March 1, 2019

Wealthy Widow Jailed as Suffragist

By Kerrie Logan Hollihan
We are three months out from the centennial celebration of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With two-thirds majorities in both House and Senate, Congress proposed it on June 4, 1919. Women’s suffrage became law of the land when Tennessee ratified on August 8, 1920. There was plenty of drama, too. In February 1919, suffragists who’d been jailed boarded the “Prison Special” to campaign by rail for their cause. Among these criminals was the elderly Louisine Havemeyer, an incredibly rich widow whose husband was a sugar baron. After he died, she devoted herself to women’s suffrage. I featured Havemeyer in Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote. It’s for young readers, but as always, I wrote with adults in mind, too! Read on—and take a look at an activity from my book. It’s a cartoon—and YOU get a chance to interpret it!    

February 1, 2019


By guest-blogger Peggy Thomas

When I say that my new book is about George Washington Carver, someone usually exclaims, “Oh, he’s the peanut guy.” That’s what I thought at first too, until I dove into research. Then I discovered that Carver was so much more.

Find out more about the book here and here!

For starters, he was a gifted artist who had one of his paintings displayed at the 1893 World’s Fair. He was an avid rock collector who had a meteorite named after him, and he was a trained botanist who added more than 1000 specimens of mushrooms and fungi to the U.S. National Fungus Collection.

At the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Carver was an educator. He not only taught in the classroom, but also put the classroom on wheels. His Jessup Wagon taught local farmers how to produce more with the little they had. Carver promoted reduce-reuse-recycle long before the first environmental movement, and encouraged folks to compost. He developed paint from sustainable sources, and the U.S. government even asked his advice about ways to conserve during times of war.

A captivating speaker, Carver risked his life traveling through Jim Crow territory in the American South to bring his unique message of harmony to a segregated nation -- Harmony with nature and harmony with people of all races.

Oh, yeah. He also studied the peanut.

With such an amazing life, it was easy to find 21 activities to feature in George Washington Carver for Kids. You can turn a gourd into a decorative bowl, build a compost bin, learn to pickle watermelon rinds, and bake peanut butter cookies. Below is one easy activity you can do today. It's called, Make a mushroom spore print.

January 3, 2019

Camouflaged to Hide and Hunt

Buy me!
By Mary Kay Carson

Kids love to look at pictures of strange and scary, bizarre and slimy, weird and wonderful animals. Harness that fascination but challenging students to ask WHY? Why does that animal have bright red lips, a covering of goo, or legs covered in spikes? How might these strange-looking characteristics help the animal survive? Does it help it find food, hide, hunt, or impress a mate? 

This is challenge of my newest book, WEIRD ANIMALS. Its interactive color-coded design allows readers to observe, predict, and then discover the why behind the weirdIt's a fun way to teach students about animal adaptations and survival strategies like camouflage colors, thorny skin, and extra hard heads!

The book's premise came from one of my most popular author visit school programs, Why Are These Animals so Weird? It's the perfect combination of entertaining images and educational info about animal adaptations. Plus, I'm always surprised by the reasons students predict for an animal's strange behavior or looks! One point I always try to reinforce is that camouflage hides an animal from both predators and prey. Blending in with the surroundings can help an animal stay safe and be a better ambush hunter. 

Try this fun printable activity with your kids. It not only allows them to see how effective camouflage is, but challenges them to quantify those effects. Grab some colored toothpicks, a timer, and start searching!

November 30, 2018

Join the Ultima Journey

By Mary Kay Carson

The spunky spacecraft that became the first visitor to Pluto in 2015 is about to make history again. New Horizons is nearing its second stop, an icy object being called Ultima Thule. Meaning a place "beyond what is known" it's the perfect nick-name for this dark reddish chunk of ice and rock a billion miles past Pluto. Ultima Thule is a Kuiper Belt object, one of millions that orbit beyond Neptune that make up our solar system's outer zone.

After accomplishing its nearly ten-year journey to the Pluto system where it rewrote the book on the icy dwarf planet and its five moons, New Horizons headed toward the small Kuiper Belt object. The speedy grand-piano-sized robotic probe will reach Ultima Thule late this month on New Year's Eve. It will be the farthest planetary exploration by a spacecraft ever! The KBO is an astounding 4 billion miles from the Sun.

Here's how to make sure you're tuned into the action and how to get students up to speed on the mission so far, as well as some fun activities to share. 
  • Get caught up on the story so far, by reading my book Mission to Pluto. There's a great free downloadable educator's guide for the book, too.
  • There are tons of great resources for educators on the New Horizons website, including activities for K-12, a 3D model printing file, and a fun-to-make one-twentififth scale paper model that's available as a printable PDF.(You'll need the instructions, too.)
Watch these web and social media sites for more, including live links during the flyby event:
Also, here is an annotated activity to help students comprehend just how far away Ultima Thule is. It's from my book Exploring the Solar System. Go New Horizons, go!

November 1, 2018


Activity: Try Your Hand At This Ancient Skill

by Brandon Marie Miller

Humans have tracked and hunted animals for thousands of years. Prehistoric cave paintings show hunters at work finding food for their families. Most of us no longer hunt for our food. But if you want to discover the birds and animals in your own neighborhood-- get outside, open your eyes, and start tracking. You might be surprised at what you find!

A Prehistoric cave painting of hunters using bows and arrows

You are looking for "spoor." This means any tracks, signs, marks, or disturbances left by a passing animal. A track is an outline or imprint left in dirt, mud, or sand. This can be a footprint, or maybe the print of a tail dragging in the mud. Every animal has a different footprint.

A underside of a racoon foot

Look closely. Are there nibbled plants? Broken bits of nut shell? An animal has eaten a meal! Are there feathers on the ground? A piece of fur stuck of a twig? Has a tree trunk been marked by a deer rubbing its antlers or maybe there are claw marks in the wood? An animal has passed this way.

If you are in a park check for worn down paths that might be an animal trail. Are there nests, burrows and tunnels into the ground, are there dens or caves? These are animal homes.

You might even see "scat" or animal poop. Watch where you step! Did you know different animals have poop of various shapes and sizes, from little rabbit pellets to large flat patties?

You can find books at your local library and charts online that show different animal tracks. But you can get started with the activity below. Happy tracking!