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New NPR Podcast For Kids Features USF Alum Mindy Thomas

The first NPR podcast for children, "Wow in the World," pairs NPR's Guy Raz (left) with Sirius XM host, USF alum Mindy Thomas.

What do you get when you take a renowned NPR host, pair him with an award-winning children's show personality (who happens to be a USF graduate), mix in scientific concepts and creative radio production, throw in a little bit of poop (we'll explain), and blend it well?

You end up with Wow in the World, the first program for children in NPR's 47-year history. 

The podcast for the 5 to 12-year-old crowd talks about science, technology, discovery and inventions, and is co-hosted by NPR's Guy Raz and Sirius XM host, USF alum Mindy Thomas.

Thomas, a native of Tampa, graduated from USF in 2001, and immediately went to Sirius XM, where she hosted the Absolutely Mindy Show on the satellite provider's Kid's Place Live Channel. 

"I remember coming up with the name for the (Absolutely Mindy) show in a USF parking lot," Thomas said. "I started at XM at the time the day after I graduated." 

Credit NPR
Mindy Thomas started working at satellite broadcaster XM (now Sirius XM) the day after graduating from USF in 2001.

"I went to school for television news broadcasting and I think I learned a lot of good skills with that, but I realized pretty early on that I liked to make things up sometime more than I like to report on actual news stories," she said. "So I feel like with Wow in the World, I'm kind of getting back to what I went to school for in the first place." 

Raz, who hosts two other shows on NPR, the TED Radio Hour and How I Built This, says Wow in the World is an offshoot of his Breakfast Blast newscast segment on Absolutely Mindy

"Mindy and I just had so much fun doing that for so many years, and we thought, 'what if there's a way to take this idea and make it even bigger, to expand it out and to make it more exciting and to take our listeners on a journey,'" Raz said.

"That's what we've done with Wow in the World, it's a chance for us to go back in time to the Pleistocene Era, go into the future, it's a chance for us to go on adventures, like a roller coaster to explain g-forces," he added. "And we are able to do that of course with the magic of radio." 

And, in addition to the show's combination of scientific facts and imaginative ways of presenting them, Thomas and Raz depend on one other thing: poop. 

"It's sort of the great equalizer that we've found," Thomas said with a laugh.

"You've got to talk about poop now and again, and then you can bring in as much science as you want!" Raz added. "We joke about poop, but it's one example of the kinds of ways we try to make science fun - we don't hold back on the silliness, because we want kids to feel like science can be silly too. It doesn't have to be in a classroom with a projection board and a teacher and words that are difficult to understand, it can be something that is whimsical and a lot of fun." 

While Wow in the World targets today's child, Thomas keeps another young person in mind while she's working.

"I'm playing to myself as an eight-year-old. I feel like I'm doing the types of shows that I was trying to make as a kid, just talking to nobody into a toilet paper roll with a golf ball glued to the top - that was my microphone," Thomas said. 

"But I really feel like I'm still pretty connected to my kid self, and I feel like everyday I'm trying to honor that and I'm making the show that I would have wanted as a kid."

Wow in the World releases new episodes every Monday, with the possibility of a second show on Thursdays coming in the next few months. You can find the show wherever you get your podcasts or at WowintheWorld.com.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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