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. 

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 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.