All ELA

Current Event May 27, 2020

Dogs Trained to Detect Virus

Health Animals

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.

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Current Event October 25, 2020

Weird News: Incubating Ducks at Home

Animals

Listen to hear about a woman hatching ducks from eggs she bought at the supermarket.

Vocabulary: furlough, emerge, incubate

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ELA

"The Hate U Give" and the Call to Activism

Race Literature Civil RIghts

Angie Thomas’ novel, The Hate U Give, tells the story of Starr, a young woman of color, who turns toward activism after witnessing the murder of her friend Khalil by a police officer when she is 16 years old. The novel is closely modeled after Thomas’ experiences as a student, and on the stories of several of the young men who have been victims of racialized police violence in recent years. Listen to this audio story to hear the author talk about what inspired her to write this groundbreaking novel.

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Current Event October 23, 2020

Debate: Should Standardized Tests Resume?

Education

When the pandemic hit and schools closed in spring 2020, the U.S. Secretary of Education waived requirements for federal standardized testing in reading, math, and science. Recently, however, she said K-12 testing must resume. Those who support the move say the tests are a crucial tool in identifying students who have lost academic ground during the pandemic and can help to address the achievement gap. Opponents argue that the money would be better spent on other priorities, including collecting data locally much earlier on what kind of support students need. Listen to learn more about the controversy over testing and then debate: Should standardized tests resume?

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Current Event January 22, 2020

New Cosmic Crisp Apple

Genetics Plants Industry

A crunchy new apple has hit supermarket shelves. A cross between Honeycrisp and Enterprise varieties, the new Cosmic Crisp apple is the result of years of genetic cross-breeding by plant scientists at Washington State University. Listen to hear the lead scientist describe the mouth-watering qualities of the new variety, and why she hopes it is a hit with consumers.

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Current Event August 26, 2020

The Return of Drive-In Movies

Culture Entertainment

Drive-in movie theaters are having a resurgence during the pandemic. The first drive-in was created by Richard Hollingshead in the 1930s and quickly gained popularity as an easy, inexpensive place to go for a night out. At one point, the country had over 4,000 outdoor movie theaters, although as new forms of entertainment arose, drive-ins declined. Listen to learn how the inventor’s mother helped launch the idea and what people found most appealing about watching movies from their cars.

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Current Event September 2, 2020

Zoos Reopening

Animals

Zoos animals and their keepers are welcoming visitors after months of closures due to the pandemic. Some of the animals were content to interact with their own social groups while the zoo was closed. Others seemed bored without the usual flow of visitors, and keepers had to find creative ways to keep them occupied. Listen to hear an animal keeper explain which animals missed people the most and how her team used Facebook to keep animals entertained.

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Current Event October 22, 2020

Teaching Black History as American History

Race Education U.S. History

High school students in Colorado took a trip that changed the way history is taught at their school. After the group traveled with their principal to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., they realized that aspects of Black history were left out of their school’s American history curriculum that they thought should be included. Listen to hear the principal explain how the students pushed for change and what effect she hopes the new curriculum will have on teaching and learning.

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Current Event May 29, 2019

Plastic in the Air

Health Animals Environment Geography Human Impacts Ecosystems Plants Conservation Air Pollution Earth Systems

The air thousands of feet high in France’s Pyrenees Mountains should be some of the cleanest on Earth. However, recent research revealed that the air at the top of the mountains actually contains microscopic plastic. Listen to learn more about the experiment that revealed this surprising fact, why it matters, and what researchers plan to investigate next.

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Current Event November 1, 2019

Debate: Should a River Be Granted Personhood?

Culture Climate Change Law Conservation

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.

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ELA

A Father And Son Go On Their Last "Odyssey" Together

Culture Arts Travel

Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, is required reading in many high schools and colleges around the country. But in a new take on how to view the poem, an author, translator and Homer scholar took his father on a cruise that retraced the route of the Greek hero Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca as laid out in Homer’s epic. Prior to this adventure, the son had taught The Odyssey in a course at Bard College, which his father had attended. In this audio story, and author and translator discusses a trip he made with his father, not long before the older man’s death.

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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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ELA

How the Weather Influenced 'Frankenstein'

Horror Gothic

Storms and cold weather play an important role in Mary Shelley’s famous horror novel “Frankenstein.” Apparently, the bad weather in her story may reflect the weather at that time. When Shelley was writing the novel, the world was enduring a particularly cold and gray few years. Scholars hypothesize that the weather influenced Shelley to write about the weather for the novel. Listen to hear more about how true-life conditions affected this writer, and consider how climate change may influence future works of literature and art.

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Current Event April 1, 2020

How New Emojis Are Created

Technology Science Visual Art

The group in charge of emojis is issuing some new designs, and scientists are buzzing. Researchers studying mushrooms, rocks, microbes, and insects enjoy using emojis to represent their work. They are happy to have appropriate images to share on social media, even if the emojis do not represent every scientific detail correctly. Listen to learn which group of animals have the most emojis, which groups are not well represented, and what happened when marine scientists complained about the accuracy of the squid emoji.

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Current Event March 4, 2020

When Noises Drive You Crazy

Health Sound Human Body Human Behavior

For years, doctors struggled to diagnose an unusual set of symptoms: feeling angry or upset when hearing certain noises. Now scientists have identified the condition, misophonia, and doctors and patients are finally learning more about it. People with misophonia are highly sensitive to a range of everyday sounds like chewing and sniffling. They can experience extreme stress, making events like sharing a family meal challenging. Listen to hear a misophonic person describe what it feels like to hear chewing noises and why those suffering from misophonia and their families are relieved that the condition has been named.

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Current Event October 21, 2020

Iroquois Nationals Prepare for Top Lacrosse Competition

Culture Sports

One of the best lacrosse teams in the world was left off the invitation list to the 2022 World Games. The Iroquois Nationals are considered the third best team worldwide. The Native American members of the team come from a generations-long tradition of playing lacrosse, a sport that originated with the Haudenosaunee people. When another team heard how the Nationals were snubbed, they took decisive action. Listen to learn why the Iroquois Nationals were excluded from play and how others responded to what they saw as an injustice.

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Current Event October 20, 2020

2020 Election Results May Be Delayed

Politics

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election approaches, many are warning that a winner is unlikely to be declared on Election Day. Some say a delay is not a problem, and may actually help the country arrive at a more fair and accurate result. More voters than ever before are mailing ballots to avoid coronavirus exposure. With extra time, election officials can ensure every vote is counted and errors are corrected. Listen to a voting rights expert explain why she is not worried about a delayed election result, and learn what Americans can do to support fair elections.

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Current Event January 6, 2020

Weird News: Rats Driving Cars

Technology Animals Weird News

Listen and learn how researchers have taught lab rats how to drive cars.

Vocabulary: navigate, maneuver, extraordinary

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Current Event February 3, 2020

Weird News: Beekeeper Police Unit

Animals Science Law

Listen to learn about the special beekeeping unit of the New York Police Department.

Vocabulary: deployed, expertise, extract

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Current Event January 8, 2020

Lost Cat Found 1300 Miles Away

Animals

A man recently received a shocking phone call: a shelter had found his beloved lost cat, Sasha. Five years had passed since Sasha’s owners had last seen him, and Sasha was over a thousand miles from his home in Portland. No one is quite sure how, but Sasha made his way from Portland, Oregon to Santa Fe, New Mexico safely and survived without his owners for all that time. Listen to learn more about Sasha’s story and find out what happened when he returned home.

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