Podcasts and audiobooks are powerful storytelling tools, allowing us to access the intimacy of whole new worlds through our headphones. They can also be a great tool to store in your Scout leader tool-kit: sparking debate among your young people, supplementing any skills-based activities you’re running, and even helping you to plan a more effective and engaging Scout Programme.
Why include podcasts in your Scout Programme?
- They boost learning. Thanks to the smartphone, podcasts tailored to suit every interest can be accessed and downloaded at the click of a button. Tuning in allows young people to explore their interests on their own terms, while listening as a Group can bring everyone closer, and help us all to develop a stronger grasp of how the world works.
- They reduce screen time. Audio storytelling allows you to enjoy the same level of education, engagement and entertainment you’d expect from watching a film or television series with your young people, with no screens in sight.
- They’re portable. You can enjoy podcasts wherever and whenever you like, making them ideal for those who need to keep their young people engaged on the move, or to deliver a programme in a restricted space. Simply download episodes ahead of time and you’re good to go.
- They don’t cost anything. Unlike many other forms of entertainment, podcasts don’t rely on subscriptions or download fees, which means anyone with internet access can listen for free.
- They’re compelling. Audio relies on the host’s ability to maintain your attention with voice and sound alone. This is no easy feat, and as a result, storytelling standards tend to be very high. Many episodes are released weekly, in real time, featuring nail-biting cliff-hangers and plot twists aplenty.
Here are 15 podcasts for young people and adults that Scouts are sure to love...
Best for Beavers
Instead of stealing gold or conquering land, the Story Pirates hunt for a different kind of treasure: scouring the seven seas for the wildest, most imaginative stories written by young people. Each week, the crew aboard ship – including world-class actors, comedians, improvisers and musicians –take on original ideas pitched by young listeners and turn them into a wild comedy podcast. Play it on your next long coach journey with your Beavers, and expect the dreaded calls of ‘are we there yet?’ to be replaced with giggles and gasps.
Drawing on the idea that mindfulness can alleviate worries, spark joy and sharpen attention spans in young people, the Peace Out podcast broadcasts a new meditation exercise each fortnight, guiding listeners aged 5–12 through imaginative scenarios and breathing routines. Some visualisations are purely fictional (‘mini mind vacations’ to the bottom of the ocean; pretending to be a dandelion floating on the breeze). Others are rooted in the everyday challenges of being a young person today, tackling everything from the experience of ‘hanger’ – the grumpiness encountered when hungry – to helping others, and the conflict that can arise when a young person isn’t sure which choice to make.
This family-friendly podcast is aimed at inspiring young people to pursue their passions. In each 15–20 minute episode, seven-year-old host Eva Karpman and her mother speak to somebody about their passion, and ask how they got where they are and why dreams matter. As well as interviewing world-famous entertainers and Olympians, Eva shines a light on people who have found purpose and fulfilment in their everyday work, whatever that might be. Each episode features free personalised discussion sheets to download and print, so if your Beavers are unsure about which badges and awards they’d like to try, this could be a good springboard to kick-start a wider conversation.
Best for Cubs
The Show About Science
On his podcast young scientist Nate Butkus has talked about everything from bat biology to extra-terrestrials, but ask about his favourite moment and he’ll tell you it was when he burped on air. So it goes when the host is seven years old. Start with episode 53: ‘Amazing Kids Doing Amazing Things’, especially if you’re volunteering with Cubs working on their Naturalist or Scientist Activity Badges. It introduces us to trailblazers like Sophia Spencer. Initially teased for ‘loving bugs everyone else thinks are gross’, the eight-year-old entomologist beat the school bullies and converted them to her cause, has met experts in the field and co-authored a paper on promoting women and girls in science.
Short and Curly
Short and Curly is a fast-paced, interactive ethics podcast. Each week, a scientist, a performer and a philosopher take it in turns to respond to moral dilemmas submitted by young listeners. Questions like: ‘Is it ever OK to fight back against a bully?’ ‘Do I have to like my sibling?’ and ‘Why can’t children vote?’ Never shying away from grey areas, it is refreshingly upfront about how the trials we face in life are often not as simple as they seem, and offers solutions from different perspectives. Pauses are built in to allow for listener debate, and there’s plenty of side-splitting silliness for some comic relief.
Created and produced by parents, Circle Round showcases folktales from around the world, combining unusual cultural traditions with universal topics like kindness, persistence and generosity. Perfect for sparking conversations around the heritage, rituals and beliefs of your own Cubs and fellow volunteers, the show has the potential to introduce young people to new cultures and experiences, and could be a great accompaniment to activities you’re planning to celebrate diversity.
Best for Scouts
Pants on Fire
In the era of fake news, young people need to learn how to be engaged, active citizens, as well as able to tell what’s true from what’s false. Audio game show Pants on Fire helps young people to do just that, by encouraging them to ask insightful questions, weigh the evidence before them, and trust their instincts. Each week, a young person is tasked with interviewing two people on a particular topic, one of whom is a genuine, credentialed expert, the other a liar. Can they tell the difference? And why does it matter? Tune in to find out.
Blending history with storytelling, Horizon Line is a podcast series produced by the creators of the award-winning travel blog, Atlas Obscura. In each episode, co-founder Dylan Thuras and associate editor Ella Morton take turns spotlighting a person who pushed the limits of what was believed to be possible. The pilot
episode is particularly weird and wonderful. Taking us back to 1897, it recounts the surreal true-life tale of S. A. Andrée, a Swedish janitor-turned-aeronaut who dreamt of ascending to the North Pole in a hot air balloon.
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
What would you do if all of your friends went missing? The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel is a highly addictive scripted podcast performed
by 8–12 year olds, but older Scouts and adults are sure to get hooked, too. The plot centres around a group of intrepid 11-year-olds who embark on a mission to find out the truth about their friends, who are mysteriously disappearing into thin air with alarming frequency. A glorious hybrid of The Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things, The Guardian listed it as one of the top 50 podcasts of the year back in 2016, and more recently it was honoured with a Peabody award, the highest accolade in the world of audio storytelling.
Best for Explorers
Created by teens for teens, the mission of Youth Radio is to train budding broadcasters in their chosen area, making it the perfect show for any aspiring journalists in your section to draw inspiration from. Just like Explorers, the young people behind the microphone are brave, adventurous and unafraid to talk about the issues affecting their futures.
Along with a group of Year Nine students from Brisbane State High School, in Australia, teen Jordan O’dell-Fontana launched the programme MentalMusic to encourage young people to talk more about their mental health. Since then, the show – initially launched as an English school assignment in social entrepreneurship – has grown into a weekly podcast, and the team has created a platform where young people can tune in and feel included, while listening to music produced by their peers.
Flash Forward is a field trip to the future of humankind. Each week, host Rose Eveleth takes on a possible (or not so possible) future scenario – from the existence of artificial wombs, to the invention of sleep-replacement pills, to the chaos that would ensue if space pirates dragged a second moon to Earth. Super fun and ever so slightly terrifying, it’s electric brain fuel for curious teenagers.
Best for adult volunteers
Fathers and Sons
This award-winning documentary series explores contemporary masculinity through the eyes of fathers and their sons, celebrating the multifaceted nature of being a dad from a range of perspectives. At turns funny and inspiring, thought provoking and poignant, it focuses on the highs and lows of becoming a parent, unpacking topics like birth, death, love, money, health and inheritance.
The Sharp End
Not for the faint-hearted, a podcast about people who find themselves in serious danger while climbing, and make it through. Each month, long-time instructor Ashley Saupe brings to life stories from Accidents in North American Climbing, the annual publication of the American Alpine Club (AAC), and shares knowledge to make us a little safer on the ropes.
Fascinated by the way women experience the great outdoors, nature lover and photographer Gale Straub made it her mission to amplify the voices of women adventurers in an area where they have been underrepresented. She Explores – a series about the strong women shaping the outdoor industry – is the result. In each episode, Gale and her fellow producers meet ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the outdoors, and talk through topics as far-ranging as hiking solo, adventuring with small children (while pregnant!) and the perks and pitfalls of living out of a backpack.
Words: Aimee-Lee Abraham | Illustrations: Blok Magnaye