June 1, 2010

International Children's Day – Croatia and many other nations

Although many countries celebrate Universal Children's Day on November 20, and some countries celebrate their own version of Children's Day on other dates, more than 40 countries, many of them former Soviet Union states or communist countries, celebrate children on June 1. The list includes countries in South America (such as Ecuador), Africa (su
ch as Ethiopia), Asia (such as Laos), and Europe (such as Croatia).

Croatia, which is located in south-central Europe, has been an independent kingdom, linked with Hungry and Austria-Hungry, and part of Yugoslavia. It is now an independent nation.

Riddled with Holes

More than half of Croatia is made up of karst landforms, which are created when water drains through rock and dissolves portions of the rock. Karst landforms include sinkholes and caves.

One of the most interesting sinkholes in the entire world is in Croatia. Called Crveno Jezero, or the Red Lake, this lake looks like a deep hole with nearly vertical walls. Some people say that the lake looks like it is at the bottom of a shaft or a pit. The walls feature some small caves, one of which starts above water level and ends below water level, and measuring the bottom of the lake is problematic since it extends down into a cave system of uncertain depth.

The Red Lake is actually deep blue. It is the sheer rocks around the lake that are red.

Visitors to the lake have to park at the top and look (carefully!) hundreds of meters down to the lake. An article I read said that there is no foot access “for tourists,” which hints that locals might have a way to get down there.

There is karst lake nearby called the Blue Lake. It's higher on the hill, and it is both wider and less deep. Tourists can climb down to the water of that lake (it doesn't sound easy, though!).

Some of the caves in Croatia are interesting because they are archaeological sites with ancient remnants of both Neanderthals and modern humans. (I know, ancient modern humans sounds like an oxymoron, a phrase that has opposite words. What I mean is that in these caves there are remnants of ancient homo sapiens sapiens.)

Vindija cave has these sorts of Neanderthal and human bones and artifacts, dating back to around 45,000 years ago, but it also has thousands of cave bear bones dating back more than 150,000 years.

The Caves of Cerovack are called the most beautiful caves of Croatia, but they seem to be more famous for their paleontological and archaeological value than for their geological structures. We have found in this cave the remains of prehistoric humans plus bones of cave bears, cave
lions, wild horses, red deer, chomois, and other animals.

I did find a website that has some beautiful photos of rock formations in the Caves of Cerovack. Scroll down and down and down to see all the weird-but-beautiful formations.

Caves on the Web
  • Here is a website about caves that's meant for kids!
  • And here is a simple experiment that gives some idea of how cave formations form.
  • Do you like the idea of a virtual cave tour? This cave is in Wales, faaarr from Croatia, but it's interesting to click-and-seek.
How Do Sinkholes Form?
  • Here is a more extensive answer, plus an experiment in which you can make a sinkhole.

May 31, 2010

Memorial Day – United States
Castille-La Mancha Day – Spain

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a day to honor men and women who have died in the military services. It got its start immediately after the Civil War in 1865. In Charleston, South Carolina, there was a race course that had been used by the Confederate army to keep captured Union soldiers and also as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died there. As soon as the war was over, a group of formerly enslaved people took it upon themselves to dig up the Union soldiers' bodies from the mass grave and to rebury them in more dignified individual graves with markers. It was hard work, and undoubtedly disgusting, but they got the task done in just 10 days—including building a fence around the new Union graveyard. On May 1, 1865, about ten thousand people (mostly black residents) came to the graveyard to listen to sermons and to sing together, honoring the fallen soldiers.

I like this story partly because people didn't just sit around saying, “Somebody ought to... Somebody really should...” Instead, these people just did it!

Other early and local Memorial Day or Decoration Day observances
eventually led to Congress recognizing the day as a legal holiday, and after World War I the category of honorees was broadened to include all who die in the military services.

Castille-La Mancha Day in Spain is a regional holiday. I mentioned in an earlier post that Spain is largely divided into semi-autonomous regions, and this is one of them. The largest city in this region is Toledo, but the area is probably best known as the setting for the famous novel Don Quixote. According to Wikipedia, the area is also known for its sunflowers, oliveyards, and windmills.

The people of Castille-La Mancha celebrate the day with sporting events, art shows, musical performances, local movie showings, taste-testing and wine-tasting, and presentations about local scientists. Very cool!

Celebrate the Day's Holidays!

  • Here is a jigsaw puzzle of a Memorial poppy postage stamp, and here is a puzzle featuring a more traditional Memorial Day scene.
  • Do you want to try a new game? A teacher named Carlos Velazquez, of Spain, has gathered together many “street games” that kids play in Spain.
  • Here is a simplified version of the story of Don Quixote.
  • Many towns and cities have a local memorial (or two) that is dedicated to those who gave up their life doing military service. Can you find out if yours does? Visit it today.
  • Here is a photo tour through La Mancha, with a short video introduction.
  • There is an extensive amount of stuff on the web about war and peace and memorials. Here is one website that gathers together some of those resources.

May 30, 2010

Mount Lassen Awakens After 27,000 Years!

A volcanic peak in Northern California, Lassen Peak formed about 27,000 years ago, but for thousands of years it just sat there looking pretty as Maidu and other American Indian groups hunted and gathered in its shadow
, and as European Americans such as Peter Lassen and William Nobles led groups of settlers past as they traveled to the Sacramento Valley.

Some people visited the area and climbed the peak, but few people lived near there. (As it turns out, that was probably a lucky thing!)

On this day in 1914, a steam explosion shook the mountain. This announced to the world that Lassen was active again after all those thousands of years of being “dormant” (which basically means “sleeping”).

Humans could say, “Thanks for the warning!” Actually, the mountain gave a series of warnings—more than 180 steam explosions occurred over the course of a year. Finally, after all those warnings, in May of 1915 larger eruptions shook the area, with hot, glowing blocks of lava spewing out of the mountain, an avalanche of snow and volcanic rock roaring down one flank, and mudflows pouring down another. The “Great Explosion” of 1915 shot pumice and other rocks high into the air, and a cloud of ash and gas rose more than 30,000 feet up. People who lived 150 miles away could see the eruption!

And nobody died!

This huge rock flew through the air, landed with a mighty thunk, and stayed hot for months!

Steam explosions continued to occur for two more years, but then Mount Lassen began to settle down again. There are geothermal areas in the park – hot springs, mudpots, and steaming fumeroles – but there haven't been eruptions or explosions for many decades now. Scientists and governmental agencies continue to monitor the volcanic areas, and every year thousands of visitors safely visit the hot spots and climb the volcano.

One active area near Lassen Peak is
called Bumpass Hell.

What causes volcanoes?

Volcanoes are openings in the Earth's crust that allows molten rock, ash, and gases to escape from underneath.

There are two main reasons for volcanoes: the actions of tectonic plates, and “hot spots” caused by mantle plumes.

The rocky crust of the Earth is not one whole sphere of rock, but is instead eight giant plates and many smaller plates of rock. These plates move about on the hotter upper mantle, sometimes spreading apart and letting molten rock come up through the resulting crack, sometimes running into each other and pushing up mountains, and sometimes with one plate pushing down underneath another. The areas where plates pull apart or run into each other are often edged with volcanoes and feature earthquakes.

Hot spots are quite different. They are probably caused by mantle plumes, areas in which hotter columns of molten rock rise through the mantle and cause volcanic eruptions in the crust. They can be far from the edge of the tectonic plates, but as a plate slowly glides over a hot spot, a chain of volcanic islands can form. The Hawaiian Islands are a famous example of a chain of “hot spot” volcanic islands.

Mount Lassen is an example of a tectonic-plate volcano, and along with other nearby volcanic mountains, it makes up the Cascade Range. Mount St. Helens in Washington, which exploded in a deadly and economically destructive eruption in 1980; Crater Lake in Oregon, which is the remnant of Mount Mazama; and Mount Shasta in Northern California are other volcanoes in the Cascades.

Explore Volcanoes (Virtually Speaking!)

  • Kids' National Geographic has a “Quiz Your Noodle” about volcanoes. After taking the quiz, you can enjoy a video about volcanic eruptions and other “hot” stuff. Warning: the link to volcano photos seems to be broken.
  • There are volcanoes elsewhere in the universe, other than Earth! The largest volcano that we know of is on the planet Mars. Here is a website that explains why some volcanoes on Mars are bigger than any we have on Earth. (There is also a map of one region of Mars printed onto an outline map of the U.S., so you can see the size of those huge Martian volcanoes....Um...would you believe as large as the entire state of Washington, plus half of Oregon???)

Here are some new hi-res photos of the volcano—so up-close, it's hard to tell that it is a volcano!

May 29, 2010

Solar Eclipse Experiment Confirms Theory of Relativity – 1919

On this day in 1919, Sir Arthur Eddington led a team of scientists who took the opportunity of a rare total solar eclipse to measure the amount that the Sun's gravity bends starlight.

These measurements agreed with the prediction made by Albert Einstein in his Theory of R
elativity. It was one of the first confirmations of the theory, and Eddington's work quickly became both famous and controversial.

Einstein wasn't the first to suggest that really large objects could bend light; Henry Cavendish and Johann Georg von Soldner both pointed out that Newton's theory of gravity makes this prediction. Einstein came up with his Theory of Relativity in part to explain things not explained by Newtonian principles, and he came up with a different prediction for the amount that light should bend in a gravitational field. Einstein's prediction was twice as large as Soldner's!

Sir Arthur Eddington realized that an upcoming total solar eclipse would allow scientists to test the new Theory of Relativity. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon entirely covers the Sun, and stars that appear in the sky near the Sun can be observed. Eddington's team did observations simultaneously in a city in Brazil and in Sao Tome and Principe on the west coast of Africa, and their measurements found that light was deflected (bent) the amount predicted by Einstein.

Eddington's results, as I said, were widely publicized, making the front page of most newspapers. (How often does the result of a scientific experiment make the front page of newspapers?)
According to Wikipedia, this publicity had the effect of making Einstein and his theory world-famous.

Eddington's Results: Einstein Is Right!

Eddington Right?

I mentioned that Eddington's results were also controversial. Some scientists suggested that there were errors and possibly confirmation bias. Wow! Confirmation bias sounds bad, doesn't it?

Actually, it's really common, and it plagues all of us, not just scientists.
Confirmation bias is the very human tendency to see what we expect or want to see—to only notice the things that confirm a belief or opinion or hope, and not to notice things that conflict with the belief / opinion / ho
pe. Notice that we do this without knowing we are doing it! We cannot completely trust our own brains!

Confirmation bias is one reason that doctors don't often operate on or diagnose loved ones, and detectives don't investigate loved ones. Confirmation bias tells us that, when we keep up with current events, we should read and listen to several different perspectives—keeping in mind the fact that our minds will tend to better remember the stuff we agree with, and will tend to forget the stuff we prefer not be true.

We all indulge, to some extent, in wishful thinking—but if we are aware of this tendency, we can reduce its effect on our memory and reasoning.

try to eliminate confirmation bias by searching for falsifying data (in other words, trying to prove something wrong), doing double-blind tests (in which neither the experimenter nor the subject knows what to expect—for instance, when testing a new medicine, in a double-blind test, neither the experimenters nor the subjects know which bottles hold medicine and which hold flavored and colored water), and by repeating observations.

The people who suggested that Eddington's results might be tainted by this bias were right to question the results. They turned out to be wrong—Eddington was right—but the questioning itself was right-on.

Does that make sense to you?

You see, Eddington was an early supporter of Einstein's theory, and he had alr
eady become the major explainer of the theory in Britain. So he had every reason to want the results of his observations to back up the theory as correct. Naturally, many scientists wanted to repeat the observations to see if the results stood up. And Eddington's results—and Einstein's theory—were backed up by observations made during a solar eclipse in 1922 and many, many times since then.

Play “Guess the Rule”

A hypothesis is a guess about what's going on. It tends to be a thoughtful guess, what we call an “educated guess,” not just some random idea.

If someone said that she had one specific rule in mind, and your goal was to guess her rule, your job would be to come up with one or more hypotheses (guesses) about what the rule is—
and then to test your idea. The person with the rule (let's call her the Ruler) gives you one example that follows her rule:
2, 4, 6
One of the students tests these three numbers:
10, 12, 14
The Ruler says, "Yes, that follows my rule." The next student tests these three numbers:
108, 110, 112
The Ruler says, "Yes, that follows my rule." Another student suggests:
234, 236, 238
The Ruler says, Yes, that follows my rule."

Do you think you know what the rule is?

What three numbers would you test, when it's your turn?
I have the answer below, but I want to mention that this game is set out in more detail on the internet. For example, this excellent group lesson for teens or adults, written from a teacher's point of view, explains this game and its value to students. Another lesson (again meant for older kids and adults) has several “problems,” one of which is this same game. There are links to suggested answers.

Most people, when they see the three numbers given by the Ruler, hypothesize that the rule is counting up with three consecutive even numbers. (Consecutive means the very next one in a particular number sequence.) When they see other students test this theory with more sets of increasing consecutive even numbers, and the teacher agrees that those sets follow the rule, their hypothesis is confirmed over and over, and they become more and more convinced that they are right.

But they are wrong, and they are going about testing the idea in the wrong way.

When you come up with a guess such as “counting up with three consecutive even numbers,” you should test the hypothesis with something that would not fit the hypothesis in just one way. For example, you could try:

  • counting down with three consecutive even numbers
  • counting up with four consecutive even numbers
  • counting up with three non-consecutive even numbers (such as 10, 22, 50)
  • counting up with three consecutive odd numbers

As you try to prove your original hypothesis wrong, you will more quickly and more surely find out whether or not it is right or wrong.

In other words, if you want to confirm an idea, try to prove it wrong.

In this particular game, the rule is: count up. That's it. Doesn't matter if the numbers are even or odd, consecutive or non-consecutive. Doesn't matter how many numbers there are. All that matters is that the numbers increase!

More Games!

You can play the familiar game of Mastermind to practice making confirming-or-refuting tests. If you don't have this game (or if there is nobody around to play), try the online version here.
A similar game using words is called Jotto. Try out that game here.

Going back to Einstein's prediction...
Ummm....Why does light bend around large objects?

It's pretty complicated, but you can look at the diagram here to see how large objects “dent” spacetime, causing spacetime to curve. (Click "Watch Web Preview.) The path of light moving in a “straight” line in a curved universe will itself curve!

If you're interested in more, this website has some upper-level math, but it also has some diagrams you might want to see. Here is another website with some great diagrams about the geometry of the universe. I love this stuff!

May 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jell-O

On this day in 1897, Jell-O was introduced to the world. It is powdered gelatin with flavoring added. The first flavors offered were strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon.

A man named Pearle Wait had bought the patent for plain, unflavored powdered gelatin, which had already been sold for about 50 years. He manufactured cough syrup, which was commonly flavored to help people take the stuff, and Wait's idea of flavoring the gelatin seemed to be a good one. His wife Mary suggested the name Jell-O. But the Waits weren't successful at marketing their good idea, so they ended up selling their patent in 1899.

Jell-O soon began to succeed, due to advertising in Ladies' Home Journal and to a give-away of free Jell-O cookbooks. Celebrity testimonials and a popular jingle (a short but memorable song used as a sales slogan or ad) boosted the brand even more.

New flavors of Jell-O gelatin were introduced, including cherry, peach, and lime. Some flavors that were sold but are no longer sold include chocolate, celery, Italian, mixed vegetable, and seasoned tomato. (Gee, I can't imagine why those flavors have been discontinued!) The savory flavors were used in the 1940s and 50s in “congealed salads” and “aspics.” (Um....Yum?)

Pictured left is a chicken-and-egg aspic.

In the U.S., the brand name Jell-O is sometimes used as a generic name for all gelatin (as Kleenex is commonly used for all brands of facial tissue). Even the store display pictured here, right, uses the label Jell-O instead of gelatin.

Three hundred million boxes of Jell-O gelatin are sold in the U.S. each year, and the Jell-O brand now includes around 160 products (although that number includes pudding
mixes, frozen treats, and candy). Some of the newest flavors to be introduced include watermelon, blueberry, cranberry, margarita, and pina colada.

The Chemistry of J-E-L-L-O

  • Dry gelatin is made of colloidal proteins which form chains. Hot water is needed to denature (that is, change the structure of) the proteins so that they can reform as a semisolid colloidal suspension.
That sounds super complicated, but let's break it down:

→ a semi-solid is anything that is midway between liquid and solid. The two examples given by several different dictionaries are a stiff cookie dough and a firm gelatin.

→ a colloid is something in which one substance is evenly mixed into another. For example, milk is a colloid in which tiny globs of liquid butterfat are mixed into a water-based liquid. There are a lot of other natural colloids, such as fog (drops of water dispersed evenly in air), smoke (solid particles dispersed evenly in air), blood (solid blood cells in liquid plasma), pumice (air pocketed throughout solid rock). People have invented a lot of colloids, besides for Jell-O; here are some examples: hair sprays, mayonnaise, shaving cream, ink, jelly, and styrofoam.
  • Many people include ingredients such as chopped fruit, nuts, and whipped cream into their Jell-O salads and desserts. But some foods cannot be used with Jell-O, because they contain enzymes that prevent the gelatin from getting firm, or setting. Examples include fresh pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and ginger root.
→ Enzymes are proteins that increase the rate of certain reactions.

Enjoy Jell-O!

Use blue Jell-O and gummy fish to make an edible aquarium.

Make “Finger Jell-O” or "Jigglers."

Try making Jell-O with 7-up or sparkling cider instead of water. Apparently you can feel little bubbles popping in your mouth as you eat it!

I haven't tried this recipe, but doesn't “Broken Glass Jell-O” sound yummy?

There are about a million recipes on the Jell-O website. Here is one for "Eyeball Potion."

Rainbow Jell-O created and
photographed by Mark Fickett.
Note that whipped cream or cream cheese has been
added to Jell-O layers between the translucent layers.
That's so that the colors don't mix together in our eyes
and get "muddy."

May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Amelia Bloomer

Born on this day in 1818, Amelia Jenks Bloomer was postmaster of her town and ran the first American women's magazine.

Her town was Seneca Falls, New York, often coupled in people's mind with the women's suffrage movement (that is, the women's right-to-vote movement). Bloomer was a part of that important movement, and she worked side-by-side with famous suggragettes such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. She also worked in the temperance movement, which worked to outlaw alcoholic beverages.

Her magazine was called The Lily. It included
recipes and articles of general interest to women, but its focus was articles about temperance and about women's rights, including suffrage and

What Amelia Bloomer is perhaps most famous for is her habit of wearing comfortable, loose Turkish trousers.

This political cartoon makes fun
of bloomers.

Back then, American and European women almost never wore pants. Bloomer thought that clothing was important, saying, “The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness...” Bloomer pointed out that looking good wasn't the only important consideration for clothing.

Because Bloomer wore loose pants and urged others to wear and accept them, the trousers became known as bloomers.
  • If you can find them, read You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer, by Shana Corey, and Bloomers!, by Rhoda Blumberg.
  • Imagine living at a time when women had to wear tight corsets and awkward hoop skirts (pictured here, left). Apparently, women's clothing weighed between 20 and 40 pounds—compare that to an outfit you might wear today! Compare it to a bag of books—how many books equal that much weight?
  • Here is a website about clothing reform during Bloomer's time.
  • How do you think the ways that modern girls and boys dress affect their behavior? Men and women?
Who has more freedom, fashion-wisegirls or boys?

Are you in favor of school uniforms? Why or why not?

How important is clothing and fashion? How important is it to you to dress like your friends, or to dress differently from others? Why?

May 26, 2010

National Sorry Day – Australia

This Australian event is held each year to express regret for the historical mistreatment of Australia's indigenous peoples.

On this day in 1997, a report was formally given to the Australian government about the horrible practice of taking children away from indigenous families. (The children who were taken from their families and made wards of the state are now called the Stolen Generations.)

In Australia, there are concerts, barbecues, lunches, teas, and other gatherings, media statements and speeches, flag-raising and candle-lighting ceremonies, reconciliation walks, and so forth. People sign “sorry books” as a way of showing their commitment towards reconciliation, and local indigenous Australian elders are invited to speak to students. There are even essay competitions for school children.

It's a good day for non-Australians to learn about the indigenous peoples of Australia.

The two main groups of indigenous Australians are Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. Nowadays t
he word aboriginals is less common, because each group prefers to be called by its own specific name.

People came to Australia at least 40,000 years ago—perhaps as far back as 125,000 years ago!—and they spread over the mainland, nearby islands, and Tanzania.

There is a mix of languages, cultures, and customs among the indigenous groups, and there was even more diversity existed before European settlers started coming. (For example, there were between 250 and 300 languages when Europeans first “discovered” Australia. Today there are about 200 of these languages still in use—but all but 20 are classified as “endangered,” because most aboriginal people use English.)
  • This is a wonderful website with lots of animated Dreaming Stories (“Aboriginal Dreaming Stories Online”). Be sure to try out the games, too!
The Australian Museum website has a similar rich and interesting website chock full of Stories of the Dreaming.
  • Some groups of indigenous Australians use sticks or echidna quills to paint “dreamtime stories” with traditional symbols such as fish, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, kangaroos, and other creatures. Because of the materials they used to paint, they would create pictures with dots.
Study some of the examples of Australian dot art here and here, and of the symbols used in this art here (scroll down). Then create your own pieces using the brush part of a paintbrush for large areas, and the wooden tip of the “wrong” side of the brush for the dots. Be sure to use earth tone colors!
Danielle's Place suggests painting a smooth stone. DLTK directs younger kids to make dot art with Q-tips on paper. And Free Kids' Crafts suggests making masks decorated with dots.

Anything can be decorated in this cool style!
  • Free Kids Crafts also has an interesting video about making an Aboriginal style drawing with a white pen or pencil on colored paper. One of the keys is to represent the spinal chord and inner organs within the outline of the animals, and another is to repeat symbols in a border or space-filling decorations.
One last website--another wonderful source for dot painting!

May 25, 2010

Towel Day
Towel Day is a celebration of the life and work of the late Douglas Adams, hysterically funny author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and many other books. Fans carry a towel, or sometimes signs that say "Don't Panic," to show their love of his work and their commitment to keeping his memory alive.

(Both the towel and the saying are references to The Hitchhiker's Guide.
By the way, the books are MUCH better than the movie!)

also on this date:

Happy Birthday, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Born on this day in 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson grew up to be one of America's most important writers and philosophers. His friends included writer/philosopher Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott (father of Little Women author Louisa May Alcott), and Nathaniel Hawthorne (author of The Scarlet Letter).

Emerson is associated with the Transcendentalist movement, and he promoted the idea of individualism—that is, the importance of independence and self-reliance rather than group-think.

Here are some quotes from Emerson:

          “Children are all foreigners.”
“A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.”

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Dive into Philosophy

I found an interesting Philosophy-for-Kids website: A philosophy professor of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Thomas Wartenberg, created the website with discussion questions on philosophical topics raised by children's books, including short picture books. Called “book modules,” these could be a great resource for talking about important ideas.

This very short video of a classroom discussion inspires us to deal with deep ideas like beauty and value.

Another website devoted to kids and philosophy is Kids Think About It. There are lots of resources here, and some interesting mini-bios (“Famous Brains”) and questions about Big Ideas (“Try This at Home”).

Appreciate Nature

Emerson seemed to think that there was a lot of wisdom to be found in nature. Here are some quotes:

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”

“Earth laughs in flowers....”
Go outside today and soak up a little bit of wisdom, laughter, and nature.

Emerson: Master of the Chiasmus

I'm sure you're asking, what in the world is chiasmus?

It's a figure of speech in which there are two phrases, and the words in the first phrase are just turned the other way around in the second phrase. Here are some examples:

We should eat to live, not live to eat.

Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” (John F. Kennedy)

Here are some examples of chiasmus written by Emerson:

"The true philosopher and the true poet are one,
and a beauty, which is truth,
and a truth, which is beauty,
is the aim of both."

"If a man owns land,
the land owns him."

"Words are also actions,
and actions are a kind of words."

Can you write or find some examples of chiasmus?

May 24, 2010

Day of Slavic Script, Education and Culture – Bulgaria

On this day, people in Bulgaria pay tribute to Saints Cy
ril and Methodius, brothers who developed Cyrillic script (a.k.a. the Slavic alphabet) more than a thousand years ago.

The brothers created this alphabet in Bulgaria, but it spread, and today it is used widely, for languages such as Bulgarian (of course), Russian, Belarusian, Rusyn, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Ukrainian, Moldovan, Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Tuvan, and Mongolian.

If you've ever seen Russian,
with its mixture of familiar letters, backwards-facing Rs, and unfamiliar letters, you've seen Cyrillic script.

This says "Bulgaria" in Cyrillic script.

Did you know...?

  • The word alphabet comes from the name of the first two letters in the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta. The Slavic alphabet is sometimes called azbuka, which comes from the old names of the first two letters.
  • Cyrillic script was the third alphabet used by the E.U. (European Union). The first two were the Latin alphabet (which I am using right now) and the Greek alphabet.
  • Since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, several nations have switched from using Cyrillic script to either using the Latin alphabet only or using a mixture of the two. The nations making this change include Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.
What do you think?

Some people think that the countries who use Cyrillic script—particularly the European nations that have joined or wish to
join the E.U.—should switch to the Latin alphabet, which is the dominant alphabet in the world. To not switch, these people argue, is to hold the nation back.

However, others argue that, for reasons of historical tradition and cultural pride, they should keep the Slavic alphabet.

What do you think?

This kind of discussion happens
all over the world, not just with alphabets, but also with languages and customs. Is it helpful and practical to give up a minority language? Or is it important to keep the “old ways” alive? Obviously, many people learn their native language (using its traditional alphabet, whatever it may be) and also a more widespread second language such as English. But in some cases, it can be hard to interest young people in a little-used language. (As a kid, would you rather learn two different languages and two different alphabets, or would you just want to learn the one that is used the most?) Should those kids be forced to learn the language of their heritage? Will they regret not learning it, later?

Check out the Slavic alphabets
(the regular Cyrill
ic script and the cursive version).

Learn about Bulgaria
There are seven Rila Lakes, and
each one empties into the next.

May 23, 2010

Happy World Turtle Day!

This is a day to learn about and appreciate turtles and tortoises—and The Humane Society and American Tortoise Rescue hope you will help them in their conservation efforts, too.

Some people dress up like turtles today, some work on projects such as rescuing tortoises stranded on highways, and some participate in educational events. The Humane Soc
iety has a list of 12 Things to Do for Turtles and Tortoises.

Many conservationists are against making pets out of turtles, pointing out that a lot of turtles die as they are collected in nature for the pet trade, and that pet turtles are often difficult to care for and therefore likely to die early. The Humane Society urges us to enjoy turtles and tortoises in the wild rather than making them pets.

Another group working to help turtles (in this case, sea turtles) is the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. Check out the CCC's Turtle Tides kid section, with tons of infor
mation and games, too! And here is a YouTube video about Loggerhead turtles.

Did you know...?
  • The earliest known turtles lived 215 million years ago. As a group, turtles are even more ancient than snakes and lizards, evolving at around the same time as the first dinosaurs.
  • Generally, turtles who live on land are called tortoises.
  • Humans often get salmonella poisoning from casual contact with turtles, which is why the sale of turtles under 4 inches long is illegal in the U.S. Why do so many stores still sell turtles under 4 inches long? Apparently stores exploit a loophole that allows sales “for educational purposes.”
(I've had salmonella. Believe me, you don't want it!!!)
Celebrate Turtles and Tortoises!

  • A Florida wildlife organization offers a free online Sea Turtle Fun Pack that includes coloring sheets and puzzles.

May 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mary Cassatt

Born on this day in 1844 in Pennsylvania, U.S., Cassatt became an important and well-known painter. She is grouped with the painters known as Impressionists.

Impressionism is an art style that tends to have visible brush strokes and is often painted in bold colors. Because of these two traits, impressionist paintings look “fuzzy” and unrealistic up close but often look very realistic from farther back.

There is usually an emphasis on changing light as opposed to realistic detail, and the subjects are usually ordinary objects and people rather than very grand people and gods in the midst of very grand events. Cassatt's favorite subjects for her paintings were mothers and children.

Cassatt was the only American invited by Edward Degas to exhibit with the Paris-based Impressionists—but, although she was American born and raised, she lived in Paris most of her adult life. She is also considered an excellent printmaker, and a set of her color prints called The Ten became a landmark in Impressionist printmaking.

Learn more about Impressionism

Here is an easy-to-understand slide show about this wonderful art style.

Dabble with Impressionism

In order to c
reate an Impressionistic painting, dab various colors of paint onto the paper instead of outlining shapes with the paintbrush and then filling in.

It might help you to remember to dab, not outline/fill in, if you paint with an unusual item rather than a brush. Try cotton swabs or the small end of chopsticks to apply paint to the paper.

Use lots of different strong colors that will blend in our eyes and mind. As you paint, squint your eyes or stand back from your piece to see how it will look farther away.

ore Cassatt's Paintings
  • Read about Mary Cassatt's life. This is a quickie bio—but an interesting one! Learn why Cassatt's father said, “I would rather see you dead!”

  • Enjoy Jenny and Her Child—and think about the questions posed on the website.

  • Get a close-up view of The Boating Party by clicking "Image Viewer" and then clicking the percentages at the top of the screen.