I love listening to radio shows.
That’s probably because I grew up with the sultry tones of National Public Radio shows warbling in the background of my childhood.
Yes, my parents are big nerds.
Due to both nature and nurture, I’m a big nerd too, but I’ve hesitated to expose my kids to the same treatment, mainly because I’ve felt like the shows I enjoy listening to are a little too mature for their age level (i.e., they’d be bored by them and make me turn them off).
But I’ve often thought wistfully about how I appreciate that my parents exposed me to news and learning through these programs and that it would be nice to find a way to gift my children with that experience as well.
Wow in the World, a podcast started in 2017 by Guy Roz (host of NPR’s TED Radio Hour and How I Built This) and Mindy Thomas (host of the Absolutely Mindy Show on SiriusXM’s Kid’s Place Live Channel) granted my wish tenfold.
The NPR podcast page summarizes Wow in the World thusly,
“Hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz guide curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them.”
If that description alone is not enough to entice you, below I’ve highlighted some of the choice ingredients that make this show so delectable.
Wow in the World utilizes the classic comedy standard of the “odd couple” duo, where Mindy Thomas plays the clown to Guy Roz’s straight man.
Each episode typically opens with a hook that has Mindy (usually) in medias res some ridiculous project.
Guy Roz then comes along to incredulously point out the wackiness of the situation, with Mindy (and usually my kids) heartily disagreeing with him.
The whole thing’s accompanied by a boatful of ludicrous sound effects that remind me of old-timey radio plays (yes, I listened to those as well as NPR shows), all adding to the overall comedic atmosphere.
The humor makes listening to the show bearable for us parents as well – and we all know how valuable (and rare) it is to find something your kids like that you can also enjoy.
Even though the silliness may seem a little over the top, it’s extremely effective at capturing kids’ attention and drawing them into the meat of the episode, which is generally about emerging scientific discoveries.
It’s Sophisticated But Well Explained
The scientific bent of the show made me initially hesitant to share Wow in the World with my kids because I was afraid that the subject matter would be a bit over their heads.
However, we were getting a little low on Story Pirates podcasts, so I finally bit the bullet, and was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the shows are, even for my kindergartener.
Aside from using humor to pique kids’ initial interest in each show’s topic, they also try to explore stories that connect to children’s everyday lives – like why do shoelaces come untied (answer: G-Force).
Occasionally, they’ll lean into the humor appeal of a story by gravitating towards topics that always seem to be a hit with young kids (ex: one show talked about “the velocity of animal poop”).
The hosts also do a great job of making sure that whenever they use a more “science-y” or advanced term, they follow it up with a clear and simple explanation.
Finally, they are also very clear about what information has lots of research to back it up, and what topics still need additional studies before any definitive conclusions can be reached.
For instance, they covered a story about wax worms where they talked about the discovery that some caterpillars can eat plastic bags, which could help solve the ongoing ecological problem on those non-biodegradable nuisances.
However, they were clear to point out that even though this idea has great potential, it has yet to be proven conclusively.
I love that they pointed this out because it shows kids that even though stories may sound really cool, you should still investigate their validity before buying into them all the way (even when they come from reliable sources).
The willingness to be open to lots of different ideas, both established and developing, is another great thing about Wow in the World. And some of the best ideas they present come from kids themselves!
It Highlights Kids’ Voices
Wow in the World includes a couple segments where kids can contribute their ideas about what makes the world wow-worthy, as well as give specific input on some of the show’s topics.
Kids can call in and leave messages explaining their “Wow in the Worlds” i.e., things they’ve learned about or think are cool. Occasionally, the hosts will interview kids about this in person too (man-on-the-street-style).
I love this segment because it encourages kids to notice and think about the world around them and to appreciate the tangible (as opposed to virtual) wonders they can experience in their lives, especially in the arena of science.
Another kid-focused segment of Wow in the World that I love is they’ll occasionally have kids guess either the answer to a scientific question (“Why are flamingos pink?”) or define a scientific term (“Entomophagy” – real meaning: the practice of eating bugs).
I think this is a healthy way of teaching kids not to be afraid of being wrong, and it also spurs the practices of creativity and exploration.
Both of these segments help kids feel empowered and by giving them a voice.
They also make the show more entertaining for the kids who are listening because they hear themselves (i.e. kids, rather than adults) being represented.
Overall, it’s this deft ability to represent and connect with kids, while at the same time offering them new and challenging learning opportunities that make Wow in the World such a great pick for family listening.
In case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend it!