History of Buffalo Bill Cody for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you live in America in the 1800s, a time before cars, the Internet and TV. You are riding in a wagon pulled by your family’s best two horses. Your mom and dad are up front and you and your siblings are in the back. You look around and see many other families also riding towards the main event. When the wagon stops you climb out and hurry to a stand where your father buys tickets and hands you one. You give your ticket to attendant then rush into the large arena and climb up the stairs to what you think is the best seat with the best view. You smell popcorn and your mother hands you a bag with a smile. You take a bite and wait in anticipation for the show to begin. 

Suddenly a gun fires and you hear the thunder of hooves as a stampede of horses fill the arena. Dust clouds fill the air. Indians whoop and holler. Army men shoot their guns and flash their swords. Soon a battle begins. But this isn’t a real battle, it’s just a show, and the crowd watches in amazement as the showmen act out a battle from American history. An soldier cries out and falls off his horses. An Indian charges and waves his tomahawk. The smell of gunpowder fills the air. Soon the dust and the smoke settles. The battle is finished. The audience cheers wildly. 

Suddenly a lone man rides into the arena, waving his hat. From his leather coat, long hair and mustache, you instantly recognize the rider as the greatest showman of the Wild West — Buffalo Bill Cody. You wave your hat and cheer too. The show has just begun and you can’t wait to see what comes next.

Bill Cody was born in 1847 on a farm outside Le Claire, Iowa to Isaac and Mary Ann Cody. When Bill was young slavery was still happening in some parts of the country. Bill’s father, Isaac, was very much against it.  Many people didn’t like Bill’s family for this reason. One day when his father was speaking out against slavery someone hurt him very badly. After this Isaac had to move away to avoid his enemies. Later, the same group planned to catch Isaac and hurt him again. When Bill heard what they were going to do to his father, he jumped on his horse and rode 30 miles to warn him before they came. 

Not long afterward Bill’s father became very sick and soon passed away. This left Bill to help take care of his family when he was only 11 years old. His first job was with a wagon company. He rode his horse up and down the train of wagons and delivered messages to help them keep in touch with each other. 

When Bill was 14 years old gold was discovered in California and many Americans hurried there in hopes to mine gold and become rich. This was called a Gold Rush. Bill left on his horse for California, but along the way he found a job delivering mail from one place to another. Because there were no telephones, mail by horse was the only way people could talk to each other.

A few years later, Bill joined the Army’s 3rd Cavalry, which was fighting the Native Indians in what was called the Plains Wars. Bill was the Chief of the Scouts. His job was to ride ahead and see if they were going to be attacked. He fought in sixteen battles with the army.

While the army was on the trail they needed food, so one of Bill’s jobs was to hunt buffalo. Buffalo are huge, wild, hairy animals with horns that roamed the plains during the Wild West. At this time there were hundreds and thousands of buffalo and Bill became a very skilled hunter of them. Once, another hunter with the same name as Bill challenged him to see who could hunt the most buffalo within 8 hours. Whoever won would keep the name “Buffalo Bill.” The race was on. Bill took off on his horse and raced around the massive herd of buffalo, aiming his long rifle, and firing, picking them off one at a time. He kicked his horse faster and faster, aiming and firing, aiming and firing, buffalos dropping at every shot. When the time was up, someone rode around and counted the buffalo. Bill had killed more beasts than the other man and won the name “Buffalo Bill.”

Often people came from the East Coast or other parts of the world to visit the Wild West and hunt the famous buffalo. Buffalo Bill started taking these visitors on trips to explore the West and hunt. Some of the people who went with Bill wrote about him in the newspapers and someone even made him a character in a book. Soon many people knew about this famous hunter of the American West.

A few years later Buffalo Bill joined a traveling show called The Scouts of the Prairie. Together with the other actors he would act out famous battles for audiences. These shows were very popular and often they performed to sold out crowds. Everyone was excited to see the famous Buffalo Bill Cody and gun fighters such as “Wild Bill” Hickok. 

Before long, Bill had the idea to start his own show and called it Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. He and his crew dressed in colorful costumes and acted out battles with guns and horses while a live band played music. Many of the acts included horses and their riders from all across the world from Spanish Cowboys to Turks, Arabs, and Mongols from Asia. The American Indian war hero Sitting Bull was in the show along with famous women sharp shooters such as Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. People came from all across the country to be entertained by Buffalo Bill and his talented performers. 

Later Buffalo Bill’s West West show took a ship across the ocean to Europe, where they performed before such royalty as the Queen of England and the Kings of France and Germany. They also performed nearby the Chicago’s Worlds Fair and were a huge hit.  

Buffalo Bill used the money from his world famous show to found his own town in Wyoming and called it Cody. There he bought land and built a beautiful hotel and brought in cattle for a very large ranch. He designed Cody so people from all over could visit the countryside and pretend to be cowboys, go on horseback rides, and hunt animals in the woods. These activities were some of his great loves and he wanted to share them with others.

Even though Bill fought against Indians early in his life, he later had great respect for them and their simple way of life. He knew the reason many of them attacked settlers was because they had been treated poorly in the first place. He felt bad for what had been done to them, that they had been driven from their lands by the new Americans. He believed they should be treated with respect and hired many of them to work for his show and paid the same as everyone else.

Bill spent much of his time in nature, so he came to have great respect for the land and animals of the American West. He later did what he could to help preserve these beautiful places. This is called conservationism. Americans like he and Teddy Roosevelt believed that much of the land should be kept safe, so it can be enjoyed by everyone. This is why we have National Parks today.

Today spend a moment thinking about what it would have been like to start taking care of your family like Bill did at a young age. It was hard and probably scary at times, but Bill learned new skills such as hunting and horseback riding. When you face challenges remember that sticking with things until you get better is the only way to learn and grow. So be sure to face hard things with courage and keep on trying. 

Like Buffalo Bill you can use your imagination to come up with new ideas to entertain others. Spend some time thinking of an act or show you could perform and share it with a family member or a friend. If you can make someone else smile or laugh, that is a very good thing. 

Also, spend a little more time outside. There is much to appreciate outdoors, even if it is your backyard. Take the time to look at the sky and clouds and the trees and the listen to the birds in them. There is much to be enjoyed in the natural world around you if you take the time to notice it. 

Nancy Wake Story for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a soldier flying in a plane high above the ocean. Outside you hear the plane’s propellers turning and strong winds rushing past the windows. It is the middle of the night and down below the ocean is dark and cold. Sitting around you are other soldiers, men and women with dark clothes and large backpacks. They look nervous and you feel nervous too. You check your gun and tighten a parachute which is also on your back. 

The year is 1944 and you are in the middle of World War 2. Nazi Germany has invaded France. France’s allies England and the United States and other countries are working to help France and many other countries be free again. If the battle can be won in France there might be a chance to beat the Nazis and make the world a safe place again. You look around at the other soldiers, but remember you and the others here are no ordinary soldiers. You are part of England’s Special Operations Executive, commandos which are a combination of a soldier and a spy. You have trained many months to be a commando and it’s finally your chance to help the people of France. 

“Everyone ready?” a voice calls from the back of the plane. You look out the window and see that you are above land now. This is France. You and the other soldiers stand up and walk toward the back of the plane. In the front you see one of the most famous commandos — a woman named Nancy Wake. The back doors to the plane open. You watch as Nancy walks to the back of the plane and jumps out into the cold night. Soon you jump out, too, and are are falling down, down toward the ground.  At the right moment you pull your parachute and are yanked up into the sky. You look across the French countryside and float downward until your boots hit the ground and you roll, then hurriedly wrap up your parachute. 

Nancy Wake and the other commandos are running low across a grassy field to the cover of trees. Someone whispers that a German patrol is nearby. You quietly hurry on until you are hidden deep in the woods. Everyone huddles together and pulls out their backpacks. You see that Nancy is safe and are glad to have such a brave woman leading your team. You know with her help you can accomplish your dangerous and very important mission. 

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A couple years later her family moved to Australia. There she went to school until the age of 16 when she left home and found a job as a nurse. Working as a nurse, she was able to save some money and with the help of an aunt, was bought a plane ticket to New York City. There she learned how to become a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes stories for the newspaper. To Nancy being a journalist was an adventure. She loved to travel and learn about new people and places. One of the places she visited was Austria. While she was in Austria a powerful leader named Adolf Hitler had become very powerful. Hitler’s country of Germany was nearby Austria. In Austria Hitler’s followers, the Nazis, were hurting people they did not like, such as the Jews. When Nancy saw how horribly the Nazis treated these people, she realized Hitler was very dangerous.

Nancy moved to Paris, France one of her favorite places in the world. She loved the city and the people and eventually married a Frenchman named Henri Edmond Fiocca. While Nancy was living in France, Hitler’s army invaded the country. Hitler wanted to control France, but Nancy did everything to try and stop him. She joined a group called The Resistance. She helped soldiers escape France and sent secret messages to help The Resistance. Nancy was very careful, so for a long time the Nazis didn’t know she was a spy. She was very sneaky and for this reason the Nazis called her “The White Mouse.” Her job was very dangerous, but Nancy knew that fighting against the invaders was the right thing to do, so she did it anyway. The Nazis wanted to catch Nancy so badly that they offered 5 million French dollars to anyone who would turn her in. 

Soon it was too dangerous for Nancy to stay in France, so she snuck out of the country, hiding in the back of a coal truck, just before the Nazis caught her. From France she went to Spain and then to England, which was a country safe from the Nazis. Nancy could have lived a safe life in England far from her enemies, but she knew she needed to keep fighting to keep the world free. In England Nancy joined England’s spy group called the Special Operations Executive. There Nancy trained to be a soldier and a spy, also known as a commando. She learned to shoot a gun, use a radio, and be sneaky, which she was already pretty good at. But Nancy worked very hard and tried to be very cheerful. When other soldiers were sad she made funny jokes and cheered them up. The other soldiers like to be around Nancy. 

Once Nancy and the other soldiers were trained, a plane flew them across the ocean to France where they jumped out and parachuted down to the ground. Many Nazis were in France so they were careful and spent much of the time in hiding. There Nancy and the other soldiers helped The Resistance. They gave them guns and other supplies, blew up bridges, recruited more people to the Resistance. Once they even attacked a Nazi base. Nancy and the other commandos weren’t afraid to complete dangerous missions to help free the people of France.

To keep in touch with England the commandos used radio and special codes. One night the codes were destroyed by the enemy and the next closest radio station was very far away. Many would have given up, but Nancy decided she could ride a bike to the other radio. So she jumped on her bike and rode almost 200 miles. She had to pass many Nazis along the way, so it was a very dangerous journey, but Nancy was brave and believed in her cause. After delivering the message to be sent, Nancy got back on her bike and rode all the way back to her team.

While Nancy and the other commandos were helping The Resistance, the Allied Armies fought Hitler’s army on the battlefield until chasing them out of France. Nancy was excited to see France free again and proud to have been one of many to make it happen. 

After the war Nancy received many medals for her bravery. Later she wrote a book about her life and adventures during the war and called it “The White Mouse.” Nancy moved into a hotel in France where the owners and others helped take care of her, because of all she had done to help their country. Nancy Wake’s bravery inspired many women and men for years to come. 

Like Nancy, you can do things even when you’re not sure how they’ll turn out. Sometimes we only want to do the things we know about — this is called staying inside our comfort zone. But it’s also good for us to get outside of our comfort zone and try new things like Nancy did. We can stand up for what we believe even when it might be scary. If you see someone picking on someone else, you can tell them this is wrong and stand up for them. You might wonder if you can be as brave as Nancy, but remember she was once a child just like you. 

History of the Navy SEALs for Kids

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, the United States military began to train special soldiers who could move about secretly in small teams and complete special missions. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs. 

Any man or woman who wants to become a Navy must first join the Navy. Then they must pass tests to be sure they are ready for BUD/S training. BUD/S Training is a very difficult camp where leaders decide who is ready to be a Navy SEAL. There they run through wet sand with all their clothes on, crawl through deep mud, and carry heavy rubber boats. They do lots of situps and pushups and plenty of running. Most days they get very little sleep and have to swim far out in the ocean, and hold their breath underwater for a very long time. Not only do their bodies have to be strong, but their minds as well. They have to be able to keep going and going even when their body and mind want to give up. People who want to become Navy SEALs spend many years training before they even go to BUD/S Training. Because it is so hard many aren’t able to finish. This doesn’t mean they are weak, it is just a very great challenge to become a Navy SEAL.

At the end of boot camp, SEALs start other training, such as learning how to scuba dive under the water and how to parachute out of very high airplanes. They also learn how to shoot guns and set off bombs. The word SEAL is the words “sea”, “air”, and “land” all together. This means a SEAL needs to be able to move across sea, air and land to accomplish their special missions.

SEAL training can last up to a year, but even when they are done they keep practicing and practicing. A Navy SEAL is never fully done learning and improving.

At the end of their first training, the trainees are given a gold badge that has an eagle on it, which they can pin to their Navy uniform. It is a very exciting day, because they have worked so hard and so long to reach their goal.

Once a Navy SEAL completes their training they are assigned to a team. That team may live anywhere in the world, because their mission may take place anywhere in the world; and they need to be close and ready when they are needed. 

When a mission takes place the Navy SEALs may arrive there by airplane, where they parachute down, or it might be by boat or helicopter or even by submarine if they are scuba swimming to their mission. They wear camouflage clothes depending on where the missions is, since it may be in the desert or the jungle or in a city.

The Navy SEALs have assisted in many wars in the past and are active today in places like the Middle East. Their mission might be to capture an enemy or to rescue someone who has been kidnapped. SEALs are very fast and skilled at what they do and can get in and out of places very fast. During one mission their job was to stop modern day pirates who had captured a big ship and its crew. For another mission they rescued soldiers who had been captured by the enemy.

Often Navy SEALs have to sacrifice their own lives when they go on these dangerous missions. In 2005 during the Afghanistan War, a 4-man team of SEALs landed by helicopter in an enemy area. Their job was to capture a dangerous Taliban leader. The members of this team were Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson. 

While sneaking through enemy territory, the team ran into a boy and his father herding goats. The team decided to let them live and after they let them go, the father alerted the enemy and soon the team was being attacked Marcus from all sides. The SEALs fought for a very long time and tried to survive, but soon only Marcus Luttrell was left alive. 

Marcus was strong and kept fighting and running until he was taken in by a friendly villager who lived nearby. Sometimes it’s not easy to know who is a friend or enemy in war, but this family took care of Marcus until a Navy helicopter came and took him away. After arriving home, Marcus wrote a book about the battle of him and his team and called it “Lone Survivor.” 

Navy SEALs are in many ways ordinary people who want to make a change in the world and serve their country. Their job is never easy, but they practice long and hard to be very good at what they do. 

Spend some time thinking about what you can do to improve yourself like a Navy SEAL. You don’t have to become a Navy SEAL to make yourself strong or become better at something. It might just be playing outside instead of watching TV, or riding your bike, or swimming, or doing something kind for someone else. You can have the spirit of a Navy SEAL, which is to accomplish great things even when they take time, hard work and practice.  

The History of Sacajawea

A long time ago, in the 1800s, the United States was still a young country. At this time much of the wilderness hadn’t been explored by the new Americans yet. This land was inhabited by Indians and many animals and nature was still fresh and dangerous and wild. The new Americans were curious about this land and wanted to know what plants and animals were there. Most importantly they wanted to know how to best travel from the East Coast to the West Coast. 

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson bought this land from France in what was known as the Louisiana Purchase. Next, he asked one of his captains, Meriwether Lewis, to discover this new land and make a record of what was there. It would be a dangerous mission, but Lewis was brave and bold and loved discovering new places. Captain Lewis asked his friend Lieutenant William Clark to go with him. So they gathered their team and their supplies, climbed into a boat, and headed down the river to discover the uncharted American wilderness.

A few years before this a little Indian girl was born far across the country near the Rocky Mountains. Her parents named her Sacajawea. Her people were called the Shoshone and they lived among the trees and wild animals, and learned how to live off the land and hunt like many other Indian families. Sacajawea felt safe in this place and loved her family.

When Sacajawea was 12 years old her tribe was attacked by another tribe. A frightening battle took place and afterward Sacajawea and many other girls were kidnapped by their enemies. As she was lifted onto their horse and carried away she didn’t know if she’d ever see her family again. This was a very scary time for Sacajawea.

A few years later Sacajawea was sold to a trapper named Charbonneau and later became his wife. A trapper is someone who traps animals and lives off selling their fur and meat. 

As Captain Lewis and Clark were exploring the wilderness they needed someone who was familiar with the land and the language, so when they met Charbonneau and Sacajawea they knew she would be a perfect fit. 

Not long after they Sacajawea joined Lewis and Clark, she gave birth to a baby boy who she named him Jean Baptiste, but Lewis and Clark liked to call him “Little Pompy.” For the rest of the journey she would travel with her baby boy tied to her back. 

The journey down the river was often very dangerous. One day when they were riding through rough water, the boat suddenly collapsed and everyone and their things dropped into the water. After everyone swam to shore, Lewis realized their precious journals were missing. These journals were very important because they were a record of everything they had seen and done. Knowing this, Sacajawea bravely dove into the water and swam deep down until she found the journal on the bottom of the river. Lewis was so relieved when Sacajawea swam back to the shore with his journals.

Sacajawea was helpful because she knew the plants and animals of this wild land. She would cook up roots for them to eat and show them the way when they were lost. She was also a peaceful ambassador to the other Indians. An ambassador is someone who tries to help two different groups of people talk to each other and make peace. Sacajawea knew the Indian languages and kept Lewis and Clark and their crew safe.

Far along in their journey, they met some Indians and asked them if they could trade horses. At first the Indians would not trade. Suddenly Sacajawea recognized them, they were Shoshones, the tribe she had been kidnapped from so long ago! And to her surprise the chief was her brother. She was so happy to see her friends and family again. After celebrating with her tribe, she helped Lewis and Clark trade some of their things for horses, and although she was sad to leave her family, they were on their way again. She had a new family and a new mission to complete.

Finally, after many days crossing rivers and forests and mountains the team reached the Pacific Ocean, the end of their journey. With the help of Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark had traveled over 3700 miles! Along the way they had learned new things about the land and plants and animals and made maps that would help pioneers and other Americans journey across the country. 

Like Sacajawea, you can be helpful to others and be brave even when you’re not sure about how your journey will go. Also, you can be strong even when sad or difficult things happen to you. It’s okay to feel sad, but always remember that after you’ve let all your feelings out, you can stand back up, continue on, and learn something new. No matter what happens there is always hope and good things will come when you keep moving forward!

History of the Pony Express for Kids

Can you imagine living in a time when were no cell phones, no email and no other electronic way to talk to others living far away? For a very long time that is how everyone lived. Instead of making phone calls they wrote letters, and often it took many days for them to arrive. Imagine if you had something very important to tell someone, but they wouldn’t find out until weeks later! 

In the United States, during the the 1800s, the days of pioneers and cowboys, there lived a creative business man named William Russell. William Russell had a genius idea. He thought of a way to send letters across the country very fast. To do this he used horses and riders who rode as fast as they could from one stop to another. From the state of Missouri to California, across thousands of miles they built many stations. At each station a new horse and a new rider waited.  There, as a soon as a rider arrived, the new rider grabbed the mail and rode as fast as they could to the next station. Instead of letters taking a very long time, they moved across the country is just 10 days. That was very fast! Russell called his new company The Pony Express.

Russells riders need to be fast and also very brave. The journey from Missouri to California was often very dangerous. They could be attacked by wild animals or bandits who wanted to take the mail. The posters looking for riders said: “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”   Even though the job was dangerous, many brave, young riders volunteered to help.

One of these riders was Bill Cody. Bill was only 15 at the time he started riding for The Pony Express. During one of his trips from Wyoming, he was riding his horse when suddenly an entire gang of Indians burst out of the trees and started chasing him on their horses. Bill looked back in fear as they raised their guns and started firing at him. Bullets whizzed past his head, as he ducked and spurred the horse as hard as he could. The horse moved faster and faster as the natives fired again and again. Bill thought for sure he was done for, but he cried out to the horse and kicked and rode faster, lying flat against the horse’s back. Soon, the natives disappeared behind him and he rode and rode until reaching the next station. Later Bill picked up the nickname “Buffalo” Bill Cody and became famous for his show that toured all across America.

Another famous Pony Express ride was Bob Haslam, who became known as “Pony” Bob. Bob was born in England and came across the ocean to America when he was just a boy. His family moved to Salt Lake City and there he worked on a ranch and as a messenger. He was known for being brave and loyal and always got the job done. Loyal is when someone can trust you because you always do what you say you are going to do. 

When Bob was 20 he joined the Pony Express. Like Bill Cody, he rode at a time when Native Americans were very dangerous in the area. During one ride he got to the station only to find that Indians were on the warpath and he could not stop. So even though he and his horse were very tired he kept on riding. Bob persevered. Perseverance is when you keep doing something even though you are tired and want to give up. Bob kept riding until he reached the next station, only to find that it was under attack as well! Bob did not know what to do. He and his horse were tired and hungry. He knew he had to get the job done and deliver the mail, so he continued riding! Once he reached the next station he handed his mail off and rested for 9 hours. But Bob wasn’t done yet. He picked up the next bag of mail, hopped on his horse, and rode back the other direction. His 380-mile trip was the longest Pony Express ride in history. From then on he was known as “Pony” Bob and remembered for his amazing ride. 

Later, when Pony Bob grew old and passed away the newspaper printed “‘Pony Bob’ Haslam, Who Knew No Fear, Dies in Chicago — a man once famous throughout the United States for his courage, endurance and skill.”

Although the Pony Express was an amazing venture, it only lasted a year and a half. The telegraph was invented a few years later. The telegraph was very long wire that its designers stretched all the way across the country. The wire was used to send messages across it at lightning speeds. Because of this the Pony Express was no longer needed. But riders like “Pony” Bob, “Buffalo” Bill, and others will always be remembered for their strength, bravery and perseverance.

The Vikings and Leif Erikson

Around 1,200 years ago many tribes lived in the Scandinavian region of Europe. Scandinavia is now made up of countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland. The people living there became known as Norsemen or “North-men” and were also called “Vikings.” Because it was so far north, the region they lived in was often very cold, so they were very tough and hardy people. They had to survive the freezing cold winters. To do this they hunted animals and wore their furs. They built long, narrow houses built out of wood, and coated them in earth and grass with thatched roofs. Some of these “long houses” were up to 250 feet long and large families lived in them together. For example if you were a viking you might live in the same house not only with your family but your cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. 

At night families gathered around a big fireplace called a “hearth”, and told stories about their gods such as Odin, the leader of Asgard and his wife Frigg. Their children were Balder, Loki and Thor. Loki was a trickster and often his jokes went too far and he was punished for them. Thor was the god of thunder and fought giants in the sky with his powerful hammer, mjolnir. When he fought these battles it caused lightning and thunder in the sky. Freya was the goddess of love, beauty and war. Each god had their own story of adventure that families shared from generation to generation. The Vikings also sang, danced and played board games around the fire to get them through the long, dark winters.

During the warmer months, the Vikings farmed the land and tended sheep and other animals. But they also became very good sailors and navigators. They learned how to follow the sun and stars and color of the ocean and movement of sea life to know their position in the ocean. Their long ships were made of strong wood and could sail in deep oceans or shallow streams. They used the ocean to discover new lands and often sailed very far and wide to trade goods such as furs, timber and ivory. 

Some groups of Vikings decided that rather than trading they would steal from other tribes. They were known for finding a village along the ocean, running the people out and taking all of their food and valuables, similar to pirates. Vikings were skilled warriors. In battle they used large, round shields, spears, and axes to fight their enemies. One of their best tactics involved interlocking their shields to create a “shield wall.” Because of their skills in battle, the Vikings were able to conquer land very far into Europe.

They became feared far and wide. While not all vikings were aggressive and behaved as pirates, stories were told about them through the ages and one reason most people today assume that all Vikings behaved like pirates.  

Many vikings chose to trade with other tribes and often settled the new lands when the climate and soil was right for farming. They settled new places like Iceland and Greenland. During the Viking Age, many of the tribes moved all the way into England and modern day Russia. 

One of the norsemen who settled Greenland was named Erik the Red. He got his name from his red hair and red beard and his hot temper. Erik’s wife was name JODE-hiled and they had three sons: Thorvald, Leif and Thorstein, and a sister named Freydis. Greenland was extremely cold and not good for farming. But Erik the Red and his family were able to hunt animals such as reindeer and do some basic farming to survive. The work of clearing the land of trees and farming was very hard, but these hardships are what made Erik the Red and his family strong. 

Eventually, Erik and his people found a better place to live in Greenland where Erik’s son Leif grew up. His full name was Leif Erikson, since he was Eric’s son. Because Erik the Red was so busy as chief, Leif was raised by a friend of their family named Tyrkir. Tyrkir taught Leif how to hunt with a bow, trap animals to eat, and fish with a hook and net. He also taught Leif how to sail a boat and navigate at sea. These were all very important skills as a Viking.

Over time and with lots of practice, Leif learned all of the skills he needed to survive on his own and eventually left his family to make a life for himself. One of the first things he did was sail to the islands off the coast of Scotland where he met a woman named Thorgunna. They were married and had a son named Thorgils. 

Like all great vikings and his father, Leif wanted to explore the world outside of his homeland and discover new lands. Stories had been told about a land west across the ocean from Greenland and Europe. Leif was curious whether he and his people could live there, so he made up his mind to venture out and see for himself. Leif gathered a crew of 34 vikings and set off across the ocean on their sturdy long boats. After many days of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean they spotted land! They rowed ashore but the land was flat and rocky and not good for farming. This place wouldn’t be good for a settlement, but Leif had discovered North America! This is the first time Europeans reached the New World in what is now known as Canada, a few hundred years before Christopher Columbus! 

Leif and his crew decided to continue to sail south and eventually found a land that was wooded and green. He named this place Markland, but decided to keep on going, looking for better land. They sailed down a river and to a lake with fresh water and that was full of fish. They anchored their boats, rowed ashore, and set up camp so they could learn more about this new place. One day they hiked further inland and found a vineyard and grapes. For this reason, Leif decided to name the new land Vineland (veen-land), and what is now modern day Canada. After this, Leif and his crew packed up and sailed back to Greenland to let his people know about the new land they had discovered. 

Not long afterward, Leif’s father, Erik the Red, passed away and Leif became the new chief. He ruled his people for 20 years. Interestingly, he never returned to Vineland. But his brother Thorvald Erickson and his sisters did. They sailed to Vineland, picked more grapes and cut down trees to take home. They explored further down the coast, but to their surprise other people were already living there! These native people had likely lived in the New World for thousands of years. Instead of trying to make friends or communicate with these people, who they called the Skraelings, Thorvald and the other Vikings attacked them. The Skraelings who survived the attack ran back to their village and soon returned with other warriors. When Thorvald and the Vikings saw the Skraelings caming after them they turned and ran. The Skraelings fired their bows and Thorvald was hit with an arrow and did not survive. The Vikings stayed in Vineland two more seasons and buried Thorvald there, but eventually returned to Greenland. 

Later, Thorvald’s brother, Thorstein returned to Vineland and later their sister, Freydis. At one point they brought 130 Vikings with them and again tried to settle the land in North America. But the Native American people who already lived there outnumbered them and did not want them there. They often attacked the Vikings. The Vikings knew that they were outnumbered and that they would have to leave. Staying would be too dangerous. Later, Vikings would occasionally return to Vineland to cut down trees for building in Greenland, but they would never stay permanently. 

Later, Leif Erickson would go down in history as the first explorer to reach the New World, 400 years before Christopher Columbus. In the United States in 1964 October 9 officially became Leif Erickson Day. Down through history, the vikings are often associated with their pirate-like attacks, but many of these norToday, many people across the world trace their roots back to Scandinavia, the land of the Vikings. Many of these descendants now live in the American Midwest. You may have heard about a football team, the Minnesota Vikings, who are named after their ancestors. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton For Kids

Have you ever wondered what is at the top of the highest peaks and at the bottom of the deepest oceans? What is on the other side of the world or at the north and soul poles? Well, that is what young Ernest Shackleton used to dream about as he sat in his classroom and thought about all the adventures he could be going on, instead of sitting at a desk and studying his books. Instead, he wanted to be off visiting these places and experiencing them for himself! Earnest was born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland. Ernest Shackleton had always been very curious and an adventurer at heart. But instead of learning from other people’s experiences in books, he wanted to find about the things that made him curious, all by himself.

And that is why at 16 he left school and boarded a  sailing ship, Hogton Tower. He spent four years travelling on the ship and learned about three things that would help him during his future travels; trading, making friends and living under the same roof with all kinds of people.

As time passed Ernest grew smarter.He boarded different ships and learned something new each time. Then in 1901, he boarded the ship Discovery  to go on an expedition under the leadership of  Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, 1. An expedition is a trip to discover a  new place or do research. Earnest joined as a third lieutenant and took part in the sledge journey over the Ross Ice Shelf. A sledge journey also known as manhauling is pulling a small vehicle over the ice with the help of humans, machines or animals. Did you know that the Ross Ice shelf is the latest ice-shelf of Antarctica which is hundreds of meters thick? . However, he became sick  and had to be sent home in 1903.

When Ernest returned home, he was very sad and let down that he had to leave the expedition early  But, back home people heard about his name and he became famous as an explorer . But his fame couldn’t pay his bills and it was time to look for a permanent job. He applied for a job in the Royal Navy. Even though he had the support and sponsorship of Markham and William Huggins, the president of the Royal Society, he failed to get the job.

Shakleton was sad and found a few different jobs, but couldn’t focus and wanted more than anything to be on an adventure . It was during that time that he was met a man named Beardmore who enjoyed the company of explorers and adventurers. This wealthy man was amused by Ernest’s heartfelt wish to head back to Antarctica. So, Beardmore decided to pay for Shackleton’s second voyage. The goal of this expedition was to reach  both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole. South Pole is one of the two points of the earth where the Earth’s two axis meet. It is opposite to the North Pole.

On the first of January 1908, the sailing ship Nimrod set off from Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand. But, before he left, Robert Scott made Shackleton promise that he wouldn’t make his discoveries in the McMurdo area as it was his own point of research and exploration. Since, he had made a promise to an old friend and a companion, Shackleton directed his ship towards the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier. They finally arrived on their destination on January 21st 1908. 

When Shackleton arrived, he discovered that the Barrier Inlet had extended and had turned into a large bay, where hundreds of whales swam peacefully in the open waters. Ernest Shackleton was so inspired that he came up with the idea of calling the area the  “Bay of Whales”. 

During this time, the weather conditions were harsh and the ice was unstable, which means it might crack and that would be very dangerous. And a safe camp had to be made there. But things began to worsen and the only option was to break the promise he had made with his friend and head for the McMurdo Sound. He made this decision to save the lives of all of his companions. 

But even when the weather was harsh and the ship threatened to topple over, the spirits of the men remained high. It was mostly due to Shackleton’s gift to communicate with each and every crew member, keeping them happy and focused on their ambitions. This made him a very good leader. He gave them hope when the journey was dangerous and frightening.

On October 29, 1908, the “Great Southern Journey”, under the leadership of Ernest Shackleton and three of his companions  a man named Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams began. Three months later they reached the farthest south point that was 112 miles away from the pole. On their way, they passed by a glacier which was the biggest one that they had ever seen!. A glacier is a huge piece of ice floating in the water. Remembering the help  Beardmore gave  him, Shackleton name it the “Beardmore Glacier”, after his friend. With this, Shackleton and three of his friends became the first ones to see and travel to the south polar plateau.

Another accomplishment of their journey was the first to ever climb Mount Erebus and the location of the South Magnetic Pole. This amazing feat was done by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair Mackay, three of the crew members of the ship Nimrod.

Soon afterwards, the they all returned home due to the lack of food and to avoid  starvation and death. When Shackleton returned home from his voyage to the South Pole f, he was received by everyone in  England as a hero. King Edward VII, was so proud of him  that he made him a knight, granting him the title of “Sir”. 

Ernest spent his time at home, busy writing about his time on the seas as he travelled to the edge of the world. He published his book Heart of the Antarctic soon after that. He was happy with his travels but was also sad because he still didn’t  reach his goal. 

The third time Sir Ernest Shackleton left England for Antarctica was in the year 1914 on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Being the leader of his crew, he instructed his crewmates to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. But things didn’t turn out so great for him even from the start. His ship Endurance, got trapped in ice and floated aimlessly for 10 months before getting into an accident with more ice.

The crew barely survived the crash and had to take shelter on ice floes for five more months before reaching the Elephant Island. Since, there were no animals in sight, all they had to eat was seal meat, penguins and sadly their dogs. 

Next Shackleton and five of his friends got on a whale boat and made a 16 day long journey across the harsh waters, finally reaching  southern Georgia. They crossed the islands and looked for  help. Shackleton made four attempts spanning over 4 months and finally was able to rescue his crewmates. It was a miracle that all of Shackleton’s crew mates survived !.

Even though he was sick, Shackleton’s love for adventure and exploration didn’t end. He made his fourth attempt for the sea voyage under the name of Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, on the a ship called  Quest in 1921. But he became sick again and  and died during the journey. 

Earnest Shackleton’s will to keep going even when he was sick was amazing! He kept trying and trying even when his path was very difficult. He worked very hard to keep his crewmates happy and did everything he could to save them and keep them safe. His hunger for adventure and desire to explore the world have become legendary! His life inspires so many people around the world to set out on such adventures and discover something new every day. Next time you are curious about something, remember Earnest Shackleton and then do something about it! 

Marquis de Lafayette For Kids

Our story begins on September 6, 1757 when a young boy was born to the Lafayette Family in Chavaniac (Shevinyik), France. His parents named him Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Gilbert du Motier! Can you imagine having a name that long! Not only did he start off with a big name, but also a very big fortune. He was born into a long line of French nobles, which means the people who ruled France and were very wealthy. He even inherited a castle at birth! The Lafayette Family had lived in France for many years and had distinguished themselves as brave soldiers. One of his ancestors fought alongside the brave woman soldier, Joan of Arc. Another ancestor traveled East and fought during the Crusades. His grandfather was a famed Musketeer and one of King Louis XV’s bodyguards. Also, when Lafayette was very young, he lost his father in a battle. So not only did he inherit much wealth and property, but also a famous name to live up to.

Although he had a long name he later became known as Lafayette, so we’ll use this name for the rest of our story. After losing his father, Lafayette’s mother moved to Paris and left him to be raised by his grandmother. Later, when he was 11, he moved to Paris with his mother to attend school. There he decided to be a soldier like his father and the many generations of Lafayette’s before him. He attended a school to learn to be a Musketeer, one of the king’s famous bodyguards. He graduated and did this for a time while still in school. 

When Lafayette was 14, his family introduced him to a young woman named Adrienne Marie Francois. She was only 12, but they spent time with each other and eventually fell in love. Later, they were married when Lafayette was 16 and she was 14. They ended up being a good match and stayed together for the rest of their lives.

By 1775, Lafayette was a Luitenant in the French Army and watched with interest what was going on across the ocean in the American Colonies. There, the British ruled the colonies but many of the Americans wanted to break free and become their own country. This struggle and war later became known as the American Revolution. Lafayette was French and the French didn’t get along with the British. They had fought against each other in many wars, include the Seven Years War or French and Indian War in America. Lafayette began to think about how he might help the American’s fight for liberty and get back at his enemies, the British. His father had also died in a battle against the British. 

In 1776 the French decided to help the Americans fight the British by sending soldiers and weapons. Lafayette volunteered to go with them. He was only 18 at the time, but his heart was set on going. When the British heard the French decided to help, they threatened to declare war against France, too. This caused France to change its position, but Lafayette had already made up his mind to go. His father-in-law, who was also his commanding officer, threatened to arrest him if he tried to leave to America. Lafayette hid from him and decided to find a way to escape to America, anyway. He was determined to join their cause and nothing would stop him. 

Lafayette’s first problem was America was across the ocean and he didn’t have a ship. He decided to use his great wealth to buy one. Then, he and the his friends boarded his ship and sailed for 2 months to America.

In Philadephia, Lafayette met General George Washington of America’s Continental Army. They ate dinner together and became good friends right away. Lafayette joined George Washington’s staff and in many ways became the father he never had. 

In September 1777, Lafayette fought in his first battle, The Battle of Brandywine. While rallying the troops to attack, he was hit in the leg and wounded, but continued to rally the soldiers to hold off the British advances.

Later that year after he recovered, he fought in another battle and defeated the British in Gloucester. During that same winter, he stayed with George Washington at Valley Forge. At Valley Forge they waited out a very harsh winter. Many soldiers suffered and were lost, but Washington and Lafayette and others were able to encourage the troops and keep them from leaving to continue the fight against the British.

Lafayette next fought in battles at Barren Hill, Monmouth, and Rhode Island, and was successful in his attacks and given a sword for his bravery and skill in battle. By this time, the French government now planned to help the Americans and Lafayette sailed a ship back to France to help get more soldiers and weapons to help.

In France, Lafayette was praised as a hero for fighting in America. He was also happy to see his wife and children again. While he was there she gave birth to a boy. They named him George Washington Lafayette! There, Lafayette also met Benjamin Franklin and worked with him and the French army to find enough soldiers and weapons to take back to America. Then, he sailed back to America to continue the fight.

In America, he found George Washington and the Continental Army struggling. They had lost battles and were worried they wouldn’t win the war. Washington was happy to see Lafayette and gave him command over troops as they continued the fight. Battles were won and lost and Lafayette continued to write letters to France urging them to send more soldiers and weapons. 

The Battle of Yorktown was one of the major battles in the American war for Independence. There, Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton and their troops faced off against the British general Cornwallis. Ships and soldiers from France also joined the battle. Muskets and cannons were fired from both sides. Smoke and gunfire filled the air. The battle was very intense and many soldiers were lost. In the final moments of the battle, Lafayette and Hamilton charged the British defenses and fought with swords in hand-to-hand combat until the Americans won the battle and General Cornwallis surrendered. The war wasn’t completely over yet, but the final major land battle had been won and America was on its way to freedom as a nation. 

After the war, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to France and was welcomed as a hero for his bravery. There, he joined the abolitionists in their struggle against slavery. He believed all people should be treated equal, regardless of the color of their skin. Lafayette even wrote a letter to George Washington, encouraging him to liberate his slaves.

Lafeyette spent the rest of his life in France dealing with its own revolution, but being an noble, he worked to find ways that the common people and the monarchy, the king, could work toward a better country. He lived through the French Revolution and later the rule of the general and dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent the later part of his life running his farm, far away from city and government life, much like his hero and father figure, George Washington. 

When Lafeyette was 67, he made his final visit to the United States. There he visited the grave of George Washington and spent time with Thomas Jefferson who was now 81, near the end of his life. His spoke to congress and once again toured the states where he was welcome as a hero. While at Bunker Hill, one of the battle sites of the War of Independence, he asked his son to gather up a scoop of dirt. 

After returning to France, in 1834, Lafayette passed away and was buried using some of the dirt he had collected at Bunker Hill.

Spend some time thinking about what it might have been like to be Lafayette. He was born with much wealth and privilege. He could have just stayed in France and enjoyed is money, but during the War for Independence, he went against the wishes of his family and government and used his own money to travel to the colonies and help in their fight for freedom. Think about what it means to be brave? Can you think of a time when you had to be brave? It’s not always easy. But often when we take the leap and do something that’s not easy, we grow and become stronger. That’s one of the only ways to become stronger, to do hard things that require bravery. I believe you can do hard things! I believe that you can be brave!

The Red Baron For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in the cockpit of an airplane. Its a World War 1-era biplane with an open cockpit and a propeller spinning in front of you, pulling you high above the clouds. You wear a pilot’s helmet and goggles and look left and right to the see your friend’s planes flying nearby you. Below the countryside is green and lush. Above you the sun is shining brightly. You’ve been flying for a while now, searching the area of enemy planes. You check your fuel and altitude, make a small adjustment and then decide to look up. You sun blocks you view and see something dark coming toward you. It’s an enemy plane! You wave you hand and motion to the other pilots. Then you hear the engines of the planes as they shoot down toward you. You bank to the left as a plane races by, nearly hitting you. You watch as it dives down and then curves up, turning toward you. The plane is bright red with black crosses on it. Instantly, you recognize it as the plane of the famous German fighting ace, The Red Baron!

The Red Baron’s real name was Manfred, and he was born May 2nd 1892 in Breslau, Prussia which is now known as the country of Poland. His full name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen! Quite the name, right? The “Freiherr” part of his name means “Free Lord,” which means his family was wealthy and had power in their community, also called aristocrats. Because his family was wealthy, which is another word for “rich”, he had lots of time to do his favorite things like explore the woods around his home, play sports, ride horses, and hunt. He and his brothers learned how to use and take care of guns from a young age. Hunting quickly became one of Manfred’s favorite pastimes. In the woods around their home he and his younger brothers hunted wild boar, elk, birds and deer and Manfred became very good at it. 

He was taught at home until he was 11, when he moved away to a military school in Berlin, Germany, which was common for children his age born into wealthy families. There he became a cadet. At the age of 18, he became a very good horseman and joined a cavalry unit, which is made up of soldiers who ride horses. 

At this time World War I was waging in Europe. This war was fought primarily between Germany and Great Britain and France. But Austria-Hungary, Russia, the United States, Italy, Japan and Austria-Hungary had also taken sides. The battles in France were fought mostly in trenches, which were long holes dug into the ground where each side fired at each other from a distance. It was one of the first major wars in which machines were used such as machine guns, tanks, and airplanes. It was a very tragic war and many lives were lost on both sides.

Manfred was in the army, but because most of the fighting was in trenches his horseman skills weren’t needed, so he spent most of his time running errands. Daily, he watched airplanes taking off and fighting in aerial battles. Only 11 years before World War I, two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, invented one of the first airplanes that could fly for a longer distance. Their first flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wright Brothers and others took what they learned and soon were creating airplanes that could fly very fast and very high. These were the airplanes Mandred saw. He was amazed by them and wanted to be a pilot himself.

Like any new skill, flying took time for Manfred to learn. He first flew with a more experienced pilot and then as an observer, someone who watches out for enemy planes. Over time he learned how to fly on his own. The airplanes during World War I look very different from the planes you are used to seeing today. They used a propeller to give them thrust and had two (or three) sets of wings, above and below each other, to give the planes lift. The pilot’s head stuck out of the top and in battle a machine gun was mounted in front of the pilot.

By 1915, Manfred or Baron Manfred von Richthofen (his full name), was a certified fighter pilot. Through 1916 he flew air missions against his country’s enemy, which was Great Britain, France, and the United States at the time. He joined a group of skilled fighter pilots called the Fighter Squadron. Manfred won his first battle against an enemy fighter plane on September 17, 1916. This is called a “dogfight” and ends when one pilot shoots down another. 

Before long, Manfred was one of the best fighter pilots for Germany, also known as an “ace.” He received many awards for his skill and bravery. His brother Lothar also became a fighter pilot. Lother was known for being more risky and aggressive, but Manfred’s style was to be more careful and direct. One of his best strategies was to fly between his opponent and the sun, so the sun would block their view and they wouldn’t be able to see him coming.

In 1917 Manfred von Richthofen started painting his plane red, so it would be recognized by enemy pilots. His enemies started calling him “The Red Baron.” Baron is the name given to someone in Prussia who is nobility or an aristocrat. The other fighter pilots in The Red Baron’s fellow pilots (including his younger brother) started painting their planes different, bright colors. For this reason others started calling them “The Flying Circus.” During the war, Manfred shot down more than 80 other airplanes, more than any other pilot on both sides during the war. 

During an air battle in July 1917 he was hit and for a few minutes was unable to see. His plane started to spiral downward, but once he regained his vision, he levelled it out and was able to land safely. He was quickly taken to the hospital and had surgery. He returned to flying a few months later, but continued to have headaches and feel sick from the wounds he received. 

Manfred became a fighter pilot because it looked thrilling and exciting. Growing up in military school he had been taught that fighting battles was a good thing and would bring his family honor. He was very good at what he did and believed it was a good thing. But people who knew Manfred also saw that war caused him pain. Whether this was because he lost friends or from harming others we don’t know exactly. But during war he saw and did terrible things and some believe deep down he wasn’t proud of it. 

Manfred often described his experiences as a pilot and once wrote: 

“I am in wretched spirits after every aerial combat. I believe that [the war] is not as the people at home imagine it, with a hurrah and a roar; it is very serious, very grim.”

He also saw that the war was going nowhere and realized that his side was going to lose. It made him wonder if being a fighter pilot was the right thing. But Germany used The Red Baron’s fame and wrote books and articles about him and often said many things that were untrue to keep their people excited about the war. This often happens with both sides during a war and is called propaganda.

On April 21, 1918 The Red Baron was chasing a British plane over the Somme River in France, when the plane of his cousin came under attack. Manfred pulled away to try and help his cousin. When he did this he and his plane were shot and he went down during a battle. He was only 25 at the time and didn’t survive. The news about The Red Baron travelled around the world and he’d go down in history as the most skilled fighter pilot of World War I and one of the most famous aces of all time. Many books and movies have since been made about The Red Baron and his prowess as a fighter pilot.

From this story we learn that war is a common but tragic part of history that takes place when countries don’t find ways to work through their problems but turn to violence instead. The better way is for countries to meet together and come to agreements about how problems can be settled rather than going to war. In some cases, arguments can be made for war, particularly when countries are defending themselves or trying to help another country, but it’s always better if conflicts can be worked out other, more peaceful ways. War at first often seems exciting for the young soldiers and pilots involved, but the things they experience can result in painful feelings, such as the ones The Red Baron felt when he lost close friends in battle.  

The History of Australia for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are driving in a jeep down a dirt road. The land is flat and brown and the sky is clear and bright blue. You drive for several miles and see nothing but brush and empty land, then suddenly there is movement in the brush and you spot two kangaroos hopping across the road. Further ahead you see some a pack of dingos, or wild dogs, racing through the brush. Soon there are trees and you slow the jeep to a stop. You pull out your binoculars and gaze through them at the trees. You see exotic birds and other wildlife and take notes about what you observe. Soon the sun goes down and the air is alive with the buzz of insects. The stars are glittering overhead. You unroll your bedroll and lay out, staring at the sky above and listening to the sounds of the night, amazed at the wonders of the Australian outback.

Have you ever heard of Australia? Australia is an awesome country, with a fascinating history and incredible wildlife, which is also home to many amazing Bedtime History fans. As Australian fans have donated and written reviews and shared their love of Bedtime History I’ve thought “wouldn’t it be fun to do an episode all about Australia!?” 

First off, Australia is the only country in the world that covers an entire continent! It’s located between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and is often called “the world’s largest island.” It’s also the sixth largest country in the world by land area. The geography in Australia is very diverse. It has fertile land for farming in the southwest and southeast — and in the northeast it has wet rainforests. There’s also the famous Australian “outback” which is an extremely hot and dry desert with very little water and plant life. In the southeast is a long mountain range called the Great Dividing Range — off the northeast coast is the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest coral reef, where people travel from all around the world to snorkel and scuba dive to explore its exotic sealife. 

People have lived in Australia for a very long time. 65,000 years ago it’s believed humans crossed ancient land bridges from Asia to Australia. These people later became known as the aborigines. They were hunter-gatherers, which means they lived off hunting animals and gathering food such as berries and other plants they could eat. Aborigines spread across Australia and formed their own unique cultures and societies thousands of years before Europeans arrived. 

The first recorded European explorer to land in Australia was a Dutch sailor named Willem Janszoon. In 1606 he made a map of the area, met the native aborigine people, and named the island “New Holland.” Later English explorers such as William Dampier arrived and then in 1770 Captain James Cook, who claimed Australia for his own people.

In 1787 the first fleet of 11 ships left England and sailed to Australia. Because settling a new land is hard and often very dangerous, one way the British decided to do this was to use convicts to farm and settle the land. A convict is someone who has been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to prison. But the British leaders decided that rather than put these people in prison, they could use them to settle Australia. This first group included 730 convicts and 250 free persons. The early years in Australia were very hard. The settlers had to deal with diseases, insects and other pests, and often fought with the native Aborigines. But the British continued to settle Australia and sent more convicts to farm and prepare the land. Over time the settlements grew and spread further across Australia. 

By 1830, 58,000 convicts had come to Australia. To the surprise of many, the settlements did well even though they were mostly populated by former criminals, and most of the convicts didn’t continue to commit crimes. Eventually, Australia began to prosper as farms produced grain and other industries such as whaling and sheep farming thrived. Before long sheep wool was one of Australia’s major exports. An export is an item that a country can produce and sell to other countries. This was also a time when explorers ventured out and discovered new, exotic places across Australia. They wrote about their adventures and captured the imagination of people all around the world with their tales about the wonders, beauty and wildlife of Australia. 

Over time the governments of Australia changed from being authoritarian, that means run by a single person or groups of people, to a democracy, where the people vote and have say in what laws are passed and decisions are made. Different states began to form across Australia and today it consists of six states: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. 

Because Australia is a separate continent, surrounded by water, its animal life has evolved on its own for many thousands of years. For this reason, many of the animals in Australia don’t exist anywhere else in the world and are very unique. Have you ever seen a picture of a kangaroo? Kangaroos stand up-right, carry their babies in a pouch and hop across the land. Nowhere else in the world will you find kangaroos. The same goes for wallabys which are similar to kangaroos but much smaller. Koalas, which climb in trees and the very funny look platypus can also only be found in Australia. The platypus looks like the combination of a duck, a beaver and an otter! Be sure to find a picture later if you’ve never seen a platypus before. Tasmanian devils and dingos are two other mammals unique to Australia.

Many of the deadliest species in the world can be found there, too, such as the poisonous funnel-web spiders and twenty types of venomous snakes, such as the taipan.

Australia is also famous for the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is also one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It was built along the harbor and its roof is shaped like several huge overlapping white shells. Workers started on it in 1959 and it cost $102 million dollars to build. 10,000 people worked on it until it was finished in 1973. Every year more than 10 million people visit the beautiful Opera House to wonder at its architecture and to be entertained.

Some notable people born in Australia are Saint Mary MacKillop, who served the aboriginal people in the Outback and established several schools to help educate the poor and needy. Howard Florey, who saved millions of lives by developing penicillin into a usable drug. Edith Cowan, who campaigned for women and children’s rights in the 1900s. And Sir Marcus Oliphant who helped develop the radar and atomic bomb.

Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter and Nancy Wake, the WW2 spy and commando, were also Australian. You can find episodes about them on our podcast. 

Australia is also one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. This means people come from many different races and backgrounds, such as the United Kingdom, Africa, China, Vietnam and the Middle East.

Many famous actors and actresses were also born in Australia: Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor in the Marvel movies, Hugh Jackman from The Greatest Showman and X-Men, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Mel Gibson, Hugo Weaving, Margo Robbie, and Errol Flynn are other actors to name just a few.

Some of the popular sports are Australian football, rugby, soccer, cricket, basketball and baseball. Australian football is similar to rugby, but with different rules. If you’ve never seen rugby it’s similar to American football, but the players don’t wear pads and can toss the ball back and forth. In Australian football the goal is to carry the oval ball down the field and then kick it between goal posts. If you’ve never seen it before be sure to find a video. Swimming, cycling, dancing and tennis are also popular in Australia. 

Do you think it would be fun to visit Australia someday? I do sure do! Learning about people from different places shows us how diverse the world is. I think this makes life very interesting. That everyone looks different, has different customs, and interests and hobbies, and a unique history makes the world a vibrant and unique place. Be sure to take the time to learn more about Australia by looking up photos and watching videos of this most fascinating country and continent!