All ELA

Current Event February 5, 2020

Counting Dog Years

Animals Genetics Biology

Scientists have developed a new, more accurate way to count a dog’s age in human years. Until now, people have generally believed that one year in a dog’s life equals seven years of human life. But when scientists compared chemical marks on dog and human DNA to see where they matched, they found surprising results about the relationship between dog and human ages. Listen to hear a scientist explain how the new technique works and what the research on canine aging means for dogs and their human friends.

Read More

Current Event August 12, 2020

The Power of the Voting Rights Act

Politics Race Law

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect the right of every citizen to vote. It ensured that unfair tests for voters could be challenged in court and gave the federal government oversight over states with a history of voter suppression. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court decided that a key part of the Voting Rights Act could no longer be enforced. Listen to learn about this change in federal voter protections and why one expert believes it puts the legacy of voting rights activist John Lewis at risk.

Read More

ELA

The Power of Example

Race Education Class Perseverance

A 29-year-old single mother of three children recently graduated from Montana State University. She faced numerous challenges in earning her degree, but setting a good example for her children helped motivate her to persist. In this interview, she discusses how and why she earned her college degree. Listen to hear her inspirational story, learn her advice for other “nontraditional” college students, and find out what is next for this new college graduate.

Read More

Current Event August 10, 2020

Pandemic Expansion in the U.S.

Health

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the U.S., experts are saying that traditional ways of fighting it are no longer working. U.S. public health professionals pioneered the methods that have successfully contained past pandemics, but coronavirus has spread so widely and quickly in the U.S. that experts say these steps will no longer be effective at containing it. Listen to learn why an infectious disease doctor describes the pandemic as “a national forest fire of COVID” and what public health professionals recommend for next steps.

Read More

Current Event May 12, 2020

Kids' Reflections on the Pandemic

Education Human Behavior

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.

Read More

Current Event August 9, 2020

Weird News: Social Distancing Shoes

Culture International Community

Listen to hear about special shoes that can help people keep a healthy social distance from others.

Vocabulary: typical, benefit

Read More

Collection August 7, 2020

Collection: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Health Education Psychology

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is essential to students’ growth, well-being, and success, both academically and personally. CASEL defines SEL as learning to “understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” These stories feature the voices of people who are working to develop these important life skills in a variety of circumstances, from being teased in a school hallway to sitting in a prison cell to rowing across the frigid Drake Passage. Their reflections on the challenges and benefits of actively grappling with the everyday dilemmas of being human are heartening, illuminating, and inspiring.

Read More

ELA

How "Anna Karenina" Inspired Empathy

Literature Psychology

Two men imprisoned in Somalia began tapping messages to each other through a thick wall. One man had Leo Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina”. Because they were forbidden to talk, one man tapped the story out on the wall, letter by letter, to the other man. The more the other man heard of the novel, the more he understood his own situation and feelings and ultimately, how to get through one of the most difficult experiences of his life. Listen to this story about how a book can inspire empathy and change your life.

Read More

ELA

Discussing Kindness with "Wonder"

Literature Empathy

The novel “Wonder” tells the story of a fifth grade boy with a facial deformity who enrolls in school for the very first time. In this audio story, the author, Raquel Jaramillo (a.k.a., R.J. Palacio) shares the incident that first prompted her to write the novel. She discusses how the boy, Auggie, struggles to feel ordinary in the face of extraordinary reactions. Listen to learn more about this novel and how the choices we make can have a lasting impact.

Read More

ELA

Reading "Harry Potter" and Developing Empathy

Literature Psychology

‘Harry Potter’ is a popular series of fantasy novels written by British author J.K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the life of a young wizard as he makes his way through magical schooling, forming friendships and fighting supernatural enemies. The title character, Harry Potter, has a tremendous impact on the wizarding world. It turns out that the boy wizard may also have an effect on the real world. According to a recent study, reading “Harry Potter” books could influence readers’ empathy and attitudes. Listen to find out how J.K. Rowling’s work might make a real difference to readers.

Read More

Current Event August 5, 2020

The Silent Spread of COVID-19

Health

People infected with COVID-19 are often “silent spreaders,” able to infect others with the virus while showing no symptoms of illness themselves. The symptoms of COVID-19 often do not appear for several days in a newly infected person, but it is during this pre-symptomatic period that the person is most contagious. Because of this, public health experts are finding coronavirus especially hard to contain. Listen to an epidemiology professor describe the challenges of containing a virus that spreads silently, and which strategies have been proven to work best.

Read More

Current Event July 27, 2020

The Importance of Masks

Health

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts urged people to wear masks to protect others from getting sick. Now, scientists are finding that masks protect the wearer, too. Wearing a mask can block virus particles from entering a person’s body, and even if some particles enter, the mask wearer is less likely to become seriously ill. Listen to an infectious disease doctor explain the science behind mask wearing and how this new information could encourage more people to cover their faces in public.

Read More

Current Event July 26, 2020

Weird News: Bald Eagles Return to Cape Cod

Environment Animals Conservation

Listen to hear about bald eagle sightings on Cape Cod for the first time in more than 100 years.

Vocabulary: deforestation, century, symbol

Read More

Current Event August 2, 2020

Weird News: Stuffed Animals Ride Roller Coaster

Culture Animals

Listen to hear about the adorable roller coaster riders replacing human visitors during the pandemic.

Vocabulary: hurtle, historic

Read More

Current Event August 3, 2020

Remembering Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

Politics Race Protest Civil RIghts

John Lewis, a celebrated civil rights leader and long-time member of Congress, has died. As a young man, Lewis fought courageously for racial justice alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. Among other acts of nonviolent resistance, he led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights, where he was severely beaten and arrested. Lewis continued to champion issues of justice as a legislator, earning him the nickname, “the conscience of Congress.” Listen to learn more about the life of John Lewis and how his passion and commitment to racial equality has inspired lawmakers and citizens for generations.

Read More

ELA

'Animal Farm' and Satire

Politics Civics/Government Culture World History II Reform Communism Dystopian Fiction Satire World Literature

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was published in 1945. Its message was explicitly political as a statement and a satire against Stalinism and the dictatorial socialism of the Soviet Union. Understanding this allegory gives deeper meaning to the talking animals who take control of their farm. Seventy years later, does this message of failed revolution resonate in a communist nation with a similar revolution and trajectory? Listen to learn how a later theatrical adaptation of the book is being understood in modern day China.

Read More

Current Event May 9, 2019

A Teenage Executive Producer

Race Culture Entertainment

Marsai Martin is Hollywood’s youngest executive producer. The 14-year-old pitched the idea for Little, a new comedy about a powerful executive who wakes up one morning in a child’s body, and she stars in the film as well. The teen actor got her acting breakthrough at age 10 on the hit sitcom Black-ish. She is not classically trained, but her colleagues say she is wise beyond her years. Listen to hear more about how Little came to be and how Marsai Martin became its executive producer.

Read More

Current Event March 26, 2020

States Lock Down to Protect Lives

Economics Health Viruses Business

States around the country are ordering new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. State governors have put various orders in place, including closing nonessential businesses, restricting big gatherings, and directing people to stay at home. Essential services such as food stores, pharmacies, and public transportation, remain open. These leaders hope limiting social contact will slow the spread of the disease enough to avoid overwhelming hospitals and health care workers with patients. Listen to learn how states plan to enforce the orders and why one governor struggled mightily with his decision to close businesses.

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

Read More

Current Event May 4, 2020

The Uncertain Future of School

Health Education

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.

Read More

Current Event July 22, 2020

The Dilemmas of Reopening Schools

Health Education

School leaders across the country are grappling with questions of when and how to reopen schools safely. While there is a shared interest nationwide in kids returning to school buildings, the virus is still widespread in communities across the country. Although kids are less likely to suffer from COVID-19, they may carry the germ back to their families and communities. The CDC’s safety recommendations are challenging for many schools to follow without additional space, staff, and supplies. Listen to school leaders throughout the U.S. discuss their hopes, priorities, and fears as they decide what school will look like in the fall.

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

Read More