But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids But Why is a show led by you, kids! You 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.Have a question? Send it to us! Adults, use your smartphone's memo function or an audio app to record your kid's question (get up nice and close so we can hear). Be sure to include: your child's first name, age and town. And then email the audio file to questions@butwhykids.org.
But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids

But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids

From Vermont Public Radio

But Why is a show led by you, kids! You 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.Have a question? Send it to us! Adults, use your smartphone's memo function or an audio app to record your kid's question (get up nice and close so we can hear). Be sure to include: your child's first name, age and town. And then email the audio file to questions@butwhykids.org.

Most Recent Episodes

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

How Do Apples Grow?

Why do apples have stems? Why do fruits start out as flowers? How did the first apple grow when no one was there to plant its seed? Why can you make a seedless grape and not a seedless apple? Why are apples so juicy? How is apple juice made? Why are apples hard and pears soft? In this episode we take a field trip to Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont to learn more about apples. Our guides are 10-year-old Rupert Suhr, his father, Bill, and apple expert Ezekiel Goodband. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Flower to Fruit Image Why are some fruits a flower before they're fruit? - Grayson, 8, San Jose, California Actually ALL fruits start as flowers (but not all flowers turn into fruit). Growing fruit is a way that some plants reproduce. Fruit is the nice ripe container that holds the seeds, which humans or animals will eat and then spread around (often through their poop), allowing new plants to grow. But that process begins with a flower. The outer part of the flower often has beautiful colors and shapes and smells—and that's all part of the way the plant tries to attract a bee or other pollinator: "The flower has an ovary at the base of the petals. The petals are enticing a bee to come with the pollen from another blossom that it's visited and there's some nectar that the bee can collect and while the bee is doing that it's shedding some pollen," explains Ezekiel Goodband. "That pollen completes the information that the apple needs to start growing. So the flower is to attract the bee." That ovary at the base of the flower will start to grow and that will become the apple that you eat. If you look at the bottom of an apple—the opposite end of where the stem is attached to the tree—you can actually see where the flower used to be. It even kind of looks a little bit like a tiny flower.

How Deep Is The Ocean?

We're exploring a part of the world that not much is known about—in fact, you could be one of the people who help us understand and learn more about this very important, and very large, part of our earth. The land underneath the ocean is as varied and interesting as the terrain up on dry land—with mountains and canyons, plains and forests. (That's right, forests! There are kelp forests where the kelp is as much as 150 feet tall!) In this episode, what's known--and unknown--about the bottom of the ocean. How deep IS the deepest part of the ocean? And how was the Mariana Trench formed? We get answers from Jamie McMichael-Phillips and Vicki Ferrini of Seabed 2030, a global collaboration designed to map the sea floor, by 2030. Resources Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript Seabed 2030 Visual: What Lurks In The Depths Of the Ocean? (CBC Kids) "How deep is the deepest part of the ocean?" –Freya, 8, Wellington, New Zealand The deepest part of the ocean is the Challenger Deep, 11,034 meters in the Mariana Trench. It's about seven miles deep! How did the trench get so deep? The same processes that formed canyons and mountains on dry land also formed the depths of the ocean and the islands that peek above the water. In the case of the Mariana Trench, it was formed by the process of subduction—when one tectonic plate slides under another. A tectonic plate is a gigantic piece of the earth's crust and the next layer below that, called the upper mantle. These massive slabs of rock are constantly moving, but usually very slowly, so a lot of changes to the earth's structure take place over a long time. But sometimes something like an earthquake can speed that process up. A trench is formed when one plate slides or melts beneath another one. The Mariana Trench is the deepest trench in the world—farther below sea level than Mount Everest, is tall!

Why Do Americans Use The Word 'Soccer?'

Kala wants to know why we say soccer in the United States, when the rest of the world calls the game "football." In this episode we hear from people who make their living in the game: professional players, coaches and commentators. Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript "Why is soccer called 'soccer,' instead of being called 'football?'" - Kala, Colchester, Vt. "It's an interesting question because so many people around the world play the game of football," said David Saward, now-retired men's coach at Middlebury College. "What happened with the words soccer and football goes back to the 1800s when the game was developed. There were two groups of people in Britain who got together to set the rules of two different games, one that was known as rugby football, and another that was known as association football. From those two first words: 'rugby' and 'association,' came two very separate games. Rugby was abbreviated to the word 'rugger.' And out of the word 'association' came 'soccer.' That's the root of where the two differences came." So although these days you probably won't hear many Brits calling the sport "soccer," the word actually originated there. Americans brought the nickname to the US, and as the sport became popular, soccer stuck. "When you look around the world," says Coach Saward, "there are all sorts of different forms of football: American football, Australian rules football, Gaelic football, rugby football and association football. I think for the clarity of everyone over here when we say the word football, we think of people running around with helmets and pads on; so soccer is a very clear distinction."