Show cover of But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

But Why is a show led by kids. They ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there. On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world. Know a kid with a question? Record it with a smartphone. Be sure to include your kid's first name, age, and town and send the recording to!


Who invented emoji?
Emoji are those little images you can send in text messages to friends and family. Nine-year-old Leila in New Jersey wants to know how they were invented. So in this episode we find out with Jane Solomon, editor at Emojipedia and Paul Galloway of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. We learn what the first emoji looked like, way back in the dark ages of the 1990s and we explore how emoji may be a new trend, but communicating through pictures is a very old tradition. Plus, are emoji…art? Give this episode a 👂to find out! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript
21:12 11/18/2022
How did dinosaurs leave tracks?
But Why has answers to your dinosaur questions! When did the dinosaurs live? How many species of dinosaurs were alive in the Cretaceous period? How do dinosaurs get their names (and why are they hard to say)? Why are dinosaurs extinct? We visit Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas to see some actual dinosaur evidence: tracks left by two types of dinosaur 113 million years ago. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas has several sites where dinosaur footprints have been well-preserved. Though some of the tracks were actually chiseled out and sold before the park got state recognition and protection. In the summer of 2022, drought in this part of Texas caused riverbeds to dry out, revealing new tracks that hadn’t been seen before. These discoveries made news around the world! The rock in the area is limestone. And the tracks are largely in what are now riverbeds. But In the time of the dinosaurs, 113 million years ago, the landscape looked very different. The sea covered much of the land, and the spots where the tracks are were the seashore, full of sticky wet mud. The dinosaurs walked through the mud and left footprints, which were then covered over by silt and other sediment. As the mud got compressed and eventually turned into limestone, the tracks were preserved. The landscape changed over the millennia. As the sea receded and rivers curved through the landscape, the flowing water eroded the limestone, eventually revealing these tracks that had been covered for millions of years. Some of the tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park are about the size of a large dinner plate look like classic dinosaur prints, with three long toes and claw marks. Those are from a dinosaur called Acrocanthosaurus. Acrocanthosaurus was shaped like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It walked on two legs and had a large ridge down its back. It was a carnivore and likely the apex predator in its North American environment. The other dinosaur whose tracks have been found at this state park is Sauroposeidon. These tracks are much bigger and rounder, more like an elephant track. They’re so big a kid could sit inside one as if it was a bathtub! Sauroposeidon was a huge dinosaur. It walked on all fours and had a long tail and a very long neck. It weighed as much as 44 tons and was as tall as a 6-story building. In fact, it may have been the tallest animal that has ever lived! Sauroposeidon was an herbivore, and may even have been hunted by Acrocanthosaurus. The two dinosaurs lived at the same time and made the visible tracks at the park within hours or days of each other. The biggest dinosaurs lived in the Cretaceous period,145 million to 65 million years ago. It’s estimated there were as many as a thousand different dinosaur species in that time period, but only a few hundred have so far been named. Most paleontologists believe most dinosaurs died out more than 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit planet Earth.The asteroid itself didn’t kill all the dinosaurs all at once, though it was big enough to cause a lot of devastation. It also kicked up a huge cloud of dust and debris that essentially blocked sunlight from reaching the earth. This caused plants to die. Without plants, large herbivores didn’t have enough to eat. When the herbivores died, the carnivores had nothing to eat and they died, too. If you want to see the dinosaur tracks, check out our videos on YouTube.
30:43 11/04/2022
How is cheese made?
Kids love cheese! (So do adults: Americans consume an average of 40 pounds of cheese per person per year.) In this episode we learn how cheese is made and answer all of your cheesy questions: Why are there different types of cheese? Why do cheeses have different flavors? How do you make Colby Jack cheese? How does cheese get its color? And why do we say cheese when we take a picture? We visit the Cabot Cheese factory and talk with Maegen Olsen and Panos Lekkas. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Cheese starts with milk. Cheese is often made with milk from cows or goats, but it can also be made with milk from sheep, buffalo, camels or other mammals. (There’s even a moose-cheese company in Russia!) If the cheese is made in bulk to sell to lots of people, companies will usually run tests on the milk before they turn it into cheese. They want to make sure it doesn’t have bad bacteria or antibiotics in it. The milk is then pasteurized, which means it’s heated quickly and cooled quickly to kill any lurking bad bacteria. Next cheesemakers will add a starter culture. Starter culture is GOOD bacteria, which will eat the milk sugar (lactose), create lactic acid and drive down the pH of the milk. That helps create curds. The next step is coagulation! (Coagulation is the process of turning a liquid into a semi-solid or solid.) To coagulate the milk, an enzyme called rennet is added. Now it’s time to separate the curds from the whey. Cheesemakers will use knives to cut the coagulated milk into chunks known as curds, leaving some liquid behind. That liquid is known as whey. When milk is made into cheddar it gives a 10% yield, meaning 10% of the milk will become cheese and 90% will be left over as whey. Some cheesemakers, like Cabot, use the whey to make protein powders. In other factories it might go to waste. Next, it’s time to add salt. Salt serves as a preservative and gives the cheese flavor. If it’s a flavored cheese, things like garlic or peppers will be added at this point. The cheese is then pressed into blocks. At factories like Cabot, they pull the curds into tall towers and then add more and more, creating pressure that forms those curds into solid blocks. Smaller cheesemakers use a cheese press. In the final step, the cheese is aged. It will sit in a cold storage or cheese cave and just…get older. Cheddar can be aged for years, giving it a stronger flavor. Aging also changes the texture of a cheese like cheddar. It can get more crumbly the older it gets. Once it’s ready, it will be cut, packaged and shipped to stores.
22:31 10/21/2022
How do bees make honey and why do they sting?
Why do bees pollinate? How do they make honey? Why do bees have stingers? Why do (some) bees die when they sting you? What's the difference between a bee and a wasp? Does honey have healing properties? Farmer and beekeeper John Hayden answers all of your bee questions! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides | Transcript | Coloring Page Bees collect nectar from flowers. Nectar is the sweet liquid that entices the bees to the flower. The bees climb onto or into the flower and suck up the nectar with their straw-like mouth and collect it in a little sac called a crop. They also collect pollen on their legs. As they move from flower to flower, they leave a little bit of that pollen on each new flower they visit. That's called pollination and it’s how flowers reproduce. Bees take the pollen and nectar back to their hives and put it into the honeycomb (six-sided cells they have built out with wax). Pollen is like protein, one of the building blocks of animal bodies, and bees use that to feed their young mostly. To turn nectar into honey, bees spit it up into other bees’ mouths and eventually they spit the liquid into the honeycomb cells. Then they fan it with their wings to evaporate some of the moisture. Once it has reached the right consistency, they seal it off with wax to store it for later. So honey is just concentrated nectar. Bees keep the honey in storage for the winter months when there are no flowers. But they make more than they need, so beekeepers take the extra honey out of the hive and leave the bees enough to survive through the winter. Bees sting to protect their hive and defend their honey from potential predators. But honeybees don’t sting unless they have to, because after they sting, their stinger gets pulled out of their body and they die! Honeybees die when they sting because their stinger has a barb on it, like a fish hook. The stinger gets hooked into your skin and then when the bee tries to fly away the hook stays in and pulls out the bee's abdomen as it flies away. Honeybees are social insects who depend on their colony to survive. So they are willing to sacrifice themselves to make sure the whole colony can survive. Honeybees are far from the only pollinator. Bees are very important to our ecosystem and there are more than 4000 species in the US alone. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats also play important pollinator roles. Resources How do big plants grow from small seeds? How are babies made?  Honeybee music video
31:12 10/07/2022
Why do sharks have so many teeth?
Why do sharks have multiple sets of teeth? Why do sharks lose so many teeth? Do sharks eat fish? How do sharks breathe underwater? Do sharks sleep? Give a listen to this totally jaw-some conversation about sharks with Dr. Kady Lyons, shark researcher at the Georgia Aquarium! We also tackle: Why are dinosaurs extinct and sharks are not? Were megalodons the biggest sharks in the world? Do sharks have noses? How do sharks communicate? Why do sharks bite? Why are sharks dangerous? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Sharks are a type of fish. They’ve been around for millions of years and their body plan hasn’t changed much in that time! Sharks’ skeletons are made of cartilage. They don’t have any calcified bones - so the only part of a shark that gets left behind in fossil records is their teeth!  Megalodons were the biggest shark, but they are extinct (despite sensational TV shows that claim otherwise). The latest research suggests megalodons were bigger than modern day humpback whales! Sharks and other fish breathe by extracting oxygen from water by the use of their gills. Gills are made of very thin tissue. The blood inside the tissue picks up oxygen from the water and brings it into the organs in the fish’s body.  Sharks evolved to have sharp teeth to grab slippery fish and other prey. If they break a tooth, they can regrow a new one, and they just drop the old one. Easily replacing a tooth that breaks off is a strategy that allows them to keep hunting. Their teeth grow continually through a shark’s life, moving forward in their mouth kind of like on a conveyor belt, maturing as they go. So when a tooth falls out a new one moves forward. Some sharks lose whole rows of teeth, like dentures, all at the same time. All sharks are carnivores, eating fish, seals, and sometimes other sharks. Some species, like whale sharks, filter feed, mostly on zooplankton but sometimes phytoplankton (sea plants) as well. Sharks have been known to attack humans, but humans actually aren’t great prey for them because we lack a thick layer of blubber or other energy the sharks are on the hunt for. Usually sharks attack when they mistake a human for something else, like a seal.  Sharks go through periods of sleep or rest, reducing brain activity.  Sharks have a fantastic sense of smell. It helps them find their prey. 
28:16 09/23/2022
How do popcorn kernels pop?
How do popcorn kernels pop? How do salmon know where to return to spawn? How do rabbits change colors? Why does television fry your brain? How do zippers zip stuff? Who was the fastest runner in the world? In this episode, we'll tackle all of these questions! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Inside the husk is a tiny little droplet of water surrounded by something called the endosperm. The endosperm is what you're actually eating when you eat popcorn. When you heat up popcorn, the tiny droplet of water gets hot and turns into steam. That steam pushes through the endosperm and turns it kind of soft and that endosperm builds up pressure and explodes through the husk. When it explodes, that soft gelatinous endosperm hits cooler air and it hardens up in whatever shape it has exploded into. So that's why popcorn has all those funny shapes and feels kind of like foam. Salmon are born in freshwater, but then spend their lives in saltwater. They return to the freshwater to spawn (lay and fertilize eggs) and die. Some salmon return to any body of freshwater to spawn, but some salmon have special ways of finding their way back to the place they were born. They use a kind of internal compass to head back to the spot. Other fish rely on their sense of smell to find their way back to fresh water.  Animals that turn white in winter use the length of day as their cue to stop producing pigment in their fur. Their bodies can sense the hours of daylight, and when the daylight starts getting shorter, their hormones will tell the cells to stop producing melatonin.  Hormones tell the cells what to do to shut off the production of pigment in the fall and to turn it on again in the spring. It's not because the days and the nights get colder or warmer.  The fastest runner in the world is Usain Bolt. He's the fastest man who's ever been timed. He's a Jamaican sprinter, and he holds the world record for both the 100 and the 200 meter sprints. He has nine gold medals at the Olympics and 11 world championships. His record for the 100 meter sprint is 9.58 seconds. That is super fast. That's more than 23 miles an hour. Want to pop your own popcorn from kernels? Find a big pan with a tight-lid. Pour two tablespoons of cooking oil in the pan. Then add a half a cup of popping corn. Cover the pan and turn the heat to high. In a few minutes the popcorn will start to pop. Turn off the heat. Open the lid when the popcorn stops popping. Enjoy! How a zipper works Sounds Wild
25:29 09/09/2022
How do snakes slither?
Field trip time! Today we’re learning all about snakes while out on a search for timber rattlesnakes in New York with state wildlife biologist Lisa Pipino. Some of the questions we tackle: How do some snakes make venom? Why are some snakes venomous and others are not? Why do rattlesnakes have a rattle? How do snakes slither on the ground without legs? Why don’t snakes have legs? Why don’t snakes have ears? How do they smell with their tongues? Why do some snakes use heat vision? Do snakes sleep? Why do snakes stick out their tongues so much? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Snakes are ectothermic - meaning they are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Snakes like to bask on warm rocks to stay warm. A rattlesnake’s first rattle segment is called a button. They shed their skin once or twice per year and each time they do, they get a new rattle segment. Rattle segments sit on top of each other, and when rattlesnakes shake their tail, the segments rattle. This noise is a warning to predators to stay away. Some snakes lay eggs. Others develop eggs that grow and hatch inside their body, meaning the snakes give birth to live young. Rattlesnakes give birth to live young but only stay with their babies for about a week. Those babies follow their mother’s scent trail back to the den for winter. Some snakes are venomous, but not poisonous. What’s the difference?! Venom is delivered through a bite or a stinger, while poison is usually inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Snake venom is a lot like saliva, except it’s toxic. Snakes create it using a special gland. They then use their venom to immobilize or kill their prey before they eat it. They sometimes use their venomous bite as a defense as well. Snakes do have nostrils and can smell through their nose a little bit. But they mostly use their tongues to smell and sense their environment. They stick out their tongues to pick up scents. And then they rub their tongues on a special organ at the top of their mouths, which sends a message about the scent to their brains. Timber rattlesnakes live in the Eastern US and are different from some of the other well-known rattlesnakes in the Western US. In much of the northeastern states they’re considered threatened or endangered. People shouldn’t try to look for these snakes because of the possibility of disturbing the snakes or their habitats.
33:53 08/26/2022
Why do we feel pain?
Why do we feel pain when we get hurt? What is pain? Why do we cry when we get hurt? Why do we say ow or ouch? We’re learning about how pain works with Joshua Pate. He’s a physical therapist and author of a forthcoming children’s book series about pain. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Pain happens when your body sends signals to your brain that something is wrong. And your brain sends signals to your body to feel pain! Pain is protective–it lets us know to stop doing something that is damaging or might damage our bodies. And it lets us know that something is wrong and we might need to get help from an adult or a medical provider. When you get hurt, like scraping your knee for example, the nerve cells in the knee send a message to the brain. Your eyes might see the scraped knee and send another message to your brain. Then your brain has to decide how much danger your knee is in. Pain is messaging that lets your brain know that something is not well. If you didn’t have that pain, you might keep scraping your knee over and over. Pain is biopsychosocial, meaning biology, psychology and social or environmental factors all play a role in what pain feels like for individual people. A lot of things can turn the feeling of pain up or down. Distraction, like listening to music or watching a video can help turn pain down. Staring at the source of pain can make it hurt more. Outside factors can also impact pain. In a study from several years ago, people were asked to hold a freezing cold rod. Scientists changed the colored lights in the room. When the lights were blue people felt less pain from the rod than when the lights were red. Normally, pain will recede when an injury heals. But not for everyone. Sometimes people suffer from chronic pain after an injury. We cry when we’re in pain as a way of letting others know that something is wrong. We also learn to use the words ow or ouch. Other languages have different words for pain.
22:45 08/12/2022
Why do we have friends?
Why do friends care about each other? How do you make friends? Can you have more than one best friend? How do you deal with a bully? We answer questions about friends and bullies with Dr. Friendtastic (also known as Eileen Kennedy-Moore), a psychologist and author of Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends. And we get lots of advice from kids themselves about how to make friends and deal with bullies.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Friendship is often about action. It's about what we do together, how we treat each other. The key to friendship is kindness.  Best friends are nice, but the word “best” can make it feel like a contest. Most people have different friends and for different situations. So it’s okay to have several close friends instead of needing to identify just one best friend. Some people have lots of friends, but other people may just have a few close friends. People with more friends tend to put more effort into having more friends. It’s okay to have a lot of friends or just a few!  To make friends, you have to show an openness to friendship. That can be as easy as smiling or saying hi. It’s also important to be kind to potential friends. And it also helps to identify people who have similar interests to you. Then, invite them to do something. Kids make friends by doing fun things with other kids. Don’t wait until you feel close to someone to invite them to do something; you become close by doing shared activities. Shy people might be unintentionally sending the message to potential friends that they don’t like them. Stop focusing on being uncomfortable and instead look the other kid in the eye (or the forehead if eye contact is hard for you), smile and say hello. Practice it with an adult.  At recess or on the playground, bigger groups of kids will be more open to you joining than groups with just two or three kids.  Research shows that instead of asking if you can play with a big group, hang back and watch for a few minutes to figure out the game the other kids are playing, and then just join in. If you ask “Can I play with you?” you risk interrupting the play.  Bullying is deliberate (intentional) meanness directed at one person where there is an imbalance of power. For example, an older or more popular kid picking on a younger or less popular kid.  It’s important to know the difference between bullying and meanness. Bullying requires adult intervention. If you’re having a problem with a friend that is not bullying, you may still want to talk that through with an adult, but it’s often possible to handle that conflict with your friend on your own. 
44:37 07/29/2022
Why do crickets chirp?
How are crickets so loud? Why do they chirp at night? How are they different from grasshoppers? We’re talking crickets today with Karim Vahed, a cricket and katydid expert and entomologist (bug scientist) at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom. Professor Vahed also takes on some of your pressing insect questions: Do insects have bones? What do baby bugs like to do? Do insects drink water? Why are bugs so important? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript  There are over 9,000 known species of crickets on the planet. These insects are best known for singing and hopping! Insects are divided into different orders depending on what kind they are. Crickets are in the order known as Orthoptera, which contains grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and bush crickets, and katydids. Crickets and grasshoppers are different! For one thing, most grasshoppers make noise by rubbing one of their legs against one of their wings. But most crickets make sound by rubbing their two forewings (their front wings) together. One wing is jagged, like a little row of teeth. And the other wing kind of scrapes up against it, making a sound. The number of teeth on the scraper, the speed of the rubbing and how frequently they make the chirps differ depending on the species. So there are lots of different cricket songs. Try an experiment: Get a comb and run your fingernail across it. See if you can make a sound. If you have more than one comb, or a comb with two differently sized/spaced teeth, see if they make different sounds. Does the size of the fingernail make a difference in the sound? Try giving your comb to an adult and find out! In most cricket species, the males chirp to attract a female. And they mostly sing at night to help avoid predators.  But Karim Vahed says some studies have shown that predators like domestic house cats follow the chirps of the crickets to find and eat them! Imagine a cricket the size of a hamster! A cricket so big it would cover the palm of your hand if you were holding it. The giant wētā [say it: WEH-tah] is that insect!  There are several species of giant wētās. They all live in New Zealand and most of them are protected because they’re quite rare. Insects are the most diverse group of animals on the planet. There are more than a million known species (about 80% of all known animals). But scientists estimate anywhere from 10 million to 80 million insect species have yet to be discovered!
26:43 07/15/2022
Who doesn’t love ice cream?
That’s just one of the questions we answer in this week’s episode, which also includes instructions on how to easily make your own ice cream at home! We’ll also tackle the why and how of melting ice cream and why some flavors tend to melt faster than others! Our expert in this episode is ice cream entrepreneur Rabia Kamara, of Ruby Scoops in Richmond, Virginia. It's going to be sweet! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide  | Transcript After listening, if you're ready to try making ice cream at home, here's Rabia's easy recipe. INGREDIENTS: 2 cups of heavy cream 1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk Optional additional flavorings: a splash of vanilla pinch of salt And whatever else you might want to add! (Chocolate chips, cookie crumbles, etc.) INSTRUCTIONS: Use a hand mixer to beat the heavy cream until it is the consistency of whipped cream, with peaks that hold their shape. Fold any additional ingredients into the sweetened condensed milk and add the mixture to the heavy cream and fold them together using a spoon. Put into a freezer safe container. Let freeze for about 8 hours. Enjoy!
26:26 07/01/2022
Do you have to be tall to play basketball? Questions for the Washington Mystics
The Washington Mystics of the WNBA join us in this episode to answer all of your questions about the sport of basketball and what it’s like to be a professional athlete. How many basketballs does the team have? Why do balls spin when you bounce them? Who invented basketball? Why are basketballs orange with black lines? Why do men and women play on separate teams? How do injuries impact professional careers? And do you have to be tall to play hoops? Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Resources Basketball Games for Kids Learn More About the WNBA
27:27 06/17/2022
Why are pandas black and white?
For the past 50 years, visitors to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. have been able to observe giant pandas. It’s one of the few places in the United States to see these black and white bears. For our latest episode we took a field trip to the zoo to visit the three pandas currently living there and answer panda questions with zookeeper Mariel Lally. We tackle: Why do animals live in the zoo? Why are pandas black and white? Do pandas hibernate? How can we save the pandas? And check out our social media pages for lots of pictures! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Three pandas live at the National Zoo: adults Tian Tian and Mei Xiang and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji.  Zookeepers are never in the same space as the pandas. Even though they are herbivores, pandas are still wild animals with sharp claws and big teeth, so it’s important for people to stay safe. Researchers at the National Zoo have worked with colleagues in China on a breeding program for both captive and wild pandas. That research has helped pandas go from endangered to vulnerable. They’re still at risk of extinction, but doing better than they were just a few decades ago. Pandas eat 100 pounds of bamboo per day! The National Zoo cuts bamboo from sites around the D.C. area, including at some local private homes. Researchers aren’t sure why pandas are black and white, but the leading theory is that the white color provides camouflage in their snowy natural habitat and the black fur helps them blend in when they hide in shady bamboo forests. Panda cubs do have predators in the wild. Pandas do not hibernate, but they spend their time eating or sleeping. They have a period of deep sleep, similar to the torpor of reptiles. Keepers say they try not to wake sleeping pandas because they get very grumpy! (So the saying, “Never wake a sleeping bear” is especially true for pandas.) Zoo pandas get daily training to make their care easier. For example, they learn their names and they are taught to open their mouths and show a paw so they can more easily receive medical care. Zoos used to display animals primarily for human enjoyment. Now, most zoos focus on species conservation, research and educating the public about animal species.  Resources National Zoo’s Panadriffic Pack (games and coloring pages) Panda Cam
25:12 06/03/2022
Special Episode: How do you talk to kids about violence in the news?
When there's mass violence in the news, especially when it involves children, it can be really hard to know how to speak to your kids about what is going on. In this special episode FOR ADULTS, we talk with a child psychologist about some recommended ways to approach these conversations. We first released this episode in 2016, and are heartbroken and angry that it remains so relevant.  Dr. Robin Gurwitch is a child psychologist at the Duke University Medical Center, and she has served on numerous commissions and committees about children and trauma, including the National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters. Though this episode is for adults, we know children sometimes listen to episodes without adults around, so the information in this episode is intended to be non-traumatizing for children to hear. (Transcript) Here are additional links for more information: [American Psychological Association](about:blank) The National Child Traumatic Stress Network The Family Acceptance Project
16:30 05/25/2022
What is climate change?
What is climate change? What is causing climate change? How do you cool down the earth? How is climate change affecting the oceans? Kids are hearing about climate change and they have lots of questions. In this episode we explain the science of climate change and look at how humans will adapt to a rapidly warming planet. We speak with Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson, oceanographer at the University of South Carolina and Dr. Jola Ajibade, a geographer at Portland State University. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive look at the issue, but it’s a good way to start a conversation about this issue for families and teachers. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Climate is the long-term trend of temperatures and weather. You can think of the difference between climate and weather like a dog walking down a sidewalk: The dog might go from side to side of the sidewalk - that’s kind of like the weather - it varies. But the general direction of the dog is forward - that’s the climate. Since the 1800s we’ve had a lot of changes in technology that mean humans are burning a lot of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, to power engines, run our cars, heat our homes and create electricity. That puts a lot of greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The atmosphere is like a blanket around the earth. The increase in greenhouse gasses means that the blanket is getting thicker, making the earth warmer. Think of the earth like a human body: when a fever increases our body temperature by a few degrees, it can make you feel really sick (sometimes really hot, but other times with cold shivers). It’s the same thing for the earth! Even one or two degrees difference in average global temperature can make a big difference, including changing the amount of rainfall that a region gets or the overall temperature of the ocean, throwing our systems out of balance. Climate change can increase sea levels. As polar ice caps melt because of increasing temperature, the water levels rise, which can cause higher tides and more flooding. A good experiment you can do to visualize this is to grab a mixing bowl and turn a smaller bowl upside down inside of it (like an island). Pour some water and several ice cubes into the big bowl and see how high the water goes up the side of the smaller bowl. (You might need to weigh the smaller bowl down so it doesn’t float up.) As the ice melts, observe how the water level rises up the sides of the small bowl. Increased water temperatures are bad for coral reefs and other ocean animals. The best way to stop climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels. People will respond to climate change through coping mechanisms, including migration and relocation. The people most affected by climate change are the people least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re concerned about global warming, find ways to consume fewer resources and to burn fewer fossil fuels. And lobby your government officials to make policies that benefit the environment and those most vulnerable to climate change. Resources NASA’s Climate Kids NASA’s Kids’ Guide to Climate Change National Geographic Kids Climate Change Explainer Take Action: Young Voices for the Planet Science Moms
26:15 05/20/2022
Why do flowers bloom?
Why do flowers bloom? How do flowers grow? Why are flowers different colors? Why do people find flowers beautiful? How are seeds made? Why do plants grow from seeds? Why do we put seeds in the garden? We’re answering your questions about seeds and flowers with garden writer Charlie Nardozzi and Hannes Dempewolf from The Crop Trust. Find more answers to plant questions in two of our older episodes: How Do Big Plants Grow From Such Small Seeds? and Are Seeds Alive?  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript New seeds are made through pollination, plant reproduction. Pollen makes its way to the ovary of a flower in various ways. Sometimes it is spread from one flower to another by a pollinator, like a bee or hummingbird. Some flowers are called “perfect”, meaning they can reproduce with their own pollen–not the pollen from another plant. But they still need a way for their own pollen to drop onto their egg. A gentle gust of wind, or the jostling of the plant by a gardener's hand can do the trick.  The flower will create the seed and then the flower structure will fade, leaving behind a seed. Sometimes it’s in a pod, sometimes it’s in a fruit or other structure to protect it.  Seeds are alive, but dormant. They contain all the nutrients needed to make a new plant. That seed will wait for the right conditions to germinate and create a new plant. Some seeds only need a little moisture to germinate, others need to be submerged in water. There are many different kinds of seeds and they have different necessary conditions. Flowers can be many different colors. They use those colors to attract pollinators. Those colors are created by pigments, natural colorings, in the plants. Some plants only flower once per year, others can bloom multiple times. Some plants flower in spring, others in summer, and some in fall. There is a lot of diversity in plants and the way they reproduce. That benefits all of us because if some plants aren’t thriving in certain conditions, other plants may do better.  Resources Seed sprouting experiment Window gardening for kids Webinar: Gardening with Kids
21:28 05/06/2022
Why are some people left-handed?
Why are some people right-handed and some are left-handed? And what’s up with some people being ambidextrous (equally good with both hands)? Why, in the past, did some people try to make left-handed people use their right hands? We talk with Chris McManus, professor and author of the book Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms, and Cultures. We’ll even find out how common left-handedness (or left-pawedness) is in other animals! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Why do we prefer one hand over the other? McManus says it probably pays to specialize. It’s better to do something with one hand over and over and get really good at it, as opposed to doing it sometimes with one hand and sometimes with the other. For example, it takes years to develop your handwriting, so it would take twice as long to develop good handwriting with both hands! How do we pick which hand? We chose the hand that feels more normal to us, and then we practice with that hand. Try a simple experiment: bring your hands together quickly and entwine your fingers like you’re holding hands with yourself. Which thumb do you have on top? Now switch which thumb is on top. It probably feels a bit wrong. 90 percent of people use their right hand more. Our brain is asymmetrical (different on the right and left sides), and most of us use the left half of our brain to talk. Our heart is also on the left side of our body for most humans and vertebrates. There must be an advantage to being left-handed or we wouldn’t have left-handed people, but no one is sure exactly what that advantage is. What about people who say they’re ambidextrous? McManus believes there’s no such thing. He says people who say they’re ambidextrous are generally good at different things with each hand, but aren’t actually equally good at everything with both hands. McManus calls these people mixed-handers. Many animals also have handedness. But while right-handedness is dominant i people, animals tend to split down the middle. (So, for example, half of cats are right-handed, half are left-handed. Same goes for dogs and mice etc. in the 19th century, when people wrote with pens dipped in inkwells, writing with your left hand was messy business, as left hands would smear ink across the page. But as people have shifted to mostly typing, the hand you write with matters less. For every five left-handed boys, there are only four left-handed girls, and scientists have no idea why.
27:40 04/22/2022
Why do pigs oink?
Why do pigs snort? And why do we call their snorts “oink” in English? We’re taking our exploration of animal noises in two directions today. First we’ll learn about why we use different words to describe animal noises, depending on what language we’re speaking. And then we’ll examine what animals are actually saying when they oink or tweet or moo! Our guests are linguist and author Arika Okrent and bioacoustic researcher Elodie Briefer, of the University of Copenhagen. Other questions we tackle in this episode: Do cows make different amounts of “moos” to say different words? Why do ducks make loud noises? Why do roosters cockadoodle-do in the morning? PLUS, so many kids sent us animal noises in different languages and we’ll hear them all! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Bioacoustics is the study of sounds made in nature. Scientists like Elodie Briefer study how animals make sounds and what information we can find in those sounds. Scientists will record sounds and use computers to measure and analyze what they hear and use observational skills to help determine what the sounds might mean. Animals speak in emotion, not in words. Pigs have contact calls as well as positive and negative calls. Researchers have found that pigs will make longer calls when they are unhappy. Scientists and animal welfare advocates hope to use this information to eventually develop an app that farmers can use to improve animals’ lives on farms. With words like moo, oink and cockadoodle-do, we are giving a name to a sound. But we’re not just trying to mimic the sound. Most of us can make the sound of a pig snort but we need words like oink because we don’t want to stop using our language to make a pig snort in the middle of a conversation. Human voices are capable of millions of sounds but a language only uses a subset of those sounds. Our animal noise words will use the sounds available in our individual languages. Words that sound like the sound they are describing are called onomatopoeia. An animal has to have some cultural importance for a language to create a word for its call. That’s why we don’t have words in English for the noise a camel or a sloth would make. In Turkish there is no word for a pig call because that culture doesn’t keep pigs on farms.
31:26 04/08/2022
How much does the moon weigh?
We’re bringing back an episode from the archives, all about the moon: Why does the moon change shape? How much does it weigh? What color is it? Why does the Earth only have one moon? Why does it have holes? Where does it go when we can't see it? Why do we sometimes see it in the daytime? And why does the moon look like it's following you when you're in the car? Answers to your moon questions with John O'Meara, chief scientist at the W.M. Keck Observatory. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript | Coloring Page We can see the moon during the day for the same reason we see the moon at night. The surface of the moon is reflecting the sun's light into our eyes. But we don't see the moon all the time during the day, and that's because of where the moon might be in the sky. There are times where the moon is on the other side of the earth so we can’t see it. We see the moon in the sky when it’s in the right spot and it’s reflecting enough light to be brighter than the background of the sky. The moon is a satellite. A satellite is something that moves or rotates around a planet, the earth in this case. The moon is 239,000 miles away. That's far, but it's way closer than any of the other stars or planets you can see in the night sky. That's why the moon looks so big compared to other celestial objects even though the stars are actually much bigger. The moon weighs 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. That’s a lot! But it’s such a big number it’s hard to imagine how much that weighs. Instead, think about how much the moon weighs compared to the Earth. It turns out that the moon is about 1% percent the mass of the earth. That’s a lot! When you’re in a car and it feels like the moon is following you, what you’re actually seeing is an optical illusion. The moon is very far away, compared to anything else you see when you're driving — like the telephone poles that appear to fly past your car as you're going down a highway. But the moon is so far away that its size and shape in the sky doesn’t change, so it feels like the moon is following you.
20:10 03/25/2022
Why is Russia invading Ukraine?
The invasion of Ukraine has been the top story in the news for the last few weeks, and kids around the world are asking questions about what is happening and what it means for them. In this episode we ask Erin Hutchinson, Assistant Professor of Russian History at the University of Colorado Boulder, to help us understand the history behind this conflict. Adults: we don’t go into detail about what war looks like on the ground, but we acknowledge war is a scary topic. You may want to preview this episode ahead of time to make sure it's right for your kids. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript We have collected some resources for parents/caregivers about how to talk to kids about war and ways families can help.  How to talk to kids about war Meet the Helpers Common Sense Media News Sources for Kids from Common Sense Media NAMLE Parent’s Guide to Media Literacy Ways To Help Save the Children UNICEF Eurasia Foundation Donations for refugees in Moldova
24:24 03/11/2022
How did people keep food cold in olden times?
Violet, 5, wants to know: what was life like before refrigerators? And Ellinor, 6, asks: how did they make ice in the old times? In this episode, we learn about the history of ice harvesting and the industry that built up around it, where ice cut from lakes in New England was shipped to as far away as India and the Caribbean. We hear more about this history from Gavin Weightman, author of The Frozen Water Trade. And we visit Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in New Hampshire, where ice is still harvested each winter from Squam Lake and used to keep old fashioned ice boxes at the camp cool all summer long. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Before refrigeration, people stored food in a lot of different ways. Food would be smoked, dried, salted, fermented or pickled. It would also be kept in root cellars or pits underground. Wealthy people who lived in cold climates were more likely to have an ice pit or later an ice house where they would keep ice for use in warm months. In the 1800s, a Massachusetts man named Frederic Tudor thought he could get wealthy by shipping ice to warmer climates. After trying and failing many times, he finally succeeded in convincing people that there was a market for ice and wound up shipping ice around the world, as far away as India. The ice was kept cold by insulating it with straw and sawdust and stored in warehouses until it was time to be used. People cut ice from lakes using hand saws. Eventually they started using horse drawn machinery to cut ice, but it was still hard and dangerous work. People in cities also became accustomed to ice as an everyday necessity, and eventually, naturally harvested ice was eventually replaced by ice made in factories. In cities, “ice men” would deliver ice to butchers and fishmongers, and to individual houses, where people would use them in their ice boxes. Ice boxes were wooden or metal chests with a compartment in the top where a block of ice would be placed. Cold air falls and cools the food below it. Ice boxes needed more ice every day or two. The electric refrigerator was invented in the early 1900s and became popular by 1940. Resources Ice Harvesting Video
23:56 02/25/2022
Why is the heart a symbol of love?
Why is the heart a symbol of love? Why do people draw hearts when they love someone? Why do we draw hearts the way we do when they're nothing like the hearts inside of your body? And do we need a heart to love or does the brain do it? We’re learning all about hearts and symbolism with Thomas and Stephen Amidon, authors of The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart.    Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript No one really knows where the heart symbol comes from, but there are theories. One is that the heart shape comes from the shape of the leaves of a now-extinct plant called silphium, which was considered a key component of a love potion in the time of the Romans. Another theory is that St. Valentine used the symbol when arranging secret marriages. Another is that it was simply a guess of what the human heart looked like. Love and other emotions are actually regulated in the brain, not the heart. Specifically, a part of the brain called the amygdala. People might partly associate the heart with strong emotions like love because when we get excited to see someone, our heart sometimes beats faster, and we notice our heartbeat. We aren’t really aware of what’s happening in our brain. The human heart pumps blood to all parts of your body. The heart beats once a second. If you live to the age of 70, your heart will have beat about 2 billion times!   Resources How the heart actually pumps blood - TEDEd Your Hardworking Heart and Spectacular Circulatory System by Paul Mason Heart and Circulatory System Activities
17:48 02/11/2022
How are images chosen for coins?
The U.S. Mint is producing a new series of quarters featuring American women. The first one, featuring poet Maya Angelou, has just been released. We're learning about coins are made and how images are chosen for money around the world. The US has a law preventing any living person from appearing on its money. Kenya has a new rule preventing any individual people on their money at all. Meanwhile, many countries with kings or queens have those leaders on their money while they’re still in power. Questions we tackle in this episode: How are coins made and how do they get their logos? How are presidents chosen for coins? Why does Lincoln have his shoulder in the picture while other presidents don’t? Why are coins different sizes? What are coins made of? We learn more from Rodney Gillis of the American Numismatic Association and Leigh Gordon of the Royal Australian Mint.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Some people like learning about coins so much they collect them! A coin collector is called a numistmatist! Numismatics is the study or collection of coins, paper currency, and medals. The U.S. Mint makes coins for the United States. There are four facilities in the US where our coins are made: San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, and West Point, New York A new image on a coin requires approval from Congress. Australian coins feature kangaroos, koalas and native plants.  U.S. Coins mostly feature former presidents, but some non-presidents have appeared on coins including Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea and Ben Franklin. The reverse side of quarters changes frequently. There are quarters for every state. Over the next four years the U.S. Mint is releasing quarters featuring 20 notable American women. US law says no living person can be pictured on our money. Today, the smallest US coin is a dime. But there used to be something called a trime! It was a tiny 3-cent coin and it was so small and thin that it often got bent in people’s pockets. Resources Coins for A’s U.S. Mint Collector’s Corner How Coins Are Made
26:28 01/28/2022
Why does the wind blow?
What causes wind? How is wind created?  Why does the wind blow in different ways? How does the wind start blowing and what makes it stop? Why is it windy by the ocean? Why does it get windy when the weather is changing? How is it you can you feel and hear the wind but not see it? Why is the wind sometimes strong and sometimes cold? Answers to all of your wind questions with National Weather Service Meteorologist Rebecca Duell. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Wind is just the air around us moving. The atmosphere always wants to be in balance. Some areas of the atmosphere have more air pressure than others. When there’s a pressure imbalance, the higher pressure air moves to fill a vacuum left by lower pressure air. The wind starts blowing when that balance is off  - when one area is heated more than another area. That heat comes from the sun. Warm air will rise and cold air will sink. When one area is heated that warm air will start to rise. Air at the surface will be rushing to fill that area where the air is rising. Wind near the ocean is called a sea breeze. The land is absorbing more heat from the sun than the ocean water absorbs. As the less dense warm air over the land starts to rise and the cooler, the more dense air over the ocean rushes in to fill the space. If there’s enough moisture in the air when it rises, it will cause rains, which is why you often get afternoon rain and thunderstorms in places like Florida. The wind can be hot or cold depending on where that air is coming from. The northern winds will be colder, winds from the south will be warmer. (In the northern hemisphere. It’s opposite in the southern hemisphere.) Related Episodes What’s What With The Weather? How Do Meteorologists Predict the Weather?  Experiment One way to see the wind is to put some steam or smoke into the air. Which way is it blowing? Be sure to have an adult help you! Or you can look at a smokestack or chimney. Which way is the smoke blowing? Are there other ways you can see the wind?
30:21 01/14/2022
What would you invent? Ideas from kids
We asked our listeners: if you could invent anything what would it be? And we got so many fantastic ideas from kids all over the world: a solar cooler, a chimney that changes carbon dioxide to oxygen, a slide that gives you an ice cream cone at the bottom, and more. Some kids would like to invent robots that do their chores, flying cars, teleporting devices to take them back in time, and even a bully behavior zapper.  This episode is all about creativity! But how do you take a great idea and turn it into reality? We’ll get advice from teenage brothers Ayaan and Mika’il Naqvi, who invented, patented and now sell Ornament Anchor after Ayaan came up with the idea in fourth grade.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript What would you invent? Inventors are often driven by a desire to create something that would help solve a problem. Our listeners are interested in ways to tackle climate change, clean up the environment and to make life easier or more fun for all. Once an inventor has an idea, they can get something called a patent. A patent protects the idea and means that no one else can take that concept and start selling a product without permission from the inventor.  Once someone has a patent, there are a lot more steps required to actually start a business. People who start businesses are sometimes called entrepreneurs. They need to find a way to manufacture (make) and sell the product. Some companies will do research to figure out how well a product will sell and who will buy it.   Learning Resources Little Inventors  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Resources for Kids Camp Invention
33:27 12/31/2021
Why do seasons change?
Why do seasons change? Why does it get darker earlier in the winter and why is there more daylight in the summer? Why are some seasons warm and some are cold and icy? Why do some places not have seasonal changes at all? We’re learning about solstices, equinoxes and seasons in this episode of But Why. Our guide is John O’Meara, Chief Scientist at Hawaii’s Keck Observatory. And kids around the world tell us what they like best about their favorite season.  Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript The solstices are on December 21 and 22 and June 20 or 21, those are when the earth is leaning as far away from the sun or as close to the sun as it gets. Whether the solstice is your winter or summer solstice depends on whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. The two equinoxes - when both hemispheres are getting about the same amount of solar energy are on March 21 or 22 or September 22 or 23.  If you want to visualize the solstice, John O’Meara has an experiment. Find a ball and a flashlight. Have someone hold the flashlight; you hold the ball. Spin the ball around and around, the way the earth would rotate in a day. You can even draw a dot on the ball to mark where you are. Now lean the ball a little bit away from the light and keep spinning. Remember the earth is tilted on its axis (23.5 degrees to be exact!). Observe how the light falls differently on the dot. It forces the sunlight to be brighter on some spots and darker in others even during the day because of the way the light falls on the earth.  In some parts of the world there aren’t big seasonal changes. Those places are near the equator. The equator is a line around the middle of the earth, where the sphere is at its fattest or widest. While the poles get more or less light because of the tilt of the earth, the middle stays centered, so people near the equator have about the same length of daylight all year and don’t have as many seasonal shifts in light and temperature. The amount of sunlight in any given location makes a big impact on how cold or hot it is. But there are other factors that determine the climate (long-term weather trends) where you live, too. Differences in the landscape, global wind systems, proximity (how close or far you are) from the ocean, and precipitation patterns also determine what the seasons will feel like where you live. 
31:01 12/17/2021
How are babies made?
How are babies made? We speak with Cory Silverberg, author of What Makes A Baby, for answers to questions about how we all come into the world. This is a conversation that welcomes all kinds of families as we answer questions about why babies don't hatch out of eggs, why boys have nipples, why girls have babies but boys don't and why some people look more like one parent more than the other. Later in the episode we also explore how we get our last names and how two people can have the same last name when they're not related. We made this episode with our youngest listeners in mind, but parents may want to preview this episode on their own or listen with their kids. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript "How are babies made?" - Wade, 7, Charlottesville, Va. In his book What Makes a Baby, Cory Silverberg begins by reminding kids and grownups that there are really two questions: what makes a baby in general, and then the more specific question that is unique to you--where did you come from? That's a question that only your parent or parents or the adults who love you can answer. While there are lots of ways that babies join families, some things are true for all of us. “For all humans to be born we need three things. We need to start with an egg; we need to start with a sperm; and those come from two different bodies. And then we need a third body part which is called a uterus. That's where we grow, where this tiny, tiny thing grows into a baby, which is the thing you are when you are born," Silverberg explains. Book recommendations from Cory Silverberg Books Geared to Kids 4 - 7 (ish) What Makes a Baby By Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth A book about where babies come from that works for every kind of family, regardless of who is in it and how the child came to be. What's the Big Secret: Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys By Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown A simplified and clear introduction to reproduction, genitals, and touch. Leaves out a lot of kids and families, but better than most. Who Are You? The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and Naomi Bardoff Also simplified, but a good introduction on gender identity written and illustrated for younger children. Books Geared to Kids 7 to 10 (ish) The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls By Valorie Schaefer and Josee Masse Only for girls, and not trans inclusive, but still one of the best books to cover a range of sexuality and puberty related topics. It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families By Robie Harris and Michael Emberly Covers reproduction including intercourse gestation and birth, with a focus on heterosexual, gender normative parents and kids. Sex Is a Funny Word By Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth Covers body parts, boundaries, touch, and an extensive gender section for kids and families of all identities and orientations. Stacey's Not a Girl By Colt Keo-Meier, illustrated by Jesse Yang A picture book about a kid who knows they aren't a girl, but isn't sure if they are a boy.
23:17 12/03/2021
Do skyscrapers scrape the sky?
Why is the Burj Khalifa so tall? That’s what 5-year-old Simon wants to know. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and it’s located in Dubai. 6-year-old Isabel, who lives in Dubai, visited the tower and gives us the bird’s eye view in this episode! Plus, Janny Gédéon, architecture educator and founder of ArchForKids answers lots more questions about tall buildings: How are tall buildings built? How do they stay up? Why are so many buildings squares or rectangles? How do they make buildings that are taller than cranes? Resources Architecture workshops and online learning: ArchForKids Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides | Transcript Why is the Burj Khalifa so tall? - Simon, 5, Chicago The Burj Khalifa is 160 stories tall. It measures over 2,716 feet tall – or if you think in metric that’s 828 meters. “If you put 450 grown ups stacked on top of each other, that would be the height of the building,” Janny Gedeon says. Architecture is the science of designing buildings. Architects consider the purpose of the building and what it will be used for and then they design that space. Square and rectangular buildings are less expensive to build, but architects do like to design buildings in interesting shapes. Check out the Lipstick Building in New York or the Gherkin in London, or the Sydney Opera House. Tall buildings are more common in cities because they allow more people to live in a smaller space. They have to build vertically to fit more people in a small area. “The footing, the space that the building takes is not that big, so they have to build up,” Janny says. The footing is like your footprint, the amount of space you take on the ground. Manhattan is built on a very strong rock, so it can support those tall buildings. Buildings stay up in much the same way humans stay up. There are footings--think of them like feet--that go into the ground. Buildings have a skeleton, called a structural frame, kind of like bones in a human. And on the outside, they have a cladding, aluminum or glass or other materials, kind of like our skin. Wind is a big consideration for architects building tall buildings. They design the buildings to sway. If buildings are too brittle they will break, they are designed to sway. Most skyscrapers get narrower toward the top. In earthquake prone areas, buildings sometimes have footings on a track so they can move. Activity Try making the tallest tower you possibly can, just using paper. (Newspaper works great if you have some newsprint lying around. But printer paper or construction paper is fine, too.) You should focus on making it strong and stable. Strong means that it can hold something. Stable means that if it’s pushed to the side it can stay upright. You can use cardboard for the base, but otherwise, see how you can do with just paper. Need a hint? Janny says to think about the ways you’d stay stable when playing sports.
25:33 11/19/2021
How do squirrels climb trees?
Squirrels are everywhere. Three hundred or so species of these often adorable rodents live on every continent except Antarctica. No matter where you live, city or country you’re bound to have squirrels nearby. How much do you know about our bushy-tailed neighbors? How fast do squirrels and chipmunks run? Why do squirrels have big bushy tails? Do squirrels get sick? Why do they like nuts better than berries? How do squirrels eat acorns? How do squirrels sleep? Are squirrels nocturnal?  Answers to your squirrel questions with Ben Dantzer, scientist at University of Michigan. Plus some observational activities you can do to learn more about squirrel behavior! Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides | Transcript Submit your squirrel observations to iNaturalist How do squirrels climb up trees? -Rachel, 5, Alabama Squirrels have long nails and they have five digits (fingers or toes) on their paws just like us.  And squirrels are expert climbers. “Some tree, or arboreal, squirrels are really well adapted to climb up trees whereas ground squirrels also have nails or claws, but they use them primarily for digging and not for climbing,” explains Ben Dantzer. “Tree squirrels have this especially long middle digit that helps them climb up and down trees.” So an extra long middle finger and they can do something else that humans can’t. “The most helpful thing they can do is when they climb down a tree, squirrels can turn their back feet around when they’re climbing down head first. They turn their rear feet entirely around so they can use those claws to hang down from a tree and walk down easily.” What? Tree squirrels can turn their feet all the way around so they’re backwards when the squirrel is climbing down a tree?! Time to go outside and see if you can observe that in the wild!
29:29 11/05/2021
Why is it a shot? Kids’ questions about COVID vaccines
The FDA recently gave emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids age 5 to 11. With all the news and conversation about this development, kids are curious to know more about the Covid vaccine--and vaccines in general! So in this episode we answer questions from kids and parents, including: Why does it have to be a shot? How do vaccines work? How does a vaccine trial work? Should an 11.5yo get the shot as soon as it’s available or wait until age 12 to get the larger dose? We speak with Sofia and Nico Chavez and their parents. The kids took part in the vaccine trial at Stanford University. We’re also joined by Dr. Jenna Bollyky, an investigator in the Stanford trial site, and Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s Health Commissioner. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slides | Transcript Strategies to prepare kids for shots Vaccine Info from the CDC. “Why do they have to use needles for shots?”  - Nina, 6, Maryland “In general, vaccines are a way to train your immune system without having to get sick,’ explains Dr. Bollyky Your immune system is how your body works to fight off sickness from things like viruses. Most vaccines use a small protein from the virus you want to fight, or from a similar virus – and they put that little protein in your body in a very small and weakened or changed amount to help your body learn how to fight the real invader. But giving the vaccine as a drink or a pill wouldn’t work, because of your stomach acid! “Whenever we want to give a protein or something that your body turns into a protein, the acid in the stomach does a really good job of breaking down that protein. So it’s really hard to get a vaccine that comes as a pill,” Bollyky says. “Why can’t we drink medicine to keep us safe from the virus, instead of shots? - Eloise, 5, Texas In order to get that vaccine into your muscle, where it needs to go, a doctor or a nurse uses a thin needle. They do have to poke you, but that doesn’t mean they like it. “If we could give it as a pill we would,” Dr. Bollyky promises! While that poke might hurt, sometimes the anticipation of the shot is worse than the real thing. The reason your arm sometimes aches after getting a shot is that the immune cells are coming to be educated. “The cells around where the medication was delivered, they’re doing their job, they’re taking in the information they need and are starting to train your immune system,” Dr. Bollyky assures us. “So that immune response is exactly what you want to teach your body to fight the infection should you encounter the real virus later.” It’s normal to feel a little tired or run down after some vaccines, including the COVID vaccine. But if you feel very ill, you should contact a doctor or health care provider.
29:03 10/22/2021