August 25 – Free Entrance Days at National Parks!

Posted on August 25, 2016

Today is the National Park Service birthday!

Not only that, it is the NPS Centennial! It is 100 years old today!!!

Because of that, today through Sunday, August 28, park admission is free for all U.S. National Parks. And for the rest of the year, fourth-graders are free to all national parks and other federal lands and waters.

The National Park Service was created by an act of Congress and was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on this date in 1916. The agency manages all U.S. national parks, many national monuments, and many other properties such as historic sites, battlefields, preserves and reserves, and seashores.

Park Service Coins

The U.S. Mint is celebrating the NPS Centennial with three limited-edition coins – a five-dollar gold coin, a silver dollar, and a half dollar. Can you see figure out what the pictures on the coins represent?

(Answers below)


There are so many amazing things to see at the United States National Parks. It's hard to choose just a few favorite things, but here are a few of mine:

Yellowstone has got to grab top honors, for me. It's crazy gorgeous and sometimes weirdly beautiful. I can see why it was the first national park in the country (and the world!).

I also love nature-sculpted rock soooooo much. Arches National Park is one of many of my favorite rockscape locales.

I have only seen the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument from afar – you have to win a lottery to be allowed to make the hike to see “the Wave,” pictured here – but even from afar these rockscapes...well, rock!

Did I mention that I love rockscapes? Well, Capitol Reef National Park is right there with some gorgeous vistas!

Another of my very favorite brands of beauty is snow-capped mountains coupled with multi-colored wildflowers. Here, Mount Rainier at its best!

And I love the alpine landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park!

Last, a more recent sort of favorite beauty is the weird and convoluted formations seen in caves. This is from Carlsbad Cavern National Park.

Would-Be Favorites

I have been to – and loved! – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But I would love to see running lava, especially lava running into the ocean. From a safe distance, of course!

I'd also love to go to Dinali National Park, in Alaska, someday...

There are other beautiful national parks in Alaska as well. Since I've never been to Alaska, I've never clapped my eyes on Lake Clark National Park, pictured here, nor any other Alaska landscape...

ANSWERS to the question about the National Park Service commemorative coins:

  • Gold coin – likenesses of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt in front of Yosemite's Half Dome on one side...

    ...the National Park Service arrowhead-shaped logo on the other

  • Silver dollar – Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser on one side...

    ...a Latina Folklórico dancer and the National Park Service arrowhead-shaped logo on the other
  • Half dollar – Hiker enjoying the wilderness, and a child discovering a frog, on one side...

    ...the National Park Service arrowhead-shaped logo on the other

Also on this date:

National Second-hand Wardrobe Day

Constitution Day in Paraguay

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August 24 – Knife Day

Posted on August 24, 2016

Today is not about celebrating a weapon, but rather about celebrating a tool that can be used in many ways – a tool that is just about as ancient as humanity itself!

Early humans made knives out of flint, rock, bone, and obsidian. Eventually people made metal knives. Today, most knives are made of metal – iron / steel, titanium, bronze and copper – but some are made out of ceramic. Many knives are fixed-blade, but there are also many “pocket knives,” folding knives, and Swiss Army knives.

Let's look at some of the people who use lives in their jobs:

  • chefs and cooks
  • caterers and servers
  • butchers
  • fishermen (apparently women who harvest fish are proud to be called fishermen)
  • rescue workers and EMTs
  • woodworkers / carvers / whittlers and carpenters
  • soldiers
  • crafters, and artisans
  • barbers and hair stylists
  • makeup artists
  • sculptors and ice carvers
  • paper cutting artists and other artists 
  • flooring installers
  • electricians, plumbers, and repairers
  • mechanics
  • farmers, gardeners, and landscape artists
  • divers
  • clerks, secretaries, and other business people (letter openers are also called paper knives)
  • shipping and warehouse workers
  • knife throwers (don't try that at home!)

Knives are also useful for everyday life, such as cooking and eating, and for some recreational activities, such as camping and fishing.

And some religions involve the use or wearing of traditional knives. Most famous is the Sikh religion; Sikhs must carry a traditional knife called a kirpan at all times. “At all times” apparently does not include while flying on a plane – from what I have read, Sikhs are required to put their kirpans in their checked luggage just like all other fliers who might travel with pocket knives, chef knives, or other blades.

I always love to see amazing art, so I looked up “art made with a knife.” I found some great ice sculptures, paper art pieces, and wooden carvings...

I love carvings made of wood and ice...

But what about these humble yet beautiful apple carvings?

The paper cutting art pieces I found are AMAZING!!!

And I love the gorgeous carvings made from
fruits and vegetables. Too pretty to eat!

But I also found an art installation made up of the knives themselves...

And sculptures made by a man named Gary Hovey, using forks and spoons as well as knives...

And knives that were so beautiful they were themselves pieces of art...

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August 23 – Rescued and Rescued

Posted on August 23, 2016

On this date in 1999, two different remarkable rescues happened in very different places.

In Turkey, rescuers found a young boy who had been buried in rubble from an earthquake for almost a week. What a horrific ordeal – and what a strong boy to survive!

On the very same day, a man was rescued after getting lost in the Great Sandy Desert of Australia. He had been lost for an astounding 43 days! And he had lost about 44 pounds (20 kg) – about a pound for every day of his ordeal.

Ismail on the day he was rescued...
Ismail Cimen of Turkey was just three years old. He was scared and lonely, he later told his family, for six days without food or water after an earthquake destroyed their apartment house. But his uncle, shining a light on the rubble, saw his nephew's open eyes and raced to get rescuers. The boy survived because a corner of the room he was in stayed mostly intact.

Ismail Cimen a year after his rescue...

Bogucki when he was rescued...
Robert Bogucki was from Alaska but touring Australia. He was riding his bike across the desert when he got lost. Officials called off the search after 12 days, but Bogucki's family hired trackers and soon found evidence that he was still alive past the two-week mark.

Bogucki was actually found by a news helicopter. He was 250 miles (400 km) away from where he had started! Doctors checked him out and declared his condition remarkable after such a long ordeal. Of course, Bogucki wouldn't have survived if he hadn't found some pools of water and, at times, dug down into the soil for water. Bogucki also ate some flowers and plants.

Robert Bogucki a couple of decades later...

These real-life stories of survival make me want to thank rescuers everywhere. I have to think that the families who wouldn't give up were a piece of the rescues, as well!

Also on this date:

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