PBS Is Making Several Ken Burns Documentaries Available for Free to Teachers and Students

Ken Burns, namesake of iMovie's "Ken Burns effect," during a press tour in 2014.
Ken Burns, namesake of iMovie's "Ken Burns effect," during a press tour in 2014.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns has a reputation for presenting audiences with incredibly comprehensive, detail-oriented portraits of American history, covering everything from baseball to the Brooklyn Bridge. His documentaries are just as informative as they are engrossing, and you might walk away considering yourself an unofficial expert on whatever topic Burns lends his talents to.

Now, PBS LearningMedia is bringing Burns’s educational spirit to housebound students and teachers across the nation with a new “Ken Burns in the Classroom” digital hub, where you can watch a number of his docuseries for free. So far, the list comprises Jazz (2001), The Roosevelts (2014), and College Behind Bars (2019), and it will include four others by the end of April: 1990’s The Civil War, 2007’s The War (about World War II), 2009’s National Parks: America’s Best Idea, and 2012’s The Dust Bowl.

“We have heard loud and clear that teachers are in need of full films to better engage students and to align with their teaching during this period of distance learning,” Ken Burns said in a statement. “We have worked closely with PBS to clear rights and package these films so they can be streamed and made accessible.”

In addition to full-length series, the hub also houses video clips from Burns’s other works, covering subjects like the Vietnam War, Lewis and Clark’s expeditions, and more, along with a wealth of supplemental materials and lesson plans that teachers can send to their students via Google Classroom or another “share” option on the site. The resources are organized in two ways—by film and by era—so educators can skip right to a section on, for example, “The Industrial Age (1870-1900)” or see what content is available from Burns’s 2011 docuseries Prohibition. The hub will remain open through June 30.

To give us yet another way to explore the history of America through his body of work, Burns has created a separate PBS-run webpage called “Unum,” where video clips and supplements are split up into different categories, from themes like “Protest,” “Elections,” and “Art” to specific events like the Great Depression and Watergate.

All things considered, both Unum and “Ken Burns in the Classroom” are wonderful opportunities to expand your historical knowledge, whether you’re a student, teacher, or just a curious person.

And if you are a teacher, you can tune in to a live Q&A session with Ken Burns on PBS LearningMedia’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, April 29, at 7 p.m. EST, where he’ll answer questions submitted by teachers.

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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The Little News Ears Podcast Helps Keep Kids Informed Without Overwhelming Them

Little News Ears translates current events into kid-friendly terms so parents don't have to.
Little News Ears translates current events into kid-friendly terms so parents don't have to.
Ranta Images/iStock via Getty Images

Kids are often curious about things they overhear on television or in conversations around them, but trying to translate that information into a kid-friendly format isn’t always easy. That’s where Little News Ears can help.

The program, available both as a podcast and as a YouTube video series, explains intriguing news stories to children in a simple, upbeat, and often funny way. In it, a young boy named Bram, a futuristic dog-like being named BoxerBlu, and a loris named Otis cover everything from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step away from their royal duties to people mudlarking (hunting for treasure) along the River Thames. More serious topics, like the deaths of high-profile people, are presented “in the vein of Fred Rogers teaching children about the Kennedy assassination,” as the website explains.

Little News Ears was created by Dan Buck, a former primary school teacher who now serves as the Head of School at Tessa International School in Hoboken, New Jersey. While the focus of the series itself is to express the news in ways that preschoolers and elementary school students can understand without frightening or overwhelming them, the website also includes lesson plans, vocabulary lists, and other resources to help parents and teachers learn how best to educate children on current events.

Usually, Little News Ears is offered as a subscription service—$6 per month or $55 for an entire year—but Buck and his team have made the program, along with the supplemental materials for educators, completely free for as long as the coronavirus pandemic lasts. You can learn more about the site and sign up for free access here.