History of Jackie Robinson for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a baseball stadium and stepping up to bat. Dodger stadium is packed full of cheering fans. Some are cheering you on, others are calling you horrible names from the stands. You take a deep breath and try to ignore them. You hold up your bat and look at the pitcher, who is preparing to throw the ball. He pulls back, then throws the ball and it comes flying toward at full speed. You swing your bat and hit the ball. With a crack it flies high over the field as you sprint from first base, then on to second, third and home. It’s a homerun! Your teammates congratulate you, but some in the stands are still calling you mean names. This is what happened to Jackie Robinson, the famous baseball player. But who was Jackie Ronbinson? How did he end up playing for the Dodgers? And why was the crowd calling him horrible names? 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. His father left the family when he was little, leaving his mother, Mallie, to raise him and his four other siblings. Soon after this they moved to Pasadena, California. In California Jackie and his family lived in a neighborhood where they were treated differently. They had come from Georgia where most of the other families were African-American, but in California families in their new neighborhood were not and were white. This was a time when racial discrimination was common. Racial discrimination is when a group of people are treated differently because of their race and color of skin in this case. For example, they aren’t able to have the same jobs — or they are segregated, which means they have to go to different schools or use different bathrooms or restaurants. Jackie loved sports, but because he was black wasn’t able to play in the same leagues as the other kids.

But this didn’t keep Jackie from playing his favorite sports anyway. Two of his favorites were basketball and baseball. He spent a lot of time practicing and became better and better. 

In high school, Jackie’s older brothers Frank and Mack, saw how good Jackie’s was and urged him try out for the school teams. At his high school fortunately there was no segregation and Jackie was able to play alongside his white classmates. There Jackie ended up playing football, baseball, basketball and track and did very well in all of them. On the baseball team he was the catcher and in football he was the quarterback. For the basketball team he was a guard. In track and field his best skill was the broad jump. Oh, and he also played tennis. As you can tell, Jackie loved sports! 

After high school, Jackie moved onto junior college where he continued to play all of his favorite sports and do very well. He broke several records there, but later switched schools and moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. At UCLA the teams were also racially integrated, which means Jackie was able to play on the same teams as the white athletes. In football their team went undefeated. In track and field he won the national championship for long jump, jumping over 24 feet! He also played baseball at UCLA and there met his future wife, Rachel. 

After college, Jackie played semi-professional football for a short while, but his career was cut short when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Soon after this Jackie joined the army and applied for Officer Candidate School. At the time Jackie and others who were black were not typically allowed to be officers, leadership in the military, but eventually they were accepted. He and his wife moved to Fort Hood, Texas to start Officer Training School. One day at Fort Hood, Jackie was waiting for the bus to arrive. When it did arrive, he climbed on the bus and sat at the front, but the driver told him he had to sit at the back because of the color of his skin. Jackie refused and would not move. He did these knowing he knew he might be hurt or put in jail for his actions. The driver called the police and they took Jackie away. Tragically, Jackie wasn’t able to continue Officer Training School, because of his choice to stand up against discrimination.

Jackie was transferred from Fort Hood to a base in Kentucky where he became a coach for the army until the war ended. 

A few years later, Jackie was at the airport and stood in a part of the airport that was segregated. He was asked to leave, but did not. This was another example where Jackie refused to be treated differently, defied the law and put himself in harm’s way by doing so.

One of Jackie Robinson’s famous quotes was: “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” He also said: “There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” More than anything, Jackie wanted to be treated fairly and for segregation between people of different skin color to end. 

For a brief time, Jackie played for a segregated league, with other players who were black like himself, but more than anything he wanted to play for the Major Leagues, but most teams wouldn’t allow him because of segregation.

Fortunately, the Brooklyn Dodgers were interested in including black players. The manager of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey, called Jackie and met with him asking if he was interested and also whether he’d be able to be strong even when others treated him poorly. Jackie agreed and began playing for the Dodgers international team, the Montreal Royals. The Royals were a minor league, but a big step forward in his goal to play in the Major Leagues. Jackie traveled with the team and struggled at first, but began to improve and eventually became the MVP (or Most Valuable Player) in his league. 

April 18, 1946 was a momentous day when the Royals played against the Jersey City Giants making it the first time players of different skin color in a minor league competed against each other. 

In 1947 Jackie Robinson was finally invited to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues. He played first baseman to a crowd of more than 26,000 spectators which included spectators who were black and white. At first, Jackie’s own team was unsure whether they were ready to play with him. They had come from families who believed in segregation, so it was new for them to welcome and become teammates and friends with someone who was black. But over time they became close and eventually supported him. During one game when the other team was harassing Jackie, a teammate Pee Wee Reese saw what was happening and put his arm around Jackie to comfort him.

Jackie finished the season with the Dodgers with 151 games. He had a batting average of 297, an on-base percentage of 373, and a 427 slugging percentage. He had 175 hits (scoring 125 runs) including 31 doubles, 5 triples, and 12 home runs, driving in 48 runs for the year. Jackie also led the league in sacrifice hits, with 28, and in stolen bases, with 29.

He ended up winning the Major League Rookie of the Year award. A rookie is someone who is new to the major leagues. 

Over the years, Jackie continued to improve at his game and in 1949 joined the all-star team. In 1955 the Dodgers went to the world series and beat the Yankees for the championship. 

Later after retiring from baseball, Jackie Robinson was active in politics and later continued to speak out about equality in Major League baseball. He later had a baseball stadium named after him and the Rookie of the Year award was later called “The Jackie Robinson” award. In 1997 his jersey number “42” was retired, which means no one was able to use the same number because it would also be reserved for Jackie. 

Jackie once said: “”A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Think about what that means for a moment. What does it mean to have an impact or make a difference in the lives of others for good? How can you make a difference in the lives of others for good? 

He also said: “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” A spectator means just watching others. It’s fun to watch others, but Jackie’s saying it’s even better to get out and play yourself. Think of something you like to watch? Have you ever considered doing it yourself? 

Spend some time thinking about what Jackie Robinson experienced in his life as he dealt with racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is when someone treats someone else differently due to their race, which means where they come from, the color of their skin, and what they look like. It was very hard for Jackie to be called names and treated poorly due to his race — to be forced to sit at the back of the bus, for example. But Jackie knew that all people are the same on the inside. We are all human, and all want to be treated equally and loved and cared for. We all have the same hopes and dreams and desires to lead a happy life. Jackie wasn’t afraid to stand up for himself and tell others that they were wrong. Often it takes time for people to change, but many people around Jackie did change. His teammates eventually accepted him and those watching baseball realized Jackie was the same as any other player and should be treated that way. Take the time to think about someone you know who might be a different race or appear to be different than you in other ways. As you get to know them you’ll realize you have more in common than is different. It’s also important to let others know they should be respectful of all people. If you hear someone say something mean about a different race or tell a joke, let them know those words can be hurtful and are not ok. 

History of Bessie Coleman for Kids

Imagine you’re a pilot, thousands of feet above the earth on an airplane. You look down from your cockpit at the patchwork of fields and tiny, Lego-sized houses below you. You’re planning your route, but you’re not trying to get from point A to point B. Instead of flying a straight line, you dive towards the ground, falling faster and faster until, just feet from the ground, you pull up the nose of the plane, thrilling the crowd of onlookers nearby. You corkscrew through the air, fly figure eights, and loop upside down as the crowds gasp and cheer below. You are a barnstormer, a stunt pilot in the 1920s, performing daredevil feats thousands of feet above your awestruck fans. 

Today we’re going to learn about a world-famous pilot, Bessie Coleman, who was remarkable but for many other reasons. She was not only a great pilot, she was also the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license, and the first woman anywhere to have an international pilot’s license. Because her father was part Native American, she was also the first Native American female pilot. Not only that, she always tried to use her fame to help other black people and women. Sadly, at the time, both groups experienced a lot of discrimination in America. 

Bessie’s story begins before airplanes were even invented, and only 27 years after the end of slavery in the United States. She was born in 1892 to African American sharecroppers in Texas, one of nine children. As a child, and then teenager, she worked picking cotton and washing other people’s laundry. She attended segregated schools, but was a good student, especially in math. Under segregation, many states in the southern part of the United States had laws forcing blacks to go to different schools from whites, among other unfair rules. Even though she came from a poor background, and had to deal with unfair laws, Bessie had a goal of going to college, and as a young woman attended Langston University in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, she ran out of money and had to return home after one term. 

Soon after returning home, Bessie and two of her brothers decided to try to start a new life in Chicago. They moved north, where Bessie became a manicurist. She worked in a barber shop called the White Sox Barber Shop on the south side of Chicago. She became known for having the fastest hands in the city when it came to giving manicures.

She learned about piloting and airplanes from veterans, including her brothers, who had returned home from World War I. Bessie became fascinated by airplanes and flying. Her brothers would tease her though, saying she’d never be able to fly like some of the women they’d met in France during the war. 

But telling someone they can’t do something is often a sure-fire way to make them want to do it. So right then and there, Bessie decided she would become a pilot and prove her brothers wrong. But her brothers, weren’t the only people she’d have to prove wrong. At the time, there were no flight schools in the United States that would train women or African Americans. 

But there was France. Bessie didn’t have a lot of money, but she knew that if she could get to France, she could train as a pilot there. Her race and gender didn’t matter to the flight schools in France. To earn the money she would need, she began working a second job at a chili restaurant and learning French at night. She also began talking to some of the people who came to the barbershop. Many of the clients there were wealthy and influential.

It was at the barber shop that she met a lawyer and newspaper owner named Robert Abbot. Abbot published the Chicago Defender, one of the largest black-owned newspapers in the country. When he learned about Bessie’s passion to become a pilot, he decided to help. He published a story about her in his paper. His newspaper had more readers than any other black-owned newspaper in the country at the time, so the story got a lot of attention. A banker named Jesse Binga stepped up, and he and The newspaper helped pay for Bessie’s travel to Paris for pilot training. 

Since airplanes were so new, it was still not possible to fly across the Atlantic ocean from the US to France, so Bessie took a boat. She had been accepted to a flight school there, and completed her training in a biplane called a Nieuport 80. A biplane had two sets of wings, one on top of the other.

When Bessie returned to the US with her pilot’s license, she made headlines in black newspapers and aviation magazines across the country. She told reporters that she wanted to open a flight school for women and people of color. 

However, since aviation was so new, there weren’t many jobs for pilots at the time. There were no major airlines that flew people around the country like there are now. Most packages and mail were still moved by trains or ships. And again, Bessie faced discrimination because of her race and gender. She was unable to get one of the few piloting jobs there were.  

Instead of flying for airlines or shipping companies like they do now, many pilots in the 1920s earned money as barnstormers. They would fly to a new town, land in a farm, and ask the farmer to let them perform using their fields as runways. They performed stunts such as loops, dives, and figure eights. They also offered rides to people for money. Bessie decided to become a stunt pilot, and returned to France for more training. 

After Bessie returned to the US this time, she traveled around the country performing daredevil stunts for crowds of people. The Defender newspaper called her “the world’s greatest woman flyer.” She was nicknamed “Queen Bess” and “Brave Bess.”

Bessie loved her job, and used her growing fame to fight racism. In the 1920s, segregation and discrimination were still widespread in America, and were part of the law in many states. Bessie worked with other activists and gave interviews and speeches about ending racism. She refused to participate in any air show that didn’t allow black people to attend. In her hometown in Texas, she had to argue with the producers of an airshow to allow blacks and whites to come in through the same gate, but even then, they were forced to sit in a separate section.

Bessie became so well known, she was asked to star in a movie about a female pilot. Though the movie was to be made by a black-owned production company, Bessie was not happy with how they wanted to portray her. They asked her to wear rags and act as though she was uneducated, negative stereotypes of black people that were very common at the time. Bessie refused. She walked off the set and didn’t return. She wasn’t interested in being famous just for attention. She wanted to use her fame to improve conditions for other African Americans, and she realized  that this movie would not help her do that. 

But other opportunities awaited Bessie. A company that made tires in Oakland, California reached out to her. They wanted her to be their spokesperson and fly over the city dropping messages on paper about their tires. Bessie accepted the offer and went to California. There she flew and appeared in newspaper ads for the tire company. 

It was also in California that Bessie experienced another setback, this time a more serious one. In February 1923, she crashed her plane after the engine stopped working suddenly. She survived with a broken leg and ribs, as well as some cuts. The injuries didn’t stop her though: She said that as soon as she could walk again, she would fly. After several months, she fully recovered and went back to stunt flying. 

Bessie moved to Florida, where a preacher and his wife had offered to give her a room. She opened a beauty salon, still trying to earn enough money to replace the plane that had crashed. She began performing new types of stunts such as wing-walking and parachute jumps. Wing-walkers stunned their audiences by leaving the cockpit while another pilot controlled the plane, and walking out on the wings!   

Finally, in 1926, Bessie had earned enough money to buy her own plane! She had worked hard performing in airshows, giving lectures, and working at her beauty parlor. The new plane wasn’t fancy: an old biplane called a Curtiss JN-4, or “Jenny.” She hired a mechanic named William Wills to fly it from Texas to Florida. Sadly, the plane was not in good condition. During a test flight with the mechanic, the plane stalled and crashed. Bessie did not survive the crash.

News of Queen Bess’s passing was carried widely in African American newspapers. Ten thousand people attended her funeral in Chicago, where Ida B. Wells, a famous black activist, led the service. 

Bessie continued to inspire black aviators in the 1920s and beyond. William J Powell, another African American aviator and civil rights activist, started Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, fulfilling her dream of opening a flight school for African Americans and women. Powell later wrote in his book, Black Wings, that because of Bessie, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.” 

She was also an inspiration to many of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of black aviators to fly for the United States Army. In 1992, Mae Jemison took a portrait of Bessie Coleman with her when she became the first black woman in space, saying that Bessie “exemplifies and serves as a model for all humanity, the very definition of strength, dignity, courage, integrity, and beauty.” The US postal service issued a Bessie Coleman stamp in 1995, and in 2006, she was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. 

Bessie Coleman once said that “the air is the only place free of prejudices.” But, in order to get there, she had to shatter many barriers that were placed in her path by a society that was unwelcoming to people of her race and gender. Instead of accepting the place she was offered in this society, Bessie decided to pursue her own path and make her own opportunities. She didn’t let the lack of training or jobs for black, female pilots keep her from her dream of flying. She forged ahead with determination and held onto her principles, knowing that her race and gender were not barriers to her ability; that she could lift others up by her example; and there was a place for everybody in the sky! 

Sources

https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/bessie-coleman-the-first-female-african-american-pilot
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/bessie-coleman
https://www.cradleofaviation.org/history/history/women-in-aviation/bessie-coleman.html

http://www.bessiecoleman.org/bio-bessie-coleman.php 

History of Miguel Hidalgo for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine that you are hiking through a dense jungle in Mexico.  The leaves around you are thick and wet. You use a sword to chop your way ahead. Sometimes you stumble and fall on roots or get stuck in vines that block your path. The weather is hot and humid. Your body is covered in sweat. You are thirsty and your muscles are tired and ache, but you keep moving. You keep pressing on. A long line of fellow Mexicans are hiking with you, moving quietly towards your goal. You and your fellow soldiers are determined to defeat the Spanish who rule your country. You want them to leave so you can rule it yourselves. Leading your group is a priest who has great ideas of how Mexico can be independent, can become its own country, free from Spanish rule.  You are following one of the most famous Mexican men in history: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, also known as the “Father of Mexico.”

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Mexican Catholic priest who called for a revolution, or rebellion, against the Spanish government in 1810.  Hidalgo, as he is commonly known, is thought of as the “Father of Mexican Independence” due to his role in helping the mexican people fight against Spanish rulers. 

In 1753 Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was born near Guanajuato, Mexico.  At that time, the name of the country was not Mexico, but rather it was called “New Spain” because Europeans from Spain had settled in the area and claimed it as their own. But most of the people living in Mexico weren’t from Spain, they and their ancestors had lived there long before the Spanish arrived and conquered their lands. 

Miguel was the second son of Cristobal Hidalgo y Costilla and Ana Maria Gallaga Mandarte y Villasenor.  Miguel’s dad was an administrator, or government worker of the hacienda, or town. 

When Miguel was growing up, his family was fairly rich, so he had a good, easy life.  He was considered to be a “creole” person, which means his ancestors were Spanish.  He had loving parents and had fun with his older brother Jose Joaquin.  

When Miguel was 12, his father sent him and his brother Jose Joaquin to the city of (Vaya-dolid) Valladolid to go to school.  Miguel studied religion and after completing a lot of courses on various religious topics, or courses about God and the meaning of life, he became a Catholic priest in 1778.  

After he was a priest, Miguel Hidalgo became known as Father Hidalgo. He returned to his hometown university to teach philosophy, which means the study of how humans think, and theology, which means the study of God.  

Now that Miguel was an adult and a priest, he was able to travel and meet people.  He loved to learn and was particularly interested in European ways and thinking.  This was not the normal path for a Mexican Catholic priest in the 18th century!  Most priests stayed in their church area and spent their days praying.  But Miguel was too curious about the world and too social to stay in one place and not ask questions and learn new things. This is the best way to learn new things, be curious and ask questions! 

Even thought he was different from most priests at the time, Miguel became the rector, or leader, of the church of San Nicolas in 1790.  Unfortunately though, the other priests in the area did not like the way he behaved, so he was only in the role as rector for two years. 

Father Hidalgo moved on to lead the churches in the towns of Colima and then San Felipe Torres Mochas and later Dolores. Besides studying, he also grew grape vines and olive trees in the church gardens.  He opened a pottery-making studio, or art area, and taught himself to make pots. He had many hobbies to keep his life interesting. 

Father Hidalgo was very giving and showed compassion for poor people in the towns where he lived.  Compassion means concern for someone’s suffering. Father Hidalgo put on classes to teach poor people skills that they could use to make money, like carpentry, or woodworking, and blacksmithing, which means to make things out of iron or metal. 

Because of his interest in learning and philosophy, Father Hidalgo became very involved with the small group of educated people that lived in his town.  These educated people had gone to university and learned about politics and government and they weren’t happy with the way that Spain was controlling their country of New Spain. Remember at this time Spain controlled Mexico and didn’t let them vote or make their own decisions.  

In 1808, a new Spanish leader named Joseph was put in charge of the Spanish territories, including New Spain, where Father Hidalgo lived.  The people of New Spain did not like their new rulers, as they were mean and greedy.  He and his friends planned to remove the Spanish rulers from being in charge and get their old king, the King of Spain, released and put back in place as their leader. 

The Spanish rulers learned that there was a secret plot to take over, so Father Hidalgo and his friends had to speed up their plans. In Dolores, Father Hidalgo climbed to the top of the church where he lived and with all of his might rang the church bell.  This was the signal that their fight against their Spanish rulers had begun. Then, he went outside the church and waved a banner of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. This was September 16, 1810 and became a famous event called the Grito de Dolores or “Cry of Dolores”. This was the beginning of the Mexican people’s fight for freedom.

Father Hidalgo’s second in command was a military captain named Ignacio Allende.  Together Father Hidalgo and Captain Allende led a group of creole and first nations men into towns and cities near where they lived.  They gathered more men in the towns and cities and slowly the size of their group grew.  With each town they moved through, the group took control of the Spanish government and replaced it with their own. 

Unfortunately as the group grew bigger, so did it’s problems.  Father Hidalgo’s goal was to take power back from the Spanish. But the group of men that became his followers grew more and more violent.  The Catholic Church was not happy about what they saw happening.  They removed Father Hidalgo from his role as priest and member of the Church.

Miguel was no longer called “Father Hidalgo” anymore, but that didn’t stop him from his mission of removing the Spanish from power in his country.  Miguel and his followers continued to move through more cities until they finally arrived at Mexico City, the biggest city in Mexico.  

There, the Spanish were ready with their army. Gunshots rang out, smoke filled the air, a battle broke out between the Spanish army and Miguel’s army. Soon Miguel and his army had to retreat or move back to safety, in a city called Guadalajara.  There, Miguel formed a new small government that declared that they were in charge.  One of the first things his government did was declare an end to slavery and promise to return lands to the Indigenous people.  These were very modern ideas for the time. 

In Guadalajara, Miguel also started a newspaper called El Despertador Americano, which means “The American Alarm Clock.”  The newspaper published stories and information about the revolution.  Revolution means a forced overthrow of the government. They were determined to become free from Spanish rule. 

In January 1811, Miguel and his men gathered at Calderon Bridge outside of the city of Guadelajara to meet a small Spanish army for a battle.  The Spanish army was well trained and well armed. Weapons were fired. The Spanish had a better army and Miguel and his soldiers had to run away.  After this loss, Miguel’s friend, Captain Allende, became the new leader of the group of rebel fighters.

But some of the survivors of the battle followed Miguel north to join a group that was setting up in what is now the American city of San Antonio.  Along the way they were captured by the Spanish army near a town called Coahuila. The group members were put on trial and were found guilty of fighting against the ruling Spanish.

Miguel and his fellow soldiers had fought bravely but did not survive to continue fighting with their fellow countrymen. But the revolution that he started continued even after he was gone.  In 1821, Mexico eventually won the war against Spain and became independent. If you live in the United States, this event was similar to Independence Day when Americans became free from British and the King’s rule.

September 16 is now celebrated as Mexico’s Independence Day, similar to the 4th of July in the United States. This is the day Mexico became its own country. Every year on this date, Mexican people celebrate their heritage and brave people like Miguel Hidalgo who fought for their freedom.  Usually the President of Mexico will do the same thing Hidalgo did, go to the church’s bell tower and ring the bell to signal the start of the war of Independence called the “Grito de Dolores” or “Cry of Dolores.”

After he died, Miguel’s remains were buried in a monument in Mexico City, now called the Angel of Independence monument.  This monument celebrates the “Father of Mexican Independence” which is Miguel Hidalgo’s nickname.  There is also a state in Mexico named after Miguel, called Hidalgo, and the town that Miguel was originally a priest at is now known as “Dolores Hidalgo.”

We can learn a lot from Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. He was very curious and was always learning. He also had many hobbies to keep life interesting. He was also very brave and risked his life to push out the Spanish rulers who controlled his country.  He was organized and a strong leader, and passionate about freedom, and because of this he had many people who followed him into battle and believed in his cause.  Because of his bravery and beliefs, Miguel is now remembered as the “Father of Mexican Independence.” 

Learning about Miguel is also a great chance to learn more about Mexico, it’s people and its culture. Mexico has a vibrant culture with delicious food, music, dancing, and artwork. Family is very important in a culture where they take care of each other and meet often to eat and enjoy time together. Mexican culture has also become a big part of American culture, seeing that over 36 million people living in the United States are of Mexican ancestry.  Be sure to look up some videos about Mexico and Mexican culture. One of our family’s favorite movies is Pixar’s “Coco.” Be sure to check it out if you haven’t yet.

Thanks for listening to this episode about Miguel Hidalgo and be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode!

History of Babe Ruth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a stadium with crowds of people all around you. You smell buttery popcorn and freshly cooked hot dogs. “Peanuts! Popcorn!” A vendor yells from across the aisle. “Get your peanuts, popcorn!” As everyone gets seated there is a feeling of excitement in the air. The loudspeakers start playing, “Take me out to the ballgame!” The crowd sings along. You hear the crack of a baseball against a bat. The game has begun! 

If you’re familiar with baseball do these nicknames sound familiar? The Sultan of Swat? The Great Bambino? The Colossus of Clout? These are all nicknames for one of the most famous baseball players to have ever lived, Babe Ruth!

Babe Ruth’s real name was George Herman Ruth Jr. and he was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 6, 1895. His grandparents were immigrants from Europe, so the first language he spoke was German. Growing up, his dad owned and ran a saloon. There, Ruth really did whatever he wanted. He didn’t have many rules and just ran wild with his friends through the streets of town. And with his dad being busy with the business, Ruth got into a lot of trouble. In fact, he got into so much trouble and his parents couldn’t control him that they put him in St. Mary’s Industrial School. This was a special school for boys who needed more structure than their parents were able to give them at home. At the school, one of his teachers, Brother Matthais, loved baseball. He taught the boys how to play and Ruth got into the game, too. Ruth ended up living at the school for 12 years and there got a basic education and learned some life skills. He used these skills and became a shirtmaker and could make things out of wood, known as carpentry. 

Ruth kept playing baseball and when he was 19 tried and made the minor league team for the Baltimore Orioles. The other players teased Ruth because he was the favorite or “darling” of the owner, Jack Dunn. Because of this they started calling him “Babe”!  This is how Babe Ruth’s famous nickname was born! Even though Babe Ruth was a big success with the Orioles, the owner ran into money trouble and he was forced to sell his best players to the Major Leagues.

From there Ruth was sent to play for the Boston Red Sox. When Ruth first started playing, he was a left-handed pitcher but really wanted to bat more, so he started playing outfield and first base. Ruth tried to hit almost everything, and because of that, he struck out a lot! But he was very determined and never gave up. He even said that “Every strike brings me closer to the next homerun”. And the Red Sox fans loved him, because he did hit a lot of homeruns! One year he hit home runs in 4 games in a row. The next year, he helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 1918. 

In 1919 Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox sold him because the owner wanted more money and Babe Ruth was worth a lot. And the New York Yankees wanted him because they hoped he could help them win a World Series. There were lots of mixed reactions to him being traded. Some Boston fans were devastated to lose Ruth, while others thought he was too much trouble. While he wasn’t playing baseball, he spent a lot of time partying and sometimes getting into trouble. But the Boston fans who liked Ruth, believed that trading him started an 84 year “curse”, during which the Red Sox did not win a World Series. It was called “The Curse of the Bambino”. Before he was traded, the Red Sox had won 5 of the 15 World Series that had been played. But after they sold Ruth they didn’t win another World Series until 2004. 

With Ruth, the New York Yankees did very well! In fact, they won the World Series 4 times, and they won the American league title 7 times! When Ruth was traded to the Yankees he became a full time outfielder, and was now able to bat all the time. He hit home run after home run and the New York fans loved him! During his first year, the Yankees had a record number of people at the stadium, 1.2 million people. It was the first time that any Major League Baseball game attendance had reached 1 million. During his 13 years with the Yankees, he became the highest paid player up to that point, making 2 ½  times more than any other player in the league. At the time, Ruth even made more than the president of the United States! On the team he was part of a group of players called Murderers Row. They got that name from the power of the hitters. The players were Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, and Babe Ruth. 

Sadly, Ruth spent many years of his life drinking too much alcohol and not taking care of his health. He also spent most of the money he made on things he didn’t need and that didn’t help better his life. Because of his poor health choices, he began to have trouble running the bases and catching the ball. He played his last full season with the Yankees in 1934. 

Ruth wanted to become a manager of a team himself but didn’t have any luck finding a position. But like hitting home runs, Ruth was never one to give up. He once said “you just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”  

Eventually he was traded to the Boston Braves as a “gate attraction.” This means he was hired not necessarily because he was good anymore, but because he’d been famous and would cause people to pay to come to the game to see him. 

He retired early that year in 1935. The next year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Babe Ruth became popular at a time when baseball became very popular in the United States and known as “America’s Pastime.” One reason was because the world had just gone through the first World War and then the 1918 flu pandemic, which were very tragic times and many lives were lost. America needed something good and positive to focus on. Baseball and sports figures like Babe Ruth became a symbol of that optimism and fun pastime. He also symbolized an American Dream that someone who came from very little money and didn’t have a well-known family could become famous. His life also showed us that it’s important to take care of yourself and set rules for yourself. If we want our bodies to work well we need to take care of them by eating good foods and exercising.

Babe Ruth worked very hard and took risks to become one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. He once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” This means there are many things you can worry about in life or fears that may keep you from acting. But like Babe Ruth said, if you worry too much about “striking out,” you’ll never get those things done and “swing the bat” and make the moves you need to take the next step in life. For you this might mean trying out for a sport or learning how to draw or some other skill. Don’t worry about what others might say or do, don’t worry about “striking out” and just act like Babe Ruth! 

The Origins of the Olympics and the First Modern Olympics for Kids

Have you ever been in front of a crowd? If you have, what did it feel like? Can you imagine thousands of people watching you, waiting to see what you do? Also imagine if you were competing in your favorite sport. That sounds really intimidating, doesn’t it? This is what it feels like for someone participating in the Olympics, which will be held again this month! 

Believe it or not, the Olympics are a tradition that have ancient roots, all the way back to 7th century BCE Greece, over 2,500 years ago! They happen every 2 years and switch between the Winter and Summer games. Usually around 200 countries come together to participate. It is an amazing show of worldwide unity and putting aside differences to celebrate sport and achievement.

The Ancient Olympics were part of a festival to honor the Greek god Zeus, who was the father of all the other gods and goddesses in Greek mythology. They were held every 4 years at Olympia, which was named after Mt. Olympus, the home of the Greek gods. The competitors came from everywhere in the Greek world. From Iberia, present day Spain, to the Black Sea, near Turkey.

Although some sources say that it’s possible that the Olympics began in the 9th or 10th century BCE, the agreed upon year the Olympics started is 776 BCE. It is said that the only event for the first 13 festivals was the stadion, a foot race 600 ft long. The first recorded person to win the race was a cook from the city of Elis. I thought it was pretty cool that a cook won the first race. Eventually other sports were added which included running races, jumping, wrestling, boxing, horse-related events, discus, and so on.

The Olympics were held in Ancient Greece for almost 1200 years. The Olympics became less frequent starting in the 2nd century BCE when the Romans invaded Greece. Sometimes they would interfere by trying to declare themselves the winner. Not very fair, right? The Olympics came to an end in 393 CE when Emperor Theodosius I declared an end to all pagan festivals. Pagan began festivals that celebrated the Greek gods.

It was 1,500 years until the Olympics finally returned. A man from France named Pierre de Coubertin was visiting the ancient Olympic site in Greece when he had an idea. He was very interested in physical education and wanted others to be, too. He thought that starting the Olympics games back up would inspire others to be physically fit, too! 

He shared his idea to start the Olympics in November 1892. Two years later he got permission to create the International Olympic Committee, which is the same group in charge of the Olympics even to this day! A Greek man named Demetrius Vikelas was elected to be the first president. Through Coubertin and Vikelas’ hard work, and many people across the world donating, enough money was raised to help Greece host the Olympics. Two years later in 1896 they held the first modern Olympics in Athens, Greece. People from all over the world came to watch the first modern Olympics and over 80,000 people filled the stadium during opening ceremonies! More people attended this event than any sporting event in history. There were 280 people participating from 14 different countries. Some of the different sports were cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, racing, weightlifting, tennis and wrestling. 

During the first modern Olympics winners were awarded silver medals and the runners up were awarded copper medals. As you may know today the medals are gold, silver, and bronze. The United States won 11 silver medals and Greece won the most medals overall, 46. Runners up were Germany, France and Great Britain. A highlight of the Olympics was Greek marathon runner, Spyridion Louis, winning the marathon and the most competitive participant was German wrestler, Carl Schumann, who won 4 events. 

The first winter Olympics were held in 1924. For 70 years, both the Summer and Winter Olympics were held during the same year. It wasn’t until 1994 that they were split and began switching every 2 years.

There are many symbols around the Olympics, like the flag and the motto that have deep meaning.

The Olympic flag was originally created by Coubertin in 1913. It is a white background with five rings: blue, yellow, black, green and red. The five rings were to represent the 5 continents: Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. Coubertin chose those colors because together they represented the colors of all the countries participating. He took the rings interlocking from the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, interlocking rings symbolized to Jung continuity and the human being. It was a flag created to represent everyone, truly an international symbol.

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, which is Latin for “faster, higher, stronger” It was suggested by Coubertin at the original International Olympic Committee meeting. It was a saying that a friend of his, Henri Didon, who was a priest and a teacher came up with. Coubertin said “These three words represent a programme of moral beauty. The aesthetics of sport are intangible.” It was officially introduced at the 1924 games. 

The Olympic creed was said by the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, in a sermon during the 1908 Olympics. He said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

The Olympic Anthem is played when the Olympic flag is raised and even though it was performed at the first modern Olympics in 1896, it wasn’t made the official anthem until 1958. It was composed by Spyridon Samaras; the words are from a poem by the Greek writer Kostis Palamas. The poem is a celebration of the Olympics, and the sense of a worldwide friendship that comes with Olympics. A small part of it says, “As now we come across the world/To share these Games of old/Let all the flags of every land/In brotherhood unfold   Sing out each nation, voices strong/Rise up in harmony/All hail our brave Olympians/With strains of victory”. The anthem shows just how much the Olympics are meant to unify us.

Anciently, the prize for winning (only first place was recognized anciently) was a kotinos, a wild olive branch intertwined to form a circle. The kotinos was made from a sacred olive tree by the temple of Zeus near Olympia. But of course now first, second and third place are awarded medals. The front of the medal shows an image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and the back shows the host country of the games. Olympic diplomas are then given to fourth through eighth places. 

There is a modern Olympic tradition that was introduced at the Berlin Games in 1936. Months before the games are held, a torch is lit at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece. To do this the Sun is used to light the torch using a parabolic reflector (kind of like a giant mirror shaped like a bowl). The torch is then taken out of Greece to the host country and travels around before the games, staying lit the entire time. Sometimes on it’s way to the host country it is taken to really exciting places. The flame has gone underwater, to the North Pole and even to Outer Space! It has been carried by both famous people and ordinary people. The first day of the Olympics is called Opening Ceremonies. The day of Opening Ceremonies it is taken to a cauldron that is used to light the ceremonies. Here all of the participants parade around the stadium carrying flags representing their different countries. It’s an exciting day for the participants and for the world!

Today the Olympics includes many more sports than the first modern Olympics which beyond the traditional sports include basketball, baseball, volleyball, BMX, diving, soccer, hockey, karate, skateboarding, surfing, and trampolines.

The Olympic games come from the desire to be a part of something more, and while no country is perfect, it is incredible to see what we can accomplish when we work together, instead of apart. As we go into this exciting worldwide tradition this month and next, think about what you can do to contribute to unity in your world. Unity or to unify means to come together, to work together, to be one. Think about what this means as a family, friends, in your school and community. Our small efforts always have a bigger effect than we think they will. How can you make a difference?

Also, as you watch the Olympics, think about sports you are interested in, or might be interested in! Physical activity is good for your body and mind. Studies show that exercising makes you happier! When you move about and play and exercise chemicals in your brain are released that make you feel better and feel less stress. Isn’t that cool? I know for me it feels to get out and run or ride my bike or swim with my kids. It clears my mind and it gives me added strength or energy. Spend some time thinking about how you might add more physical activity to your life, and maybe by watching the Olympics you’ll be inspired to try a new sport.

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a prince or a princess, living in a giant, luxurious palace. There your parents make sure that you have everything you could ever want or need: lots of toys, fine clothes, the best education. You’re surrounded by beautiful gardens and expensive things. You have servants to clean up after you, bring your food, and help with everything. When you’re not learning from private tutors, you spend your days swimming, practicing archery and swordsmanship, and riding horses. The palace is so massive, it’s your entire world and you never even need to leave. 

Now imagine you decide to give that all up. You’re not happy with that life. You wonder if life has a greater meaning. You wonder if possessions can ever make people truly happy and content. This was the life Siddhartha Gautama found himself in. You might have heard of him: now, we call him Buddha. 

The story of how Siddhartha became Buddha begins even before his birth. Siddhartha’s father was king of a small kingdom in northern India in the sixth century BCE over 2,500 years ago!  Several years before Siddhartha was born, the king was visited by sages, or wise men, who told him his son would be either a great king, or a great holy man. Of course, Siddhartha’s father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and be a great king.  So when Siddhartha was born in 567 BCE, his father decided to shelter his son from the world, so he wouldn’t know about suffering and death. He thought that if Siddhartha never saw bad things in the world, he wouldn’t want to fix them, and so he wouldn’t want to become a holy man. 

So Siddhartha grew up surrounded by all the comforts and privileges money could buy. When he became a young man, he married a woman named Gopa. He seemed to have it all, but the plan Siddhartha’s father made for him to become a great king was about to fall apart. Instead of accepting the life of luxury that he was given, Siddhartha grew restless living in the palace. One day, he asked his father to let him go on a chariot ride to see the city around the palace. His father agreed, but told the chariot driver to stay in the richer parts of the city, close to the palace, to avoid letting Siddhartha see people who were poor or suffering. 

Siddhartha set out in the chariot with his driver. Before long, they saw an old man, slowly hobbling along the road, looking as if he might fall over at any moment. Siddhartha had never seen such an old man, and he asked his driver what was wrong with him. 

His driver replied, “He is very old. His body has grown weak with age. You too will grow old someday. All people do.”

Siddhartha was disturbed, but asked him to drive on. Later in the ride, they saw a sick man lying by the side of the road. He was groaning and looked very unhappy. Again, Siddhartha asked what was wrong with the man. 

His driver replied, “He is sick with a terrible disease. Everyone gets sick sometimes. Someday, you will get sick.”

Siddhartha felt terrible, seeing this man suffering, but they continued their ride through the city. 

On their way back to the palace, they came across a funeral procession. People were crying and moaning. For a third time, Siddhartha asked his chariot driver what was happening.

Again, his driver replied. “Someone has died, and these people are his friends and family. They are mourning for him.”  

When Siddhartha returned home, he could not stop thinking about the old man, the sick man, and the funeral. He thought about these things happening to his father and mother, to his wife, and to himself. He realized that all the treasure in the palace, all the servants waiting on him, all the beautiful things surrounding him, could not prevent him or anyone else from the sad things he sad. He realized that he wanted to find a way to help people overcome suffering. 

Once he realized these things, Siddhartha knew he could no longer live an easy life in the palace. So one day, he said goodbye to his family, and set out to find the cause of suffering. He cut his hair and lived as an ascetic – someone who chooses to live in poverty and simplicity. He studied meditation with great holy men and discussed the problem of suffering with them, but after many years of living this way, he still didn’t know why it happened, or how he could prevent it.

Finally, he decided to sit and meditate under a bodhi tree. He vowed not to leave until he had the answer to the problem of human suffering.  Siddhartha sat meditating day and night, still and calm as a statue, for six days. On the sixth day, he opened his eyes and realized he understood the nature of suffering. He became enlightened and from then on was known as Buddha, which means awakened one. 

For the rest of his life, Buddha travelled throughout India, teaching others about what he had discovered. He taught people the four noble truths he had realized about suffering. The first truth is that everyone suffers and has hard things happen to them. It’s just part of life. 

The second truth is that we suffer because we are always wanting more, and trying to hold onto what we have. This might sound surprising. Didn’t he start his quest because he saw people who were suffering because they were old, sick, and dying? Buddha thought that the real reason we suffer is not because bad things happen to us, but because we allow negative feelings and desires to take over our thinking. If we’re sick, we lie around feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing we were well. But then when we’re healthy, we think of other things we want, but don’t have, and we still suffer. 

Think about a time when you really wanted a new toy or game. It probably felt very unfair that you didn’t have it, and then, if you did get it, you might have been happy for a short time, but then you were just back to normal and wanted something new. We become attached to things, or even ideas of things, and those things are not permanent. This keeps us spending all our time wanting things we don’t have, and worrying we’ll lose what we do have. He taught that things like toys and games and other things we might buy don’t really make us happy deep down and any happiness we do feel doesn’t last.

The third truth is that we can overcome suffering. Once we overcome suffering, Buddha thought, we could reach a state of nirvana, or perfect peace and happiness, just as he did when he meditated under the bodhi tree. 

Finally, the fourth truth tells us how to overcome suffering. The way Buddha thought we overcome suffering is by following what he called the “eightfold path.” I won’t go over all eight parts of the path, but basically, to follow the eightfold path, we must always try to improve ourselves: this means being kind and honest; try not to harm anyone or anything; and act with compassion. We must also learn to pay attention to their own thoughts. As we pay attention to our thoughts we can better understand the thoughts that make us feel sad. This helps us think in a new way. This paying attention to our thoughts is called meditation.

Buddha taught that following the eight-fold path creates good karma.  Karma is the idea that everything you do has a consequence, whether good or bad. Kind actions tend to have positive consequences, and unkind actions, negative consequences. This isn’t a consequence like a reward or a punishment – it’s just a thing that happens as a result of an action. He taught that by building up a lot of good karma, you can reach nirvana, a state of true enlightenment. 

Buddha spent the rest of his life travelling around India, teaching what he had discovered to anyone who wanted to learn. He encouraged his followers to try out the practices he taught for themselves, to see how well they worked, and to gather in communities to learn and help each other. Community was important, because Buddha knew that to be truly happy, people need to feel compassion and kindness for both themselves and others. This is called metta in Buddhism.

After its beginnings in India, Buddhism spread throughout South and East Asia, and was practiced widely in Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, China, and Japan, among others. Today, people around the world practice Buddhism in different forms. For some it’s a religion, but for others it’s simply a way of looking at life.

Like Buddha taught, you can take the time to meditate each day. Meditating is a good chance to breathe deeply and slow your thoughts. It can also help you look closely at your thoughts. Your thoughts often lead to how you’re feeling. So if you have lots of negative thoughts those may be causing negative feelings. Breathing deeply and clearing your mind can give you the positive energy you need to help yourself and help others. There are a lot of great ways to start meditating. You can find videos, podcasts and apps, that can get your started. But the simplest way is to just set a timer and try and sit and relax during that time while breathing deeply. 

Also, like Buddha taught, remember that things that we buy won’t always make us happy. Toys eventually break, or they go out of fashion, and we’ll always want something new. Think about how you might turn your attention to more important things like spending time with your family and friends, learning something new, or doing good for others. These are things that last longer and will give you greater, deeper joy.   

I hope you enjoyed this episode about Buddha. Be sure to check in next Monday for a new episode!

Sources

Fields, Rick. “Who Is the Buddha?” in: Tricycle, Spring 1997. https://tricycle.org/magazine/who-was-buddha-2/

Meyers, Rachel. Curiosity Chronicles: Snapshots of Ancient History. Little Monster Schooling, 2017.

Nagaraja, Dharmachari. Buddha at Bedtime.Watkins, 2016.

The History of Memorial Day for Kids

Have you ever heard of Memorial Day? Memorial Day is an American holiday honoring men and women who have died while serving in the military. It takes place on the last Monday of May every year. Most kids and adults get this day off work and school, so usually the day is filled with parties and vacation time. I know growing up most of my memories of Memorial Day involved pool parties and barbeques with family and friends. And while it’s good to spend time with those we love, it’s also important to understand why we have Memorial Day. Growing up, I also remember visiting the cemetery to place flowers on the wreath of my grandfather. My grandfather served in England during World War 2. He had to leave his wife and daughter and while he was away his job was to guard the bomber planes at night. He didn’t die during that war, but we still honored him for his service. I also had a younger brother who passed away, so we always visited his grave as well. 

Memorial Day is a special time to remember those who are no longer with us. If you notice the word “memorial” sounds kind of like “memory” and that means on this day we remember our family and friends who have passed away. 

Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day and originally started during the years after the American Civil War. The Civil War was a time when many lives were lost, so many families around this time of year were thinking about their brothers, husbands, and sons and wanted to remember them by decorating their graves.

One reason Memorial Day is during the Spring is when flowers are in bloom and often families decorated the graves with flowers. No one is exactly sure when Decoration Day started, there are many different theories and ideas, but after the Civil War and World War 1 and World War II Decoration Day became more and more popular. 

One of the towns where Decoration Day was celebrated was Waterloo, New York. In Waterloo they held a large event where businesses closed and the entire community came out to decorate the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. The first time they celebrated it was May 5th 1866. Over time many other states started holding their own Decoration Day. Often these holidays have a parade which include those in the military and veterans. A veteran is someone who served in the military, but was no longer serving. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. 

Finally in 1967 the United States government decided to make Memorial Day a holiday all across the country and placed it on Monday so it could be a three day weekend. Because of the time of the year it also unofficially marks the beginning of summer, which is one reason families use it to go on vacation, spend time outside, have pool parties, go to the beach and have barbecues. 

While Memorial Day is an American holiday, many other countries have days set aside to honor those who served in the military. South Korea has their Memorial Day on June 6th, the same month the Korean War began. The United Kingdom, Canada, France and many other countries celebrate Armistice Day on November 11th, when World War 2 ended. Each country has their own celebration that tends to correspond to the end of a war where they remember those who were lost. 

How do you plan to celebrate Memorial Day this year? Is there someone in your family who you will remember? Spend some time thinking about all that you have and the freedoms you enjoy because of others who came before you and were willing to sacrifice their time and even their lives. Memorial Day is also a good time to spend with your family. Take the time to think about how fortunate you are to have friends and family in your life and to not take them for granted.

The History of Easter for Kids

Have you ever heard of Easter Island?  Many movies talk about it and some even say that is where the Easter Bunny lives.  But in fact, it is a real place that has nothing to do with the holiday of Easter. But many people know of Easter Island from the large famous face statues that are often seen in pictures of the place.  So why does Easter Island have this name?

Easter Island is a large island that covers nearly 65 square miles.  It is located in the South Pacific Ocean, far off of the west coast of the country of Chile in South America.  It is also an almost equal number of miles to the east of Tahiti.  

Many people have been confused about the name “Easter Island” and have wondered whether the island has something to do with the holiday of Easter. Is this where the Easter Bunny lives when he is not hopping around the world delivering eggs?  Let’s find out. 

The first people to live on Easter Island arrived on the island around the year 400 A.D. They were from another Polynesian island close by and they came to Easter Island looking for a new place to live.  These first people called the island “Rapa Nui”.  Because of its remote, or far away, location, the first peoples of Rapa Nui lived there on their own for hundreds of years before there were any other visitors from other countries. 

The traditions and stories of the Polynesian people say that the first king of Rapa Nui was named “Hoto-Matua”.  He was a ruler of a group of people that traveled around many islands in the area.  The group of explorers led by Hoto-Matua was searching for a new place to make their home. The story says that after traveling thousands of miles, the exploring group landed at a sandy beach on the island.  The island of Rapa Nui is actually quite rocky on the coast, or edge of the land near the water.

The traditional Polynesian story says that the group, led by their leader, Hoto-Matua, landed on the sandy beach, which was one of the only sandy spots on the coast. The group explored the island and found that it was a great place to live.  It was abundant, with many fish and other types of food, and had a good climate or weather.  They decided to stay and build their home on this newly found island.  This is the start of the first peoples living on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The first peoples learned how to harvest food and fish on the island, including native fruit and plants.   They grew in size over time and developed a long and rich culture over the hundreds of years since the first group arrived.

One of the best pieces of evidence ot the early people that lived on the island is the giant stone statues that have been found around Easter Island.  These statues are called “moai” and are part of what makes Easter Island famous.  You may have even seen pictures of these statues before.  They look like giant stone heads sticking out of the ground. 

There are over 900 moai statues all over Easter Island.  The statues are all around 13 feet (or 4 meters) high, with a weight of 13 tons!  They are huge faces and chests carved out of a type of rock called “tuff”.  Tuff is a light and porous rock, or rock with holes in it, that was made from volcanic ashes.  One thing that many people don’t know about the statues is that they actually go into the ground and continue at least partly underground.  They are a mystery that no one can really solve. 

No one today knows why these statues were made and why there are so many.  It is also a mystery why they were built so big and how they were moved around the island.

One thing is for sure: the statues show that their creators, the early people of Easter Island, were very good craftsmen and engineers, or people who design and make strong structures.  And while the early people who lived on Easter Island were partly Polynesian, the statues on Easter island are distinct, or different only to them, so their culture was different than the Polynesian culture.

In modern times, researchers have determined that there were three different cultural phases, or separate times in human history there.  During the early and middle periods, statues were built and torn down and then rebuilt in the same places.  In the later period, the statues were built even bigger than before and are the statues that we see pictures of today. 

The first European person to visit Easter Island was a Dutch explorer named Jacob Roggeveen.  He came exploring the area in the year 1722. Captain Roggeveen and his crew arrived on the island on the holiday of Easter.  To help remember the day and celebrate it, the Dutch named the island Paaseiland, which means “Easter Island” in Dutch. 

In 1770, the Spanish government in Peru sent a group of explorers to Easter Island. The explorers spent four days on the island.  They found that there were about 3,000 native people living on the island. 

Unfortunately, as more and more explorers started visiting the island, they also had diseases that the local islanders had not been around before.  As a result, many of the native islanders died and by 1877, there were only 111 native people living on the island. 

By 1877, Catholic explorers had come to the island to convert, or teach and change the local people to, Christianity.  By the late 19th century, almost all of the people living on the island were Christians. 

In 1888, Chile started using the land to raise sheep.  The government of Chile also appointed a governor to be in charge of Easter Island in 1965, and the island’s people all became Chilean citizens. 

Easter Island is the shape of a triangle and measures 14 miles long by 7 miles wide. It was formed by a series of volcano eruptions over time.  The island has many hills and caves within the rocks that go way back into the mountains.  Because much of the rock on the island is made of volcanic rock, it is easy for the rock to form caves and holes over time. 

Easter Island’s largest volcano is called Rano Kao.  It has a highest point that its called Mount Terevaka that reaches 1,665 feet (or 508 meters) above the sea.  

Easter Island is a sub-tropical, which means it is located below the mid-point of the Earth called the equator and has sunny and dry weather. 

Easter Island does not have any natural bays to form harbours that are places for boats to be parked away from the harsh weather of the ocean. The island’s largest village is called Hanga Roa. It was made into a World Heritage site in 1995, so it will not be developed into a tourist place full of hotels and other developments. 

Today, Easter Island is home to a mixed group of people.  Many of the people living on the island have Polynesian ancestors, or older relatives. The locals now mostly speak Spanish and there are some tourists that visit during the year.

The History of Chocolate for Kids

With Easter just around the corner, many kids are getting very excited for one of the treats that often comes this time of year: chocolate!

Chocolate is a delicious treat and comes in many colours, flavours and forms including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and hot chocolate.  But have you ever thought of where chocolate comes from?  

The history of chocolate began with the ancient Olmec and Mayan peoples of Central and South America.  The Mayan people were a large group of Indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America and the ancient Olmecs lived in southern Mexico before that. 

Back then, chocolate was very different than it is today.  It was a drink that people enjoyed. But it was not sweet.  It was bitter, which means having a sharp taste and was not sweet. 

Chocolate is made from cacao fruit, which comes from cacao trees which grow in hot places like Central and South America. This is why chocolate first came from these areas.  The beans from inside the cacao fruits are called cocoa beans after they are dried and roasted.  This is one of the first steps in the process of making cacao fruit beans into chocolate. 

Historians think that ancient Olmec and Maya people ground cocoa beans into powder and used it to make a chocolate flavoured drink.  The reason they think this is that there are traces of this type of powder found in old pots from ancient Olmec times.  This was around 15,000 B.C., which is a very very long time ago.

However, there is no written history from this time.  So it is not clear whether Olmec people made these drinks just for their flavour, or if it was part of a ceremony.  

The Olmec people passed their love of cacao on to their neighbours in Central America, the Mayans.  The Mayan people loved chocolate so much that they used it in their drinks and in their food.  They often made it into a thick, sweet and spicy drink, using honey to sweeten it.  And they sometimes added chilli peppers to make the drink spicy.  Have you ever tried spicy hot chocolate?  If not, it is something that you can find in some cafes today and is quite delicious, if you like spicy things.

After the Mayan people, the Aztec people came to live in the Central American and Mexican area.  They also developed a love of chocolate.  The Aztec people loved chocolate so much that they believed that cacao plants had been given to them by the gods.  They used cacao in some of their religious ceremonies.  They felt very lucky to have this drink. 

One of the things that people probably liked about cacao in the old days and that people still like about it today is that it contains caffeine. Caffeine is an ingredient that is found in tea and coffee plants that is a stimulant and makes people feel more awake and perky.  It is one of the main ingredients in coffee, and is one of the reasons why adults drink coffee, too. 

Aztec people liked to drink chocolate as a drink, either hot or cold.  They also added spices to their chocolate drinks and draft them out of special, decorated containers.  The Aztec people treated cacao beans like money.  They considered the beans to be more valuable than gold!

One famous Aztec chocolate lover was Montezuma II.  He was the ruler of the Aztec people in Mexico from 1502 to 1520.  Legends say that Montezuma II drank a gallon (or almost 4 litres) of chocolate drink per day!  He loved the taste and also believed that drinking it would make women fall in love with him. 

When Spanish explorers from Europe first arrived in Central America, they learned about chocolate.  These explorers included Christopher Columbus.  The European explorers loved chocolate as well once they tried it.  When they returned to Spain and other countries, they brought cacao beans with them.  In Spain, the Spanish people loved the drink and by the late 1500s, it had become a very popular drink throughout the country. 

As other European countries explored Central America, they also learned about cacao and brought beans back to their home countries.  That is how chocolate came to be popular across Europe in countries such as France and Italy. Europeans loved chocolate so much that a demand grew for cacao beans.  A demand is the desire of large groups of people to buy something.

Back in Central America, the European demand for chocolate meant that cacao plantations were growing in size and number.  The farmers that worked at these plantations were mostly local people who were treated as slaves.  A slave is a person who works very hard without proper pay or appreciation. The life of a slave cacao farmer was a very difficult life.  They worked hard from early morning to late at night picking beans for the European people.

The European explorers and traders continued to bring the beans back to Europe.  As European people continued to enjoy chocolate, the popularity spread.  Europeans started creating their own recipes for cacao beans as well.  Instead of just using the Central American recipes, they created different types of hot chocolate, using sugar, cinnamon and other spices.

About 150 years later, in 1828, a Dutch chemist named Coenraad Johannes van Houtan discovered a new way to make cacao powder. It was an easier way to create powder that would mix easily with hot water to make hot chocolate. The process through which van Houtan did this was later called “Dutch processing”.  The cacao powder that he made was similar to what we think of as hot chocolate powder today.  At the time it was called “Dutch cocoa.” 

Dutch cocoa powder made processing chocolate easier and cheaper than in the past.  As a result, even poor people could afford chocolate. This meant that chocolate grew even further in popularity.

Up until 1847, chocolate was primarily consumed in Europe and America as a drink, mixed with water or milk. However, in that year a company called J.S. Fry and Sons created the first chocolate bar in Britain.  They molded a paste made out of sugar, butter and chocolate and put it together into the shape of a bar. It was delicious and they knew they had a hit. Everyone who tried the solid chocolate loved it.  And a new form of chocolate was born.

By the late 19th century, family chocolate companies such as Cadbury, Mars, Nestle and Hershey were all making a variety of chocolate treats.  People across the world loved eating chocolate as well as drinking it.  There were therefore lots of customers to buy chocolate from these companies. 

Today, chocolate is still enjoyed by people around the world.  It is still available to drink, but it is more often eaten as a treat or dessert or in baking. It has changed a lot since the earliest versions of the bitter Olmec drink.  But the root of the treat is still the same. 

It is still very hard work to farm and produce chocolate however. While it is now easier than it was in the days of slaves and colonists, many cacao bean farmers still have to work very hard to produce their beans.  And they do not always get paid very much money for them. This has inspired many people throughout the world to focus on “fair trade” chocolate.  Fair trade means chocolate that is created in an ethical and sustainable way.  This means farming in a way that treats farmers fairly and without putting the environment at risk so that future generations can also meet their own needs.

Do you love eating chocolate as a treat?  Or drinking hot chocolate on a cold day? What are some of the types of chocolate that you like to eat or drink.  What would you try if you were challenged to come up with a new type of chocolate?  It is fun to think about they ways we can enjoy something so delicious and historic today.

The History of St. Patrick’s Day for Kids

Imagine you are in Boston and it is March 17.  You are walking down the street with your family, when suddenly you hear a marching band in the distance.  It sounds loud and fun, with fiddles and pipes and drums.  What is that noise?  It is getting closer and closer and you stand by and watch as around the corner come hundreds of people dressed in green.  They are laughing and playing music.  Some are wearing red wigs and fake beards.  “What is going on?” you ask your parents.  “Why, it’s St. Patrick’s Day of course” they reply. 

St. Patrick’s Day is a special day that is celebrated around the world each year on March 17 to celebrate Irish culture and history.  It is also a date meant to remember the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s day has become a large celebration around the world of Irish culture and pride, with parades, special foods, dancing, music and people wearing all things green!

But what is the history of St. Patrick’s Day and why do we celebrate it? 

St. Patrick’s Day started as a day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 5th century and grew up with a father who was a deacon of their local church.  So even though St. Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland, he was not actually Irish but actually British. 

When Patrick was 16 years old, Irish raiders came to his village and he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave.  A slave is someone who is held captive and has to do work for another person for no money.  Patrick spent 6 years living in Ireland as a slave herdsman, taking care of cattle.  He was sad living as a slave and turned to prayer and religion to keep his spirits up.  He prayed regularly to escape so he could return home. 

One night when he was 24, Patrick snuck away from his master and got onto a ship headed back to Britain.  It was a difficult journey and Patrick didn’t have anything to eat on the way, so he nearly starved to death.  However, Patrick made it successfully to the other side of the sea to his own country of Britain. 

Patrick lived in Britain for a short while again.  But one day while reading about the Irish people, he felt called to return to Ireland and teach the Irish people about his religion, Christianity. Although he had doubts about whether it was a good idea, he decided to return to Ireland, this time as a free man. 

Patrick returned to Ireland and traveled broadly throughout the country, teaching people everywhere he went about his religion. It was a dangerous time to be traveling alone as a foreigner and trying to convert people.  To convert means to change people’s thinking so that they believe the same things as you.  However, Patrick had great faith in his mission and carried on, despite being arrested, put in chains, and threatened with death.

As Patrick traveled around Ireland and became more well known, myths and legends started to grow about him.  Myths and legends are imaginary stories. One of these legends was that Patrick scared all of the snakes in Ireland out of the country and into the sea where they died.  Some people believed that Patrick was also able to bring people back from the dead and that he was able to create food out of thin air. 

One of the most well known legends about St. Patrick is that he explained the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity to Irish people by using the three leaves of an Irish clover or shamrock.  Shamrocks have since become symbols of St. Patrick’s day. 

St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 A.D.  However, he did not actually become a saint until many years later, which is the normal process for Catholic sainthood.  March 17th became celebrated around the world as “St. Patrick’s day” at first to celebrate him, and later to celebrate Irish cultural heritage generally.  Cultural heritage means traditions and ways of life that have passed down through generations.

In Ireland today, St. Patrick’s day is celebrated as a religious holiday.  Irish families celebrate by going to church in the morning and having a party in the afternoon.  Irish people will usually dance and drink in their afternoon parties and eat a meal that includes meat, such as Irish bacon and cabbage. 

In America and other places with many Irish immigrants, St. Patricks day is celebrated on March 17, but with different traditions. In these countries, people of Irish descent hold large annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums. Many people wear green and dress up. 

The tradition started in America in the 1840s, when many Irish people left Ireland due to the Great Potato Famine of 1845.  A famine is an extreme shortage of food. In the 1840s, nearly 1 million poor Irish people moved to America to escape starvation in Ireland.  With so many Irish people now living in New York and other American cities, the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations grew in size and popularity. 

In 1848, many New York Irish societies decided to join together to form one big St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Today, that parade is the largest parade in the United States with over 150,000 people participating each year and 3 million people watching on the side of the road.  There are also very large St. Patrick’s Day parades held in other cities, including Boston and Chicago.

As Irish immigrants spread out over the United States and around the world, cities and countries developed their own traditions.  This is especially true in the United States, Canada and Australia.  Some common traditions include wearing shamrocks, which represents St. Patrick’s teachings to the Irish people.  Many people like to plan Irish music, including fiddles and pipes, on St. Patrick’s day.  There is a tradition of people carrying a snake staff in St. Patrick’s day parades to represent St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland.  

In Chicago, the city even dyes the local river green for St. Patrick’s Day!

While Irish people eat bacon and cabbage on St. Patricks, Irish Americans now celebrate by eating a meal of corned beef and cabbage. This is because the first Irish immigrants to America were very poor and couldn’t afford the traditional bacon and cabbage that they ate back home. Instead they had corned beef and cabbage, having learned about this cheaper meat from their new Jewish neighbours in America. 

Many listeners will likely have heard about the small Irish imp called a “leprechaun”.  Leprechauns come from old Celtic belief in fairies, which were tiny, magical men and women. In old Celtic fairy tales, leprechauns were cranky little people that were responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Leprechauns were also believed to be hiding gold and would use trickery to protect their hiding places. Today, many people like to dress up as leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day. 

One tradition that many children are familiar with is the practice of pinching people on St. Patrick’s day if they are not wearing green. Because green came to be seen as the color of Irish pride amongst Irish people in America, pinching those who were not wearing green started as a gentle way of reprimanding those who were not showing Irish pride.  To reprimand means to scold or criticize someone.  However, now-of-days, kids do this mostly just for fun.  So don’t forget to wear something green on March 17th!

Have you ever seen and participated in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations?  What are some of the ways that your family celebrates their cultural heritage?  

If you do leave a comment or message on the Bedtime History Facebook or Instagram pages.  We’d love to hear more about your family and cultural celebrations.  And for those who celebrate, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!