All Social Studies

Current Event March 24, 2020

What's Next for the Space Program

Earth and Space Science Space Systems Astronomy

The U.S. space program has big plans for 2020. Two private companies are preparing to send astronauts into space, which has not been done since 2011. A rover mission to Mars is planned, this time with a special instrument to pull oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. And hundreds of small satellites will be launched into orbit, providing global internet coverage. Listen to learn more about the space program’s ambitious goals and the challenges it faces.

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Current Event March 17, 2020

Schools Closing Around the Country

Education Health Viruses

Leaders in over 30 states have closed schools statewide to help contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Millions of students will be home, and parents and guardians are scrambling to find child care. Children from low-income families who rely on free or reduced-price lunches, and parents who are unable to stay home from work, will face particular challenges. Listen to learn why schools are closing for long periods of time and what politicians are doing to help people affected by the virus.

This audio story was recorded in mid-March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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Current Event May 18, 2020

Safety Tips for Resuming Contact

Health Community

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.

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Current Event May 19, 2020

Running While Black

Race Violence

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.

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Current Event May 17, 2020

Weird News: Robotic Baseball Fans

Technology Sports

Listen to hear about why one baseball team is using robots to fill stadiums this season.

Vocabulary: robotic, mannequin

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Current Event May 4, 2020

The Uncertain Future of School

Education Health

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.

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Current Event April 27, 2020

Conditions for Lifting Pandemic Restrictions

Health Viruses

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.

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Current Event May 8, 2020

Debate: Should Surveillance Technology Be Used for Contact Tracing?

Technology Health Law International

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.

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Current Event April 30, 2020

Coping Without a Job During the Pandemic

Economics

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.

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Current Event April 22, 2020

Student Volunteers Help Elderly Neighbors

Health Community

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.

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Current Event April 28, 2020

Wolves Playing Fetch

Animals Evolution

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.

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Current Event May 10, 2020

Weird News: Playful Parrot’s False Alarm

Animals

Listen to hear about a parrot who plays a trick on the police.

Vocabulary: recently, deputies, unnerving

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Current Event April 26, 2020

Weird News: Extremely Overdue Library Book

Ethics

Listen to hear about a long overdue library book finally returned many years later.

Vocabulary: due, manage, maximum

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Current Event April 19, 2020

Weird News: Alligators Help with Social Distancing

Animals

Listen to hear how people in Florida are advised to keep a safe distance from each other during the pandemic.

Vocabulary: visualize, residents

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Current Event December 6, 2019

Debate: Should Kids Have Smartphones?

Technology Culture Youth

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?

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Current Event May 6, 2020

Returning to a Different Earth from Space

Space Systems

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.

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