Current Event March 12, 2021
People caught shoplifting less than $1000 worth of goods generally do not go to prison. But American businesses lose billions of dollars each year to shoplifting, and some are pushing for more serious penalties to help deter the crime. They argue that longer jail sentences would stop people repeatedly caught shoplifting and those involved in schemes to resell the stolen goods. Others say sentencing rules often result in punishments that are overly harsh, and prison time does not help address the root causes of shoplifting. Listen to learn more about the controversy over punishing shoplifters and then debate: Should shoplifters go to prison?
Current Event February 12, 2021
After the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many people are calling for national unity, but opinions differ as to how it can be achieved. Some say unity will only come through a process of reconciliation, or examining past wrongs and holding those who are guilty accountable. They argue that seeking justice allows a country to move beyond its painful past. Others say focusing on the past diverts energy from the task of looking ahead, keeps anger and divisions alive, and slows the healing process. Listen to learn parallels between post-Civil War America and today and then debate: Are unity and accountability mutually exclusive?
Current Event January 12, 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced nonviolent protest and advocated for racial harmony. The racism and violence he experienced throughout his life, however, sometimes filled him with rage. King believed anger could be a useful, positive force if it was channeled productively. Listen to hear more about MLK, Jr.’s views on the strong emotion of anger and how he used it to help him accomplish his goals.
Current Event December 2, 2020
Archaeologists, who study prehistoric sites for clues to the past, made an exciting new discovery in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park. They found tracks of humans and animals left around 10,000 years ago. The scientists say the prints show activity around a puddle among children, adults, and giant prehistoric creatures. Listen to hear more about the story told by these ancient footprints, and learn why scientists are especially excited by the finding.
Current Event November 19, 2020
African Americans have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, and many are feeling extra stress. Barbershops in African American communities have long been hubs of communication and camaraderie. A program called the “Confess Project” is aiding barbers who serve these communities in counseling their customers, offering helpful emotional support as well as a haircut. The program aims to offer African American men, in particular, a safe space to share their feelings and get advice. Listen to hear a participating barber explain what attracted him to the program and how his work improves his clients’ mental health.
Current Event November 4, 2020
People can generally tell if other people are friends when they overhear them laughing together. That’s what a scientist found several years ago. Recently, he performed a new experiment, this time to find out if people can understand other people’s relationships by overhearing their conversations. His goal was to study the signals that laughter and speech send to other people. Listen to learn more about the study and what it reveals about the role of laughter in human evolution.
When a person lays their head down to sleep, their brain does not stop thinking. The thoughts they have while they sleep are their dreams. Sleep allows the brain to recover from the work it does during the day. While the brain recovers, the logical part of the brain takes a break, which means during dreams anything can happen. Listen to a psychiatrist explain more about how dreaming works and how someone can have the ability to influence their dreams.
A new threat to human health, a disease called COVID-19, is spreading rapidly around the globe. The cause of COVID-19 is a coronavirus, named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus particles. In this audio story, an infectious disease doctor describes COVID-19 and its symptoms, compares the novel (or new) coronavirus to the better-known coronavirus that causes the common cold, and explains why being novel helps the virus to spread. Listen to learn what scientists want people to do in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect the health of individuals, families, and communities.
Current Event May 28, 2020
A former U.S. military commander likens the coronavirus pandemic to a war and believes that strong leadership is needed to win it. In this interview, General Stanley McChrystal outlines the leadership qualities he considers essential for instilling confidence in people during a time of crisis and fortifying them for the long battle against COVID-19. Listen to hear a 4-star general explain why fighting the virus reminds him of the war against al-Qaida, and why he thinks leaders should share information honestly and openly, even when it may be frightening.
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.
Current Event May 12, 2020
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.
Current Event May 11, 2020
A COVID-19 contact tracer tracks people who may have been exposed to the virus, but the work requires more than just detective skills. Contact tracers respond to the questions and concerns of people who may be ill, or who fear becoming ill, and help them plan for the immediate future. Contact tracers need to be able to quickly establish a bond of trust and show care for those facing the prospect of illness and quarantine. Listen to a public health doctor explain more about the important job of contact tracer and why people often feel relieved when a tracer calls.
Current Event March 27, 2020
A town in Washington state made plans to boost voter turnout by offering smartphone voting. Less than 1% of eligible voters showed up for a prior election in King County, Washington, and officials reasoned that making elections more accessible to all voters, including people living overseas and the disabled, would increase voter participation. Opponents say the security risks of smartphone voting threaten our democracy, since it is only a matter of time before they are hacked. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of electronic voting, and then debate: Is smartphone voting a good idea?
Update: Since this story aired, the election has taken place, and voters cast ballots by smartphone or in person. Voter turnout was half of 1%.
Current Event March 4, 2020
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.
Time is something that every person on the planet thinks about every day. It is talked about like a commodity: “spend time” or “waste time” are phrases that are often used. But, what is time? Scientists have grappled with this subject for a long “time”! Listen to hear more about time and why the current system is used to keep track of time.
Does tickling have a purpose? Why are certain parts of the human body especially sensitive to tickling? Scientists believe the tickling response evolved in early humans to help them protect themselves from predators and insects. Tickling also gives scientists clues about how the brain signals other parts of the body to respond. Listen to hear more about the protective response of tickling, and learn why it is impossible to tickle yourself.
Current Event January 9, 2020
Gifted autistic teens can have trouble finding summer programs that push them academically while also supporting their particular social needs. The University of Iowa’s College of Education summer program welcomes teens with autism spectrum disorder and provides the social and academic supports necessary for students to explore advanced subjects in math, science, and the arts. Listen to hear teens with autism spectrum disorder describe their experiences and how this unique summer program has made a difference in their lives.
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.
Mementos are objects that people keep to remind them of someone or something special. Sometimes mementos help people remember a loved one they have lost or a place they have left. Treasured mementos may be passed down through generations and even studied as historical artifacts. People often have stories to tell about why a particular everyday object became meaningful to them and the memories they associate with it. Listen to hear people talk about some of their favorite mementos and what makes them special.