April 30, 2013 - El Dia de los Ninos/ El Dia de los Libros

Many different nations celebrate Children's Day on various different dates. This holiday is supposed to bring attention to the importance of children's health and education. Mexico selected April 30.

So that explains El Dia de los Ninos (Children's Day) – but what about El Dia de los Libros (Book Day)?

Poet and author Pat Mora knew that the U.S. had no Children's Day. She wanted to start one, but she also wanted to link the celebration of children with literacy—the ability to read—and bilingualism—the ability to speak two languages. She got help from several organizations, including Reforma, the American Library Association, and Target stores; now many libraries and schools have joined the celebration. You can, too!

  • Get inspiration and resources from the official website. There is also a map of Dia programs. 
  • Read bilingual books, or books in both English and Spanish translations. Here is a resource that lists bilingual books.
  • Make your own bilingual books. Enchanted Learning has lots of printable books, including some in Spanish.

Plan Ahead...
Check out my Pinterest boards of May holidays and May birthdays

Also on this date:

Queen's Day in the Netherlands

April 29, 2013 - Zipper Day

Zippity doo dah, zippity aye!

My, oh my, what a wonderful day

—because today is Zipper Day!

Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine, obtained a patent for an Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure (a zipperlike fastener). This was back in 1851, but Howe never bothered to market his invention. (He was busy succeeding with his sewing machine.)

A few decades later, Whitcomb Judson thought up a similar device he named a Clasp Locker. He actually manufactured and sold his device as a way to fasten shoes, but his invention never caught on.

A couple of decades after that, Gideon Sundback designed the modern zipper. He called his invention a Separable Fastener, and some sources state that he received a patent for his fastener on this date in 1913.

Still, no zippy name. It was B. F. Goodrich (or someone at his company) who came up with the word zipper, in the 1920s, when he used Sundback's fasteners on his rubber boots.

I think a good name can be important. Do you think we would make more than 14 billion Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closures per year—or miles of Separable Fasteners every day?
As I mentioned, miles of zippers are manufactured
every single day.
(But I don't mean this sort of gigantic zipper,
whatever it is!)

Count how many zippers you can spot in your home today. Some of the most common places are boots, purses, backpacks, luggage, pants, skirts, jackets, couch cushions, decorative pillows, sleeping bags, and tents—but you may find some zippers in other places, too!

Do a zipper race. One reason that zippers caught on is because they are fast at fastening things! Compare how long it takes to close a shirt or jacket with many buttons to a jacket with a zipper.

The virtual mascot on the National Geographic Kids website is named Zipper. Here are some “Zipper Games,” which have nothing to do with the separable fastener we celebrate today! 

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the publication of Roget's Thesaurus

Chemist Harold Urey's birthday

April 28, 2013 - Mother, Father Deaf Day

Many deaf parents end up having and raising hearing children. Today is the day for the children of deaf parents to honor them.

In the past, it was more difficult for deaf parents to raise their kids without help. Modern technology has not only made it easier for deaf people to enjoy a variety of things (such as closed-captioned television shows), it has also made it easier for them to raise their children. For example, deaf parents can use sensors that hear their babies' cries and alert them with lights and strong vibrations.

Of course, most deaf parents teach their children whatever sign language they use. Sign language is very easy for kids to learn to use, even earlier than they can learn to speak. As a matter of fact, some hearing parents teach their hearing babies how to sign to spare tears of frustration when the kids can't express what they want and need.

Learn sign language!

ASLU (American Sign Language University) has tons of resources. 

Start ASL is another source of free sign language lessons. 

Here is a page on Baby Sign Language. 

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia

Planetary geologist Eugene M. Shoemaker's birthday

April 27, 2013 - Eeyore's Birthday Party!

Do you know Eeyore? This donkey of A.A. Milne's beloved Winnie-the-Pooh series was always blue—by which I mean sad! He really needed a party to cheer him up, don't you think?

Well, students at the University of Texas in Austin apparently thought so, and they created a big birthday bash for the chronically depressed Eeyore. That was in 1963—so today is the 50th Annual Eeyore Birthday Party in Austin!

The annual event started as a trashcan full of lemonade, honey sandwiches, a few other picnic foods and drinks, a live, flower-draped donkey, and a may pole. Nowadays there are non-profit (charity) food and drink vendors, live music, and drum circles with all sorts of drums, from hand drums to kettle drums. There is a children's areas with arts and crafts. There are family games such as sack races, costume contests, and an egg toss. Keeping with the tradition of the origin of the festival, there is always a may pole and a live donkey.

Thousands of people come every year!

There is even an Eeyore's birthday spin-off held each year in Seattle, Washington.

Have your own Eeyore's Birthday Party.

Also on this date:

April 26, 2013 - Happy Birthday, Frederick Law Olmsted

Here's a fellow who was a landscape architect before there was such a thing as a landscape architect!

Olmsted, who was born on this date in 1822, was also a journalist and a public administrator, and he probably called his work with landscapes “designing,” but many now say that he was the father of landscape architecture.

What do landscape architects do? Well, Olmsted and a man named Calvert Vaux designed New York City's Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park. They designed other major parks in other cities as well.

A landscape architect designs outdoor public areas and landmarks. She or he studies existing elements of an area—buildings, skylines, trees, lakes or streams—and come up with a concept of what the outcome should be. The hard part, of course, is figuring out what plants and sprinkler systems, paving and storm drains, trees and structures should be installed in order to achieve that outcome. The job is a combination of architecture, urban planning, gardening, environmental analysis, and recreation planning.

Central Park is a huge public park at the center of Manhattan in New York City. When it opened in 1857, the park had 778 acres of land (it is now larger, with 843 acres). These days, about 35 million people visit the park every year—making this the most visited city park in the U.S.

Central Park has several lakes and ponds, plenty of walking paths, several bridle paths (for people on horseback), two ice-skating rinks (one of which becomes a swimming pool in the summer!), a zoo, a formal garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a forest. AND there is an outdoor theater, a “castle” with a nature center, a marionette theater, and an historic carousel. AND there are at least 3 fountains, 7 major lawns, a meadow, a huge boulder outcropping, smaller swaths of grass, and multiple enclosed playgrounds for kids.

It's a great place! One of my favorite spots is the boulder area, and another is the Alice in Wonderland statue.

The thing is, these lakes and forests and meadows and boulder outcroppings look so natural. It looks very much as if Olmsted and Vaux just had to plan a few paths in between some great natural features. However, almost all these features are landscaped. They were carefully designed to look NOT designed! Cool, huh?

Did you know...?

More gunpowder was used to clear the area than was used at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

During construction, more than 18,500 cubic yards of topsoil were brought in from New Jersey, and more than 10 million cartloads of rocks and soil was taken out of the park! More than 4 million trees, shrubs, and other plants were transplanted in the park.

Sheep used to graze on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, but they were moved to a more rural area of New York in 1934. City officials worried that they would be killed and eaten by hungry people during the depression!

Also on this date:

April 25, 2013 - First Day of Summer in Iceland

Today in Iceland, the afternoon temperature is supposed to be just a little bit warmer than freezing. But there is going to be a brisk breeze that is going to make it feel a lot colder than that.

Hooray! It must be summer!


Despite the cold temperatures found in Iceland in late April, the beginning of summer is celebrated then. This year, it's celebrated today!

The idea of summer beginning in April goes back to the Old Norse calendar that divided the year into only two seasons, winter and summer. Even when it snows on the First Day of Summer, Icelanders celebrate the "arrival of summer" with parades, organized entertainment, sporting events, and family get-togethers.

Did you know...?

Iceland is sometimes described as “where Europe meets America.” This is because it is considered a part of Europe—and is fairly close to the northern parts of Europe, especially the British Isles—but is even closer to Greenland, which is part of North America.

Actually, Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the place where two pieces of the oceanic crust are spreading apart, making the Atlantic Ocean increase in size (ever so slowly). The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs all the way from the Arctic to the Antarctic—but in the spot where Iceland is, there is a mantle plume. That means that liquid rock is pushing up in that one spot. The underwater volcanos formed above that plume eventually built up high enough to form islands.

Iceland is greener than the very icy Greenland.

Geothermal energy (harvesting the heat from the volcanos and the hot springs) provides about 80% of Iceland's energy needs. That means that energy is very cheap there compared to other nations. Icelanders are even able to heat some of the sidewalks of their cities during wintertime!

Iceland is known for more than volcanos and hot springs. It's got beautiful fjords (narrow inlets of the sea), powerful waterfalls, interesting landforms, and (at times) breathtaking northern lights in the nighttime sky. Check out the beauties of Iceland here and here

Iceland Is features a changing gallery of gorgeous photos at the top of the page and another at the “Iceland on Flickr” link at the bottom.

Also on this date:

World Penguin Day

April 24, 2013 - Concord Day in Niger

Don't get Niger mixed up with Nigeria!

Camels in Niger
They are both nations in Africa, but Niger is a bit larger in size, much smaller in population, poorer, and drier. 

Niger is landlocked, whereas Nigeria has coastal land and access to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Niger is 80% Sahara Desert, with the rest of its lands in constant danger of drought, but Nigeria has varied biomes that include tropical rainforests, plains, and mangrove swamps.

Why are the two nations so similar in name? They are both named after the Niger River, which runs through these and other African countries.

In Niger, the official language is French, and people are called Nigeriens.

In Nigeria, the official language is English, and people are called Nigerians.

Apparently, the Nigeriens
made a bonfire out of guns!
Concord Day marks the anniversary of the 1995 signing of a peace agreement between the Nigerien government and some rebel forces. When the final peace agreement was signed and the Nigerien civil war was finally over, people celebrated by burning weapons in a “Flame of Peace.”

What will you be when you grow up?

Although Niger has some resources, such as uranium, gold and perhaps oil, most of its people are either subsistence farmers (people who grow their own food but have almost no food left over to sell to others) or nomadic livestock-raisers. I was shocked to read that close to 8% of the population is enslaved people! Just like the enslaved peoples of long ago, they are in forced-work situations, and they can be bought or sold.

Niger is not the only country that still struggles with slavery. A horrifying number of African countries have “hereditary servitude”—which is another way of saying slavery. It's horrifying, isn't it?

Did you know about the Green Sahara?

For the past 70 THOUSAND years (a long time!), the Sahara Desert has been...well, a giant desert, just about the way it is today. But about 12,000 years ago, a “wobble” in the Earth's axis caused a different rainfall pattern. For thousands of years, seasonal monsoons (rainstorms) came to an area of the Sahara that was roughly the size of the U.S.—and a moist, lush region was created.

We know about this period because we have found animal and human remains that tell us about it. Herds of ostriches, giraffes, and elephants, and perhaps even domesticated cattle, all lived alongside humans in this not-desert Sahara, which scientists have dubbed “Green Sahara.”

Read about a discovery of scores of human skeletons here.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope

Anniversary of the opening of the Woolworth Building