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Tools of the Trade

Listen Up!

Podcasts are exploding in popularity, with more than 750,000 — and counting — to choose from. Plenty are immersive, engaging and tailored for younger listeners. And nearly all of them are free, making them a great tool to bring into the classroom.

By Caeli Mazara

  1. Stuff You Should Know free!

    This award-winning podcast from the makers of How Stuff Works covers a plethora of topics, from the light and fluffy (“Mermaids: Not a real thing”) to the more serious (“How Panic Attacks Work”). Your students will enjoy the conversational approach to some of the biggest issues of our time.

    Grades: 9 to 12

  2. The Adaptors free!

    How will humans adapt to life on a warming planet? The podcast looks at solutions that may be around the corner. Some are unexpected: cat eyes on humans, for example. Or a Lego car that runs on compressed air. Hopeful and practical, the podcast aims to empower and spark creativity.

    Grades: 6 to 12

  3. Smash Boom Best free!

    This debate show takes two topics, sets them up head to head and asks, “Which is best?” Whether it’s unicorns vs. dragons, lava vs. quicksand, or libraries vs. museums, your students will be laughing out loud, absorbing plenty of facts, and learning how to back up their own ideas along the way.

    Grades: 3 to 8

  4. Origin Stories free!

    Produced by The Leakey Foundation, this longer form podcast looks at human evolution, from our quirks (“Why Do We Laugh?”) to our shared history with other life on Earth. Other episodes zoom in on some of the biggest players in anthropology, including Margaret Mead and Dian Fossey.

    Grades: 9 to 12

  5. Tai Asks Why and The Secret Life of Canada free!

    Ponder big questions like Should we trust our gut? (Tai). Or take an immersive dive into the history of marginalized Canadians (Secret Life). These CBC podcasts are now classroom ready, with lesson plans, activities and homework.

    Grades: 6 to 8 (Tai Asks Why), 10 to 12 (Secret Life of Canada)

  6. Becoming Mother Nature free!

    Twelve-year-old Chloe learns she is Mother Nature’s heir, and must prepare for the awesome responsibility ahead. Peppered with lessons about global warming, extreme weather and environmental activism, this 10-episode serial podcast is also full of mystery, adventure and intriguing characters.

    Grades: 3 to 7

  7. Entre [French-language podcast]free!

    This podcast out of France is narrated by a fictionalized 11-year-old girl who speaks candidly as a young person in a confusing world. Justine’s relatable stories about middle school friendships, dreams for her future, and questions about who she is will spark conversations about identity and more.

    Grades: 4 to 6

  8. Oli [French-language podcast] free!

    A wolf who will only eat vegetables, an elf who turns a boy invisible, and a young girl trying to figure out how the stars got stuck up in the sky. This series of short stories, written and brought to life by French authors, will capture students’ imaginations and maybe inspire young storytellers, too.

    Grades: K to 2