History of Thomas Edison for Kids

Take a moment to cover your ears so you can’t hear anything.

How does it feel to not be able to hear anything? It would be difficult to know what was going on and to be able to communicate with others, right?

Tonight, we are going to talk about a very successful businessman and an inventor who on his twelfth birthday developed hearing problems and became completely deaf in one ear. Thomas Edison. 

Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio. But, in 1854, his family decided to move to Port Huron, Michigan where he was raised.

Thomas was the seventh child and the youngest in his family. Edison was home-schooled by his mother. He attended public school but only for a short period. 

For whatever reason, Thomas struggled in school, so his teachers thought he wasn’t smart enough, so his mother decided to teach him herself. She taught how to read and write. 

Sometimes people who struggle in school don’t have problems, they just don’t do well in a normal school setting. This was the case with Edison and the genius Albert Einstein ran into the same problem.  

After a while, Thomas developed a love for books. He read a lot of books and taught himself on his own. As a child, he was amazed at technology and new inventions and started spending long hours working on experiments at home. 

He loved to tinker and try new things. He would try different ways to solve a problem until he figured it out. This is called “tinkering” and one way that inventors solve problems. 

When Thomas was 12 he became  completely deaf in one ear and developed a hearing problem in the second “ear” too.  

But what was at first a handicap, ended up being helpful to Thomas. His  hearing problem allowed him to concentrate on his work. 

Because he is not able to hear things properly, outside noise is not able to distract him from his work, and as a result, he went on to become one of the greatest inventors in history with 1,093 inventions!

When Thomas was young  he decided to sell candy, newspapers and vegetables on the trains running between Port Huron and Detroit.  

One day a young boy was on the train tracks. Thomas spotted him and pulled him off the tracks, saving the boy’s life. The train officials took notice and offered Thomas the job of a telegraph operator. 

The telegraph is a device that was used to send messages at distance using a wire before the telephone was invented.

Thomas was earning good money by the time he was 13, but most of the money went to buying equipment for his electric and chemical experiments. He had always been  very hardworking. 

He had also been  selling newspapers on the street and at 19, decided to work for the newspaper Newswire. He asked to work at night  so he could spend the day time hours on his  experiments and reading.   

Thomas was so into his work he even  did his experiments while working on the job. In one accident caused by sulphuric acid, he lost his job. Edison started his own company in October 1869. 

Next, let’s talk about some of his world-changing inventions..  

At the age of 22, Thomas invented an electric vote recorder, he also developed a multiplex telegraphic system, which could send two telegraph messages at the same time.  

Thomas’s most famous invention came in the year 1879 when he built his first light bulb. It took a very long time to figure out how to build the lightbulb and he had many technicians working on the project.

They tried hundreds of different materials until they found the best one for the lightbulb. This invention made him a very famous inventor across the world and even today many people know Edison for this invention alone. 

Edison was granted a right (known as a patent) for the motion picture camera known as “Kinetograph”. This was one of the first devices for watching movies. With this motion camera, Edison also had a  film studio made around 1,200 films.  

Some of the film’s names were:  Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894), The Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), and the first Frankenstein film in 1910. 

Edison won several medals like Matteucci Medal (1887)-It’s an Italian medal given to a person who is an expert in the field of physics and the Edward Longstreth Medal in 1899 for the encouragement of invention. 

In 1890, he was chosen as a member of the famous Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In the United States, there are buildings and bridges named after Edison, particularly, the town of Edison and Thomas Edison State University, both in New Jersey. 

There is a bridge in the state of New Jersey, Florida and Ohio named after Edison, all three are known as “the Edison Bridge”. 

Thomas Edison invented many things, but his work was not easy. On December 10, 1914, in the evening, a massive fire broke out in his laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey. Edison was called and  quickly rushed to his lab. 

The fire was so fierce that it burned more than half of the laboratory. It was very hard to put out.

Edison stood and watched his years of research work burn to ashes. Everyone was worried that Edison would not be able to recover from this shock. 

But instead Edison  peacefully walked over to his son and told him, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”  

His son couldn’t believe it. Edison went on to say, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish”

“Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”  

True to his word, the very next day Thomas Edison got to work rebuilding the lab.

To do incredible things, we need to be resilient enough to bear disaster and setbacks. Resilience means to get back up when we’ve had setbacks. We’ve got to love what we do in life. 

We have to find happiness in every single thing that occurs. Because of  Edison’s positive thinking, he was able to start working again even with setbacks and create so many useful inventions. 

Edison’s life teaches us that everyone has challenges, but if we don’t lose hope and remain confident enough, we can move mountains. 

Remember Thomas Edison next time you have something difficult happen to you and you wonder if you can keep going.

History of Benjamin Franklin for Kids

Have you heard of a Founding Father before? A Founding Father is someone who helped start the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father. Some have also called him the First American, because he had so many of the traits that would become known as American, such as hard work and independence. Independence is when you do something for yourself. 

Ben Franklin was born in Boston Massachusetts to a very large family. He had 17 brothers and sisters! His family didn’t have very much money so he only went to school for 2 years. But he did spend a lot of time reading on his own. He also learned to write and enjoyed doing it.

When he was young he worked for his older brother who was a printer. A printer would print newspapers and books for other people. Printing was important, because it was the best way to share an idea at that time. Printers would use little metal letters and build entire pages of words and sentences, then use black ink to make copies of the metal letters. Because Ben was working for his older brother he was called an “apprentice.” An apprentice is someone who is learning to become a master at a certain skill like printing. 

While Ben was working as a printer he also liked to write for the newspaper. He would use a fake name Silence Dogood to write in the newspaper. He pretended to be an old lady and wrote funny jokes. Many people in the town thought this was very funny and didn’t know it was Ben writing the jokes. 

After a few years Ben left his brother’s shop and started working for a new printer. His job was to set the metal letters in the big printing machine. He was also a clerk, a shopkeeper and a bookkeeper. He liked to stay busy and to learn all he could while he was working.

Around this time, when he was 20 years old, Ben formed a group including other Americans who also liked to read. Books cost a lot of money to buy, and there were no libraries, so Ben and his friends started their own library. They shared the books they read and met together to talk about what they read. Later in his life Ben would help start some of the first libraries in America because he knew reading and learning were so important.

After working for other printers for many years, Ben started his own printing shop. He wrote about his own ideas and used parts of the paper to talk about good morals. Morals are the things that are good to do in life — like being honest, being kind, not stealing and working hard. Ben made lists of what he wanted to do better each day then at the end of the day checked the boxes on what he did good at and made note of what he needed to do better. He believed improving each day was very important.

Ben was very interested in science and invention. He studied electricity. At the time no one had electricity, which means they had no lights or electronics like we do today. Ben saw lightning during a storm and guessed that it must be electricity. Sometimes when lightning hit tall buildings it started fires. Ben had the idea to put a metal pole on the top of buildings, so when the lightning struck the pole it would go into the ground instead of start fires. This invention was called a lightning rod. Many people think that Ben used a kite to discover lightning was electricity, but he really just wrote about the idea and someone else tried it.

Ben also invented a certain type of eye glasses called bifocals, which allowed someone to see differently depending on the part of the glasses they were looking through.

Ben also liked to play chess. He also created the first Fire Department and helped start some of the first universities in the United States.

Because of his newspapers and his inventions and other achievements Ben Franklin became very well known in America and across the ocean in Europe. When many Americans disagreed with England about taxes, Ben was on the side of the Americans who wanted change. He wrote about his ideas and even helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was a paper they wrote to tell England they wanted to be their own country and to be free.

A war began between America and England, so Ben took a ship across the ocean to ask for France’s help. The French people loved Ben Franklin. He liked to wear a fur hat and talk about science and his inventions. They thought he was interesting and fun to talk to. France ended up helping America fight and later win the war against England. 

In his new country, Ben helped put together the first Constitution. The Constitution was a list of laws to help the country stay together and work well. To the end of his life Ben did all he could to help make America a strong country. 

Earlier we talked about some of the morals, good things we should do, that Ben wrote about in his paper. Ben wasn’t a perfect person, like all of us, but he wanted to do good things. 

He wrote about temperance. Temperance is not doing too much of something such as eating. We need good food for our bodies, but too much of it isn’t always a good thing. We can usually tell by how our stomachs feel when we are eating.

He also taught about silence. Sometimes it’s good to speak up, but other times it’s better to listen and think about what we should say. If we don’t think before we speak, we often say things we don’t really mean.

Order means to think about what we are doing and have a plan. We shouldn’t spend all our time doing the same thing, but giving the right amount of time to each good thing.

Frugality means to be careful with the money that you have. It’s easy to want to spend all of your money, but it’s better to spend money on what you need and to save some. It’s ok to spend some of your money on fun things, but not all of it.

Industry means to stay busy doing useful things. Each day we can make a plan of what we want to do and then get to work. Having fun is good in its own time, but we should also spend time learning, helping others, and getting chores and other things done.

Justice means treating others well and doing our best to make things fair.

Cleanliness means we should take care of our bodies by keeping them cleaning, bathing each day, and brushing our teeth.

Like Ben, we can do our best to live by these teachings each day. You could even keep track of your goals like Ben did in his journals and checklists. You can also read and learn and come up with new ideas that will help other people like Ben’s lightning rod. You can also be courageous and stand up for good things like Ben did during the Revolution. 

History of Hawaii for Kids

One of my favorite places to visit is a chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Hawaii. I grew up in Arizona, which is a desert and a very dry place. I love Arizona, but visiting a tropical place like Hawaii was very exciting. I had never seen so much green and so much ocean! And every island on Hawaii has so many different sites to see and adventures to offer. Most of my visits have been to the islands Oahu and Maui. Oahu is home to the beautiful north shore and gigantic waves, a favorite destination for surfers all around the world. It also is home to Pearl Harbor and the big city of Honolulu. In Maui my wife and I drove to the top of a former volcano, up above the cloud, and were able to see the sunrise from very high. We also hiked through jungles and snorkeled in crystal clear, warm water and saw fish of so many different colors. The beaches are beautiful and whales pass by the islands while migrating north and south through the Pacific Ocean. So this week I was very excited to dig into the history of Hawaii and figure out how the beautiful islands came to be and the history and culture of the Hawaiian people.

First, let’s go back 40 million years to when the Hawaiian islands first began form on top of a hot spot. A hot spot is a place where hot molten rock is pushed to the surface of the earth and creates a volcano. But Hawaii was different because its volcanos were coming up from the middle of the ocean. So if you can imagine hot lava pushing up through a hole in the ocean and up to the surface, then cooling and hardening over millions of years, this is how the Hawaiian islands were formed. Magma is the burning hot rock that then turns into lava and then cools and then becomes rock once again. It took a VERY long time for the lava to cool and then harden little by little until these gigantic islands were formed and reached the surface of the water. 

Over millions of years the volcanos and hardening lava became 8 main islands. The biggest islands are named Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Molokai, and Kauia. In addition to the big islands there are 130 smaller islands that make up the Hawaiian chain of islands! But interestingly, the Hawaiian islands are not done forming. It has 3 active volcanos, which mean volcanos that still have hot lava flowing from them and slowly making the island larger. If you visit these islands today you can see actual lava pouring from their volcanos!

After the lava cooled and became solid ground, eventually seeds drifted to Hawaii on the water and the wind and the soil was very fertile, which means it was good for growing plants. Over time plants sprouted and began to grow across Hawaii making it very lush and green. The climate is tropical, so many places on the islands look like a jungle and some of the islands like Kaui get lots of rainfall and are very wet. Other places on Hawaii are very dry, so it’s geography is very diverse. But one reason Hawaii is such a favorite place to visit is that the weather is usually very nice and cool all year around, perfect for people to visit for a vacation.

Animal life also eventually made its way to Hawaii and over time the species there became very unique. Among the unique species are the monk seal, the nay-nay, also known as the Hawaiian goose, and the hoary bat. Along with these are many birds special to Hawaii, many of which have become endangered.

For thousands and thousands of years the Hawaiian islands only had plants and animals on them, no people, until around 300 AD, about 1700 years ago when people from different islands found it by boat. These people were Polynesian, which means they had lived on islands in the Pacific Ocean for hundreds of years. But the journey from where they probably lived to Hawaii was very far, around 3,000 miles, which you can imagine would take a very long time and be very dangerous in a small boat in the ocean. We’re not exactly sure when more Polyensians arrived in Hawaii, but over time more and more people arrived and settled the many islands. With them they brought new plants and animals, such as chickens and dogs, coconuts and bananas. Over time these groups settled into chiefdoms ruled by local chiefs, which ruled the settlements, created laws, and often competed with each other for food and land. They fished and planted farms and built homes and temples to their gods. They believed the gods gave them power, which they called mana

For hundreds of years the tribes of the different islands were divided until the 1780s and 90s when a chief named Kamehameha rose to power. Kamehameha was the son of a chief and at his birth it was said a bright star appeared, a prophesy that he would someday become a great king and rule all of the islands of Hawaii. Many believe this is the same time Haley’s Comet appeared in the sky in 1758. 

With all his heart, Kamehameha believed this prophecy about himself and was determined to defeat all of the other chiefs and rule Hawaii as one nation. Over time Kamehameha built up a strong army and one by one, went about fighting the other chiefs on each of the islands, conquering their tribes and making them his own. With each victory, Kamehameha and his people believed his mana, or divine power, increased. 

During Kamehameha’s rise to power, in 1778, the first known European explorer, Captain James Cook, reached Hawaii. The relationship between Europeans and Hawaiians was off and on, but Kamehameha saw their large ships and powerful weapons, such as cannons and guns that fired using gunpowder and looked for ways to use them in his own quest for power. In 1789 after British ships fired on Hawaiian locals, Kamehameha took two of them captive and gave them the choice to join his kingdom or be executed. They chose to join his kingdom and became his counselors showing his soldiers how to fire a cannon and guns and sail ships. Kamahameha had been using his wealth to buy guns, ships, and gunpowder from the European traders, so he could continue to conquer all of the Hawaiian islands and unite them under one ruler.

In 1795 Kamehemaha set off for the islands of Maui and Oahu with 960 war canoes and 10,000 soldiers. After defeating his final enemies, Kamehameha became supreme ruler of the Hawaiian islands. As king, he changed the laws so they were the same across the islands and did everything he could to keep them united. His wife, Ka-ah-humanoo was one of his advisors and became one of Hawaii’s most powerful leaders. 

After Kamehameha’s death, his son became the new King of Hawaii. During his reign, Christian missionaries began visiting the island and teaching about the religion of Jesus and the Bible. Many Hawaiians took interest in the religion. Eventually the leaders of Hawaii became Christian, too. Over time more and more Europeans and Americans moved to Hawaii. With this came a change in their native Hawaiian culture. The newcomers wanted the native people to speak English and change their traditions. They also were interested in using Hawaiian lands to plant sugar cane and sell it. Sugar cane is used to make sugar, which was a very desirable item across the world, because everyone loves sugar! Soon sugar cane plantations became a major business in Hawaii because of the weather and soil.

The children of the people who moved to Hawaii wanted more control over the government, so they could make decisions that helped their sugar cane businesses. At first they were just advisors to the Kings and Queens of Hawaii, but slowly they took more and more power to themselves. 

In 1891 a woman named Lili-oo-kalani became the first and last queen of Hawaii. She was born in Honololu on the island of Oahu and was raised up to be Hawaiian royalty. She loved the Hawaiian people and wanted them to be in control of their country rather than the foreigners who had come to power through their powerful sugar plantations and other businesses. She spent her time and energy helping to educate her people and feed the hungry. She was a talented songwriter and played the guitar, piano, ukulele (a small Hawaiian guitar) and sang. 

Even though she desperately wanted her people to stay in power, she was forced out of her position as queen by the powerful business people who were also aided by the American military who came to Hawaii with ships to back the powerful businessmen. At the time, the President of the United States and his advisors were interested in growing the United State’s overseas power and didn’t do anything to stop the forceful takeover of the Hawaiian government. The Hawaiian people peacefully protested, but it did little good. Queen Lily-oo-kalani was arrested and forced to stay in her home while she was replaced as ruler of Hawaii. It was there that she wrote the most famous Hawaiian song, “Aloha Oe.” 

Later, Lily-oo-kalani travelled to the United States to speak to the President and demand that her country be in control of the Hawaiian people again. He agreed, but other government leaders did not. Later, Hawaii became a territory of the United States and in 1859 an official state. During the years after Lily-oo-kalani was Queen there was pressure to do away with Hawaiian language and culture, but fortunately, in recent years there has been a return to an appreciation for the beauty of native Hawaiian traditions and many schools teach their native language again.

Today, Hawaii has become one of the top tourist destinations for people all around the world. 10 million people visited Hawaii in 2019 to sightsee, hike, surf, snorkel, whale watch, golf, and relax on its beautiful beaches.

Hawaii has a rich history and culture, and with it the “Aloha Spirit” and these principles: kindness, unity, humility, pleasantness and perseverance. And I wanted to end with these inspiring words by the last Queen of Hawaii, Lily-oo-kalani:  

“Never cease to act because you fear you may fail. The true secret is to know your own worth.” 

To echo her own words, know your own worth as a human being and the unique gifts you bring to the world. You can take courage and act and use your gifts to better the life of others!

The Stone Age for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are walking through the forest. You hear birds whistling in the air and watch a squirrel scurry up a tree trunk. You look down at your feet. They are bare! And your clothes are rough and made out of deer skin. You move around the forest looking for berries and nuts. You suddenly see some and shout for joy. You pick as many as you can, place them in a leather sack, and then run along a path out into an open meadow. In the meadow are brown huts made out of sticks and mud and clay. Smoke from campfires rise above the meadow and the people of your tribe are busy roasting fish and nuts. You find your family and show them your find of berries and nuts. Your mother and father are very happy and gets to work smashing them up for dinner. This is what it may have been like to live as a child during the Stone Age.

Like this child, if you had been born 10,000 or more years ago your life would have been very different! Would you like to live during this time? Or not? 

In our last episode, we learned all about the first human cities. We talked a little about what life was life was like before cities. Most humans lived in small tribes and wandered for their food. And groups of humans lived like this for a very, very long time. This was a time known as the Stone Age because the best tools people had were made out of stone. The Stone Age was divided into the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Age. During much of this time, the earth was very cold during what was known as the Ice Age.  

As you can imagine, during this time the main purpose of these early humans was to just survive. This means finding food to eat and staying safe. Their world was very dangerous. They had to worry about staying warm, keeping the bad weather off, and avoiding dangerous animals. And getting enough to eat, of course. So they spent most of their time looking for food and trying to stay safe. Stone Age humans found food in many different ways. One of those ways was by gathering it. They looked high and low for berries to eat, roots, mushrooms, seeds, edible plants, nuts, grasses, and really anything that would give their body nutrition. The children probably spent most of the time just trying to gather anything their tribe could eat. They used their stone tools to smash whatever they gathered in stone bowls until it was easier to eat or cooked it into soups. They also ate meat. If they lived near a river they speared fish or at certain times of the year they hunted larger animals. When they did kill animals to eat, they often had big feasts and ate as much as they could because they weren’t sure when it would be until they could find meat again. And they didn’t only eat the meat, but used every part of the animal possible to stay alive. For example, when they killed a mammoth they used the hides for clothing and for their homes and the tusks for tools. Through the Ice Age humans relied on the big mammoths. If you haven’t seen a picture of a wooly mammoth before, they are similar to elepaphants but are hairier with longer tusks. 

They also hunted deer, bison, pig, and any other type of animal that would give them meat. A very long time ago, huge animals such as the wooly mammoth roamed the earth. The other big animals were saber tooth tigers which were like modern day tigers, but bigger and had had huge curved teeth. 

Stone Age humans were able to survive because they had found ways to sharpen stone tools and use very strong stones such as flint. Flint tools allowed them to chop meat and cut hides into clothing. They made arrowheads and spears out of flint, which gave them an advantage over animals. Eventually they developed hunting tools like a slingshot and bow and arrow. They also made harpoons for fishing out of ivory, which was the tusks of mammoths and hammers out of the hard stones they found.

Eventually, after the Ice Age, humans also found ways to start some basic farming, by planting their own seeds, and by domesticating animals. This means keeping animals in a fenced area and using them to make more animals. They domesticated goats, pigs, chickens, and other animals. 

Through the Ice Age humans were only able to survive becaus they used animal skins and furs to keep themselves warm and build shelters. Their shelters were like tents when they needed to be on the move or were huts made out of strong sticks and mud and clay with straw roofs. Often they also found deep caves that kept them warm. They had also learned how to start fires by striking flint in order to create a spark. This spark was struck into kindling, which was then used to build a fire. Fire kept humans warm through the winter and was also used to cook and preserve meat. It was also used in other ways to make food. With all of these special skills, many tribes of humans were able to survive the long Ice Age until the earth warmed. Once the earth warmed humans were able to grow faster and settle in places like rivers. This is around the same time the megafauna like the Wooly Mammoth died out. We aren’t sure whether this happened because of the change in the weather or because they were hunted to extinction by humans. But with the good weather, humans moved into the period called the Neolithic where they farmed more, domesticated more animals, and didn’t have to move so much like their ancestors. 

Stone Age humans spent most of their time eating and staying safe, but they also spent some time creating the first art. Paintings can be found in caves and on rock from thousands of years ago. Rock drawings are called petroglyphs. They carved pictures of the animals around them and human shapes that look like some of the stick figures you or your brothers or sisters might draw. Very ancient cave paintings were found in a cave in France near a town called Altimira nearly 14,000 years ago. These people also found ways to play music using very early flutes and drums. Our Stone Age ancestors were creative we are today. They probably sang and danced and told stories around the fire at night. Because they hadn’t figured out how to write stories down, the people who told stories had to memorize them or make them up. Then these stories were passed down. This is also called an oral tradition. The stories were about their lives, their hunts, or the gods they believed in that caused mysterious things to happen like the change in weather. They didn’t understand why things happened, so they made up stories to explain them. This is called mythology and each group probably had different gods and explanations for why things happened. 

Often large groups of tribes had the same beliefs and constructed the first basic temples to their gods. In some sites, large stones have been found standing in a circle. It must have taken many humans pulling on ropes to make these hugs rocks called megoliths to stand upright. It was here that together they worshiped their gods. When their loved ones died, they created grave sites and buried them with their things. They found way to memorialize, or remember them, after they passed away.

Over time, humans began to gather into communities and then into towns and eventually large cities. Be sure to check out our episode about The First Cities to learn more about Bronze Age humans. But even though many people turned into city-dwellers, many other humans lived like Stone Age humans for a long time after this. Even today there are small tribes that live deep in the jungles of places like the Amazon and still use stone tools and hunting and gathering to survive. Isn’t that wild!? 

Would you like to live like our Stone Age ancestors, or do you like living like we do today? If so, why? Are there things better about their lives in some ways? And in what ways is your life better? Think about some of the things you have to be grateful for that they didn’t have. We usually have more food to eat and are safer than they were. We have many modern conveniences to be grateful for. When I asked my kids, they said some things about Stone Age life sounded fun. Like being able to be outside and roam around in nature all day. Like many things are ups and downs to all ways of life. Spend some time thinking about what it would be like if you lived during their day.

Thanks for listening to this episode about the Stone Age and be sure to tune in next Monday for a brand, new episode!

California Gold Rush For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are standing up to your knees in a cold river. The water is rushing around you. You see a fish swim by. Your feet crunch in the rocks as you walk around. Above you the sky is clear and blue. You are holding a metal panel. You dip it down into the water and scrape it along the bottom, picking up rocks and small gravel. After lifting it out of the water, you sift out the larger rocks and swirl it around, looking very closely at the minerals in the water. You swirl it again and then you see it, a glint of something shiny. You reach down in the water and pick it up. Sure enough, it’s a gold nugget! You hold it up in the air and shout “I found one, I found one.” Your friends nearby see it and congratulate you. You’ve found gold! 

In 1848 in California in the United States a man named John Sutter was building a sawmill. Sutter had hired several workers to help him build the sawmill along the American River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. One of the workers, James Marshall, was looking into the water when suddenly he saw something shiny. He got down into the water to look closer and noticed a small gold rock. He showed it to the other workers. Could it be real gold or was it just fools gold, also known as pyrite? James and the others spent the rest of the day testing the rock to see if it was real gold. To their surprise, the rock he found was actual gold! 

Gold is special for many reasons. First, it’s not like most metals, which are gray. It’s a shiny, beautiful color that is perfect for making jewelry. It is also soft, but doesn’t break apart when shaped by tools. Gold also lasts a very long time and does not rust in water. 

When John Sutter realized it was real gold he was worried for a couple reasons. One was that he didn’t own the land he was building the sawmill on, so he needed to find a way to buy it quickly so he could own the gold on it, too. The second reason was that once others found out gold was near his land, everyone would rush there to try and mine it, too.

Sutter made deals with the local Native Americans until he owned the land, but the way he went about it wasn’t fair. And even though he tried to keep it a secret, his workers started telling their friends. Before long word spread about gold in California. A newspaper headline in San Francisco read: “Gold Mine Found.” At this time not very many people lived in California, but with news spreading about gold that would change very quickly. This is called a gold rush. This wasn’t the first time a gold rush happened in the United States or other places in the world. In North Carolina in 1799 a young boy found a 17-pound gold nugget near his home. This led to a gold rush there. Later there was a gold rush in the Appalachian Mountains and after the Caifornia gold rush there would be one in Alaska.

As word about gold in California spread across the United States, people started travelling from all around eager to become rich. Someone searching for gold is called a “prospector.” Prospectors travelled to California by land and by sea. Going by land was the cheapest way to go, but was also the longest trip, taking 7 months. Prospectors joined groups of wagons called wagon trains and used the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails to get there. Going by land was very dangerous. They often ran out of water, got diseases, or ran into trouble with Native Americans who didn’t want them on their land. 

The more expensive, but faster way to travel to California, was by sea. Prospectors usually left from New York or Boston and either went all the way around the tip of South America at Cape Horn, which took five or six months, or they took a ship to the Isthmus of Panama. From there they crossed the land at the isthmus (a narrow neck of land) in a wagon, then they boarded a second ship and took it north to California. This was the fastest way to go, but was also dangerous. Prospectors travelling through the jungles of Panama often caught malaria or Yellow Fever along the way.

Once prospectors reached San Francisco, California they usually bought mining supplies and all of the other gear they needed to mine gold. These tools included a knife, a pick to break rocks, a shovel, a round tin pan for panning for gold, a rocker, a tent, and food needed to survive. As more miners came through San Francisco, the town began to grow. More people build stores there to sell tools and other supplies. They also built hotels and places for entertainment to accommodate the prospectors passing through. 

From San Francisco, prospectors travelled another 140 miles into California before they started searching for gold. They usually looked in streams first, using pans to dig up the loose rock and sift through it for flakes of gold. This is called panning for gold. Once the prospector found a spot worth mining they would “stake their claim,” which means reserve it for themselves. Panning for gold was very hard work. Their beards grew long, they became very dirty doing the work, and often the food didn’t give them good nutrition. Many prospectors who travelled all the way to California, and spent all of their money to get there, never found any gold.

The other name for prospectors in California was a “49er,” because the year was 1849. You may have also heard of the team the San Francisco 49ers, which comes from the prospectors who brought fame and more people to California. 

The 49ers who did discover gold took it to cities like Stockton or Sacramento or all the way back to San Francisco to have their gold weighed and sold to the bank. These towns began to grow because prospectors wanted a comfortable place to stay, good food to eat, and entertainment after living out in the wild for so long. In 1849 San Francisco went from having 150 people living there to 6,000! Five years later 50,000 people lived there! It also became known as the Golden Gate, which the Golden Gate Bridge is named after.

Towns nearby the gold became known as “boomtowns.” They were wild, rowdy places where prospectors went for entertainment and to spend the money they earned from mining gold. 

Many miners were unlucky and never became rich during the gold rush, but some did. One of those was John Bidwell. He eventually found $2.5 million dollars worth of gold in today’s money and 600 miners worked there in what became known as Bidwell’s Bar. Brothers John and Daniel Murthy also became very wealthy along with John Fremont. Most people never found large amounts of gold, but instead just small amounts in rivers. But some people became very wealthy not by mining gold, but by building stores and hotels and other businesses to support all of the prospectors coming into San Francisco.

If you’ve ever worn jeans, they became very popular in San Francisco at this time. In 1850 a German businessman named Levi Strauss moved there to start selling his pants. They were made of denim and had pockets and lasted longer than cotton pants. They later became known as Levis and are still a popular jean company today.

Ghihardelli Chocolate Company also started in San Francisco during the gold rush and has been in business for more than 160 years. Our family loves their chocolate chips and if you ever visit San Francisco today be sure to get ice cream with their chocolate topping there.

Once most of the gold nuggets and flakes in rivers had been discovered, miners had to start digging down into the earth to get it. These are called gold deposits. Miners had to tunnel down to get the ore, which is the hard rock with veins of gold inside it. Tunnels were dug and dynamite was used to break up the rock. Mining was very dangerous. Workers went deep into the ground using elevators, which often broke. The air was poor underground and sometimes there were cave-ins. The mining was also bad for the land and water in many of these places. A chemical called mercury was used to separate gold from rock dust. The mercury was poisonous to the miners and much of it got washed into the rivers and killed fish and other animals. Farmland was also destroyed as miners chipped away at the earth. Laws had to be passed to protect the land. The gold rush also caused people to leave other work such as farming and shipping. The other problem was more people moved into California and Native Americans who had lived there for generations were forced off their land onto reservations. 

Over time it became harder to find gold, so prospectors left California for other places. Silver had been discovered in Nevada, so many of them moved there or just decided to do something else with their life. With this, many of the boomtowns turned into what became known as “ghost towns.” This just means that people no longer needed the town, so the buildings were left unmaintained and grew old and fell apart. 

But even though the gold rush was over, the United States would forever be changed. San Franscico became a big city with over 50,000 people living there. While the United States had mostly been populated in the East, it now reached from East to West, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Today almost a million people live in San Francisco and since the advent of the Internet it has seen its success in software as people move to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley to work for large tech companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

Clara Barton For Kids

When was the last time you helped someone? Did it feel like it was very important? How did you feel at the time? Most people go through their lives performing acts of service at one time or another. Clara Barton was a special person who devoted her entire life to helping others, and tried to be of service in whatever she did – in her family, in her work, even on the battlefield of the American Civil War!

Clarissa Barton was born Christmas Day in 1821.

She started going to school when she was just three years old, and she was very good at reading and spelling. Clara only had one friend because she was so shy and timid.

At the age of ten, her brother David fell from the roof of a barn and hurt his head very badly. Clara wanted to help take care of him, so she learned how to give him his medicine, and how to place leeches on his body – which was a typical medical practice at the time. Even after the doctors gave up on treating her brother, Clara continued to help care for him, and he eventually got better. 

While Clara was growing up, her family moved in order to help a family member take care of their house and farm. Clara was happy and persistent in offering her help, which included repairing and repainting the house that Clara’s family lived in. Clara loved to play with her cousins, and loved activities such as horseback riding. 

As a teenager, Clara’s parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher as a way to help her overcome her shyness. Clara obtained her teaching certificate and was a very successful teacher, able to handle even the most rambunctious and energetic children. Clara was asked to open a free public school in New Jersey. The school became very successful, and Clara would teach classes to over 600 people. 

Clara later moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, helping to file and keep track of patents. Clara was the first woman to receive a clerkship in the federal government, and her salary was the same as the male clerks in the Patent Office. 

While she worked at the Patent Office, the American Civil War began. In The Civil War the Northern States and the Southern States fought over whether the nation should be divided or stay together. During the war many soldiers were hurt in battle. Clara went to the railroad station in Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded men who had been transported there. She brought them the clothing, food, and supplies they needed to recover from their injuries. As she worked with the men, Clara learned how to store and distribute medical supplies. She worked hard to help the soldiers feel cared for; she often read books to them, helped them write letters to their families, and talked to them to help keep them in good spirits. Clara believed this is what she was meant to do in life, andbegan to look for ways  to help the soldiers fighting in the war. In 1862 in Virginia she saw the awful fighting first hand and helped to care for wounded soldiers near several other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In order to gather supplies, Clara even placed an ad in the newspaper, and people in the area helped to donate supplies to take care of the wounded soldiers. Even when supplies weren’t available, Clara still did everything she could to help. For example,at one battle where they didn’t have any bandages, the wounded were treated using corn-husks instead. The soldiers nicknamed Clara ‘the Angel of the Battlefield’ for the help that she gave them. 

Clara was known for helping all soldiers who needed aid, even if they fought for the other side, which in this case was the South. She said ‘I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while out soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.’ Clara was brave and helped soldiers even while battles were taking place around her; while she was tending one soldier a bullet from the fighting tore through the sleeve of her dress!

After the war ended, Clara discovered that the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war were sending letters to the War Department trying to find their loved ones. These letters were going unanswered because the soldiers had been buried in unmarked graves, which meant that no one knew what had happened to them or where they were buried. Clara wrote to Abraham Lincoln asking for permission to start responding to the families and trying to locate their missing loved ones. President Lincoln said yes, and she began running the Office of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton and her assistants wrote over forty thousand replies to letters, helping to locate more than twenty-two thousand missing men! During the summer of 1865, Clara helped to find, identify and properly bury thirteen thousand individuals who had died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. She would continue to work with the Office of Missing Soldiers for four more years, helping to identify and bury twenty thousand more Union soldiers and ensuring that their graves were marked. 

Clara gave lectures around the United States about her experiences during the war, and drew large crowds when she spoke. After her speaking tour, a doctor suggested that she travel, to rest and remove herself from the physically and mentally demanding work she had done. She decided to travel to Europe.

While in Europe, Clara Barton worked with the organization known as the International Red Cross. Clara helped to prepare military hospitals and gave aid to the Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped poor people in Strasbourg find work after the Siege of Paris, and was put in charge of distributing supplies to the people of Paris. Because of her work, Clara was given the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross. 

She was so inspired that she began to petition for an American branch of the International Red Cross to be created. Clara argued  that not only could the American Red Cross be helpful in war, but it could also give relief and aid during natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. It was founded in 1881, with its first local branch in New York, and Clara served as the first president of the American branch. They built their headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the White House. She was able to help with  such disasters as the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889 (at the time one of the worst disasters in American history) and the Galveston Flood in 1900. 

Clara continued to help the Red Cross across the world  as well. In 1897 she sailed to Constantinople and helped to open the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Turkey. She would also take several trips to Armenia to provide relief and aid, and she worked in hospitals in Cuba.

After Clara resigned as the president of the American Red Cross, she founded the National First Aid Society, an organization meant to start local first aid programs.

To this day The American National Red Cross continues to be an important part of our country. They provide emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education throughout the United States. 

Clara continued to give speeches and lectures about her work after she left the Red Cross organization. She published a book about her life called The Story of My Childhood in 1907. She would pass away five years later after contracting pneumonia. 

The work that Clara Barton did to help others and the example she set of continuous service continues to be an inspiration. In 1948, a postage stamp with a portrait of Clara and an image of the American Red Cross symbol was created. Clara Barton was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. 

The next time you see someone who needs help, remember Clara Barton and her example of service. There are always opportunities to help others, large and small, and our acts of service can help others see the importance of giving aid and being helpful however possible.

History of Albert Einstein for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine a short man with gray and white hair that sticks up off his head and grows in all directions. He has a big mustache and wears a coat that is rumpled, pants that are short, and socks that don’t match. But he has a kind smile on his face and deep, thoughtful eyes. This is what Albert Einstein looked like. And it might be easy to judge him by his funny appearance, but Einstein is one of the most famous scientists of all time. And many of his big ideas changed the world! But where did Albert Einstein come from? What was his childhood like? What was his life like? Listen closely, because it all starts in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879 when Albert was born.

Albert was quiet and very shy as a child. It took him longer to say his first words than most kids. His parents thought this meant there was something wrong with him. They took him to the doctor, but the doctor said everything was just fine. As a child, Albert liked to play by himself. He played with blocks and built towers of cards. He was very curious and often sat and just day-dreamed. His parents thought this meant he had some kind of problem, but really he just liked to sit and think and dream and make things on his own. 

Albert also liked the play the violin. Often he and his mother played together. Albert’s mind was always imagining and wondering about the world around him. He went to school, but wasn’t learning the things that interested him, so he started searching for answers on his own. He read and found many of his answers in books and by asking others. His parents began to see how curious and bright he was and appreciate his talents, even though he was quiet and shy. 

In high school, Albert struggled in school. Kids had to sit perfectly still, wear uniforms, and march in line. If they asked questions they were punished. His teachers told his parents he’d never do anything useful in life because he was so disobedient by asking questions and speaking out of turn. These years were very frustrating for Albert, because he was curious and wanted to learn. Math was one of his favorite subjects. His parents found a book about geometry, the study of shapes, and he taught it to himself. 

Eventually, Albert was told to leave his school, because he refused to stop asking questions and wouldn’t blindly obey his teachers. He moved with his family to Italy and there spent his time hiking in the mountains and learning on his own. He read about great scientists and astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo who had great ideas. But because their ideas were different than what was believed, they were treated poorly. Albert understood these scientists because he felt he was being treated the same way. In Italy, he wrote his first scientific paper, but it received very little attention because he was young and no one thought someone his age would have great ideas. In Italy, he decided to move to Zurich Switzerland to study physics.

There he loved the Swiss people and his new college. He was able to ask tough questions and talk about them with his classmates. There he met a woman named Mileva who was also a big thinker. They enjoyed their time together and were later married. 

In Switzerland, Albert started working at the patent office. When someone comes up with an idea for a new invention, they draw up the plans and get a patent — which means no one else can take their idea. Albert’s job was to read about all of the new inventions and approve them. He enjoyed this job and was able to work so fast that he could take off early and spend time hiking and thinking. These were some of Albert’s happiest years of his life. So many marvelous ideas came to him at this time. He started writing scientific papers about his ideas and published five of them. These included big ideas about space travel and electricity. Albert was known for wearing the same wrinkled clothes every day and didn’t comb his hair, so it stuck up all over the place. He liked to spend time deep in thought rather than taking care of himself. People began to know him for his big ideas and recognized him for his funny appearance.

As Albert became more popular, he finally got his dream job — teaching physics for the university. Now he was able to spend all of his time thinking and teaching his students. The students loved their quirky professor. He was able to take difficult ideas and explain them in a simple way.

One of his big ideas was called The Theory of Relativity. This idea was that all things move at different speeds except for light. Think about how as a car passes it’s moving at a different speed as it drives by. But if you’re inside the car it doesn’t appear to be moving at all. So speed is “relative” to where you are. Another example is that the Earth is flying around the sun and spinning at incredible speeds, but because you’re standing on the Earth it doesn’t appear to be moving at all.

 Another of Einstein’s big idea was that not only are the planets moving around the Sun, but the Sun is moving through the galaxy as well, it just doesn’t appear to move because our planet is moving around it.

Some funny things about Albert is that even though he was a scientific genius he was often absent-minded, which means he forgot simple things. For example, often when he went out he forgot his keys, lost his bags, and forgot to eat. He was so focused on what went on in his wonderful brain that he often didn’t consider what was going on around him. He found simpler ways to live his life, so he could focus all his energy on thinking. For example, he wore the same clothes every day and only buttoned his top button because it took less time and energy. He often wore socks that didn’t match, his clothes were rumpled and his hair stuck all over the place. But his fans loved it and people all over the world talked about this brilliant, quirky genius.

Albert’s next job took him back to Germany, but over the years he and his wife were growing apart. He was so busy being a professor and speaking around the world that he didn’t give Mileva and his children the time they needed. Mileva decided not to move him and they divorced. Albert admitted he was not always a good father and chose writing his papers and teaching over his family responsibilities. 

While Albert was living in Germany, World War I started. He was sad to see soldiers marching down the street because he knew what war did to people. He refused to support the war and the leaders of Germany were upset at him. He could have gone to jail, but he stood up for his beliefs anyway. When World War I ended Albert was very happy.

In Germany, Albert met a woman named Elsa. They grew close and she spent her time taking care of him, making sure he ate and shaved and didn’t lose his keys. They were married. Albert loved Elsa and she loved him. 

By this time, Albert was so popular it made his life difficult. You might think being popular is a great thing, but for people who are very famous, you can’t walk anywhere without people talking to you or wanting a picture or asking for your autograph. Albert loved being alone, so this was very hard for him. He was offered a lot of money to speak and do other things, but he refused. For him, his research and his ideas were more important than money or fame.

Sadly, new problems began in Germany. Albert Einstein was Jewish, which is a race and religion. Many Jews who lived in Germany wrote to Albert and asked him to defend them because they were being treated badly. Their shops were taken from them and they were often beaten up by non-Jews. The Nazis, who had taken control of Germany, falsely blamed all their problems on the Jewish people. They burned their books and many Jews started leaving Germany. Albert spoke out against the Nazis and refused to leave even though his life was at risk. Hitler, the powerful leader of the Nazis, said Albert was a spy and eventually Albert realized it was too dangerous for him to stay. He and Elsa moved to the United States and became a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. 

Albert’s years at Princeton were hard. He was sad to see what was happening to Jews in Germany. Then sadly Elsa died. Albert often kept to himself and played his violin. He also didn’t have as many big ideas as when he was younger.

One of Albert’s most famous ideas was an equation, E = MC2. It basically said that all things are energy. Even the hard walls around you, your body, mass are energy, too, but just in a different form. He also had the idea that if an atom could be broken it would cause a HUGE explosion, called a nuclear explosion. He worried that the Nazis might create a nuclear bomb and use it against the United States and her Allies. Even though he hated the idea that such a weapon would ever be used, he wrote President Roosevelt and told him that the United States must create the bomb first. Eventually, the United States did create an atomic bomb and used it against its enemy Japan. For the rest of his life, Albert wondered whether he should have ever shared his ideas about a nuclear bomb. But he also thought the consequence of the Nazis making it first would be even worse. 

After World War II ended, Einstein spent many years speaking out against atomic bombs. The United States and Russia had made thousands of them and it made the world a very dangerous place. Fortunately, after World War II nuclear bombs were never used. 

Albert Einstein spent the last years of his life growing old while living in Princeton, New Jersey. His hair was now white and grew widely in all directions. He was still a quirky and funny sight to see with his rumpled, mismatched clothes. He continued to play his violin and go on walks around his home. He often stopped to help people in need or invite them into his home. He was a very gentle, kind person who had changed the world with his ideas but didn’t care about money or being famous. He just wanted the world to be a peaceful place. On April 17, 1955 Einstein passed away while thinking through a problem and writing equations on a piece of paper. To his last day, he was a thinker! 

Spend a moment thinking about what it was like to be Albert. When he was young he loved to go on walks and observe the world around him. He saw everything through the eyes of wonder and curiosity. The world to him was an exciting, mysterious place. He loved to understand how it worked and dream about how the parts he didn’t understand might work. His imagination led to some of his amazing ideas. You can wonder, too. Remember in the times when you might be bored, it’s ok to be bored. Say it out loud “it’s ok to bored!” When you’re bored, you can take a deep breath and look closely at the world around you. It’s the perfect chance to see things with new eyes. 

Even though Einstein became very famous, he didn’t care about having lots of money and expensive things. He wanted the world to be fair and peaceful. He also wasn’t perfect. No one really is. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Einstein wasn’t a very good father, but he ended up helping the world in many other ways. 

If you want to learn more about Albert Einstein we shared our favorite videos and books on our website, BedtimeHistoryStories.com. Be sure to check it out.

History of Mars Exploration for Kids

Meet Mars Perseverance Rover

Watch NASA engineers prepare Perseverance for launch

Learn more about the SpaceX Starship for it’s 2022 Mars Mission

On certain nights, if you go outside and look up into the sky you may see a very bright light. It may look like a star, but if you’re looking at the right place and at the right time, you can see the planet Mars. Mars is special because it’s one of the closest planets to Earth. It’s also more similar to Earth than any of the other planets in our Solar System. It has a surface you can walk on. And with the right tools, people could someday live on Mars. Humans have always been interested in Mars and have explored in more than any other planet. 

Because of its color Mars is often called the “Red Planet.” It’s the fourth planet from the Sun and Earth is the third. Because it’s further from the Sun than Earth, it’s very cold on Mars. Like most planets, Mars is very big, but it’s about six times smaller than Earth. It has two small moons named Phobos and Deimos. The surface of Mars is rocky and covered in red-brown colored dust. It’s extremely cold and dry. There is no flowing water on the surface of Mars and no plants or animals live there. However, there is evidence that millions of years ago water flowed on Mars, but over time it froze or evaporated.

Even though there is no life on Mars, it has some amazing geographical features, which include a mountain and volcano called Olympus Mons, which is more than twice the height of Mount Everest and the second-largest known mountain in the Solar System. The Red Planet also has a gigantic canyon called Vallis Marineris, which is 10 times longer than the Grand Canyon and 6 times deeper. If it was on earth Vallis Marineris would stretch all the way across the United States.    

For thousands of years, humans have been interested in Mars. Ancient astronomers such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians and Chinese watched Mars in the sky with wonder. The Romans named it “Mars” after the god of war, because it was red, the color of blood. In 1877 when Mars was closest to Earth, the Italian Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli used a telescope to draw a detailed map of Mars. As telescopes improved humans learned more and more about the Red Planet. They wondered if it had planets and animals like earth and they dreamed of visiting it someday. Science fiction authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined it having people and wrote adventures about what happened there in his book A Princess of Mars.     

The first attempts to explore Mars were made by the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. The Soviet Union was the name of Russia and other nearby countries at that time. They launched 9 different unmanned rockets in hopes of reaching Mars. Unmanned means no humans are on the rocket. Most of the first spacecraft never made it to the Red Planet, but the Mars 3 lander did land on the surface of Mars, and the Mars 5 lander landed and was able to send back some information before it stopped working. 

In 1964 NASA, the United State’s National Air and Space Administration launched Mariner 4 and Mariner 5 to learn more about Mars. The first spacecraft failed, but the second one made the 7 month trip to the Red Planet. When it arrived it took pictures from space and sent them back to Earth. It was the first time humans saw the surface of another planet! It was amazing! They saw craters and learned that living on Mars would be harder than they expected. More spacecraft were sent and took new pictures of Mars. With each visit, they learned more about our neighboring planet.

The next goal was to land a vehicle on Mars so it could take close up pictures and samples of the Martian air and dirt. Remember, that all of these spacecraft and landers were unmanned, they were robots and didn’t have people on them. They were all controlled by people on Earth. Sending a human to Mars would be much more challenging and dangerous. 

In 1975 NASA sent two more landers to Mars and called them Viking 1 and Viking 2. They landed successfully and sent back color pictures of the surface of Mars. They showed red, rocky land. The Viking landers also learned more about what life would be like on Mars.

Next came the Mars Pathfinder mission, which landed again and this time included a rover. A rover is a robot with wheels and arms that drives around the surface of the Red Planet. It can take pictures and samples of the dirt and air. Then it uses radio communication to send all of this information across space and back to Earth.

Other missions sent more probes to fly over Mars and take pictures. Then in 2012 the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars and took even better pictures and samples to prepare for future missions. 

While researching this episode, I learned that this month, July 2020, NASA plans to launch its new and improved rover called Perseverance . If it launches this month it would land on Mars in February and send back whatever it learns. One of the coolest things about the Perseverance rover is it will also have a small helicopter on it that will detach and fly around and explore and take pictures from the sky. 

Also, just this last week China launched its first spacecraft and lander to explore Mars. Mars exploration is really exciting lately! I’m look forward to hear what they find out next. 

The next big step with Mars will be sending humans to live and do research there. Elon Musk is a tech billionaire and visionary who has made sending humans to live on Mars the mission of his company, SpaceX. His goal is to send humans there by 2022. This is called colonization. It’s a big goal, but he and his engineers have accomplished amazing things in the past. He also started Tesla, which makes the famous electric cars.

In 2020 if SpaceX is ready, their mission to Mars would begin by launching their Starship spacecraft attached to their Super Heavy rocket. It would probably take 6 months to get from Earth to Mars, but the engineers at SpaceX are working to make it faster. Two more Starships would launch the same year. If SpaceX reaches the Red Planet they’ll have to be prepared to live there. First, humans will need oxygen, because Mars’s air does not have oxygen like Earth’s. They will bring some of their own oxygen and also use special machines to pull other elements like Carbon Dioxide out of the air and convert it into oxygen. They’ll also need water. One way to do this is to dig up the soil and extract water from deep in the ground or from frozen ice caps. They will also need to wear special suits because its air doesn’t protect them from the Sun’s radiation — and radiation is very dangerous to the body. The Red Planet is also extremely cold. Their homes and suits will need to keep them warm. These habitats will also have the oxygen and air pressure the body needs to survive. And  of course humans need to eat, so they will bring some of their own food at first, but if they want to live there for a long time they’ll need to figure out how to grow plants in Martian soil, so they can eat them. 

Many teams are already preparing for life on Mars by living in habitats in the desert on Earth. Living alone will be a challenge and all of the astronauts will have to work as a team and find ways to get along with each other. The goal to send people to Mars is a big one, but humans have done amazing things in the past as they think big and work together.

Would you like to visit a faraway place like the space station or the Moon or Mars someday? What kind of skills would you need to survive in a place like that? If so, what can you do now to prepare to explore like an astronaut or create new devices like the engineers at NASA and SpaceX? 

Building things requires a knowledge of math and science. It also requires creativity. There are a few ways you can develop these skills on your own and at school. Remember that even though subjects like math don’t always seem interesting at first, understanding them can give you the ability to do amazing things.

Also, teamwork is important to achieve big goals. All of the space missions require huge teams of engineers and scientists, mission control operators, and astronauts to get the job done. No one achieves these feats alone. Learning to be patient and get along with your friends and family members prepares to work well with others and on a team. This will be important for the rest of your life.     

And be sure to mark your calendar for July 30th as NASA prepares to send its next rover, The Perseverance, to Mars. 

Thanks for listening! Be sure to check out our website BedtimeHistoryStories.com to see our favorite books and movies about Mars exploration and a really cool video of NASA preparing its next Mars mission and SpaceX’s 2020 Mars mission. That’s BedtimeHistoryStories.com 

History of Athens and Sparta for Kids

Greek Parthenon

Close your eyes and imagine you’re walking down an ancient, stone road. In the distance, you hear music and the voices of people gathering and singing songs. You join the crowd along the road and slowly walk up a very tall hill. At the top of the hill is a magnificent white building supported by gigantic marble pillars. People are streaming into the building as they clap their hands, sing and celebrate. Inside the temple, you gaze up at an enormous statue of Athena, the greek god who protects your city. You place a wreath of flowers and food at her feet as an offering. Others around you do the same. Today is Panathenia, the festival celebrating Athena’s birthday. It’s the most important holiday of the year in the city of Athens.

Tonight we’re going to learn about Athens and Sparta, two of the earliest civilizations in Western History. Athens and Sparta were located in what is now known as Greece in Europe on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Around 2,500 years ago Greece had over 1,000 city-states. A city-state was like a very small country. Athens and Sparta were two of the most powerful. At the time the Persian Empire controlled Greece and many of the city-states. But the Greek city-states wanted to be free of Persian rule, so they went to war and eventually beat the Persians during the Battle of Marathon. After the Greco-Persian War Athens and Sparta grew in number of people and in wealth.

Even though they lived nearby each other, the people of Athens and Sparta couldn’t be more different. The people of Athens were known for their love of wisdom and subjects such as philosophy, history, science, and art. The word philosophy is a Greek word that means “love of wisdom.” The earliest and most famous philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were Greek. They spent their days studying the world around them and reflecting on their own thoughts. One of Socrates most famous quotes was an “unexamined life is not worth living,” which means we should focus on trying to understand our own thoughts and motivations and trying to make sense of the world around us. Inscribed on the Temple of Delphi were the words: “know thyself.” As we come to understand our own minds and intentions, we can improve ourselves and likewise the world around us. The philosopher Aristotle was known for studying nature and making observations about it. He was fascinated by the world around him. 

During its Golden Age Athens formed one of the first democratic governments, which means large groups of people made decisions for their city-state rather than a single ruler. This style of government was ahead of its time and later influenced the democratic governments we enjoy today, ruled by the people instead of a king. One of their leaders was named Pericles. Pericles was a talented speaker who loved wisdom and was known for thinking rationally, which means making decisions based on truth rather than strong emotions. The people loved Pericles and he led them to make good decisions for Athens. Most children were able to attend school and taxes were used to make the city a better place. The Athenians built beautiful temples to the Greek gods. The Parthenon was the most famous temple whose ruins can still be seen today on Acropolis Hill. Inside the Parthenon, they built sculptures of the goddess Athena and Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. 

The Athenians wrote stories about their gods, which became known as Greek Mythology. Each of the gods had personalities and behaved like humans. Sometimes they were angry, sometimes they were happy, and even threw parties. In the stories, the gods fought wars and often used humans to do the fighting for them. The Athenians used their gods to explain acts of nature like hurricanes and the crash of thunder. The stories often also included moral stories to teach how people should behave. Some of the other well-known gods were Poseidon, god of the sea, Hera, goddess of marriage and family, and Ares, god of war. 

The theater was also very popular in Athens. The people loved to gather and watch plays and listen to songs and music. Some of the great playwrights of the time were Sophocles, Euripedes, Aeschylus (ES-kul-us), and Aristophane. 

The Athenians loved art and wisdom, but to protect themselves and secure their freedoms, they also built a powerful navy. A navy was important because Greece was located on the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by islands and other coastal city-states, which often attacked each other. Athen’s navy was made up of triremes (tri-remes), huge wooden warships that carried 170 rowers manning 3 banks of oars. The ships were 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. At one point Athens had over 400 warships and 80,000 sailors that protected their coasts. All young men joined the military when they were 18.

Athens wasn’t the only powerful city-state in Greece at the time. Sparta was another very powerful city-state, but they couldn’t be more different than their neighbors. The Spartans were ruled by two kings and a small group of leaders who controlled the people by force. They prized military strength above all else. They were all about being strong and dangerous — a true warrior society. At the age of 7, Spartans joined a military school called the Agoge (ah-go-gey), that trained to be tough and fierce. They went everywhere barefoot, so their feet could be strong. They ate bland food and wore uncomfortable clothes to toughen them. They learned how to wrestle and fight as soldiers. They were taught self-control and to be courageous in the face of danger. All Spartans were expected to devote their lives to their city-state above all their personal wants and needs.

Sparta was made up of three groups: the Spartans, who were full citizens and full-time soldiers, the Helots, who were slaves to the Spartans, and the Perioeci (peer-ee-oh-see), skilled craftsmen who built things such as homes and weapons of war.

Spartan soldiers were called hoplites. In battle, they wore bronze helmets, breastplates, and red cloaks. They carried large round shields, and a spear or sword. They were truly fierce warriors and were known for their tight fighting formation called a phalanx. In a phalanx, hoplites stood close together with their shields overlapping to form a single wall of armor. Then they attacked together as one body. 

One of the most famous Spartans was King Leonidas, who led his army against the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae. According to Greek historians, when Leonidas saw they were losing he sent most of his troops home, but stayed with 300 soldiers to fight a much larger army of Persians for three days. Leonidas and the other Spartans fought bravely, but the Persians found a way around them and eventually won. Even though Leonidas and his army lost, they would forever be remembered for their courage to continue fighting even when they were outnumbered.  

Spartan women were known for being strong-minded and independent. They were also expected to be fit and physically strong. They received some education and competed in games such as javelin throwing and wrestling. They also enjoyed dancing and singing and were able to own their own property, which wasn’t common in other parts of Greece.

Sadly, Sparta and Athens didn’t get along. As they grew more powerful, Athens tried to control the other city-states like Sparta, who wouldn’t stand for it. In 431 B.C. Sparta and its allies attacked Athens in what became known as The Peloponnesian War. Athens had a strong navy, but Sparta was stronger on land and besieged Athens. A siege is when one army surrounds the city of its enemy. During the siege a plague also hit Athens and many of its people didn’t survive, making the city even weaker. Surprisingly, Athens survived the siege, but the war went on another 15 years. Athens tried to use its navy to beat Sparta, but in 405 B.C. the Spartan general Lysander and his armies finally beat Athen’s navy and besieged the city once again. This time they conquered. Athens had to surrender and join the new Spartan Empire. 

Eventually Sparta faced its own problems, like the revolt of its slave class who didn’t want to be ruled anymore. By around 300 B.C. the more powerful empire of Alexander the Great conquered Greece and the Sparta, too. 

Even though Athens lost the war against Sparta, their ideas about philosophy and history and science and art spread throughout Greece and beyond. Later the Roman Empire admired Greek thought and culture and it’s beautiful sculptures were admired through the ages. During the Renaissance Greek culture was rediscovered by the Italians and once again the philosophy of Socrates and Plato was read. In fact, you can read their writings today and they have formed the foundation of modern philosophy.

Tonight think about the values of each of these amazing groups of people. Neither were perfect, but you can take what is best about them and apply it to your own life. The Athenians loved the mind and wisdom. What does it mean to you to “know yourself”? Spend some time thinking about your own thoughts and why you do things or maybe why you were upset about something the other day. As you come to know yourself first, you can better manage yourself, and in turn help those around you.

Also think about Aristotle and how curious he was about the world around him. He studied every living thing he saw: the sky, the trees, the birds and other animals. He made observations about them and continued learning and sharing his ideas with others. 

The Greeks loved beauty and found ways to express it through their sculptures. You could do the same by drawing beautiful things around you.

The Spartans were dangerous and aggressive, but we can take their values of courage, strength and apply them to ourselves. Spartan children didn’t always get what they wanted, this taught them to have self-control. Sometimes when we get everything we want, we don’t appreciate things as much. They also found ways to strengthen their bodies by running and swimming and doing sports. It’s important to keep your own body strong and healthy. Think of ways you can be physically fit like a Spartan.

Spartans also had courage and continued to fight even when they were outnumbered. The struggles you face may not always be physical, it may just be a problem you’re trying to solve or something you’re trying to be better at, but you can continue trying and persevering even when it seems like you can’t win.

May you have the mind and heart of an Athenian and the strength and courage of a Spartan! 

What is a star?

Close your eyes and imagine you are standing in a wide open field. In the field you see a gigantic white rocket reaching far up into the sky. As you walk up to the rocket, the door opens and you climb inside and find a seat and buckle up. Next you hear the countdown – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Suddenly the rocket rumbles as it lifts of the ground and shoots through the sky, past the clouds, and up, up, up into space. When you look out the window you see the round blue ball of earth far below.

The rocket is going faster and faster. You zoom past the moon as the rocket picks up speed. Soon the other planets of our solar system pass you by. You look back and notice the earth has grown smaller and smaller until it has disappeared from view. Then suddenly you are traveling at the speed of light, and before long you have left the solar system and are deep into outer space. All is black. You travel further and further until suddenly you look out your window and see a beautiful cloud of dust and gas all swirling together. You have arrived at the place where stars are born. It is called a stellar nursery, which means a star birthing place.

Stars are sort of like people in that they are born, and they grow until they are bigger, and then eventually get old and die. But unlike people stars live for millions or even trillions of years. Our own sun is a star, it’s just a lot closer than the stars we see twinkling in the sky at night that appear so small.

For millions of years clouds of dust and gas in space swirl around each other in what is called a nebula. Over time these clouds slowly group together into clumps that eventually become baby stars — or protostars. Some stars grow bigger and bigger until they become as large as our own sun. And often they have their very own planets, just like our sun has its own planets. These stars become very hot  and bright, which is why when you look up at the sky at night you can see them even though they are sooo far away. To travel to many of these stars would take thousands of years.

The reason we know a lot about how stars are born is because of a space telescope. A space telescope is a telescope that is launched into space and can see better because it is above the earth. The Herschel Space Observatory was built by the European Space Agency and watched where stars were born for 4 years. Because of the hard work of the engineers and astronomers working on this space telescope, we know a lot more about the life of stars.

After changing from clouds of gas and dust many of these baby stars eventually become “main sequence” stars, then sub-giant stars and then red giant stars. Many of these very large stars are thousands of times bigger than our own sun. And our own sun is very, very big.

After millions of years even stars grow old and die. Eventually they begin to collapse in on themselves and then suddenly explode in what is called a supernova. During a supernova they shoot gas and dust for millions of miles around them. Supernovas happen in the universe all the time but often it’s hard for us to see them happening because there are so many stars and they are so far away. The people who study stars are called astronomers. Most astronomers thought the only way to see supernovae would be to use a large telescope run by many astronomers. In Australia there was an amateur astronomer named Robert Evans. He had a normal job during the day, but at night his favorite thing to do was to go on his back porch and use his little telescope to watch the stars. Robert was interested in supernovas, when stars explode, but decided he didn’t need all of the big telescopes to see them. So he started watching for supernovas on his own. For many nights Robert didn’t see anything. But he kept watching and kept waiting, until he saw his first supernova. He was so excited. Over the years Robert has seen 42 supernovae! Which is an amazing achievement. Because Robert is very patient and very diligent he has been able to see when these gigantic stars explode all the way across the galaxy.

When we look out in the night sky we see many stars, but they are very far away. After the sun, the closest star is called Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is 25 trillion miles away! This gives you a little bit of an idea of how large our galaxy is.

Stars like our sun are very important because they are like huge factories which give off energy and heat. They send this energy in the form of waves that travel all the way across space to Earth. There are many reasons our sun is important. First off, without it would always be night. If it was always night, it would be very hard to see! Also, trees would never grow, because trees need the sun’s energy to grow. Without trees and other plants we wouldn’t have oxygen to breath and animals wouldn’t have food. And without animals and plants we wouldn’t be able to eat either. We would all be in very big trouble! Also, the earth would become very very cold and everything would freeze. Even on hot days, we should be very grateful we have a sun that keeps planet Earth running smoothly.

Next time when you go outside and feel the warm sun on your skin, think about how the sun rays travelled 100 million miles to to make you warm. That’s pretty amazing that an object sooo far away can make its way all the way to you and keep you warm and keep us all alive.

When we learn about how stars and our own sun it makes us grateful for nature and the world around us. And when we understand how important they are it reminds us to respect and take care of what we have.

Tonight think of some ways you can better take care of the Earth, whether it means picking up trash outside or not wasting water or planting flowers or a tree. There are many things around us in nature that we can be curious about and appreciate if we just take the time to notice them.