The History of Easter Island 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 the island of Tahiti.  

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 is called Mount Terevaka that reaches 1,665 feet (or 508 meters) above the sea.  The island is sub-tropical, which means it is located below the mid-point of the Earth called the equator and has sunny and dry weather. 

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. about 1,500 years ago. 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 of 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 has yet to 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. This would have been an amazing feat of engineering by people living at that time!

One thing is for sure: the statues show that their creators, the early people of Easter Island, were very good craftsmen and engineers. They were very skilled at design and making strong structures.  

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 you can 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. This is where the island gets its name! 

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 does not have any natural bays to form harbors 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. 

History of Florence Nightingale for Kids & Families

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a soldier in a war. But you’re not on the battlefield. Instead, you’re lying in bed recovering from injuries you received in battle. The room is pitch black and it’s been a long night, and you are very uncomfortable. You are sad and not feeling well. You miss your family back at home and wish you were not sick. But suddenly, you hear a door open and you turn and look down the hall. There’s light from a lamp and it’s moving toward you. You smile because you know who it is. A woman, a nurse, stops by you and puts her hand on your shoulder. “How are you feeling,” she asks. “Can I get you anything?” She gives you a drink of water. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she says and then walks away to attend to another soldier. You felt lonely and sad but now you feel much better, thanks to the woman who would become one of the most famous nurses of all time, the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale. 

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820. Her parents were English, which means from England, but at the time they were living in the city of Florence, Italy. And this is where she got her name, Florence! The Nightingales were a very wealthy family. Her father was a London banker. Florence and her sister had a very easy, privileged life. Growing up they got to travel all over Europe as a family. Imagine how interesting that would have been! After their travels, they settled in their home country, England. There they had two homes, a summer house in Derbyshire and a winter house in Hampshire. With the homes came servants who took care of them and all of the housekeeping. Like I said, a pretty easy life for the girls and the parents who had plenty of money to live in comfort.

During the 1800s most girls didn’t get a great education. But William Nightingale wanted the best for his daughters, so he took a special interest in their learning and taught them various subjects like history, geography, and literature. Florence was a very gifted child and soaked up everything her father taught her. Even at a young age with lots of practice, she could speak in several languages: French, German, Latin, Greek, Italian, and Latin. 

In the time Florence lived, called the Victorian era, women from wealthy families were expected to only handle housework (with the servants doing most of the work) and host guests. They weren’t supposed to look for jobs or earn money. Florence saw this but wanted something different. She wanted to work for herself and earn money for herself. She wasn’t satisfied with the way the world was. She wanted to find her purpose in life and believed there was more for her than simply running the home and taking care of guests. At an early age, she decided her calling in life would be to help others, to ease their suffering. She loved taking care of sick pets and servants. Being a nurse seemed like a natural fit for desire to help others.

So Florence mustered up the courage and went to her parents to tell them she wanted to be a nurse. They were very upset and refused to let her do it. They told her she wasn’t allowed to go to nursing school. In their minds, this was very inappropriate for a woman of her wealth and status. Like I said, it was a very different time and Florence was going against what was normal in her day.


But do you think Florence just went along with it? Nope. She was determined to become a nurse so she could help others.  Finally, after a lot of persuasion, her father gave in and she packed up her bags and moved to Germany to go to nursing school. The school was called the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses. There she learned all the important skills to take care of other’s medical needs. Florence was a fast learner, so she made quick progress and after moving back to England soon became the head of a hospital in London. 

In 1854, a war broke out between the countries of Turkey and Russia. Did you know there was a country called Turkey? It’s a big country on the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and the Middle East. The war became Russia and Turkey later became known as the Crimean War. Since England, Russia and France were allies, British soldiers were sent to fight in the war. To help sick and injured soldiers, a hospital was set up in Scutari, Turkey. And sadly due to the war, many injured soldiers ended up in the hospital. But the soldiers weren’t being taken care of properly. And this means soldiers who didn’t receive the proper care, often did not survive. Leaders at the time wondered what to do and someone suggested just the person to help – Nurse extraordinaire, Florence Nightingale! Florence was a friend of the Minister of War’s wife and he requested her to accept the job.

So, Florence, not being one to waste time, quickly went to work assembling a team of 34 nurses and all of the supplies they’d need to help the soldiers waiting in the hospital far away in Turkey. 

When Florence and the nurses arrived in Turkey, they were shocked at what they saw! The hospital was so overcrowded that soldiers had to sleep on the floor. And it was very unhygienic, which means it was unclean and it’s very important that a hospital is kept clean because if not germs can flourish and make sick soldiers even sicker. There were puddles of drain water everywhere — and worst of all rats! It was no wonder all of the soldiers were getting infected!

Florence knew if the soldiers were to get better, the hospital would have to change. Right away. With money from England, she quickly improved the conditions. She ordered new equipment, cleaned up the rooms, and even set up the kitchen to serve better quality food. All of her training as a nurse was being put to good use to save the lives of the soldiers and improve their quality of care. She was a true nurse who properly cared for her suffering patients. 

You’d think with all of this busyness, Florence would just want to rest at night. But at all hours, Florence kept an eye on her patients. At night she used to make her rounds, checking on each and every soldier. She used a lamp to light her way and the soldiers named her “the Lady with the Lamp”. Imagine if you were a soldier suffering and could not sleep at night. Imagine what it would feel like to see that lamplight coming down the hall and know that someone cared for you and was checking in on you. This is the kind of care Florence gave! She also wrote letters to the home of the soldiers who were unable to do it themselves and found ways to entertain them.

Thanks to Florence and other nurse’s hard work and selfless service, the conditions in the hospital barracks started to change. The mortality rate, which is the number of deaths in a certain period of time, decreased by two percent. This means that more and more soldiers were starting to survive their injuries!

This was such exciting news that papers back in London started writing articles about Florence Nightingale. People started calling her a heroine. Even the Queen of England wrote her a thank you letter!

After the Crimean War ended, Florence’s work did not. After seeing how poor the conditions were in Turkey, she set out on her new mission to make hospitals better across the empire. She met up with important figures such as Queen Victoria to discuss her ideas. Eventually, the army started training doctors and nurses to take care of soldiers with the care and concern Florence would give them.

To honor her service, the government decided to create a fund as a token of their appreciation and gratitude. They called it the Nightingale Fund and through it a big sum of money was raised and gifted to Florence to use however she pleased. In 1860, Florence set up her own institute called The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London

The school gave hope to women who wanted to work and service and earn their own living. It made training and schooling more normal for women in their society. It was an excellent school, one of the first to be developed based on accurate scientific methods. In fact, it was so advanced that most of the techniques that Florence developed in the school are still in practice today! And to this day, she is considered one of the founders of nursing training. 

Florence believed that nursing starts from the home. With this, she set up various training camps in smaller neighborhoods so the women of lower class could learn from her. This improved the level of health in poor families immensely. Not only was Florence a full-time professional nurse, she also published many books on nursing and healthcare. Her most famous writing is the Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not which is the best guidebook for household nursing. It has detailed step-by-step procedures on how to best tend to a patient at home.

To honor her service, there are plaques and statues of Florence Nightingale all around the globe. Three statues of Florence are in Derby, England alongside numerous plaques. From Los Angeles in the USA to Andhra Pradesh in India and in Kawanishi in Japan, various countries have put up statues in respect of The Lady with the Lamp.

Spend some time thinking about how Florence lived her life and the change for good she made in the lives of others. Do you like caring for others? What does it feel like after you help someone? It feels good inside, doesn’t it? Florence saw suffering around her and did whatever she could to help. For you, this might start small by helping a sibling when they are trying to tie their shoe or make their breakfast. Or it might mean helping your parents when they are sick — remember how much they helped you when you were sick! In fact, just the other day I wasn’t feeling well and my kids brought me some food and water and it made me feel much better. Next time you’re given the opportunity to serve others, remember Florence Nightingale and the change she made in the lives of others one individual at a time!

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 Story of Grace Hopper for Kids

Has your curiosity ever gotten you in trouble? Maybe you took something apart or made a mess while you were trying to find out how it worked, or maybe you’ve asked a grown-up a question they didn’t know how to answer. If so, don’t feel bad about yourself! You have something in common with some of the smartest and most innovative people in history, including the subject of today’s episode, Grace Murray Hopper. 

Grace was born and raised in New York City, and she was a very curious child. Her family had a large summer home, which they shared with her many cousins. Each of the seven bedrooms in the house had an alarm clock, and every evening, Grace’s mother would set each alarm clock. This was the early twentieth century, so these weren’t the kind of alarm your parents might have on their phone, or even a digital alarm clock. These were old-fashioned clocks with gears in them and two bells on top. When the alarm rang, a small hammer would go back and forth, quickly hitting the bells and making a loud, high-pitched ring. This kind of ringing was impossible to sleep through! If you imagine what an old-fashioned fire alarm might sound like, it would be similar to that. 

Grace was fascinated by the alarm clocks, and wanted to know how they worked. So she took one apart! But looking at the pile of gears, springs, and hands, in front of her, she still wasn’t sure. 

So she took apart another. 

Then another. 

Eventually, Grace took apart all seven alarm clocks, trying to figure out how all the tiny, complicated pieces worked together. Her mother wasn’t exactly happy about all the alarm clocks in the house being broken, but she was understanding, and she let Grace keep one clock to study.

Grace’s father also supported Grace’s curiosity. He encouraged her and her sister to get as much education as they could so they could support themselves. This was not common for girls in the early 1900s. Grace especially loved math and geometry. She used geometry to draw pictures. This is a fun way to use math – try to see what you can draw some time just using the basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. If you look around, you’ll notice these shapes, along with angles, lines, curves, and other things that can be described with numbers, in many things you see every day.

Grace worked hard in school, and was almost able to start college when she was sixteen! Why almost? Her test scores in math were very high, but her scores in Latin were too low. But, just as she had done with the alarm clocks, Grace didn’t quit trying after one failure. She tried again, and was able to start college the next year at seventeen. She graduated with degrees in math and physics in 1928. She went on to get a PhD in math at Yale in 1934. Eventually, she became a math professor at Vassar College.

When World War II started, Grace tried to join the Navy, which had just started accepting women. Her grandfather had been in the Navy, and she wanted to follow in his footsteps. But the Navy wouldn’t take Grace! Their reasons for rejecting her were not what you might think: they said she was valuable to the war effort as a math professor; she was too thin for her height; and she was too old at 34. This shows us another important lesson: people often don’t say no to you because they don’t like you. They might say no because of rules they have to follow, or because you’re too important! Not a bad reason to be rejected, right?

But knowing Grace, you can probably guess that this rejection didn’t hold her back. She tried again. Grace took a leave of absence from her job as a professor and volunteered for the Naval Reserves. She had to get special permission due to her weight being too low, but she got to serve in the Navy and support the war effort, just like she wanted. Not only that, she was at the top of her class in the training program! The Navy sent her to Harvard University to work on the first computer made in the United States, the Mark I.

Grace worked on programming the Mark I to help the navy solve problems on their ships. Programming a computer means giving it instructions so it will do what you want it to do. You might be wondering why Grace was given a job programming computers. But, have you ever thought about why a computer is called a computer? Well, it’s because their original purpose was to compute things, to do complex math that humans can’t do quickly. The navy used the Mark I to help them track the location of enemy ships and submarines. It could perform math quickly, and never made mistakes like human mathematicians sometimes do. But, the Mark I did need humans to tell it exactly what math to do, and that was Grace’s job. 

Early computers were programmed using numbers and symbols. You had to understand a lot of mathematics to program a computer, which is why many early programmers like Grace, had degrees in math. Programming was complicated and it was easy to make mistakes, even for an expert. So Grace would save pieces of programs that did specific things so she could use them again in new programs. She also developed a system that allowed the computer to find these pieces of code without her having to input all of it again.

After the war, in 1949, Grace went to work at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Here, she worked on Univac, the first computer in the United States to be sold to businesses for general purposes. This got her thinking about what people were trying to do with computers, and she realized not everyone could get their job done using only the language of math, numbers and symbols. Grace thought there should be computer programming languages that were based on the English language. This would make it easier for more people to learn to program and use computers to help them do their jobs. But, in order to create this kind of programming language, she also needed to invent the technology to translate English-based commands into the mathematical language that computers understood.

And that’s exactly what Grace did! She called her translator a compiler. If you want to imagine what a compiler does, think of all the word problems you’ve seen in your math books. You might have a problem like:

“Dan has seven apples. He gives three of them to Isaac. How many apples does Dan have left?”

The English words in this sentence give us clues about what kind of math problem we need to do. We know that the special words seven and three are numbers. We know if someone gives something away, they will have fewer of that thing. This gives us a clue that we need to subtract to find the answer. Once we think it through a bit, we can figure out that we need to write a math problem, “seven minus three equals” and then compute the answer. A compiler does something similar: it has a set of rules it uses to take the commands and translate them into numbers. The rules are more complicated than the subtraction word problem we just talked about, but the idea is similar.   

At first, the men Grace worked with thought this idea was crazy. But she kept working on her ideas for years, and eventually, others who worked with computers accepted them. Grace also reached her goal of inventing the first programming language based on English words, rather than numbers and symbols. This new language became known as COBOL. It was used for decades, and is even still used today. More importantly, COBOL inspired many other computer scientists to invent new programming languages based on human language to solve different types of problems. Today there are dozens of languages, and millions of people who learn and use them everyday. 

Later Grace returned to working for the Navy. After a long career, she reached the rank of rear admiral. At the time, she was one of the highest ranking women in the Navy. She retired in 1986 at the age of 80, but even after retiring, she continued to work. She was always eager to help young people learn about computers and programming, and aside from inventing the compiler, she said this was one of her greatest accomplishments.

Grace used to have a clock on her office wall. It was the kind of clock with hands that tick off the hours, seconds and minutes, just like the alarm clocks she took apart as a child. But this clock was unique: its hands went around in the opposite direction from other clocks. Instead of going clockwise, her clock went counter-clockwise! Even though the clock went backwards, it still ticked off the hours and minutes reliably, and gave the right time. 

Grace said this clock was a reminder that you don’t have to do things the same way everyone else is doing them. If you think you have a different or better way to do something, you should try it, even if others don’t understand at first. And as she showed so many times in her life, don’t just try once. Try over and over again until you get it! If you have a good idea and work hard to make it a reality, other people will eventually notice. 

Grace never gave up when she had a goal or a  great idea, even when others around her didn’t support her. She kept working on her ideas, and showing her work to others, until they had to listen, and, often, had to admit she’d been right all along! She knew that good ideas didn’t always fit the way people had done things in the past. They might even seem a little crazy at first. But without crazy new ideas we wouldn’t make any progress.

Sources

https://stories.vassar.edu/2017/assets/images/170706-legacy-of-grace-hopper-hopperpdf.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

The History of Marie Curie for Kids

Imagine you are in Europe. The year is 1895 and you live in Poland. Life is changing quickly at this time. Many people have been moving to cities for work or to America to start a new life. But you are a happy child, loving life with your four older siblings. Your father is a math and science teacher and from him, you have come to love math and science as well. However, you do not yet realize that one day you will become one of the most famous scientists in the world. You are Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867. She was the youngest daughter of five children. When she was born, her name was Marie Sklodowska. She changed her name to Marie Curie later when she got married.

Marie had a happy child and she became interested in science at a young age. She was very smart and got good grades in school. Sadly when Marie was only 10, her mother died. She had become sick with tuberculosis. 

Marie was raised by her father and became more and more interested in math and physics. Physics is the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. Even though Marie got the top grades in her high school, she was not able to go to university when she graduated. The reason was because the university in Warsaw was a men’s-only university at the time.

Marie was very disappointed, but she continued to learn about the subjects she loved however she could. One way was through a secret school that taught university type courses at different locations around the city. Marie’s older sister Bronya also loved learning. Together the two girls dreamed of going to America to study at university there.

However Marie and Bronya were not rich. So they could not pursue this dream of studying in America together. To pursue means to seek to accomplish a goal over a long period of time. Despite this problem, Marie and Bronya did not give up in their hope of going to university. The two girls made a deal with each other. They would attend university in Europe. However, they would not go together. They decided that Marie would work and pay for Bronya to live and attend university in Europe. Afterwards, Bronya would work and pay for Marie to attend. 

For five years, from the age of 19-24, Marie worked as a tutor and nanny for children. She sent most of the money she made to her sister. And in her spare time, Marie would study and read about science and math. 

When she was 24, Marie moved to Paris and started attending university at the Sorbonne, a famous university in France. Marie received money every month from Bronya, however, it was not enough to live and eat well. Marie mostly ate bread and butter. Because she was not eating a healthy diet, Marie got sick often. 

Despite these hardships, Marie finished a master’s degree in physics and a degree in math. 

Shortly after Marie graduated from the Sorbonne, she met a man named Pierre Curie. Pierre was a professor of physics. A professor is a teacher and researcher in a college or university. Marie and Pierre were introduced by a friend of Marie’s in order for Marie to try to find lab space for an experiment she was going to conduct. 

Marie and Pierre fell in love and they were married in 1895. They both loved science and physics. They worked together investigating radioactivity. Radioactivity is a process in which parts of matter break down and create energy.

In 1898, the Curies discovered two new chemical elements, polonium and radium. This was an amazing discovery…

They were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.

In 1906, Pierre had an unfortunate accident. He was knocked down by a carriage while crossing the road and he died. 

Marie took over his work after his death, including his teaching post at the Sorbonne. In doing so, she became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. She devoted herself to continuing the work that she and Pierre had started together.

In 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. 

The work that the Curies did was important in the development of x-ray technology. X-rays are electromagnetic wave of high energy and very short wavelength. They are able to pass through many materials that light cannot. X-rays are used for surgeries and other medical procedures, as they are able to help create images of what is inside of our bodies. Doctors can then use these X-ray images to figure out what is wrong with someone and where to operate, if necessary. 

During World War I, Marie helped ambulances have x-ray machines. She also volunteered with the ambulances and drove to the front lines to help wounded soldiers. 

Marie became the head of the International Red Cross’s radiological service. The International Red Cross is an organization dedicated to protecting victims of international wars.

In the 1920s, when Marie was in her 50s, she developed leukaemia, which is a type of cancer.  This was due to her exposure to radiation from her research. She died on July 4, 1934.

Marie Curie’s determination and hard work during her lifetime brought about amazing scientific developments that impact us all still today. As a woman physicist, she was a trailblazer in her field and faced backlash for her participation. But Marie was strong and determined. And she persisted in doing the work that she loved anyways. As a result, our medical and scientific world was changed. 

Is there something that you are passionate about? With hard work and determination, like Marie Curie, you can also make a difference in the world and in the things you are interested in. The key is to carry on despite times that are hard or backlash from others that you face to your efforts. If you believe in something and want to make a difference, you can do it!

The History of Dian Fossey for Kids

Imagine you are hiking through the thick green mountains of Rwanda, a country deep in the heart of Africa.  It is wet and dark in the dense leaves, plants and vines and you and your team use machetes, which are large knives, to cut through the foliage as you make your way to your destination.  There is no path for you to follow, so you use animal tracks and signs.  Finally you cut through to an open area and stop in your tracks. Everyone goes quiet. Gorillas. Dozens of them lying around and frolicking in the mist. They are exactly what you have been looking for.

Tonight we are going to learn about Dian Fossey — an American woman who loved animals and grew up to become a famous zoologist, or someone who studies animal behavior.

Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California in 1932.  She grew up with her mother and stepfather and developed a strong love of animals at a young age.  She enjoyed horseback riding as a kid and teenager and she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. A veterinarian is a doctor for animals.

Dian went to college in California and started studying veterinary courses, but decided to change and study occupational therapy instead.  Occupational therapy is a type of therapy that helps people who are injured or unwell to learn to use their bodies again.

After she finished college, Dian worked at a hospital in California.  She was offered a job as the director of a children’s hospital’s occupational department in Kentucky, so she moved there in 1955. In Kentucky, Dian lived on a farm and spent a lot of her free time with the farm animals.   

Dian had decided that she wanted to travel and see other parts of the world. And she really wanted to visit Africa.  So she saved up her money and in 1963, she traveled to Africa for the first time.  While she was there, she traveled to many countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and the Congo.  

In Africa Dian met a number of other scientists and researchers.  She was inspired by the work they were doing in different areas, including paleoanthropology, or the study of human fossils, and wildlife photography.  The wildlife photographers that she met were working on a movie about African gorillas.  They took Dian along on one of their trips to find the gorillas in their natural habitat.  A habitat is an animal’s natural home or environment.

When Dian first saw the gorillas on that trip, she became instantly in love with them.  She liked that they had individual personalities and were shy.  She wanted to return again to see the gorillas.

Dian went back home to Kentucky and met others who were interested in gorillas. She met a professor named Louis Leakey and together they made plans to conduct a long-term study on the gorillas of the Rwandan mountains.  

In order to conduct the research, Dian needed to live in Rwanda and so she moved there and spent her time living mostly in the mountains with the gorillas and watching them. She lived like this for four years until a war broke out and Diana had to leave to escape the war.

Dian continued to study gorillas and worked on getting a doctorate degree based on her research at Cambridge University in England.

In 1983, Dian published a book about her research and her experience living with the gorillas.  It was called Gorillas in the Mist and it became a best-selling book. The book was even made into a popular movie in 1988.

Unfortunately there were people who did not like Dian and the work she was doing.  Many people at the time tried to hunt gorillas and kill them, since they could get a lot of money for the gorillas bodies and parts.  Dian spoke out against these hunters or “poachers” and because of this many of these hunters did not like her.  They did not want her message of protecting the gorillas to be spread. 

Sadly, on December 26, 1985, Fossey was found dead at her Rwandan forest camp. She had been killed by poachers.  However, no one was ever caught or put in in jail for what happened.

Dian’s work with gorillas continues through an international research fund called the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.  The Fund continues to operate and has expanded to other areas of Africa.  The Fund’s goal is to protect mountain gorillas and other endangered species in the gorillas’ habitats.

Dian Fossey is considered the leading researcher on the behavior of mountain gorillas.  She worked hard throughout her life to try to protect these animals from extinction and from hunters and poachers who wanted to kill them.  Dian’s love of the gorillas helped her to see them as highly intelligent individual animals.  And her passion for helping to save them made the gorillas lives better. 

From Dian, we can learn about the power of an individual to make a difference in the lives of other beings, including animals.  Sometimes one person’s interests and efforts can help save an entire species of animal.  She showed bravery in travelling to Africa and facing the dangers of the jungles and poachers who disagreed with her.  And her strength and bravery continue to inspire others. 

Is there a type of animal that you love?  Are there ways that you can learn more about these animals? Are there ways that you can get involved in caring for them?  Like Dian, you can make a difference in the lives of animals that you love.

The History of Nurses of World War 1 for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are on a battlefield. You are in a trench with other soldiers waiting for the battle to begin. Night has fallen and you and the others are very cold. You look around at the other soldiers. They look nervous, too. Everyone knows the enemy isn’t far away.  Above the trench the sky is filled with dark smoke and small airplanes in battle. You tighten your grip on your rifle. 

In the distance you hear a loud “boom.” You duck into the trench as an enemy round explodes above you. You fall over and look at your arm, and realize you’ve been hurt. Others soldiers on your team have been hurt too. You close your eyes and lie back wondering how you are going to survive. Soon someone lifts you up and carries you to a nearby hospital. You lie on a clean bed with your eyes closed, just hoping you will be alright. Then you hear a kind voice and open your eyes. It’s a woman, a nurse wearing white uniform with a red cross on the front of her hat. “Everything will be alright,” she says, lying a warm cloth on your forehead. She looks at the wound on your arm and starts to work cleaning it. Then she bandages it and gives you a drink of water and some medicine. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she says. “Don’t worry, you’re in good hands now.” You feel relaxed and happy that someone is taking care of you.

All over the world, nurses play an important role in health care.  They help take care of people when they are sick or injured.  Their job can be very difficult and stressful.  But nurses are brave and they work very hard to take care of their patients.  This is true now and was true in the old days as well, and especially during World War 1.

Nursing has always been a difficult job. But it was especially difficult and dangerous work during World War 1. World War 1 was a war between Germany and the allied forces of England, France and America. Both sides had allies, or friends, so many countries were involved in the war. This is why it was called a “world war.” 

Most war nurses were ordinary women that signed up for the job because they wanted to help their country during the war.  Many women became nurses after losing someone special to them, such as a brother or their husband. Some women decided that instead of just being sad, they were going to take action and help out at the battlegrounds.  This was one way that they could help others who were similar to the people that they lost.  It was one way that they could help and also heal their sadness.

During WW1 many nurses didn’t have an education, so they couldn’t write.  Because they couldn’t write there’s not a lot of information about what actually happened to them. Those who told the stories of these nurses amazed others, and so their stories spread and likely changed, sort of like a game of telephone. This is how legends, stories that aren’t always true, often start.  

When the war started in 1914, everyone thought it was going to be short.  Women were expected to wait at home patiently for the men to return.  They were told to, “keep the home fires burning.”  This was a common expression at the time.  Some poorer women went to work in factories. These are a few reasons there weren’t many women at the battlefields to help the wounded soldiers.

But as more young men started dying, more young women wanted to help out.  American women, British women and women from other friendly countries joined in to help.  When women started signing up to become military nurses, they would go to a nursing service near where they lived and ask to join.  These were often in cities where they didn’t live, so they would have to leave home to get training.  They got some basic nursing training and after that, they were sent to the war.  This meant that most of the nurses at the battlefields during WW1 were untrained and therefore, didn’t know a lot about medicine.  That is very different than today, where nurses study at universities and colleges and get clinical training before they are allowed to practice.  At the time of WW1, there were some trained nurses, but it was still very difficult, since most of them had never worked with soldiers before.

Some of the first women to go to the war were wealthy and had the money to start military hospitals.  The most famous of the women that opened and ran a military hospital was the Duchess of Sutherland from England.  Her nickname was Meddlesome Millie, because at the time, some people did not think that women should get jobs and work outside of the home.  They did not want women to be nurses and they resisted the change that was happening.  “Resisted” means to try to stop something from happening.  

But the Duchess of Sutherland and other women like her continued to run their military hospitals and train other women to be nurses.  As more military hospitals were set up and the war continued, more and more women signed up to become nurses. With all their hearts they wanted to do what they could to help. 

In 1915, there was a large battle in Belgium in an area that was very important to both sides in the war. In this battle a lot of men got hurt or killed.  It was the first time an army used poison gas to against the other side, and many, many men were hurt. After this British and American armies started to let more women join the military as nurses.

Today when we see pictures of nurses from that time, with white hats and red crosses on their uniforms, we think of the work as being very clean and exciting.  But in reality, it was very tiring and sometimes disgusting work.  They were very brave women, but it was not a job that got a lot of attention. Nurses worked very hard every day and it was very stressful for them. Also, most women thought World War 1 was going to be short. Instead the war dragged on and on, but the nurses kept helping for many years. 

There were a lot of difficult things that nurses had to deal with at war that they did not have to deal with at hospitals back home.  Soldiers often suffered bullet wounds which were difficult to treat. There were many soldiers who were scared or sad, so the nurses not only fixed their wounds but also comforted them and did what they could to keep them calm and happy. 

Towards the end of the war, a new invention came out to help the soldiers. This invention helped a patient who was out of blood get more blood from someone else. When the healthy person donated the blood, it was shared with the sick person by using a long tube. This invention is still used today and is called a blood transfusion. During the war transfusions were used often and saved many people’s lives. 

When the war ended in 1918, most war nurses left the war service and went home. But back home there were not very many men still alive and well.  Many had died or gotten hurt in the war.  Because of this, many women replaced men in jobs and other roles usually held by men.  These women were very important in helping make things work again. Let us always remember and be grateful to those women and men who sacrificed so much and put their lives at risk to protect their countries and each other.Have you ever thought about the ways that you are brave?  Do you think that bravery is something that develops in people when times are tough?  Or is bravery something that we can all practice?  Like the nurses of WW1, we can all show bravery and try our best to being good to each other.  Helping others when it is needed and taking care of each other is one of the most important things we can all do.

The History of Jaques Cousteau for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are swimming deep in the ocean. You look up and see the sunlight shimmering through the surface far above you. The water is dark and blue and schools of silvery fish swim all around you. You turn and see a large manta ray glide gracefully by. Below you is the glittering sand and red and blue coral; and a family of sea turtles swimming by on their way toward the beach. You take a deep breath from your regulator, the device used to breath underwater. On your back is an oxygen tank and covering your eyes is a scuba mask. Your feet have fins and you wear a wetsuit to keep your body warm. All of these incredible inventions work together to make you like a fish. You kick your fins and glide further through the water, admiring the underwater forest of kelp, coral and fish that thrive in this beautiful ocean habitat. 

Jacques (pronounced “Zhock”) Cousteau who had a deep love for the sea and without his inventions and passion for ocean life, you would not be able to breathe like a fish underwater. 

Jacques was born on June 11, 1910 in the town of Saint-André-de-Cubzac, France. At age 4 Jacque learned how to swim and this began his great love for the ocean. Jacque didn’t always do the best in school, at times he had trouble learning, but he was very curious. His parents gave him a camera and he took it apart and put it back together again, because he was very interested in how it worked. He also liked to make films with his camera. In school, because Jacque wasn’t doing very well, his parents sent him to a different school. There Jacque ended up doing better as he put more effort into his school work.

Jacques spent one summer in a camp in Vermont, a state in the United States. He said that one of the camp leaders didn’t like him very much, so he made Jacques clean tree branches and other debris off the bottom of the lake. So Jacques spent many hours that summer diving to the bottom of that lake. This is how he learned to dive. 

Jacque loved the water and swimming, but he also wanted to be a pilot for the French Navy. In 1930 Jacque joined the French Naval Academy and graduated as a gunnery officer. As part of the Navy’s information service, he travelled around and took his camera with him. He used it to take pictures of exotic locations in the Indian and South Pacific Oceans. The Navy also taught him self-discipline and how to be a sailor, someone who understands the ocean and can drive a boat on it.

One night in 1933 while in the Navy, Jacque borrowed his father’s sports car to drive to a wedding. Along the way his headlights went out and he crashed into another car, resulting in a very dangerous accident. Jacques survived, but both of his arms were broken ending his chances of becoming a pilot. In order to get his arms’ strength back, Jacque began swimming again in the Mediterranean Sea. Once when he was swimming in the ocean a friend gave him a pair of goggles to try out. He used the goggles and looked under the water. He was amazed at what he saw and wanted to be able to dive deeper and explore further. Even though he wouldn’t be able to become a pilot, he found a new passion, exploring the ocean. Sometimes life doesn’t always turn out how we plan, so we need to be resilient, which means to bounce back and setting new goals as our circumstances change. 

In 1937 Jacque met his first wife, Simone Melchior, and later had two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe. Not long after this, Germany went to war with other countries in Europe, leading to World War 2. Soon the city of Paris, France fell to the German Army and Jacques and his family fled to the small town of Megreve. During this time, Jacques wanted to find a way to be able to dive deeper in the ocean and breath underwater. In 1943 he met an inventor named Emile Gagnan, a French engineer, and together they experimented with ways to breath underwater. At this time Gagnan and Jacques invented better snorkel hoses, bodysuits and breathing devices. They called their first breathing device an aqua-lung. It used an oxygen tank and changed the pressure of the water before it entered the divers mouth, so the diver could breathe underwater. 

Not only did Jacques want to breathe underwater, he wanted to make a movie about it so he could share it with his friends. So he also designed a waterproof camera. With his new inventions, Jacques made his first two movies, also called documentaries, called “18 Meters Deep” and “Shipwrecks.” 

At this time, the world was still at war, so Jacques joined the French Resistance to continue to fight Germany and Italy to leave their country. Jacques and others spied on the Italian Army and let the Allies know where they were going from and to. Later he was given an award for his service. 

When the war was over, Jacques used his diving skills and new inventions to clear mines and wrecked ships from under the water along the coast of France. At this time, he also kept improving his equipment and making underwater films. 

To humans, most of the undersea world had yet to be explored. Jacque understood this and wanted to discover it first. Instead of astronauts, who explore space, Jacque called his divers “acquanots.” 

In 1948, Jacques and several other divers gathered all their equipment and started off on an adventure to find a long lost shipwreck. The ancient Roman ship was called the Mahdia. The ship had been carrying many works of Greek art when it ran into a storm and sunk off the coast of Tunisia in 80 B.C. Together with his team, Jacques made many dives down to the shipwreck, gathered works of art and made a movie of their adventures. This was the start of what became known as underwater archeology.

In 1950, an Irish millionaire named Thomas Loel Guinness was interested in Jacque’s adventures. He bought a ship and let Jacques rent it for 1 French dollar a year. Jacques and his team turned the ship into a research and diving boat and named it Calypso. They had a ship but very little money for fuel or other costs for their adventures. Jacque’s wife, Simone, believed in what he was doing, so she offered to sell all of her expensive jewelry to fund their first mission.  

Besides his wife’s jewelry, Jacques knew in order to pay for his adventures, he would have to make even more money. He knew getting the world interested in what he was doing would be the key to doing it. He published a book called The Silent World. It was very successful and he used the money from it to pay for his next expedition to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

In 1954, Jacques and his crew explored the waters off the coast of Abu Dhabi for a British oil company. They used the film from this trip to make a movie called The Silent World, which went on to win the best movie award at the Cannes Film Festival. This made Jacques even more famous. Around this time he and his crew invented what they called “the diving saucer,” which was a small submarine they could use to go even deeper into the ocean.

In 1966, Jacques saw that TV was becoming very popular, so he went to the American TV companies and convinced them to pay him for a TV show about his adventures called “The World of Jacques Cousteau.” Later he created another show called “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” Millions of people all over the world watched Jacques explain the ocean from the Calypso. He was recognized for his French accent and red cap. 

During his early explorations, Jacque’s adventures had been paid for by oil companies drilling offshore. Over time, and with the help of his son, Phillipe, Jacques began to recognize that human activity such as offshore drilling was hurting many parts of the ocean and ocean life. In 1973 he founded the Cousteau Society and refocused his movies and books on what could be done to stop the damage being done to the ocean. Before long the society had 300,000 members worldwide. His society’s efforts did much to inform others what could be done in order to take better care of our planet.

In 1972, Jacques and his team packed up and left port for one of his greatest adventures. He would sail the Calypso to Antarctica and explore one of the last untouched oceans in the world. This was also made into a movie called Cousteau in the Antarctic

Jacque went on to make more movies and write more books. In 1985 he won the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1990 his wife passed away. He married Francine Triplet and with her had two more children. Then in 1997 in Paris, Jacque passed away himself.  

Jacques was very successful in life, but his life wasn’t always easy. When he was young he broke his arms and lost his dream of becoming a pilot, but he made the best of it and found a new world to explore instead. 

Over the years he made more than 120 TV movies and 50 books. He shared his love for the sea with the world through his movies and as a result of his passion many came to appreciate the amazing wonders below the surface of the ocean.

Jacques once said “the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.” And “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”

Like Jacque, you can be curious about the world around you. Because there was no way to explore the underwater world, that didn’t stop Jacques from exploring it. He invented a way to breathe underwater! It’s fun to dream about great adventures, but real adventures take learning and work and planning. If there’s a dream you have, be sure to take the time to plan out what you can do to achieve it. They may mean reading more about it in a book or on the Internet, or trying a little harder in school so you have the skills to reach that dream. Like Jacques, you can learn to see the world as a wondrous place. When you’re curious life is never boring! Find something you’re interested in, check out a book about it, or watch a video. Curiosity keeps life exciting! Remember, there’s no end to the things you can learn and explore in the wondrous world in which we live. 

Alternative Energy for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re living in a futuristic city. Looking at the horizon, you can see towering wind turbines gently rotating in the wind. On the other side, you can see a whole field of solar panels. A nearby dam uses river water to produce even more electricity. The air you breathe is clean and fresh. The cars and other vehicles don’t give off any smoke or pollution. Your surroundings are clean and green, with plants growing all around you. Far away, you can see an old power plant, which is being demolished to make way for new, alternative energy sources. You can also see several large factories nearby, but none of them are emitting black smoke! This is what a city looks like where alternative energy rules the world .

So, what actually is alternative energy? As you may know, today we rely almost completely on petroleum and coal-based energy sources which are called fossil fuels. Energy companies obtain these resources from deep inside the earth’s surface and refine it to produce different fuels, like gas, gasoline, diesel and kerosene. These fuels are burned in power plants to produce electricity. Petroleum was formed by the remains of tiny plants and animals that died millions of years ago. Coal, on the other hand, was formed by larger plants like ferns. These dead materials were covered by layers of mud, rock, and soil over the years. Because of the pressure caused by all the top layers and the heat from earth’s core, the plant and animal remains transformed into petroleum and coal.  Because it took millions of years for petroleum and coal to form, this means that the amount of fossil fuel resources in the world are limited and won’t last forever. Since the number of people in the world  and businesses  in the world keep increasing and advancing, the need  for energy is also rising.  This is why finding new ways to harness energy is so important! Luckily, the world already has a lot of alternative energy sources and smart scientists and engineers are always working on finding new ways to harness energy and improve the technology we already have.

The alternative sources of energy include solar power, wind power, hydro power, tidal energy, geothermal energy, and biomass energy. These are called renewable energy, because they are naturally replenished in a short amount of time unlike petroleum. For example, there’s always more sun and wind! 

First let’s talk about solar energy. Solar energy is the energy we get from the sun. The sun is an incredibly huge, ball of energy which lights Earth with its rays we receive as sunlight. For thousands of years, people have used the sun’s energy to cook food, dry clothes, and keep warm. In our day, people have invented technologies to transform sunlight or solar energy into electrical power. This is done by solar cells, which are also called “photovoltaic” cells. “Photo” means “light” in Latin and “voltaic” stands for “electricity”. So, it’s basically turning sunlight into electricity! Pretty amazing, right? Solar panels are made by putting together many solar cells. If you’ve ever seen shiny panels on rooftops, those are solar panels. A few of my neighbors have them. In Arizona, solar panels are popular because we get LOTS of sunshine. It can also save people money, because the panels capture the light energy from the sun and turn it into electricity that can be used to power all the electric equipment in their house. Solar panels are sometimes used to power boats, food trucks, buildings, and satellites. Although solar energy IS renewable, how much energy they can produce depends on the time of day, season of the year and location in the world. For example, Arizona is much better for solar panels than a place like England that is often cloudy.

Now, let’s talk about wind energy. Wind energy is made from the wind, which is freely available to us just like sunlight. During the middle ages, people used wind power to pump water or grind grains. They built windmills to do that. Nowadays, people use a large structure called a wind turbine to make electricity using wind power. You may have seen these wind turbines as very tall structures that have long blades to capture the wind. Wind turbines can be around 400 feet tall, because the turbine blades need to reach high up into the atmosphere where the wind is faster than on the ground. The power of the wind is transformed into electricity by a small machine called a turbine generator which is connected to the turbine blades. Energy companies build hundreds of wind turbines in large fields where there are a lot of wind. These areas covered with wind turbines are called “wind farms”. When our family drives to California we pass through a huge wind farm. If you’ve never seen a wind farm look up pictures of San Gorgonio Pass. It’s pretty amazing.

The next form of alternative energy is hydropower or hydro energy and is made by using the power of moving water. In the past, people have used the power of water by making water wheels in rivers. Ancient Egyptians used hydro energy to grind grains and early Americans used it to saw wood. In the 1800’s, scientists discovered how to make electrical energy using hydro energy by turning the turbines of a generator. So, it works a little bit like wind power. To harness hydro energy today, people build a dam across a river which creates a water reservoir, which is like a man-made lake. By making a reservoir, we can have a controlled flow of water which can be used to generate electricity. That is, powerplant workers can control the amount and speed of the water flowing out of the dam. So, unlike solar or wind energy, hydro power is more constant and controllable. In Arizona we have the Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam that generate a ton of electricity using hydro power. Be sure to lookup pictures of these impressive dams.

Tidal power is another type of hydro power. But instead of using inland waters like rivers and reservoirs, the energy of seawater is used to make electricity from tidal energy. Ocean tides usually occur twice daily, and tidal powerplants use turbine generators to convert that energy into electricity. Tidal turbines are placed in the path of the tidal waves. When the waves hit the turbine blades, they begin to spin. This movement is transformed into electric power using the turbine generators. So, you can see that the design of wind turbines and hydro turbines are very similar. However, tidal power can change based on the season. We cannot control it like how we control the power generated from a reservoir.

Geothermal energy is a form of alternative energy, that is obtained from the earth’s core. You may already know that the core of the earth is packed with heat. You can sometimes see this heat coming out of volcanoes and geysers. Geothermal energy can be used for heating, cooking and in electricity generation. We get it by circulating water or other liquids through underground tubes. The liquids absorb the geothermal heat and bring it back up. The captured heat can be directly used for heating. It can also be used to produce electricity using steam turbines.

Another really interesting form of alternative energy is biomass. Biomass is  biological materials such as sugar cane, straw, wood chips and many other plant materials. These can be burned to generate electricity instead of burning fossil fuels. Biomass can also be used to make other types of fuel such as diesel and biogas that can replace petroleum-based fuels. This makes biomass different and more important than the other types of alternative energy we discussed. That’s because biomass can be used to produce solid, liquid and gaseous forms of energy instead of just electricity. 

It’s pretty exciting to consider all of the new forms of energy that have been developed over the last 100 years and the improvements that are happening every day. Does alternative energy interest you? If so, do an internet search to watch videos of some of the amazing things people are doing to use renewable energy and what is being done at places like wind and solar farms. Also, more and more engineers and inventors are needed to solve the energy problems we have. Does engineering interest you? If so, math and science are important subjects to improve at. Also, being creative and coming up with lots of ideas. Can you think of an interesting way to use alternative energy to power something you use everyday?

With all of the new inventions, we have more and more options and not one of them is perfect, so many people believe a combination of technologies will solve the problems of pollution while sustaining all of our energy needs. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, so we need to find ways we can all live here and have enough energy without polluting this precious gift we can be given. 

History of Thomas Edison for Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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