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A wild and wacky public radio podcast for kids

Terrestrials one.png
Terrestrials is a podcast for kids from the makers of Radiolab.

If you’re a long-time listener to NPR – to RadioLab, Invisibilia and other fascinating shows – you know the work and the voice of Lulu Miller who – as the parent of two young children – agreed to host a program for them and their families.

“From WNYC studios and RadioLab comes a brand new show for kids and adults about the strangeness right here on Earth," touts a promotion for the program. "Real creatures. Real encounters, and occasional songs,"

In six episodes of Terrestrials, Miller and her team share surprising stories from nature. There is, for example, the program about hybrids.

“You may have heard of a liger – a mix between a lion and a tiger, or a cama – a mix between a camel and a lama, maybe a cama," she explains. "There are also pizzly bears. That’s polar bears and grizzlies.”

The popular wisdom is that the offspring of these genetic mashups cannot, themselves, reproduce.

“But we tell the story of a little mule out in Kentucky named Peanut that in 2018 had a baby,” Miller says.

And it turned out that with the help of genetic sequencing tools, scientists are finding many hybrids in nature that do have babies. Miller also shattered a myth about bugs.

“We discover that some insects give live birth. They don’t lay eggs. They get pregnant, and give birth, and they make milk, including cockroaches, and so for one of the episodes I drank cockroach milk.," she recalls. "It was pretty vile, I have to say.”

Alan Goffinski is the show’s co-host and composer. He ran an arts center in Charlottesville called The Bridge, before going to work on Terrestrials, creating music to complement each episode.

Take the one about three eagles – two males and a female – who nested together on the Mississippi River. It's grunge with a clever lyric and a wailing guitar.

“I want to hear the eagle!" Goffinski sings, followed by the screech of an eagle. "Now multiply that by 3-gle. Yeah, I want to hear the eagle. Now I want to hear all 3-gle.”

When the female disappeared, Miller says, the males stuck around to raise the babies.

“And then the next year those two bald eagles came back with a new female, and they’ve been living as a trio for over a decade.”

The target group for Terrestrials is children between the ages of 7 and 12. Show producers hosted focus groups to learn more about them.

“A bunch of kids don’t know what a radio is!" Miller says. "That was a humbling moment.”

But do like podcasts and are – Miller concludes – the perfect audience for this program.

“They’re incredibly open and their brains are really – almost psychedelic in how they see the world, because they haven’t yet fallen into the boxes of beliefs about how things work that so many of us have.”

As an added bonus, the program gets kids away from screens – allowing them to see using their imaginations, but Miller mentions the Terrestrials’ website where animations and videos can be found to augment the mind-expanding audio experience. Terrestrials is available wherever you get your podcasts.

For more information, go to:

Radiolab for Kids Presents: Terrestrials: Terrestrials Episodes | WNYC Studios | Podcasts

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief