Vermont Public Radio

The Agency of Education is partnering with VPR to provide educational broadcast programming through the end of the school year.

Upcoming Episodes of VPR's 'But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids'

Kids can send their questions ahead of time to questions@vpr.org, or call in at 1-800-639-2211 while the program is live. Listen to VPR on-air in Vermont or listen to our live stream from anywhere in the world.

'But Why' Podcast Broadcasting Live on Friday Afternoons

This announcement was originally posted on the VPR website on May 4, 2020.

But Why, VPR’s podcast for curious kids, will broadcast live, interactive educational programs for elementary school students on Fridays at 1 p.m. May 8 through June 19.

The programs will cover a wide range of topics related to natural science, poetry, space, history and civics. Students are invited to call or write in with their questions during each show, which will be answered by expert guests. The first program on Friday, May 8 will be about bats with guest Barry Genzlinger of the Vermont Bat Center

Some episodes will offer fun activities families can do at home in advance of the show. Educators and families can find upcoming topics at butwhykids.org

But Why is thrilled to be able to offer entertaining and educational shows for kids during this challenging time for many families,” said host Jane Lindholm. “And I think adults will get just as much out of these radio programs, including a renewed appreciation for the curiosity and insight of our youngest listeners.” 

The series was developed at the urging of the Vermont Agency Of Education to help children and their caregivers finish the academic year from home, after schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Not all Vermont students have access to high-speed internet,” said Scott Finn, VPR’s president and CEO. “This live broadcast over VPR’s statewide network will help more Vermonters have equal access to this resource.”

The Agency of Education will provide supplementary supports such as reading and other educational resources to accompany the series. Some programs will include homework assignments and writing or research prompts for the next week’s program. Teachers are welcome to include the programs in their weekly lesson plans. 

“I am very proud of our partnership with Vermont Public Radio to provide additional educational resources to Vermont students,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “But Why has some great programming to offer, and we are grateful to be working with them to produce high quality learning materials for students.”

But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids is an internationally-recognized podcast from Vermont Public Radio geared to listeners ages 4-10 and their adults. Host Jane Lindholm and producer Melody Bodette take audio questions submitted by kids and find interesting people to help answer them in on-demand episodes that come out every other Friday.

Questions have ranged from science to ethics, politics to family dynamics, like “Why don’t people have tails?”, “How do hurricanes form?” and “How are babies made?”

The podcast launched in 2016 and has received questions from kids in all 50 states and 62 countries. It has listeners worldwide and has exceeded a million downloads in just the last 6 weeks.

In addition to But Why Live, VPR is working with the Agency Of Education to broadcast a statewide prom and graduation ceremonies later this spring.


Supplemental Resources for Upcoming 'But Why' Podcast Live Broadcasts

Considerations for Radio Programming and Students with Disabilities (5/8).

June 19, 2020 Broadcast: Race and Racism

A discussion about race and racism with the authors of the ABC's of Diversity, Y. Joy Harris-Smith and Carolyn Helsel.

Resources for Educators

  • National Public Radio- Talking Race With Young Children (parent resource; Birth-K) Suggestions to start conversations about race, racism, diversity and inclusion, even with young children.
  • PBS: 13 Children’s Books About Race and Diversity (PreK-Grade 3) Children's books are one of the most effective tools to engage with young children on important issues. To encourage conversations about race and diversity with your children, check out this list of books to read together as a family.
  • CNN/ Sesame Street.org:  Coming Together- Standing Up to Racism (ELA, social justice; PreK-Grade 3) - CNN and Sesame Street teamed up on June 6 for a Special Town Hall to help children and families talk about racism and the ongoing nationwide protests and find ways to build empathy and embrace diversity. A recorded town hall for kids and families. The one-hour program, hosted by CNN commentator, Van Jones and anchor Erica Hill featured Big Bird, Elmo, and friends and reached families around the world.
  • Vanderbilt University- Barton Research Lab: Talking With Children About Race: Cultivating an Anti-Racism Generation (parent resource; PreK-Grade 3) - Infographic with guidance on discussing diversity, racism, and when children ask the “hard” questions.
  • Vanderbilt University- Barton Research Lab: Black Lives Matter Library ELA, social justice; PreK-Grade 5;)- Finding books to help guide the discussions you have with children about race can be challenging. This free resource provides links to video read-alouds of a variety of books that cover a range of themes within the topic of race. Through reading books about race and racism, we can educate ourselves and our children to promote equity through anti-racist practices.
  • Big Picture Learning: Books with Brothers (ELA, social justice; K-6). Weekly videos of African American educators reading children’s books by African-American authors.
  • PBS Learning Media: Confronting Anti-Black Racism (racial justice, ethics; 6-12). A collections of lessons and videos on what anti-Black racism looks like today and how to confront it.
  • PBS Learning Media: Music for Social Justice with Aisha Fukoshima (social justice, performing arts; 6-12). A collection of videos about artist Aisha Fukoshoma who uses hip hop to advocate for racial justice and anti-racism.
  • PBS Learning Media: Confronting Bias: Ethics in the Classroom (social awareness, ethics; 6-12).  A collection of lessons and resources on implicit bias and how to confront it in classroom and social settings.
  • PBS Learning Media: Black Lives Matter: Campaigning for Racial Justice (civil rights; 9-12). A collection of instructional resources that support student understanding of racial justice and civil rights issues in the 21st century.
  • Common Sense Media: Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners (ELA, social justice; PreK-12). Each winter (either January or February), the Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The committee that selects the awards is part of the American Library Association. The author or illustrator must live in the United States or maintain dual residency/citizenship, and the book must have been published in the preceding year.
  • PBS Teacher’s Lounge: A Call to Action for White Educators Who Seek to be Anti-Racist (teacher resource; K-12). An article that shares and outlines strategies and ideas to support educators with being anti-racist.
  • The Art of Education: Art as a Tool for Social Advocacy (social justice, visual arts; K-12). An article that outlines steps and strategies for integrating the arts to guide students through investigating components of social advocacy.
  • Art 21: Nick Cave (performance art; K-12). A video about contemporary artist Nick Cave who explores identity in terms of race, gender, and class through his artwork.
  • Wexler Gallery: Roberto Lugo (visual arts; K-12). Gallery web page of contemporary potter Roberto Lugo whose work celebrates contemporary and historic figures and cultures that are underrepresented in the art world.
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts: Amy Sherald (visual arts; K-12). NWEA profile page of contemporary artist Amy Sherald who works with concepts of racial and cultural identity.

Resources for Parents

June 26, 2020 Broadcast: Music with Mr. Chris

  • Mr. Chris and Friends on Vermont PBS (music, movement, & social emotional development; Toddler, PreK-1). Musician and early childhood educator Chris Dorman stars as Mister Chris, a delightful farmer and performer who makes wishes and leads children on adventures to learn more about how wishes might come true. Along the way, he meets up with friends and finds clues that help him to explore the topic at hand. Each episode is imbued with music and movement, with a strong focus on social and emotional development. Episodes from Seasons one and two can be viewed here.
  • PBS Learning Media: Making Music Lesson Plan (music; PreK-1). Lesson plan and support materials on learning about and designing musical instruments (based on Pinkalicious and Peterrific).
  • Homemade Instruments for Children to Play (music; Toddler, PreK-3). Directions for 31 instruments for children to make and play at home.
  • Music for Sprouts (music, movement; Toddler, PreK-1). Young children and their families can join Mr. Chris and Miss Emma at 10 a.m. every day and Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. and request favorite songs LIVE! Recorded videos are posted are located on the Facebook page and on the Music for Sprouts website.
  • Kinderart: Musical Instrument Crafts (music; PreK-5). Craft lessons on creating musical instruments using everyday objects.
  •  Teach Engineering: Simple Instruments (science, music; grades 3-5). Printable lessons on the science and engineering behind basic musical instruments.
  • National Association for Music Education: DIY Instruments (music; K-12). Resources and lessons for guiding students through designing their own musical instruments using everyday objects.

Supplemental Resources for Previous 'But Why' Podcast Live Broadcasts

June 12, 2020, Broadcast: Trees

We'll be answering your questions about trees and tree communication with scientists Alexia Constantinou and Katie McMahen of the Simard Lab at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Suzanne Simard's lab in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences studies connections and resiliance in forests, with a special focus on what's going on below group, in the soil.

  • Massachussets Audobon Society: Tree-mendous Trees (STEM; PreK). A comprehensive preschool unit that offers seven different investigations about trees.
  • Arbor Day Foundation: Carly’s Kids Corner (Science; PreK-2). Digital games and activities (online and printable) to help children learn more about trees and why they’re so important to our world.
  • Kids’ Tree Identification Scavenger Hunt (Science; PreK-5). This printable checklist includes descriptions and in color photos of trees in New England, New York, and eastern Canada. Vermont families can use this resource to identify trees while exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.
  • How Trees Talk to Each Other (Science: TED Talk). "A forest is much more than what you see," says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery -- trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.
  • Trees Know When Deer are Eating The – And how to Fight Back (Science: Newsela). Scientists in Leipzig, Germany, have uncovered the brilliant way that wild maple and beech trees protect themselves. First, the trees are able to figure out when deer in particular are eating them. Then, they are able to do something that stops the critters from returning for another snack.
  • Tree Toolkit: Lessons and Educator Resources for Teaching About Trees (Science: PreK –12). Trees are vital to the health of not only all forest ecosystems, but the health of the entire planet. They provide oxygen, filter pollutants, and offer shade on a hot summer day, just to name a few of the many ways humans benefit from the presence of trees. Take a second to learn more about everything trees do for us.

June 5, 2020, Broadcast: Kids Press Conference

With Vermont Governor Phil Scott. First we’ll learn about what journalists do, and then kid journalists can call in and ask their questions. See: Question Bank

Supplemental Lessons

  • iCivics - Lessons on state government; (Social Studies, 6-12) various lessons where students can learn about the functioning of state government, the powers of the executive branch, as well as the relationship between state and federal government.
  • iCivics - The State Governor; (Social Studies, 6-12) students learn about the roles and responsibilities of the governor.
  • PBS News Hour - Student Reporting Labs; (ELA/Social Studies, K-12) from “The Art of Asking Questions” to “Finding Story Ideas”, these resources cover the basics of community journalism.
  • Scholastic - How to Conduct a Journalistic Interview: One of the hardest skills for a young reporter to master is interviewing. It takes preparation and persistence to conduct a good interview. Follow these steps and learn how to interview like a pro.
  • Edutopia – How to Help Students Develop Interviewing Skills: Tips for teaching students to conduct great interviews, from the Center for Urban Pedagogy's investigation curriculum.

Supplemental Vermont Resources

  • Seven Days - Meet the 14-Year-Old Running for Vermont Governor- Vermont is one of seven states that does not have an age requirement to run for governor.
  • Vermont History Explorer - The Green Mountaineer- Government- Students can learn about Vermont government, including  where decisions were made before the capital was in Montpelier, and what happened at the first  Town Meetings.
  • Digital Vermont - Governor Collection-Photographs and/or portraits of all Vermont Governor’s.
  • Vermont Secretary of State - Vetoes-Information regarding the governor’s use of the veto from 1839-present.
  • Vermont Secretary of State - Inaugurals and Farewells-“ Inaugurals were used to promote a governor’s agenda, farewell addresses allowed for more reflection, weighing the expectations of inaugurals against the experience of governing”.
  • List of Vermont Governors - A list of all Vermont Governors who have left office and all official correspondence.

May 29, 2020, Broadcast: Words

With linguist and Lexicon Valley podcast host John McWhorter. He’ll be answering your questions about the origins of words and languages.

See: Lexicon Supplemental Resources compiled by the Agency of Education.

May 22, 2020, Broadcast: Space Exploration

With Jim Green, NASA's Chief Scientist.

CSA YouTube Channel (science; K-12). Educational videos for all age groups about the ISS, astronauts, and other space-related material from the Canadian Space Agency. 

NASA YouTube Channel (science; K-12). Educational videos for all age groups on various NASA-related material.

Tools for Zero Gravity: Unit with resources PDF (media arts, science, ELA; grade 5). Cross-curricular unit for which students explore and develop tools and strategies to help astronauts manage day-to-day life in space.

NASA.gov: 5 Fun Things to do without Gravity (science; grades K-5). A brief page with gifs and explanations of different things that astronauts can do without gravity.

TeachEngineering: My Moon Colony (science, engineering; grades 7-9). A hands-on activity about designing your own moon colony.

PBLWorks: Journey to the Red Planet (science, ELA; grades 3-5). A PBL unit in which students apply their knowledge of space exploration to solve issues surrounding a journey to Mars.

Space Colony Design Planner PDF (visual arts, science connection; grade 4). A plan sheet with discussion questions to support students in creating a 2D drawing of a design for a colony on another planet.

NASA.gov: STEM at Home for K-4 Students (STEM; K-4). NASA’s STEM Engagement site containing an assortment of activities for K-4 students.

NASA.gov: STEM at Home for 5-8 Students (STEM; 5-8). NASA’s STEM

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Teach (K-12) Science, technology, engineering and math resources, workshops and activities.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Educator Resources (STEM; K-12) Interactive activities and archived lectures (pioneers in flights, historians, scientists).

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access: How Things Fly (STEM; 4-8) Introduce students to four elements of flight through experiments.

Scholastic: Meet Mae Jemison (Language Arts; Grades 3-8); Students improve content reading skills and vocabulary as they learn about the first black female astronaut.

Mystery Science There is going to be a special live science show done by Mystery Doug on Thursday, May 21st at 1p.m. Doug is excited to answer kids’ questions with the help of astronaut Jessica Meir, who filmed videos for us while she was in space!

May 15, 2020 Broadcast: Poetry

With Poetry Guy Ted Scheu and special call-outs to other poets.

May 8, 2020, Broadcast: Bats and Beavers

With Barry Genzlinger of the Vermont Bat Center and Kim Royar of Vermont Fish and WildlifeListen to the episode on VPR.org.

Supplemental Resources: Bats

  • National Geographic Kids: 5 Reasons Why Bats Are the Best (science; grades) This article contains facts about bats.
  • National Geographic Kids: Bat Myths Busted! (science). This article disproves popular myths about bats
  • Scholastic: Into the Bat Cave: 7 Science Activities (science). This resource contains facts about bats as well as learning activities.
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife: Keep Texas Wild (science). This resource includes the PDF, Hanging Around with Bats, as well as discussion questions and activities.
  • PBS Learning Media: Wild Kratts Video Clips (science; grades 1-5). This collection contains informational video clips, support materials, and linked standards.
  • Storytime Readalouds: Bats (literacy; grades 1-4). This YouTube video is a readaloud of an informational text about bats.
  • Storyline Online: Stellaluna (literacy; PreK-2). In this YouTube video, Pamela Reed reads the famous children’s book, written and illustrated by Janell Cannon.
  • Sesame Street: Batty Bat (music; movement; grades PreK-K). This classic song on YouTube by Sesame Street’s Count Von Count, leads younger children in a waltz counting bats.
  • PBS Learning Media: Bat Mobile (fine motor; grades PreK-K). This printable mobile craft features Sesame Street character, Count Von Count, and his Muppet bats. Younger students can practice grasp and fine motor skills by using crayons and scissors.

Download this resource list.

Supplemental Resources: Beavers

  • PBS Learning Media: Beavers (science). This video about beavers is accompanied by support materials and standards alignment.
  • National Geographic Kids: Slideshow (science). This slideshow contains images and facts about beavers.
  • PBS Learning Media: Build a Dam like a Beaver (engineering, design; K-2). This video and supporting material discuss and explore strategies to stop and divert water flow using basic materials.
  • Teach Engineering: Engineering for the Three Little Pigs (engineering, design; grades 2-3). This video guides students through testing the strength of different building materials.
  • Art extension: Artist Discussion Questions & Extension Activity (visual arts; grades 4-6). This is a PDF with discussion questions on the work of Patrick Dougherty & Andy Goldsworthy and a general art-making activity.
  • Stickwork.net: Patrick Dougherty (visual arts; grades 4-6). This is the site of a contemporary artist who uses natural materials to construct site-specific artworks. This video shows a time lapse of his work.
  • Living your Wild Creativity: Andy Goldsworthy (visual arts; grades 4-6). This is an online gallery of work by environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  • Little Readers Read Aloud: Boris Beaver (literacy; PreK-1). This YouTube video is a read aloud of the children’s book written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister.
  • Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences (VINS) Building a Beaver Dam (engineering, literacy; grades PreK-5). In this hands-on activity, students build and test their dams. Prompts are available for students to respond and reflect verbally or through writing or drawing.

Download this resource list.

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