TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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May 14, 2021
The U.S. Postal Service has been delivering mail and packages for over 250 years and consistently ranks as Americans’ most trusted government agency. But ever since the start of email, the postal service has been losing money. Some suggest that closing post offices or using the buildings for other essential government services could help save the institution financially. Others say post offices should not be closed. Their long history and central role in the community, they argue, make post offices worth preserving, regardless of revenue. Listen to learn more about the troubles of the U.S. Postal Service and then debate: Should some post offices be closed?
May 13, 2021
Dr. Rachel Levine has become the first openly transgender U.S. federal official. She was confirmed as assistant secretary of health around the same time that many states were passing restrictive laws targeting transgender youth. She hopes her position will help educate Americans, and dispel any fears they may have, about LGBTQ people. Listen to an interview with Dr. Levine to learn about the challenges trans people face and how her appointment could help change attitudes.
May 12, 2021
How long have dogs been man’s best friend? Archaeologists recently found the 6000-year-old remains of a dog that was laid to rest alongside a human, suggesting the dog had been domesticated and lived with people when it was alive. The researchers quickly searched for other clues to confirm what they suspected: that ancient people kept dogs as companions, much as humans do today. Listen to hear what and how scientists learned about the relationship between humans and dogs thousands of years ago.
May 11, 2021
In 1915, the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, began a systematic process of deporting, torturing, and killing over a million of its Armenian population in what many regard as one of history’s worst atrocities. The United States had previously avoided officially labeling the massacre a “genocide.” Recently, though, President Biden changed course and joined the dozens of other countries that have declared the Armenian Massacre a genocide. Listen to a member of Congress explain what was behind the president’s decision and the effect it may have on our international relationships.
May 10, 2021
New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says Americans can safely remove their masks when outdoors alone or with household members, but not in crowds. Research has shown that the risk of virus spread is very low during individual or small group activities outside where distance can be safely maintained. The agency recommends that in indoor and tightly packed outdoor settings, however, masks should still be worn to prevent virus spread. Listen to hear the reasons behind the CDC’s updated guidelines, and learn what experts believe is the key to putting the pandemic behind us.
May 9, 2021
Listen to hear how a new prosthetic foot has helped a koala.
Vocabulary: prosthetic, triumph
May 7, 2021
The U.S. National Park System includes over 84 million acres of land that is open to the public. Much of that land once belonged to Native American tribes. A writer and member of the Ojibwe tribe is suggesting a return of control of national park land to Native American people. He says the move would give our country a chance to make amends for long-standing injustices. Questions remain about how the parks would be controlled by the hundreds of tribes in the U.S., and how to ensure that the land would be protected. Listen to a tribal member’s proposal and then debate: Should national parks be controlled by Native Americans?
May 6, 2021
In Afghanistan, education officials have banned girls over the age of 12 from singing in public, but the girls are speaking up. Many are posting videos of themselves singing on social media as part of a protest campaign. The ban comes as the Afghan government negotiates a peace agreement with the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group opposed to equal rights for women and girls. Listen to the director of an Afghan music institute explain why depriving girls of the right to sing is a “big issue,” and how it could impact the country’s future.
May 5, 2021
A new pasta shape has been invented. Cascatelli took three years to develop, and the man who designed it says he considered a variety of different aspects of the pasta eating experience. He wanted a pasta shape that stayed easily on the fork, for example, and held sauce well. Listen to learn about the process of designing and testing a new type of pasta and hear a reporter’s reaction when she samples it for the first time.
May 4, 2021
The U.S. and China have a long history of mistrust and competition. In 1971, though, an unusual situation helped thaw this chilly relationship. At the invitation of China’s communist leader, Mao Zedong, the U.S. Olympic table tennis team visited China for a 10-day tour and tournament. The widely publicized visit sparked a process that eventually allowed President Richard Nixon to accomplish one of his top priorities – opening dialogue with China. Listen to learn how Ping-Pong Diplomacy influenced the relationship between the U.S. and China and where that relationship stands 50 years later.
May 3, 2021
The term “herd immunity” means that an entire population is protected against a disease. Herd immunity is achieved when most people in a group are immune to an illness, limiting the ability of germs to spread. The U.S. is vaccinating people against COVID-19 as quickly as possible in an effort to reach 85% of the population, the number medical experts say is needed for herd immunity. Many people are reluctant to get vaccinated, however, raising concerns among public health officials about the country’s ability to achieve its goal and beat the virus. Listen to learn about the push to achieve herd immunity and how public health officials are addressing vaccine hesitancy.
Update: Since this story aired, everyone in the U.S. aged 16 and over has become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
May 2, 2021
Listen to hear about a young girl who discovered a dinosaur footprint on the beach.
Vocabulary: paleontologist, specimen
April 30, 2021
The debate over returning to in-person learning is complicated. Some argue that returning safely to in-person schooling should be among our nation’s top priorities. Remote and hybrid learning, they say, have not adequately served the needs of students. They want teachers to be considered essential workers, like health care and grocery workers, and protected from the pandemic accordingly. Others say that opening stores and restaurants, which will help preserve jobs and repair the economy, should come first. They argue that schools should be made as safe as possible but some degree of risk will likely always exist. Listen to learn more about the controversy over returning to school and then debate: Is in-person schooling essential?
April 29, 2021
Poetry can entertain, make us think about things in a different way, or give comfort during hard times. During National Poetry Month, NPR challenged listeners to share poems via Twitter that gave them courage during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this audio story, a celebrated poet reads and reacts to some of his favorites. Listen to hear some creative and surprising lines of verse read aloud, and learn why the poet selected them.
April 28, 2021
How dark is outer space? Although the night sky looks black, it actually contains light that comes from stars and galaxies. Scientists were curious how space would look without those sources of light, so they turned to photographs taken by a spacecraft hurtling through space four billion miles away. Listen to learn what researchers discovered about light in space and why one scientist called the possibilities “amazing.”
April 27, 2021
Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased over the last year, as anti-Asian scapegoating rhetoric, harassment, and violence have accompanied the pandemic. The alarming trend has affected Asian Americans in a variety of ways. In this audio story, three teens explain how this threatening social climate has affected their day-to-day lives. Listen to hear the students describe their experiences at school, why they fear for their families, and what they are doing to stay safe.
April 26, 2021
Tens of thousands of Latin American children hoping to enter the United States arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this spring. The U.S. government is quickly building emergency shelters to house the wave of unaccompanied minors, or children traveling without adults, but they are having trouble keeping up. The Biden administration says the flow of migrants is typical, although some lawmakers disagree. Listen to learn why there are so many Central American migrants at the border and how the U.S. government handles children who migrate alone.
April 25, 2021
Listen to hear why rhinos were transported by helicopter hanging upside down.
Vocabulary: dangling, location, cram
April 23, 2021
A vaccine passport certifies that a person is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and therefore unlikely to have the infection or transmit it to others. Many businesses like the idea of requiring guests to prove their vaccination status. They say that ensuring a safe environment in stores, theaters, and other places would encourage people to enter, and many consumers agree. Others argue that giving privileges to the vaccinated would unfairly divide Americans, and that making people reveal their health status raises privacy concerns. Listen to learn more about the controversy over vaccine certification and then debate: Are vaccine passports a good idea?
April 22, 2021
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder for the May 2020 death of George Floyd. During Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis on the suspicion that he was using a fake $20 bill, Chauvin held a knee to Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while he lay face down and handcuffed. Floyd’s painful death, captured in a video recording taken by a bystander and recounted in the televised trial, drew attention to the problems of systemic racism and police brutality, and triggered protests around the world. Listen to hear how the crowd outside the courthouse reacted to the verdict and what it may signal for the future.
April 21, 2021
A scientist has discovered that cuttlefish, which are marine animals related to the squid and octopus, are surprisingly smart. The scientist measured the self-control of the tentacled creatures by seeing how long they could wait for a treat. Her research was informed by a previous study involving children that found that self-control and intelligence are connected. Listen to learn more about the landmark “marshmallow experiment” and how it was adapted for cuttlefish.
April 20, 2021
A violent mob stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 and temporarily halted the process of certifying the presidential election of Joe Biden. The events of that day highlighted the growing problem of domestic terrorism in America. Domestic terrorist groups believe in a range of extreme ideologies, including anti-government, anti-Semitic, and racist views, and they threaten the safety of fellow Americans. The government is looking for ways to stop groups posing threats of violence from growing more powerful. Listen to a former CIA analyst discuss the rising threat of domestic terrorism and what Congress is doing to address it.
April 19, 2021
President Biden has ambitious plans to improve America’s infrastructure and create new jobs. He recently announced the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion proposal to fix roads, bridges, and highways, expand broadband access, support green energy projects, and more. The new plan would create millions of jobs, Biden says, and help America keep up with powerful economic competitors like China. Listen to learn more about the president’s new proposal and the changes it would bring.
April 18, 2021
Listen to hear about new rules at theme parks that are reopening in California.
Vocabulary: operate, limit, capacity, patrons
April 16, 2021
The U.S. has an especially high rate of gun violence, and several recent mass shootings have renewed calls for restrictions on gun purchases. Advocates of tighter gun laws say simple measures like expanding background checks and banning assault weapons would help keep guns away from people who should not have them. Several such bills are being considered by Congress and are widely popular. Opponents say their right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution, and new gun restrictions would interfere with that right. Listen to learn about the latest battle in the long fight over gun laws and then debate: Should Congress restrict gun purchases?
Update: Since this story aired, President Biden announced a series of executive orders restricting “ghost guns,” handmade firearms that do not require background checks.
April 15, 2021
A former cancer patient at St. Jude Research Children’s Hospital is scheduled to become the first person in space with an artificial limb. Hayley Arceneaux lost her leg to cancer when she was 10. Now she’s a physician’s assistant heading into orbit with SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, a project that is raising money for St. Jude. Listen to a pioneering young astronaut describe how she first heard about the mission and what most excites her about the upcoming trip.
April 14, 2021
The residents of Vancouver, Washington have said goodbye to a beloved old friend: a 194-year-old apple tree. The state of Washington produces more apples than anywhere else in the country, and the old apple tree was widely considered the “mother” of the apple industry there. Residents protected her when city planners threatened to chop her down and celebrated her life at an annual festival. Listen to learn who planted the apple seeds that grew into the famous tree and why she has so many descendants.
April 13, 2021
The Suez Canal is a 120-mile waterway dug in the Isthmus of Suez, between Africa and Asia, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. When it was built in 1869, the Suez Canal cut the travel time for ships bringing goods around the world, and global trade increased. Over the years the canal has been the site of conflict between powerful nations, and occasional disaster. Recently, a giant container ship got stuck in the canal and jammed water traffic for six days. Listen to learn more about the history and importance of the Suez Canal and why experts say accidents there are likely to recur.
April 12, 2021
A new study has found that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children as young as 12. The vaccine is currently approved for people aged 16 and older, but the drug company Pfizer has successfully tested its product on thousands of young people and will continue its research until a vaccine can be approved for all ages. The news is especially welcome because, like adults, children can become infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others. Listen to learn more about the study and what next steps are needed before the process of vaccinating kids can begin.
April 11, 2021
Listen to hear about a video game that sold for a very high price.
Vocabulary: anonymous, auction, remarkable
April 9, 2021
Many students have struggled academically and socially during the pandemic. Some education leaders are suggesting that a longer school year could help fill the learning gaps. It would allow at-risk students to get the academic support they need and give all students a chance to reconnect socially after a year of relative isolation. Summer jobs, camp, and family time would suffer, though, and some are unwilling to give up these valuable activities. Listen to a school superintendent discuss his plans for extending the school year and then debate: Should kids go to school all year round?
April 8, 2021
The term “Hispanic” refers to a broad array of Spanish-speaking people from various countries, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Many Americans associate the word primarily with Mexicans or Spaniards, though, and do not fully appreciate the diversity it represents. A narrow understanding of “Hispanic” can lead to stereotyping and historical narratives that exclude certain groups. Listen to Hispanic Americans discuss the assumptions people make about them based on the Hispanic label and why it’s important for people to appreciate the complexities of their identities.
April 7, 2021
Sharks are known as the ocean’s top predators, but some of them have a skill that is less widely known: they can glow. Several species of sharks are bioluminescent, or able to produce their own light. Many other ocean creatures have a similar ability, which leads scientists to believe that it is easier than it may seem. Listen to hear how one scientist hunted for a glow-in-the-dark shark and learn about how sharks benefit from bioluminescence.
April 6, 2021
In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami set off explosions at a nuclear power plant near the Japanese town of Okuma. The disaster killed more than 20,000 people in the region and forced many others to flee their homes. In this audio story, a reporter returns to Okuma ten years after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to check on the city’s rebuilding efforts. Listen to newly-returned residents discuss the town’s past and future, and learn how removing the top of a mountain could help protect them from future devastation.
April 5, 2021
Georgia recently passed a series of laws restricting voting in the state. For example, the rules reduce the number of drop boxes where voters can cast ballots and forbid handing out food and water to people waiting in line to vote. The laws disproportionately affect minority communities. Other states are considering similar laws, and some see the trend as a deliberate effort to suppress voting among people of color. Listen to learn more about Georgia’s new voting restrictions, how they fit into U.S. history, and what they mean for voting rights in America.
April 4, 2021
Listen to hear about a perfume that smells like space.
Vocabulary: campaign, fragrance
April 2, 2021
Filibustering is a strategy used by U.S. senators to delay or block a vote on a bill they oppose. In the past, it involved non-stop speaking on the floor of the Senate to prevent the vote from taking place. Now, however, a simple email is enough to trigger a filibuster and require 60 votes to pass legislation rather than a simple majority. The filibuster was designed to encourage compromise, but in today’s highly divided Senate, it is often used as a tool by one side to obstruct the other side’s agenda. Listen to hear arguments for and against the current rules and then debate: Should the Senate filibuster be changed?
April 1, 2021
Title IX is a civil rights law banning sex-based discrimination in school activities, including sports. In the decades since the law was passed, girls’ and women’s sports have grown tremendously, but there are still inequalities between how men’s and women’s teams are treated. A female basketball player in the March Madness tournament recently tweeted a video showing that the training spaces given to women’s teams were inferior to those of men’s teams. Listen to a sports writer explain why the tweet caused such a strong response and how language can reflect respect.
March 31, 2021
Cold-blooded animals like turtles depend on their environment to maintain their body temperature. When water in the Gulf of Mexico recently turned freezing, thousands of sea turtles were “cold-stunned,” or forced into a trance-like state where they could no longer swim, which is life-threatening. A group of volunteers joined in a huge effort to collect the turtles and bring them to an animal rehabilitation center. Listen to learn more about the largest “cold-stun” event in history, and hear what happened to the turtles after they were rescued.
March 30, 2021
On March 13, 2020, police raided the apartment of a young Black woman, Breonna Taylor, and fatally shot her while she slept. The incident followed other killings of Black people by the police and sparked outrage around the world. This audio story features an interview with a leader of Black Lives Matter, an organization fighting racism and police brutality, on the one-year anniversary of Taylor’s death. Listen to an activist reflect on why Beonna Taylor’s death affected people deeply and how citizens can help prevent similar acts of violence in the future.