority of eligible young voters have not voted in recent elections, but the 2020 presidential election could mark a change in that trend. This year, many young people have become civically engaged, motivated by issues such as racial justice. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization aims to boost youth activity at the polls. The group sets up voter registration programs in high schools, where students can lead efforts to register their peers. Listen to hear a high school senior explain why she encourages her classmates to vote, and learn why a professor believes civics education needs to change.
September 21, 2020
Latinx communities have been hit hard by the coronavirus. The vast majority of those who have contracted COVID-19 in Marin County, CA are Latinx. Many work low-wage jobs and live in crowded conditions, making it especially difficult to take the necessary steps to stay safe. The disproportionately high rate of infections in Latinx communities has highlighted the large gaps in income and access to healthcare in the U.S. Listen to hear about the challenges faced by a Latinx community in California and learn what one nonprofit is doing to address the health crisis.
This audio story was recorded in late August. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
September 20, 2020
Listen to hear about a panda who escaped from his zoo pen.
Vocabulary: surveillance, skirt, roam
September 18, 2020
Text messaging is changing the way people are using punctuation to express themselves. Some feel that periods at the end of texts can indicate seriousness or even anger. Others believe that writing sentences without periods is an insult to their teachers. Not everyone uses punctuation in the same way, and a period at the end of a text can easily be misinterpreted. Listen to hear a variety of reactions to texts ending with periods then debate: Should texts include punctuation?
September 17, 2020
Wildfires are burning out of control in California, Oregon, and other states in the western U.S., and now National Guard units from outside the region are being sent to help battle the blazes. Officials are asking other countries like Canada and Mexico to send fire crews, too. The huge fires are moving close to cities and towns and have posed a dangerous threat to homes, people, and wildlife. Listen to hear why fires are becoming bigger and more frequent in the West and what firefighters have been prioritizing as they spread out of control.
September 16, 2020
The penny has become almost worthless, and some people want to see it eliminated. It costs the U.S. Mint two cents to produce every penny, and the Mint loses millions of dollars each year by manufacturing them. Some people have argued the penny should be retired, but many Americans have strong feelings about keeping the historic coin in circulation. Listen to hear more about the controversy surrounding the penny, and learn why all coins are in short supply during the pandemic.
September 15, 2020
As the 2020 presidential election approaches, many young people feel that voting is an essential component of active citizenship but not enough by itself. Youth today are more engaged in politics than in years past, and a large number of them plan to vote. But they also believe political action, including public protests, is a crucial way to bring about social change. Listen to hear young people talk about why they participate in protests and learn how increased youth activism could help boost voter turnout.
September 14, 2020
Scientists are understanding more and more about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. In indoor spaces with poor ventilation, clouds of virus particles can stay suspended in the air and be inhaled by others, even from a distance. Fortunately, though, even a slight breeze can help disperse the coronavirus clouds, making outdoors spaces much safer. Listen to learn more about how fresh air helps protect people from infection, and what can be done to reduce risk when it is necessary to be indoors.
This audio story was recorded in early September. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
September 13, 2020
Listen to hear about how a generous customer helped support a diner during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vocabulary: anonymous, gesture
September 11, 2020
Two North Carolina colleges have recently shut down in-person classes and sent students home after a spike in COVID-19 cases. The schools are moving forward with their football programs, however, saying they can keep athletes safe on a largely empty campus, and are testing frequently for signs of virus. Critics say the move puts athletes at risk and wants the NCAA, the organization governing college athletics, to prioritize the students’ health and education over sports. Listen to a sports law professor explain more about the controversy then debate: Should college athletes play if students are not on campus?
September 10, 2020
The 2020 presidential election faces an unprecedented set of challenges. Mail-in voting, adopted by many states to protect voters from exposure to the coronavirus, could overwhelm the U.S. Postal Service and delay election results. And the spread of misinformation may cause fear and confusion among voters, potentially suppressing voter turnout. Listen to hear a journalist explain why he thinks a “perfect storm” of problems could be coming, and what Americans can do to make sure their votes are counted.
September 9, 2020
Parasites are creatures that live in or on a host animal. Some people dislike parasites because they can be slimy, and they often cause harm to their host, but they can also play a key role in supporting ecosystems. Now, climate change is threatening the survival of host animals such as elephants and polar bears, putting their parasites at risk, too. Listen to hear about the surprising life cycle of a flatworm and learn what scientists are doing to try to save important parasites.
September 8, 2020
On the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington demanding voting rights and an end to segregation, protesters marched again in Washington, DC for racial justice and an end to police violence. In this audio story, participants in the 1963 March on Washington recall details from the day, which featured Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech, and reflect on a struggle that spans generations. Listen to hear sounds and voices from the 1963 and 2020 marches, and learn why one man believes the fight for equality will continue beyond his lifetime.
September 6, 2020
Listen to hear about a young skateboarder setting a world record for landing a 1080-degree spin on a vertical ramp.
Vocabulary: uninspired, rotation, opportunity
September 4, 2020
A recent public opinion poll has found that the majority of Americans want the federal government to take strong measures to control the spread of COVID-19, including requiring people to wear masks in public. Infectious disease experts say that masks can slow the spread of the virus, and supporters of mandates say they are a necessary tool for controlling a highly contagious disease. Opponents argue that masks are unnecessary, and some say mask mandates violate their individual rights and restrict their freedom. Listen to hear more results from the poll and then debate: Should mask wearing be required by law?
September 3, 2020
President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The law ensured people with disabilities had full access to jobs, schools, transportation, and public places. Listen to two disability rights activists, one who fought for the passage of the law and the other who grew up protected by it, talk about how each was inspired by the other, and how they believe life has changed for disabled Americans since the passage of the law.
September 2, 2020
Zoos animals and their keepers are welcoming visitors after months of closures due to the pandemic. Some of the animals were content to interact with their own social groups while the zoo was closed. Others seemed bored without the usual flow of visitors, and keepers had to find creative ways to keep them occupied. Listen to hear an animal keeper explain which animals missed people the most and how her team used Facebook to keep animals entertained.
September 1, 2020
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been in financial trouble for years.The postmaster general implemented cost-cutting measures that are reportedly slowing down the mail system, which is cause for concern among many as the national election approaches, with the expected rise in voting by mail during the pandemic. Listen to a historian explain the important role of the postal service in U.S. history, and why she believes it is more critical than ever to maintain smooth functioning of the USPS in support of American democracy.
August 31, 2020
Another police shooting of a Black man has provoked protests across the U.S., including among professional athletes. Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is paralyzed below the waist. The shooting, which was captured on video, has led to violence on the streets. Athletes have been refusing to play important games, such as NBA playoffs, risking their own professional legacies for the cause of racial justice. Listen to hear why a sports commentator believes these protests reflect an important shift in the relationship between athletes and the owners of the teams for which they play.
August 30, 2020
Listen to hear about how the first woman to walk in space traveled to the deepest part of the ocean.
Vocabulary: depth, crevice
August 28, 2020
Statues of Confederate leaders, long considered offensive by many, have been removed in states around the country. Now, protesters are calling for the dismantling of statues with more complex backgrounds. These statues depict historical figures respected for their significant contributions to the advancement of America’s democratic ideals, but whose personal stories include ownership of enslaved people or other examples of complicity with systemic racism. Listen to a Civil War historian caution against extreme responses to monuments and then debate: Should statues of historic figures with complex legacies be removed?
August 27, 2020
The 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo have been postponed until July 2021 due to the pandemic. The delay is forcing some elite American athletes to permanently give up on their Olympic dreams and seek new careers. This is not the first time America has unexpectedly withdrawn from Olympic competition, although the reasons for skipping the games, and their effect on the athletes, have varied. Listen to learn why America has missed Olympic games in the past and how the athletes scheduled to compete in those games coped when their plans suddenly changed.
August 26, 2020
Drive-in movie theaters are having a resurgence during the pandemic. The first drive-in was created by Richard Hollingshead in the 1930s and quickly gained popularity as an easy, inexpensive place to go for a night out. At one point, the country had over 4,000 outdoor movie theaters, although as new forms of entertainment arose, drive-ins declined. Listen to learn how the inventor’s mother helped launch the idea and what people found most appealing about watching movies from their cars.
August 25, 2020
Many states are encouraging voters to cast ballots by mail in November to protect themselves from virus exposure. However, voter confidence in the process has been shaken by politicians who are saying that mail-in ballots may not be secure. Listen to a Republican election official from the state of Washington, where elections are 100% vote-by-mail, explain why voter confidence in elections is crucial and what steps she takes to ensure that voting is secure.
August 24, 2020
The U.S. has reached a milestone of five million COVID-19 infections, the highest number of any country in the world. New data shows that children have caught the virus in larger numbers than previously expected, raising questions about the safety of reopening schools. Health care professionals say more widespread testing with quick results is needed to contain the virus. Listen to learn more about the current state of the pandemic in the U.S. and what one official says is fueling the spread of the virus.
This audio story was recorded in mid-August. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
August 23, 2020
Listen to hear about how two teenagers created a grocery shopping program for the elderly.
Vocabulary: connect, volunteer, appreciation
August 21, 2020
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, protests against racial inequities have taken place in cities around the country. Some have turned violent, and recently federal troops were sent into several cities to patrol streets and make arrests. Officials in those cities have not requested this help, however, and many do not welcome it. They claim it is the job of local and state governments, not the federal government, to control unrest. Listen to a mayor explain why she believes the police sent to her city do not belong there and then debate: Should federal troops intervene in protests?
August 20, 2020
The Washington Redskins football team is changing its name, which has been considered a racist slur against Native Americans for decades. The team’s owner recently took action in the midst of nationwide protests against racism and America’s reckoning with its treatment of minorities. Listen to hear a Native American activist react emotionally to the football team’s decision and learn which events she thinks created a “tipping point” for the team owner.
August 19, 2020
A teen in India has become a celebrity after bicycling across the country carrying her dad. Fifteen-year-old Djoti made the trip when she and her father found themselves close to starvation and desperate to return to their home village. Djoti rode roughly 100 miles a day on a bicycle with no gears. Listen to hear the young athlete describe how she felt during the long journey, and learn how sports officials responded to her incredible feat.
August 18, 2020
Presidential candidate Joe Biden has announced that Kamala Harris will be his vice presidential running mate. Harris will be the first black woman to run on a presidential ticket. Her candidacy comes in the midst of national protests over racial inequities, and many leaders of color are marking this historic moment. Listen to learn about Kamala Harris’s background and views, and hear how other leaders have reacted to the announcement.
August 17, 2020
A colossal explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has killed at least 200 people and injured 5,000 others. The blast occurred when explosive material stored in a warehouse in the port city caught fire. The catastrophe follows a year of protests against government corruption and mismanagement, and many Lebanese now blame the government for failing to remove the dangerous explosives earlier. Listen to learn more about one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, and hear Lebanese citizens explain why they no longer have faith in their government.
Update: Several days after this story aired, the prime minister of Lebanon, Hassan Diab, resigned.
August 16, 2020
Listen to hear about how a shower curtain helped a man safely hug his grandma during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vocabulary: solution, transparent