Kids Science Podcast Brains On! Receives National Science Foundation Grant

The podcast from American Public Media and the Science Museum of Minnesota
will team up to study impact of children’s podcasts on learning

Saint Paul, Minn., August 7, 2017—  Brains On!, the science podcast for kids, from American Public Media, received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to partner with the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) to study the impact of children’s podcasts on science learning and discovery. The NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program funds projects that seek to advance new learning opportunities and broaden public access to STEM learning in informal environments.

“We are thrilled to bring our expertise in researching informal learning experiences to a new collaboration with the creators of the innovative and popular Brains On! podcast,” said Amy Grack Nelson, Evaluation & Research Manager at the Science Museum of Minnesota. “This work will lead to a better understanding of how children and families engage in science learning and discovery. We are also hopeful that this research partnership can pave the way for more family-focused science podcasts.”

The grant will support the production of 40 new episodes and help examine who is listening to Brains On! and what motivates them to listen to children’s science podcasts. Furthermore, this collaboration will study how listeners engage with show’s content and how the show impacts learning and discovery of STEM topics. Brains On! and the SMM hope this groundbreaking research will help fill a current gap in audio informal learning and provide tangible results that inspire more organizations to create kid-centric audio, with a long-term goal of increasing access to engaging and educational content.

“We are excited to work with the Science Museum of Minnesota on this groundbreaking project given their leadership in creative learning spaces and our shared values to promote learning and curiosity,” says co-creator and host Molly Bloom. “We regularly hear from parents and teachers about how Brains On! ignites their children’s imagination, sparks family conversations and inspires further exploration in topics heard on the show from dinosaurs and the solar system to everyday functional items like cars and elevators.”

“Only about 12% of the proposals NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM (AISL) program receives are awarded funding, making it a highly competitive process,” explains Sandra Welch, Program Director, AISL. “Reviewers commented that Brains On! is filling a gap in providing innovative and engaging quality science learning to young children.“

This collaboration is underway and will continue through June of 2019. A formal paper of findings will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal at that time. Additionally, research findings will be presented to professional and public audiences and be discussed in a Brains On! episode.

About Brains On!

Brains On! is a science focused podcast for children produced and distributed by American Public Media (APM), a leading producer and distributor of national public radio programs and podcasts. It is regularly the number one podcast in Apple Podcasts’ Kids and Family category and was recognized as a top 20 podcast for kids by the esteemed Common Sense Media and was described by The Atlantic as being “practically a unicorn in the podcasting world.” Brains On! is supported in part by The National Science Foundation, where discoveries begin. Connect with the show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and  YouTube.

About the Science Museum of Minnesota

The Science Museum of Minnesota is one of the state’s most popular museums, with a reach that extends well beyond its riverfront location in downtown Saint Paul. It serves hundreds of thousands of people each year with its engaging exhibits, breathtaking giant screen films, and unique special events. Science Museum education programs touch students in all of Minnesota’s 87 counties each year, and its research programs span the globe. For more information, visit

About the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.