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Tourist Attraction Collections



Private Collections That Became Tourist Attractions

Collecting things is a lot of fun. That’s why so many people have private collections. Collecting is an excellent hobby because it’s almost like a scavenger hunt. Collectors often find items to collect at flea markets, antique shops, yard sales, and online. It’s easier than ever for people to complete their collections now that technology like laptops and cellphones lets them search for their favorite things everywhere.

The only problem with collecting things, especially for a long time, is many collectors eventually find their collections are too big to keep to themselves. Some collected items, like cars, are too big to fit in houses anyway. Others, like comic books, are small individually, but when a collector has lots of them, they begin to take up space. Sometimes, a collection is so large, or a collector just wants to share it with other people so much that their collection becomes a tourist attraction. The collector might open their home to visitors, open a museum, or loan or donate part of a collection to a museum that is already open. Here are some examples of what people collect and collections that became tourist attractions.

What People Like to Collect

There is no one thing everyone likes to collect. Collections of all different things are popular. Some popular things to collect are jewelry, decorations, or items people can trade with each other, like and patches.

There are also people who collect things like:

  • Cars
  • Motorbikes
  • Art
  • Airplanes
  • Movie and TV Show Memorabilia
  • Collectibles Relating to Certain Animals or Symbols

You never know what people might like to collect. Sometimes collections come from things adults liked when they were kids. Other times collections might remind people of a certain time in their lives. For example, a former athlete or sports fan might have a house full of sports collectibles. Here are some interesting private collections people turned into tourist attractions.

The Cat Museum in Kraków, Poland

The cat museum opened in 2019. It is owned by a couple from the Ukraine. It contains about 1,000 cat collectibles. It’s not the only cat museum either. There are museums like it in many different countries because so many people love cats. Most of those museums have started out as private collections.

Island of the Dolls, Mexico

There is an island in Mexico called Island of the Dolls. The whole island is covered in many different types of dolls. The legend of the island says a young girl once died there. The island’s caretaker decided to start hanging dolls around the island so her ghost could play with them. Other people have also visited the island and left dolls over the years, so the collection keeps getting bigger as more tourists go there.

Tiny Chair Museum in Georgia, USA

If you are ever in Stone Mountain, Georgia, you can visit a very strange roadside attraction called the Tiny Chair Museum. It started because a woman named Barbara Hartsfield saw a tiny chair one day while out shopping. She thought it was cute and bought it. Soon, she was collecting them as a hobby. Today, her hobby has grown into the world’s largest collection of tiny chairs. Many of them are not just chairs. Some have other purposes, like tiny chair-shaped salt and pepper shakers. She has them all displayed in her roadside museum.

Isett Heritage Museum in Pennsylvania, USA

The Isett Museum is in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. It contains the private collection of Mel Isett. Mr. Isett has been collecting all sorts of everyday items from the 1800s and 1900s for years. His museum now houses over 40,000 household items preserved so people in the future can see them, such as:

  • Radios
  • Toys
  • Cameras
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Plates
  • Clocks
  • Railroad Collectibles

Finding Fun Private Collections Turned Tourist Attractions

Ask your mom and dad to take you on a day trip, and you’ll probably find some private collections turned tourist attractions not far from your own home. They are everywhere because so many people love to collect things. Some you might just happen to pass while riding in the car. You can find others ahead of time by looking online for interesting private collections that have turned into public attractions. Either way, you’ll find it fun to see all the great things people collect.

Start your own collection with Spartan and the Gang! Collect all of the pins, patches, and stickers from some of the most interesting places around the world.

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Discover The Intrigue Of India



Taj Mahal scenic sunset view with moody sky. A UNESCO World heritage site at Agra, India.

“India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”

– Mark Twain

(Photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson Srinagar, Kashmir, India, 1948)

India is a country in the south of Asia known for many things: the awe-inspiring Himalayas, a million spice markets and colors, women wearing sarees and bindis, incredible festivals and weddings that last for days on end, henna, spirituality complete with many gods, diverse culture, the Ganges river, an extremely large population, the train system, and, of course, the Taj Mahal: one of the most famous structures on earth.

And then there’s Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was a non-violent political leader who led India to its independence from Great Britain and is one of the most famous figures throughout modern history.

In India, people bow, place their hands together in a prayer-like fashion and say “Namaste” (a Sanskrit word) when greeting one another. This literally means “I bow to you.”

In India, you’re taught that there are certain qualities that make you a divine human being.

 – Deepak Chopra

Discover India with Spartan and the Green Egg!
And don’t forget to collect your explorer pins!

  • Roopkund Skeleton Lake in Uttarakhand, India, is known by the locals as ‘Mystery Lake’ or ‘Skeletons Lake.’ This glacial lake in the Himalayas of India is famous for the hundreds of human skeletons found at the edge of the waters. With a depth of around six feet, the skeletal remains can be seen when the snow has melted. At the high altitude of 16,499 feet, it is uninhabited.”

  • Chand Baori is located in Rajasthan in India. It is considered a stepwell, which means there’s a series of steps that ends in a pool of water. The Chand Baori is a very popular tourist spot during the summer since after the walk down the stairs tourists get the chance to cool off in the refreshing pools of water below.”

  • “The Nohkalikai Falls are located near Cherrapunji, one of the wettest places on Earth. The plunging waterfall is 1,115 feet tall, making it the highest in India. The source of the falls is entirely rainwater collected at the summit during the wet season. In the dry season, the falls are not as strong as the rest of the year. At the base of the waterfall is a waterhole that was carved by the cascading water.”

  • “The Lotus Temple, New Delhi is a large temple which can be found in New Delhi, a part of India. It is the primary house of worship for the Bahá’í religion. The Bahá’í religion is centered around the belief of spiritual unity between all people. The temple is meant as a place of worship, but also just a general gathering place where people can spiritually come together. The church is shaped like a gigantic lotus flower, which is where the name of the temple comes from. At night, the temple is lit up and resembles a giant star in the shape of a flower.”

  • The Taj Mahal: “Rising above the Yamuna River in Agra, India, the glistening white dome of the Taj Mahal welcomes visitors to its doorways, winding paths, and beautiful gardens. Created by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz upon her death, the Taj Mahal stands as one man’s undying statement about his love for his wife. With its jewel encrusted walls, ornate details, set against the turquoise sky, the Taj Mahal is considered to be on one of the Seven Wonders of the World.”

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Save Water

Simple Ways to Save Water

Although much of the earth is covered by water, most of it isn’t water that we can use. A lot of it is saltwater in the oceans, and some of it is frozen water. We rely on freshwater supplies for drinking water and for water that we use around the home. Since there’s a limited supply of freshwater, it’s important to watch how much we use. There are plenty of things you can do to save water.

Use Bathroom Water Wisely

Between flushing toilets, taking showers and running faucets, a lot of water is wasted in bathrooms. You can help cut down on water use in this part of your home by doing the following:

  • Take showers instead of baths. Showers use less water. You can help even more by limiting your showers to five minutes or less.
  • Don’t let the water keep running while you’re brushing your teeth. Turn it on to wet your toothbrush, then shut it off. Turn it on again to rinse off your toothbrush when you’re done.
  • Shut faucets off all the way. When you’re done washing your hands or brushing your teeth, make sure the faucet is turned off all the way. Otherwise, it could leak and waste water.

Cut Down on Kitchen Water Use

The other main area of homes where water is usually wasted is in the kitchen. You use water to wash dishes and for drinking. How can you and your family lower the amount of water wasted in the kitchen? Try the following:

  • Use the same glass or cup throughout the day for drinking water. If everyone in your home does this, there won’t be as many glasses and cups to wash later on.
  • Don’t run water when you’re washing dishes in the sink. Fill one sink basin with water for washing, and fill up the other basin with water for rinsing.
  • If your family uses a dishwasher, don’t run it until it’s full. The less you run the dishwasher, the less water you use.

Other Ways to Help

Here are a few more ways that you can save water:

  • Be on the lookout for leaks. Tell your parents if you discover a leaky faucet in your home.
  • If you help out with laundry, only run the washing machine when it’s full. Wash dark clothes in cold water to cut down on both water and energy use.
  • If watering the lawn is one of your chores, do it early in the morning or in the evening. Watering it when it’s sunny and warmer out wastes more water.

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Road Trips With Kids


Getting to your destination safely and quickly means well-behaved passengers are a must, but young kids rarely travel according to plan. Even if you plan to take a leisurely, scenic route with plenty of stops along the way, backseat boredom is always looming. When your focus needs to be on the road, some pre-trip planning can help minimize distractions while making the drive a more positive experience for your youngest travelers.

If your child or children struggle to stay happy, comfortable, and quiet on the road, these five items will help you turn your road trip around: – proverbially, not literally.

  • Food and Drink

Some parents limit the food and drink their children have access to on the road, with the idea that this keeps the car interior cleaner and limits bathroom breaks. While both of those outcomes are true, they may just as easily lead to a hangry, dehydrated youngster as a dry, clean one. Embrace the occasional food-chaos and consciously pick up non-staining / no-dye-added juice boxes and unlikely-to-crumble treats like fruit leather or carrot sticks.

  • A Change of Clothes

Even if your children are well past the diaper stage, no parent has ever been sorry to have spare clothes on hand in case something happens. Motion sickness and car nausea do occur, and so do all the symptoms that accompany them- including the “reappearance” of the aforementioned snacks. If your child has a bout of nausea, you’ll be glad you had clean, dry clothes to change them into afterward. Additionally, if they become too hot or cold, having options to help with temperature control will help limit crankiness.

  • Plastic and Zip-Top Bags

Waterproof bags for trash are a must, particularly if an unexpected cleanup occurs. Zip-top bags can seal in potentially foul odors or sticky residue, helping to keep your car smelling, looking, and feeling fresh. These bags can also be used to isolate dirty laundry, wet socks from the lake or beach, or to keep valuables clean and isolated. Resealable bags can also be filled with ice and used as cold packs in a cooler or as compresses for bumps and bruises.

  • Back Up Batteries / Charge Cables

If your child is bringing along a gaming system, tablet, laptop, or smartphone, you can count on the batteries giving out on the longest, loneliest stretch of your journey. Rechargeable “power bank” style batteries will help stave off the dreaded low battery indicator, as will cigarette-lighter power cables with the appropriate adapter(s) attached. Even if you plan on limiting screen time while on the road, their devices can be charged while they nap or watch the scenery.

  • Something New

While it’s a great idea to bring along favorite toys, books, and games from home, there’s a good chance they’ll lose interest or become bored after playing with said item on a long road trip. A new book, game, or toy will hold their interest longer, and start the trip off on a great note. Savvy parents may even want to promise the new item at a milestone – say, the midpoint of the trip – to give their child something to look forward to, other than the end of the trip.

Explore your world and the universe though the Spartan and the Green Egg Series. Join the Explorer’s Club, enjoy interactive games, collect travel pins and more! Learn about the world and the SGE Explorers Today!

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Discover The Magic Of Iceland

With unique architecture, rugged coastlines, hot springs, mountains, fjords, volcanoes, lagoons, icebergs, glaciers, geysers, the Northern Lights, and waterfalls, Iceland is truly one of the most amazingly beautiful and extreme countries on earth. A Nordic island nation in Europe, Iceland has a vast Viking history and is known as a thrilling destination for explorers everywhere.

“I have fantasies of going to Iceland, never to return.” – Edward Gorey

Unbelievable Sights

  • Hofskirkja Church in Iceland is “the most recent grass-roofed church to have been built. Originally constructed in 1884, the roof stretches from its pointed top all the way to the ground.” Complete with stone slabs for steps, this style of architecture is unique to Iceland and is an effective way of staying warm during cold winter months.

  • Gullfoss is a famous waterfall that can be found in a canyon made by the Hvítá River. What makes the waterfall so famous is the way the water flows. Instead of just going downwards, the water flows in a unique shape that makes it look like a three-step staircase. The water then descends deep into a crevice that goes down over one hundred feet. When translated, the name of the waterfall is ‘Golden Falls.’” Gullfoss Falls is the most famous of all the waterfalls in Iceland and is a popular tourist attraction.

  • Landmannalaugar is “an encampment located on the dark edge of a rhyolite lava field in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. Surrounded by mountains, the encampment can only be accessed in the summer. There are many volcanic phenomena in the area, including a geothermal pool nearby that is popular for bathing.”
  • Did you know that Iceland has more hot springs or “solfataras” than any other country? These geothermal pools/alkaline hot springs are heated by volcanic vents. They are incredibly desirable destinations but can also be very dangerous because of boiling water. The largest of these is called “Deildartunguhver” and “emits nearly 50 gallons of boiling water per second!”

Ancient and Extreme

The earth in Iceland is underlain by a type of igneous rock called basalt; some of these rocks were formed over 16 million years ago!

(Follow Me Away)

  • The Westfjords region of Iceland is a peninsula that is definitely out-of-the-way so it’s difficult to navigate and is very vast. Famous for its beaches, the Westfjords boasts one with pink sand called “Rauðasandur.” Another beach with black-sanded shores called Reynisfjara is more well-known but no less extraordinary.
  • The nature to be seen is astounding! Puffins, whales and arctic foxes are all a part of the landscape and can be observed on cliffs near the Arctic Circle.
  • Haukadalur is a geothermal field or valley of hot springs known for its amazing geysers, Geysir and Strokkur (which have been active for about 10,000 years).
  • Earthquakes are actually common and frequent in Iceland but are rarely very serious or damaging.

(Atlas Obscura)

  • Jökulsárlón is a lagoon known for its beautiful and otherworldly ice floes and blue glaciers. It is also the deepest lake in Iceland (over 900 feet deep!).
  • Askja is an active volcano and is nestled within a group of “calderas” or volcanic craters surrounded by the Dyngjufjöll Mountains. One of the smaller calderas is home to a famous lake called Öskjuvatn. Located in the Highlands, this is the second deepest lake in Iceland (after Jökulsárlón).
  • The Northern Lights or “aurora borealis” can be seen in Iceland and is one of nature’s most majestic phenomena.

For more information on certain mentioned sights in Iceland and collectible pins from Spartan and the Green Egg, visit the links below:

For more information on geographical wonders of Iceland cited in this blog, consult the links below:

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Set Your Sights On Sweden


Sweden is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Give it some consideration when choosing your next travel destination!

Sweden is a European country located on the Scandinavian Peninsula, next to Norway. Located between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea, Sweden is known for its many coastal islands, lakes, rivers, moose, and Swedish meatballs. When we think of Sweden, we think of herring, Viking and Nordic culture, sleek and efficient interior design, and impressive educational institutions. Did you know that Sweden’s residents have an exceptionally high quality of life compared to the rest of the world?

(The city of Stockholm,

Explore Sweden with Spartan and the Green Egg

  • Visby is the most well-preserved medieval city in Sweden. It is full of historical remains, including the city “ring” wall that dates back to the 13th century, many church ruins, and cobble stone streets. Visby is only accessible by boat or airplane. Every year there is an annual medieval festival complete with tournaments, camping, and an old-town marketplace.
  • Old Tjikko “is a 9,550-year-old Norway spruce tree that can be found on the Fulufjället Mountain in Sweden. Historians believe that the Old Tjikko is almost ten thousand years old. Scientists were able to get a rough estimate of the age of the tree by examining the gigantic roots that run underneath the earth.”

Neat and Nordic


  • Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Sparsely populated, Sweden is a nature lover’s dream as there is lots of green space.
  • “At the peak of summer, the northernmost region of Sweden experiences a phenomenon known as the midnight sun. This is when the sun doesn’t completely dip below the horizon, creating 24 hours of daylight.” There is another natural phenomenon that occurs but, instead of lots of sunlight, there’s something called “polar nights” where twilight lasts for months on end. This is when the Northern Lights or the “aurora borealis” can be seen and is one of nature’s greatest spectacles.
  • According to ancient Norse Mythology, the first two people on Earth were tree logs brought to life by the pagan god, Oden. Sweden is famous for being nearly completely covered in forests: “Every year, 340 million trees are planted.” Not only is Sweden sustainable, but it is the perfect destination for hiking, camping, and tree-hugging!
  • “In 1994, a law was added to the Swedish constitution stating ‘everyone will have access to nature according to Allamansrätten (All man’s rights).’ This means that legally, anyone and everyone can hike, sleep for at least one night, forage, and swim pretty much anywhere in the country.”
  • Sweden is also home to the Nobel Prize ceremony (funded by Swedish businessman, chemist and engineer, Alfred Nobel). Nobel was an inventor and is most well-known for the creation of dynamite.

For more information on Sweden, exploration, world travel, and adventure, visit the website and consult the links below (and don’t forget to collect your explorer pins!):

To read more about the aurora borealis or the “northern lights,” check out Spartan and the Green Egg’s blog:

To read more about topics discussed in this blog, refer to the links below:

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Have you ever wondered about the best way to recycle? Learn good recycling tips

The Correct Way to Recycle

It’s no secret that recycling is good for the planet. Recycling is turning trash into something else. When trash is turned into something else, it keeps that new item from being made from scratch. That helps save the Earth’s resources. But what is the best way to recycle? That can be a hard question to answer. All recycling is good, but the more recycling you can do, the better.

Some materials are recyclable. Others aren’t. There are also some that you have to recycle in special ways or special places. Learning the correct way to recycle can help you do your part to save the planet. Here are some things you need to know before you start recycling.

Recycling Versus Reusing and Reducing
When you hear the word “recycle,” you might also hear “reuse” or “reduce” at the same time. Reducing means that you use fewer new things. Every time a new thing is made, it uses energy and resources. It takes time to replace those resources. There are lots of ways to reduce, like:

  • Buy used items you need instead of new ones.
  • Share items that you only need sometimes with friends or family members instead of getting your own.
  • Have your parents help you fix broken or torn things, like shirts. Then you can buy less of them.
  • Tell your parents to buy items for around the house in bulk. It saves money and reduces waste. They won’t have to throw out a lot of packaging materials all the time that way.

Reusing is exactly what it sounds like. It means you need to make sure as many items in your house as possible are reusable. Sometimes you can reuse the same item for the same purpose many times. Other times you can reuse the item in different ways. A water bottle is a good example of both because you could refill it with drinking water. You could also fill it with juice or another drink. When you’re done drinking out of it, you can use it to water plants, too.

Using a Recycle Bin

Recycling is really important, especially in areas where dumps or landfills are filling up fast. Most town leaders want to do anything they can to reduce the amount of trash that is thrown out. That is why many neighborhoods have curbside recycling. If yours does, it means you can put items in a recycling bin. The bin gets picked up on certain days each month. Curbside recycling protects the planet. Usually, any item with a triangle-shaped recycling symbol on it can go in your bin. Some other items often can also, but some companies have different rules. No matter what, items like these can never go in a recycling bin:

  • Batteries
  • TVs and Large Electronic Devices
  • Cellphones and Small Electronic Devices
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Vacuum Cleaners
  • Plastic Grocery Bags

Where Else You Can Recycle
A home recycling bin isn’t the only place to recycle. You can also visit your local recycling center if you have one. If not, your town dump may have certain days when they let you drop off items to
recycle. Your parents may have to pay to go on those days since there are usually charges for recycling items like appliances on those days. Another place you can often recycle is at a store that sells electronics, like TVs. A lot of those stores let you bring in broken items to dispose of them safely. Some also take dead batteries. Some makers of batteries also let you mail back dead batteries for recycling.

There are always opportunities to recycle, either officially or unofficially. For example, you can use items around the house for art projects if you want. You can also find people that need the things you want to get rid of. To find official recycling events, check your local paper and message boards to see when the next ones in your town are.

Doing Your Part for the Planet
There is a good feeling that comes from recycling and reusing items. You can know you are doing your part to protect Earth for yourself and all the people in the future. Recycling keeps the air and oceans cleaner. It also helps ensure resources won’t run out. That is why you can be proud of yourself whenever you recycle.

Learn more about how to save the planet with Spartan and the Gang! Go on adventures, rescue reefs, save the Amazon, and much more!

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I Want To Be An Astronaut!


Have you ever thought about space travel? Find out more about astronauts.

So you want to be an astronaut.

There are a lot of interesting and exciting jobs you can do when you grow up. Most of them are here on Earth. For instance, you could take care of animals as a veterinarian or people as a doctor. There are even jobs that let you work outdoors, like being a park ranger, an adventure tour guide, or a NASCAR mechanic.

If you really love space, what could be more thrilling than exploring it as an astronaut? Space is fascinating because so few people have actually traveled there, and there is still so much to discover about it. You might dream of becoming an astronaut and making some of those discoveries yourself when you grow up. But being an astronaut takes a lot of hard work and requires specific skills. Here’s what you need to know about being an astronaut.

The First Astronauts

There haven’t always been astronauts. In fact, it’s a pretty new job, compared to many others. The first American astronauts were named by the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) in 1959. They had to go through a lot of grueling training. Two years later, in 1961, two of them went into space in two different ships. Two astronauts from the USSR also went into space that year, but on one ship. Those four astronauts were:

  • Alan Shepard of the USA
  • Virgil Grissom of the USA
  • Yuri Gagarin of the USSR
  • Gherman Titov of the USSR

Between 1959 and 1969, astronauts made a lot of discoveries. One of the most important trips astronauts from the USA made was on a ship called Apollo 11. In 1969 it landed on the moon. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first men to walk on the moon. This remarkable event was live-streamed to many millions of viewers in multiple countries back here on Earth.

What Astronauts Need to Know

It’s great to love space. You can collect space pins or space patches to show your enthusiasm for space. But it takes a lot to become a real astronaut. You need to know many different things. That means you have to study really hard in school. Science is a very important subject to study. You can’t explore space if you don’t know about science.

Being an astronaut also means you have to know how to fly space vehicles. They have a lot of different buttons, switches, and machines onboard. If you are on a space station, you and your crew are the ones who will have to fix any problems that arise, so you will also need to know about computers and engineering. And it also helps to know a bit about medicine, since you have to take care of yourself and your crew if any of you become sick or injured.

Astronauts Need to Get Along

If you want to be an astronaut, you also need to be patient and friendly. You might be on a ship with only a small crew for a long time. You can’t work safely and efficiently if you are fighting with your team. There may even be times you need to talk to or work with astronauts from other countries. Learning another language can help you do that.

Start Early

If you really want to be an astronaut, tell your parents now. They might be able to send you to space camp or guide you towards studying the subjects you need to know. Astronauts have to take basic training in many subjects. If they pass those courses, they need advanced training in flight procedures. They also have to take tests to make sure they are healthy enough to go into space. Since it takes years to train to be an astronaut, starting to study early can help you reach your goal faster.

Find out more about the sun, moon, stars, and planets at Spartan & the Green Egg Website! Join Spartan and the Explorer gang as they and their alien friend EGG travel to amazing places around the world.

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Sensational Sights In Southern France

“The diffused magic of the hot, sweet south had withdrawn into them -the soft-pawed night and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below.…a sea as mysteriously coloured as agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk blue as laundry water, wine dark.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

The South of France: Explore with Spartan and the Green Egg

(Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Sticker)

  • Èze, a medieval hilltop village, is one of the most beautiful sights in all of southern France. Overlooking the French Riviera, Èze is known for its spectacular views and is nestled between Nice and Monaco. With narrow, cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, and houses painted bright colors, this charming and rustic village is one of the loveliest villages in all the world.

  • The Millau Viaduct, located in southern France, is the tallest bridge in the world. Spanning the entirety of the Tarn River Valley, the bridge is roughly one thousand and a hundred feet high (at its highest point). Made of concrete, steel, and cables, the Millau Viaduct was officially open for business in 2004 and is taller than the Eiffel Tower.
  • Pont du Gard in Nîmes is an ancient aqueduct and is a prime example of awe-inspiring Roman engineering. This magnificent structure was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
    This gorgeous structure, when summited, offers views of the sparkling Gardon River and is incredibly impressive in its history. At 2,000 years old, the ancient Roman aqueduct was an incredible undertaking. With arches that span “15 to 24 meters in the lower level, constructed at a time where the average span would have been four to five meters,” it is astounding that this structure was ever realized. Standing at a height of 50 meters (161 feet) and 274 meters (899 feet) long, the Pont du Gard is not only a remarkable bit of innovative architecture but a must-see sight, if only for its immense beauty.

(lavender fields in Provence,

  • Provence is a region in the southeastern part of France that borders Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its charming villages, olive groves, lavender fields, sunny weather, and friendly people, Provence is one of the most magical places in the world. Some amazing towns in Provence include:
  • Arles: is known for its Roman amphitheater and the Camargue region. Once a port city, it is now an area filled with salt marshes, brown bulls, white stallions, and pink flamingos. Imagine seeing all of these incredible creatures together in one place!
  • Avignon is probably most well-known for the Palais des Papes (Palace of Popes). A must-see!
  • St. Remy de Provence was founded by the Romans (the ruins of the ancient Celtic-Roman city of Glanum can be seen nearby, along with an arch “dating back to the first century B.C.”) and is right next door to the Ancient Monastère de St- Paul-de-Mausole (a monastery built during the 12th century). Vincent van Gogh also painted Starry Night here, one of his most beloved works.

Don’t forget to collect your Cannes explorer pin (sold individually).

Cool in Cannes
Think of all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood but it’s situated on the French Riviera. Is there such a place? It’s Cannes—home of the annual film festival! With white sand beaches brimming with movie stars and European sophisticates beneath brightly-colored umbrellas overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Cannes is the coolest place to be.

To collect your Spartan and the Green Egg explorer pins (sold individually) and travel stickers (sold as a set), visit the websites listed below:

For more information on the sights mentioned in this blog, consult the following websites:

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Best Virtual Tours for Kids

Travel Without Leaving Home: Top 5 Virtual Tours for Kids

Travel to some of the world’s most exotic locales, view some of Earth’s most impressive treasures including natural wonders, art museums and architectural miracles. And who knows….maybe these will inspire you to plan a trip in person one day!

The San Diego Zoo

Did you know that the San Diego Zoo is listed as one of the most visited Zoos in the U.S.? There’s a good reason for that. With more than 3,500 animals, many of them a part of a conservation program, their live streams are wonderful! Koalas, baby orangutans and penguins are some of the live cameras you can pop in on. Since these are live steams keep in mind the time of day it is. Most animals are more active in the morning hours, and during scheduled feeding times.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Enjoy a virtual visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where you can view sea otters as they play, sharks as they swim slowly overhead, or view the shimmering jelly fish. Monterey is located in California, so keep the time zones in mind when accessing the live streams. The Aquarium offers 10 different web cams to choose from. And, to take your tour a little further, there are educational booklets games & activities as well as curriculum to use with your virtual tour.

Go on Safari!

This virtual tour puts you in the seat next to a safari guide as he takes you through the habitat of lions, hyenas, leopards, elephants and wildebeest. Rangers tell you what you’re seeing while ‘traveling’ in the all terrain Jeep. Hosted through Facebook’s platform, the tour takes place twice a day. Keep in mind for younger children, that these safaris depict animals in their natural habitat, doing what they do, including eating animals they’ve killed. You can also ask the guide questions while the tour proceeds…just as if you were there!

The Louvre

Located in Paris, France, the Louvre is one of the world’s greatest collections of art. View the iconic Mona Lisa’s smile, ancient Egyptian Sphinx, and take a tour of the Louvre’s moat…a remnant from when it was a Medieval Castle. The museum offers free educational videos about works of art, many geared specifically for children under 12 years of age. You can also virtually tour much of the museum without leaving home!

The Great Wall of China

Stretching 4,000 miles, the Great Wall of China is considered a must see for any traveler. Check it out ahead of time with this virtual tour. It is easily one of the greatest wonders of the world. You can enter the virtual tour from several entrances, including Beijing, Mutianyu, Jinshanling and others. They were all built between the 14th-17th centuries.

Take the Tour with a Friend

If your child is missing his or her friends, then why not arrange for a virtual tour together? Coordinate times to login to the virtual tour site, then tour the rooms ‘together’. If you are tech savvy, you can use Zoom’s screenshare feature so that a whole group of friends can take the tour. If you’ve found yourself inside for longer than you’d hoped, there are many ways to travel and escape….and on the plus side, there’s no passport needed, no lines to wait in, and best of all….it’s free.

For more ideas, games, puzzles and activities, check out the Spartan & the Green Egg Graphic novel series by Nabila Khashoggi. Enjoy the adventures of the Explorers club, learn about conservation efforts, endangered animals, and foster a tolerance for others. Learn more at or

Traditional Houses Around The World

Where do you hang your hat and rest your head at night? There are all sorts of fascinating houses and architectural structures that vary around the globe, depending on climate, culture, etc. Where would you like to live…in a sturdy tent, perhaps? Or maybe even in a house perched on stilts above a rain forest?

A Yurt (also known as a “Ger”) is a popular Mongolian dwelling made up of latticework, poles, and felt-covered walls: it’s basically a sturdy tent. The nomadic peoples of Mongolia—an Asian country bordered by China and Russia—have lived in this traditional type of housing for centuries. “The capital city is the uniquely named Ulaanbaatar. It is named after the founder Genghis Khan, a famous Mongol conqueror from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Mongolia has a fascinating history since it has been inhabited by different civilizations for over forty thousand years.”

A Zulu hut or “Nguni homestead” is a common dome-shaped dwelling of the Indlu, or Nguni-speaking South African peoples. This exotic home resembles a sort of beehive and is common in countries such as Angola, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Join Spartan and his friends to learn more about other sights in South Africa (including the capital city of Cape Town and one of its most prominent attractions, Table Mountain) with Spartan and the Green Egg! Collect your Explorer Pin (complete with charming touches inspired by vintage travel labels) depicting the mountain “famous for having a completely flat plateau at the top. The plateau is roughly two miles long from side to side. The cliffs to the east are called Devil’s Peak, while the ones to the west are Lion’s Head.”

Longhouses are known for being homes to Native Americans as well as for tribal peoples in Indonesia and Malaysia, including Borneo. “The longhouses in Borneo are where the native Iban people reside and were some of the first structures that the Iban people built. The Ibans originated from the Dayak people, who were once a Malaysian tribe. While the traditional longhouses might not look impressive, they have a great deal of historical significance to anyone living in Borneo.” Longhouses are (hence their name) long, narrow homes and are particularly important because their architecture is so old; these were some of the earliest forms of structure ever built in cultures around the world. The Traditional Tribal Longhouse in the state of Sarawak houses up to one hundred families (each in separate rooms)! Because of the area’s beaches and rainforest, the house is built on stilts, high above the jungle.

Minka means “House of the people” in Japanese and is a type of lodging constructed in a traditional Japanese style. “Machiya” refers to townhouses while “Nōka” means “farmhouse”: these are the two types of buildings that constitute this form of architecture known as “Minka” and are very common in Kyoto (the former capital of Japan). “The city has a rich history and is filled with many ancient temples and shrines, as well as beautiful parks and gardens. There is over one thousand years worth of Japanese culture and history in the city of Kyoto.”

For more information about the countries and dwellings mentioned in this blog, consult Spartan and the Green Egg (along with the links below).

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The Origin Of St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love when people the world over express their affection with greeting cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and flowers (most traditionally red roses). So, how did it originate?


St. Valentine’s Day
The holiday has origins in the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia. The pagan festival celebrated the coming of spring after a long winter and was filled with feasting and even sacrifice. It wasn’t until the 5th century that Pope Gelasius I replaced this festival with St. Valentine’s Day. It has been a day to celebrate romance since the 14th century.

Who was “St. Valentine”?

  • “Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus.”
  • As legendary folklore goes, the priest wrote a letter with the inscription: ‘From your Valentine’ to his friend (who was also the daughter of the man who imprisoned him). This is most likely why we ask the ones we love to be our valentine or refer to loved ones as our valentine.
  • According to other sources, the social custom was named after “St. Valentine of Terni, a bishop.” It is conceivable that these two saints were, indeed, actually the same person.
  • Another common myth is that St. Valentine married off couples in secret to save husbands from having to fight in battle.

How to Celebrate
Of course, when Valentine’s Day is concerned, we all immediately think of sparkly red and pink hearts, lace-trimmed greeting cards emblazoned with the words “I Love You” and “Be My Valentine,” and cupids wielding a bow and arrow. What else do we think of? Bouquets of long-stemmed red (and pink) roses, stuffed animals, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, to name a few!

Cupid: Just a Chubby Cherub?

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” –William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)

  • Cupid is associated with the Greek god of love, Eros (son of Aphrodite).
  • In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus: “And by and by she called her winged son Cupid.”- Apuleius
  • The Latin word for Desire is “Cupido.”

Valentine’s Greetings

“She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew, And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forest grew.” –Edmund Spenser, “The Faerie Queen” (1590)

  • We all know that we surprise the ones we love with romantic Valentine’s Day greetings but did you know that a “Vinegar Valentine” was a popular token to send to someone who was disliked? This was a common practice during the Victorian era.
  • Don’t forget to sign your loving Valentine’s Day cards with X’s and O’s or the acronym SWAK (Sealed With A Kiss).

For more information on Valentine’s Day, its origins, and facts mentioned in this blog, consult the websites below:

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Collecting Is Fun!

Collecting as a Hobby
Have you ever felt a little bored? When you have run out of ideas for things to do, it’s usually time to find a hobby. Collecting is a fun and satisfying hobby that you can enjoy for many years to come, and there are so many great things in the world for you to choose to collect. The things you decide to start collecting now might still be your favorite things to collect when you get older, or you might also decide to collect something totally different when you get older. But for now, any collection can be a lot of fun.

Some things you might think about collecting are small and some are large. So, you need to make sure you have enough space for your collection. Smaller things might be extra fun because you can take them places easily and show them off. Here are some ideas about what you can collect.

Things to Collect
You can collect anything you want, as long as your mom and dad give you permission. One really interesting item to collect is stamps. Stamps come in many different colors and sizes. If you have a pen pal, you can even ask him or her to send you stamps from wherever he or she lives. You can also ask your friends and family members to save their stamps for you. Other popular things to collect are:

There are so many options and lots of different reasons to start your own collection. Here are some of the best.

Collecting Helps You Remember Things, People or Places
One reason to collect things is to remember something, somewhere, or someone you care about. When you go on a trip, you might want something to bring back home with you. Something like a t-shirt, a postcard, or a hat lasts a long time and brings back great memories. Another good thing to collect is a pin that shows where you went on your trip, like this one of the Grand Canyon.

Collecting Helps You Learn
There are lots of things you can collect that can help you learn about history or the world around you. For example, many coins have pictures of famous people or places on them. Some have images of other symbols representing certain places or times. Stamps also teach us a lot about history and important people who have made a difference in the world.

You Can Use Your Collection to Make Friends

Collecting is a great way to make new friends. You can talk about your collection at show and tell in school or even show it to other kids on the bus. If you collect things like stamps, coins, or pins, you can give any duplicates you have to friends as presents or trade with friends who collect the same thing. That way, you can all build your collections faster.

Collecting for Fun or Later Value
The most important reason to collect something is FUN! But, after time, some collections can become very valuable. For example, a baseball card you add to your collection today could be worth a lot of money many years from now. But because you can’t predict what something will be worth in the future, for now, it’s best to focus on collecting just for the fun of it.

Taking Care of Your Collection
No matter what you collect, you need to take care of your collection. Make sure you learn how to do that. Some collectibles, like comic books, can fade if left in the sun. Some collectibles shouldn’t ever get wet. Some items also break easily, so you have to be careful about how you store and carry them. Taking proper care of your collection will ensure that you can enjoy it for a very long time.

Find amazing collectibles at the Spartan & the Green Egg website, where Explorers can find adventure awaiting.

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Fungi Fairy Circles And Grass Rings In The Namib Desert

“If you see a fairy ring
In a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tiptoe as you pass;
Last night fairies frolicked there,
And they’re sleeping somewhere near.”
-William Shakespeare

Fairy Rings and Circles
Fairy ring (also known as a “fairy circles” or “elf” or “pixie circles”) are rings or semi-circles of mushrooms and toadstools in the grass and on the forest floor. They occur naturally and are quite the delight to see! It’s as if a group of fairies have been communing, each with their own little toadstool to sit upon. Fungi thrive in the damp, so it’s best to go hunting for fairy rings after a rainstorm.

Only certain kinds of mushrooms form rings where fairies dance inside. The most common fungi to form a fairy ring are probably the “Giant Puffball” (which looks exactly as you’d imagine). (Fairy illustration by Walter Jenks Morgan: British, 1847-1924)

The legend goes that you should not step inside a fairy ring for, if you do, you may be stuck within the magical circle forever with the dancing fairies! The dizziness of all the whirling and twirling may drive you mad!

If you do enter a fairy ring, wear your hat backward (for this will confuse the fairies), or you run around the ring nine times or during a full moon to break the spell. Of course, this is folklore and just for fun.

There are circumstances where fairy rings thrive in a not-so-damp place…actually in one of the driest places imaginable…the Namib Desert!

Sand Dunes and Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert

Spartan and the Green Egg’s explorer pin (and description) for the Namib Desert focuses on the magnificent sand dunes, but the desert is also known for its otherworldly, almost inexplicable fairy rings.

“The sand dunes located in the Namib Desert are some of the tallest in the world. Photographers love the sand dunes because of their red colors. The word Sossusvlei means ‘dead-end’ marsh. At the bottom of the dunes lies a small clay pond that is full of saltwater. During the rainy season, though, this small pond becomes a lake. The large dunes began their remarkable journey in the Atlantic Ocean, then traveled via the Benguela current northwards. The wind carried the sand all the way to Africa. This same wind shapes many of the dunes’ tops to look like stars.”

Mysterious rings (that can reach up to forty feet in size) form in the African desert and then, somehow, disappear. Some call these “ghost circles.” Some explanations as to their formation include “root-eating sand termites competing underground for resources and self-organizing plants competing above ground for water.” Whatever their exact cause (it is still up for debate), they are magical creations that only nature could provide.

For more information on collectible explorer pins, check out Spartan and the Green Egg’s website and all its fascinating facts about the world around us.

For more information about fairy rings, consult the websites listed below:

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Unique Animals Of Australia

The Unique Animals of Australia

Australia is both a continent and a country. It is also a group of islands. There is one large island, which is most commonly called Mainland Australia. Then there is the smaller island state of Tasmania, which is also part of Australia and just one of Australia’s many islands. Since it is so isolated from larger pieces of land, Australia was once used by the British as a place to send prisoners.

Something else that makes Australia unique is its wildlife. Many of its animal species are not found anywhere else on Earth, except in zoos. The reason for that is that they have no way to get from Australia to other countries or continents without people bringing them on boats or planes.

Australia is a dry continent. In fact, it is the driest of all the continents. Many species that live there have adapted to those dry conditions. Here are some fun facts about some of the most unusual animals in Australia.

Tasmanian Devils

You may have heard of the cartoon character named Taz, who is a Tasmanian devil. Don’t let his appearance fool you. A real Tasmanian devil is a small marsupial, which means an animal that carries its babies in a pouch. You can only find a Tasmanian devil in a zoo or on the Australian island of Tasmania, where they are often called tazzies. Here are some quick Tasmanian devil facts:

  • They make loud screaming noises.
  • Their jaws are strong, so they bite hard.
  • They often sneeze right before fighting with each other.
  • They are currently in danger of becoming extinct because of a rare and contagious tumor disease that only Tasmanian devils catch.


Like Tasmanian devils, Kangaroos are marsupials. They raise their babies in their pouches. Kangaroos come in different sizes and species. The much smaller wallaby is part of the kangaroo subfamily. It is estimated that before the devastating brush fires of 2020, about 50 million wild kangaroos called Australia home. That meant, the continent had more kangaroos than people.

Most kangaroos have back feet that look way too big for their bodies. They need them because Kangaroos jump a lot, and those big feet help them hop from place to place. Kangaroos can jump about three times their own height. They also have long, strong tails to help keep them balanced.

Another Australian marsupial is the Koala. Koalas are cute, cuddly-looking animals, but don’t let them fool you. Most of them are not very friendly. They live high up in eucalyptus trees. That’s because their favorite food is eucalyptus leaves, which are poisonous to other animals. They are very picky eaters and only eat the best leaves they can find. Koalas often run into trouble finding enough food because people and brushfires destroy their habitat.

Platypuses are Austrian animals with duck-like noses and bodies that look like little beavers. In fact, they are sometimes called duck-billed platypuses. Platypuses love the water. One thing that makes them pretty unique is they are part of the monotreme family. A monotreme is a mammal that lays eggs like a bird does.

One interesting fact about platypuses is they have poisonous spurs on their feet. They usually can’t kill people, although the venom is really painful, but they can kill some animals, including small dogs. Another odd thing about platypuses is nobody can agree on what to call two or more of them. Most people call them platypuses, but some people use the word “platypus” for both a single platypus or for more than one. There are also people who say “platypi” when talking about two or more at once.

More Australian Wildlife
The animals above are just some of the fun and interesting wildlife species found in Australia. For example, Australia is also home to a lot of unique birds. Among them are the cassowary and the kookaburra. There are also many amphibians and reptiles that live there, like the red-bellied black snake. So, if you ever visit Australia, there will be lots of great wildlife to see.

Explore Australian animals and more with Spartan and the Gang! Collect all of the pins, patches, and stickers from some of the most interesting places around the world.

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Thanksgiving: Traditions And Origin

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

–John F. Kennedy

Thanksgiving: A Day for Giving Thanks

 “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” from 1914, by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and, while a successful harvest yielded a great feast celebrated by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621, it didn’t become a national holiday until 1863, when it was declared so by President Abraham Lincoln. Now, in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving annually on the third Thursday of November.

Even though the feast in 1621 was bountiful and lasted for three days, this was not unique because festivals had been held after reaping a successful harvest for centuries by Native Americans and Europeans alike.

In 1620, frustrated peoples fled England in search of the New World where they could obtain religious freedom, so they set sail on a ship called the Mayflower. After a long and arduous journey, the pilgrims established a new village for themselves on what they called “Plymouth Rock.” After a fruitful harvest, they celebrated with a great feast to give thanks for their plentiful crop.

“While the tradition is mainly connected to the feast of the Pilgrims, the Puritans started the tradition before coming to the New World.” The Puritans rebelled against the Catholic Church and wished to only celebrate days of Thanksgiving or days of fasting, so, originally, Thanksgiving was not a day of feasting but of exactly the opposite.

Thanksgiving Rituals: It’s All About Gratitude

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”
– William Blake

Although the feast is what we generally think of on Thanksgiving, there are other traditions. Many go to church for a special service and, of course, we give thanks. Families and loved ones travel to be together and sit around the dining room table relishing over their blessings. People also attend football games and parades (most specifically, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, complete with enormous inflatable floats). Of course, upon giving thanks, we should also give back, so participating in charitable events is also common.

Festive Thanksgiving Decorations:

  • Cornucopia: A “horn of plenty” is a classic symbol of abundance. Overflowing with fruits, vegetables, and nuts, the horn is a representation of a well-reaped harvest.
  • Flowers (such as chrysanthemums, dried grasses, hypericum berries, asters, and daisies—all in festive colors such as orange and yellow)
  • Natural seasonal objects such as fallen leaves, Indian corn, acorns, etc.
  • Turkeys made of papier-mâché
  • Pumpkins and gourds
  • Pilgrim regalia, such as black hats with large, shiny buckles
  • Images to honor Native Americans such as items of ceremonial dress, feathers, etc.

Thanksgiving Food

Oddly enough, turkey most likely wasn’t served at the first “Thanksgiving” gathering in 1621. More likely, foods such as lobster, seal, and swan were eaten by the Pilgrims. Today we usually associate these foods with the holiday:

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes with gravy
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Corn
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Pies (especially pumpkin)
  • Fruit cake
  • Ham
  • Nuts
  • Apple Cider
  • Plum Pudding

For more information on how Thanksgiving came about (along with the information discussed in the blog), consult the links below:,Thanksgiving%20celebrations%20in%20the%20colonies.

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Autumn Scavenger Hunt

An Autumn Scavenger Hunt

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” – Emily Brontë

  • One important thing to remember when going on a scavenger hunt is, first of all, always go with an adult and, if you can, some friends. These sorts of activities are always more fun with loved ones.
  • Make a list of things you’d like to see and, as you discover them in the wild, check them off. Or, if you’d rather go without a list and simply write down what you see as it presents itself, that’s fine, too. The only rule is to have fun and to let nature reveal her wonder.
  • And don’t forget to watch the leaves dance on the breeze!

For Country and City Dwellers

  • Scavenger hunts and nature walks are ideal for everyone—in the country as well as the city. If you live in a rural area, it is definitely easier to distance yourself and find a pasture, open field, or forest, but that doesn’t mean that city-dwellers can’t witness nature in all her glory too. If you live in a city, go to a nearby park or nature conservatory.

What to Look For

  • A list of things to look for should definitely include: leaves of all shapes and sizes (you can be as specific as you like and even name the types of trees or simply identify the changing colors you observe), acorns, pine cones, birds’ nests, animals and insects—such as birds, deer, squirrels, rabbits, beetles, butterflies and worms— animal tracks, spider webs, stones, seed pods, wildflowers, berries, and mushrooms.
  • Either check off what you find on your list or make notes of what you discover. Briefly describe what strikes you! This makes for an excellent journal entry. After your walk, you can then research what you’ve found and its purpose in the natural world. This may spark an interest in something completely new and exciting.
  • If you walk by houses or buildings, take notice of holiday décor. Are there wreaths on front doors? What about Halloween decorations? Keep an eye out for pumpkins and scarecrows!
  • If you’re able to walk by a pond or stream, take some time to be still and look at the water. What do you see? Are there fish swimming or perhaps a frog sitting on a rock nearby? Who knows what you’ll observe if you’re quiet and patient.
  • Take a pair of binoculars with you on your journey and look for birds high in the treetops.

Don’t forget to take a token from your walk/hunt: a brilliantly colored leaf that has fallen to the ground is perfect for putting in a scrapbook while a smooth rock is an ideal relic for your treasure chest.

#traveltheworld #kids #seethesights #teachyourkids #fullcyclepublications #spartanandthegreenegg #books #nabilakhashoggi #OnTheBlog #littleexplorers #naturewalks #scavengerhunts

Halloween: Origins And Traditions

All Hallows Eve

Halloween is synonymous with children dressing up in fun, frightful costumes, gathering a haul of sweets while Trick-or-Treating, carving spooky Jack-o’-lanterns, bobbing for apples, haunted houses, and maybe catching sight of a witch flying through the night sky on her broom!

It’s a time for the celebration of the macabre: of ghouls and goblins, of sitting around a fire telling ghost stories, of watching scary movies and shouting “Boo!” to passersby as the falling leaves blow hither and thither on the misty evening breeze.

So, why exactly does Halloween have these connotations, and where does it come from?

Halloween: Origins and Traditions

The original tradition of Halloween started with the Celts in Ireland, Scotland, the UK, and the north of France over 2,000 years ago. A festival called “Samhain” was celebrated where people would dress up in costume to ward off ghosts and build bonfires. Instead of October 31st, this celebration took place on November 1st. Did you know that “Samhain” (pronounced “sow-in”) literally means “summer’s end” in the modern Irish language and that the Jack-o’-lantern is attributed to the Irish as well?

Halloween in America
Due to the strict religious beliefs of the Protestants in New England, Halloween was not widely celebrated. As the customs of different Europeans and Native Americans co-mingled, Halloween emerged and became a uniquely American notion. People would gather to celebrate the harvest with parties filled with food, drink, and music. Today Halloween parties are elaborate fun complete with over-the-top costumes, spooky decorations, and delicious treats.

Love Spells and Bats

Because bats are attracted to light as well as bugs, they mistake bonfires for the light from the moon and fly nearby. Ancient peoples took notice of this and immediately associated bats with their celebrations. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women would try and conjure a husband using love spells. Bobbing for apples became a tradition and the legend went that the first woman to reach an apple with her teeth would marry. Her future husband’s reflection would supposedly then appear in the water.

Halloween Celebrations and Festivals Around the Globe

  • Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in Mexico and in certain parts of Latin America. This is when lost loved ones’ graves are visited, tended to, and, according to tradition, spirits walk the earth for twenty-four hours to reunite with their families. Altars filled with marigolds, sugar skulls, and other goodies (including pan de muerto or “bread of the dead”) are erected to honor the dead.
  • Romanians celebrate their most well-attributed character on the Day of Dracula. Count Dracula (from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel) is known for residing in his eerie mansion in Transylvania, where he sucks blood from his victims using sharp fangs, loves to listen to the howling of wolves, and transforms into a bat at will.
  • The Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong (from mid-August to mid-September) is a celebration for restless or “hungry” ghosts, so food offerings are made and people have an excuse to feast.
  • Families in Cambodia pay their respects to the dead as well as the elderly on Pchum Ben. People visit temples and leave offerings such as flowers and sweet rice and beans wrapped in banana leaves.

For more information on Halloween and its origins, consult the websites listed below:

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Awaken Your Curiosity: The Wonder Of Caves

Marble Caverns of Carrera Lake, Chile

(Marble Caverns of Carrera Lake Explorer Pin)

  • Carved into the Patagonian Andes, the “Cuevas de Mármol” (as the locals call them) or “The Marble Caverns are made entirely out of different colored marble.”
  • Created over several thousand years from the nearby waves causing erosion, “the swirling blue of the cavern walls are a reflection of the lake’s azure waters.” With other shades of eye-popping color (such as white, gray, blue, and even pink), the caves change color depending on the time of year and water levels. The shades of blue intensify and, between the months of September and February, the ice melts in Lake Carrera (a glacial lake spanning the border of Chile and Argentina) and causes the water to turn a brilliant turquoise.
  • Reachable only by boat across waters too cold for swimming, the first sight of the caverns is a gorgeous spectacle and marvel of nature.

Giant Crystal Cave, Mexico

(Spartan and the Green Egg Giant Crystal Cave Explorer Pin)

  • The Giant Crystal Cave or “Cave of the Crystals” is an underground cave below the Sierra de Naica Mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico. “It is connected to another underground network, the Naica Mine, which is filled with selenite crystals.” These crystals fill the cavern and are massive in size (some are large enough to walk across); they are basically huge pillars made of the mineral gypsum. Discovered in 2000 by miners, these crystals are utterly amazing but very difficult for tourists to see due to hazardous conditions in the cave (mainly the unbearable heat).

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

(Batu Caves Explorer Pin)

  • The Batu Caves in North Kuala Lumpur is a major tourist attraction. The three large caves are situated in a limestone hill (complete with smaller caves, temples, idols, and statues). The Cathedral Cave is the largest and most popular of the Batu Caves, and its entrance is guarded by an enormous gold statue of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan. This ancient site (with limestone formations said to be 400 million years old) is very important to Malaysian peoples and practitioners of the Hindu faith all over the world.

Piusa Sand Caves, Estonia

(Piusa Sand Caves Explorer Pin)

  • The Estonian village of Piusa is known for many different things, but most travelers will know it for “the unique sand caves that are visible among the Piusa River.” Because of all the nearby sand quarries, there are many glass objects made in Piusa. The awesome caves are also known for the large colony of bats that hibernate there! What a creepy but amazing sight! Literally thousands of bats of several different species have been counted, and scientists come from all over to study them.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

(Waitomo “Glowworm” Cave Explorer Pin)

  • The Waitomo Caves are also sometimes known as the ‘Glowworm caves’ by natives to the Northern King County in New Zealand.”  The limestone caves are New Zealand’s most magical natural attraction; with thousands of glow worms, the caves are lit from within with an eerie green light. The thousands of tiny living stars give a magnificent light show, so boat rides through the grotto are common and nothing short of magical.

To travel vicariously through Spartan and the Green Egg and with the help of your imagination, collect your Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Pins! To learn more about the pins as well as Spartan and the Green Egg, visit the websites below:

For more information on the caves mentioned in this blog, consult the websites below:

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The First Days Of Autumn

“Nothing is more fleeting than external form, which withers and alters like the flowers of the field at the appearance of autumn.”

Umberto Eco

Well, it’s that time of year when the days shorten, the weather gets cooler, and leaves turn golden, and then…fall. Autumn is here—the time of year for the harvest, for giving thanks, and preparing for winter. So, let’s talk about the changing of the seasons and what it means, starting at the very beginning.

The Beginning of fall: 

This is when the leaves change colors and we get to experience magnificent fall foliage. The Fall Equinox occurs at the same time all around the world (but not on the same day each year) and, since ancient times, has been celebrated by all sorts of cultures, including the Incas, Mayans, and English at Stonehenge. It’s a very special time of year. 

Autumn Equinox Blessing

Traditions, Beliefs and Ways of Celebrating the Beginning of Fall

Harvest Festivals in Britain: In ancient times, Harvest was a festival celebrated in villages across England and was a celebration for the abundant gathering of corn. Merry-making, dancing, and a traditional tea or supper were shared by everyone. Imagine a party as lovely as that!

  • Six Days of Higan in Japan: a Buddhist celebration where the dead are remembered (very much like Dia De Los Muertos around Halloween). “Higan” means the “other shore” and refers to the spirits reaching Nirvana. People use this time to visit, clean, and decorate graves with their loved ones.

Natural Beauty to Witness and Fun to be Had

  • Fabulous Foliage: One of the most enjoyable parts of fall is watching the leaves turn from bright green to fiery reds and oranges, bright yellows, and russet. It’s also fun to play in the piles of raked leaves and to hear them crunch underfoot!
  • Fiery sunsets arrive earlier in the evening, leaving us with shorter days and longer, chilly nights.  This is when you need cozy blankets and cuddly plush toys on your bed.
  • Use this time to bake cookies and pies with your children and loved ones.
  • Read spooky stories.
  • Carve a pumpkin.
  • Go for walks and take a book with you!
  • Roast marshmallows.

For more information on Spartan and the Green Egg, the world of wonder it has to offer and collectible explorer pins, visit

For more information mentioned in this blog about the autumn solstice, find the sources listed below:

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In Awe Of The Aurora Borealis

“And the Aurora Borealis was out. I’ve seen it only a few times in my life. It hung and moved with majesty in folds like an infinite traveler upstage in an infinite theater. In colors of rose and lavender and purple it moved and pulsed against the night, and the frost-sharpened stars shone through it. What a thing to see at a time when I needed it so badly!”

– John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, 1962

Awesome and Awe-Inspiring: the Aurora Borealis

  • The Aurora Borealis or “the Northern Lights” is one of nature’s most incredible spectacles: imagine a fireworks show created by Mother Nature!
  • With Spartan and the Green Egg and their collectible explorer stickers, you can learn about one of the night sky’s most awesome displays of colorful shimmering lights. “The Northern Lights in Alaska are named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora. They can be seen in Alaska late at night or very early in the morning. The lights are a beautiful mix of green, blue, or red.”

(the Northern Lights: a vivid green hue)

What Causes this Ethereal Phenomenon?
Sparkling, dazzling, eerie, beautiful, magical…all of these adjectives are used to describe the Northern Lights. So, what causes them?

  • “Electrons from solar winds mixing with gasses found in the atmosphere” are what causes the awesome light show. In more complete terms: “The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere.”
  • And what causes the incredible colors?
  • “Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.” What’s your favorite color in the Aurora Borealis?


Where to See the Northern Lights
Set out to see this miraculous marvel of nature! Other than Fairbanks, Alaska, “the best places to watch the lights (in North America) are in the northwestern parts of Canada, particularly the Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories. Auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway, and over the coastal waters north of Siberia. Southern auroras are not often seen as they are concentrated in a ring around Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean.”
Here are some specific places where the lights are visible:

  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Tromsø, Norway
  • Lapland, Finland
  • Orkney, Scotland
  • Yellowknife, Canada
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

(the Aurora Borealis seen in Iceland)

Myths and Legend: Spirits and Reflections
As with everything beautiful and mysterious in the world, there is usually some sort of fantastical myth surrounding its existence. As for the Northern Lights, there are ancient legends from around the globe that people have believed for centuries.

  • “The Maori of New Zealand shared a belief with many northern people of Europe and North America that the lights were reflections from torches or campfires.” The soft glow of a campfire in the cold night was a sign of survival.
  • “The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin believed that the lights indicated the location of manabai’wok (giants) who were the spirits of great hunters and fishermen.” Can you imagine giant glowing spirits roaming the earth and night sky?!
  • “Native Alaskan Inuit tribes used to believe the lights were spirits of whales, seals, salmon, and other animals in the region” while it is also believed, by other aboriginal peoples, that the lights were ancestral spirits.
  • In Norse mythology, the reddish colors of the aurora were thought to be a bridge made of fire in the sky, built by the gods.

For more information on how to collect your Spartan and the Green Egg explorer pins and stickers, visit the website below:
For more information on the Aurora borealis, what causes it and where to see it (along with other topics), check out the webpages that were consulted in this blog:

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The Fascinating Sun

All About the Sun

When you look up at the night sky, it’s easy to see all the stars. Did you know there’s a star you can also see clearly during the day? It’s the sun, the star in the middle of our solar system. In fact, the word “solar” means “relating to the sun.” Without the sun, the Earth couldn’t exist. It gives us light and heat.

The sun doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes there are special events that change how it looks. Solar flares and eclipses are a couple of examples. The sun also changes things here on Earth, like the weather and the seasons. Here are some fun facts you should know about the sun.

Quick Sun Facts

You might have a lot of questions about the sun. How old is it? How large is it? How hot does it get? What is it made of?
Here are some answers:

  • The sun is about 4.5 billion years old, according to scientists.
  • The sun’s diameter is 864,000 miles.
  • The surface of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The sun is mostly made up of the two gases hydrogen and helium.

What Solar Flares and Sunspots Are
Even though the sun’s surface has an average temperature of about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the whole surface isn’t that temperature all the time. Some areas are colder. From Earth, those areas look dark. Sometimes, the sun’s energy causes heat to increase and make string-like energy bursts near those cooler spots. Those are solar flares.

Seeing the Sun and Moon at the Same Time
Maybe you have your Spartan and the Green Egg sun and moon patches sewn closely together on your backpack or jacket. You can see them together in the actual sky, too. The sun and moon only appear to show up and disappear in the sky at certain times. They are both always in the space that surrounds Earth. They don’t go away. That’s why, when there is enough light reflected off the moon’s surface, you can sometimes see both at the same time.

What a Solar Eclipse Is

Unlike this fun sun pin, which you can see anytime, the real sun is not always totally visible in the sky. You can’t see it at night, and you also can’t see it during a solar eclipse. A solar eclipse sometimes happens because the Earth goes around the sun. That is called orbiting. The moon orbits the Earth. As the moon and Earth move, sometimes the moon gets in between the sun and the Earth. For a few minutes, that blocks the sun from view. That’s different from a lunar eclipse, which happens when the shadow of the Earth and the orbit of the moon meet.

Why People Get Sunburns
Have you ever been to the beach or outside too long and gotten a sunburn? You might wonder why. The reason is the sun’s rays cause your skin to heat up. Your body tries to protect itself from the sun by changing the color of your skin. It does that using something called melanin, which gives your skin its color. People with dark skin usually tan, and people with light skin usually burn. That’s because of how much melanin there is. No matter what color your skin is, too much sun is unhealthy for your skin, so you should always wear sunscreen when you are outside a lot. And never look directly at the sun. Not only is it painful to do so, but it can also cause serious damage to your eyes, even blindness.

What Would Happen if There Was No Sun?
A lot of bad things would happen if there was no sun. Without the sun, our world would be completely dark as soon as our electricity runs out. Plants need a lot of sunlight to grow, so without the sun, all plant life on Earth would eventually die, as would all the animals and humans. The oceans would also freeze over because Earth would get so cold. The sun keeps the Earth, and all the other planets, in orbit. So, without the sun, all the planets would fly off and possibly collide into each other. As you can see, the sun is very important to our existence, so take some time to appreciate it.

Learn more about the Sun and the Planets on the Spartan & the Green Egg website! Join the Explorers and collect solar system pins, patches, and stickers. See if you can collect them all!

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Explore Magnificent World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Lost City of the Incas: Secrets and Fun Facts

Spartan and the Green Egg explorer pin

Machu Picchu: One of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, this Incan city is located above the Urubamba River Valley high in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Machu Picchu, often called the “Lost City of the Incas” was built in the 15th century and later abandoned. During the extraordinary construction of Machu Picchu, the Incas did not use animals, iron tools, or the wheel. It is said that hundreds of men were used to push the stones up steep mountains that are almost eight thousand feet above sea level. It is known for its brilliant engineering, intelligent astronomical alignments, and panoramic views.

Actually, “When the explorer Hiram Bingham III encountered Machu Picchu in 1911, he was looking for a different city, known as ‘Vilcabamba.’ This was a hidden capital to which the Inca had escaped after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1532.”

  • When it comes to archaeology, Machu Picchu is one of the most important sites in the world. It is known for its Temple of the Sun, ruins of palaces, plazas, and temples. The citadel (or fortress built on high ground) was so expertly built (without mortar) that the joins between its granite stones cannot be penetrated, even with a blade.
  • Machu Picchu is known as a historic sanctuary and evidence of the Inca Empire at its height of accomplishment. The ruins sit atop a high ridge complete with many peaks above the Urubamba River in Peru’s Andean Highlands.
  • It’s a mystery: because the Incas had no written language, there are no records of why this incredible city was built. There is also no evidence as to why it was abandoned.
  • Hidden high in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is located near the Amazon River basin and is covered in tropical forests. It is one of the most popular sites in the world. And how does one get there? On foot, of course.

Hidden Secrets

  • Built on top of two fault lines, the ruins of Machu Picchu are said to move around when earthquakes hit, but, somehow, the stones remain intact.
  • Many of the secrets of the site are underground: it is thought that as much as 60% of the site was constructed beneath the ground.
  • The small green peak “Huayna Picchu” is one of the most popular pinnacles to climb but it’s not the only one: at the opposite end, there’s another peak commonly referred to as “Machu Picchu Mountain” that stands 1,640 feet tall. The bird’s eye views from these points are spectacular.

Don’t forget to collect the Spartan and the Green Egg Machu Picchu explorer pin and, while you’re at it, experience the amazing World Heritage Site without leaving the comfort of your home by taking a look at this SGE video:

For more information on Machu Picchu, consult the websites mentioned on the blog:
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The Oldest Living—And Non-Living—Things On Earth, Part II

The World’s Oldest Living Plants and Animals

(Jaya Sri Maha Bohi (fig tree),

One of the oldest living trees on Earth can be found in Sri Lanka. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the name of the oldest living tree on record and began as a cutting from the fig tree that Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) was said to have prayed and meditated beneath in India. That original fig tree (or “Ficus religiosa”) is long gone, but the one that remains in the Mahamewna Gardens (Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka) is said to be 2,300 years old.

(The “Thousand-Year Rose,”

Hildesheim, Germany, is the home to the world’s oldest living rose. At 1,200 years old, this rose bush is still blooming! Growning alongside a Catholic Cathedral dedicated to Saint Mary, the rose is known as “The Thousand-Year Rose” or the “Hildesheim Rose.” It is thought to have been planted sometime around the year 800 by King Louis the Pious.


The Galápagos Tortoise is one of the most extraordinary creatures imaginable. Not only do they grow enormous in size (up to five feet in length and over 500 pounds) but are also known to live a very long time. Many in the wild live to be 100 (or more) years old! Many Galápagos Tortoises have been killed off throughout the years and are now an endangered species, so it’s extremely important that we educate ourselves on the plight of these incredible animals; thanks to The Charles Darwin Research Station much-needed assistance is being provided for these magnificent tortoises that, of course, live on the Galápagos Islands in South America. The Islands are actually an archipelago located in Ecuador, in the Pacific Ocean. To learn more about the Galápagos Islands, collect your very own Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Travel Sticker today!

(Galápagos Islands Explorer Sticker)

One of the World’s Oldest Structures

(Sigiriya Explorer Sticker)

Speaking of Sri Lanka, the ancient city of Sigiriya is also located in the island country of South Asia. Sigiriya Citadel Rock is an ancient fortress that sits atop a rocky plateau formed from the magma of a now extinct volcano. This plateau was formed way back during the 3rd century BC (over 2,000 years ago). Amidst the jungles of Sri Lanka, this fortress is an incredible sight to behold as it sits 200 meters high and has walls that measure over six hundred feet in height. “A lion was carved into the stone by King Kasyapa, who was responsible for building the palace.” The word “Sigiriya” originally comes from “Sihagri” (which means “lion rock”). For more information on this amazing and awe-inspiring structure, visit your friends at Spartan and the Green Egg and collect the Sigiriya Explorer Sticker (along with the Sri Lanka Explorer Flag Pin).

For more information on the oldest living things mentioned in this blog, historical sites, and Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Stickers, visit the websites listed below:

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Extreme Camping And Travel Destinations

Ready, Set, Adventure! Africa: Mountains, Hills, Lakes and Waterfalls

“No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”
-Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1936

Don’t forget to collect your Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Stickers to inform and entertain as you imagine your next journey!

Mount Kilimanjaro: Located in Tanzania, East Africa, this 19,000-foot tall wonder has three distinct peaks and is of great interest to scientists because of the effects of climate change, including melting icecaps and shrinking glaciers. Ernest Hemingway—famous not only for his brilliant writing but life as an avid explorer and hunter—wrote of the magnificent mountain peaks and dormant volcano in his short story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to climb a mountain or even a dormant volcano?! Mount Kilimanjaro is technically a “stratovolcano.” As it is the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain on earth, climbing Kilimanjaro is a popular feat for climbers but is not to be taken lightly as, without the proper training and equipment, it can be extremely dangerous. ClimbingKilimanjaro offers services for explorers who wish to successfully climb the mountain and has a 96% success rate (you must be at least 10 years old to climb Kilimanjaro.) Experienced guides have helped over 15,000 adventurers to safely reach the summit, Uhuru Peak—the highest in all of Africa! Also, on the way up the stratovolcano, there are campsites where climbers can pitch a tent and rest. Imagine camping at high altitudes on your way to Africa’s greatest peak.

Lake Nakuru: Located in Kenya, this small alkaline lake provides a home for hundreds of species of birds. As many as two million flamingos have been seen all gathered together on the lake, feeding on algae in the warm waters. Imagine this magnificent scene in nature filled with pink flamingos!

Great Wildebeest Migration: Every year, nearly two million wildebeest travel across the plains in the Serengeti to find new grazing land in Masai Mara. This amazing migration is considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

Green Hills of Africa (1935) is a non-fiction work by Ernest Hemingway about his two-month safari in East Africa. If one is interested in African safaris, wildlife, and breathtaking adventure, The Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda will bring Hemingway’s accounts to life. Complete with the magnificent waterfall, Murchison Falls (also known as “Kabalega Falls”), the River Nile, sandbanks where crocodiles and hippopotamuses sunbathe and the Budongo Forest, this National Park is truly one of the most amazing places to visit and explore. One can also gaze upon giraffes, cape buffalo, chimpanzees, elephants, warthogs, and hundreds of bird species in their native habitat.

• “The Rwenzori Mountains are part of East Africa, found along the border between Uganda and the Congo. The Rwenzori Mountains are very important to both regions because they support glaciers that feed water into the river Nile. The highest peaks of the mountains are over sixteen thousand feet high and are constantly covered in snow. Historians believe the mountains were formed over three million years ago. Locals often refer to them as the Mountains of the Moon.”

Sand and Sea

“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

– Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, 1952

• “Cuba is most well known for having gorgeous sandy beaches and producing high-quality adult products, such as fine rum and cigars. The Caribbean island has a very rich culture, and is filled with many great clubs and cabarets. Due to political reasons, Cuba has mostly been cut off from travelers and tourists in the past, giving the island a mysterious allure.”

Hemingway also wrote of Cuba in one of his most well-known books, The Old Man and the Sea. The short novel details the story of an old fisherman who struggles to catch a giant marlin in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream off the Cuban coast.

Cuba—which is now open to travelers—is a beautiful destination known for warm, crystal clear waters and beaches, such as Varadero (one of the most popular in the Caribbean) and caves (Cueva de Ambrosio and Cueva de Musulmanes). Cuba is also known for its underwater park, Cayo Piedra, which is ideal for exploration. Snorkelers can discover underwater worlds filled with shipwrecks and all sorts of colorful fish!
There’s also deep-sea fishing and even skydiving!

“Water, water, water…There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”

– Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, 1968

Death Valley is a land of extremes. It is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. According to the National Park Service, “this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes.” There is, surprisingly, a certain balance as “each extreme has a striking contrast.” There are actually occasional rainstorms, and, from these, wildflowers bloom. There are also frosty mountain peaks covered with snow, and wildlife can sustain on fish found in lush oases.

Sailing Stones at Racetrack Playa: The Sailing Stones are found in Death Valley, California and are sometimes referred to as the moving or sliding stones. The stones earn their name because they move completely on their own. The sliding stones always leave a noticeable trail of sand where they have traveled. Most of the rocks slide to a dry lake bed called the Racetrack Playa. These stones and the marks they leave in the sand are a sight to behold for any traveler.

For more information on what Spartan and the Green Egg has to offer (including Explorer Stickers) along with more helpful insights on the extraordinary destinations mentioned in this blog, consult the websites listed below.

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Up In The Air: The World’s Tallest Buildings

“Less is a Bore.” –Architect, Robert Venturi
A Bird’s Eye View: The Tallest Buildings in New York City

(“Lunch Atop a Skyscraper”, Originally printed in the New York Herald-Tribune on October 2, 1932–800 feet in the air, at what is now Rockefeller Center)
“[H]e could see the island of Manhattan off to the left. The towers were jammed together so tightly, he could feel the mass and stupendous weight. Just think of the millions, from all over the globe, who yearned to be on that island, in those towers, in those narrow streets! There it was, the Rome, the Paris, the London of the twentieth century, the city of ambition, the dense magnetic rock, the irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening-and he was among the victors!”
― Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities, 1987

(Vintage postcard depicting King Kong atop the Empire State Building)

    • The Empire State Building: New York isn’t called the Empire State for nothing! As of 2019, the Empire State Building was ranked as the 6th tallest in the city. Standing at 1,250 feet and complete with 102 floors, this Midtown marvel was completed in 1931 and is probably the most iconic building in all of New York City.

(The Chrysler Buildingat night)

  • The Chrysler Building: Known for its iconic beauty (some say, when lit up at night, it resembles a Christmas ornament), The Chrysler Building was built in 1930 and is 1,046 feet tall. The Manhattan skyline wouldn’t be the same without it.
  • The New York Times Tower: At 1,046 feet, this building is the pinnacle of journalism as a structure. It is home to the New York Times Company and newspaper, along with the International New York Times.
  • Three World Trade Center: Completed in 2018, this mighty building stands tall at 1,079 feet.
  • 30 Hudson Yards: The newest addition to the list of very tall buildings in New York City can be found in the trendy neighborhood of Hudson Yards. Completed in 2019, this building stands at 1,268 feet.

  • One World Trade Center: At 1,776 feet, this World Trade Center building is the tallest in New York City. Completed in 2014, it is located in the Financial District and is a symbol of hope for New Yorkers. We must never forget what happened involving the original Twin Towers (World Trade Center) on September 11th, 2001.

And the Rest of the World! The Tallest Buildings in the World Ranked!
“The city buildings in the distance are holding up the sky, it seems.”
― Markus Zusak, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, 2000

(Photo of Burj Khalifa courtesy of SOM)

  1. Burj Khalifa: The tallest building in the world! Completed in 2010, the Burj Khalifa—located in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, stands at a staggering height of 2,716 feet. It also has the highest observation deck in the world (talk about a bird’s eye view!) as well as the elevator with the longest travel distance. Imagine the view from the observation deck overlooking the city of Dubai! It truly is a modern-day architectural marvel.
  2. Shanghai Tower: The tallest building in China (and the second tallest in the world)! Completed in 2015, the Shanghai Tower is 2,073 feet tall.
    (Makkah Royal Clock Tower)
  3. Makkah Royal Clock Tower: At 1,972 feet, this magnificent clock tower is located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and was completed in 2012.
  4. Ping An Finance Center: At nearly 2,000 feet (1,965 feet to be exact), this structure in Shenzhen, China, has 120 floors. Construction was completed in 2017.
  5. Lotte World Tower: Completed the same year as the Ping An Finance Center, the Lotte World Tower—located in Seoul, South Korea—is a staggering 1,819 feet tall.

For more information on the remarkable architecture mentioned in this blog, consult the websites cited below.
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The Temple Of Angkor Wat

Learn MORE About the Temple of Angkor Wat

What really gives Cambodia its identity better than the ? There is no religious monument that makes Cambodians prouder than this incredible temple. Did you know that the Temple of Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the whole world? The temple is dedicated to the Hindu God, Vishnu, known as the ‘protector,’ though it was later converted to a Buddhist monastery.

Fun Facts about the Temple of Angkor Wat

The Angkor Wat temple was built between the year 1112 and 1152 by King Suryavarman II. It was initially a temple for worship before it was transformed into a Buddhist temple. The temple is located 3.4 miles from the Cambodian town of Siem Reap. The term Angkor Wat means “temple city” and it covers an area of about 500 acres. All of the pyramids in Giza, including the Sphinx could fit inside Angor Wat’s compound and still have a lot of room left over! The central tower, which is also the tallest at the Angkor Wat temple, stands at 65 meters tall. It is surrounded by other small towers and enclosure walls.

 The Celestial Beings at Angkor Wat

Within the temple’s main area, there are more than 3000 carvings of heavenly beings. They are curved on the walls of the temples and none of them looks like the other. Thirty-seven of these carvings have different hairstyles from one another. The temple, itself, was carefully designed to be in harmony with the universe, so there are areas of the temple that are aligned with the sun, and some with the moon. When viewed from above, the entire temple area looks like a giant Mandala. A Mandala is a work of art that represents the universe. So, quite literally, Angor Wat represents the universe on Earth.

Elephants in the Temple

It took about 6000 elephants to build the Angkor Wat Temple. What exactly did the elephants do? The sandstone blocks that were used to build the temple were dug up 50 kilometers away from the construction site. Even though they were floated on rafts and transported through the Siem Reap River, elephants were also used to transport the stones from the river to the site. There were more than 300,000 people who were involved in the construction of the Angkor Wat Temple. Despite all of this work, the temple is not considered completed!

Visiting Angor Wat

The Khmer people of Cambodia respect the Temple of Angkor so much because it is very spiritual ground. Anyone who wants to go to the highest level of the temple must dress in a respectful manner. If you are wearing a pair of shorts, they must reach your knees. Any shirt you wear must cover your upper arms too. This is not a place for beachwear. There are even more conditions that you have to adhere to while at the temple. For example, you are not allowed to sit or touch any of the ancient structures. There are Buddhist monks who use the temple for worship, and so you have to be on your best behavior at all times.

#traveltheworld #kids #seethesights #teachyourkids #fullcyclepublications #spartanandthegreenegg #books #nabilakhashoggi #OnTheBlog

Explore your world and the universe though the Spartan and the Green Egg Series. Join the Explorer’s Club, enjoy interactive games, collect travel pins and more! Learn about the world and the SGE Explorers Today!

Explore Scotland: Lighthouses, Castles, Fortresses And Ancient Villages!

My Heart is in the Highlands!

Scotland is known for its rolling green hills and mountain ranges, highlands, lowlands, castles, ancient ruins, fortresses, lochs (lakes) such as its most famous Loch Ness, and glens (or valleys). When one thinks of castles, we think of fairytales with kings and queens, princes and princesses. We think of medieval times, ancient history, and maybe even an underwater monster!


Edinburgh Castle (

  • Edinburgh Castle sits on top of Castle Rock (which is actually the remains of an erupted volcano) and is truly a sight to behold. It has been occupied by royalty since the 11th century and is known for its majesty and grandeur. It was attacked until the 19th century and was known as one of the world’s “most besieged” places in Great Britain. Today, it is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions.

Inverness Castle (

  • Inverness Castle is a structure built in the neo-Norman style and has been since the 1800s. An original structure was built as long ago as the eleventh century AD and was then rebuilt in the 18th century.

Dunnottar Castle (

  • Dunnottar Castle is a fortress now in ruins as it sits atop a cliff on the North Sea. Its walls were once impenetrable.

Balmoral Castle (

Kenmure Castle (

  • Kenmure Castle is located near New Galloway in southwest Scotland. The oldest part of the castle—its tower—was built in the 16th The castle ruins have witnessed many fires and stands upon rock and marshy ground.

Other Sights to Behold: Collect your Corresponding Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Stickers Today!

  • The Antonine Wall is a structure made of stone that was built by the Romans around 140 AD. The ancient ruins remain standing and, in some places, are as high as ten feet.

  • Fingal’s Cave is a sea-cave rising 72 feet tall and 270 feet deep. Its interior walls are made of hexagonal columns of basalt which are shaped as six-sided pillars. The cave is known for its colorful interior as well as the wonder it provided the ancient Irish and Scottish Celtic people while the island of Staffa is known for the puffins that nest there.

  • The Bell Rock Lighthouse is located off the coast of Angus, Scotland, and was built between 1807 and 1810. It is the oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse in the world. During the first and second World Wars, the lighthouse exhibited a light when ships were expected to pass the Inchcape reef.

  • Loch Ness is famously known for the myth that an enormous underwater monster lives within its deep waters. Existence of the Loch Ness Monster has never been proven. The first sighting was in 1933, and since then it has become a tourist attraction. The actual lake is known for the immense depth of the water.  Located in the Scottish Highlands, the freshwater lake is nearly 800 feet deep.

Shakespeare’s Scotland

“Yet do I fear thy nature;

It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.”

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 1.5

(“Lady Macbeth” by James Parker, 1800)

  • Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth (1606-07) is about a young general who is told (by three witches no less) that he will, one day, be king of Scotland. Shakespeare’s play is a masterwork of drama as it explores the effects of political power and just how far one will go to get it.

For more information on Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Stickers and how to collect them, visit the websites below:

For more information on Scotland, its castles, other amazing attractions and ancient ruins, consult the websites mentioned in this blog post:

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Learn About Egypt

Learn MORE About the Pyramids of Egypt

What is square on the bottom, has four sides, and four triangles that come together in a point at the top? A pyramid of course! Most people think that pyramids were only built by the Egyptians, but actually they were built by many different groups of people throughout history. But the Egyptians took the art of pyramid building to new heights, building them bigger and stronger. To this day, nearly all of the pyramids that have stood the test of time are located in Egypt.

Fun Facts about the Pyramids of Egypt

The most famous pyramids today are the Great Pyramids of Giza, which are specifically located at a place named Giza along the west banks of the Nile River in Egypt. There are three pyramids that make up the Great Pyramids of Giza. The largest among them is called the Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu) and is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Did you know that it took more than 100,000 people and close to 20 years to make the Great Pyramid, alone? The Great Pyramid has two million stone blocks, and each block weighs 5,000 pounds. Another amazing fact is that millions of blocks weighing all together between 2.5-5.5 million tons were cut, and transported to the construction site before they were precisely assembled to make pyramids. The Great Pyramid currently stands 451 feet high. To this day no one knows exactly how ancient Egyptians managed to build such massive structures, and no one today has been able to build one exactly like they did.

Pyramids Were Burial Chambers

So why did ancient Egyptians bury their dead in pyramids? It was not just the body of the dead who were placed in these pyramids, but their treasured belongings as well. Ancient Egyptians were so loyal to their pharaohs that they wanted them to live forever. They believed that if they mummified the pharaohs after death and placed them in the tombs then they would live forever. Throughout most pyramids there are star chambers to allow the soul of the dead to pass out of the burial chamber and join their ancestors in the sky. The steep sides of the pyramids were made so that they could assist the kings’ souls to ascend easily to heaven.

Egyptian Pyramids and Treasure Hunters

A pharaoh’s tomb was filled with all types of precious metals, jewels, and artifacts during burials. Throughout the centuries graverobbers stole most of the contents within the pyramids in Egypt. However, those pyramids that were covered with sand before the graverobbers could find them are still being discovered today, full of rich treasures and artifacts from thousands of years ago. Scientists become excited when they make such a find because it gives them a look back at the history of an ancient time, and tells them how people lived and what was important to them.

The Egyptian Pyramids are Guarded by a Lion

At the pyramids of Giza, there is a sphinx that rests in front of the pyramids. The sphinx is a sculpture that has the body of a lion but the face of pharaoh. It is believed that the sphinx protects all the pyramids of Giza.  The sphinx is approximately 238 feet long, and over 65 feet tall. His ancient name translates as: The Father of Dread.

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Explore your world and the universe though the Spartan and the Green Egg Series. Join the Explorer’s Club, enjoy interactive games, collect travel pins and more! Learn about the world and the SGE Explorers Today!

Where To See The World’s Fastest Animals!


The World’s Fastest Land Animals

The Cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal; it runs more quickly than any other creature and can reach speeds up to sixty miles per hour in about three seconds! A cheetah usually sprints after its prey and can run as fast as seventy-five miles per hour. The animal exerts a lot of energy in a short amount of time: not only does it move at alarmingly fast speeds but is very nimble, agile, and has terrific eyesight. Cheetahs live mostly in Africa (and a few can be found in parts of Iran). Cheetahs can be found in the Southwestern portion of the continent in Namibia while the Northwestern African Cheetah is native to the Sahara desert and the Sahel.

Spartan and the Green Egg’s Explorer Stickers make it possible to see the world! Collect the Sand Dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert sticker in order to learn more about Namibia—one of the homes of the cheetah.

For more information on another of the cheetah’s homes, collect the Richat Structure explorer pin. Known as the “Eye of the Sahara,” this geologic dome is one of the most impressive sites in the Sahara desert.

  • The Greyhound is the fastest dog there is and can run up to forty-five miles per hour! They were originally bred for hunting hares and foxes and are native to Europe and Eurasia.
  • The Wildebeest (found in Ghana and the African Savanna) is also known as a “gnu” and is actually an antelope. These amazing animals can run as fast as fifty miles an hour.

Don’t forget to collect your Ghana Explorer Sticker!

  • The Jackrabbit is actually a hare and is a desert dweller. Known for its speed, a black-tailed jackrabbit can leap twenty feet into the air and can run thirty to thirty-five miles an hour. Not only do they run very fast but they move in a zig-zag motion! Jackrabbits can be found in the southwestern United States (including Arizona) and Northwestern Mexico.

Collect the Spartan and the Green Egg Antelope Canyon, Arizona Explorer Sticker to learn more about one of the homes of the jackrabbit.


In The Air

  • The Golden Eagle can be found in North America (mostly the western United States and Alaska) and Mexico. This eagle is a bird of prey and can fly at speeds over thirty miles per hour.

(A golden eagle,

  • Hummingbirds’ wings move so fast that they actually hum (they can fly nearly fifty miles per hour). These tiny birds may be tiny, but they are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures of the air. The males are known for their ruby-colored throats, while the females have more subdued hues. They can be found in many places—from South America to Alaska, to tropical forests and even way up in the Andes Mountains.

(Killer Whale,

Under the Sea

  • The Killer Whale or “orca” is one of the world’s most magnificent creatures: with its mighty size and black and white color scheme, it is actually a member of the dolphin family. This mighty mammal can be found in the Pacific Northwest and along Norway’s Atlantic Coast. Orcas are highly intelligent and can swim up to forty miles a day at speeds of up to thirty-four miles per hour.

Don’t forget to collect your Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway Explorer Sticker!

  • The Black Marlin is one of the world’s fastest fish. It has been said that a marlin can swim up to eighty miles per hour and can be found in subtropical areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

(Spartan and the Green Egg’s Indian Ocean Explorer Sticker)

To learn more about Spartan and the Green Egg explorer stickers and geographical sites mentioned in this blog, visit the websites below:
For more information on the animals mentioned in this blog, consult the websites below:

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#explorerstickers #thefastestanimalsonearth

Winter Sports And Activites


Fun Winter Sports

There’s nothing more exciting during the winter than sports! If you and your children are looking for something filled with adventure and fun, look no further.

  • Ice skating is the perfect winter pastime; it can be as athletic or as fun and playful as you like. One doesn’t have to be a skilled skater to love the activity. It’s all in the doing and enjoyment!

(Spartan and the Green Egg’s “Poiana Braşov” Explorer Sticker)

  • Skiing (alpine and cross-country): one of the most spectacular ski resorts in the world is called Poiana Brașov. Located in Romania, this is an incredibly popular destination for tourists throughout all of Europe as the trails are very long and wide. There are other popular winter attractions there as well, such as ice skating, luging, and snow tubing. To collect the Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Sticker featuring the majestic ski resort Poiana Brașov, visit!

(Spartan and the Green Egg’s “Faraya” Explorer Sticker)

Faraya is a magnificent village in Lebanon and is a winter-time destination for any explorer as that’s where the region’s ski resorts are located. One of the most well-known resorts in the area, Mzaar (in the Mzaar-Kfardebian mountain range), is also one of the largest in the Middle East. It overlooks Bekaa Valley as well as famous peaks such as Zaarour and Laqlouq. If skiing isn’t your favorite winter activity, there are cable cars where tourists can ride high above the landscape while admiring the snow-covered mountains below. Spartan and the Green Egg also offers a Faraya Explorer Sticker to add to your collection!

  • Snowboarding: It has been said that skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding but that it’s more difficult to master. So, if skiing isn’t your cup of tea, snowboarding may be a fun and exhilarating way to make the season fly by. And, if neither is your forte, that’s okay: curl up by the fire at the ski lodge and enjoy a hot cup of cocoa.
  • Ice Hockey is a more rigorous team sport played in a rink and is definitely a winter option when it comes to competitive sports.

Whimsical Activities Unique to Winter

(Film still from Edward Scissorhands, 1990)

(Spartan and the Green Egg’s “Sapporo Snow Festival” Explorer Sticker)

  • Ice sculptures: the idea of carving ice into a sculpture is a whimsical and extremely specialized one. It is also rare because, as we know, ice melts, so a work of art created from a block of ice is transient and uncertain. Every year, in February, millions of people attend the week-long Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan. Located in Odori Park, the festival is filled with the world’s most elaborate snow and ice sculptures. There is even a snow sculpture contest! It began and 1950 and, to this day, is one of the world’s most anticipated winter festivals. Don’t forget to add Spartan and the Green Egg’s Sapporo Snow Festival Explorer Sticker to your collection!

To join Spartan and his friends on the numerous adventures mentioned in this blog (and to collect the corresponding travel stickers), visit the websites mentioned below:

For more information on the sports and locations mentioned in this blog, consult the following websites:

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Make It A Kids Day At The San Diego Zoo

Make it Kids Day at the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo encompasses 100 acres in the city’s Balboa Park. More than 3,700 animals, including some endangered species, call this place home. Unless you and your children can travel at the speed of light, do not plan on seeing them all in one day. Here are some helpful tips I learned during my recent visit to this truly remarkable zoo.

Plan Your Day Ahead of Time

But don’t plan every minute of your day ahead of time because, as I soon found out, your schedule will quickly fly out the window once you pass through the entrance gates. This zoo is immense, and there are so many interesting and exciting exhibits, many of which we spent a lot longer lingering in front of than we had initially anticipated. Think about getting the San Diego Zoo App for your phone. It gives you a map of the zoo and tells you what special events are happening on the day of your visit.

Ask your kids which animals are their favorite. You can then plot your course and organize your route so you wind around the Zoo instead of walking miles back and forth from one exhibit to another.

The Zoo provides colorful and easy to read maps at the entrance. The maps also list all the restaurants and fast-food type places to eat. There is a large Flamingo display near the entrance that will keep the kids entertained while you review the map.

The map also includes a list of special events for the day, their time, and locations. Check the events calendar specifically for “Keeper Talks.” These are free and scheduled at various times and zoo locations throughout the day. An animal keeper will be at the talk site with the specific animal that is on the schedule. The keeper provides an overview of the animal and answers any questions a visitor may have about that specific animal. Other events may involve an extra fee.

Begin Your Day with A 35-Minute Guided Bus Tour

The Guided Bus Tour, which is included with your admission to the Zoo, will give you a good overview. Also included in the entrance fee are unlimited rides on the Express Bus, which stops at various locations around the park allowing you to get on or off.

The aerial tramway, included in the entrance fee, is fun for kids and adults to ride high above the park and absorb a stunning overview of the vegetation and animal enclosures. The tram also provides an impressive view of the San Diego skyline. Though animals are generally not visible from the tram, it can save you from walking from one area of the Zoo to another if you have plotted your course to include animals near the entrance to each side of the tram. Your feet will thank you, and did I mention it’s fun?

Plot Your Food and Beverage Day

Whether you want a sit-down gourmet dinner, something more akin to a coffee shop, or hamburgers and French fries, you will find it all here. Food kiosks also offer veggie burgers. Adults may find wine or beer available at most food kiosks and restaurants.
The park does allow you to bring in food and water, but no coolers larger than a six-pack beverage size. If you buy bottled water inside the park, any food kiosk will refill the bottle for free. Plus, there are plenty of drinking fountains around the park. Even if you take advantage of every mode of transport the Zoo has to offer, you will still be surprised at the amount of walking involved. So be sure to keep yourself hydrated, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Explore your world and the universe through the Spartan and the Green Egg Series. Join the Explorer’s Club, enjoy interactive games, collect travel pins and more! Learn about the world and the SGE Explorers today!

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Native American Ruins In The Southwestern United States


(petroglyphs in Zion National Park, Utah,

Which Native American Sites Should I Visit? Where Exactly Are They?


  • Utah: Cedar Mesa is a plateau measuring 400 square miles and is bordered by the Grand Gulch and Comb Ridge. The Grand Gulch Primitive Area is a network of canyons formed from sandstone. Grand Gulch is known for its pueblo ruins and is exceptional for hiking. Comb Ridge and Butler Wash are also incredible sites filled with Anasazi ruins near the foothills of the Abajo Mountains. Comb Wash is a valley in San Juan, Utah, and merges with the San Juan River while Comb Ridge in what is known as a “monocline” (a formation in rock strata that resembles two steps).


  • The Zion National Park in Utah is filled with canyon trails (including The Weeping Rock, Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point Trails) and wildlife (such as black bear, mountain goats, moose, and elk) beneath a clear blue sky. It is known for its amazing colors of red, cream, and pink sandstone cliffs. To collect Spartan and the Green Egg’s Zion National Park travel pin, visit!



  • New Mexico: The Aztec Ruins National Monument is located on the Animas River and is known for its nearly 1,000-year-old structures created by the Pueblo Indians (including ancient rooms, trails, and passageways).

(Four Corners Region,

  • The Four Corners Region of the United States is where the southwestern border of Colorado meets Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.


  • Mesa Verde National Park is known for its famous cliff dwellings built in the late 12th century by the Ancestral Puebloan people (also known as the Anasazi Indians); they built pueblos in which to live under the overhanging cliffs. Located in Colorado, this national park contains some of the most well-preserved ruins of ancient Native American life.

(Cedar Mesa,

What is the Cultural Significance of these Ruins?

These ruins are the preserved remains of an ancient culture that was incredibly advanced and imaginative. The tribes that lived there were a mighty people, and those (such as the Anasazi Tribe) were wiped out by the 1300s. The Native American people understood and valued wilderness and nature in a way unlike any other, and it is through these magnificent ruins that we can discover and honor the past.

For more information on the many culturally significant archeological sites discussed in this blog (along with many others), consult the websites below.

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The Oldest Things On Earth (Part 1)

Some of the Oldest Living Things on Earth (Plants and Animals)

(Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Sticker: Methuselah Pine)

The Methuselah Pine—located in the White Mountains of California—is literally thousands of years old (around five thousand to be exact). The name “Methuselah” comes from the oldest figure in the Bible (it is said that he lived to the ripe old age of 969). “Methuselah Grove” (in the Inyo National Forest) was named after the infamous tree. To learn more about this amazing tree and one of the oldest living organisms on earth, collect Spartan and the Green Egg’s Methuselah Pine Explorer Sticker.

(The “Yareta”: 3,000 year old plant,

The “Yareta” or “llareta”—found in the Andes Mountains—resemble enormous moss-covered rocks but are actually shrubs. These plants have been blooming for approximately 3,000 years. The Andes Mountains in South America is one of the longest chains of mountains in the world (spanning Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina). These truly magical mountains take up nearly one million square miles worth of space—that’s a lot of exploring! Collect your Spartan and the Green Egg Andes Mountain Explorer Sticker today!

(Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Sticker: McMurdo Station)

(“Volcano” sponges of Antarctica, The Scientist Magazine)

One of the oldest living animals on Earth are the volcano sponges found in Antarctica. Known as “Anoxycalyx joubini,” these sponges resemble tiny volcanoes and are, of course, spongy and blob-like in appearance. They are thought to be around 15,000 years old and are found underwater around the McMurdo Sound. The McMurdo Sound is known for its icy waters and connects the Ross Sea with the Ross Ice Shelf cavity via the Haskell Strait. It is also known for the McMurdo Station, which is a research center found on the tip of Ross Island. This station is the largest community in Antarctica, is used for scientific research, and is home to hundreds of buildings (including a heliport, harbor, and several airfields). To learn more about this incredible place near where the 15,000-year-old sponges dwell, collect Spartan and the Green Egg’s McMurdo Station Explorer pins.

To learn more about the amazing and ancient living things in this blog and how to collect more Spartan and the Green Egg Travel Stickers, visit
For more information on these incredible discoveries, consult the websites below:

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How To Do Road Trips With Kids

Planning, Prep, and Packing: How to De-Stress Travel with Kids


The open road is calling, and you’ve got a wonderful family destination in mind for your vacation together. There’s only one challenge between here and there: the child or children riding in the backseat. If you love the idea of a family getaway but feel your shoulders tensing up thinking of the boredom, potty breaks, and potential sibling rivalry inside the car, you need a plan.

When heading out for a family trip, there’s a lot of temptation to pack as if you’re on the run: cramming all the clothes, accessories, and distractions that you can possibly fit in your suitcases. There’s a better way! With a few smart parental tricks, you can head off toddler meltdowns and tween crises at the pass, thanks to a little forethought and travel-focused planning.

Challenge Number One: Road Food

One of the first things to remember is that hours in a car together is not a good time to introduce new foods. Not only will you risk your child turning their nose up at the snacks, but those same snacks might – ahem – affect their digestion as well. Stick to their favorites, and opt for reusable ice packs over ice cubes if said favorite snacks require cold storage. Split up snack portions into small zip-top plastic bags, as this will encourage portion control for longer drives as well as easy cleanup. Keep a designated trash bag in easy reach to preserve your floor mats from crumbs and spills, as well as wet wipes for sticky hands. Finally, seal any potentially smelly garbage in the aforementioned zip-top bags before tossing it to keep your road trip vehicle smelling fresh.

Challenge Number Two: Clothing

No one knows your little one like you do, so pack with them in mind. If they tend to be tidy, you don’t need to pack their entire closet “just in case.” If they’re messy, it’s better to acknowledge it head-on and pack extra outfits to save your sanity. Do your future trip-taking self a huge favor and research laundry machine availability at your destination: many hotels offer convenient washers and dryers, so you can pack even less. Like road food, remember: travel isn’t a good time to introduce new clothing, if you can help it. In cold weather, new clothes may not be warm enough, and new clothes in warmer destinations may contribute to overheating and chafing.

Challenge Number Three: Boredom

It’s not officially a road trip until someone declares “they’re bored,” is it? Head off whining, fidgeting, and other unpleasantness at the proverbial pass by bringing along road-friendly games. Yes, that may mean breaking a family rule or two about “screentime,” but it’s better to give a little in order to stay focused on road safety. Be conscious of the potential for motion sickness, which may manifest as attitude or tantrums if a well-meaning parent suggests a break from the tablet or game system. Take frequent breaks at rest stops for bathroom visits and insist on leaving everything but themselves in the car: you don’t want to discover Mr. Stuffins has been forgotten on a vending machine 200 miles in your rearview mirror.

The individual that opined that the journey is more valuable than the destination may have been onto something, but they also likely never traveled with kids. Expect both physical and metaphorical bumps in the road along the way and you’ll be much closer to that particular concept of zen on the interstate. When both you and your little one(s) are fed, clean, and focused, you’ll find the trip becomes considerably more pleasant. Happy driving!

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Mayan Ruins In Tulum, Mexico

(Photo: Tulum, Mexico,

Who were the Mayans?

The Mayans or “Maya” were a group of peoples indigenous to Mexico and Central America. They inhabited what is now known as modern-day Yucatán (as well as other parts of Mexico) southward through Guatemala and El Salvador (to name a few countries). The Maya Civilization was cultivated as far back as 7000-2000 BCE. The history of Mesoamerica and its many periods throughout time is vast and quite impressive. The Mayans are known for their building of great pyramids as well as their belief system, where everything is cyclical.

(El Castillo,

What Mayan Ruins are there to discover in Tulum?

Tulum, Mexico, is known for its amazing archeology and well-preserved ruins built by the Mayans.

  • El Castillo” is literally translated as “the Castle” and is the remains of the largest façade in the ancient walled city of Tulum. On the edge of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, this structure is one of many surrounded by a wall measuring 16 feet in width.
  • The Temple of the Frescoes is a truly sacred destination. This temple of “frescoes” (paintings) depicts important Mayan gods and goddesses and is located directly in front of the castle (mentioned above).
  • The Temple of the Descending God is a structure so intricately designed as reverence for one of the Mayan gods that, to this day, the carvings of the upside-down god are not only intact, but, are more prominent at this site than any other (there are only three other known archeological sites where this god is depicted).
  • LabnaHa Echo Park is filled with cenotes and is basically an underwater cave adventure ideal for diving and snorkeling.
  • The House of the Columns or “The Palace”: What was once the dwelling for Mayan leaders is one of the most impressive sites in Tulum.

(Cenotes Dos Ojos,

What Other Wonderful Sights are in Tulum?

  • Caverns and caves: Tulum is filled with the world’s largest underwater system of caves (including The Sac Actun System or “white cave system”).
  • Beautiful ocean views: Tulum is located on the Caribbean coastline. With views of the beautiful, vast turquoise ocean and islands, it is a truly magical place.
  • Cenotes are natural sinkholes usually formed in caves and filled with groundwater (very much like an underground river). They are usually formed from limestone and are incredibly beautiful, mysterious places to explore and swim. “Cenote” is translated as “sacred well” as these sites were sometimes used by the ancient Mayans for sacrificial ceremonies and offerings. They are only found in the Yucatán Peninsula (there are more than 6,000).
  • Cenotes Dos Ojos or “Two Eyes Cenotes” is located on the Maya Riviera on the northeastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula coastline. It is one of the world’s most desirable destinations as it is probably the most beautiful and famous of all the cenotes. A stairway leads one down into the body of a cave that is also a secret swimming hole filled with abundant blue water and limestone walls. This is a hugely popular destination for swimmers and divers.

For more information from Spartan and the Green Egg (on caves in particular) you can collect travel pins that document amazing destinations all over the world, including The Cave of the Crystals in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico.

For more information on Mayan Ruins and Tulum, Mexico, visit the websites consulted in this blog below:,

#traveltheworld #kids #seethesights #teachyourkids #fullcyclepublications #spartanandthegreenegg #books #nabilakhashoggi #OnTheBlog

The Winter Solstice


What Is the Winter Solstice?

  • The winter solstice occurs during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter season and is the day with the least amount of daylight. The solstice also has the longest amount of nightfall and the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. Because of this, it is also known as “the longest night” and “the shortest day” of the year.
  • This year, in 2019, the solstice is set to occur on December 21st-22nd.
  • The winter solstice usually marks the first day of winter in the United States but varies in different countries depending their specific climate.
  • Stonehenge (the pre-historic monument in England) was built to align with the setting sun during the winter solstice. To collect Spartan and the Green Egg’s Stonehenge travel pin and to learn more about the magnificent structure, visit the website.


How is the Winter Solstice Celebrated and Why?

  • Ancient cultures thought of the solstice as a time of death and rebirth. Because of the long, cold night, freezing temperatures were a very real threat to safety and well-being, while the end of the solstice offered the hope of renewed sunlight and longer days. Fires were lit and yule logs burned while people feasted on freshly slaughtered animals to last them through the winter months.
  • Alban Arthan is a seasonal festival that was celebrated by the ancient Druids during the Winter solstice. It honors the death of the “Old Sun” and birth of the “New Sun.”
  • Ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a festival called “Saturnalia” to honor the agricultural god, Saturn. This festival was later replaced by Christmas throughout the Roman Empire.
  • People around the world light bonfires, have feasts, wear masks, and sing and dance to honor the solstice.

To learn more about the winter solstice and various festivals celebrated around the world consult these websites mentioned in the blog:

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Origins Of Winter Holidays

Winter Holidays around the Globe

Tết(Tết Nguyen Dan) is a celebration of rebirth and is Vietnam’s version of the Lunar New Year.It marks the first day of the New Year according to the moon and will begin January 25, 2020. The most important aspect of Tết is being with family and focusing on blessings, good luck, and honoring ancestors.

Hanukkah (or “Chanukah”) is an eight-day Jewish celebration also known as The Festival of Lights. It is, according to the religious text,  the Talmud , a miraculous event. During the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C., the menorah’s candles burned for eight days instead of one.

Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until the 9th century that the holiday was celebrated with specific religious customs and ceremonies. Ceremonies include attending mass, and the commemoration of the Nativity (which means “to be born” in Latin). Christians believe that the Star of Bethlehem lit up the entire night sky on Christmas Eve.

Kwanzaa is an African holiday that, in Swahili, means “first fruits.” The holiday is based on seven principles called the “Nguzo Saba” and is celebrated by lighting one of seven candles each night for seven nights. Just as the Jewish candle holder or “menorah” is used during Hanukkah, the “kinara” is used for holding candles during Kwanzaa. There is a feast that is held on December 31st called a “Karamu.”


How to Celebrate

The most important way to celebrate these holidays is by giving to others and surrounding yourself with loved ones. The celebrations of the winter solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Têt all have religious roots that focus on the miraculous and are ideal for reflecting on the past year and the new year to come. All of the holidays are celebrated with a feast, presents and certain decorations. For Kwanzaa, a table is set with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts in wooden bowls along with a traditional woven mat called a “Mkeka.” The colors green, black, and red are traditionally used for decoration.

For Christmas, most people display a Christmas tree in their homes, attend church on Christmas Eve, and give out presents.

For Hanukkah, the menorah is lit (one candle each night for eight nights – and there is a ninth candle used to light the others; this is called a “shammash”) while presents are given, matzah is hidden for children to find and dreidel games are played.

For Têt, family and renewal is very important so most people celebrate with elaborate festivals, dance and, of course, feasting.

For more information on these holidays and the topics mentioned in this blog, consult these websites:

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Learn More About Orangutans


Orangutans: What Makes Them So Unique?

  • Orangutans make up not just one but species of ape and are, sadly, very rare as they are an endangered species.
  • “Orangutan” literally means “person of the forest.”
  • They can live up to fifty years in the wild and mostly travel by swinging from tree to tree.
  • “Flanged” males have what is called a “throat sac” that enables them to make very loud noises or “long calls.”
  • Humans and orangutans have 97% DNA in common.


  • Male orangutans may have what are called “flanges” (padded cheeks) and, for some reason, female orangutans are most attracted to and most likely to mate with these males.
  • Since there are three species of orangutan, they tend to vary in appearance. The three different names of species include the “Bornean,” “Sumatran,” and the “Tapanuli.” (The Sumatran species of orangutan has longer facial hair than the others.)
  • Orangutans are amazing to look at: they have shaggy, reddish fur and incredibly long, strong arms. Their arms are longer than their legs and, when an orangutan stands, he/she is able to touch their ankles.
  • Their fur looks bright orangey/red in the sunlight but, when they vanish into the shadows of the forest, orangutans appear very dark. This is because their skin absorbs the sunlight and, when they are in the shade, we are actually seeing the skin underneath their shaggy fur.

Where Do They Live?

  • Today they can only be found in Borneo (an island in Southeast Asia) and Sumatra (an Indonesian island). (To learn more about Borneo, their tribal longhouses, the languages spoken there, closest bodies of water, etc., collect Spartan and the Green Egg’s explorer pins.)
  • Because of deforestation, the rainforests where orangutans live are decreasing in size and endangering the great apes.

Mother Orangutans and their Young/Behavior

  • According to Discover Wildlife, orangutan mothers and their babies have such an intense bond that the mother will carry her baby around for about five years and will sleep in the nest with her offspring until another is born. This is the closest bond that has been observed of any non-human mammal.
  • Orangutans are incredibly smart and even have the ability to make tools. They have been known to make a tool from a stick in which to scratch themselves.
  • These great apes sleep in nests high up in trees and will create new sleeping areas every night.
  • Not only are orangutans known to be very intelligent, but they are also patient (mothers will sometimes breastfeed their young for up to eight years).
  • Male orangutans are known to be solitary creatures; they are even called “loners” and use their “long call” to stay out of each other’s way.

For more information on orangutans and what you can do to help this amazing and critically endangered species, visit The Orangutan Project and learn how to get involved.

Also, make sure to visit these websites consulted in the blog:


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No Nurdles for Turtles


The world’s oceans have trash troubles…and it’s getting worse. Just this spring a dead whale was found washed up on a beach in the Philippines. Scientists were curious and wanted to know why the whale died. What they learned made them very sad, and then angry. What did they find?

100 pounds of plastic in its stomach.

Eighty-eight pounds of that plastic were just plastic shopping bags, like the kind you see in grocery stores. As terrible as this sounds, the whale’s death is not the only death happening in the sea. Right now, scientists say that at least five countries dump their plastic into the ocean on purpose. Those countries are Thailand, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Last fall a whale died with over 100 plastic drinking cups in its stomach. Another one, that summer died with 20 pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. And whales aren’t the only sea creatures who are suffering. Small plastic pieces, called Nurdles, are causing severe harm to a wide variety of marine life.

What are Nurdles Anyway?

Nurdles are super tiny pellets that are melted to produce almost all things plastic. But, when they end up in the water, they look like food to marine life, including turtles, whales, dolphins, seals, fish and even seagulls and sea birds. Once an animal swallows these nurdles, they can’t digest them. The small plastic pellets stay in the animal’s stomach, taking up space that the food would have used. Without space in its belly for food, the animal starves to death slowly.

Nurdles are also toxic. That means when they stay in the water, or inside of an animal, long enough, some of the chemicals go into the animal, which can cause them to die from poisoning. Human beings who catch fish with these pellets in them may be eating poisoned fish.

What Can be Done?

Some things are already being done, but it isn’t enough. Many scientists in the world’s nations are trying to solve the problem. In most countries, there are rules about how nurdles can be used, and how they must be stored. But many companies break the rules, and the nurdles end up in the waterway anyway. When enough people voice their concern, change happens. It is great to care about the planet and its creatures. But unless people speak out when something wrong is happening, nothing changes. There are right and wrong ways to speak out. Here are the right ways:

  • Send a respectful email to your leaders. You can find their email addresses online, easily.
  • Create an eco-club at your school to learn more and to join your voice with others. We can help with that, too!
  • Make a phone call. When kids call their representatives, they listen…because kids don’t usually call unless it is important.
  • Visit them in person (same reason…nobody comes to visit them unless it’s important).
  • Create a poster with a message and fax it to your government leaders.
  • Reduce the amount of plastic you use at home, and at school.
  • Convince your school or town to find other options for plastic straws, plastic forks, spoons, and knives, as well as the plastic bags used for groceries and shopping.
  • Don’t take anything plastic near the water, especially if you live in a place near the ocean, river, streams or lakes.

Nurdles are NOT for turtles…or any other sea creature. Make sure you only contact YOUR leader in government, you are polite, you tell them why you are contacting them and why it is important. Use facts and research to prove you know what you are talking about. Let them know you are a kid…it does matter.

Spartan and the Green Egg Series is an adventure-themed graphic novel, whose characters travel the world learning about people and places with their out-of-the-world friend, Egg. Written by Nabila Khashoggi, this award-winning, green life series brings the world’s cultures and ecosystems into sharp focus, set against the backdrop of action and adventure for the 7-12 year-old set.

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From sea lions, penguins, and frolicking dolphins to an incredible variety of freshwater and saltwater fish, there’s no better way to introduce curious kids to aquatic life than the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia.
This accredited facility boasts a mind-boggling number of tanks, learning opportunities, and programs designed with children in mind. That means it’s the perfect place for young future marine biologists to spend an afternoon they’ll remember for a lifetime. Considering taking your family to this world-class aquatic destination? Here’s what you’ll need to know before you go:


  • Spend time inside, not waiting in line. With school groups and tourists waiting to get into this huge aquarium, you could find yourself stuck outside in the Atlanta heat in a very long line. Skipping this less-than-exciting aspect of the visit is easy, though – just buy your tickets and parking pass online ahead of time. Not only will you save a few dollars for souvenirs in the gift shop, but you’ll also be able to stroll right in to the air-conditioned goodness of the aquarium. Be aware that buying your parking ahead of time means a once in-once out vehicle policy is in place; you won’t be able to leave mid-afternoon and return later on the same parking pass.


  • Browse showtimes and behind-the-scenes tour options before arrival. While admission to the aquarium shows are a mix of free and paid, animal encounters always carry an additional charge. With a slew of positive reviews, however, these encounters aren’t your average upsell fare: not only will your littlest family members get a chance to directly interact with the animal(s) in the encounter, they’ll also get a souvenir photo to remember the experience.


  • Don’t miss special aquarium events. Throughout the year, the aquarium hosts a variety of special events, both during operating hours and before and after the facility opens. While parents may want to try some tranquil yoga outside the dolphin tanks to greet the day, their children are sure to appreciate age-appropriate events like thepopular “Toddler Time” series, with themed afternoons each month. A full calendar of aquarium events and event ticket purchasing is always available on the website.


  • Get lunch just before visiting. Snacks and drinks aren’t allowed in the aquarium, so if your children are prone to “hangry” behavior, make sure to fuel up before the 3 to 4 hours it will take to get through the aquarium. Head to a nearby restaurant, or pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the first-come-first-serve patio seating outside the aquarium. There is a cafeteria inside the aquarium, but visitors report the prices can be a little high, and the wait can be a bit long as well.

There’s a lot to see inside the aquarium – the 100,000+ creature count isn’t an exaggeration. Expect to spend anywhere from 3 to 4 hours if you’re trying to see the entire facility, and plan to arrive as early or late in the day as possible to avoid large crowds. A rewarding, educational, and incredibly fun experience for visitors of all ages, families with children routinely rave about the aquarium: it’s definitely worth a day trip if you’re visiting the Atlanta area.

Explore your world and the universe though the Spartan and the Green Egg Series. Join the Explorer’s Club, enjoy interactive games, collect travel pins and more! Learnabout the world and the SGE Explorers Today!

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World’s Largest Beach Clean-Up

Imagine going to your favorite beach or park and finding it covered in trash. Now imagine that trash is so deep, when you try to walk on it, you sink up to your shoulders — or higher. That’s what it was like on Versova Beach in Mumbai, India. Over the years, thousands of tons of plastic and other debris had washed ashore on Versova Beach, covering the once-beautiful sand and making it a place where no one wanted to hang out — that is, until two friends decided they’d had enough.

Big Journeys Start with Small Steps

In the fall of 2015, Afroz Shah, a young lawyer, and his friend and neighbor, 84-year-old Harbansh Mother, headed to the beach with bags and gloves and decided to start picking up trash. At that time, there was so much filth stretched over so much coastline, the two friends thought there was little chance they’d make any kind of difference in how the beach looked. After all, how could they even begin to clear away the layers and layers of trash that were, in some areas, five feet deep? But they didn’t let that stop them; they knew they had to do something. And they decided that, on every Sunday, they’d head to the beach to do what they could to collect, bag and dispose of as much trash as they could carry.

As their work progressed, people would stop and ask them what they were doing. And soon, others had joined in. Shah and Mother realized they were doing something important — not just to them, but to others, as well. Shah began talking to his neighbors, his friends, local business people — pretty much anyone who would listen. He explained the problem of ocean pollution, and he also talked about how it was up to them — the people who lived and worked in the area — to make a difference. He reminded them of the beautiful beach, how for years, people gathered to swim, have picnics, and just hang out.

All this time, he still went to the beach every weekend to pick up more and more trash, filling hundreds of bags with waste. Soon, his dedication and enthusiasm attracted others. And before long, the two friends found they had company — at first, just a few volunteers, and then dozens, visiting the beach every Sunday with gloves and bags, ready to dig in — literally — to the seemingly endless piles of trash.

Now, four years later, the little project started by two old friends has had remarkable results. The beach is clean — and just last year, dozens of rare sea turtles returned to the beach after decades of absence, laying their eggs and reclaiming a beach they abandoned when the trash started showing up many years ago. Since the clean-up began, more than 12,000 tons of trash have been bagged up and removed.

Change Starts with You

As the world’s largest beach clean-up, Versova is a good lesson for everyone. It shows how just one or two people can make a big difference, not just to other people, but to the global environment, too. With the internet, you don’t need to visit the beach to save marine wildlife. The Ocean Conservancy offers lots of tips for keeping the seas clean. One you can do right now: Give up plastic drinking straws. It might sound surprising, but straws are one of the biggest pollutants in the world’s oceans and each year, they kill hundreds of fish, birds, and mammals. The Ocean Conservancy has started its own drive to get people to stop using straws and help preserve marine wildlife. If that sounds like something you’d like to do, visit the conservancy’s website and sign their pledge (but ask your parents first). It’s one small way you and your friends can make a really big difference.

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Let’s Explore the Indian Ocean

About 20 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by the Indian Ocean, which is the third largest ocean in the world. The whole USA could fit in that surface area more than five times. The Indian Ocean is unique in many ways. Let’s explore some of the special things about it.

The Indian Ocean’s Area and Temperature

The Indian Ocean is between Australia and Africa. It is bordered by Antarctica to the south and India to the north. Its area is about 27,240,000 square miles. Since it is much smaller than the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean is also much warmer. In fact, it is the warmest of all of the world’s oceans, and it is getting warmer all the time. Near the Equator, the water can be over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of its hot temperatures a lot of sea life has trouble living in the Indian Ocean. That’s why the Indian Ocean has fewer species of fish and marine mammals than the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean. And of those marine species that do call the Indian Ocean home, many are having trouble surviving because of overfishing by man, the slowly rising water temperature caused by global warming, and lots of pollution.

The Indian Ocean’s Importance for the Oil Trade

Much of the world’s oil comes from the Middle East and is shipped along trade routes in the Indian Ocean. One of those most famous trade routes is the man-made Suez Canal. The Suez Canal connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, allowing ships to pass quickly between the two. A lot of the oil transported through the Indian Ocean is also mined there on offshore oil rigs, which threaten the habitats of the sea life that live around them.

The Water Currents in the Indian Ocean

Several of the world’s oceans have gyres, which are water currents that move in a circle. The one in the Indian Ocean flows counter-clockwise in the winter, but in the summer big storms called monsoons hit, which make the currents flow in the opposite direction. The change of water current direction has a big impact on the continents surrounding the Indian Ocean, as well as on the sea life that lives below the surface because the change in the currents changes the water temperatures. But many of the species living in the Indian Ocean have adapted to those changes.

The Indian Ocean’s Marine Life

Although there are not as wide a variety of sea creatures living in the Indian Ocean compared to the Atlantic or Pacific, there are some very important creatures that make their homes in the Indian Ocean. One of them is the humpback whale. Humpback whales travel in groups called pods. The Indian Ocean is not their only home, but it is the place with the largest humpback whale breeding area in the world.

The Indian Ocean also has areas that are perfect habitats for anemones, which can’t live without the fish that live with them, such as clownfish. More than 25 types of fish who live in or around anemones can be found in the Indian Ocean. Many of them do not live in any of the world’s other oceans.

Lots of different types of turtles also live in the Indian Ocean. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles, both endangered, are two turtle types living there. They eat jellyfish, shrimp, sea urchins, and other sea creatures.

Many of those beautiful creatures are disappearing because of climate changes, pollution, and humans damaging their environments. But scientists and regular people just like you are trying to help. Each day they are working together to find new ways to clean up the oceans and stop overfishing.

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Let’s Explore the Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, and it is still growing and always changing. It is home to many different species of fish, animals, and plants, as well as strange underwater structures like coral reefs and entire underwater mountains. Let’s explore the Atlantic Ocean and all of the things that make it special.

The Size and Temperature of the Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is made up of about 41,100,000 square miles of salt water. It is so big that it is often split into two categories, which are the North Atlantic and the South Atlantic. The South Atlantic is the warmer part of the Atlantic Ocean, and the North Atlantic is the colder part. The water in the South Atlantic near the Equator can reach temperatures of 82 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, which is great for swimming. But you wouldn’t want to swim in the North Atlantic unless you were a penguin or a polar bear. The water up there can drop to below freezing temperatures, which is far too cold for people to swim in.

Countries and Cities of the Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean flows past the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Iceland, France, and Cuba also border the Atlantic Ocean, along with more than a dozen other countries. In fact, many countries have been trading goods for centuries using the Atlantic Ocean for boat travel. Christopher Columbus first discovered what is now North America by traveling across the Atlantic Ocean.

Some of the world’s most well-known cities are also located right on the Atlantic Ocean. Havana, Cuba, Seville, Spain, and New York City in the United States are a few of them. Without the Atlantic Ocean for boat travel, many of those cities might never have been founded.

Landmarks of the Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is made up of two basins, which you can think of as two giant pools. The two pools are split by an underwater mountain range called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. But water and sea life can still pass between the two basins through gaps in the mountains. Another landmark which can be found in the Atlantic Ocean is the Bermuda Triangle, which is a famous area where many ships and planes have mysteriously vanished. The Atlantic Ocean is also home to the second largest coral reef in the world, which is located off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.

Creatures of the Atlantic Ocean
The manatee is one of the most unique creatures living in the Atlantic Ocean. Manatees are also sometimes called “sea cows.” They are often seen in the warm waters of the Atlantic, especially off the coast of Florida. Other Atlantic Ocean creatures that prefer the warmer southern part of the Atlantic include tropical fish, seahorses, anemones, and many types of dolphins.

The colder parts of the Atlantic Ocean are home to many species of seals and sea lions. The North Atlantic right whale, which is an endangered species, also makes its home in the North Atlantic. Lots of fish live in the colder Atlantic waters too, along with lobsters, crabs, and other creatures, many of which humans eat.

We need to be careful because fishing for too many of those creatures can cause them to become harder and harder to find. Some species have already become extinct or close to it because of overfishing. The Atlantic Ocean will only stay healthy if we find ways to protect it and its creatures.

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A Kid’s Guide to Making Compost at Home

What Is Composting? How to Try It at Home

Did you know that some of the scraps left over from lunches and cooking aren’t really garbage?
Some waste can be turned into healthy, nutritious soil for plants. This is done by composting, and you can try it for yourself.

What Is Compost?

Compost is a type of fertilizer for plants. It’s made of organic materials, which means parts of other living things. Bacteria feed on these scraps and help break them down. When they’ve done their work, the compost no longer looks like plants. Instead, it looks like moist, dark soil. Gardeners often call compost “black gold,” because it’s such a valuable source of nutrients for plants.

Why Is Composting Important?

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency’s job is to keep our air and water clean and to protect the earth from harm. They estimate that about 1/3 of all the garbage we throw away is made up of organic materials like food scraps and grass clippings. This takes up space in landfills and adds methane gas to the air. If we set aside these scraps for composting,

we help stop that pollution.

Composting also helps keep your yard and garden healthier. It helps build soil that holds water to protect plants from drought. It also feeds plants so they grow stronger and faster. When you use compost instead of chemical fertilizers, you help protect wildlife, too.
How to Try Composting at Home

Composting is easy! You can make your own compost bin with some help from your parents. Keep it outside, in the basement, or in the garage.

Here’s what you need:

  • A sturdy plastic container with a lid. Using a clear container will let you watch the process of how scraps turn into compost, but it’s not necessary.
  • A drill
  • Mesh for repairing window screens
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue

Here’s what to do:

  1. Ask your parents for help drilling holes into the lid of your container. This gives the bacteria air to breathe as they break food scrapes down into compost.
  2. Cut a piece of mesh to fit on the inside of the lid.
  3. Use the hot glue gun to dab glue around the edges of the lid. Then press the mesh in place. This will keep fruit flies and other insects out of your compost if you’re keeping the bin indoors.

Here’s what to put in your compost bin:

  • wilted flowers
  • vegetables that went bad
  • eggshells
  • cooking scraps that come from plants (carrot tops, green spots on potatoes, avocado pits, banana peels, etc.)
  • autumn leaves
  • grass clippings from mowing the lawn

Taking care of your compost:

  1. Once a week, use a garden trowel or small shovel to stir the compost. This helps keep bacteria moving around.
  2. If your compost smells bad, cover the scraps with a layer of dried leaves or shredded newspaper.
  3. When your bin is full, stop adding scraps but keep stirring.
  4. When everything in the bin turns black and looks like moist dirt, you’re done!
  5. Use your compost to mulch garden plants to help them grow.

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Unusual and Usable Items That Come from the Sea


The sea provides people with a lot of food. Our oceans are full of fish, lobsters, crabs, and other edible goodies. But what about some of the more unusual things that come from the sea? There are actually a lot of items from the world’s oceans that are used by humans every day for things besides food. Here’s a quick list of some of the more unusual sea products.

Sea Products That Look Pretty
There are lots of unusual items that come from the sea and are popular with people just because they look pretty. Precious stones and gems like pearls are a good example. Pearls form inside mollusks like oysters over a long period of time. Then they have to be harvested by humans. After that they are eventually turned into jewelry, which can be very expensive, depending on the quality of the pearls.

Other examples of pretty items that people like to collect from the sea include seashells and sea glass. Seashells are also made by mollusks, which are sea creatures like snails, clams, and oysters. When the creatures die, the shells are left behind. They often wash up on beaches, where people collect them and make them into jewelry. Some people even use shells to make large items like tops for coffee tables.

Sea glass is used in many of the same ways to make furniture and artwork, but it doesn’t form naturally in the ocean. It actually happens when glass left in the ocean by humans is tossed around in the water for a long time. The tumbling changes the shape of the glass and how it feels, turning it from regular man-made glass, like soda bottles, into sea glass.

There are lots of unusual items that come from the sea and are popular with people just because they look pretty. Precious stones and gems like pearls are a good example. Pearls form inside mollusks like oysters over a long period of time. Then they have to be harvested by humans. After that they are eventually turned into jewelry, which can be very expensive, depending on the quality of the pearls.

Sea Products Used Around the House
Many sea items are also used in household products. For instance, kelp is often included in natural shampoos, conditioners, and even toothpaste. Another common household item that comes from the sea is a sea sponge. Sea sponges are softer and more environmentally friendly than artificial man-made sponges. Many people use sea sponges for washing dishes, or even for washing their own bodies when they take baths or showers.

Sea Products Used on Our Skin
Many of the unusual and usable items that come from the sea are also used by people who want their skin to look better. A lot of skin care products have some kind of algae in them. Both brown and red algae, according to skin experts, can make skin cells stronger.

Seaweed is another plant that grows in the sea and can be healthy for our skin. Seaweed is full of vitamin E and C. Many doctors even say that seaweed can treat pimples and acne. The seaweed is able to moisturize the skin and keep it strong and smooth.

Sea Products Used as Medicines
Another unusual thing that comes from the sea is medicine, which comes in many forms. There are types of algae and byproducts from coral that are being used to treat allergies, arthritis, and asthma. Scientists believe that, so far, we have only found a few of the medicines we can get from the sea. Many of the fish and animals living in the water still have healing properties that haven’t been discovered yet.

Protecting Our Sea Products
Many of the sea products that we use all the time, especially kelp, are being grown in protected areas where fishing, swimming, and other human activities are not allowed. The sea products need to be protected in those areas because they have been damaged or destroyed too much in other areas where pollution, fishing, and other problems have killed a lot of them. The best way to keep protecting our sea products is to work together to keep the oceans clean and reduce poaching and overfishing. Then people can keep getting medicine and other products from the sea for many years to come.

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Five Tips to Make a Road Trip More Fun

Does your family take a vacation together? If you do, you’re not alone. Two out of every five grown-ups are planning to take their family on vacation this year. Half of those families will make their trips by car.

That’s probably because driving is cheaper than flying. It’s also slower. Spending hours in a car can get boring, but there are plenty of ways to make a road trip more fun. Try these tips to make sure your next vacation is great, even when you’re stuck in the back seat.

1. Bring Something to Read
You can pack a few good books and comics, or you can bring a tablet or e-reader to have all of your favorites in one place. Some people start to feel a little carsick when they read too long, though. If this happens to you, stop to look out the front window every few pages, or hold the book so you can see the side window out of the corner of your eye while you’re reading.

2. Share an Audio Book
You can also enjoy a story with your whole family by playing a CD or other audiobook in the car. If you can’t all agree on a story, you might have fun listening to a comedian tell jokes or a podcast about an interesting topic instead.

3. Look Out the Window
If you’re driving to a place you’ve never been, make sure to look out the window. Do you notice any animals or cool buildings? What about interesting billboards and signs? The farther you go, the more the landscape will change. It’s also okay to daydream while you look. Enjoy it now, before you go back to school and have to pay attention all the time!

4. Follow a Map
Ask your parents to show you where you’re going and how you’ll get there on a map. Then you can follow along by looking for road signs as you travel (and you won’t have to keep asking how much farther it is!) You can do this on an app, but it’s more fun to use a paper map and trace your progress with a highlighter. When the trip is over, add it to a scrapbook with photos and other souvenirs.

5. Play Car Games
All you need for a car game is your voice and your imagination. Try these with the whole family:

  • Cow Counting: Every time you see a cow on your side of the road, you get a point — but every time you see a cemetery on your side, you lose all your points. The winner is the person with the most points at the end of the day.
  • Billboard Alphabet: Look out your window for each letter of the alphabet. Once you find an A, start looking for B. Can you get all the way up to Z before you reach your destination?
  • I Spy with My Little Eye: The person who is “it” picks something the other players can see. Whoever is “it” then says “I spy with my little eye something beginning with…” and tell the others the letter of the alphabet the object begins with. The players then take turns asking questions that the person who is “it” may only respond to with a “yes” or “no.” After receiving a yes or no answer, that player may make one guess of what the something is. The player who correctly guesses what the object is wins.

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Exploring Africa Through Food

Foods in Africa vary widely, thanks to the many different cultures that call this continent home. While rice and porridge are commonly found in many African dishes, others use a variety of spices and seasonings that are native to the region or adopted from other parts of the world. You can learn quite a bit about African cultures by studying the types of foods people eat on a regular basis.

Northern Africa

The northern part of Africa is mainly known for couscous, a type of pasta made from semolina. People in this region typically add meat and vegetables to couscous to make a tasty stew. You’ll also find several seasonings that were brought over by Arabian cultures, including saffron and ginger. North African cultures also enjoy foods that have been introduced from the Americas, such as zucchini and chili peppers.

Central Africa

In the central part of Africa, many cultures follow a meat-based diet that includes meats from animals that are hunted in the wild, including crocodile and warthogs. Since parts of central Africa are hard to reach, people in this region tend to eat a lot of traditional cultural foods that have been around for centuries. Over the years, though, foods from other parts of the world have been introduced here, including plantains, okra and cassava roots.

Southern Africa

The southern part of Africa is a melting pot of foods from native, Asian, and European populations. You’ll find meats such as ostrich flavored with Indian spices and made with elements of Dutch or British cuisines. Seafood and fresh fruit, including bananas and grapes, are also commonly eaten in southern African cultures.

Western Africa

West African cultures typically eat very starchy foods, such as fufu paste, which comes from yams. Their diets don’t include a lot of meat, but they do include tons of spices and seasonings, such as cloves and chili peppers. When West Africans do eat meat, it’s usually chicken, goat or seafood.

Eastern Africa

In the eastern part of Africa, cultures follow diets that include a lot of grains and vegetables. People in this region usually don’t eat much meat, although they do tend cattle, sheep and other livestock. Some traditional local favorites you’ll find here include a paste made from corn, called ugali, and steamed bananas, known as matoke. People in eastern Africa also eat foods brought over from Europe, Asia and the Americas, including chili peppers, pineapples, and tomatoes.

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Learn About Commercial Transport Rockets

When we imagine rockets, we think of tall,thin vehicles with futuristic shapes. We also think about the kinds of rockets that go into space. The word rocket also describes a type of engine. Rocket engines power vehicles that use rockets to move. In the future, rockets could work like buses and trains do today. Could we depend on rockets to travel around the world one day? What about into space? That’s what many people are exploring today.


One day, commercial transport rockets could become a reality for all of us. We are still years off from having rockets taking us around the world in less than an hour. That doesn’t mean we can’t imagine!

How Commercial Rockets Work

To understand how commercial transport rockets work, we need to see how rockets work.

Rockets burn fuel like other kinds of engines do. Many rocket engines burn fuel into very hot gas. When the hot fuel turns into gas, the engine pushes the gas out of the back opening. The gas leaving the back opening is what makes the engine push forward. A rocket engine doesn’t need air to work.

Rocket engines work in space where there is no air. Two different kinds of rocket engines exist. Some rockets, like the main engines of the Space Shuttle that orbit the Earth, use liquid fuel. Other kinds of rockets, like the Space shuttle rocket boosters, use solid fuels. Even toy rockets and fireworks use solid fuel like those space rockets do!

Rockets move in space. It’s possible, thanks to a science rule known as Newton’s third law of motion. Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion said, ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ When it comes to rockets, the action occurs when a rocket pushes on the exhaust. The exhaust also pushes on the rocket. When this happens, the rocket pushes the exhaust backward, and the exhaust helps move the rocket forward.

The History of Commercial Rockets

When were the first rockets invented? China used the first known rockets in the 1200s. Their solid-fuel rockets were used in fireworks. China’s armies also used these rockets in wars. In later centuries, rockets evolved into larger and more advanced devices. These advanced rockets found use in important space missions like the United States’ Apollo 11 mission in 1969. That mission, which got the first men to land on the moon, used a Saturn V rocket.

The NASA space shuttle program used solid fuel rockets to bring humans into space. Unlike liquid-fueled rockets, solid-fueled rockets give rockets fuel without turning off. After the catastrophic 1986 Challenger incident, NASA redesigned the solid fuel rockets boosters.

Fortunately, rockets are still used by NASA and other government organizations to bring satellites and other objects into space. These missions usually don’t send human crew members into space. Today, independent organizations want to make manned space travel a reality for people on Earth again. Public figures like Elon Musk want to make commercial transport rockets a reality for people on Earth. Commercial transport rockets could let people travel around the Earth in under an hour or less. Can you imagine how handy that would be?

Insects Eaten Throughout the World

Entomophagy” is the act of eating insects and is incredibly common throughout the world, even in the United States. People have been eating bugs, their larvae, eggs, and pupae since prehistoric times. We often think that people around the world eat insects for survival where other food is scarce, but it’s also a source of protein and, even in first world countries, can be a popular snack for many. Crickets with spices are a crunchy treat that can be devoured like popcorn while beetles are also commonly eaten just about everywhere around the world. It’s been said that eighty percent of the world’s population eats insects as a part of their regular diet. This is actually very healthy as insects are filled with protein and contain little to no fat.

The Most Popular Bugs to Eat

Many types of ants are edible; the Chinese eat them in a hot soup during the winter. Bee larvae are a favorite in Vietnam and are usually eaten while still alive. Water Beetles are very popular in Thailand, while caterpillars are dried and eaten in Botswana. Many people enjoy eating cicadas with a sweet mustard sauce – which are said to taste like asparagus. Of course, cockroaches are not only very popular menu additions in certain parts of the world, they also have medicinal uses (a cream made from cockroaches is said to alleviate burns). Dragonflies are popular snacks in Indonesia and China.

Alleviate World Hunger: Eat Bugs

Whatever the insect and culture it’s very important to know how other people around the world live. Eating bugs may seem odd to some of us, but it’s actually incredibly common and not strange at all to the estimated two billion people who eat them as part of their daily diets. The United Nations urges people around the world to eat insects as they are nutritious and could help to alleviate world hunger. For more information on this topic, consult this National Geographic article found at this website.

For fun viewing, watch Nicole Kidman eat bugs (including hornworms, mealworms and fried grasshoppers) in this video for Vanity Fair on YouTube.

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Learn About Buses


Buses take people to many locations every single day.
A bus typically pulls up to a stop, picks up people, and takes them to their chosen location,  where they are later dropped off. For this reason, buses are considered a very safe and easy way to travel for many people. Not only do adults use buses, but kids also rely on buses to  take them to and from school.



About the School Bus

You can’t talk about buses without mentioning the school bus! School buses are famous for their bright yellow color. The color yellow is considered attention-grabbing to the point that people often notice yellow over other colors. Yellow is easier to find in low lighting conditions and is even more noticeable out of the corner of our eyes than red. For this reason, school buses in the United States are the color yellow.



History of Buses

The history of buses goes back a few hundred years, starting in 1662. During this year, Blaise Pascal introduced the first horse-drawn bus to the city of Paris. However, the horse-drawn bus only operated in Paris for 15 years, since it was too expensive for most people to afford.

By 1812, horse-drawn buses made another appearance in the world. This time, horse-drawn buses had a design that looked like a stagecoach and a carriage mixed. The early bus also had rooftop seats, where people would sit when riding the bus. During this period, buses were finally called a bus! The name “bus” originally came from the Latin word omnibus, which means “for all.”

In the 1830s, steam engine buses came into the picture. During the same period, the electric trolley bus was also invented. These buses traveled by using cables that hung overhead the bus carriage. By 1895, the first internal combustion engine bus arrived. After the development of the first internal combustion engine bus, buses continued to develop into safe and affordable vehicles that provide people an easy way to travel.

How Buses Work

Buses are pretty straightforward vehicles. They are large, contain a lot of seats, and are usually painted in relatively bright colors like yellow, whites, and blues. Buses also typically do not have seatbelts! Back in the 1970s, government officials decided that buses should have passive protection. That meant drivers would be instructed to drive safely, and buses wouldn’t have seatbelts due to their safer design in comparison to other vehicles.

Buses are designed to be safe, and this type of safe design lies in the seats themselves. A bus seat has a high padded back and seat cushion, padded arm rails, and strong upright poles that hold the seat together. Bus seats are also arranged at a certain distance for optimal safety. Even the windows are designed to protect passengers from being ejected in the case of a bad accident.

School buses are designed with certain safety precautions. Besides being painted a bright yellow, all school buses are equipped with a stop sign that pops out when they stop. The stop sign warns other drivers to remain still while kids are exiting or boarding the bus.



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Weird Ocean Facts You Might Not Know

The world’s oceans are strange and beautiful bodies of water. People love to travel on them and even dive down into them. But most people don’t really know much about the secrets that are hidden in the oceans. Here are some weird ocean facts you might not know that will make you love oceans even more.

The Oceans Give Us Life

We all know that a lot of the food we eat comes from the ocean, but did you know that the air we breathe comes from the ocean too? More than half of it does. Not only that, but a lot of the world’s heat comes from solar energy captured by the ocean. If the oceans were smaller, then many of the warm parts of the world would actually be much colder.

The Pacific Ocean is Home to the Biggest Living Structure on Earth

You might think whales or elephants are the biggest creatures on Earth, but Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, made up of smaller living organisms like coral, makes it the biggest living structure on Earth. It lies just below the surface in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia.

The Atlantic Ocean is Home to the Longest Mountain Range

You might also be surprised to know that the longest mountain range in the world is completely underwater. It is called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge or Mid-Oceanic Ridge. It is about 49,710 miles long.

The Oceans Can be Very Hot

We often think of ocean water as being cold, especially deep water. But there are volcanic vents and underwater hot springs on the ocean floor in some parts of the world. When hot gasses are released by those vents the surrounding water can reach temperatures that are much too hot for humans, but a lot of sea creatures only survive by living near those vents, including some types of giant clams.

The Oceans are Full of Chameleon-Like Creatures

Other than the chameleon, very few land animals can change their colors to suit their environments, but the same is not true in the oceans. Many ocean creatures change color when they need or want to. Some, like the squid, change color to attract mates or scare off predators. Others, like the octopus, can do that, but they also change color to blend in with their environment and hide.

Museums Hold Fewer Treasures Than the Oceans

If you gathered up all of the treasures in every museum around the world, you still would not have as much treasure as there is sitting at the bottom of the ocean. Many boats and airplanes lie at the bottom of the ocean with all of their cargo still inside. We will never see a lot of them again, but they are still treasures for marine life because the ocean slowly reclaims them and turns them into artificial reefs where fish and other animals live.


We Know Less About the Ocean Than We Do About Other Planets

The Earth’s oceans are almost completely unexplored by man. Human beings have only seen about five percent of what there is to see below the surface of the water. Thanks to new technology that is starting to change, but right now there is better information about our solar system’s other planets than there is about what lies in our very own oceans. That’s why new ocean life is being discovered all the time. Even fish that were thought to be extinct have turned up recently. They live in such deep water that we don’t see them unless they die and wash up on shore.

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Learn About The Moon

The Wonders of the Moon
A famous poet named John Keats wrote a poem that included the moon. It because so popular that it has lasted hundreds of years. The poem tells the story of a shepherd-prince from Greek mythology who was loved by the Titan moon goddess, Selene. One of the lines from the poem says: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” The moon or “Luna” is actually a satellite that orbits the planet Earth and is the fifth largest natural satellite in the entire solar system. But what you may not know is that without the Moon, the Earth would really be lost.

The Moon: It’s a Big Deal

We all know tales of the man in the moon and real-life adventures of astronauts who traveled to the moon, such as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but there is much more to learn. The moon is Earth’s only natural satellite and was formed over four billion years ago. It is the pull between the moon and the Earth that keeps our little blue planet from spinning off into space. That’s why the moon is incredibly important to the Earth’s wellbeing. Scientists and poets alike have always been interested by the phases of the moon and its pull on the Earth. This pull, called gravity, also controls ocean tides and the length of days. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon on July 21st, 1969, during the Apollo 11 mission. This feat was watched by 500 million people worldwide and was a symbol of hope, a promise of discovery.

Studying the Moon

Whether we’re looking through a telescope or simply viewing the magnificent moon with a naked eye, we see boundless light and wonder. Galileo drew one of the first telescopic images of the moon in 1609 and stated that it was not smooth but had craters (the moon was thought to be smooth during the Middle Ages). Much has been learned and explored since then, but some things never change: wolves tilt their heads and howl at a full moon, and we gaze ceaselessly in awe.

Explore your world and the universe through the Spartan and the Green Egg Series. Join the Explorer’s Club, enjoy interactive games, collect travel pins and more! Learn about the world and the SGE Explorers Today!

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Learn About Boats

Boats help passengers travel over large stretches of deep and shallow water. Sailors take boats over many types of inland bodies of water like rivers and lakes. Some sailors take boats far out into protected areas of water. The term boat and ship are often used as the same thing, but to sailors, they are very different. Boats are small, and ships are large. In most cases, a boat is a watercraft small enough to board another vessel like a ship. Larger boats are actually ships like cargo ships, cruise ships, and ferries.

Different kinds of boats have moved people and their cargo across large bodies of water for hundreds of years. Boats pretty much let people travel over water without having to swim! Boats also have a history of use for fishing in many cultures. Businesses, governments, and many of the world’s military branches use boats for protecting their country, and for travel and transport. Larger ships have smaller lifeboats for emergency evacuation for crew members. Small boats are also used to shuttle passengers and cargo from larger boats to shore and back.

History of the Boat

Throughout the history of the world, people have used boats for many purposes. Early boats were commonly made of natural materials, usually wood. Even though many boats had steel and iron frames, they were still planked with wood.

In 1855, the French created what’s called Ferro-cement (Ferrocement) boat construction. To build a boat this way, builders used a steel or iron wire framework that they formed in the shape of a boat hull. The hull is then covered with cement and made stronger with bulkheads and other internal parts. Ferrocement boats are strong, heavy, and resistant to leaks and corrosion. Ferro-cement boat construction was copied by many boat builders around the world for many years. Some boat builders even use it to build boats today!

Wooden boats were popular in older times. So many boats were being made that the forests in Britain and Europe were disappearing. That made others begin to search for better ways to build boats. The Bessemer Process arrived in 1855. The process helps lower the cost of steel. As a result, both steel ships and steel boats became more common in the following years. By the 1930s, boats made from steel became more popular around the world. They eventually replaced wooden boats in many commercial and private industries.

How Boats Work

Have you ever wondered how boats float on water? A boat can float on water because the weight of a boat is equal to the water it sits on. Even though boats are made from heavier layers of material, that material only forms the outer layer. Inside, boats hold a lot of air, which adds to the total weight of the boat.

As a result, the total density of the boat is usually equal to the density of the water where it sits. When that happens, the boat will float right on the water! If there is extra weight in the boat, like passengers or cargo, the boat may sink a little to balance out the extra weight.

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Mount Everest

Mount Everest is one of nature’s most beautiful creations and one of the most impressive sights on Earth. As the highest mountain in the world, it has been an obsession for adventurers and explorers all over the world. Many climbers have reached its peak while, sadly, others have attempted to climb the mountain and died. Located in the Himalayan mountain range on the border of Nepal and Tibet (China), Mount Everest’s rocky summit reaches over 29,000 thousand feet above sea level and is covered in snow all year long. There are 18 different climbing routes on Everest, and the average expedition takes about 39 days. Many mountaineers have attempted the dangerous climb over the years; the first attempt was in 1921 by the British Reconnaissance Expedition.

Imagine those brave enough to attempt to climb the vast mountain but, of course, this adventure poses many dangers including altitude sickness, loss of oxygen and avalanches. The first successful expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest was the team of Sir Edmund Hillary, of New Zealand, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, of Nepal. They reached the top of the worlds highest mountain in 1953.

Mt. Everest has been dubbed with the Nepali name “Sagarmatha” which means “sky” and “head” so one can imagine that Mt. Everest is so big and tall that it reaches heights envied by the sky itself. To reach the top of Mt. Everest gives a whole new meaning to the expression “head in the clouds.”

Since the 1950s, many have attempted to reach the highest peak of Mt. Everest. While some failed, others reached the top not just once but several times. Men and women alike have reached great heights (literally) while attempting to climb Mr. Everest’s majestic snow-capped crests. As of 2018, the record-breaking female climber, Lhakpa Sherpa, had reached the top of Mount Everest a total of nine times. In 2008 the famous British climber, Kenton Cool, increased his summit count to an impressive thirteen total successful climbs of Mount Everest (the most for the United Kingdom).

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Learn About Subways

Subways help lots of people travel to urban and suburban areas across the country. A subway system typically operates in an underground part of town, sometimes right underneath city streets. Some subway systems take shortcuts in other places around a city. Others might pass underneath rivers! Parts of an underground subway can rise to the surface and change into a typical above ground railway system. Subway trains contain a number of cars that run along the underground railway. Subways go by other names like the underground railway system, a rapid transit system, metro, or even the tube!

How Subways Work

Subways are a type of railway system that operates underneath a city or urban areas. They run very often and carry many passengers. Subways are usually kept separate from other forms of traffic by grade separation. Grade separation happens when two traffic streams travel over and under each other but don’t meet when they are moving.

An underground rapid transit system is usually called a Subway in North America and some parts of Europe like Scotland. In England, the subway is called an Underground. England is also home to the oldest underground transit system in the world, the London Underground. Germany and Austria usually call the subway a U-Bahn. In the remaining parts of the world, a subway is usually called a Metro.

History of the Subway

The very first subway system came to London. It happened after Charles Pearson, a city official, suggested a city improvement plan after the Thames Tunnel opened in 1843. The first subway in London didn’t open for a while after that though as it took ten years for the Parliament to approve it. The city workers then started building over 6 kilometers (3.75 miles) of an underground railway. The railway connected the locations, Bishop’s Road and Farringdon Street in Paddington, together.

Work on the Metropolitan Railway began by 1860. The workers made trenches in the streets and built brick sides into each trench, forming a brick arch for the roofs. That construction allowed workers to build the new railway over their foundation by rebuilding the road right on top of the supports. By 1863, the railway officially opened with steam locomotives running and carrying passengers freely as the vehicles ran on coal fuel.

A true subway didn’t arrive until 1866. During this time, the City of London and the then Southwark Subway Company (the City and South London Railway) started work on an underground subway line. The building process used a tunneling shield developed by J.H. Greathead.

By 1896, other cities also started building their own subways. Budapest opened a 4 kilometer (2.5 miles) electric subway during that year. It used single subway cars with trolley poles. That was the first subway in the entire European continent. The famous Paris Metro started construction in 1898. By 1900, the first 10 kilometers (6.25 miles) opened to the public. In the United States, Boston and New York opened their first subway systems between the years of 1895 and 1904.

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Exploring South America Through Food

South American culture has been influenced by several different populations, including indigenous people, Asian immigrants, and European settlers, which has created a variety of cuisines that use both native foods and elements from other cultures. While you’ll find basic types of foods that you are already familiar with, such as potatoes and corn, you’ll also come across exotic fruits and other foods that thrive in tropical climates, like papaya and passion fruit.

Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
Have you heard of quinoa? This healthy grain comes from the northwestern part of South America. And if you like potatoes, then you’ll appreciate the fact that Peruvian farmers grow more than 100 different varieties of potatoes, including lavender ones. Cultures in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru also enjoy spicing things up with a yellow chile pepper called aji amarillo.

Colombia and Venezuela
In the northern part of South America, you’ll find a lot of Spanish influence on food. People in Venezuela and Colombia typically use Spanish spices and seasonings, such as cinnamon and cumin, to add flavor to local dishes. They also tend to combine salty and sweet ingredients in their foods by adding things like olive and raisins to tamales and other local favorites. Paella, a dish that contains Spanish rice and seafood, is also commonly eaten in this part of South America.

Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile
The southern half of South America is known for its grasslands, called pampas, where cattle are raised. Which is why beef dishes are common in this part of the continent. Local populations spice up their steaks with chimichurri and salsa. You’ll also find a South American version of cornbread, known as Sopa Paraguaya, in this region, as well as many different seafood dishes made from fish caught along the coast of Chile and Argentina.

Brazil is known for being a diverse country filled with people from all different ethnic backgrounds. That means you’ll find a lot of variety here when it comes to food. In general, Brazilian food has quite a bit of Portuguese influence from the regions early settlers. Native populations added their own touch to those dishes by introducing exotic fruits and vegetables, like cashew fruit, into the recipes. One local favorite in this part of South America is the yuca root, which is used in several dishes, such as feijoada, or black bean stew. Flour made from this starchy root is also used to make Pao de Queijo (cheese rolls).


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Let’s Explore the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It separates Asia and Australia from North and South America. The majority of the fish we eat come from the Pacific Ocean, which has many different fish, plant, and animal species living in its deep waters. Let’s explore the Pacific Ocean and its natural wonders.

How Big the Pacific Ocean Is

The Pacific Ocean spans 65,436,200 square miles. It is so big that all seven of the world’s continents could fit in it. Over 30 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by it. The average water depth of the Pacific Ocean is 13,000 feet, but many parts of it are much deeper. In fact, the deepest point in any ocean is in the Pacific. It is called Challenger Deep. It is at the end of a trench called the Mariana Trench, which is near New Guinea. Its deepest point has been recorded at about 35,800 feet.


The Pacific Ocean’s Volcanoes and Earthquakes

The Pacific Ocean is surrounded by something called the “Ring of Fire,” which is a collection of volcanoes. Some of them are visible on islands within the Pacific or in countries which border the Pacific. Others are completely hidden under the water. Over the years, volcanic eruptions and changes in the Earth’s crust have caused earthquakes and lava flows. Those have made many islands in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the islands form chains called archipelagos. The U.S. State of Hawaii is made up of an island chain in the Pacific Ocean. Also, the entire country of Indonesia is made up of the largest archipelago on Earth and is found in the Pacific Ocean. No other ocean has as many islands as the Pacific.


The Pacific Ocean’s Coral Reefs

Coral is a type of marine animal that lives in tight colonies. Each individual piece of coral can be damaged or killed quite easily, but together they form large colonies that become reefs. Reefs are homes for fish and other sea life. Many of the world’s coral reefs, including its largest, the Great Barrier Reef, can be found in the Pacific Ocean. The Great Barrier Reef is in Australia, and it stretches for more than 1,400 miles. It is a protected area where warm water fish and marine life live.


Other Living Creatures in the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is home to many living creatures besides coral, and many of them live at depths so deep that humans don’t know much about them yet. Others live at depths where humans see them a lot, but they are still quite strange. One example is the jellyfish. There are many species of jellyfish in the world’s Oceans, but the deadliest in the Pacific is the box jellyfish, which are often seen in Hawaii, Australia, and areas in between.

The Pacific Ocean also has many strange fish species like the anglerfish. It is called that because the females have spines over their heads that look like fishing poles. Anglerfish live deep below the Pacific Ocean’s surface along with other unusual creatures like the giant tube worm, which can grow to be over seven feet long.

Each of the living creatures in the Pacific Ocean is part of a delicate natural balance. Humans have upset that balance in some places, causing coral and other sea life to die. But we can also work together to protect and strengthen the Pacific Ocean again.

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Learn About Bikes

One of the world’s most popular ways to travel is by riding a bicycle. Around the world, more people ride bikes than drive cars! Bikes also save more energy than other vehicles such as cars and buses. Bikes help riders save their energy as they ride.

Bikes are not only for travel. People use bikes in races, during exercise, and for recreation to ride through much of the world’s wide-open spaces. You’ll find that bikes exist in many different shapes and styles. Road bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, and other hardy bikes, are among the common bikes in the world. Tricycles, two-rider bikes, and unicycles are some not so common bikes that people have used.

History of the Bike

Bikes have a history that goes as far back as 1490. Leonardo da Vinci imagined a machine that looked remarkably like the bikes we know today. His sketches of what could be the bicycle were not found until the 1960s. He didn’t attempt to build the vehicle during his lifetime.

In the late 1700s, Comte de Sivrac invented the Celerifere, a crudely built wooden hobby horse. The wooden hobby horse had two wheels that were joined by a single beam. A rider could sit on the beam and propel it by pushing their feet against the ground while they moved.

By the 1860s, bicycles evolved into nearly full-fledged vehicles. Bicycles became better vehicles when inventions like metal-rimmed wheels, solid rubber tires, and four-speed gears arrived. Other important bicycle developments in the 1800s were coaster brakes and the addition of freewheeling. Freewheeling made biking easier by allowing the wheels to spin without pedaling.

In 1890, the basic elements of modern bikes were already in place. In the 1970s, mountain bikes were invented, which combined elements from older balloon-tire bikes with sturdier frames and rear suspension. Today, standard bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrid bikes all exist.

What Bikes Are Made Of

The most important component of the bike is the diamond-shaped frame. The frame is what links all the parts together. It keeps the bicycle rigid and improves its handling. A bike frame has a back and front triangle, the front triangle is mostly formed by the four tubes (Seat tube, Head tube, Down tube, Top tube). The back triangle contains the seat stays, chain stays, and the rear wheel dropouts. The head tube on the front triangle holds the steering and fork tube.

Bikes throughout history have been constructed using strong heavy materials like steel and alloy. Frame materials improved to become lighter, stronger, sturdier, and more durable. The bike parts,

like the brakes, chains, and the wheels are usually made of stainless steel. Many companies that make bikes have their bike parts made by other companies, instead of making these parts themselves. After buying these parts, bike manufacturers assemble the parts to create different sorts of bikes for their consumers.

Bikes have a bright future. Computer technology has taken bike making processes and made them even better than before. You can find all sorts of new bikes made with these processes in stores today. If you can, why not try one for yourself?

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The Magic of Tree Houses

To live in a tree must be one of the most magical things to a child and spending time in a lavish tree house is an even more fantastical notion. Truman Capote’s 1951 novel The Grass Harp details the lives of an orphaned boy and two elderly women who live in a tree; from up high, as they retreat from society, they observe the lives of others. Capote was actually inspired by his own childhood and a tree house in which he spent time in Alabama. The tree house where Capote spent many hours (daydreaming, no doubt) was located in a walnut tree in his cousin Jenny’s yard and featured an antique spiral staircase and tin roof.

The 1960 Disney film Swiss Family Robinson (which is loosely based on the 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss) details the adventures of a shipwrecked family who, on their way to New Guinea, must escape pirates and build a tree house in which to live with their animal friends, including an elephant and a capuchin monkey. The Swiss Family Tree House is a tourist attraction featured at several Walt Disney theme parks including The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. For the film, the tree house was built in a “saman” or “rain tree” in Tobago that reached 200 feet. For more information on the incredible tree house that was built for the film, visit this website:

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Exploring Europe Through Food

Europe is a continent full of very different cultures.  The climates in various parts of Europe, from the warmer Mediterranean region to the colder areas of Scandinavia and Russia, have a lot of impact on the types of foods people eat.  Other factors, like religion, also influence cultural diets throughout the continent.

Central Europe

You might recognize some of central Europe’s traditional foods, such as fondue, which comes from Switzerland, or goulash from Hungary.  This part of Europe is also home to more than 1,500 types of sausage, many of which are found in Germany. Poland is also associated with several fulfilling dishes, such as cheese or potato-filled pierogi, and kielbasa (Polish sausage).  If you have a sweet tooth, then you’ll also appreciate Switzerland’s production of cocoa and chocolate.

Western Europe

Western Europe is home to several foods and dishes that have influenced other cultures.  Italian pasta dishes, French cuisine, and Spanish tapas are favorites in many parts of the world. Belgium’s famous waffles also come from this region.  People here also use food as part of cultural traditions, such as Italy’s Feast of the Seven Fishes and Spain’s Three Kings’ Day.

Eastern Europe

Cabbage is a staple food found throughout the countries of eastern Europe, but the recipes it’s used in vary widely.  Eastern Europeans also tend to eat a lot of bread and pickled vegetables. In Bulgaria, you’ll find spicier foods, such as spiced lamb and sausage dishes.  And yogurt is a favorite snack among Bulgarians. In Russia, people enjoy traditional dishes, such as Chicken Kiev, and kasha, a type of porridge.

Southern Europe

Southern Europe offers a lot of flavorful and filling foods from Greece, Turkey, and other countries.  Some of the dishes prepared here also have a strong Asian influence, especially in Albania. The climate of southern Europe is ideal for growing grapes, olives and several other types of produce, which can be eaten on their own or added to different recipes.

Northern Europe

In northern Europe, seafood is a common part of people’s diets, thanks to the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and other bodies of water that border the UK, Scandinavia, and other regions. Foods here tend to be hearty in order to help people stay warm during the colder months of the year.  Some of the dishes you’ll find in northern Europe include shepherd’s pie, Swedish meatballs, and corned beef and cabbage.

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Learn About Hot Air Balloons

Ever wonder how it would feel to float above the ground? Riding in a hot air balloon can make you feel that way! A hot air balloon is an incredible way to see the places around you. These floating rides are known for their large, strong baskets and colorful balloons filled with hot air. The large balloon helps the floating basket rise into the sky. People around the world have enjoyed hot air balloons for many years.

Hot Air Balloons Came to Be

Did you know the hot air balloon first came to life through a simple experiment? In the year 1782, brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier came up with the idea for the floating ride. During that year, Joseph discovered that holding up his shirt above hot air made by a chimney fire caused his shirt to float. Both brothers then came up with an idea and made a globe-shaped object. Although only a meter-squared, the object floated as high as 30 meters into the air.

The next year, the brothers tried another experiment. They made a balloon with about 900 cubic meters of material sewn onto paper. They also attached a basket filled with wool and straw to the balloon. Then, they lit the wool and straw on fire. After the fire became hot enough, they cut the ropes that held down the balloon, and the basket began to float.

The balloon rose as high as 9,144 meters (about 30,000 feet) in the air. The balloon stayed in the air for 10 minutes and came back down after the air inside cooled. The brothers also sent the first passengers on hot air balloons: a duck, a chicken, and a sheep! The animals stayed in the air for about 8 minutes before they landed safely.

The first human passengers in hot balloons were Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Francois Laurent d’Arlandes. Both stayed in the hot air balloon for over 20 minutes!

How Hot Air Balloons Work

Hot air balloons don’t use an open fire anymore. Today, hot air balloons use liquid propane that turns into a gas. The propane fuel helps the floating ride rise high into the air. At the bottom of a hot air balloon basket, high-pressure propane tanks sit inside. Hoses are placed on each side of every propane tank. The hoses run up into a burner that sits below the skirt of the balloon.

To make the hot air balloon float, the pilot turns on the propane tanks, causing the fuel to move into each burner. The burners then ignite a small flame or pilot light. Steel coils then heat the liquid propane, turning the fuel into a very hot gas.

As the hot air moves into the balloon, it causes the hot air balloon to start rising. Hot air rises much faster than colder air. To stay in the air, the pilot continues to feed propane to the burners. To float back to the ground, all the pilot needs to do is let the balloon cool down while in flight.


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Discovering Venice

Venice is a city filled with adventure and endless possibility for lovers of beauty. One can take a calm ride through the city’s canals in a gondola while listening to the music of the lapping water and if you’re lucky, a singing gondolier. Canals filled with turquoise water instead of streets bustling with cars and bicycles come to mind when one thinks of the sinking city. The poet Joseph Brodsky only visited Venice in December for he longed to celebrate the beginning of a new year with “a wave hitting the shore at midnight.” He explained, “that, to me, is time coming out of water.” Brodsky also described the city as being “part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers” and he described the canal-side structures as “upright lace.”

Venice is also home to the Piazza San Marco which was, according to Napoleon, one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe and remains, to this day, one of the most visited sites in the city. Saint Mark’s Basilica lies within the square and is one of the most gorgeous examples of glorious Italo-Byzantine architecture; it is even embellished with three majestic bronze horses that were once stolen by Napoleon and taken to Paris (they were brought back to Venice many years ago). Saint Mark’s Square is also home to the Palazzo Ducale (or Doge’s Palace) with its Bridge of Sighs and a nearby campanile (or bell tower) where one can climb to the peak and look out over the canals, palazzos, bridges, and rooftops. Because Venice is literally sinking into the sea due to rising tides or “acqua alta” it is important to visit the city and all the beautiful museums and treasured sites it has to offer.

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Exploring Australia Through Food

Australia is the smallest continent, but it has plenty to offer when it comes to food. Some of the foods Australians eat are derived from traditional English meals. After all, colonists from England settled here hundreds of years ago. However, Australians have managed to give these foods, such as meat pies and biscuits, their own spin.

Australian Favorites
Australians eat a variety of foods, ranging from seafood to Vegemite spread. While you’ll find tons of recipes available for Australian cuisine, some are considered more traditional than others. Anzac biscuits, made from oatmeal and coconut, are one example. Australians with a sweet tooth also enjoy a dessert called pavlova, which has meringue, fruit and whipped cream.

Australia also has its own traditional version of bread, called damper, which is meant to be baked over a campfire. What else do those living Down Under enjoy? Pumpkin soup is a local favorite, as are hamburgers topped with beetroot. Australians enjoy pumpkins in more than just soup, though. It’s a favorite vegetable and side dish, whether it’s mashed up with potatoes or baked on its own. Australians also make seasoned beef patties known as rissoles for informal dinners with friends and loved ones.

Seasonal Switches
Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that Christmas takes place during summer. Instead of cooking up hot comfort foods, such as ham and potatoes, Australians enjoy warm weather foods, including seafood and salads. They might spend the holiday feasting outdoors or even at the beach, rather than sitting around a dining room table.

Although June, July, and August are associated with wintertime in Australia, the weather is usually mild all year long. This gives Australians plenty of opportunities to have their meals outdoors, which many like to do. The mild weather makes it ideal for Australians to fire up the barbecue, or barbie, and cook up some shrimp or burgers.

Food Customs
Some Australians enjoy tea and biscuits in the late afternoon just as the English do. For Australian children, this serves as their snack when they come home from school. They don’t fill up too much, though, since they typically eat a large dinner a couple of hours later.

Australians have adopted elements of other cultures into their food in more recent years. That’s why you’ll find plenty of dishes that have influences from Greece, East Asia, the Middle East and more.

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Manpupuner Rock Formations

Manpupuner may not look like any word you’ve ever seen. That is because it is not an English name but a Russian one, and is pronounced, “Man-pupu-nyer’. The Manpupuner Rock Groupings are found in the Ural Mountains of the Komi Republic in Russia. The name Manpupuner means ‘seven strong men’ and therefore Manpupuner means Seven Strong Men Rock Formation. There are 7 huge and shapeless stone pillars that make up the Manpupuner Rock Formations. But these aren’t just any group of boulders. These stones have a story.

Fun Facts about Manpupuner Rock Formations

The Seven Strong Men Formations are so badly shaped that if you walked in the area at night they would cast 100 meter-long monster shadows and give you the creeps. Many who have done this swear that the shadows really do look like giant men! These formations are incredibly tall, ranging between 30 and 42 meters high. They may not be part of the Seven Wonders of the World but they are definitely recognized among the Seven Wonders of Russia.

The Story of the Giants that Formed Manpupuner

What everyone always asks is how the Seven Strong Men Rock Formations came to exist on a very flat part of the Ural Mountains. The Manpupuner Rock Formations are on the plateau part of the Ural Mountains, which is a fairly level part at the top. The local legends stat that one of the Mansi people who lived near the Urals crossed the border and encountered some giants. The giants started chasing the lost man near the Pechora River, but the tribe of Mansi blocked the paths of the giants and a powerful Medicine Man turned them into large pillars of stone. To this day they are frozen in place.

No Climbing on the Seven Strong Men Rock Formations

Anyone visiting Manpupuner Rock Formations is always advised against trying to climb the sculptures. There are helicopter tours that are arranged for visitors who would like to view the Manpupuner from air. But otherwise, visitors are told that the legend of the formation says that anyone that attempts to climb them will become just like them…frozen like stone!

Komi Forest: Home of the Seven Strong Men

The Seven Strong Men formation resides in the Komi Forest, which is a colorful home to over 200 species of protected plants and animals. That means on your trip to the formations you may encounter a brown bear, reindeer, or other rare types like the northern pika, golden eagle, or white-tailed eagle. The area is also surrounded by other mountains, rivers, and forests. This means that it is possible you will find more than the Seven Men Rock formations to interest you. Some courageous visitors hike up to the top of the plateau to view the formations from above. This hike can take up to three days! Helicopters can also take people up to view the formations from the air, if they can’t make the hike up the mountain.

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Learn MORE About the Great Bear Rainforest

Roaming freely among the 250 miles of rainforest in Canada is the Kermode Spirit Bear. While it has the name ‘spirit’ this bear is very real and very white. Many First Nations peoples honor the white bear as a spiritual sign and as such protect the bear. But there are other wondrous animals and plants living in this one of a kind area. Some of the trees are more than 1000 years old.

Fun Facts about the Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is the only remaining coastal temperate rainforest on the planet that has not been destroyed by people. It is called the “Amazon of the North” because there is no other rainforest in North America that has natural wildlife like the Great Bear Rainforest. The forest stretches for more than 250 miles along the British Columbian coast. Great Bear’s wilderness sits on a total of 21 million acres of land!

Other Animals in the Great Bear Rainforest

The all-white Spirit Bear is not the only interesting animal that makes this area its home. There are also cougars, sea lions, coastal gray wolves, Sitka deer, mountain goats, humpback whales, sea otters, orca, and salmon. Many of the animals who live in this area cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. That makes this area especially precious since once the special plants and animals from this area are gone, they will be gone forever. To this day, many scientists are discovering special plants that only grow there, and whose special properties may offer a cure for many diseases that cause mankind to suffer. The people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest believe that all life is connected, so by being cruel or unpleasant to other living creatures one is actually being cruel and unpleasant to oneself.

Waterfalls and Thousand Year Old Trees

Within the park, you will find wise, old cedar trees that were planted before even electricity was discovered. That is because many of these grandfather trees are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. The beautiful landscape is also covered with colorful moss that spreads all over the mountains and rivers like a thick, green carpet. Where there are rivers and mountains, you cannot fail to find waterfalls. Water at some of the Great Bear Rainforest rivers is as dark as granite and a lot of ice can be found on the peaks of the mountains.

Visit the Great Bear Rainforest

People say it is best to visit the Great Bear Rainforest between the months of August and October. Do you know why? It is because at this time there are thousands of salmon returning to the rivers from the ocean. For this reason, grizzly bears and Kermode bears are easier to see. It is always hard to spot a Kermode bear (Spirit Bear) and sometimes even the efforts of an expert tracker does not yield any results. The T’simshian people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest believe that the Kermode bear is a sacred animal. When something is sacred, it means that it is connected to God in some way and therefore no one should interfere with it.

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Learn About Trains

Trains take people to places cars and buses normally can’t reach in short a period of time. Some people prefer trains over planes even for visiting faraway places.

Trains are made up of several railway vehicles that move along railways. The vehicles help transport passengers from one place to other faraway places. A train railway is usually a set of typical train tracks. Other types of trains like monorails usually have a special type of pathway designed for its use. The train is usually powered by a separate locomotive vehicle. Some trains are powered by motors built inside a train car that pushes itself.

Today’s trains are usually powered by the use of diesel engines. Some train systems commonly use electricity powered systems that sit on the side of the tracks. Throughout history, trains have historically used steam power to operate in various countries around the world.

Types of Trains

Steam engines helped make trains more popular throughout the world. The widespread use of steam engines made far away travel much easier and less expensive than other travel methods. However, steam engines soon went out of style. Diesel engines eventually replaced steam engines in the 1930s. Diesel powered trains use diesel fuel and electricity to operate.

By the 1960s, diesel-powered trains were introduced to most of Europe. Today, many freight trains use diesel power to operate and pull large cargo. In the 1950s, another type of train came into use. The electricity-powered train was first invented in Europe. Electricity-powered trains could reach speeds as fast as 128 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour).

The History of Trains

Trains have a long history around the world. The earliest trains were only a set of carts joined together. This type of train worked along wooden tracks and was usually pulled by horses, mules, and in some cases, people.

In 1775, many places began experimenting with steam as a possible power source for trains. By the early part of the 1800s, steam engines were finally invented and put into trains. Steam engines made moving cargoes much easier. Trains with steam engines also ran much faster. In Great Britain, workers began to lay down railroad tracks in major cities. That helped spark the train craze in the country. People in Great Britain could now travel to different places, while businesses were able to transport products from place to place.

In 1860, the United States began building railroads throughout the vast country. Railroad businesses began booming during this highly active period. Railroads didn’t cross the entire country until a few wealthy individuals wanted to connect the Pacific and Atlantic coast with a long railroad. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railway came up with a plan to connect both railways. They started laying tracks from Nebraska from the West and Northern California from the East, with a plan to meet in the middle. Thousands of migrant workers worked in all sorts of weather conditions over a period of six years. By May 1896, the first transcontinental railroad was completed!


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Newgrange, Ireland

Built more than 5,000 years ago, this tomb is considered to be pre-historic. That makes this construction older than Stonehenge in England, or the Pyramids in Egypt. Scientists call Newgrange a passage tomb, but only recently have they changed their minds as they have discovered that it is also a temple. Who built this place of worship and remembrance, and where did the people go?
Fun facts about Newgrange
Newgrange is shaped like a kidney bean, with the distance from one end to another being 85 meters. How high is the Newgrange tomb passage? The distance between the floor and roof of the tomb is 13.5 meters high. There are 97 large stones known as kerbstones that hold the roof of Newgrange. The circular roof of Newgrange is estimated to weigh 200,000 tons. That simply means the roof is as heavy as 100,000 large elephants! The entire structure covers over an acre of land. During the Winter Solstice, the sun lines up with the carved windows and openings and lights up the entire chambers within. More than 200,000 visitors visit this incredible tie to the past each year.
Newgrange as a Temple
Though scientists originally thought Newgrange was a type of tomb, much like the pyramids, they now believe that it was used as a temple for worship just the way present churches use cathedrals for worship. It was also used for special ceremonies and there is enough evidence to show that Newgrange was used for burying important people in the Boyne Valley in Ireland.
Decorations inside Newgrange
Stone 52 at the entrance of Newgrange is so well decorated that it is considered among the best art pieces in the whole of Europe. Art carvings are not just found at the entrance of Newgrange but also in the 19 meter-long passage that runs through the building. Newgrange tomb also has two sister tombs close by called Dowth and Knowth. Throughout the country of Ireland, and Europe, there are similar mounds. This is one of the most decorated and largest mounds, however.
What was Newgrange Used For?
It is said that Newgrange passage was used to mark calendar dates. Right above the entrance of Newgrange there is a roof box that lights the dark passages at a specific season of the year. Every year before, during, and after December 21st, (Winter Solstice) a beam of light enters through the roof box and lights the dark passage at dawn. Ancient people of Newgrange who were farmers used this signal to mark the start of a new year. Some few people do not agree that this is the purpose that the roof box served. They say that the purpose of the roof box was to assist the spirits of the dead to ascend to life after death. Regardless of the reason for the openings, in current times there are so many people who want to be there for the Winter Solstice that the park has had to go to a waiting list and a lottery system to make it fair.

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Let’s Explore the Antarctic Ocean

The Antarctic Ocean, which is also known as the Southern Ocean, surrounds the continent of Antarctica near the South Pole. It is the only ocean that completely surrounds a continent, but there are also many other things that make it special. Let’s explore some of the Antarctic Ocean’s special secrets.
The Antarctic Ocean’s Strange Formation and Naming
One thing that makes the Antarctic Ocean special is its age. It is the youngest of all the Earth’s oceans. Scientists say it is only about 30 million years old. It formed when South America split off from the continent of Antarctica. The strange thing about the Antarctic Ocean’s formation is that it is bordered by three of the Earth’s four other oceans. Parts of the Antarctic Ocean border the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean. Those oceans are all bordered on many sides by land, but the Antarctic Ocean is almost completely bordered by water. That’s why scientists had to decide where its boundaries actually are. The northern limit of its boundary is defined as 60 degrees South latitude.

Another interesting fact about the Antarctic Ocean is that it wasn’t even called an ocean until the year 2000. Part of the reason why it was officially called an ocean is that its water is very different from the water that feeds into the area from the oceans and waterways around it. But some scientists still don’t think of it as an ocean.

The Water in the Antarctic Ocean
The water in some parts of the antarctic ocean is colder than anywhere else on Earth. The salt in it makes the water freeze at a colder temperature than fresh water. But even though Antarctica’s water is very cold and often ice covered, it is also home to something called the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence is a spot where the freezing cold water in the Antarctic Ocean meets the very warm southern waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. If you went swimming at the Antarctic Convergence it would be like swimming through a water curtain where one side was nice and warm and the other side was too cold for you to stay alive.

The Antarctic is also home to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), which is an ongoing flow of water that circulates around the continent of Antarctica. It is the strongest current found anywhere on Earth, and it also moves the most water. Within the ACC, which is also called the West Wind Drift, the water is not very salty at all, even though the Arctic Ocean, like all other Oceans, contains saltwater.

The Creatures That Live in the Antarctic Ocean
Some people think that penguins live at the North Pole, but most penguins actually live near the South Pole. They make their homes on the ice, but they swim and fish in the Antarctic Ocean. They have special layers of feathers that help them to stay warm and dry off quickly. They eat squid and krill, which are like tiny shrimp.

Most fish can’t live in the Antarctic Ocean because it is so cold, but a few types have adapted to the cold water. Some of them include the mackerel icefish and the Antarctic toothfish. Toothfish are often hunted illegally by humans, but Australia, France, and other countries are trying to protect them.

Another creature that lives in the Antarctic Ocean is the squid. Squid are found in all of the world’s oceans, but they are among the few animals that can survive the cold temperatures in the Antarctic Ocean. Giant squid can grow to be over 30 feet long. They eat smaller types of squid, as well as fish. They are well known for having the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom, which can be as big as beach balls when they are full grown.

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