Current Event 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.
The novel Esperanza Rising tells the “riches to rags” story of a girl who lived comfortably in Mexico in the 1930s until her family’s situation changed. She and her family had to move to California, where they worked in farm labor camps and lived in poverty as migrant workers during the Great Depression. Listen to hear an excerpt and a book discussion and learn how the author’s grandmother’s experiences inspired her to write the novel.
Current Event 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.
Current Event April 8, 2020
What happens to the animals when no one visits the zoo? Though the coronavirus pandemic has shut down many public gathering places and cultural institutions, including zoos, the animals continue to need daily care and feeding. Places like The Cincinnati Zoo depend on a small group of dedicated workers to show up each day to care for their beloved animals. Listen to hear zoo workers describe some of their favorite animals and learn how one baby hippo became an internet star.
Current Event May 24, 2020
Listen to hear about a mother who creates chalk drawings reminding people to social distance.
Vocabulary: reminder, recreate
The Tuck family gains immortality after drinking from a magical spring, but living forever brings sadness as well as joy. That is the premise of Natalie Babbitt’s classic novel Tuck Everlasting, about a 10-year-old girl who learns the Tuck family’s secret and wrestles with the decision about whether to drink from the fountain herself. Listen to hear fifth graders share their ideas about the book’s central themes, including death, eternal life, and living each moment to the fullest.
Current Event April 7, 2020
High school students recited poems with dramatic flair in the semi-finals of the national Poetry Out Loud contest. Competitors recited works by Toi Derricotte, Vijay Shishadri, and other poets, and their performances were judged on a variety of criteria. Listen to hear clips of high school competitors reciting poems and learn how the rules have changed for non-citizens hoping to enter the competition.
Update: Since this story originally aired, Minnesota high school senior Isabella Callery was selected as the 2019 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.
Current Event 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?
This story takes a deep look at the word “ostentatious” with a focus on nuances of meaning that distinguish words that are close synonyms. While some showiness can be harmless, fun, or even desirable, “ostentatious” has a negative connotation and implies over-the-top behavior intended to impress. Listen to kids tell stories from their own experience of showy behavior and hear how synonyms differ slightly in meaning.
Current Event November 8, 2013
Mary Shelley’s gothic classic “Frankenstein” was published anonymously when she was just twenty. The novel was a horror story, but it was also part of the romantic movement and is considered by some to be one of the first science fiction novels. Shelley’s work has been retold through illustration and movies in the past, but not all have been true to the original story. A new graphic novel by artist Gris Grimly brings this tale to life with care and accuracy. Listen to learn what drew Gris Grimly to the story and what drove him to create this graphic novel.
Current Event April 1, 2020
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.
In this episode of the vocabulary-building podcast Good Words, listeners dig deeply into the meaning of the word magnanimous by hearing about how someone donated a kidney to his best friend. Listen to hear more about a quintessential example of a magnanimous act.
Current Event 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.
Current Event March 24, 2020
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.
Current Event March 17, 2020
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.
In Suzanne Collins’ "The Hunger Games" Trilogy, an all powerful Capital controls and exploits the districts of Panem for resources. The inequality and concentration of power in Panem has struck a nerve for readers, reflecting on their lives and their governments. Heroine Katniss Everdeen has become a symbol of resistance adopted by political parties and protest movements across the globe. Why and how does this dystopian novel reflect the real world? Listen to learn more about the link between “The Hunger Games” and our world today.
Since World War II, fast food has been central to American food culture. Hamburgers and fries have come to be at the very center of many Americans’ diets. But fast food changed the way we raise and process beef and grow potatoes. It’s also added to the problem of obesity. The growth in fast food culture over the past fifty years has changed many fundamental things about culture, health, and the economy. Listen to hear how fast food has affected life in America by listening to this interview with the author of the book “Fast Food Nation”.
Current Event 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.
Current Event 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.