Fall into science with a new podcast

Researchers regale kids of all ages with their scientific tales on this radio show

Researchers regale kids of all ages with their scientific tales on this radio show

Researchers regale kids of all ages with their scientific tales on a new podcast where you'll always learn something new. 

The Tumble Podcast

Interested in science? Now you can channel it directly to your ears with a podcast called the Tumble Podcast, a smart series of science stories to pique your curiosity. The scientists you meet here will teach you plenty as they tell you about the research they love.

A podcast is a digital audio or video series. You can download them from the Internet to your computer or smartphone, or listen to it through the website. This means you can enjoy it anywhere and anytime — in the car, on the street or while you mow the lawn.

Podcasts are very popular, and there are many great ones for adults. But Lindsay Patterson noticed that there weren’t many out there for young people. “Even though kids love listening to shows like Radiolab [a very popular science podcast], there are things on there that just aren’t appropriate for kids,” she says. What’s more, scientists can get technical when they talk about things they love. Younger listeners may find many of the terms they use difficult to follow, and ultimately off-putting. So Patterson scouted science podcasts for kids. And, she now concludes, “There’s really not a lot there.”

The radio journalist and writer decided kids needed a podcast that told stories about science in a way that wasn’t too cheesy. Something that everyone could learn from without getting lost in jargon. So, with her husband — teacher Marshall Escamilla — she made Tumble.

New episodes post monthly. Each lasts 12 to 15 minutes, long enough for a car ride to school but short enough that you won’t get bored. It’s targeted at 8- to 12-year-olds, but Patterson says both older and younger kids also have given it good reviews.

Every episode focuses on a different science story, such as how scientists discovered a new kind of spider, how a big toad took over Australia or how scientists have been discovering exoplanets, distant worlds far beyond our solar system.  

Patterson and Escamilla are joined by a scientist or a science writer for every episode. Talking with scientists is especially important, Patterson says. “The first time I spoke to a scientist was the first time I understood what science was truly about,” she recalls. “It wasn’t something that had been written down in a book. It was vibrant and alive.” By having scientists tell their own stories, she hopes you will get that same feeling.

The language is easy to understand, but isn’t condescending or cloying. The hosts ask the kind of questions that any curious person might. She might target these shows for kids, but I bet your parents will learn something, too. If you enjoy science, Tumble will provide an entertaining and informative earful.

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Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

condescending   Exhibiting an attitude that suggests you think you know more or are more intelligent than someone else. People who are experts in one area may appear condescending when they try to talk to someone who doesn’t know what they do. (Most people will have more knowledge in some area than another person. But having more knowledge does not necessarily mean that person is smarter than another.)

exoplanet  A planet that orbits a star outside the solar system. Also called an extrasolar planet.

digital  (in computer science and engineering) An adjective indicating that something has been developed numerically on a computer or on some other electronic device, based on a binary system (where all numbers are displayed using a series of only zeros and ones).

jargon  Special words or phrases used by one group — such as athletes, scientists, musicians, soldiers or computer programmers — that can be difficult for people outside that group to understand. As an example, many scientists who study the brain know what someone means when they say “ventral preoptic area,” but those who do not study the brain may find the term meaningless. It’s important for scientists to avoid using jargon when they explain their work to people who are not in their field.

planet  A celestial object that orbits a star, is big enough for gravity to have squashed it into a roundish ball and it must have cleared other objects out of the way in its orbital neighborhood. To accomplish the third feat, it must be big enough to pull neighboring objects into the planet itself or to sling-shot them around the planet and off into outer space. Astronomers of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) created this three-part scientific definition of a planet in August 2006 to determine Pluto’s status. Based on that definition, IAU ruled that Pluto did not qualify. The solar system now consists of eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

podcast  A digital audio or video series that can be downloaded from the Internet to your computer or smartphone. Some podcasts also are shows that are broadcast on radio, television or other media.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.