TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
New current events added daily. Get Our Weekly Roundup.
June 2, 2020
Protests broke out in cities around the country following the death of a black man in Minneapolis. Video footage showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for over eight minutes while he begged for his life and while other officers watched. Although the officers were fired and one was charged with murder, protesters are demanding sweeping changes to a police system they say suffers from deep-seated racial bias. Listen to learn more about the protests and hear one protester explain why she risked her health to participate.
June 1, 2020
Antibody tests look for disease-fighting proteins in a person’s blood, a sign that they have had a particular disease and have built up immunity to the illness, at least for a while. However, it is still unknown whether COVID-19 antibodies have the same protective qualities as antibodies for other diseases. Medical experts say even those who test positive for antibodies should continue to socially distance and take other safety precautions until more is known. Listen to learn why people are taking the antibody test and how the results could help guide family decisions during the pandemic.
May 31, 2020
Listen to hear about two dog brothers who were accidentally reunited.
Vocabulary: reunited, similar
May 29, 2020
Two South Dakota Native American tribes have placed highway checkpoints near their reservations to screen visitors for signs of COVID-19. Officials have demanded that they remove the roadblocks from state highways, but the tribes argue that their residents are especially vulnerable to infection and need protection. Listen to learn more about the standoff between tribal leaders and the state government and then debate: Do citizens have a right to protect themselves from the pandemic?
May 28, 2020
A former U.S. military commander likens the coronavirus pandemic to a war and believes that strong leadership is needed to win it. In this interview, General Stanley McChrystal outlines the leadership qualities he considers essential for instilling confidence in people during a time of crisis and fortifying them for the long battle against COVID-19. Listen to hear a 4-star general explain why fighting the virus reminds him of the war against al-Qaida, and why he thinks leaders should share information honestly and openly, even when it may be frightening.
May 27, 2020
Dogs have powerful noses, and their sniffing skills might be able to help with keeping the pandemic under control. Many diseases have particular smells. Scientists are working to identify the scent of COVID-19 and training dogs to find it in humans. The trained animals would be able to quickly screen hundreds of people in places such as airports and train stations. Listen to hear how trainers teach dogs to find certain scents and when the first group of sniffers could be ready to work.
May 26, 2020
To keep students and families safe during the coronavirus pandemic, school leaders are looking for alternatives to traditional, in-person high school graduations. Some are delaying graduation, while others are strictly limiting attendance or moving the ceremony online. As they make their decisions, they struggle to balance safety with the needs and expectations of graduating seniors. Listen to hear what high school seniors are saying about the unexpected changes to graduation rituals, and find out how their opinions swayed one school leader to act.
May 24, 2020
Listen to hear about a mother who creates chalk drawings reminding people to social distance.
Vocabulary: reminder, recreate
May 22, 2020
Colleges and universities around the country have shut down during the pandemic, but many school leaders are considering how they might safely open their doors in the fall. In this audio story, the president of Brown University makes the case that welcoming kids back to campus is crucial, both for students and for the economy. Some, however, believe that the health risks associated with large groups of students living and learning together are too high. Listen to hear a university president describe her vision for an adapted college experience and then debate: Should colleges open in the fall?
May 21, 2020
Because his usual customers were not buying his potatoes, an Idaho farmer dumped them in a heap two stories high and invited people to help themselves. Demand for his product dropped sharply as restaurants and other businesses closed during the pandemic. At the same time, many people could not get the food they needed. Many food producers are looking for new markets to sell their products, but the American food supply chain makes adaptation difficult. Listen to learn about the challenges facing farmers during the pandemic and why it is difficult to get their products to people who need them.
May 20, 2020
The pandemic is causing some people to rethink their fashion choices. They are wearing more casual clothing, shaving beards, trimming nails, and choosing stylish face masks. One fashion expert says that sweeping changes in style often happen during times of social disruption. Listen to hear how past wars have influenced American fashion, which styles are currently trending, and how people may choose to express themselves through clothing when public life opens up again.
May 19, 2020
A videotaped act of violence in Georgia has highlighted the challenges black men around the country face in their everyday lives. Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed young black man, was shot by two white men who said they believed he was a burglar. Arbery was jogging when he was attacked and killed. Research shows that black men of all social classes often feel threatened as they go about their daily routines. Listen to a sociologist describe his research on what black men do to appear less threatening and how the threat they regularly feel impacts their lives.
Update: Since this story aired, Ahmaud Arbery’s attackers have been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assalt.
May 18, 2020
States are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions, and experts are weighing in on how people can stay safe as they return to normal activities. Many doctors advise that social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands continue to be the best ways to prevent the spread of infection. They especially warn against relaxing distancing guidelines as people start to mingle, and highly recommend outdoor gatherings rather than indoor events. Listen to hear a pastor’s plan for keeping worshippers safe when he reopens church, and how doctors recommend lowering the risk of virus transmission when socializing.
May 17, 2020
Listen to hear about why one baseball team is using robots to fill stadiums this season.
Vocabulary: robotic, mannequin
May 15, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about how federal and state governments balance power and responsibility during a crisis. While the Constitution says that states have the authority to manage a health crisis, some people would like the federal government to step in and coordinate responses between the states, as it would during wartime. Listen to learn more about the powers of the president during a crisis and then debate: Should the federal government manage the pandemic response?
May 14, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted inequities in Americans’ access to health care. Some people in underserved communities, including many black Americans, lacked adequate health insurance and access to doctors even before the pandemic. The virus has hit these vulnerable groups especially hard. A new nonprofit is working to bring resources into low-income communities so people disproportionately affected by the illness can get the help they need. Listen to learn more about the healthcare inequities exposed by the pandemic and how one organization is addressing them.
May 13, 2020
A recent discovery indicates that our prehistoric relatives may have been smarter than previously thought. A team of paleo-anthropologists, scientists who study the origins of early humans and their relatives, found a bit of string on a prehistoric tool. This artifact offers evidence that Neanderthals had developed an important technology for survival. Listen to learn how Neanderthals made string and why the find is changing views of their intelligence.
May 12, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of every American. As schools around the country have closed, students have faced enormous shifts in their routines, social lives, and in how they learn. In this audio story, students in elementary, middle, and high school reflect on their experiences during the pandemic. Listen to hear the voices of kids expressing fears, sharing coping strategies, and explaining what they have come to appreciate.
May 11, 2020
A COVID-19 contact tracer tracks people who may have been exposed to the virus, but the work requires more than just detective skills. Contact tracers respond to the questions and concerns of people who may be ill, or who fear becoming ill, and help them plan for the immediate future. Contact tracers need to be able to quickly establish a bond of trust and show care for those facing the prospect of illness and quarantine. Listen to a public health doctor explain more about the important job of contact tracer and why people often feel relieved when a tracer calls.
May 10, 2020
Listen to hear about a parrot who plays a trick on the police.
Vocabulary: recently, deputies, unnerving
May 8, 2020
Governments around the world are using surveillance technology to help keep citizens safe from the spread of the coronavirus. Collecting cell phone location data can help officials implement some of the most effective tools for containing the virus, including contact tracing. In some countries, however, the government’s use of personal data to track people’s movements is raising privacy concerns. Listen to learn how three different countries are tracking personal data to fight the pandemic and then debate: Should surveillance technology be used for contact tracing?
This audio story was recorded in late April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
May 7, 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a United Nations agency that oversees public health worldwide. It offers advice and support to its member countries and coordinates scientific research and public health projects across borders. President Trump recently announced that the U.S. will stop funding the WHO, severely reducing the agency’s budget. Listen to learn more about the role of the WHO in protecting global health and how a withdrawal of funding could cripple its efforts.
May 6, 2020
An American astronaut is returning home to a very different Earth than the one she left seven months ago. Jessica Meir was living on the International Space Station, an orbiting science lab, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In preparing to head home, she considered the many changes she expected to find when she arrived, including restricted access to family and friends. Listen to hear Meir describe daily life on the space station and what she was most excited about doing when returning to Earth.
Update: Since this story aired, Jessica Meir returned safely to Earth and immediately entered a weeklong quarantine at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
May 5, 2020
Snapping shrimp produce surprisingly loud noises by clicking their claws. The noises they make are so pronounced that they once led to a Navy investigation. Ocean warming is causing the snapping shrimp clicks to become even louder and more frequent. The increase in ocean noise from this and other human impacts can be disruptive to marine ecosystems where sound is important to survival. Listen to hear what snapping shrimp sound like and learn why their sounds might be helpful to some species and harmful to others.
May 4, 2020
After months of closures due to COVID-19, school officials across the country are considering how schools can be reopened safely. Experts say that social distancing is the key to preventing the spread of disease, although that is especially challenging in crowded classrooms. Other countries have found ways to limit student contact through smaller class sizes, fewer students on the playground, and other strategies that could inform U.S. actions. Listen to hear how the school experience may change in the fall, and learn about some creative strategies for interacting safely. . This audio story was recorded in late April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
May 3, 2020
Listen to hear about a pilot who landed his plane on top of a tree.
Vocabulary: brace, impossible, rescue
May 1, 2020
States, political parties, and the federal government are considering how to hold safe elections this November during a pandemic. Many states have postponed their presidential primary elections or are allowing citizens to vote by mail. In the Wisconsin primary, there were long lines at the polls and fears about increasing the spread of COVID-19. Voters had to choose between maintaining social distance by staying home or risking their health while exercising their right to vote. Listen to this story about rules related to voting by mail and then debate: Should voting procedures change during a pandemic?
April 30, 2020
If you know someone who has lost a job because of the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. More than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits because of job cuts resulting from strict social distancing policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many people are struggling financially and emotionally because of these job losses and other effects of social distancing restrictions. Listen to hear more about the impact of the coronavirus on the economy and what jobs might be in demand once social distancing is over.
This audio story was recorded in mid-April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
April 29, 2020
The spread of the novel coronavirus has indicated that the time-honored custom of shaking hands may be history. Handshaking began thousands of years ago as a peaceful greeting, and has been praised for its ability to bring people together as equals. In light of new rules of social distancing, however, some people are suggesting alternative greetings that continue to connect us while keeping us safe. Listen to learn how handshakes were once used to check for concealed weapons and why some people are happy to see the practice end.
April 28, 2020
The relationship between humans and dogs is a special one, and there are multiple theories about how it originated and how it has changed over time. All dogs evolved from wolves, and scientists are learning more about that evolutionary process through research about similarities and differences in the behavior of wolves and dogs. Listen to this story about a game of fetch and how it might inform scientists’ understanding of the history of the special relationship between species.
April 27, 2020
Millions of people in the U.S. are under strict social distancing restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The time length and requirements of these policies have been determined by governors, so they vary from state to state. Many people want to know when these restrictions will be lifted and what will make it safe to go back to school or eat at a local restaurant again. Listen to this story to hear a public health expert talk about what scientists and public health experts say will be necessary for normal life to resume.
This audio story was recorded in mid-April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
April 26, 2020
Listen to hear about a long overdue library book finally returned many years later.
Vocabulary: due, manage, maximum
April 24, 2020
A survey conducted by the University of Virginia School of Law early in the COVID-19 outbreak asked people about their willingness to give up civil liberties for public safety during a pandemic. Results indicated that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum favored restrictions on citizens’ freedom, including some unconstitutional ones, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Recently, however, some people have been arguing that they should be free to gather in public, for example, despite public health risks. Listen to hear more about the survey results and then debate: Is public safety more important than civil liberties?
April 23, 2020
In celebration of National Poetry Month, NPR invites poets to reflect upon selected poems submitted by listeners. In this story, award-winning poet and teacher Nikky Finney discusses poems that surprise her and explains why she finds them beautiful, meaningful, and thought-provoking. Listen to hear how Finney began her poetry career and how she advises her students to engage in expressing themselves through poetry.
April 22, 2020
An army of young volunteers is building bridges between generations while delivering food supplies. Invisible Hands is a network of college students and other young people bringing groceries to elderly New York City residents isolated during the coronavirus pandemic. The project has built deep bonds between people of different generations, even though they have not met. Listen to hear the organization’s founder describe the roots of the project and why a woman who received a delivery was crying with joy.
This audio story was recorded in early April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
April 21, 2020
As factories shut down and fewer people drive to work, the environment is getting cleaner. Carbon emissions have dropped worldwide and people around the globe are noticing clearer air and better views of mountains. Scientists point out that an even bigger drop is needed to head off the worst effects of climate change, requiring actions such as converting to wind and solar power. Listen to hear more about how the slowdown in human activity is affecting the environment and why scientists believe animal sightings have increased.
April 20, 2020
Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the presidential primary race, but his candidacy has had a lasting impact on the Democratic party. Sanders has a loyal following of young people and progressives, whose support has helped push his ideas into the political mainstream. Listen to learn more about the rise and fall of Sanders’ presidential bid and how he plans to continue to influence the Democratic party.
April 19, 2020
Listen to hear how people in Florida are advised to keep a safe distance from each other during the pandemic.
Vocabulary: visualize, residents
April 17, 2020
Teens in Argentina are pushing to make Spanish gender-neutral. They say the rules of the language favor men over women and exclude nonbinary people. The Royal Spanish Academy argues that it is important to maintain the purity of a language that has been spoken for hundreds of years. Listen to hear more about the dispute over changing Spanish and then debate: Should the Spanish language be gender-neutral?
April 16, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, toilet paper has been in high demand, and one Maine factory owner is working around the clock to supply it. He moved to Maine a year before the pandemic hit and invested his life savings in a toilet paper factory. Now, he and his son can barely fill all the orders they are receiving, and they hope that means the business will succeed. Listen to hear the owner’s son explain the lessons he has learned and why he finds his work rewarding.