Current Event October 25, 2016
Combat veterans have started long-distance hiking on wilderness trips across the country as a way to transition to civilian life. Having time in nature can help veterans process the war. A non-profit, Warrior Expeditions, sponsors dozens of combat vets each year to walk the Pacific Crest, the Continental Divide and the Appalachian Trail. They hike with other veterans who can support each other since they have been through similar experiences. Listen to hear from veterans who have hiked over 2,000 miles together and their reflections on the journey.
Current Event October 7, 2016
There is a common belief that busy people get more done than less busy people. This may seem counterintuitive, but researchers at Columbia University have discovered there is some truth to this claim. It turns out that there are certain times when being busy can make people feel overwhelmed, and there are other times when being busy can be helpful. Listen to hear about the series of experiments tracking busy people and what they reveal about business, motivation and recovering from setbacks. Then debate whether you think that busy people really do get more things done.
Current Event September 30, 2016
Across college campuses, the idea of "trigger warnings," giving a heads-up to students before uncomfortable topics are discussed, and creating safe spaces for students to feel comfortable talking about their experiences, is gaining traction. Some people think this provides support for people who have been victimized and prevents triggering a recurrence of past trauma. Others people think this makes it possible for students to avoid certain topics and different perspectives that make them feel uncomfortable. The University of Chicago has decided not to give ‘trigger warnings’. Listen to this story to understand why and then debate the different perspectives on this policy.
Current Event September 16, 2016
Social media has an interesting effect on teenagers and the way they think. This study used social media and tested how teens responded to various photos online. Teens were shown an image that was deemed to have lots of "likes." The teens tended to like the image also. They found that teens responded strongly to the more popular pictures, regardless of which ones they were. Seeing popular pictures also produced greater activation in the reward centers of the brain. Listen to hear more about the effect of social media on the way teens think.
Current Event August 20, 2016
After the death of Baltimore native Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore city police officers and subsequent public outcry and protest, the Baltimore Police Department is attempting to use foot patrols to improve relations between law enforcement and the community. The Baltimore Police Department is requiring all officers to undergo a foot patrol refresher class and asking that officers walk on foot for some portion of their ten-hour shift. The idea is that officers will get out into the communities they serve, forming relationships outside of the suspect or victim dynamic that usually define their interactions with citizens. Listen to learn more about the BPD’s plans to improve community relations as well as what types of foot patrols do and do not work.
Current Event March 15, 2016
When we don’t get enough sleep, we often find ourselves eating more. Researchers at the University of Chicago recently published a study that helps explain why. Their experiment showed that sleep deprivation causes an increase in endocannabinoids, which are compounds in our brain. Listen to learn more about how sleep deprivation can lead to overeating.
Current Event March 8, 2016
Some people have trouble staying focused. Many of those people have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. A team at Yale University was able to identify children and adolescents with ADHD by studying certain connections in their brains. This finding adds to the evidence that ADHD is not just a behavioral problem. Listen to hear more about this new research.
Current Event January 29, 2016
Fear of terrorism is rising in the United States. Scientists have been studying reactions to terrorist events, and how those reactions shape public policy. Polls show Americans are currently as afraid of terrorism as they were the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. A research study showed people thought they had a one in three chance of being the target of an attack. The emotional responses are out of proportion to the actual risk. Listen to hear more about how emotions trump reality and then debate whether fear of terrorism is rational.
Current Event January 8, 2016
Research suggests that people see New Year's Day as an imaginary line separating the old from the new. That’s why many people make plans and resolutions for their “new selves” at the turn of the new year. However, most people fail to keep their resolutions, since the “new selves” are usually not much better than the old ones. Listen to hear suggestions on how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions. Then after hearing these ideas, debate with your students whether we should continue to make New Year’s resolutions.
Current Event December 27, 2015
Theater is meant to be a sensory experience, but for some autistic children, the sounds and lights are overwhelming. Children with sensitivities to light, sound, and touch can’t filter all of this input and can react in different ways. For families with autistic children, going to the theater can be a stressful experience. Trinity Repertory Company, in Rhode Island, has created a innovative theater experience for these families. The house lights are kept on throughout the performance, there are places for children to get out of their seats to move around and sounds are toned down. Trinity Rep also makes a video that prepares children for the entire experience, from the curtain going up through clapping at the end of the performance. Listen to hear more about how children and families respond to this sensory-friendly performance.
Current Event November 26, 2015
One in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s an increase of ten-fold over the last 40 years. The symptoms of the syndrome include a lack of desire to make friends, social awkwardness and a preference to spend time alone. In this conversation between a mother and her twelve-year-old son who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, the two come to understand each other’s view of the world. They discuss animals and friends and happiness.
Current Event October 28, 2015
At a High School in Baltimore, racial tensions flared last year between African Americans and Latinos. Some students stayed home from school to avoid the fighting, and some were fearful of what would happen off of school grounds. A program called SPIRIT recently started that helps students deal with these racial tensions. Students are given the chance to talk about the challenges within the school and hear from other students. They talk about what needs fixing and propose solutions. Listen to this story to hear more about how this program helped students talk about race.
Current Event October 23, 2015
How much stress we experience growing up can affect our health later in life. This was discovered during a study which assessed the emotional health, diet and habits of hundreds of people from childhood through adulthood. They analyzed the relationship between stress and disease and found people who had persistent stress were at the highest risk for disease. But surprisingly, people who had periods of high stress when they were between the ages of 7 and 16 showed a high risk for chronic illness, even if they were not stressed as adults. Listen to this story and start a debate in your class about whether stress is helpful or harmful to students.
Current Event September 29, 2015
In general, being impulsive is not a good thing. But people who risk their lives for strangers don’t think before they act. They just act. The three Americans who took down armed gunmen on a train to Paris said their military training was not as important as their instinct to help. Many studies have been done on intuitive thinking and reflective thinking. Researchers learned that it’s possible to develop a person’s automatic response to help along with a willingness to act without thinking about the consequences. Listen to hear more about the key to being a hero.
Current Event August 11, 2015
Many people travel to Africa to see large, exotic, wild animals in their natural habitat. Others travel to hunt these animals as sport. Recently in Zimbabwe, an American dentist on a hunting safari killed a beloved, protected lion named Cecil. It sparked outrage around the world even though many other animals are killed in Africa and yet few people pay attention. Temple Grandin, animal science professor and author, provides insight into why people felt more connected to Cecil, including the fact that he had a name.
Current Event June 18, 2015
Scientists have long debated when early humans learned that they could use fire to cook their food. Some believe this occurred soon after humans learned to control fire, others argue there isn’t enough evidence. A scientific study in a chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shed new light on these persistent questions. The experiment gave chimps a machine to “cook” their food and tracked their preference for cooked food and how it changed their eating behaviors. Listen to learn more about this experiment and how it plays into the debate about when early humans began to cook.
Current Event June 10, 2015
When veterans return from combat they bring with them memories of their service that can impact their mental health. Successfully screening returning veterans for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression is a challenge. The University of Southern California has designed a computer program, known as Ellie, that could help solve this problem. Ellie analyzes the tone and facial expressions of soldiers as they answer questions. It’s able to detect more than you might think. Listen to learn more about this promising new technology and how it can help veterans heal.
Current Event May 28, 2015
Suicide on college campuses has been a persistent problem over the last decade. MIT, an elite university in Boston, Massachusetts, recently had a cluster of student suicides on their campus. In response to the tragedies, the MIT community reached out and promoted a conversation among the student body. One student took it upon herself to do more and encourage more student interactions all year round with wristbands that say TMAYD, which stands for Tell Me About Your Day. Listen to learn more about this effort and how it is changing the MIT community.
ELA High School
In 'The Scarlet Letter' Nathaniel Hawthorne explores inclusion and exclusion in Puritan Boston. Hester Prynne is exposed to public humiliation and exclusion for breaking societal standards and having a child out of wedlock. Veterans experience similar exclusion and dishonor. When they are discharged with the label of "Other Than Honorable," they are marked with a figurative Scarlet Letter, ashamed and unable to gain veterans' benefits.
Current Event May 19, 2015
The sentencing phase of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has come to a dramatic conclusion. After just a day and a half of deliberation the jury voted to put Tsarnaev to death on 6 of the 17 eligible counts. An appeal is automatic but some families directly impacted still feel relieved by the sentence. Listen to learn more about the sentence and the response to it.