What are the 25+ best podcasts for students to listen to and learn from? We asked teachers to share their favorites, and here’s what they had to say.
Disclaimer: We’ve divided the list by grade level because some might be more intense or cover more mature topics than is appropriate for younger students. But you are the best judge for your own kids or students, so we recommend vetting all material before sharing.
Best Podcasts for Students in Elementary School
Original audio stories filled with whimsy and wonder for young listeners and their families.
Activity to try: Let your child write, illustrate and make a recording of their own original story.
Kids have all kinds of crazy questions—it’s one of the things we love best about them! This production, from Vermont Public Radio, tackles such topics as Why Do People Have Nightmares?, Do Animals Get Married?, and Why Do Lions Roar?
Activity to Try: Start a log, using a special notepad, of all the crazy questions you can think of. Take the notebook with you everywhere you go.
One of the biggest challenges for everyone these days is sorting through the monumental quantity of information available. Pants on Fire uses a fun game show format to teach kids how to sort out truth from “fake news”.
Activity to try: Play an in-class or at-home version of Two Truths and a Lie to polish truth-telling skills.
There’s a whole lot going on in the world these days and not all of the news is kid-friendly. Kidnuz informs in a way that explains, but doesn’t overload, kids. Their mission statement says it all: “To engage the next generation with news that will inform without fear and educate without opinion.”
Activity to Try: Pick an issue and do a “deep dive”. Specifically, look for the upside of the situation—people helping people, people bonding together, etc.
A fun-filled podcast for kids all about ethical questions that get kids and adults thinking. “Do you have to love your sibling?” “Are some lies actually okay?” “Is it ever okay to fight back against a bully?”
Activity to try: Have your students write down questions to which they don’t know the answers, and talk about a few (after vetting them, of course).
Science is brought to life in this podcast that tells stories about science discoveries with help from actual scientists. They answer questions from why cats always seem to land on their feet to what a journey to the center of the earth would look like.
Activity to try: Discuss the topic of any given episode as a class, opening it up to questions and encouraging further research.
Follow the on-going battle between Dr. Floyd and the evil mastermind, Dr. Steve (along with his sock-shaped assistant, Fidgert). During all their fighting, Dr. Floyd learns about history. With more than 400 episodes, there are plenty to choose from.
Activity to try: Have students write their own episodes, including a historical event that they love or that you have covered.
8. Brains On!
“Brains On!” features science and kids. The host and her kid co-host talk with food scientists and snake handlers, put on plays, write songs, and so much more. It’s a science lesson for your ears!
Activity to try: Listen to the March 23 episode, “Books: How they’re made and how your brain reads them”. Afterward, have a discussion with your class about the many ways that reading is great for them.
An online treasure-trove of free audio stories. You can listen to a mixture of original stories, fairy tales, and specially adapted myths and histories. Storynory has published an episode every week since 2005, so there is plenty to love and something for everyone.
Activity to try: Have students write an original short story and then present it to the class.
10. What If World
Every two weeks, the creative host of this podcast takes questions from kids and spins them into an entertaining tale. Check out What If Clouds Were Made of Cotton Candy? or What If Magic Didn’t Exist?
Activity to try: Make a top ten list of your own What-Ifs. Write a story, create a comic strip, or make a drawing to go with your favorites.
Best Podcasts for Tweens in Middle School
Listen as world-famous radio reporter Eleanor foils devious plots, outwits crafty villains, and goes after The Big Story. Eleanor’s pursuit of truth takes her into orbit, out to sea, and even to the halls of Congress! Her adventures are entertaining and informative.
Activity to try: Have a discussion about Eleanor and her values, especially the importance of access to information, being inclusive to different points of view, and telling the truth. Then have your students write about what their values are.
12. Flyest Fables
If your tweens are into hip-hop, this podcast might be just their speed. Episodes follow the main character, Antoine, a boy who is bullied, who finds a magical book that transports him to another world.
Activity to try: Have students create an illustrated version of the story as they follow along with the podcast.
13. StarTalk Radio
Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about all things space: stars, planets, humans in space, and so much more. He also interviews a lot of amazing people, from Buzz Aldrin to Alan Rickman.
Activity to try: Have students research the science topic covered in a given episode, learning more about the topic and sharing their findings.
14. The Allusionist
Explore the English language, with all its oddities! Filled with good humor and levity, this podcast will help you explore the roots of words and phrases that we use every day.
Activity to try: Have students write their own grammatical or linguistic jokes, using these as starter examples.
The title speaks for itself. Learn about people and events that are often overlooked in a typical history class.
Activity to try: Choose a popular unit of historical study, like the Civil War or Great Depression, then have students research the little told stories related to it. They could even write a readers theater based on their findings.
Listenwise is an award-winning listening skills platform, searchable by topic area or school subject. It advances classroom learning by providing additional content and building listening skills. There is also a focus on current events that keeps learning tied to the real world.
Activity to try: Each episode comes equipped with teaching resources, so pick the topic that is best for your class and get listening.
17. Youth Radio
Youth Radio is a podcast for teens, published by teens. It was created to showcase the power of young people as makers of media, technology, and community. It brings the teen perspective to issues of public concern.
Activity to try: Have your students select a topic in the news today and write their own podcast sharing their take on the news.
Humans are a curious lot as this podcast attests to in its mission statement: “true stories of inspiration, humor, and the incredible achievements of all types of people, many of which are sadly under-shared.”
Activity to try: Have your students reach out to relatives, friends or neighbors and ask them to share stories from their past.
Best Podcasts for Teens in High School
A podcast created by the co-author of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, Stephen Dubner invites listeners to explore the hidden sides of everything. And, given his almost 300 episodes on topics ranging from Millionaires vs. Billionaires to How to Win a Nobel Prize, he is well on his way to talking about everything.
Activity to try: Have students pick an episode and find how it affects their everyday life. These can be written or presented to the class, allowing for discussion and questions.
Tune into the community radio of this desert town for the news on local weather, the mysterious lights overhead, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, a dog park that prohibits dogs, and dark hooded figures with unknowable powers.
Activity to try: Challenge students with this prompt: You have been hired by the Night Vale Community Radio to write a segment. It could be a continuation of a segment that already exists, like The Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner or Community Calendar, or a report of a strange happening in the town, told in Cecil-fashion. These could be performed in front of the class, written, or put in podcast form.
The podcast that brings you the “ins and outs of everyday things” from the Pledge of Allegiance to Mexican Jumping Beans to “Your Limb is Torn Off (Obviously for teens and above!)
Sarah Koenig tells one story, told week by week. The first season covers the true story of Adnan Syed, convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore. The problem: Adnan cannot remember what he was doing the day of the murder. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s someone claiming that he helped Adnan hide the body.
Activity to try: Have students find a famous crime in history and write a dialogue between themselves and the accused, having the accused tell their side of the story. These projects can be handed in, performed in front of the class, or put into podcast format.
Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.
Activity to try: Listen to the episode Sight Unseen about a soldier’s last moments and the photographer who captured them, divide the class in half, and have them prepare and then conduct a debate on whether or not the photographer has the right to publish the photos.
Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle. Phoebe Judge explores topics from owls killing people to how to fake your death to the life of a police dog.
Activity to try: Have students pick an episode that interests them and do more in-depth research on the topic, presenting their findings to the class.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point, looks back through the overlooked and misunderstood in history, re-examining the past and asking whether we got it right the first time.
Activity to try: Listen to the three-part series on college (season one, episodes 4-6), and have a class discussion. Trust me, there will be plenty to talk about.
Each episode of This American Life centers around a theme. Most are journalistic at the core, but some are comedic. This podcast is hard to generalize, especially after over 600 episodes. But the number of episodes, and it’s massive popularity, should speak for itself.
Activity to try: Have students take a theme from an episode and write their own report or story surrounding that theme.
What are your favorite podcasts for kids? Please share in the comments!