TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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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.
November 26, 2019
Every year, volunteers from Youth Count comb the streets of Dallas looking for homeless youth. The group’s goal is to accurately count the number of young people living on the streets and collect data to help the city better meet their needs. Listen to hear a young woman describe how it felt to be homeless and discover how Youth Count aims to help end the problem.
November 25, 2019
The worst flood in 50 years has hit the historic Italian city of Venice. The 6-foot high floodwaters damaged buildings, art, books, and other precious objects, and volunteers are streaming into the city to help. Listen to hear volunteers explain why they flocked to Venice after the flood and learn what is involved in saving the city’s valuable treasures.
November 22, 2019
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook disagree on what to do with political ads. Twitter recently banned all political advertising, saying it could not fact-check the claims made by politicians and did not want to spread misinformation. But defining what counts as a political ad is tricky. Facebook continues to run political ads without fact-checking them, citing free speech. Critics claim that political ads on social media can be particularly misleading. Listen to hear an expert discuss these issues and then debate: Should political ads be allowed on social media?
November 21, 2019
Some students are questioning whether the rising cost of a college degree is worth it. As the government reduces funding to public colleges, students and families are paying more. Many students graduate with crushing debt that limits their future choices. At the same time, the earning potential of college graduates compared to non-graduates has continued to climb, making a college education seem more important than ever. Listen to hear financial planning experts explain the pros and cons of a college education and ways to make college more affordable.
November 20, 2019
What does corn sound like when it grows? How does a cactus respond when you touch its spines? A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden allows visitors to hear the sounds plants make and answer those questions for themselves. Listen to find out what we can learn by paying attention to what plants are saying.
November 19, 2019
Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1942, President Roosevelt ordered the relocation of thousands of Japanese Americans to detention centers. The order grew out of fear that these innocent citizens could become spies. Around 117,000 Japanese Americans were sent to incarceration camps, many losing their jobs, homes, and property. The internment of Americans of Japanese descent is now viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. Listen to hear a Japanese American woman recall the experience of being uprooted from her home and how a neighbor helped her family.
November 18, 2019
Congress has launched an impeachment inquiry. Impeachment involves an investigation by the House of Representatives into potential wrongdoing by the president and, if they find it, a vote on whether to impeach. If a majority of House members vote yes, the president is impeached. His case then goes before the Senate for a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear a reporter clarify the steps in the impeachment process and explain what to expect as the impeachment of President Trump proceeds.
November 15, 2019
The Nike Vaporfly, a super-light, bouncy running shoe, is helping athletes achieve record-breaking times, but also raising questions. Some argue the shoe gives athletes an unfair advantage, making sports more about equipment than conditioning. They believe running shoes should be regulated to make races fair. Others say it is impossible to define “unfair advantage” or to know how best to regulate shoes. Listen to hear a Boston Marathon winner explain the technology that has runners buzzing, and then debate: Should athletic shoes be regulated?
November 14, 2019
The Surgeon General announced a campaign to educate young people about a drug he says is more dangerous than kids realize – marijuana. Today’s marijuana is typically three times stronger than in past decades and comes in different forms. Teens who use it regularly are more likely to do poorly in school, experience depression, and become addicted. But as marijuana has become legal in over 30 states, many teens seem unaware of the serious health risks it poses. Listen to hear a medical expert talk about the dangers of marijuana use and how the president has personally supported efforts to raise awareness.
November 13, 2019
Coral reefs are endangered all around the world. Scientists are working on a variety of solutions to protect these important ecosystems and species. Recently, one Florida-based team was able to successfully breed corals in a lab. This is quite an accomplishment, especially since corals are delicate and require specific conditions to reproduce. Listen to learn how the Florida scientists managed to get corals to breed in a lab, and find out what it might mean for coral reefs around the world.
November 12, 2019
“Quid pro quo” refers to someone doing a favor for another person and expecting something in return. Exchanging favors is common, but off-limits to politicians who could abuse their power. Congress is investigating whether President Trump sought a quid pro quo from the president of Ukraine by asking him to investigate a political rival in exchange for releasing U.S. aid funds. Listen to learn how the meaning of the Latin term quid pro quo has evolved over centuries and why asking for a favor can be complicated, even embarrassing.
November 8, 2019
DNA is the molecular code that controls cells, instructing them to do everything from producing hormones to fighting an infection. For years, scientists have been making synthetic DNA and inserting it into cells in order to produce helpful chemicals for new medicines, food products, and more. But the genes in DNA can also be combined to make dangerous viruses like Ebola, and some people are questioning whether the system of safeguarding synthetic DNA works well enough to protect against dangerous misuse. Listen to hear what could happen if DNA falls into the wrong hands, and then debate: Should synthetic DNA production be regulated?
November 7, 2019
"Alice in Wonderland" is now on Instagram. Social media fans can find five works of literature, including the classic novel by Lewis Carroll, on their social media feeds. The New York Public Library has posted multimedia versions of the works through its new Insta Novel project. By combining the fun and appeal of social media with popular novels and poems, the library hopes to attract new readers. Listen to hear a blogger describe her experience with "Alice" online, and discover how it lined up with the aims of the Insta Novel creators.
November 6, 2019
A Chinese insect has invaded Pennsylvania. It likely traveled on shipping containers across the Pacific ocean and when it arrived, it found bountiful food and no real predators. Now, the spotted lanternfly populations are getting out of control. With both ecosystems and businesses suffering, experts are considering drastic actions to reduce this invasive insect’s spread. Listen to learn more about the spotted lanternfly and scientists’ “crazy” solution to this bug’s growing numbers.
November 5, 2019
Wildfires are raging across California, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and prompting neighboring states to send supplies to help fight the blazes. Adding to the confusion, some areas have gone dark as California’s biggest electric company has shut off service. The company claims blackouts are necessary to contain the fires, but California’s governor blames the company for creating the problems that led to an unsafe electric grid. Listen to hear the governor of California describe how Californians can stay safe and why he feels such urgency about the electric company fixing the power grid.
November 4, 2019
For many years, Americans have questioned whether our election system is secure. After Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, officials have been trying to replace old voting machines and add other safeguards to ensure secure elections in 2020. In spite of their efforts, however, experts predict that millions of people will still vote on outdated machines in the next presidential election. Listen to hear about the risks to voting security posed by digital technology, how old-fashioned technology can help, and why more election interference is expected in the future.
November 1, 2019
A Native American tribe in California took an unusual step to protect a river central to its way of life – it gave the river the same rights as a person. The move allows the tribe to take legal action against anyone who harms the river. Listen to hear a tribal member explain the special role of the river in tribal life and why the group decided to take such bold action.
October 31, 2019
The editors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary added a new meaning of the pronoun “they” to its pages, sparking controversy. Although “they” has long been understood to mean several people, now it can also be used to refer to one person who does not identify as either male or female. Some people find this confusing, while others welcome the addition of a word that is already commonly used. Listen to hear a dictionary editor explain how the tricky decision to add a new word to the dictionary is made.
October 30, 2019
According to a new report, bird populations are generally decreasing throughout North America. Having fewer birds could negatively impact our ecosystems and our lives. However, there are steps we can take to help our feathered friends bounce back. Listen to learn what factors are causing bird populations to decline and some simple steps people can take to help slow the trend.