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Science

Urban Concrete Creates Heat Islands

Global warming is expected to increase summer temperatures making cities even hotter. As concrete and asphalt within cities retain heat, it can increase health risks. The sun mixes with city pollution to create ozone that can irritate people's lungs, especially if they have breathing problems such as asthma. Listen to learn how public health officials are trying to help those living in the hottest areas.

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Science

Using DNA to Catch Poachers

Game wardens in California are now using DNA fingerprinting analysis to help protect illegal poaching of wildlife. There are many species, from large game to shellfish, which are being illegally caught or killed for food. Since there are so few game wardens to patrol the state, they are relying on forensic evidence to help track poachers. Listen to learn about the latest in DNA fingerprinting technology.

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ELA

Very Bad Day Author Judith Viorst

For almost 50 years, millions have enjoyed the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but where did the author, Judith Viorst, get the inspiration for her unlucky main character? Her very own son! Viorst admires characters that are imperfect, yet redeemable and likeable, and she draws inspiration from the people around her and her favorite books. Listen to find out more about Viorst and learn which character she most identified with as a child.

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Science

Volcano Adventure

Alaska is home to 54 active volcanoes. Scientists, called volcanologists, watch and study these volcanoes to try and predict when they are going to erupt and so they can give warnings to the nearby communities. In 2008, Mount Redoubt, one of Alaska’s most famous volcanoes that is known to be active and dangerous, began to show signs of erupting. Listen as a volcanologist explains how taking a closer look at what goes on deep down below the surface of a volcano like Mount Redoubt can reveal warning signs that indicate a possible eruption.

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Science

Volcanoes are a Source of Renewable Geothermal Energy

As nations look for clean energy alternatives many are turning to wind and solar, but Indonesia is turning to its volcanoes. Indonesia has 130 active volcanoes. These volcanoes generate geothermal heat that is releases through vents and hot springs throughout the country. Power companies are learning to harness and redirect this heated steam into power plants in order to generate electricity. Indonesia’s geothermal energy potential is huge, but start up costs and oil subsidies might prevent this burgeoning clean energy from taking off.

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Science

Whales and Snot from their Blowholes

A whale inhales and exhales air through the blowhole at the top of its head. The plume that rises when the whale exhales is made up of blow, a scientific term for whale snot. Whale snot can reveal important information about whale stress, but collecting the snot can be challenging. Listen to hear a scientist describe how she collects whale snot and what it can tell us about how whales are coping with the effects of climate change.

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ELA • ELL

What is a Memoir?

How accurate are memoirs? This public radio story looks at a scandal involving author James Frey and his memoir A Million Little Pieces. Frey was charged with exaggerating, and even lying about, his own life in his memoir. Where should a writer draw the line between fact and fiction in memoirs?

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Science

What is Being an Ecologist Really Like?

It's easy for some people to imagine what it's like to be a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. However, the day-to-day life of a shellfish and wetland ecologist can be a little more difficult to understand. Discover what an ecologist does by hearing from Danielle Kreeger, the science director for a group that works to protect and improve the Delaware River and Bay. Listen to hear more about her career as an ecologist.

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Science

What is Electricity?

What is electricity? How does it work? Where does it come from? Everyone has heard of electricity, but most people don’t understand much about it. Scientists have studied electricity for centuries, and they still have many unanswered questions! Listen to an electrical engineer explain some of the things we know, and still don’t know, about electricity.

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ELA

What Motivated the Author of "When You Reach Me"

Books allow us to transcend the world we live in, but they also help us to connect to the people and places around us. In this audio story, several young students at a school in Washington D.C. talk about the plot, characterization, themes, and motifs in the book “When You Reach Me.” The author, Rebecca Stead, discusses what motivates and inspires her to write. This book includes clues to solve a puzzle, mysterious notes, time travel, and the excitement of figuring out a book as you read it. Listen to more about the novel, “When You Reach Me” as these students discuss the elements of fiction and question the author about her own creative process.

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ELA

Who Identifies as Brown?

Several Asian Americans were asked the question: Do you consider yourselves Brown? Some said “yes,” others said “no,” and the reasons they gave for their answers varied. For some, their answer was based solely on their skin tone. For others, their answer was more complicated and took into account cultural and social factors. In this audio story, Asian Americans discuss the discrimination they have faced based on their skin color. Listen to learn more about why some Asian Americans do or do not consider themselves Brown and how the way others view them affects their lives.

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ELA • ELL

Who Wrote Shakespeare’s Plays?

William Shakespeare is commonly considered one of western civilization's greatest playwrights. But a persistent debate continues to rage around his legacy. Did the man we know as William Shakespeare actually write all those poems and plays? This story features two Shakespearean actors who have come to doubt the author. Listen to learn more about the debate surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare's works.

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Science

Why We Need Sleep

All animals, including humans, need to sleep. Scientists have several theories that help explain why we sleep. In this episode of But Why, a child sleep psychologist describes the evolutionary theory of sleep and explains how sleep benefits the brain and body. Listen to learn more about the science of sleep and its importance for healthy growth and development.

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Science

Why Woolly Mammoths Have Thick Furry Coats

Woolly mammoths were large, elephant-like creatures that lived tens of thousands of years ago, during the last great ice age. The thick, furry coat is one of several traits that gave woolly mammoths an advantage in a very cold environment. Today, the closest biological relative is the Asian elephant, which prefers warmer climates. Scientists were curious about the genetic variations between the woolly mammoth and the Asian elephant, and what might account for the differences between the two species. In this audio story, we hear from a scientist who studied the DNA from the extinct mammoth and compared it to its contemporary descendant. Listen to learn more about what researchers discovered.

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Science

Wildlife in the City

Wildlife in the city? It may seem odd to hear the word “wildlife” linked to the word “city.” However, animals live wherever they can find food and shelter. Cities can provide both for many types of wildlife. Animals use their survival skills to turn just about any environment into their home. Listen to hear a scientist explain which animals can be found in suburbs and cities and how they adapt to these environments.

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Science

Wolves are Awesome

Wolves often get a bad rap, especially in fairytales. But are they really as bad as they seem? Yes, wolves are top predators, but there is much more to these awesome animals than simply their hunting habits. Listen to an expert explain fascinating details about wolves, from the complexity of their packs to how the dogs and wolves of today stem from the same extinct species.

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ELA

Women’s Dystopian Future in "The Handmaid’s Tale"

Published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in a near future version of America. It tells the story of Offred, a woman living in the theocratic, authoritarian country of Gilead. More than 30 years since it was published, a TV adaptation sparked renewed interest in the novel. Listen to three journalists discuss how Offred’s story relates to contemporary American society.

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ELA • ELL

"A Wrinkle in Time" Continues its Journey

A Wrinkle in Time, a famous novel by Madeleine L’Engle, is the story of teenager Meg Murry. Meg is transported on an adventure through time and space with her younger brother and friend as they try to rescue her father. When it was originally published in 1963, no publisher knew how to promote it. What is it about A Wrinkle in Time, and why is it so controversial 50 years after its publication?

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