TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
New current events added daily. Get Our Weekly Roundup.
January 21, 2022
The police department in Chicago has stepped up its monitoring of social media accounts in an effort to reduce violence in the city. Surveillance of social media has been an important tool used by law enforcement to identify potentially violent individuals and to keep tabs on planned group gatherings that could turn deadly. But some say social media monitoring disproportionately harms minority communities. They point out that Black and brown people tend to be the primary targets of surveillance, and their posts are often taken out of context. Listen to hear a professor express concerns about increased monitoring and then debate: Should social media be monitored for safety?
January 20, 2022
Sidney Poitier, a successful actor, director, and activist, has died at age 94. He was well known for being the first Black man to win an Oscar in 1963. In this interview, a professor of African American studies explains the impact Poitier made on his own life and the world. He explains how Poitier’s dignified screen presence countered stereotypical images of Black men, and how his commitment to the causes he supported included a willingness to make personal sacrifices. Listen to hear more about Poitier’s life and his legacy in film and civil rights.
January 19, 2022
The mummy of ancient Egyption pharaoh Amenhotep I is the only mummy never to have been unwrapped in modern times. However, scientists have been able to use a CT scan to digitally unwrap the mummy and find out new details about Amenhotep I. Listen to hear what surprise the digital unwrapping revealed and learn how this project can help modern science.
January 18, 2022
The most advanced telescope ever developed has been launched successfully and is headed into space. The James Webb Space Telescope will travel a million miles to reach its destination, where it will gather information to help scientists learn about the origins of the universe. Launching the telescope was the first of many complex steps that must take place for the instrument to fulfill its mission. Listen to learn more about the James Webb telescope and how its eventual discoveries could change our understanding of the universe.
January 18, 2022
When the state of Vermont asked elementary school kids to suggest names for their local snowplows, the results were unusual and surprising. Vermont sponsored the contest to create some excitement during the snowy season in New England – and it worked! Over 100 elementary schools participated, and the contest helped the students and snowplow operators feel more connected. Listen to hear some inventive snowplow names and learn how one school community celebrated when a winner was chosen.
January 16, 2022
Listen to hear how astronaut Megan McArthur made delicious tacos on the International Space Station.
Vocabulary: menu, variety, spice
January 14, 2022
Is a digital drawing worth $69 million? That’s the price someone recently paid for an NFT, or non-fungible token, of an online collage. NFTs are like certificates of authenticity that confirm ownership of a piece of digital art, including photos, tweets, or memes. They can be bought and sold, just like traditional art, and many people consider them smart investments. Others say NFT prices are hugely inflated and question whether NFTs should be considered “art.” It remains to be seen whether digital works will hold their value the way traditional artwork does. Listen to hear how NFTs are upending the art world and then debate: Does digital art have value?
January 13, 2022
Eighth grade students from Sayre School in Lexington, Ky. won the middle school prize for NPR's Student Podcast Challenge in 2021. Their podcast celebrates their school’s small maintenance crew, who work hard to take care of the buildings and grounds where students learn each day, despite little recognition. This story includes the student podcasters’ interviews with members of the maintenance crew and other students and features their carefully chosen sound effects and tales of memorable maintenance feats. Listen to hear more about the school’s hardworking maintenance crew and learn how the young podcasters hope to impact listeners.
January 12, 2022
Scientists have discovered an enzyme in the liver that increases with exercise. Enzymes are protein molecules inside living organisms that speed up chemical reactions, like digesting food or healing wounds. Research suggests that this particular enzyme may help the brain grow and function better. Its discovery could one day lead to a medicine that helps people benefit from the enzyme’s brain boosting impact, even without exercise. Listen to hear about the research scientists conducted and learn about the promise and the limits of their discovery.
January 11, 2022
The Taliban, an ultraconservative political and religious group, has taken control of Afghanistan and established a government with strict laws and harsh punishments for people who disobey them. The takeover means the freedom of Afghanis, especially women, will be sharply restricted. U.S. troops had been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for the past 20 years, but recently left, prompting a Taliban takeover. Listen to learn why U.S. troops first went to Afghanistan and what the future of Afghanistan might look like under Taliban rule.
January 11, 2022
The bison herd in Yellowstone National Park has grown too large. To reduce its size, park officials plan to kill some of the animals and relocate others to Native American tribal land. Moving some of the bison to the care of Native Americans is being welcomed by the tribes, which have strong spiritual and cultural connections to the animals. Listen to the director of the InterTribal Buffalo Council explain why Yellowstone bison are especially valued by Native Americans and why he feels mixed emotions about the fate of the Yellowstone bison.
January 10, 2022
Scientists are trying to understand why the omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading so fast. They already know that omicron can infect vaccinated people, which is a big advantage for the virus. What researchers have also discovered is that omicron multiplies much faster than delta, a previous variant, and infects cells higher in the respiratory tract. Listen to learn how these and other adaptations make omicron a more contagious, although not necessarily more deadly, virus.
January 9, 2022
Listen to hear why Joshes from across the country traveled to Nebraska for a battle.
Vocabulary: challenged, rights, chaos, joshing
January 7, 2022
It once seemed unimaginable, but the end of gasoline-powered cars may now be in sight. Several states have set timelines for phasing out gas cars. They say exhaust fumes contribute to global warming and want green technologies like electric cars to take over. But gas powered cars still make up a huge majority of the cars sold today, and some say that America is not prepared to say goodbye to gas vehicles in the near future. Listen to learn about what it would take to phase out gas vehicles and then debate: Is the age of gas-powered vehicles ending?
January 6, 2022
Scientists have made robots that can reproduce. These robots, called xenobots, are made from frog cells and designed with artificial intelligence. The xenobots are programmed to behave in certain ways, have different shapes that affect how they function, and store and replicate complete copies of themselves. The xenobots allow scientists to study self-replication, which might help solve self-replicating problems like COVID-19. Listen to hear more about xenobots and the history of robots.
January 5, 2022
Monarch butterflies from the Western U.S. migrate to coastal California in late fall to escape harsh winter weather. Scientists count the monarchs that migrate each year. In past decades, over a million monarchs made the journey, but their numbers have been drastically decreasing. In 2021, the number of butterflies was up substantially from the previous year’s low of under 2,000 monarchs, bringing researchers hope that there might still be time to make a difference in protecting the insects from extinction. Listen to learn why monarch butterflies are threatened and what can be done to save them.
January 4, 2022
Upcyclers are people who find old objects or materials and use their creativity to turn them into something new. That’s what artist Monomi Ohno does with pieces of cardboard. Listen to hear how Ohno turns discarded boxes into amazing sculptures, and learn how much cardboard people throw away each year.
January 4, 2022
It’s difficult to imagine using the internet without big technology companies like Google and Facebook, but some people are thinking about exactly that. They envision an internet of the future, known as Web3, that is owned collectively by many everyday internet users rather than by a few tech giants. Web3 would offer people some control over the internet sites to which they contribute and some input into how platforms operate. Listen to learn about the push to democratize the internet and why it has the tech world buzzing.
January 3, 2022
The Caribbean island of Barbados has declared independence from England, which had ruled the island for more than 300 years. Barbadians marked the end of British rule with a ceremony attended by the Crown Prince of England, and with joyful celebrations in the streets. To begin self-rule, the people of Barbados elected their first president and prime minister, both well respected women. Listen to learn about the birth of an independent Barbados and why its citizens feel hopeful for the future.
January 2, 2022
Listen to hear what animal welfare officers discovered while looking for a strange animal.
Vocabulary: welfare, investigation, deduced, alleged, deem, err
December 23, 2021
A majority of comic superheroes are straight, white males, but that has started to change. DC Comics recently announced that Jonathan Kent, son of Clark Kent and inheritor of his father’s mission, would come out as bisexual in “Superman: Son Of Kal-El.” While the timing of the announcement could be regarded as a marketing ploy, the move to broaden inclusive representation is significant for many. Listen to hear a pop culture reporter discuss this revelation and what it might mean for superhero comics and movies and their audiences.
December 22, 2021
Scientists have a new explanation for why it can be so difficult to swat a fly. According to research, body parts called the halteres help flies elude humans. These sensory organs are dumbbell-shaped evolutionary remnants of wings. Listen to hear about the experiment that led to this discovery and learn about the advantages that help flies escape swatters so effectively.
December 21, 2021
Republican politicians in Texas are redrawing district lines, giving white people disproportionate representation in state elections. The controversial practice, called gerrymandering, has long been used as a tool by politicians to help their party win elections. Although legal, the practice can negatively impact important aspects of free elections including how campaigns are run and who shows up to vote. Listen to learn more about gerrymandering and the various ways it can undermine democracy.
December 21, 2021
Even wild animals can have good manners. That’s what scientists found when they researched how apes communicate and discovered that they use a system of gestures and other physical contact to begin and end social interactions. The ape behavior is similar to the way that humans greet each other and say goodbye when they leave each other’s company. Listen to learn more about ape etiquette and how it compares to human behavior.
December 20, 2021
Congress has approved the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill. The bill sets aside more than a trillion dollars for short- and long-term projects, including road and bridge construction, transportation upgrades, and increased access to broadband, which will also create jobs. The administration hopes the bill’s success will create momentum for passage of the Build Back Better act, which would fund preschool and provide other support for families. Listen to the Secretary of Transportation describe some of the infrastructure projects funded by the bill and how they might improve peoples’ lives.
December 19, 2021
Listen to hear about a girl who holds a world record for mental math.
Vocabulary: knack, digit
December 17, 2021
Although Americans can keep guns in their homes for self-protection, in several states they are not permitted to carry guns outside their homes without special permission. The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether that restriction violates the constitution. Gun rights groups argue that states should not unnecessarily restrict the right, enshrined in the Second Amendment, to own and carry guns. Gun control groups counter that placing reasonable restrictions on guns is necessary for public safety, especially in light of recent school shootings and other gun-related violence. Listen to learn more about the controversy over gun carry laws and then debate: Does the right to bear arms extend beyond home?
December 16, 2021
Jane Goodall’s discoveries more than 60 years ago transformed humans’ understanding of chimpanzees’ intelligence and social behavior. Her new book, The Book Of Hope, may help readers understand the nature and necessity of hope. In this interview, Goodall discusses how she views local environmental action as a tool to help people remain hopeful. She also discusses the benefits of her non-traditional scientific training. Listen to hear more about where Goodall finds hope and learn how she inspires young people to realize that there is always something they can do to help their cause.
December 15, 2021
U.S. chess champion Hikaru Nakamura does not view himself as a streamer gaming superstar; however, the huge number of followers on his Twitch channel suggests otherwise. Twitch is an interactive live streaming platform where video gamers broadcast their games and watch others play. Although Nakamura joined a few years ago, his popularity grew during the pandemic when people were at home looking for new things to do. Listen to hear Nakamura’s advice for new chess players and find out why some people are not happy about his success on Twitch.
December 14, 2021
People with arachnophobia can feel panicked or paralyzed with fear when they see a spider. Their fear may limit where they go and what they do. A new app is designed to help. It exposes people with arachnophobia to realistic, 3-D images of spiders – some that appear to crawl across their hands! Listen to learn how and why a new app helps people conquer their fears.
December 14, 2021
Ordering stuff online may seem easy, but a complicated process is required to produce goods and deliver them to people’s doorsteps. Now that process, known as the supply chain, is in trouble. Dozens of huge container ships full of goods from Asia are idling along the coast of California, waiting for a place to unload. The backup represents just one hitch in a supply chain strained by increased consumer demand, worker shortages, and other effects of the pandemic. Listen to learn more about problems in the supply chain and how they might be addressed.
December 13, 2021
While the vast majority of recent COVID-19 infections in the U.S. are caused by the delta variant, a new coronavirus variant, omicron, is beginning to spread. Preliminary tests show that current vaccines are much less effective at fighting omicron, a strain with multiple mutations. Although scientists expect to see more breakthrough infections as omicron spreads, they say being vaccinated will continue to protect people from severe illness and hospitalization. Listen to learn about how to stay safe from a highly contagious new viral strain.
December 12, 2021
Listen to hear why a dog joined a high school track race and won.
Vocabulary: relay, assumed, underdog
December 10, 2021
Many young people benefit from using social media. Some teens have reported feeling less isolated, more connected to friends and job opportunities, and more confident and outgoing when using social media. But for others, social media sparks feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and anxiety. Instagram, in particular, with its emphasis on upbeat images and getting “likes,” can negatively impact the mental health of teens. Listen to a college student describe her struggles with social media and then debate: Is social media bad for mental health?
December 9, 2021
Cows may not feel guilty about the damage their waste does to the environment, but according to a behavioral scientist, they seem excited about potty training. Calves are learning to pee in a place where people can collect their urine in order to reduce the amount of it that pollutes the environment. When the calves successfully use the “potty,” trainers reward them for their efforts. Listen to learn more about how cow urine impacts the environment and hear how potty training a baby cow is similar to potty training a baby human.
December 8, 2021
When Vice President Kamala Harris became the first female vice president of the United States, her husband Doug Emhoff became the first ever second gentleman of the United States. In this role, Mr. Emhoff supports the Biden-Harris Administration as needed. For example, he accompanies Vice President Harris during official travels and makes appearances at events. As the second gentleman, he is also symbolically sending a message about gender equity. Listen to learn more about Mr. Emhoff’s experiences as the first second gentleman and to hear the advice he shares.
December 7, 2021
Microchips are tiny pieces of silicon with electronic circuits that can store lots of information. Now scientists have found a way to make them fly! Microchips traveling through the air can alert people to danger – and give them time to reach safety – by gathering information about potential disasters like wildfires. Listen to learn more about flying microchips and how scientists are using clever tricks of nature to design them.
December 7, 2021
Three men in Brunswick, Georgia, were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery, a Black man, was chased by the men in a pickup truck while he was jogging through a primarily white neighborhood, where they cornered him and then shot and killed him. The men were not charged with a crime until months later, after a cellphone video was released. The incident sparked outrage and prompted protests over racially motivated violence. A nearly all-white jury decided the case. Listen to the voices of community members and leaders as they react to the jury’s guilty verdict.
December 6, 2021
A jury found teenager Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder after he killed two people and wounded another with an AR-15-style rifle at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse successfully argued that he had acted in self-defense. Some people welcomed the verdict and hailed it as a victory for gun rights advocates. Others worry that it may increase vigilantism and boost the frequency of violent incidents in the future. Listen to hear about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and differing responses to the verdict.
December 5, 2021
Listen to hear about an artist's invisible sculpture and how much money it’s worth.
Vocabulary: invisible, exist, certificate, displayed