Much of what you need to know to live successfully as an adult does not come naturally— it has to be learned and studied and memorized. Children learn to speak nathandy urally, for example, by listening to those around them, but reading and writing must be specifically taught. The complicated process of learning the alphabet and the sounds it represents, putting letter sounds together to make words, and learning the meaning of words in order to read and write are skills that only come with special effort. Knowing how to figure out problems that involve numbers, and learning how the world is run or how nature works are important things to learn, too. Although your parents might be able to teach you these things, they would need many hours each day to do it. Most parents work outside the home and wouldn’t have the time to give proper instruction (although some kids are “home schooled” by their parents instead of going to school).
In the United States, a public school system provides years of free education for all children. Teachers, who are specially trained to know what children should learn, and how, and when, are the people who do the job. To ensure that children learn what they need to, state governments now require that all children go to school for a certain number of years (usually until age 16). Kids who skip school a lot can find themselves in court. (Children who go to private schools or whose parents have received special permission to teach them at home are exceptions.)
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Which is in charge of space exploration and scientific discovery for the United States, the Hubble transmits about 120 gigabytes of science data every week. That’s equal to about 3,600 feet (1,097 meters) of books on a shelf. The growing collection of pictures and data is stored on magneto-optical disks. Among its many discoveries, Hubble has revealed the age of the universe to be about 13 to 14 billion years, which is a more accurate estimate than the Big Bang range of between 10 to 20 billion years.
Hubble also played a key role in the discovery of dark energy, a mysterious force that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate. Hubble has shown scientists galaxies in “toddler” stages of growth, helping them understand how galaxies form. It found protoplanetary disks, clumps of gas and dust around young stars that likely function as birthing grounds for new planets. It discovered that gamma-ray bursts—strange, incredibly powerful explosions of energy—occur in far-distant galaxies when massive stars collapse.
In 1939, when Robert May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward, wrote a promotional Christmas poem for that Chicago department store, its principal character was “Rollo” the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but the corporate executives didn’t like that name, nor did they approve of May’s second suggestion, “Reginald.”
It was May’s four-year-old daughter who came up with “Rudolph,” and the title for a Christmas classic.
Once seeds are fully developed, they need a good place to grow. If they just fell to the ground beneath their parent plant, they would struggle, competing against each other for sunlight, water, and minerals. Most seeds need to travel—by wind, water, or with the help of insects and other animals—to better places to germinate, or start to grow into new plants. Some seeds, like those from conifer and maple trees, have wings attached. Others, like those of dandelions, have parachutes made of tiny hairs. Both features allow the seeds to be carried great distances by the wind, and they sometimes land in spots that are good for germination. Water carries other seeds to good growing places; the hard, watertight shell of a coconut, for instance, allows it to travel many miles at sea before finding a beach where conditions are suitable for growth.
Seeds sometimes have to wait a long time before they find good places to grow, places where the sun, moisture, and temperature are right. Most seeds are designed for the wait, protected by a hard outer pod (except those of conifers). Some seeds wait years to germinate, and some just never do. But inside each seed pod is a baby plant, or embryo, and endosperm, a supply of starchy food that will be used for early growth if germination takes place. Then a tiny root will reach down into the soil, and a tiny green shoot will reach up, toward the light.
The practice of using laurels to symbolize victory came from the ancient Greeks. After winning on the battlefield, great warriors were crowned with a wreath of laurels, or bay leaves, to signify their supreme status during a victory parade.
Because the first Olympics consisted largely of war games, the champions were honoured in the same manner: with a laurel, a crown of leaves. To “rest on your laurels” means to quit while you’re ahead.
Birds migrate—or move regularly from one place to another—for several reasons, including warmth and the availability of food and water. Many species of birds mate and nest in specific areas of the world. Most of these areas are only comfortable during the warmer months of the year, so when the cold weather arrives birds migrate to warmer climates. These trips can be as long as thousands of miles. For example, the American golden plover breeds north of Canada and Alaska during the Northern Hemisphere’s spring and summer.
In the Northern Hemisphere’s fall, the plovers travel to southeastern South America to spend the “winter”—which is the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere—allowing the birds to find plenty of food. When spring arrives again in the Northern Hemisphere, the trip is reversed, and the plovers migrate back to the northern nesting grounds to breed.
In 1880, the strong-willed senator John Sherman was testing the water for a presidential nomination. He slipped out of Washington but was followed to his Ohio farm by a reporter who found the senator talking with a high-ranking party official while standing near a fence.
When the reporter asked what they were doing, the response, “We’re mending fences,” gave him his headline, and it became a new phrase for healing relationships. Within a democracy, what are the fourth and fifth estates?
Lots of kids have been picked on by a bully, for many different reasons. Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways, and can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to taking lunch money or personal items. If you’ve been the target of a bully, you know it can be very scary and upsetting to be teased, hit, or threatened.
Sometimes it helps to simply ignore what the bully is saying—most bullies tease or threaten other kids to get a reaction from those they tease, and if they get no reaction at all, it’s a lot less fun for them. It usually helps to have friends around. A kid walking alone is more vulnerable than a group of kids. And even if you don’t feel confident, sometimes acting confident helps. If you hold your head high and tell a bully to stop calling you names, you may just surprise that bully into silence. One approach to avoid is responding to bullying with fighting or bullying back—aggressive responses will only make matters worse.
If you want to look clean and smell nice, your clothes need to be washed frequently. Most clothing is made of tiny threads that are woven together. As you go about your day, dirt and odors get trapped in the weave of your clothes and can only be removed by washing.
Clothes must be jiggled and swished around quite a bit in water—as is done in a washing machine—to best remove dirt and odors. Detergent is added to the water to help the process: it can break up oily particles into smaller pieces that can be whisked away, and it can surround other dirt particles and pull them away from fabric.
America’s founders did debate a bit as to whether or not to force children to attend schools, and they decided to leave such decisions to individual families and local and state governments. The words “education” and “school” do not appear in any of our founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights.
Some of our most famous inventors, writers, and politicians were self-taught, learning through mentoring or apprenticeships, conversation, and reading. In 1850, Massachusetts became the first state to institute a compulsory schooling law.