March 1, 2021

Be an Archaeologist: Identify the Artifact!

Welcome to Sarah Albee, whose newest book digs into a favorite subject: archaeology!

Have you ever dreamed of discovering long-lost treasure? I know I have—ever since I was a kid. So I wrote a book about people who stumbled across treasure by chance. It’s called Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries.

Each chapter begins with an unexpected discovery by a “regular person” (by which I mean a non-archaeologist). These people include farmers, construction workers, cave explorers, hikers, and yes, kids, all of whom make a chance find that fundamentally changes what we thought we knew about human history. Some of these discoveries are now famous—the Rosetta stone, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum—and some are less well-known.

The archaeological word for something from the past made by a human is called an artifact. And while some of the accidentally-discovered artifacts I write about in my book have been actual treasure (gold, jewels, works of art), others were once just ordinary, everyday objects. Some were even found at sites that turned out to be ancient garbage dumps! But one person-from-history’s trash can be an archaeologist’s treasure.

Even experienced archaeologists can’t always identify what an artifact might have been used for by people of the past. Look around your room—can you see any item that might baffle people from the future if it were to be discovered 50 or 100 or 500 years from now?

 Activity:

You’ll need:

Something to write with and a notebook

 Try This:

Below are three pictures of mystery artifacts from the past. The only info you get to know is where the artifact was found.

·       Study the object.

·       Brainstorm: In your notebook, list at least three possible explanations of how you think the item might have been used by people in the past.

·       Now try showing the pictures to other people. Make a list in your notebook of some of the most creative guesses. Did anyone correctly guess all three? 

Scroll to the end to find the answers!

 Mystery Artifact #1

                                                             







credit: Wellcome Collection CC-BY 

Location: England


Mystery Artifact #2


    credit: Sharon Mollerus _ FLICKR _ CC-BY

Location: Greece


Mystery Artifact #3

     credit: Courtesy of National Postal Museum, Smithsonian

Location: United States 


ANSWERS!...

 Mystery Artifact #1

This object is called an ear trumpet, or ear horn, and it was created in the 19th century by a company based in London, England. Made of tin, the ear trumpet is collapsible, which made it easier to carry around. Ear trumpets were used by people who were hearing-impaired to capture and amplify sounds.

Mystery Artifact #2

This is a baby’s potty-chair dating back to ancient Athens. The child would have been lifted up and placed onto the seat with their bottom over the hole, and with their legs sticking out through the side opening. Inside the base of the seat there would likely have been a chamber pot or other container to catch the waste. The smaller hole cut out of the base (there’s another one in the back) would have been used to help lift the potty, which would have been pretty heavy to lug around.

 Mystery Artifact #3

This one has probably stumped you. It stumped me when I saw it. The object is called a perforation paddle, and this one was made in 1899 for use by the Board of Health in Montgomery, Alabama. According to the National Postal Museum description, perforation paddles were used during epidemics of yellow fever to puncture letters and packages and newspapers with dozens of tiny holes. People believed that germs could hitch a ride on the mail and so, to disinfect it, they punctured the mail with holes and then fumigated the letters and packages and newspapers with nasty-smelling disinfectants like sulfur (which smells like rotten eggs). Yellow fever is actually a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of a certain species of mosquito, so perforation paddles would not have been effective for warding off the disease.


Sarah Albee is the New York Times bestselling author of nonfiction books for kids. Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries is her most recent title.  Some of her other books include North America: A Foldout Graphic HistoryDog Days of History; POISON: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous MedicinesAlexander Hamilton: A Plan for America, Why’d They Wear That? Bugged: How Insects Changed History; and Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom UpShe lives in Connecticut with her family. 

 

 

January 31, 2021

Opening the Road: Plan a Trip Using the Green Book

  • It's February and Black History Month.  We welcome Keila V. Dawson, who has a brand-new book about a worthy topic. Let's hit the road.....
OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND THE GREEN BOOK is the true story about the Green Book travel guides African Americans used during segregation and its creator, Victor Hugo Green.

By the 1930s, affordable cars and improved highways lured travelers to hit the open road. But those roads weren’t open to all. Black travelers had difficulty finding food, lodging, gas, and even restrooms to use.

 Green published his first guide in 1936, but it only covered Metropolitan New York. The demand for the guide grew, and two years later the Green Book became a national guide. It was updated annually, without the convenience of a computer, and when fewer than half of U.S. homes owned a telephone! With the help of his wife, Alma, a network of mail carriers, a sales staff, Black-owned businesses and Green Book travelers, the guide remained in print for almost thirty years.

 Plan a Trip Activity

 Planning a trip using the Green Book steered Black travelers to businesses that welcomed them, helped them avoid embarrassment and danger.

 Using the Green Book guides, take a trip back in time to explore different editions to learn if there were listings in your city and state.

Instructions:

1. Go to the New York Public Library DIGITAL COLLECTIONS of the Green Book and click on the guide cover for the 1938 edition, the first national edition.

·       Find the index.

·       Is your state in index? If so, go to the page number to find the cities listed.

·       Is your city listed?

·       If you found your city and state, what type of businesses did you find? How many?

·       What do you think the information you found or didn’t find means?

For example, if you searched for Houston, Texas in the 1938 Green Book, you’d find twenty-one states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.). But not the state of Texas.


2. Search the 1939 edition and so on.

·       If you found your city and state, what type of businesses did you find?  How many?

·      What do you think the information you found or didn’t find means?  The 1939 edition includes Texas on page 41.


 And the following listings in the 1939 edition in Houston include:

o   four hotels

o   one restaurant

o   one tavern

o   one automotive shop

o   one beauty parlor

o   one drug store

3. Keep going!

·       In every subsequent year, did you find more states listed? More cities? More listings in the same cities found in the previous edition?

·       Compare and contrast listings and editions 5 years or more years apart.

 Eight years later, in the 1947 Green Book, Texas is on page 75.

·       What do you think the information you found or didn’t find means?

 


 The 1947 edition lists the following businesses in Houston:

  • o   four hotels (two new, two from 1939)
  • o   one restaurant  (a different one from 1939)
  • o   two beauty parlors (one new, one from 1939)
  • o   one barber shop (new listing)
  • o   one tavern (the same one listed in 1939)
  • o   one liquor store (new listing)
  • o   zero automotive shop (there was one listed in 1939)
  • o   two drug stores (one new, one from 1939)

This activity should spark a discussion about how Black Americans planned road trips using the Green Book and traveled during segregation. And given communication was not readily available like today, why Victor Green urged, “Carry your Green Book with you, you many need it.”

Find more activities to use with OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND THE GREEN BOOK in the educator’s guide written by the author.



Keila V. Dawson is co-editor of NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY, along with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, September 2020) and the forthcoming NO WORLD TOO BIG:YOUNG PEOPLE FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE also with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, spring 2023). She is the author of THE KING CAKE BABY, illustrated by Vernon Smith (Pelican Publishing 2015) and OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK, illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Beaming Books, January 26, 2021). Dawson was born and grew up in New Orleans, has lived and worked in the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Find her on Twitter, Instagram,  Pinterest, or her website.

 


January 2, 2021

It's Mayan! Make Marshmallow Constellations & Enjoy an Ancient Mayan Treat


This month, Hands-on-Books features Sherry Ellis, who not only writes for kids, but is a gifted violinist. Welcome back!

 I’m happy to announce the release of my newest book, Bubba and Squirt’s Mayan Adventure. It’s the second in my Bubba and Squirt series and it’s fiction based on my research about Mayan history and culture.

When Bubba and Squirt travel through the magic portal, they find themselves at Altun Ha, an ancient Mayan civilization in Belize. Today, Altun Ha is an active archaeological site. Over three hundred jade objects have been found there, including an ornately carved head of the Mayan sun go, Kinich Ahua. The head weighs about ten pounds and is believed to be the largest Mayan jade carving in existence.

In addition to their impressive carvings and architecture, the Mayans were famous for their Mayan Calendar which was based on the movement of the starts, moon, and sun.

You may have heard of constellations—groups of stars that form recognizable patterns in the night sky. When the ancient Mayans studied the stars, they saw the same patterns that you and I see today. You can try making these patterns using mini marshmallows and toothpicks. Here’s how:


Materials:

· Bag of mini marshmallows
· Toothpicks
· Diagrams of your favorite constellations
· Paper and pencils 

What to do:

1.      Draw the constellation you will create. Use a constellation diagram as a guide. (Black construction paper and white pencils look nice if you have them.)

2.      Use dots for the stars and lines to form the constellation’s shape.

3.      Construct the constellation using marshmallows for the stars and toothpicks for the lines. You may need to break some of the toothpicks to make them shorter.



When you’re done, put your marshmallows in a cup of hot cocoa. Archeologists have found evidence that wealthy Mayans enjoyed this drink more than 2000 years ago! You can pretend you’re an ancient Mayan when you sip this tasty treat!

For more fun activities, go here.

Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. Ellis has previously published Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China; Don’t Feed the Elephant; Ten Zany Birds; That Mama is a Grouch; and That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN. When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

 


December 1, 2020

Make Some Paper!

by Brandon Marie Miller 

Cave walls. Clay tablets. Stone. Bone. Papyrus. Vellum (animal skin). For thousands of years people etched drawings and painted writings onto these materials. Then, about 2,000 years ago, a Chinese court official named Ts'ai made the first paper. The process mashed tree bark, hemp, shredded rags, and water into a pulp. The liquid was pressed out, and what was left behind dried into a thick, strong, rich paper that stood up to ink and paint! 

Over the centuries, paper allowed the spread of information and art around the globe. Paper-making mills and printing presses churned out books, newspapers, and advertisement broadsides (posters). Official documents, recorded on paper and housed in archives, allow us to study the past. Paper made it possible to print thousands of copies of novels, plays, and poetry that anyone could read. People penned letters, journals, and diaries offering us a glimpse into lives and thoughts from centuries ago. Scientists scribbled down notes and proposed theories, sharing their new knowledge through published books and pamphlets. 

When I wrote my book Benjamin Franklin, American Genius, I noted Franklin's lifelong use of the power of the printed word. As a young apprentice he learned the trade of printing newspapers and secretly started writing his own articles under a pen name, Silence Dogood. He'd go on to make his fortune printing his own newspaper and almanac. In the 1700s paper was mostly made out of recycled cotton and linen rags and clothes. Always on the lookout for a good business enterprise, Franklin opened a stationary shop alongside his printing business and collected rags for making paper-- eventually he owned many paper mills. 
Franklin pushes a wheelbarrow full of paper through Philadelphia streets. 

Today, paper mills use less expensive wood fiber mixed with recycled paper instead of cloth fibers to make paper pulp. Recycling has always been part of paper making and you can do your part to keep that going by recycling paper at home and at school. Whenever you use a paper bag, cardboard box, notebook paper, envelope, or read a book or magazine-- you are part of the ancient story of paper! Try your hand at making your own paper art!



November 1, 2020

Get Outside and Get Inventing!

by guest-blogger Jennifer Swanson

Want to find some amazing ways to use your imagination and explore things right from your window or in your own backyard?  Awesome. Then this project is for you.


First, answer this question. What do you get when you combine animals and engineering? Biomimicry, of course. Biomimicry is engineering inspired by nature. Engineers who work with biomimicry study how animals and nature work and then mimic it or take inspiration to solve human problems. That is the topic of my new book, BEASTLY BIONICS: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature. (NGKids Book, 2020) 

Bionics-inspired engineering means watching how a bird flies help you figure out how to build an airplane, or maybe how to quiet a loud fan in your house. Sound intriguing? I think so!


This gecko ... 

 (Image from Beastly Bionics, 2020, NGKids Books) 

... could inspire an engineer to make a robot like this:


(Image from Beastly Bionics, 2020, NGKids Books)


Why a robot gecko? Well, geckos have sticky feet that can climb anything. If a human could have that ability, they might be able to climb walls, windows to clean them, or even the side of a cliff. 


When you’re designing a biomimetic robot, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What characteristics does the animal have that are useful?
  • How can these characteristics help humans?
  • Can the characteristics be imitated?

Let’s see how it works. Watching an elephant might inspire this: 




A robotic arm that allows people to reach for things more easily off a high shelf. Get it? The elephant uses its trunk to do that, so a robotic arm that looks and acts like the elephant’s trunk would do the same. That is biomimicry. 


Now it’s YOUR turn to design something: 



----------------- Get Outside and Get Inventing! -----------------


Materials needed: • journal or notebook • pencil • patience and imagination


Follow these directions:


Observe It!  

Ask yourself: 

  • What is the coolest thing this animal does? 
  • How can that be used to create something that will help humans?

Answer these questions in your journal.


Draw it!

Draw a picture of the animal in your journal.

Draw a picture of the helpful attribute that the animal has and how it can be turned into something that can help a human, a robot arm, an easy gripper, or even a special design. 


Design it!

Gather materials and see if you can make a model of your idea. It can be out of building blocks, paper, cardboard, or whatever supplies you have. If you have access to robotics materials, and can code something, that works, too. 


Test it out!  

See if it works. Then  present your idea to the class or to your parents. Ask them if they understand how it’s useful to the world and if they’d use it? 


Take feedback and then make adjustments (just like an engineer would).


HAVE FUN with this! And if your parent’s allow, tag me on Twitter or Instagram (@JenSwanBooks) with a picture of your design. I’d love to see your creativity. GO STEM!


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

jenniferswansonbooks.com

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of more than 40+ nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Jennifer’s love of STEM began when she started a science club in her garage at age 7. 

   Her books have received many accolades including starred reviews, Booklist Best Tech books list, Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, and multiple California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. Her Brain Games book was #13 on The Planets.org 50 Best Science books Ever Written and her Save the Crash-test Dummies book is on the AAAS-Subaru Longlist for MG STEM books. 

   She is also the creator of the STEM Tuesday blog, STEAMTeamBooks promotion group and creator and cohost of Solve It! for Kids, a STEM podcast for kids and families where Jennifer encourages kids (of all ages) to engage their curiosity and DISCOVER the science all around them! Visit her website, www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com, find her on Facebook, or on Twitter, or Instagram @JenSwanBooks.

October 5, 2020

The Essential Art of Asking Questions!


As those who know me know, I like to randomly “chat people up.”  In fact, doing so is a proven technique of journalists who often like to get interviews going by asking easy questions before they move onto serious ones. Which what I did when I talked my family, friends, and others doing research for my new book Unveiled!  

For my ghostly research,, I acted like an historian. I went to historical societies and online sites for academic research. For others I relied on my wonderful Cincinnati Public Library for old books, newspapers, and magazine articles. Blog posts are also an ok start, though I pay careful  attention because often they make errors of fact.

What I tell kids is this:

               You can think of an historian as a detective doing an investigation. He or she asks a ton of questions:

Who?

What?

When?

Where?

Why?

And then later on … how?

And even later…. what if?

So, how does a writer of history go about investigating?  That answer would be:

               Research!  In the course of writing this book, I did a boatload of exploring.

               I made a virtual dig into the graves of all the people you will read about, and I ended up learning new things about old stuff I’d studied in school

But the best fun was asking people around me: “Do you believe in ghosts?” In the  introduction, I wrote about the Q&A I had with two sixth grade girls. Their answers spanned the realm of possibilities: “No,” “Maybe,” and “We know someone who…..” The same with my former neighbor—and what a surprise she gave me!*

            *For that, you will have to read the Afterword in the book…..:)

The point is: Encourage kids to act like reporters and ASK QUESTIONS of the folks around them! If they don’t –or if you don’t–you will never hear the answers. Think what you might be missing.

To get kids started in the art of the interview, supply a pen or pencil and a steno notebook. Have them round up a few facts about their topic and then to rough out some questions that rise from those facts. They’ll be on their way quickly.

 Follett School Solutions, distributors of books to schools and libraries, chose GHOSTS UNVEILED! for Follett’s “First Chapter Fridays” videos. Join me here.

             A heads up: it’s 12 minutes long.

            I told you I like talking to people! 

            

August 31, 2020

Why Do We Do the Things We Do?


Welcome to Julie Rubini, whose dedication to children's literacy is well recognized across Ohio! Julie's new book is all about the teenage brain.....

My latest book, Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing explores the WHY behind behavior and choices, written for teens. How cool is that?

I wish I had a book like this when I was a teenager. It would have helped me understand all the different factors involved in choices, including my home environment, genetic history, friends, peer pressure, and, the area I found most fascinating, the teenage brain.

Scientists are doing some amazing work in studying the teenage brain, including the exciting functional MRI testing. The test involves recording what happens, or doesn’t happen in a teenager’s brain, based on various stimuli. For example, while a subject’s brain is being studied using functional MRI testing, scientists may show the subject scary photographs, to see how the amygdala, the part of the brain that perceives and regulates fear, responds. Or, scientists will record how teens’ prefrontal cortexes respond to simulated situations when the teenage subjects believe they are being watched. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that involves reasoning and making judgments and decisions.

These studies help us understand the role the development of the brain has in teen behavior. But that is only one part of the equation.

Why does one teen, perhaps feeling anxious about a test, stay up all night and study, while another stays up all night playing video games? Why does one teen stand up to a bully picking on a friend, while another walks away? Why has one teen explored new talents during Covid-19 shelter at home restrictions, while another rages at the inability to do anything?

Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing explores the topic of psychology for teens, and reviews all of the various elements involved in reactions, behavior, and choices to help them understand why they do the things they do.

Experiment:

As peer pressure is significant in the lives of teens, the following experiment studies conformity, the influence of groups. The Asch Conformity Tests proved that, on average, a third of a group would answer a question incorrectly, based on the influence of others, even when they knew otherwise.

Try this test to see if results compare with the Asch Conformity Tests.

Recruit a few friends to stand in a shopping mall. They should just stand and look at the ceiling.

Make a simple grid in a notebook and record how many people stop and stare with the group within 15 minutes. How many pass by without participating in the behavior? Record these results and compare your study to the Asch Conformity Tests. Did a third of the people walking past in the mall look up to the ceiling as well?

Julie K. Rubini loves to writing stories about incredible women and intriguing subjects for young readers. Julie’s newest work is Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing, helping teenagers understand the science behind their behavior. Julie’s other works include, Eye to Eye: Sports Journalist Christine Brennan, Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist, and Virginia Hamilton: America’s Storyteller, which received a Kirkus starred review and listed on Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books, outstanding merit.

Julie and her husband Brad established Claire’s Day, a children’s book festival in honor of their daughter. A highlight of the festival is the C.A.R.E. Awards, given to children selected as the most improved readers in their schools.

Visit www.julierubini.com or www.clairesday.org to learn more!




August 5, 2020

Revisiting Racism in Women's Suffrage. Plus: Pandemic projects

             

In recent months, historians and the media have focused on racism in the women’s suffrage movement. I wrote a book for young readers about suffrage back in 2012: Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote. I asked myself, “Did I give due diligence in writing about Black women who were suffragists?”

            When authors write books one after the other, we lose track of older projects as newer ones crowd our brains. I truly needed to look back at Rightfully Ours and see exactly what I’d written about racism and Black women’s participation in the suffrage movement. I missed a few of them, namely Hallie Quinn Brown and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

             I wrote about Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell, as well as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.  I had researched the National Association of Colored Women, the NACW, which drew from Black women’s local church groups and clubs—the very same as middle class white women did after the Civil War. Black women and white women mostly did not join hands in working for the vote, but their efforts certainly paralleled each other.

              There is a strange irony in the racism that tainted the push for women’s suffrage in America. American women first found their public voices in church as abolitionists. There were Lucy Stone, and sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and Lucretia Mott – all had verbal and sometimes physical abuse heaped on them as they spoke out against slavery in public meetings.

            The rest is history.

            On August 26 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. 

            In other words, it’s been one century since American women WON the vote.

                                        ****

I’m sharing two kid-friendly activities I wrote for Rightfully OursOne keeps Harriet Tubman’s bravery in mind as takes you outside at night. The other draws on a so-called “women’s activity”—baking.  

Both are perfect for these pandemic days of stay-at-home togetherness!









 

  


July 1, 2020

Mission to Pluto Update and Paper Spacecraft Model

 Mission to Pluto

Get your mission update! My book, MISSION TO PLUTO: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt is now out in paperback! The reprint includes an update on the mission's perfectly fabulous first-ever flyby of a Kuiper belt object (KBO).

Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth.
The plucky piano-size spacecraft made history again in January of 2019 when it navigated a photo-snapping flyby of the KBO Arrokoth more than 4 billion miles from the Sun. The name means "sky" in the Native American Powhatan-Algonguian language. It's amazing to fathom, considering that when the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto in 2015, Arrokoth hadn't been discovered yet! When images of Arrokoth reached Earth, scientists were stunned to learn that it wasn't a single object, but a two joined rounded lobes. It looks a bit like rust-colored snowman! Nothing like it has ever been seen anywhere in the solar system. The theory is that Arrokoth's two ball-shaped bits once orbited each other as binary worlds, not unlike Pluto and Charon do today. Something happened long ago that caused them to merge and stick together. Billions of years ago when the solar system was forming, lots of bis and pieces crashed and clumped together. It's how the planets were made. Arrokoth is like a snapshot of that process frozen in time. 

Unbelievably, there's still more to come! New Horizons is currently a healthy spacecraft and is furthering its journey into the Kuiper Belt. Want to learn more? 
  • 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.
  • Check New Horizons' official website for further updates from the outer solar system.  pluto.jhuapl.edu
Go New Horizons, go!

To celebrate, print out and assemble this fun NASA paper model of the New Horizons spacecraft. Enjoy!