Category Archives: For Kids

All About Teddy Bears

There’s nothing more comforting or snuggly than a teddy bear. It is, by far, the most classic of all children’s toys and treasures. Whether it’s an old, tattered bear many years old (with stuffing falling out) or a brand new Build-a-Bear, teddy bears are beloved keepsakes that never go out of style. What makes them so loveable? It must have something to do with the fact that they were one of the first branded toys with a story attached. They’re wholesome and traditional; there’s really nothing to dislike about a soft teddy bear.

“Oh baby let me be, your lovin’ teddy bear. Put a chain around my neck, and lead me anywhere; Oh let me be (oh let him be) your teddy bear.” –Elvis Presley

The Origin of Teddy Bears

Long before Elvis sang of being someone’s teddy bear, the popular stuffed toy was invented and dubbed “Teddy” after Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States (serving from 1901-1909) and, of course, a member of one of the most fascinating American families of all time. The story goes that, on a hunting trip in 1902, Roosevelt was the only member of his party to not kill a bear. When a black bear was found and tied to a tree by another hunter, Roosevelt refused to shoot it. Well, this news soon became newspaper fodder, and the teddy bear was born. In homage to Roosevelt and saving the bear on a hunting trip in Mississippi, a stuffed bear with his nickname became all the rage. Known as a huntsman, naturalist, conservationist, and all-around wild man, Roosevelt helped to invent the National Parks system and was constantly hiking, hunting, fishing, and going on expeditions to explore the country’s wildlife and rough, untouched terrain.

Famous Teddy Bears 

To this day, the teddy bear is one of the most popular gifts for a child. Our favorite teddy bears usually come from stories, such as Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear. Paddington is the protagonist in a series of children’s books (first published in 1958 by Michael Bond with classic illustrations by Peggy Fortnum) about a stuffed bear with a blue raincoat, red hat, and bright yellow galoshes. And let us not forget the Care Bears and Corduroy Bear, too! Now children and parents can even customize their very own teddy bears at Build-a-Bear shops.

The original Teddy Bear (made in 1902) was designed in Germany by toymaker Margarete Steiff. Toys of this sort, from this era, are highly sought after and collectible. If found in good condition, original bears are worth tens of thousands of dollars. Even though these heirloom gifts are expensive and rare, nothing quite beats nostalgia. 

Other Plush Favorites

The Velveteen Rabbit (from Margery Williams’ 1922 children’s book) is a favorite indeed! Anything velvety and soft is ideal for a child to cuddle, and stuffed rabbits are particularly popular as gifts for the Easter holiday. Other stuffed favorites inspired by literature include replicas of characters from the wild minds of Dr. Seuss (such as The Cat in the Hat) and Maurice Sendak (his “wild” things) and various Disney characters.

For more information about the origin of the Teddy Bear and Theodore Roosevelt, check out the links below: 

For further reading about one of our favorite stuffed bears, Winnie the Pooh, read this blog! For all your literary needs, visit

What Are Canyons

Learn About Canyons

Canyons are steep, narrow valleys that may also be known as gorges. They’re formed over millions of years by river movements, erosion, and tectonic movements. River canyons are the best-known type of canyon, but they’re also found under the ocean.

River Movements
A fast-flowing river can cut into a riverbed by washing sediment downstream, creating a deeper channel. This type of river becomes known as an entrenched river because they don’t change course like a typical river with a wide, flat floodplain. The Yarlung Zango Canyon in Tibet is the deepest River Canyon in the world. It’s more than 17,500 feet in some places and is also one of the longest canyons in the world, at 310 miles.

Erosion and weathering can also form canyons, usually in areas where water regularly freezes and thaws. This process begins when water seeps into cracks in rocks. The water freezes, causing it to expand and make the cracks bigger. The rock erodes and water fills the cracks again during heavy rains, causing more erosion. Over time, the canyon grows wider at the top than the bottom. This cycle repeats itself when the water freezes again.

Erosion like this forms slot canyons when it occurs in soft rock like sandstone. Slot canyons are unusually narrow and deep, sometimes less than three feet wide and 1000 feet deep. These types of canyons can be dangerous because the sides are often very smooth, making them difficult to climb. In some cases, canyons form in areas with soft rock lying on top of harder rock. When this happens, the canyons develop cliffs and ledges when the surface rock erodes, making the canyon walls look like giant steps.

Tectonic Activity
Tectonic plates are large pieces of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle. They shift and collide with each other over millions of years, causing changes to the Earth’s surface. Tectonic activity can sometimes cause land to rise above the surrounding area, which is known as a tectonic uplift. They can create mountains that glaciers and rivers cut through to create deep canyons.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is the best-known canyon formed by tectonic activity. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide at its widest point. The deepest point in the Grand Canyon is 6,000 feet below the surrounding land. The Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado River, which cuts through the Colorado Plateau. The age of the Grand Canyon is between 5 million and 70 million years, depending on which geologist you ask.

Submarine Canyons

Canyons on the ocean floor are known as submarine canyons, which are some of the deepest canyons on Earth. These canyons cut into the continental shelves and slopes, which are the edges of the continents that are underwater. Some submarine canyons were formed by rivers when that part of the ocean floor was above water.

The Hudson Canyon is one of the longest canyons of this type, at a length of 450 miles. It was formed by the Hudson River, which is located between the US states of New York and New Jersey. The Hudson Canyon was the riverbed of the Hudson River during the last ice age when sea levels were lower. Ocean currents that are strong enough can also form submarine canyons by sweeping away sediment.

Ocean currents that are strong enough can also form submarine canyons by sweeping away sediment. This process is similar to the way that rivers on land can erode riverbeds. Wittard Canyon, off the south coast of Ireland, is a well-known example of this type of canyon. Scientists believe this canyon was formed thousands of years ago when glacial water flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical Birds Around The World

When we think of colorful, exotic birds a parrot (usually perched on a pirate’s shoulder) inevitably comes to mind. There are nearly 400 species of parrot. While they come in all sizes they usually have a long tail, are very intelligent, and some learn to speak (or at least mimic sounds they hear). Parrots are usually very loud, raucous creatures and make for good companions, although one should really not own a parrot as a pet. For one thing, they often outlive their owners! Parrots can live up to 80 years. 

“Tame birds sing of freedom. Wild birds fly.”

– John Lennon

Magnificent Macaws

  • Macaws are extraordinary and extreme in their amazing attributes. They can fly very fast (up to forty miles an hour) and have an impressive wingspan (more than four feet in width). They also have extraordinarily powerful curved beaks used for cracking hard nuts and seeds. 
  • There are the traditional macaws with mainly red plumage surrounding their head, neck, and back that flows into a rainbow of colors across their wings; these are known as the “Scarlet Macaws” while the “Red-front Macaw” is mostly green in color with a splash of red on its head. The “Hyacinth Macaw” is almost entirely blue and is longer than any other species of parrot. Then there’s the “Red and Gold Macaw,” which is extremely distinctive. Their unique shape—including long tail—is for flying quickly through the jungle. Of course, parrots are incredibly noisy birds; this is so they can screech and squaw throughout the tropics and other birds will hear their call.

Other Fine Feathered Friends

Some other popular exotic birds include cockatoos and toucans.

  • Cockatoos belong to the parrot species, Cacatuidae. These birds are distinctive due to the flamboyant plumage atop their heads (the most recognizable because of this attribute being the sulfur-crested cockatoo, with its black beak, entirely white body—except for cheeks that appear to be glamourized with yellow rouge—and bright matching crown of spiky plumes).
  • Toucans are tropical birds known for their impressively large rainbow bills and are a member of the Ramphastidae family. They can be found mostly in Central and South America.

Polly Wants a Cracker: Where to Find Tropical Birds

  • Amazon River Cruises: “What does 55 gallons of water per second look like? The Amazon River, that’s what! The Amazon is THE largest body of freshwater rivers in the world. The
    Amazon snakes through many countries, but the largest portion is in Peru, which is in South America. When exploring the Amazon River you’re likely to see brightly colored birds, such as parrots and macaws, as well as towering trees, exotic flowers, and some of the most unusual wildlife to be found on the planet.”
  • Lake Retba in Senegal: “is among the splendid lakes of the world that have water that is pink!” Located near the country’s capital, Dakar, the lake is known for its abundance of salt. With a gray head and yellow and green body, the Senegal parrot is known for being smaller than most, a little less vocal (although they can be taught to mimic) as well as incredibly affectionate and playful.
  • Scoresby Sound, Greenland, is the world’s largest fjord and is surrounded by incredible craggy cliffs. Some of the wildlife that can be found there includes the Atlantic Puffin. Although it looks similar to a penguin, they are completely different. Puffins are seabirds that can fly over 50 miles per hour and are characterized by their black and white bodies juxtaposed with a colorful beak. Because of this, they have been called “sea parrots.”

For more information on the exotic birds mentioned in this blog, check out the websites below:

For more information on the sites mentioned in the blog and to collect corresponding explorer pins, check out the following Spartan and the Green Egg links:

Our Favourite Fictitious Haunted Houses

What makes horror movies so scary? Tales of vampires, the creature from the black lagoon, ghosts, mad scientists, and wolfmen awaken something within our psyche that speaks to us on a deeper level, and the most frightening Halloween story trope is the haunted house. 

With supernatural happenings and shadows dancing on a wall in the flicker of candlelight, drafts of wind blowing down a corridor, unexplained voices, creaking old staircases, dark, damp cellars filled with lurking monsters and closets filled with skeletons (literally), haunted houses make for amazing (and incredibly frightening) storytelling. The idea that a home we live in, where we’re meant to feel secure, is haunted by something paranormal, is always terrifying. These tales of spooky old mansions sure make for a spine-tingling good time! 

Some of the most famous haunted houses in literature (and in films) that we love include (but are not limited to) Hill House (from The Haunting of Hill House, 1959 by Shirley Jackson), The Overlook Hotel (from Stephen King’s The Shining, 1977), The House of Usher from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), The Bly House from Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, and even Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter book series. 

  • Many of these places aren’t even houses, but they are rivetingly scary nonetheless. Poe’sHouse of Usher is a gothic mansion inhabited by twin siblings Roderick and Madeline. After Madeline’s death, her body is entombed in the house. Then a powerful storm comes, a glowing paranormal lake that surrounds the house is described, and Madeline (who was actually buried alive) arises from her entombment. In the end, the house crumbles and is split down the middle as it sinks into the lake. 
  • Hill House from Shirley Jackson’s novel was made unforgettable when the story was adapted into a classic black and white 1963 film (not to be confused with The House on Haunted Hill starring Vincent Price). 
  •  The House on Haunted Hill is unforgettable; with the castle’s eccentric owner and a slew of guests (who are all promised $10,000 if they can stay overnight), a vat of acid, ghosts of former residents who were killed, and a swinging noose to suggest suicide, this is a frightening and over-the-top ride. 

When it comes to real life, there are actual houses that are supposedly “haunted”—whatever that means—and they’re open to tourists! 

Spartan and the Green Egg have even traveled to at least one! 

  • The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California: Filled with “Secret passageways, stairs that lead to nowhere, miles of twisting corridors all delight thousands of visitors to the Winchester Mystery House. Built by Sarah Winchester around 1882, the house has 160 rooms and was built without a blueprint. Each evening Mrs. Winchester would have a séance, and each morning she would tell the builders what the spirits said needed to be built. As a result, Sarah believed she was building a place where she could never be haunted.”
  • So, if you’re a lover of the macabre and get a kick out of spooky sights, don’t forget to collect your Explorer Pin depicting this mysterious house! 

For more information on all sorts of fascinating places around the world, visit Spartan and the Green Egg at the website and read more on the blog.

Best Bugs To Catch

Bug Hunting: Where to Find the World’s Weirdest Insects  

Bugs are everywhere… literally! From Antarctica to the North Pole and everywhere in between, insects account for more than 80 percent of all animal life on Earth. 

In fact, there are so many bugs that scientists don’t even know for sure how many types of insects exist. Most estimate that there are over 10 million insect species. Some scientists think there are many more insect species that we haven’t even discovered yet.

Given how common creepy crawlies are, it’s easy to just walk on by without taking notice. But there are a few types of bugs that are so strange that you simply have to stop and stare.

Whether big, beautiful, or just plain weird, here’s where to find some of the world’s most unique bugs.

Royal Goliath Beetle

The royal Goliath beetle or Goliathus regius lives up to its name. This massive beetle is among the world’s biggest in weight, length, and mass. The largest specimens grow up to 5 inches long and weigh up to 100 grams, or about as much as a stick of butter.

They’re also one of the strongest beetles on the planet. Male royal Goliath beetles can lift up to 850 times their own weight!

You can find these massive beetles in the tropical regions of western Africa, including Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.

Brazilian Treehopper

When you first catch a glimpse of a Brazilian treehopper, you may think it’s wearing some sort of elaborate hat, or those tiny planets are in orbit around its head. But the truth behind this South American insect’s headgear is just as strange.

Formally known as Bocydium globular, scientists are divided on the purpose behind the leaf-eating creature’s freaky helmet. Some think the outstanding orbs evolved to help the treehoppers better navigate their forest homes. But others think the balls mimic the effects of a parasitic fungus that causes odd-looking protrusions in host insects. Since predators avoid infected insects, the orbs may offer some protection to the treehoppers.

Antarctic Midge

Only three insects have been found living in the icy continent at the bottom of the Earth. Of these, only one is truly a native: the Antarctic midge or Belgica antarctica.

These insects may be tiny — about 2 to 6 mm long — but they’re tough. The midges have evolved to withstand Antarctica’s sub-zero temperatures. They spend about eight months of the year frozen.

Though they’re most closely related to flies, for most of their lives the midges take the form of grubs or larvae that live just under the soil. Then, for 14 glorious summer days, the midges emerge as wingless adults.

Picasso Moth

While the jewel-like tones of butterflies’ wings are often described as works of art, moths don’t often receive as many compliments. It’s understandable, as not many moth species have colorful wings. But there’s one outstanding exception: the Picasso moth or Baorisa hieroglyphica.

Named after the famous artist, this stunning white moth boasts colorful, geometric patterns on its front wings. To humans, the designs resemble abstract art. To the moth’s predators, the patterns make the moth look like a much larger insect. Picasso moths are found in northern India and parts of Southeast Asia, from Nepal to Borneo.

Giant Weta

Can an insect outweigh a mouse? Some giant wetas weigh as much as a gerbil! In their native New Zealand, these huge, cricket-like bugs are known by their Maori name, wetapunga, which means “god of ugly things.”

They’re believed to be one of the oldest insect species alive, and they’re certainly among the heaviest. Adult males can weigh up to 70 grams.

As scary as they look, Dimacid heteracantha are actually gentle and slow-moving. They can’t jump or fly but prefer to lumber around eating leaves and other vegetables. It’s reported that they have a sweet tooth for carrots! Sadly, these gentle giants are now an endangered species.

Gray’s Leaf Insect

Ever seen a walking leaf? In the tropical rainforests of Java, Bali, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and other parts of Southeast Asia, the Gray’s leaf insect resembles leaves come to life. These camouflaged creatures are part of a group of bugs known as “stick insects.”

The Gray’s leaf insect has evolved with a flattened, irregularly shaped body that cleverly fools predators. They sway from side to side when they walk, just like a leaf blowing in the breeze. Some even have “bite marks” and veins on their backs that precisely mimic leaves.

Known as Phylliium bioculatum, the males have small wings, but females don’t fly. Leaf insects love to munch on fruit, like guava, mangoes, and rambutan.

With millions of species to explore — and many left to discover — the world is full of unique and weird bugs. What’s your favorite?

Spooky Cemeteries

“I am a cemetery by the moon unblessed.” –Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen

Why do we visit cemeteries? Well, we visit the gravestones of the ones who have gone before us, the ones we miss and love. Cemeteries don’t have to be morbid or scary, they can be comforting, and the ones mentioned in this blog are incredible places to visit…they just happen to be graveyards! Did you know that people would actually have picnics in graveyards before public parks because it was the only place with a nice lawn where friends and family could gather?

(The entrance at the Catacombs of Paris)

  • The Catacombs, Paris: ‘Arrète!  C’est ici L’empire de la Mort’ is a phrase at the entrance of the Catacombs in Paris so, whenever one visits this incredible site, this is the first thing they see, but what does it mean?  “Stop! This is the empire of the dead.” “The Catacombs are a series of underground tunnels formerly part of a mining operation. In 1785, a portion of the labyrinth-like tunnel system was used to house human remains moved from the Saints-Innocents Cemetery. Remains from other cemeteries continued to be moved to the Catacombs throughout the 1800s. Today, the Catacombs of Paris have been turned into a tourist attraction and are affiliated with the Carnavalet Museum.” Can you imagine visiting a place (underground, no less) filled with skeletons? How cool is that? Victor Hugo wrote that “Paris has another Paris under herself” (in reference to 1300 miles of sewers, caverns, catacombs, alleys, and intersections beneath the city). Why were all these people buried deep underground in these old quarries in the first place? Well, the cemeteries of Paris were overflowing during the 18th century, interfering with the water system, and infecting people with plague, so they had to be moved. Figures of the French Revolution are buried in the catacombs, including Molière and Robespierre.  

(Photo courtesy of Paris Tourist Office)

  • Père Lachaise Cemetery, also located in Paris, is one of the most famous burial places in the world.  The largest cemetery in Paris, it is the final resting place of icons such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf. Still unknown for certain, there could be as many as 1 million people buried in Père Lachaise! Built-in 1804 and named for Père François de la Chaise (a French Jesuit priest who was also the confessor of Louis XIV), the cemetery is an extremely popular tourist attraction and doubles as a beautiful park. 

  • Beethoven’s Grave in Vienna, Austria. “The famous composer Ludwig Van Beethoven passed away in 1827. He was buried in a cemetery called Währinger Ortsfriedhof at first, but his body was later moved to his current resting place in Vienna, Austria, at the Zentralfriedhof cemetery. Visitors can find his grave together with the graves of Schubert and some other famous composers.” It has been said that Beethoven’s last words were “Pity, pity—too late!” (as he had just been told of a present of twelve bottles of wine from his publisher). 

For more information on the sites mentioned in this blog (along with Spartan and the Green Egg’s explorer pins), consult the links below:

All Cool For School

“Fall is here, hear the yell/ Back to school, ring the bell/ Brand new shoes, walking blues/ Climb the fence, books and pens/ I can tell that we are gonna be friends.” –Jack White


Back to School Fun

There’s nothing more exciting than the promise of knowledge and new adventures. A whole new world opens up for children in the fall. Crisp red apples, sharpened pencils, reams of parchment paper, and blackboards with fresh chalk all make for a lovely, quaint schoolhouse tableau. Even in times of uncertainty, it’s ideal to make the best of any situation, and a safe, joyous learning environment is truly magical. Making new friends, discovering new interests, and reading lots of cool books are all stepping-stones for children; these are the things that make school years (especially grade school) enjoyable and eye-opening. A new pair of shoes and a colorful knapsack makes school in the fall all the more fun.

Express Yourself  

“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” –Lily Tomlin

There’s nothing more fun than laying out clothes and effects the night before school! Explorer pins, stickers, embroidered patches, lanyards, and medallions are all wonderful accessories for school children to embellish their belongings. Whether it’s a backpack, lunch pail, thermos, three-ring binder, or even a mandated mask, all children enjoy decorating their personal effects. This way, you can go learn in style! Spartan and the Green Egg offers all sorts of original educational embellishments that fit the bill. 

  • Outer Space Patches: “Blast off with Spartan and the gang as they, and Egg, escape Earth’s gravity to explore the Solar System. Learn about the solar system and Earth’s place in it as you reach for the stars! The Explorer Outer Space Patch Collection is the perfect addition to the full line of Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer Collection pins and patches.  This collection includes fourteen patches: International Space Station, Rings of Saturn, Asteroid Belt, Mars, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, Venus, Mercury, Earth, Sun, Pluto, Solar System, and the Moon.”
  • Oceans Pin Collection: “Dive right into Earth’s greatest oceans with this exclusive Ocean Pin Collection. Each collectible pin is epoxy coated and polished to be shiny and soft to the touch. Explore the oceans of the world today!”
  • SGE Explorer Stickers Set #1: “Plan future adventures all around the globe with the Explorer Stickers Starter Kit. These 120 vibrant world stickers are nestled in a colorful explorer tin. They are fun and educational. Perfect for all young explorers. Collect the Explorer Stickers starter Kit to see how many destinations you have yet to discover!”
  • SGE Explorer Lanyards:Proudly collect and display all of the Spartan and the Green Egg Explorer pins on this lanyard that is available in several different colors.”
  • SGE Medallions: Deck out yourself and your personal effects with a flying carpet, rocket ship, submarine, and butterfly medallion! 



For more information on all the educational gifts that Spartan and the Green Egg has to offer, visit the website (along with the links below):


Places And Cathedrals Of Russia



Russia is known for its vast size, extreme cold, great novelists, and amazing architecture that will truly knock your socks off. 

  • The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel (a core fortified area of a city) of St. Petersburg. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, it is known for its unique design by Swiss architect Domenico Trezzini in the Petrine Baroque style. It is also known as the birthplace of St. Petersburg and shares a picturesque view of the Neva River. Once used as a prison, it is now part of the St. Petersburg Museum of History, where visitors can enjoy festivals and concerts. 

“At the center of all that is Russia – of its culture, its psychology, and, perhaps, its destiny – stands the Kremlin, a walled fortress a thousand years old and four hundred miles from the sea. Physically speaking, its walls are no longer high enough to fend off attack, and yet, they still cast a shadow across the entire country.”

― Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow


  • The Moscow Kremlin is a fortified complex and the heart of Moscow. Built between the 14th and 17th centuries, it is one of the most impressive examples of architecture anywhere in the whole world. Complete with twenty towers (nineteen of which have spires). It is a symbol of Russian power and pride. The word “Kremlin” (meaning “fortress inside a city”) is forever linked to the most pivotal political moments in Russia since the 13th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.



  • St. Basil’s Cathedral “is officially called Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. It is located in Moscow’s famous Red Square. The cathedral has a unique shape, almost like a bonfire rising into the sky. That makes it one of Russia’s most unique buildings. Part of the building is now a museum, but special services are still held there occasionally.”



  • St. Isaac’s Cathedral, built in honor of Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, is located in St. Petersburg and is known for filling the skyline with its magnificent golden dome. The cathedral is so vast that it can accommodate up to 14,000 people! Although it is now only rarely used as a place of worship, it is mainly a museum and boasts a fantastic monument to Nicholas I.


For more information on the sites discussed in this blog, visit the links below. To collect your explorer pins, and to read about adventure and exploration, visit Spartan and the Green Egg at the website.

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Learn About Astronauts

Interesting Facts About Astronauts

For about sixty years there have been astronauts. They have traveled in ships, stayed on space stations, and even walked on the moon. When you think about them, you might think of their special spacesuits or picture them floating around in their spaceships, but that is not all there is to it. There is a lot more to being an astronaut than just putting on a suit and flying in space.

The truth is astronauts go through a lot of tests and training. They also have to deal with unusual things happening all the time. Whether you want to be an astronaut one day or are just curious about space, there are a lot of fun things about astronauts and astronaut training to explore. Here are some interesting and educational facts you may not have heard before about specific astronauts and astronauts in general.

What is an Astronaut Really?

An astronaut is sometimes thought of as anyone in a space program. However, in some countries, to really be an astronaut a person has to actually fly in space. In fact, the rule in the United States is a person has to go at least 50 miles up from sea level to be an astronaut. Even though that is the official rule, people training to fly in space are also usually called astronauts.

Astronauts Versus Cosmonauts

If you have ever heard of a cosmonaut, you might wonder what the difference is between cosmonauts and astronauts. It might surprise you to find out there really isn’t much of a difference at all except for where they train. The word “cosmonaut” is just what an astronaut in the Russian space program is called. Here are some famous cosmonaut facts:

  • Yuri Gagarin was the first person on Earth to launch into space when he took off in 1961.
  • The first woman anywhere in the world to go into space was cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 1962.
  • The first untrained guest space traveler in the world was Vladimir Remek, who went to space as part of the Russian cosmonaut program in 1978.

Famous Female Astronauts

It might surprise you to know there have been a lot of famous female astronauts besides Valentina Tereshkova. Although, she famously went into space long before any other female. Here are some other famous females who took flight since:

  • Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space in 1983, 20 years after Valentina.
  • Christa McAuliffe is a now-famous civilian teacher who got the opportunity to go into space in 1986, but she died during the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
  • Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman in space in 1992.
  • Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space in 1993.

Astronauts of All Ages (Almost)

There is no age rule for being an astronaut in the United States. However, some programs do have age limits. An astronaut in the European Space Agency’s program has to be 50 or younger. Even though there is no age limit in the United States, astronauts still have to pass a lot of tests to make sure they are healthy enough to fly. So far, the ages of accepted astronauts in the United States have ranged from 25 to 77.

Keep Finding Fun Astronaut Facts

There is a never-ending list of fun facts about astronauts. Some are so weird it is hard to believe them, but they are true. Most of those facts are about how astronauts survive in space and the habits they have. For instance, there are no showers or bathtubs on spaceships. Astronauts use shampoo they leave in their hair and pouches or squirt guns with water to clean up. Other facts have to do with how space changes their bodies, like the fact that astronauts get a couple of inches taller in space. If you love astronauts, you can never run out of things to learn about them, so keep studying.

Explore Space Science



Amazing Outer Space Science Experiments

People have always loved space, but it is full of mysteries. That is why places like The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are so busy. Since it was founded in 1958, many space experiments have been performed by NASA. One of the most famous things NASA astronauts did was land on the moon in 1969. But the experiments performed in space do not just happen on the moon.

Space is a very big place. Astronauts and scientists perform experiments all the time on space stations and in spaceships to learn about outer space. Some of those science experiments have to do with how space works. Others are about what happens to people and animals when they go into space. Here are some of the best outer space experiments done so far.

The International Space Station (ISS) Itself

The International Space Station is like one giant space experiment. There are things happening there all the time. It has been home to astronauts from different countries since November 2, 2000. In that time, around 3,000 science experiments have been done there. Many of those had to do with how our bodies change in microgravity. Microgravity makes people, animals, and objects float in space or spaceships because Earth’s gravity is not the same in space. Scientists care about microgravity because someday people might want to go live on other planets. We need to know how our bodies, pets, and belongings might react to that. So far, microgravity experiments on the ISS have shown a lot of changes, like:

  • Muscles and bones do not have to work as hard in space, but that means they can get weak.
  • Plants grow differently without Earth’s gravity.
  • Fire has a different shape when it burns in space.

The Space Rose Experiment

You might not think of flowers and space going together, but for one fun experiment, they did. In the 1990s, a company called International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) wanted to know if a flower smelled different in space than on Earth. They sent a rose up on the space shuttle Discovery to find out. The answer was yes. The company made a new perfume from the oils gathered from the space rose.

The Space Sloshing Experiment

Have you ever sloshed your drink against the sides of your cup? Imagine getting paid to do that in space. Some scientists do. In fact, scientists from two colleges and NASA came together once to test how liquids move in space. They used robots to study liquids in space for a very important reason. Liquids do not move the same way in space as on Earth. They wanted to learn as much as they could about how to make it safer for astronauts flying in ships with liquid fuel.

The Hammer and the Feather

If you have heard the phrase “light as a feather” before, you might like this experiment. In 1971, an astronaut on the moon dropped a hammer and a feather at the same time. They both hit the surface of the moon at once. That proved the pull of gravity had nothing to do with the weight of an object.

The Blob

One of the most fun experiments that took place in outer space in the last 10 years was the green blob made by astronaut Scott Kelly in 2015. He put food coloring in water. Then he added a fizzy tablet to it. In the microgravity of space, the water floated in a perfect ball shape. The tablet started releasing gas bubbles into the water, and a video camera recorded the results. On top of being fun to watch, it also taught the astronauts a lot about how water interacts with other materials in space.

The Experiments Continue

Some outer space experiments last for minutes. Others last for hours or days. There are even many that started years ago and are still happening today. In fact, some of the most important take years because they show how a long time spent in space can change people, animals, plants, and even bacteria. So, the next time you look up in the sky, think about the experiments that might be going on somewhere up there.

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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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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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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