History of Mars Exploration for Kids

Meet Mars Perseverance Rover

Watch NASA engineers prepare Perseverance for launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Maya Angelou Story for Kids

Performing “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration:

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis Missouri. Her full name was Margeurite, but her older brother had trouble saying her name so he started calling her “Maya” for short. Maya’s parents had trouble getting along and when she was three they divorced. Her parents thought it would be better for her grandmother raised them instead, so they sent Maya and her brother on a train to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. They called their grandma Henderson “Momma.” Most of the people in Stamps were black and it was a segregated town. “Segregated” means that everyone who was black attended a different school, ate at their own restaurants, and lived in their own neighborhood. Maya’s grandmother and her son, Uncle Willy, owned a store in Stamps, and Maya and her brother, Bailey, lived in a room in the back of the store. 

Momma loved her grandchildren and took good care of them. She also wanted them to be responsible, so she taught them good manners and made them help at the store. Often Maya’s job was to sweep the floors. Their Uncle Willy taught them to read and believed they should have an education. It was at this time that Maya fell in love with words as she read new books. One of her favorite authors was William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens was another favorite.

While living in Stamps, Maya’s brother, Bailey, was her best friend. They spent all of their time working and playing and learning together. They loved to run in the woods and had lots of freedom. Bailey always stood up for Maya when people teased her or said mean things. She loved her older brother very much. 

In 1935 Maya’s father came to Stamps to bring them back to the city where he lived, St. Louis, Missouri. They weren’t used to the city but were glad to see their mother again who also lived there. St. Louis had a big library and Maya spent her free time checking out books and reading them at the library. Before this time Maya had a safe childhood, but when she was 7 she was hurt by her mother’s boyfriend. This horrible experience caused her to stop talking. No one knew what to do. Eventually, Maya and Baily moved back to Stamps to be with her Grandmother and Uncle Willy again. For five years Maya didn’t speak. Instead, she spent most of her time reading and writing.

In 1941 Maya’s Grandmother decided they needed to move back in with their mother who now lived in San Francisco, California, because the schools were better there. She and Bailey were now 13 and 14 and enjoyed the new city with the amazing Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. Maya liked her new school and did well there. She spent her free time writing poems and her own stories. She also started taking singing and dancing lessons. But Bailey had a harder time in San Francisco and often got into trouble and ran away from home. Maya missed Bailey and this caused her to struggle in school. She decided to take a break and look for a job. In San Francisco people used cable cars on tracks to move all around the city. Maya applied to be a cable car conductor, the person who takes people’s tickets and helps them on the cable car. She ended up becoming the first African American cable conductor! After a semester of working, she decided to back to school. She also learned that Bailey joined the Navy and they wrote letters back and forth. She was happy to hear from her brother again.

In 1945, during her last year of high school, Maya had her first baby and named him Clyde Bailey after her brother. She and the father didn’t end up getting married, so Maya was left to raise Clyde on her own. For the next several years she worked as a waitress to earn enough money to take care of Clyde. She also worked at a music store and later as a Calypso dancer at a club called The Purple Onion. There she sang and danced for the audience. Performing before an audience made Maya very nervous, but she did it anyway and found she had a talent for it and got better and better as she continued to practice and improve her skill.

Soon people all over San Francisco were waiting in lines at The Purple Onion to watch Maya perform. Her name started showing up in the newspapers and on the radio. Her next big break was joining a touring group that performed a musical called Porgy and Bess. They traveled all over Europe and Africa, visiting 22 different countries to perform. Maya loved visiting foreign countries and while traveling began to learn other languages and write about the places she visited.

When the tour was done she returned home to be with her son and continued working as a dancer. But Maya knew her real love was writing poems and stories. She had many experiences in her life she wanted to share with others. While living in Los Angeles, she met a famous author, John Oliver Killens, who read some of her stories and encouraged her to move to New York, so she could share her own stories.

In New York City Maya joined the Harlem City Writer’s Guild, where writers met to share their stories and give each other advice. In New York Maya went to listen to a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke about how people should be treated the same, no matter the color of their skin. Maya liked Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped put on a show to raise money for him and his cause, which was called the Civil Rights Movement. They believed that all people should be equal and treated the same. They wanted to end segregation. 

Maya continued to help with the Civil Rights Movements by writing and helping earn money for the cause. She later moved to Egypt to help with Civil Rights in Africa. There she wrote for a newspaper and met other famous Civil Rights Leaders like Malcolm X. 

Maya moved back to New York to continue writing and speaking about Civil Rights. There a famous black author and friend, James Baldwin, encouraged Maya to write her life’s story. This is called an autobiography. When Maya finished her autobiography in 1969 she gave it the title “I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings.” She gave it this title because many times in her life she felt like she was living in a cage, not always free to live and act the way she wanted. To Maya, this cage was racism and abuse. But her story was also hopeful, like the bird singing, because she believed that even when someone’s life is hard and painful they can still find joy and happiness. Her book, “I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings” was a huge success and soon many knew about Maya Angelou and her incredible life story. 

Maya continued to write. She wrote a book of poems and a screenplay for a movie. She starred in a musical on Broadway and a TV miniseries called “Roots” about the history of slavery in America. She was also married to a French cartoonist and writer. Her son was married and had a child of his own, so she became a grandmother. 

Maya wrote more books of poems and traveled and spoke and told her life story to inspire others and give them hope. She read her poems for three of the Presidents and in 2010 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. 

In 2014 Maya died peacefully in her home in North Carolina. She was 86 years old and after her passing people all around the world spoke about how much they loved her and loved the words she wrote. Her life and actions and deeds were an inspiration to so many people over the years.

Maya once wrote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

She also wrote, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Finally, “If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

History of Athens and Sparta for Kids

Greek Parthenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli for Kids

Do you like animated movies? Have you ever seen Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro? These are beautiful, hand-drawn, animated films made by Studio Ghibli and it’s brilliant artist and director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki has become one of the most celebrated film animators and directors of our day, but his beginnings were small and simple and as you’ll learn sometimes fraught with danger during the years of World War 2.

Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tokyo Japan on January 5, 1941. Japan is an island across the Pacific Ocean from the United States and located in East Asia. The same year Hayao was born, Japan and the United States went to war. Hayao’s worked in a factory that built airplane parts for Japan’s air force, specifically for the fast and agile Zero fighter planes. For the rest of his life Hayao was fascinated by airplanes and the wonder of flight.

Over time Japan began to lose the war against the United States and her Allies. Soon American bombers were flying over Japan and dropping bombs on its people to try and end the war. Hayao remembered seeing the bombers and hearing bombs drop nearby. His family left the city for safety until the war ended. He would forever remember the horrible days of World War 2 and what it did to his own country. 

Young Hayao loved to draw. He wanted to become a manga artist. In Japan cartoons and comics are called manga. Hayao spent his free time practicing, but he always struggled to draw people. So instead he practiced drawing his favorite subjects like planes, tanks and battleships. He also liked to copy the drawings of his favorite manga artists. While in Junior High he saw an animated movie called Panda and the Magic Serpent. He loved the art and animation and it made him want to animate his own movies.

In college he studied politics and economics, but in his free time joined an art club and spent time drawing and getting to know other artists. 

In 1963 Hayao got his first animation job at Toei Animation and helped as an artist. His first film was called Doggie March and he also worked on a television series called Wolf Boy Ken. He continued to learn and grow as an animator, and was mentored by many other great animators. A mentor is someone who is a master at a craft and teaches someone who is an apprentice and still learning. Hayao and his mentor Yasuo Ōtsuka worked on a film called “The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun” that won them many awards. 

At Toei Animation Hayao worked alongside a woman named Ōta Akemi. They shared many of the same interests and a year after meeting, they got married. Ota would continue to work with Hayao in animation and his future businesses. 

Hayao Miyazaki continued to work on many animated films and many of his own comics, continually improving his craft. Often when you see amazing works of art or animation you may think “Wow, that artist must be really good because she was just born to be a very good artist.” But this is not the case. Great artists are not born they are made. They are passionate about a subject and continually practice and practice, usually every day, until they are much better. Like Hayao, they often find a mentor and find projects, and improve little by little until they are very good at what they do. This is the path Hayao took.

In 1979 Miyazaki moved to Telecom Animation Film, where he directed his first film. A director may work on the art, but often their job is to help bring all the different workers together to make the film happen. Also, a director may write the story themselves, or find someone to help them. They often have the idea first and recruit artists to help draw all of the animations. If you’ve ever seen an orchestra, they are like the orchestra director who isn’t playing the music, but brings everyone together to make the magic happen! This is what Hayao Miyazaki did for the film The Castle of Cagliostro, which became a hit in Japan and in the United States. John Lassetter, who later became a director at Pixar, has said that The Castle of Cagliostro was one of the first films that influenced him.

Hayao’s next big idea was to create an animated film about a princess named Naussica and her battle to save her homeland. But because movies usually weren’t made until the comic was successful, Hayao began to work on the manga about Naussica first. It ended up becoming a seven-volume manga totaling over 1000 pages and was called “Naussica and the Valley of the Wind.” Next, Hayao started work on the animated film. Audiences loved the film! In it Naussica has a fox-squirrel pet named Teto and uses her small glider to fly about. Her world is polluted and poisoned, but with the help of her friends fights to restore it to its natural beauty. Like many of Hayao’s later films, this one featured a strong heroine and themes about the dangers of pollution and war, both very important to Hayao. You’ll also notice it includes flying, which fascinated Hayao from a young age.

In 1985, Hayao with his friends Takahata, Tokuma and Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli (Jib-lee) and the next year created their first film “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” about a orphan girl named Sheeta and a boy named Pazu from a mining town. Together they go on an adventure that involves a gigantic city in the sky called Laputa. “Castle in the Sky” became the highest-grossing Japanese film that year. Studio Ghibli’s next films were “My Neighbor Totoro,” which is one my kids’ all time favorites, and Grave of the Fireflies. Later came Kiki’s Delivery Service about a friendly witch, a few others in between, and then Princess Mononoke, which became another high-grossing Japanese film year. In 2001 came Spirited Away, which won awards in Japan and the U.S. Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Even though all of Studio Ghibli’s films were originally in Japanese, most of them were translated into other languages like English so others could enjoy them as well. 

A few other popular films by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises. The Wind Rises tells the story of the engineer who built the Zero, a Japanese fighter plane, the same one his father helped build when Hayao was a child in Japan. The Wind Rises, like many of Hayao’s other films, is a warning about the devastating effects of war, especially on the innocents, like he and his family during World War 2. 

In September 2013 Hayao announced he would be retiring and instead focus his time on creating artwork for a Studio Ghibli museum. But everyone knew Hayao knew he wouldn’t rest for long. He began to learn how to use computers to animate and even at his age, when most people think they can no longer learn new skills, Hayao struggled through the process and created his first computer animation called Boro the Caterpillar. Instead of retiring, he has continued working on a new film called How Do You Live? 

My children and I have watched most of the Studio Ghibli films and love them for many reasons. First of all, we love the adventure stories and the wild, exotic places they take us. We also appreciate the hand-drawn animation. Because most films use computer graphics now, it’s impressive to see animations that are sketched and colored by hand. We also love the music, which is often played by classical instruments and is relaxing. While some of the movies have violence, they are often less noisy and over-stimulating than most computer-animated movies. If you’re looking for Studio Ghibli movies that are appropriate for younger kids, our family recommends My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns and Ponyo.

Something else I love about his films is that they remind us that people are imperfect. His characters don’t always make the right decisions and make mistakes. Also, his villains aren’t always completely bad. Often they are someone who is misunderstood and once the main characters come to know the villain, they end up becoming friends. 

Watching the colorful portrayed in his films also reminds us that we live in a beautiful world and need to do everything we can to keep it that way. Life is precious and problems such as pollution and war only harm it. 

Hayao once said, “I get inspiration from my everyday life.”

He also said: “You may not like what’s happening, but just accept it, and let’s try to live together. Even if you feel angry, let’s be patient and endure, let’s try to live together. I’ve realized that this is the only way forward.”

And “Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

History of the Newsboys or Newsies Strike of 1899 for Kids

Tonight our story beings around 100 years ago in New York City. Every day new families were moving to New York. Some were traveling across the sea by boat to find new work. They came from Ireland, Italy and England looking for new places to work and to raise a family. Because of all of the work and people there New York was a busy, noisy place with many factories, stores and crowded streets.

Close your eyes and picture yourself standing on a streets of New York City at this time. You hear people walking and talking and horses trotting down the dirt roads. You smell fresh baked bread someone is selling on a corner, a whistle blows as work starts in a nearby factory. Men wear vests and caps, women wear dresses.

As you walk down the street you hear a boy calling from the corner. He is shouting loudly. You turn and walk toward him. You see that he is a small boy, with old, grimy clothes and holes in his shoes. He’s carrying a larger stack of newspapers and holding one high over his head.

“Read the headlines, Spanish-American War rages on!” He waves a paper at you. “Do you want to buy a paper?” he asks. You nod and hand him a coin and he hands you a newspaper and smiles. You look at the newspaper, the top of it reads “Spanish-American War” in big bold letters. You read about a war with pictures of ships sailing across the ocean and soldiers marching and firing their weapons.

The boy who sold you the newspaper was called a newsboy. In New York there were many young boys who didn’t have families — or sometimes they had families who were too poor and needed them to work. In American and other countries many young children worked to help pay for food and clothes and their homes. The newsboys would wake up early in the morning and go to the printer and buy newspapers for the day. Then they would carry their papers through the city and do whatever they could to sell these newspapers to make a little extra money. It wasn’t an easy life, but they did what they could to stay alive. Sometimes being a newsboy was dangerous as sometimes the boys fought over who could have the best corner in the city. The roads were also very dangerous with horses and carriages.

During the Spanish-American War it was easy for the newsboys to sell their papers, because everyone wanted to know what was going on during the war. There were many newspaper companies in the city, but the two largest ones were called The World, which owned by Joseph Pulitzer and The Journal, which was owned by William Randolph Hearst. During the war Pulitzer and Hearst increased the cost of their newspapers, because they knew everyone wanted the news so badly they okay paying more for it. Pulitzer and Hearst also competed between each other for the better journalists and cartoonists. Newspapers were very popular at the time because there was no other way to get the news like the TV or Internet today. Often the newspapers made up stories to get more people to buy them. This wasn’t very honest and was called “Yellow Journalism.”

When the Spanish-American War ended not as many people were buying the newspapers so it became very hard for the newsboys to sell them. No matter how hard they tried to sell their papers, everyone wasn’t as interested to buy them as they were before. On top of this, the newspaper owners had made the papers more expensive, so people weren’t as willing to buy. The newsboys knew if they wanted to stay alive they would need to come up with a plan to change the newspaper companies minds. But newspaper owners like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were very powerful men with lots of money, so to go against them would take a lot of hard work and determination.

One popular newsboy was named Louis Ballett, but everyone called him Kid Blink, because he had a patch over one of his eyes. Kid Blink and other newsboys decided to band together and not sell newspapers. If enough newsboys joined them they thought maybe Pulitzer and Hearst would change their mind. This is called a strike. Kid Blink and other newsboys told other boys about their plan and soon none of the boys all across New York were selling papers. This was hard for the boys because if they weren’t making any money, they didn’t have food to eat. But they were determined to make a difference. On one day of the strike they all gathered on Brooklyn Bridge. There were so many newsboys that even the traffic had to stop! People all over New York City saw what the newsboys were doing and wanted to help them. They decided they wouldn’t buy newspapers from Pulitzer and Hearst either. Pulitzer and Hearst tried to hire older men to sell their papers but no one would help, because they believed in the newsboys cause. Kid Blink and his friends kept giving speeches. In one speech Kid Blink said: ““Friens and feller workers. This is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we’se got to stick together like glue…. We know wot we wants and we’ll git it even if we is blind.”

After many days the newspaper companies were losing so much money they had no choice but to change what they were doing. They decided instead of making the boys buy all of the papers, at the end of the day they would buy back what they hadn’t sold. Finally the strike was over and the newsboys could go back to selling papers. Everyone was amazed that a group of small boys could change the minds of such powerful people such as Pulitzer and Hearst. Because of what these boys did many other workers over the years had strikes. Sometimes it is necessary to strike if people need better places to work, deserve better pay. It’s one way to keep a balance between workers and company owners. The Newsboys Strike of 1899 became an important part of workers rights history.

When I was younger, Disney made a movie about the newsboys strike called Newsies. If you haven’t seen it yet you will have to check it out, it will give you a little idea of what these boys did to make a difference. Later the movie became a Broadway Musical, which did very well and can also be seen on TV if you look for it.

Like the newsboys, it’s important to learn how to work when you are still small. You may not be working on the streets like they did, but you can help around your house and in the yard, pick up your toys, do the dishes, or do other helpful chores. Also, when you aren’t treated with respect like the newsboys you can stand up for yourselves. Everyone deserves respect and to be treated well, no matter their size. Be sure to speak up and stand up for what is right even when it takes lots of courage and isn’t easy to do.

The Rosetta Comet Mission For Kids

Have you ever heard of a comet? A comet is a gigantic piece of ice and rock and dirt that flies through outer space at incredible speeds. Many comets are the size of mountains and when they speed around space have a tail of gasses that can be hundreds of thousands feet long.

For a long time humans have seen comets in the sky and wondered what they are. some very smart scientists decided they wanted to learn more about comets so they decided to create a spaceship that would find a comet and land on it. This had never been done before but they knew if they build the spaceship right and worked out all of the math correctly they could make it happen.

Many different countries in Europe, designed and started working on the spacecraft they would call Rosetta. It took many different engineers and scientists studying space and spaceships to know how Rosetta should work.

Astronomers, scientists who know a lot about space also had to follow the comet Rosetta would land on. They had to use math to figure out how fast Rosetta should go and where it should go to land on the large rocky comet flying around space.

When Rosetta was ready they blasted the ship into outer space and someone gave it directions to fly. No one was actually on Rosetta because it would be gone for a very long time and might be a very dangerous mission. They flew it sort of like you might fly a remote controlled helicopter or car.

For 10 years Rosetta flew through outer space. It had many adventures there such as passing planets like Mars and asteroids, other rocks in space, many places a spacecraft had never been. After 10 years it finally was close enough to the icy comet speeding through space. All of the engineers and scientists at mission control were very nervous. They had worked very hard for this day and had been very patient waiting 10 years until they could land their ship. When the day finally came they watched in anticipation as Rosetta came into the orbit of the gigantic comet. This comet was as big as a mountain.

Attached to Rosetta was a robot that would land on the comet and do experiments to learn more about the comet. When the time was right the lander shot out of Rosetta and raced toward the massive comet below. For a moment it seemed as thought it wouldn’t work, the lander was off track, then suddenly it shot spears out of its side and stuck into the comets ground. It used these hooks and ropes to pull itself down to the ground. When it hit the ground it tumbled and was broken in some places but eventually came to rest. Everyone at mission control cheered. The robot had landed, Rosetta had completed its mission. This was the first time a robot had ever landed on a comet flying through space! The mission was a success!

Once the lander, which they had called Phillae had time to recharge its batteries it was able to do a few experiments and send the data back to earth. They learned about the water on comets and some of its metals.

Like the scientists and engineers who designed and built Rosetta you can learn all you can about science and other subjects. They had to listen closely and study and do their homework to become skilled at what they do.

Astronomers also helped by learning about the stars. You can go out at night and look at the stars and watch shows and read about all of the amazing things happening in the sky above you.

Waiting for Rosetta to finally reach the comment also took patience. They had to wait many years until it arrived. Over 2000 people worked on this project. This shows that teamwork is important to make great things happen. What would you like to do when you grow up? Think about it tonight, use your imagination and make a list of the things you can do now to improve yourself, then, pick one of them and start right away.

The History of Joan of Arc For Kids

Tonight our story takes place in the Medieval Times, also called the Middle Ages. This was the time of kings and castles and knights and battles over kingdoms. It was also a time where many people had very little to eat and had to work very hard. In the country of France one of these poor families had a daughter named Joan. Joan worked every day to take care of the animals on their farm and sew and do other things to help the family survive. Young Joan was also very kind and always thinking about others. When others were sick she would visit them and bring them food to help them feel better. She was unselfish. Being unselfish is when you think about others than yourself.  

At this time there was a war going on between Joan’s country of France and another country England, who controlled parts of France. From a young age Joan began to feel that she was called to help the people of France be free again. She began to tell her family and other people in her village about her strong beliefs. Soon other villages heard what Joan was saying about freedom and they believed her. She decided to go to the king of France and tell him what she believed. At first the king didn’t want to listen to her but she was persistent. Persistence is when you keep doing something even when it is hard. When the king finally listened to her message of hope, he decided to let her go to battle. They dressed her in armor and put her on an armored horse and sent her off with the other soldiers.

During the battle Joan carried a large flag. When the other soldiers saw Joan’s flag it gave them hope, because they knew it was being carried by the brave young girl who believed France could again be free. Seeing Joan and her flag made them strong and they won battles whenever Joan was there. Joan had courage. Courage is when you do something even though it may be scary or hard.

During one particularly dangerous battle, they had to ride boats past the enemy guns. The wind was weak that day so they were going very slow. The soldiers started to wonder if they would survive and began to panic. Joan stayed positive and spoke to them, encouraging them, reassuring them that it would be alright. Soon the winds picked up and they sailed past the enemy guns without getting hit.

Later during the battle the captains had attacked, but the army was not doing well. Joan heard what was happening and knew they needed her help. She jumped onto her horse and galloped to the front of the battle. There she saw many soldiers who were hurt. She had sympathy for them. Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone and want to help. Joan rode her horse into the battle and the soldiers began to cheer. They fought harder and eventually won the battle. Joan saw the enemy soldiers who had been hurt and tried to help them feel better. She didn’t like seeing people hurt on both sides, even though they were the enemy.  

Through many other battles Joan gave the soldiers hope. Eventually there was peace between France and England. Later Joan was captured and put in jail for a time, but no matter what happened to her, she stood up for her beliefs. There may be times in life that others will laugh at you or say mean things because of what you believe in, but like Joan you can ignore them and stand strong anyway. This is called having conviction.

Like Joan you can be unselfish by thinking about others instead of yourself. You can be brave and have courage when things are scary or hard.

Next time you go to the doctor or take a test, think of how Joan went into battle and did hard things even when they weren’t easy.  

Bob Feller For Kids

Tonight our story is about a boy named Bob Feller. Bob lived on a farm with his family where they grew corn. Bob loved baseball and always looked forward to playing catch with his father after a long day of work. He practiced throwing a baseball everyday, but he always did his chores first. Bob always put his family and his work first because his father taught him the importance of hard work and priorities. Having priorities, means doing important things first such as work and school before other things like playing with toys. Bob’s father saw how good he was becoming at baseball, so he decided to start growing wheat instead of corn because it would give them more time to practice together.

When Bob grew a little older he began playing with a team in his town. An important man with a baseball team saw how fast Bob threw the ball, so he hired him to play for the major league team, the Cleveland Indians. Bob was only 17 years old when he pitched his first major league baseball game. He quickly became well known as one of fastest pitchers in major league baseball. His fastball was recorded to be 104 to 107 miles per hour. That is very fast! Bob Feller also became the first pitcher to win 24 games before the age of 21.

Bob also had a great love for his country. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, Bob joined the United States Navy. The Navy said that Bob didn’t need to go into battle and that he could stay where it was safe, but Bob said he wanted to be with the other soldiers where he could fight for his country. He was assigned to a battleship. When the war ended, Bob received many awards for his hard work.

After the war, Bob returned to playing with the Cleveland Indians and in 1948 they won World Series which is the biggest championship in baseball. Bob was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball. He said that his skill and speed in pitching came from hard work milking cows, picking corn, and baling hay on his family farm. Even with all Bob’s success in baseball, he always put important things before baseball, such as his family and his country.

Like Bob you can put important things first in your life, such as helping around the house, learning new things, and helping others. You can also practice at sports or other talents in order to become good like Bob. Practice is what you do to become better at something. Bob Feller showed us that even when someone becomes famous, they can still think about others by serving their country and doing good things.

Gail Halvorsen: The Berlin Candy Bomber For Kids

Tonight we’re going to talk about one of the most difficult times in the history of the world — World War 2. A world war is where many countries are fighting each other at the same time. Two of the countries fighting in World War 2 were America and Germany.

But tonight our story begins before the World War on a little farm in Utah. Living at this farm was a boy named Gail. Every day Gail helped his father grow sugar beets on the farm. Gail’s father taught him to work hard and to help his neighbor.

One day when Gail was working in the fields he heard a noise in the sky. He looked up and watched as planes flew over his head. From that moment he knew he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.

When he was old enough, Gail joined the air force and learned to fly. Soon after this enemy airplanes attacked America’s base at Pearl Harbor and America joined in the war. Gail flew bomber planes during the war.

Once the war was over America decided to help its old enemy, Germany. They helped them by giving them food. Gail and other pilots new job was to fly food to the hungry people in Germany.

One day when Gail was walking around in Germany he saw a bunch of kids crowded at a fence. They talked to him and thanked him for bringing them food. Gail had a strong feeling he should give them the gum he had in his pocket. The kids broke up the gum into little pieces and shared it with each other. They appreciated the gum. Appreciation is when you are thankful for something.

The next time Gail flew his plane over the crowd of kids he had a crazy idea about how to give the kids his chocolate bars. He made little bags of candy and little parachutes for the bags. When he flew over the kids he threw the bags out the window and they floated down to the ground. The kids picked up the candy and jumped for joy. When Gail would fly over he would wiggle his plane wings so the kids would know it was him. They started calling him “Uncle Wiggly Wings.”

Later other pilots learned about Gail throwing candy out of his plane, so they started the same thing with their chocolate bars. Newspapers all over the world started writing stories about what Gail and the other pilots were doing for the kids in Germany. Soon candy companies started sending boxes and boxes of all types of candy to give to the kids in Germany. In school in America kids helped tie the candy into parachutes for Gail and the other pilots.

Even though the kids were happy to get the candy, more than anything Gail’s kindness gave them hope that life would be okay.

After helping in Germany Gail spent the rest of his life trying to help people in other ways. He is very old now but stills does all he can to be kind and help others.

Many years later Gail met a man who said when he was a little boy in Germany he was walking to school one day. It was rainy, cloudy and he was sad — when all of a sudden he saw a white parachute fall through the clouds and landed right at his feet. He was so excited and it made him happy! He said that he enjoyed eating the chocolate, but more importantly he knew that someone else was thinking about him and cared enough to send him chocolate. It gave him hope.

Like Gail, you can forgive others who might have been your enemy. Forgiveness is when we are kind to someone even if they did something wrong to you. You can also be creative and think of fun ways to help others. You can help your family by cleaning your room or making your bed or helping your little brother or sister get dressed. You could make someone at school a nice card. You can be nice to someone at school who others aren’t nice to. There is so much you can do to help others like Gail if you just think about it.

Sir Edmund Hillary: Knight of Mount Everest For Kids

Welcome to Bedtime History. Tonight we’re going to learn about the tallest mountain the world. Do you know the name of this mountain? It is called Mount Everest and it is 29,000 feet high. If you can imagine, it is the same as 1,000 houses stacked on top of each other.

Tonight we’re also going to learn about the little boy who grew up to be the man who climbed this mountain — this is the story of Sir Edmund Hillary.

Edmund was born in 1919 in the country of New Zealand. He was smaller than other kids his age and shy. Every day he got on a train and took it a long way to school. On the train he liked to read books. His favorite books were about mountains and adventures. He dreamed that one day he would go on his own adventures.

Edmund didn’t always stay small. When he was a teenager he grew very, very tall. By that time he didn’t only dream about adventures, he started making his own adventures by climbing mountains. He loved climbing, especially in cold, snowy places. He had a passion for it. Passion is when you love doing something very much. Edmund practiced and practiced and became very good at climbing. He knew that all great adventurers have to practice and practice if they want to become very good at something. Edmund climbed over 34 mountains. That is a lot of practice!

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world in a country called Tibet. No one had ever climbed to the top. It was in a freezing cold place with fast wind and deep snow that made it very difficult and very dangerous to climb. All of the climbers in the world wanted to be the first person to make it to the top. Edmund wanted with all his heart to be the first one to the top.

When Edmund finally got the chance to try and reach the top of Mount Everest, he had a helper named Tenzing. Edmund and Tenzing had to wear warm clothes and carry heavy backpacks with all their food and other supplies. It was very cold and much of the time they were hungry and tired, but Edmund and Tenzing kept going. They needed each other all along the way. They could not do it alone. This is called teamwork. Teamwork is when people help each other to get something done.

When others turned around and went back down the mountain, Edmund remembered the adventures he read and dreamed about as a boy. Now he was the hero and this was his adventure.

Close to the top of Mount Everest there was a very high wall of ice that no else could climb. But Edmund was creative and strong and figured out a way to wriggle his way up a crack in to the top. The top of Mount Everest was so high that they could barely breath. It took them 20 days and they were only there for a few minutes, but they had reached their goal!

News about Edmund spread all around the world. When Edmund got home he met the Queen of England who made him a knight. In his day a knight was someone who had done something great.

After Mount Everest, Edmund’s adventures weren’t over. He also went to the South Pole, then the North Pole and wrote books about the amazing things he had done. Edmund became famous and made a lot of money from it. But Edmund didn’t keep all the money for himself. He used the money to build schools, hospitals, churches and roads for poor villages. When the newspapers wrote about Edmund and his adventures they said he was a hero, he said he was just a normal person who had a big imagination, had a lot of energy and worked hard.

Like Edmund, you can read books and dream about doing great things. You can also have passion for things you enjoy. You can practice to get better at these things. You can also use teamwork, which is working together to get things done, because you can’t always do everything by yourself. Like Edmund, you can think about others who don’t have all the nice things you have; and do what you can to help them out. And always remember, even mountains can be climbed if we work hard and take them one step at a time.

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