Current Event May 26, 2017
A fidget spinner has two or three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central core. Kids hold it by the core and flick the blades to make it spin. Fidget spinners are popular in elementary and middle schools. They can be an effective calming influence and can help some students concentrate. They can also become airborne and create distractions to others who are trying to focus. Teachers have to decide whether to allow or ban them in their classrooms. Listen and then debate: Should fidget spinners be allowed in classrooms?
Current Event April 18, 2017
Often, after a tragedy, rumors and false news stories about the event spread on the Internet. Many of these fake news stories promote the idea that the government is making up these events in order to advance its own secret goals. The motivation for spreading fake news ranges from real beliefs in conspiracy theories to drawing in more website traffic to undermining mainstream media for political gains. Listen to learn more about how fake news spreads and why.
Current Event April 28, 2017
The sculpture ‘Fearless Girl,’ is the name given to a statue that was placed directly in front of the famous Wall Street Bull statue. The statue depicts the girl putting her hands on her hips and staring down the bull, symbolizing female possibility. However, many feel the statue is an empty gesture and that it is condescending to represent womanhood with a cute young girl. Some think it changes the meaning of the bull from a symbol of strength to a symbol of a villain. Listen to learn more about the statue’s impact as well as the controversy surrounding it, then debate whether the meaning of art can be changed.
Current Event May 11, 2017
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has just broken the record for the most days spent in space. She has been off planet Earth longer than any other American in history. Whitson is also the first woman to command the International Space Station. President Donald Trump congratulated her in a call to the Space Station and she sent a message to young people. Listen to learn more about Whitson and her historic record.
Current Event May 4, 2017
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an official entrant. Up until her entry, the race was a men’s-only event, and not many people thought women could run a marathon. The race director tried to pull off her official racing bib, but she finished the marathon. Now, in 2017, the 70-year-old runner competed in the race a second time. Listen to learn more about Switzer’s experience as the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and her outlook as she trains to run again.
Current Event May 8, 2017
Recently, severe weather struck Texas, the South, and the Midwest bringing thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods that led to multiple deaths. The storms killed 15 people in East Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi and caused the rivers in Missouri to swell to levels not seen in a century. Listen to learn more about the human impact of this extreme weather.
Current Event May 12, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is in the process of trying to repeal regulations on internet service providers, known as net neutrality rules. The basic principle of net neutrality is that internet service providers should not be allowed to block or slow access to any websites, apps or other services. And service providers such as Comcast and Verizon should not be able to charge companies for faster access. Currently, internet providers are required to treat every website equally. Listen to learn more about net neutrality and the FCC’s plans to roll back internet regulations and then debate: Should all websites be treated equally on the internet?
Current Event May 5, 2017
Scientists say that in the future they will be able to make modifications to human DNA that can be passed down to subsequent generations. These same scientists say that such genetic modifications should only occur in cases of serious disease or disability and must be tightly regulated. However, there is fear around the idea of scientists altering the course of evolution and creating “genetically superior” humans. Listen to learn more about developments in genetic modification and debate: Should we make changes to human DNA?
Current Event May 19, 2017
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have announced they will close after 146 years in the circus business because of high operating costs and low ticket sales. However, at the New England Center for Circus Arts, performers are still training to become performers. With the most well-known institution of the American circus industry shutting down, it is up to the new generation of performers to redefine the circus’ place in American culture. Listen to learn more about how young performers thinking about the future of the circus, and then debate whether the circus will survive.
Current Event March 23, 2017
A communal listening experience can decrease social anxiety and boost empathy. An artist is collaborating with high school teens to create a “Sound Lab” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The Sound Lab gives community members the opportunity to listen to recordings that the high school teens made of their families, nature, and their own original monologues. The teens found that listening to their recordings with community members in the Gardner’s concert hall had a stronger emotional impact than listening alone. Engaging with the Sound Lab may help people to pay more attention to the sounds that surround them everyday. Listen to learn more about this sound project and its impact on teens and the community.
Current Event March 28, 2017
The latest research shows that humans are the leading cause of wildfires in the United States. As global warming leads to longer fire seasons and larger wildfires, human activity is causing wildfires to happen at times of the year when they would not be happening naturally. Human activity has also extended the normal fire season in the U.S. by three months, and ecologists worry that without action taken on this issue, wildfires will become even larger and more frequent. Listen to learn more about humans’ role in increasing wildfires, and what ecologists believe must be done to reverse this trend.
Current Event March 3, 2017
The reality television series the Bachelor/Bachelorette has been frequently criticized for the lack of diversity in its contestants and lead characters. Recently, the show has announced its first black Bachelorette. By including more people of color in the pool of contestants, the show’s executives hope to foster more diversity both in who wins the competition, and who is selected to be the lead in future seasons. Both scripted TV shows and reality TV shows have been criticized for not being diverse. Listen to this story and then debate the best way to increase diversity on TV.
Current Event April 12, 2017
Vermont-based Keurig Green Mountain, a coffee company, makes K-cup pods for single coffee servings. They are now trying to solve the problem of the waste created by these pods. The hot beverage machines are so popular they have created a recycling problem because there are now billions of used plastic cups that are not recyclable. Keurig has pledged to make all K-Cups recyclable by 2020, which is a big challenge. Once a recyclable material is found for the cups, there is also the issue of sorting them at recycling facilities. Listen to hear more about the challenges of meeting this promise to recycle K-Cups.
Current Event March 8, 2017
In today’s world, there are more new disease outbreaks than ever before. Over the past century, the number of new infectious diseases appearing each year has quadrupled. Now, scientists are trapping and testing animals in rainforests around the world in an effort to find new viruses before they reach the human population. Listen to learn more about how infectious diseases pass from rainforest ecosystems to human populations and what scientists are doing to stop this growing trend.
Current Event March 9, 2017
During the space race between the United States and Russia, many of the NASA mathematicians who made space flight possible were women. Moreover, many of these important scientists were black women, which is significant, because segregation was still in full effect. Although white male engineers and astronauts have been the most highlighted in history, people are now celebrating the essential contributions of these female, African-American scientists, including the movie “Hidden Figures.” Listen to learn more about the black female scientists like Katherine Johnson and their important contributions to space travel.
Current Event March 30, 2017
Researchers have completed a study that documents the environmental impact of producing a loaf of bread. They determined the amount of greenhouse gas emissions at each stage of bread production—from wheat farming to transportation—and added up the total. They found that 2.6 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted each year in the U.K. as a result of bread production. The study’s authors hope the findings will lead to more efficient and sustainable production methods. Listen to learn more about the environmental footprint of a loaf of bread and how consumers can help make a difference.
Current Event April 7, 2017
There is a debate going on in Massachusetts about whether people should have the right to seek medical aid in ending their own life if they are suffering from a terminal illness. An “end-of-life” measure did not pass in Massachusetts in 2012. Now, the debate has been reopened because a retired doctor with terminal cancer is suing the state so he can be allowed to seek medical aid in dying. Part of the debate centers around the question of whether courts should be in charge of end-of-life cases or if the legislature should create a law addressing the issue. Listen to learn more about the legality of giving medical aid in dying.
Current Event March 24, 2017
Although the United States has cut its emissions of smog-forming pollutants by half over the past few decades, smog levels in the Western United States have increased each year. Now, scientists believe that rising emissions in Asia are causing smog in the United States. Asian emissions have tripled over the past decades and are particularly high in China and India. During the spring, storms lift and carry emissions from Asia to the Western United States, causing fog. Listen to learn more about how emissions levels in different parts of the world are changing and how global climate systems move emissions around the Earth and then debate: How can we address global pollution?
Current Event March 27, 2017
The results of the 2017 World Happiness Report are in, and Norway is at the top of the list as the happiest country in the world. As one might imagine, developing countries show some of the lowest rates of happiness, but some low- and middle-income countries such as Nicaragua are showing encouraging gains. Interestingly, the United States has dropped from 13th to 14th place on the list, which the World Happiness Report attributes to declining social support. Listen to learn more about the findings and what factors support happiness around the world.
Current Event March 23, 2016
Amelia Earhart attempted to become the first female airplane pilot to circumnavigate the globe. Her plane disappeared during her flight 80 years ago. Although human remains believed to be Earhart’s have been found on an island off of Hawaii, the wreckage of her airplane has never been discovered. Now, the Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is using new technology to map the ocean floor off the island and search the area for parts of the plane. Listen to learn more about the search expedition and Amelia Earhart’s legacy.