Monday, February 16, 2015

Communication Today

We're read about a lot of different ways to communicate throughout history, and the first one that was mentioned is still in use today. Writing a letter. When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not an email, not a note left on the kitchen counter, not a secret message passed to your friend in the next desk, but a real, honest letter sent in the mail?

Now we have things like Facetime and Skype that allow us to talk face to face with people who are far away.

We can send texts with our phones.

We can send mail electronically.

But maybe, just maybe, we should write more letters. What do you think?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Your Parents: 1975

There isn't a lot new in today's reading. It talks about many of the same ways to communicate in 1975 that were used in the past, ways we have already read about, like letters sent in the mail and telephone calls.

One big change is that most people now had a TV and most of those TVs were in color. The first coast-to-coast TV broadcast in the United States was in 1954 and color was used more and more through the 1960s until it became more used than black and white TV. So by 1975 color TV had been used in the United States for over 20 years already.

From what I could find, the following video from 1958 is the oldest color TV broadcast that was recorded. (Sorry it's not a Super Bowl or baseball game or SpongeBob or something more exciting.) You may want to jump ahead to 1:10. Then when it switches to color, imagine people seeing it for the first time being completely amazed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why Are Rain Forests Important?

Even though we don't live in one, rain forests are still important to us in our daily lives. Many medicines come from plants in the rain forest. Our reading says that half of all plants and animals live in rain forests.

Think of all the food that comes from rain forests. The reading mentions oranges and nuts, but what about all the other fruit? And cocoa beans grow in rain forests. Without cocoa beans there'd be no - gulp! - chocolate!

The sap from the rubber tree is used to make rubber. Think about your life with no tires or balls or other things made form rubber.

Take a look at these amazing rain forest facts from

This video also has a bunch of great facts about rain forests.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Your Grandparents: 1945

The next reading on communication moves to the 1940s. We will read about the pens used at that time (people didn't need to use quill pens or fountain pens anymore). The reading also includes how mail delivery had changed and how people used telephones,

The most interesting part of the reading might be how people got some of their news. Today we can look on the Internet for news or choose from a variety of TV news shows and 24-hour cable news channels. But at that time, television was just beginning to be used and many people didn't have a TV in their house. How did they get their news?

Here is a major news story from 1941. This is from YouTube, but how did people hear it then? Did they watch it? (Look at the title.)

The Toucan's Bill

Today's reading first mentions the parrot, a bird that lives in the rain forest, and talks about its green, yellow, and red feathers. Then the reading changes to the toucan whose feathers have fewer colors. However, the toucan has a really large and brightly colored bill.

Scientists think the toucan's bill might be that big to help protect it from other birds. The bill also helps it reach food from farther away. Scientists have also discovered that the large bill helps regulate the bird's body temperature.

Here's some footage of toucans in their natural habitat.

Did you know toucans can be pets?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Your Great-Grandparents: 1915

Fountain pens are similar to quill pens in that they both have a metal nib that lets ink flow down to the paper. But fountain pens are different because you don't have to dip the nib into ink after every one or two words. Fountain pens store ink inside them.

Here is an example of writing with a fountain pen. Notice that the harder the writer presses down, the wider the line. Also look how long the ink stays wet.

Next, here is a demonstration of filling and cleaning a modern fountain pen.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Orchid Plant and Insect

Flowers are bright and colorful and have strong smells to attract insects. When insects go from flower to flower to get nectar, the insects transport pollen which then helps new flowers grow.

So what if a bigger insect wants to eat the smaller insects that come to the flowers for nectar? How about a disguise?

Interestingly, this next video has the exact same narrator but different pictures. (It's still pretty cool.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How Much Rain Falls?

How much rain do you think falls in the Amazon rain forest in a year? Put it this way: compared to this picture, how much rain do you think falls each year in parts of the Amazon rain forest?

Some places in the Amazon rain forest get nearly twice as much as the southeast corner of Florida in a year. How much is that?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Changes in How We Communicate

Today we start a new unit on ways to communicate. We will start in history and move toward the present to see how communication has changed and improved over time.

The first way to communicate mentioned in our reading is the feather or quill pen. This video shows you how it works. How are these pens different from the ones we use today?

Here is a closeup of the nib of a quill pen. (These pictures are from this site which talks a lot about how these pens are made and used.) How does it work?

The nib of a pen.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What is a Rain Forest?

When I was a kid I love to go exploring in the woods. That meant going in my backyard. There were a lot of trees, but there were also neighbors and if you walked like a minute straight back from my house you'd hit a road. It wasn't really "the middle of nowhere."

Not my backyard.

But rain forests are much cooler than my backyard as a kid. There is an amazing variety of plant and animal life, it's always warm, and it rains a lot. Check out some of these links to learn more about rain forests.

What are rain forests?
When is a forest considered a rain forest?
Explore the canopy of a rain forest.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Looking Good in Ancient Egypt

Our reading today talks about fashion styles in ancient Egypt. The first paragraph is about makeup. Both men and women wore makeup, and one main part was paint around the eyes.

Next the reading talks about jewelry, especially the importance of gold jewelry.

The reading finishes by talking more about necklaces made from stones, glass, and clay. It says that men, women, and children all wore necklaces. What do you think? Would you wear necklaces like these? 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oceans and Weather

Did you know that Mr. W. is a big soccer fan? Two of his favorite teams are the United States National Team and Southampton FC. The US National Team sometimes plays games in Denver, Colorado. Southampton is across the ocean in England, and England is much farther north than Denver.

You would probably expect a place that is farther north to be colder, but take a look at both teams' stadiums in the winter.

The US National Team playing in Denver in winter.

Southampton playing in England on January 1, in the middle of winter.

Why the difference? Why is it so much warmer in England where it's so much farther north? The grass is green! Shouldn't it be freezing there too?

Take a look at these two maps. What do you notice about where these two stadiums are compared to oceans? How do oceans affect the weather?