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Lessons PREMIUM


Science

Arctic Foxes Use Good Camouflage

Arctic foxes may be small, but they undergo powerful adaptations that help them survive in the snowy tundra, one of the planet’s most unforgiving biomes. One of their most important adaptations is the gift of camouflage: Arctic foxes’ fur changes color depending on the season. In winter, these animals grow dense white fur that keeps them warm and camouflages them in their snowy surroundings. In spring, they molt to reveal thinner, gray-brown fur to better blend in after the snow has melted away. Listen to hear more about this and other incredible adaptations of the Arctic fox.

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Science

Artificial Intelligence

What is artificial intelligence? How does it differ from other computer programs? Currently, artificial intelligence is being used to help people in many ways, such as detecting when and where earthquakes will occur before they happen, determining how to slow down the spread of disease, and outlining the best way to get relief to people after a disaster. However, artificial intelligence is a developing field with ever-expanding applications. Listen to hear more about what artificial intelligence is, how it has developed over time, and how it can be used to help people.

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Science

Artificial Photosynthesis Produces Fuel

While humans need food and water to survive, plants are able to get their energy from the sun through a process known as photosynthesis. Engineers are now trying to replicate this process of converting sunshine to power through artificial photosynthesis. They are trying to create an artificial leaf. Listen to learn how these problem solvers are approaching the challenge step by step.

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Science

Australian Animals

Australia is full of diverse and unusual animal life. It is home to hundreds of different species of marsupials, which are mammals that carry their babies in pouches, along with deadly snakes, spiders, and jellyfish. Listen to hear a story about exploring the Australian outback and learn about the unique adaptations and appearances of the animals living there.

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ELA

Author and Poet Kwame Alexander

In a world where there is so much darkness, author and poet Kwame Alexander aims to provide some inspiration, joy, hope, and, of course, light. Through his words in his novels and works of poetry, he hopes to engage his readers and keep them reading. Alexander is the author of Solo, Out of Wonder, The Crossover, and more recently, a book about boxer Muhammad Ali. Listen to hear Alexander describe what it feels like to write about painful topics and why he calls his poetry “a bridge.”

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ELA

Author Hena Khan Reflects Her Pakistani Roots in Her Books

When a reader sees him or herself reflected in a character, that character can come to life. Some children, however, never find a character they can relate to. Pakistani and Muslim author Hena Khan had this unfortunate experience growing up, but it did not destroy her passion for reading and writing. Listen to hear how Khan infuses her Pakistani and Muslim roots into her stories and characters to fill the gap she experienced as a young reader.

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ELA

Author Sharon Draper Writes What She Knows

Author Sharon Draper believes that life experiences, challenges, and writing about what is familiar are the foundation of an intriguing story. In her books, including Out of My Mind, Stella by Starlight, Blended, and the Sassy series, Draper draws from her own life experiences and the children she knows to develop stories that draw readers in. Listen to hear more about Draper’s books, her writing process, and the inspiration for her stories.

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ELA • ELL

Author's Experiences Led to "Brown Girl Dreaming"

Jacqueline Woodson’s free verse memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award in 2014. Woodson has published 30 books and won three Newbery Honor Medals. This book explores different perspectives in a desegregating America. In this interview, Woodson talks about her experience of segregation of race and religion, and how her experiences are often similar to students who she talks with today. She talks about the need for more diverse literature in schools, along with her book being appropriate for a wider audience-- not only brown students. Listen to hear her discuss how she integrates her personal experiences into her writing.

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Science

Baby Panda at the National Zoo

A recent birth at the National Zoo has delighted millions of people. At age 22, the panda mom was rather old to successfully give birth to offspring, but she defied the odds and now has a beautiful cub that keeps growing and growing. Listen to the director of the National Zoo answer questions about pandas, an endangered species, and learn how the U.S. is working with China to continue bringing baby pandas into the world.

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ELA

Basketball and Bullies in “The Great Wall of Lucy Wu”

What makes a person unique? What makes a person similar to or different from others? People sometimes try to hide their uniqueness in order to fit in. In the story The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, Lucy is trying to find her place at school and on the basketball team. One girl doesn’t think Lucy, a short Chinese girl, should be the captain of the team. Listen to hear what happens at Lucy’s Halloween party when her great aunt comes to town and whips up some dumplings. Is what makes Lucy different actually what brings her closer to her peers?

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Science

Beach Erosion Threatens Infrastructure

What happens when human structures and nature come into conflict? Ocean Beach in San Francisco is naturally eroding, but the consequence of this shifting shoreline is that a sewage treatment plant is put in peril. Without intervention, raw sewage could be dumped into the ocean. A rock wall has temporarily stabilized the pipeline, but not without complications. Listen to learn about the other solutions that are being considered, including construction of an artificial dune.

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Science

Bears and Hibernation

A variety of adaptations help animals survive the winter, when temperatures drop and food is scarce. Some migrate, some change how they eat and find ways to stay warm, and some hibernate, essentially going to sleep for many months. Listen to learn about how different animals adapt to the changing seasons and find out what happens when bears hibernate.

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Science

Bee Deaths and Crop Consequences

Over the past several years honeybee colonies have declined dramatically. There is no consensus over a single cause, and in fact, scientists point to multiple reasons for this problem. An important, yet often overlooked factor is basic land use decisions. Listen to learn about the importance of the symbiotic relationship between honeybees, flowers and humans, and what kids can do to help promote honeybees and other pollinators.

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Science

Bees and Electric Fields

Flowers have many ways of attracting bees for pollination. Bees are looking for nectar and pollen when they visit plants and flowers, as well as various colors, patterns, and shapes. Recently scientists have discovered a new way that flowers attract bees. They can sense the electric fields around flowers. Listen to hear about the natural positive charges of bees, the negative charges of flowers, and how the electric attraction works for pollination to happen.

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ELA

Before Helen Keller

Many people know about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind woman whose struggle to communicate was immortalized in her 1957 autobiography, The Story of My Life. Keller’s book was made into several movies and adapted for the stage, making Keller a well-known figure. But few people have heard of Laura Bridgman, a woman who learned to overcome the loss of four of her five senses 50 years earlier than Keller. Listen to hear more about how one young woman, with disabilities similar to Keller’s, overcame great adversity.

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ELA • ELL

"Beowulf," Paganism and Christianity

"Beowulf" is the oldest surviving long poem in Old English. It tells the story of a 5th century Nordic warrior who defeats monsters and becomes a king. In 2000, the Irish poet Seamus Heaney released a celebrated new translation of the epic poem. In this interview, Heaney discusses “Beowulf” and his approach to translating this famous text. Listen to learn more about “Beowulf’s” lasting appeal, and what the old poem tells us about Nordic pagan and early Christian values.

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Science

Big Eared Bats

Bats, the only flying mammal, often go unappreciated. They are a diverse species, varied in size and habitat. Their ability to hunt in the dark using echolocation, or a series of high-pitched squeaks that bounce off their prey, is a unique adaptation. This audio story highlights fascinating facts about bats: their size, where they make their homes, and how they use echolocation to hunt for dinner.

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Science

Biodiversity

The world is filled with many living things of all shapes and sizes. From plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, every living thing is important and plays a role on our Earth. The variety of living things in a habitat is known as biodiversity. Having biodiversity in a habitat allows for many different species to thrive. Listen to hear more about how all living things within a habitat depend on one another for survival, making it crucial to find a way to protect each of them.

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Science

Biologists Find it's Hard to Study Right Whales

Biologists studying right whales face the challenge of exploring rare and large organisms that spend the majority of their time underwater. These unpredictable animals are examined by researchers to try to understand the method of communication between male and female whales. Listen to learn why it's so hard to study these animals.

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Science

Biomimicry and a Desert Beetle

To copy the way a desert beetle gets water, scientists have designed a membrane that can extract water from the air. Since all air contains water, even in the desert, this could provide a very inexpensive way to supply drinking water. This process is called “biomimicry,” or using ideas from nature to solve technological problems. This discovery could lead to reusable water bottles that refill themselves. Listen to learn why this invention would be inexpensive and how close scientists are coming to making it work.

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Science

Bird Mystery

Populations of migrating birds have declined sharply, and scientists are trying to figure out why. This audio story features an interview with a biologist and bird expert about how and why scientists are tracking migratory birds and what people can do to help them. Listen to hear about how tagging birds with radio transmitters can help wildlife biologists understand their behavior and discover why migratory birds are disappearing.

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Science

Birds are Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs have long fascinated humans. Surprisingly, there are still dinosaurs on Earth today, but they look different from their multi-ton ancestors that went extinct millions of years ago. The dinosaurs that exist today are small, have feathers, and can fly. That’s right, they’re birds! Listen to learn more about extinct dinosaurs and how they are related to the ones that are still flying around the planet today.

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ELA

"The Blind Side" and the Offensive Left Tackle

Typically in the National Football League it’s all about the quarterback. But that is not the case in “The Blind Side”, a book about American football and the position of offensive left tackle. The author argues that the previously underappreciated position is vital to the game today. Incorporated into the story is offensive left tackle Michael Oher, who grew up in poverty, was adopted, and then played college football. Lewis traces the evolution of this pivotal position and explains how contracts and cash have shaped football. Listen to learn more about the author, American football, and the real-life story of Michael Oher.

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