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The Cliff-Top Meteora Monasteries

The Awe-Inspiring Monasteries of Meteora  

Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and the monasteries of Meteora seem to reach halfway to the sky. These buildings have perched on the top of steep, narrow sandstone cliffs in Thessaly in central Greece since the Middle Ages. With their red roofs and gray stone walls that match the cliffs, the monasteries are an awesome sight.

These magnificent monasteries are often the inspiration for many movies because they seem so otherworldly. 

The cliffs rise as high as 1,800 feet. The views from the monasteries are spectacular, with the Plain of Thessaly spread out far below as far as the eye can see.

Who Built the Monasteries of Meteora?

Throughout history, people believed the rock formations of Meteora were special. Long before the monks arrived in the early Middle Ages, Meteora attracted hermits and worshippers who were drawn to the site they believed was between heaven and earth.

In the 14th century, the monk Athanasios Koinovitis brought his followers to Meteora, seeking a secluded and quiet place for contemplation and worship. From 1356 to 1372, they built the first and largest of the Meteora monasteries, known as the Great Meteoron Monastery.

Monks continued to build monasteries on the cliffs through the 16th century. Eventually, there were 24 monasteries. Six of them remain today. The rest are mostly in ruins.

Challenges in Building the Meteora Monasteries

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to get building materials up the cliffs! The monks used a system of ladders, pulleys, nets, and baskets attached to ropes to haul themselves and the materials up the rock formations.

The difficulties in getting up the cliffs turned into a benefit when, in later years, monks needed to escape war and persecution. For hundreds of years, they found safety at Meteora. After they ascended to the monasteries, they would pull up the ladders, baskets, and ropes behind them. No one could follow them up the cliffs.

Do People Still Live in the Monasteries of Meteora?

A small number of monks and nuns still live and worship in the Meteora Monasteries. Most of the people there now are visitors. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims visit every year.

Tourism disrupts some of the peaceful isolation that the monasteries used to enjoy, but the monks and nuns need the money that tourists bring to keep the monasteries maintained. The monks and nuns protect their privacy. Visitors are not allowed to go into the living quarters or attend religious services.

How Do You Get to the Meteora Monasteries?

In the 1920s, stairs were cut into the rocks, and bridges were built. This made it much easier for the monks to get to the monasteries. They no longer had to climb ladders or get pulled up in buckets.

In the 1960s, paved roads were built, which made it easier for visitors to access the monasteries.

If you visit the monasteries, you can drive up to the monasteries, or you can hike up. The hike is beautiful, but steep, and includes stairs. To reach the Great Meteoron Monastery, you will need to climb more than 300 stairs. Several of the other monasteries have fewer stairs, averaging around 140 each.

Find Out About Water Supplies

How Do People Get Water?

In most well-developed countries, clean drinking water is all around. You might only have to walk into a kitchen or bathroom and turn on a faucet to get some. You may not have stopped to think about where your water comes from, but you should. Water is precious. People can only drink about one percent of Earth’s water. The rest is not fit to drink. Everyone needs water, but not everyone in the world can get it easily. Here is how your water gets to your faucet and how some other cultures around the world get their water.

How People Get Water in North America

In the United States and Canada, some people get their water from private wells on their properties. Others use public water supplies. Public water is gathered from different waterways, like reservoirs. It is usually held in water towers in each town until it is needed. Then it moves through pipes to get into homes and businesses where people need it.

How People Get Water in Africa

There is a lot of water in Africa, but not all of it is easy to get or safe to use. For example, in the African country of Ethiopia, most of it is used to grow crops. Drinking water is hard to find in Ethiopia. Some people must walk for hours to get some. Then they must bring it back to their houses. Usually, they use jugs or whatever other containers they have with them to do that. Since they can only carry a little water at a time, they are very careful about how they use it.

How People Get Water in South America

In some parts of South America, fresh water is nearly impossible to find. Mexico is one place where there is not enough water for everyone. In fact, about half the people in Mexico struggle to get enough water to drink, wash clothes, or take showers. During dry seasons, it is especially hard for Mexican people to find water in some areas. In Mexico City, Mexico City workers often deliver water rations in trucks. People have barrels at their homes that store those water rations.

In other parts of South America, freshwater lakes and rivers provide water supplies for residents. People living near the rainforest often have easy access to nearby water. They just must safely get that water to their homes. Often, that means watching out for snakes or crocodiles by the water’s edge. They sometimes use buckets attached to poles to carry the water back to their villages across their shoulders.

How People Get Water on Islands

You might think people can easily get water on islands. That is true on many large islands like Mindoro Island in the South China Sea. Larger islands often have their own freshwater lakes or streams. Residents can get their water from those water sources. 

People on other islands rely on the weather to give them fresh water. Many island residents do that by collecting rainfall. In Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, about two billion gallons of rain can fall in just one day. It refills the island’s aquifer system, which people use to get their bathing and drinking water. In many other parts of the world, rainwater is collected in big barrels.

Helping People Around the World Get Water

There are lots of charities around the world that deliver clean water to people or help them build their own clean water systems. You can help, too. The more water you save, the more there is for the rest of the world. Try some easy tricks to save water, like turning the faucet off while you brush your teeth. 

Learn All About Salt

The Interesting World of Salt

“Please, pass the salt.” You heard it a hundred times, but did you ever wonder what was really in the salt shaker? Do you know where we get salt or if we can ever run out of it?

Salt is necessary for our bodies. However, if we eat too much of it, it’s bad for our health. People need salt for more than just eating. In fact, it is so valuable that, a long time ago, people gave workers salt instead of money!

Read on to find out more interesting facts about salt.

What Is Salt?

Scientists have many different names for salt. They call the type of salt we eat sodium chloride or NaCl.

If you sprinkle a little salt on the table and look at it with a magnifying glass, you can see it looks like little grains of sand. That is because salt is a mineral.

The salt you put on your French fries is called table salt, and it is just one type of salt. There are many others.

Different Types of Salt

Did you know that not all salt is white? White salt is the most common color, but there are many more. You can find gray, black, pink, red, and even blue salt. The different colors of salt come from other minerals that are mixed in with the sodium chloride. 

Color is not the only difference. Salt comes in many sizes and shapes, too. Table salt is the smallest type of salt, and it looks like small cubes. Kosher salt is larger, and the grains have irregular shapes. Flake salt is bigger than Kosher salt, but the grains are flat like a plate. Rock salt is even larger and is often the size of pebbles!

You can’t eat all types of salt. The majority of the salt in the world is not safe to eat because it contains other bad minerals for your body. People use these salts for many things, including melting ice on the roads and making other chemicals that we need.

What salt looks like and how we can use it depends a lot on where we find it.

Where Does Salt Come From?

Have you ever gone into the ocean with a scrape or cut? It doesn’t feel good. That’s because the ocean has salt in it. But ocean water is not the only place where you can find salt. It is all over the planet and even under it.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the oceans covered most of the Earth. When the water disappeared, it left behind salt. Today we get most of our salt from deep underground in salt mines. But in some places in the world, the salt is still on the surface. We call these places “salt flats.”

Salt flats formed millions of years ago when saltwater lakes dried out. Some of the largest salt flats in the world are in the United States. Two of the most famous salt flats are the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and the Badwater Basin salt flats in Death Valley National Park.

How Is Salt Produced?

We get our salt in a variety of ways.

Today, most of the salt we eat comes from dissolving rock salt in water and then evaporating the water using machines. Harvesting salt this way is clean and safe. But it wasn’t always so easy to produce salt.

Hundreds of years ago, most salt people ate came from salt mines or salt flats. Collecting salt from these places was a hard and dangerous job. That is one reason why salt was so valuable in ancient times.

Another process for gathering salt is by collecting ocean water and letting the sun evaporate the water. People have been using this method since ancient times, and they continue to do it today. Salt made from ocean water is called “sea salt” and is a popular choice of salt to use for food.

Can We Run Out of Salt?

One natural resource you should not worry about running out of is salt. Besides having millions of billions of tons of salt undiscovered, all of the salt we use returns to the Earth. That’s because after we eat salt, our bodies release it. While we may run out of some sources of salt, there will always be more.

The next time you sprinkle a little salt on your food, take the time to think about where the salt came from and all the people who worked hard to make it possible for you to do so.

Forge A friendship

Ideas for Making New Friends This Summer 

Summer can be wonderful, but it can also be lonely at times, so making new friends is your best bet at having a good time. It’s really not that difficult! Try these tips and see what happens.

Where: summer camps—including ones during the day as well as sleepaways—are fantastic places to make new friends. Ones that are hosted by churches and community organizations are always a good idea because, this way, kids can meet others who live nearby, and the friendship will have a better chance of lasting. If for some reason, you make a friend who lives far away, you can become pen pals. These camps (especially 4-H and anything sponsored by a church) are usually free or low-cost. Team sports are also popular for meeting new people who enjoy the same things and have a common goal. Summer school is, for some, a good way of making new friends too, so if you think that summer isn’t going to be fun because you’re stuck studying, use this as an opportunity to forge a bond with your classmate/s.


“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…’” –C.S. Lewis

How: Bible schools and 4-H camps are centered around learning new skills and helping others. This usually involves volunteering and is a great way to participate in teamwork and a shared positive outcome. Engaging in summer camp activities like rowing, fishing, swimming, archery, etc., makes forming friendships easier because everyone ends up with shared experiences that are exciting and joyful. Playing games, such as Capture the Flag, also help to secure friendships. If you’re not into outdoorsy things, try arts and crafts.

Tips for Parents: Enroll your kids in a program/club/camp dedicated to things they enjoy. They’ll meet other likeminded children who enjoy the same activities and have similar sensibilities.  Shared hobbies and interests are ideal for forming lifelong friendships. Depending on their hobbies, they can join a club in their neighborhood/town/school that offers special events. For instance, if they enjoy reading you may want to consider enrolling them in a book club. Mingling isn’t so difficult. Summer camp is actually pretty effective for even the most introverted kids because there are counselors in charge of games and activities whose job is to make sure everyone gets along. This means that no one gets left out. Children are usually paired up or on teams for summer-related sports and fun, encouraging them to be social. If they attend summer camp, they’ll probably become friends with other kids in their cabin (especially their bunkmates). 


What does every summer camp have in common? On the first day, everyone sits in a circle and is encouraged to introduce him or herself. Make sure to add something to the conversation about what makes you interesting, special, and uniquely you!

Forge a Friendship


“Don’t walk in front of me…I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me…I may not lead. Walk beside me…just be my friend.” –Albert Camus

First of all, be kind to everyone. As you get older, you’ll realize how few and far between true friendships are and will value them more than ever. If you meet someone with shared interests who is kind and makes you feel good, cultivate that friendship! Avoid cliques and encourage everyone to join your group. If you’re at summer camp and see someone eating alone in the dining hall, invite them to sit with you. You’ll be surprised at just how far being amiable will take you in life.

Friendships don’t just happen; you have to nurture them. This means putting other people first, being a good listener, and, sometimes, making a braided friendship bracelet. There’s nothing better than someone who truly cares about you, is attentive, and fun to be around. 

Invasive Species Guide

How Invasive Species Hurt Natural Ecosystems  

An ecosystem is a fragile natural network of animals, plants, bacteria, and other organisms living in the same area. Over many years, the organisms in an ecosystem grow, hunt, reproduce and live with a natural balance. For example, animals at the top of the food chain need to eat some of the smaller animals in that food chain or things will get overpopulated. And, if those smaller food sources disappear, the native predators will die out or migrate due to starvation.

When something is destroyed or added to a balanced ecosystem, native species may struggle to survive. Removing a lot of trees (deforestation) can ruin an ecosystem by killing the animals who depend on those trees for survival. A less noticeable threat is when an invasive species is introduced to an ecosystem.

What is an Invasive Species?

When a species is brought into an area where it doesn’t belong, it can take over and hurt plants or animals that normally live in that space. Invasive species are also called alien species or exotic species.

Invasive species are any non-native species that disrupt an ecosystem.

There are some non-native species that are not invasive or destructive to the ecosystem. Some food plants, like wheat, rice, and tomatoes, are not native to the United States and do not threaten the local ecosystem.

Sometimes, people bring plants or animals into an area and end up causing a lot of damage. While the plant or animal might seem like a harmless part of nature, it doesn’t belong in that region and starts to take over part of the ecosystem.

Introducing an invasive species can happen on purpose or on accident. There are many reasons someone might bring a foreign species into a space. A few of the most common reasons for intrusive species include:

  • Pets that escape into the wild
  • Pretty plants or trees that are added to gardens
  • Animals brought in as a solution for pest control
  • Bait that escapes
  • Organisms that “hitch a ride” and are carried in by mistake

Examples of Invasive Species in the USA

There are more than 6,500 alien species in the US. Each of these species has caused untold havoc to the ecosystems they have found themselves in. Here are just a few examples:

Zebra Mussels were brought into the Great Lakes of North America by mistake in the 1980s. They stuck to the bottom of large ships and were brought in as the ships traveled between areas. There are now so many Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes that they clog water intakes, filter out important algae, and kill off native mussels. Plus, they really hurt if you ever step on one!

Burmese Pythons were brought to Florida as pets and released when their owners couldn’t properly care for them. They are now rapidly reproducing and invading the Everglades, eating the rabbits and songbirds who are native to the area. Nothing in the Everglades naturally eats the Burmese Pythons, so they are growing to an enormous size.

House Cats have made the list of the top 100 invasive species in the world and are the most invasive killer of species in the world. They have no native ecosystem because they are bred from wild cats and brought to America by European colonists. Cats eat birds and other small wild animals in the area when they are allowed to roam outside. Ironically, they were brought here to help with another highly invasive species from Europe—house mice.

Brazilian Pepper Trees were brought to Florida from Brazil in the mid-1800s. People liked using the bright red berries for holiday decorations. This invasive species is an aggressive and woody weed, producing a lot of seeds and creating shade that kills off native shrubbery.

Japanese Stilt Grass is one of the most damaging invasive plants, according to the US Department of Agriculture. This non-native plant isn’t eaten by deer or even goats (and they’ll eat almost anything!). Instead, it quickly replaces plants local wildlife typically eat.

What Can I Do to Help?

Once an invasive species is introduced to an area, it can be extremely hard to remove. If you want to support your local ecosystem, you need to support the native plants and wildlife. Some people aid in the efforts to remove the invasive species as often as possible. You will also make a big difference by researching any plants and animals you want to plant or release into the wild. 

Travel, Read, Repeat

Jules Verne: Explorer Writer Extraordinaire

(Voyages Extraordinaire is the ultimate collection of Jules Verne’s novels—fifty-four in total!)

“Ah! Young people, travel if you can, and if you cannot—travel all the same!” 

– Jules Verne (1828-1905)

Are you ready to go on a wild ride all around the world and even to the moon or beneath the sea? What about to the center of the earth? Explore the definitive science fiction novels of Jules Verne (1828-1905) to learn all about these incredible adventures!

  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1872) tells the story of two adventurers who, on a wager, attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Complete with traveling circuses, tramp steamers, attacks by American Sioux Indians in the United States, adventures in Hong Kong, Calcutta, Yokohama, Liverpool, and Paris and a dilapidated bridge, Verne’s protagonists complete their journey in the nick of time.

  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Jules Verne is considered one of the most forward thinking authors of the 19th century and has predicted numerous things in his most famous book, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, which was published in 1870. Verne not only predicted electric submarines 90 years before they were invented, he also imagined them just as they turned out — long and cylindrical.” Verne’s story explored the deep sea in all its mystery, a submarine called the Nautilus, Captain Nemo, and a giant squid!

“We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.”

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) tells the fantasy story of a geology professor, his nephew, and their guide as they travel to the Icelandic volcano Snæfellsjökull. They summit Snaefell on the Isle of Man and tunnel to the center of the earth, where they discover a forest of enormous mushrooms, mastodon bones, extinct reptiles, and an enormous underground lake.

“The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth.”

  • From the Earth to the Moon: A Direct Route in 97 Hours, 20 Minutes, 1865 is the quintessential space race novel. Hugely prophetic, this classic novel (filled with satire) explored the notion of astronauts and rockets to the moon!
  • The Mysterious Island, 1875, tells the story of a hot air balloon blown off course and its group of castaways who end up on an unknown island, complete with pirates. 

Think Adventure! Consider visiting the Jules Verne restaurant located on the second floor in the Eiffel Tower in Paris! Follow Spartan and the Green Egg on an adventure (by way of their fun, colorful and educational explorer pins). Learn more about the wonderful country of France and just a tad of what it has to offer.

  • Paris, France, often called the City of Light. Paris is the capital city of France and is home to many great cultural and historical achievements, including the Eiffel Tower. The river Seine winds through this beautiful city, and its city streets are lined with wonderful cafes and shops, and visitors come from all over the globe to see some of the world’s greatest art at a museum called The Louvre. Many great artists, writers, dancers, and musicians have called Paris home, and still do to this day.”


  • The Eden Théâtre in La Ciotat, France, was built in the 1880s. It was renamed Théâtre Lyrique in 1890 and Grand Théâtre in 1892. Many grand ballets were held in the colossal theater over the years. Closed twice for lack of funding, it was finally demolished in 1895. “The city of Ciotat acquired the building in 1992. In another life-saving advancement, the Eden-Théâtre was classified as a historical monument in 1996, causing it to benefit from the protection of French cultural heritage laws.”

(Le Voyage Dans La Lune, 1902: one of the earliest films ever made, based on Jules Verne’s book)

“In 2013, the cinema was renovated following 16 months of construction work (directed by Nicolas Masson and André Stern) completed on a budget of 7 million Euros. The projection booth was modernized, but the screening room retained its original 1889 looks.”

Maupassant and More 

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), Victor Hugo (1808-1885), and Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880): all masters of 19th century French literature.

  • Guy de Maupassant—arguably the greatest French short story writer—is today probably most remembered for his highly anthologized story, The Necklace.  
  • Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is a titan of French literature and will forever be remembered for his brilliant creation of Quasimodo, the bell ringer. 
  • Gustave Flaubert is most remembered for his masterworks Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education. To read more about Flaubert, check out Full Cycle Publications’ blog post on the author, his literary surroundings, and legendary writing. 

To learn more about Jules Verne and the sights mentioned in this blog, consult the links below and visit Spartan and the Green Egg at the website:







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 that 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?

Nostalgia For Play

“Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood.” –Pablo Neruda

There’s nothing that evokes immediate nostalgia like vintage children’s toys. The primary colors of Chinese Checkers, a game of Twister, and Monkeys in a Barrel. Metal Jacks with a ball, Dominoes to line up perfectly (and then be knocked down), army men scattered across the floor, a skipping rope, tiny toy cars, and colorful blocks: all these things conjure images of an idyllic childhood, before screens. Playing with dolls is wonderful for children to learn how to communicate and to imagine interactive scenarios, while puzzles and crossword games encourage literacy and promote intellectual curiosity. 

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” –Carl Jung

The Importance of Play

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The importance of play cannot be overestimated. When a child plays pretend and make-believe, they are able to imagine anything, and the possibilities are limitless. This type of freedom for the childhood mind is so precious as children are not pressured by restrictions set by society yet. They can leap from stone to stone imagining the ground is covered in lava or blow bubbles into the air without a care in the world. As Fred Rogers said, “When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero.”

Here are some of our favorite toys for children: 

  • A Slinky: this spring-like favorite will inch its way down the stairs and, as a child, is endlessly fascinating. 
  • Dolls/Barbies/Paper Dolls/GI Joes/Plush Toys are wonderful for children to play with while creating social scenarios. Most children have a favorite doll, stuffed animal, or even a treasured blanket.
  • Building Blocks are the foundations for making just about anything. Of course, these are some of the most rudimentary toys in any nursery and never go out of fashion. The same sentiment goes for a spinning top, a cup with a ball on the end of a string, skipping rope, a tea set, etc. 
  • Colorful chalk and finger paints are essential for children to create whatever picture they wish. The grass can be purple, and this sort of creativity should be encouraged, not dismissed as wrong. Chalk should always be used for creating a schoolyard game of hopscotch!
  • Baseball cards are always fun to collect and, today, may have great monetary value.
  • A Jack in the Box that one twists as “Pop Goes the Weasel” plays—before the toy pops up—is completely classic. 

Board Games/Word Games/Puzzles 

Board Games (especially ones such as Scrabble, Boggle, and Crossword puzzles) are absolutely essential for children to learn language skills. The following are some we highly recommend and that never go out of style:

  • Monopoly
  • Scrabble
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Picture Puzzles
  • Tic Tac Toe

Games from SGE 

Think Adventure!

Spartan and the Green Egg offers an array of beautiful and educational toys and prizes, including 3D puzzles, matching games, and playing cards. For the little geography lovers in your life, try the spherical 240-piece puzzle, Our Planet. If you know little adventure-seekers, they’re bound to love Spartan and the Green Egg’s Explorer playing cards, binoculars, and World of Amazonia Tin! For more on a 3D Grow a Garden flowerpot puzzle, a 3D egg-shaped puzzle, countless stickers, patches, explorer pins, and medallions, check out the many exciting gifts that Spartan and the Green Egg has to offer at the website

America’s Greatest Idea: The National Parks System

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”― John Muir

The United States would be a lot less beautiful without the National Parks and all they have to offer. “On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” creating the National Park Service”; this meant that the inspirational beauty of Crater Lake’s deep blue waters, the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, and pillars of Bryce Canyon could not be destroyed. Giant sequoias—some of the oldest, most magnificent trees in the world—are protected because of the NPS. These unique, educational, and, frankly, breathtaking places have been preserved and are one of the greatest things about this country.

The National Parks Service (NPS) came about to preserve the untouched, natural beauty of this country. This means that these wonders cannot be built over and turned into infrastructure. Some things, such as nature, are sacred. The National Park Service is a government institution that ensures dams cannot be built, hundreds-year-old trees cannot be logged, and endangered species of animals cannot be hunted. 

The National Park idea came about when, in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became President and created the United States Forest Service. Did you know that Roosevelt protected “approximately 230 million acres of public land” while he served as President of the United States? It is because of this that he is known as the “conservationist president.”

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

― John Muir

  • John Muir was also a famous figure who played a key role in securing that certain areas of bucolic tranquility, intense wilderness, remote desert, immense beauty, and wonder were protected and not destroyed. Known as “Father of the National Parks,” John Muir (1838-1914) was a mountaineer who is known for his early advocacy for the conservation and preservation of the American wilderness. 
  • Stephen Mather (1867-1930) was another important person who helped to establish the National Parks Service. An American Industrialist who was drawn to the parks, he became the first director of the NPS.

“A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness…. He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks.” –Stephen Mather

Travel with Spartan and the Green Egg

  • Bryce Canyon National Park is a “Southern Utah Reserve hosting the largest collection of erosion-formed, odd-shaped pillars in the world. These giant pillars are known as ‘hoodoos’ and the Bryce Canyon hosts a series of crimson-colored hoodoos that are common spots for cross-country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing. Bryce Amphitheater is a collection of giant hoodoos that provide ideal spots for sunrise and sunset viewing. Rims at Bryce are between 8000 feet (2400 m) and 9000 feet (2700 m) high.”
  • Crater Lake National Park: Located in Southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, “Crater Lake” was formed in a dormant volcano. It is the deepest lake in the United States (over 1,900 feet) and is known for its clear, sky-blue water. “The lake is fed entirely by rain and snow. Scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.” “Volcanic formations still stand around the lake, and the park is pampered with an additional small island, numerous trails, hills, and forests for visitors to explore.”
  • Acadia National Park is “a recreational area along the Atlantic coast located specifically at Mount Desert Island of Maine. It covers a vast area of 47,000 acres, and its landscape is characterized by rocky beaches, woodland, and granite peaks. The park is a host to wildlife, including seabirds, bears, moose, and whales (among others). It is also characterized by harbors, shops, and restaurants where each year nature lovers vacation.”
  • Zion National Park “is located within Springdale, Utah, in the southwestern part of America. Zion National Park is filled with many mountains and rivers, but the most well-known is Zion Canyon. The Zion National Park is also filled with many different species of plants and animals. It is very easy to identify the Zion National Park because of the tan and red colors in the sandstone.”
  • Grand Prismatic Hot Springs, Yellow Stone: “The Grand Prismatic Spring, found in Yellowstone National Park, is the largest hot spring in the U.S. and the third-largest on the planet. It is called ‘prismatic’ because the vivid colors surrounding the springs correlate with the rainbow dispersion of white light through an optical prism. The coloration comes from microbial mats located along the edge of the hot springs.”
  • The Great Smoky Mountains are “part of a national park that runs through different parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. The national park actually has parts that run through the Appalachian Mountains. Many hikers that are going through the Appalachian Trail end up visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. The highest part of the mountains is known as ‘Clingmans Dome.’ Many hikers like to explore in that area and reach the top, which is known as the ‘Chimney Top.’”

To learn more about Spartan and the Green Egg and the hundreds of explorer destinations detailed on the website, follow this link.

For more information on the specific sights/National Parks mentioned in this blog, check out the links below (and don’t forget to collect your explorer pins):

To discover more about the National Parks Service (NPS), how it came about, the important people involved, and how you, too, can visit, explore, and educate yourself on conservation, visit the links below (referenced in the blog):

5 Mythical Creatures That Young People Will Love To Explore

In Search of These 5 Mythical Creatures  

As a young explorer, you are eager to examine and understand everything under the sun. For many of you, this not only means learning about the natural world but the supernatural world as well.

 Although science has yet to confirm the existence of the five mythical creatures listed below, legends about them have been circulating for centuries. Maybe someday, you can try to find them in the wild! Until then, we can discover more about them as fantastic creations of folklore, fables, and fairy tales.

  1. Bigfoot – Thought to live deep in the forests of North America, Bigfoot (also known as “Sasquatch”) is a large, hair-covered, ape-like creature who stands and walks upright. By different accounts, this mythical beast may measure as much as 10 to 15 feet tall. Some people think that Bigfoot is a relative of the ancient ape Gigantopithecus, which was roughly three times bigger than a gorilla. Similar creatures, called Yeti, are said to live in the frigid mountains of Tibet.
  2. Werewolf – Although the werewolf myth can be traced back to Ancient Greece, the word “werewolf” dates to early Middle Ages. The Old English word for man is “were.” Although a person might be turned into werewolves through a magical curse or a bite from another werewolf, their human-to-wolf transformation always has the same source: a full moon. This creature has been a well-known monster around the world for quite some time. If a werewolf ever gives you trouble, remember that it doesn’t like sliver…and is particularly susceptible to silver bullets! 
  3. Chupacabra – A Spanish term that mixes “chupar” (“to suck”) and “cabra” (“goat”), the Chupacabra is literally a “goat-sucker.” Much like a vampire, it reportedly feeds on goats and other forms of livestock by attacking them and drinking their blood. Supposed eyewitnesses have given quite different physical descriptions of the Chupacabra, which range from a relatively small dog-like creature to a bear-sized creature with a row of spikes down its spine. The Chupacabra is native to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Southwestern United States.
  4. Fairy – A close cousin to the pixie, the small, winged fairy is a bit bigger and slightly more human-like in appearance. Both are common characters in European folklore. In early oral tales, fairies and pixies also behaved quite similarly. In other words, they caused trouble, made mischief, and even committed downright evil crimes such as stealing human babies. Over time, however, fairies have gotten an image makeover, appearing in literature and popular culture as kind, wise, and inherently good creatures.
  5. Loch Ness Monster – One of the deepest lakes in Scotland, Loch Ness is said to harbor a hidden resident. Primarily sticking to the dark bottom of the lake, this enormous dinosaur-like creature only occasionally ventures to the surface. Over the past 200 years, countless people have claimed to spot the Loch Ness Monster, and several have even snapped pictures. However, many of these photographs have been revealed as fakes and no one has provided scientific proof of the creature’s existence. 

These five mythical creatures barely scratch the surface when it comes to legendary beasts and magical beings of the world. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring! Who knows what you might find?


It’s fun and interesting to think about extreme places, especially destinations around the world with extreme weather! This winter, let’s learn about some of the globe’s coldest, snowiest places as we keep warm indoors. Spartan and the Green Egg has exciting explorer pins devoted to some of the world’s most fascinating and remote places; let’s travel vicariously with SGE to some of these snowy spots. 

  • Bouvet Island: “A dependency of Norway, this uninhabitable sub-Antarctic island is in the South Atlantic Ocean around 1,100 miles north of Antarctica. The island is only 19 square miles and has an inactive volcano in the center. A glacier covers 93% of the land. While it has limited vegetation, the island is home to several species of breeding penguins and seals.” This is the most remote place on earth! Can you imagine such an empty, freezing-cold place?! 
  • The South Pole is “one of just two points on the Earth where the axis of rotation interacts with the surface of the planet. It is the southern-most point of the entire planet, and is directly opposite of the North Pole. The South Pole is located on a plateau of ice in Antarctica that is over nine thousand feet thick.” Located in Antarctica, the South Pole experiences “up to 24 hours of sunlight in the summer and 24 hours of darkness in the winter.” No one lives here indefinitely—only about fifty people work at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during the winter.
  • Antarctica’s Mt. Erebus “is located on Ross Island, which is a part of Antarctica. Mount Erebus has the honor of being the second highest volcano in Antarctica. The volcano has been active since 1972. It is home to many unique sites, such as a lake made out of lava. The volcano itself is very tall, standing over twelve thousand feet high.” Mount Erebus is thought to be the southernmost active volcano in the world and is constantly emitting gas and steam. 
  • The Southern Ocean goes by many names. It is more commonly called the Antarctic Ocean. Other names for it include the Austral Ocean and South Polar Ocean. It is home to the Emperor Penguin species, which is the largest species of penguin on Earth. The Southern Ocean also surrounds the continent of Antarctica, which contains 90 percent of the ice on the planet. At its deepest point, located in the South Sandwich Trench, the Southern Ocean reaches a depth of 23,737 feet.” Talk about an extreme place! The Southern Ocean is also known for its albatrosses, fur seals and blue whales.
  • “The North Pole earned its name by being the northernmost point on the planet where the axis meets the surface. Because of this, anyone at the North Pole will always face south in all directions. The North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. However, the location is always moving because of the shifting ice in the water. The North Pole wasn’t discovered until 1945.” Did you know that, because the ice is always shifting and moving at the North Pole, there is no possible way for a community to be built.
  • Alert, Nunavut: “Alert is part of the region of Nanavut, which is located within the northern section of Canada. Because of close proximity to the North Pole, the weather is always very cold. The freezing temperatures actually make it so almost nobody can live in the area. Scientists and the military have been conducting research in the area since as far back as the 1800’s.” Some people do, however, work and live at the military base on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. 

To learn more about the destinations discussed in the blog (along with other exciting places for travel and exploration), check out the links below and visit the website. And don’t forget to collect your explorer pins! 

For more information on the sites mentioned in the blog, check out the links below:

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 Fullcyclepublications.com

Fun Facts About Christmas Trees

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How lovely are thy branches!

The Most Impressive Christmas Trees

  • The tree in Rockefeller Center, NYC, is a sight to behold. It wouldn’t be Christmas without this festive tradition! Ice skaters in pairs making figure eights as the lights of the tree glint off the rink makes for a classic tableau unique to the city. The first annual tree lighting took place in 1933, two years after workers put up their own balsam fir and decorated it with handmade garlands. Today there are over 50,000 lights on the tree at Rockefeller Center, and it stands magnificently (this year) at nearly 80 feet tall!
  • The stunningly beautiful Christmas tree at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, beneath a skylight dome, covered in Swarovski crystals, is quite the festive sight.
  • The tree at La lagune Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio de Janeiro actually floats in the lagoon! Covered with 900,000 light bulbs and at 230 feet tall, this festive tradition (complete with fireworks) is a sight to behold.

Origins of Christmas Trees

  • Christmas trees have been around since the 16th Century in Germany. It was actually believed to be bad luck to put up a tree before Christmas Eve! This was a Christian tradition, but lots of people, regardless of religion, have a Christmas tree in their homes.
  • Although Thomas Edison is accredited with this, “It was actually his colleague and friend, Edward Johnson, who first thought of putting electric lights on a Christmas tree instead of the traditional candles, according to the Library of Congress.” Before this, of course, people used real flames to illuminate their trees. Today, this is antiquated and also pretty dangerous! 
  • While the early Romans were the first to celebrate with fir trees, most people today decorate with evergreens. While most people today use artificial trees, there’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh cedar, pine, and balsam fir.
  • Did you know that illustrations of Christmas trees featuring Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children helped to popularize this tradition? People saw these images in the 19th century (Prince Albert died in 1861) and immediately fell in love with the festive décor and practice.

What’s Your Favorite? 

“… There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well

The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow.” 

–It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas 

What’s your favorite part of the Christmas tree? Is it the tradition of wrapping up in your warmest coat and scarf, going outside into the cold, and finding that perfect tree to chop down? Or is it placing it indoors afterward and decorating it? Maybe you love the tinsel, bright shiny baubles, and glass bulbs the best…or the angel on top! Stars, candy canes, and lights galore are a treat for everyone! Does your family put up a tree? Do you make your own ornaments, such as stringing cranberries or popcorn? Whatever your individual tradition, the most important thing during the holidays is being together and giving, rather than receiving. Love is the most important gift under the tree this Christmas. 

For more information on topics mentioned in this blog, check out the links below:

Global Warming Causes And Remedies

What Is Global Warming, and How Can You Stop It?  

Global warming is the general trend of the Earth’s surface temperature increases over time. It has many natural and manmade causes. Scientists are trying to develop ways of reducing global warming because they’re concerned that it could damage the environment in various ways. There are also many things you can do to help slow global warming.

Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is a key part of global warming. It’s so named because of its similarity to the way a greenhouse stays warm inside. A greenhouse is a type of building made mostly of glass panes that allow sunlight in but prevent heat from escaping. Certain gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere without allowing heat to escape to outer space. The most common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane.


Animals naturally produce greenhouse gases, mainly by exhaling. Plants use greenhouse gases during photosynthesis, which generally kept greenhouse gases at constant levels throughout most of Earth’s history. However, their levels started to rise during the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. This technological trend resulted in the burning of fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil. These fuels are needed for many industrial processes such as powering factories, running cars, and generating electricity. In addition, many forests have been cut down to make land usable for humans, thus reducing the number of plants available to absorb greenhouse gases.


The exact rate of global warming is difficult to predict, but most scientists guess that the temperature of the Earth’s surface will increase by between 3.2- and 7.2-degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. This increase may not sound like much, but it would cause a large portion of the polar ice caps to melt. Sea levels would rise as a result, endangering people, plants, and animals near the coast.

Stopping Global Warming

Scientists throughout the world are concerned about the effects of global warming. They’re currently looking for ways to reduce the production of greenhouse gases, generally by reducing the amount of fossil fuels that we burn. Kids can also help minimize global warming by conserving energy, convincing other people to do the same, and continuing to learn more about this subject.

Save Energy

The best ways for you to conserve energy include closing outside doors immediately so that warm or cool air doesn’t escape your house. You can also turn electrical appliances like computers and lights off when not in use. Additional energy-saving measures include walking or biking as much as possible instead of having your parents drive you somewhere.

Convince Others to Save Energy

You must be careful when convincing people to save energy because they don’t often like being told what to do. It’s much better to set examples and make suggestions than it is to give direct orders, even when you’re talking to your family and friends. Starting a conservation club at school is a great way to raise awareness of global warming.

You can help save energy at home by asking your parents to keep the heat off as much as possible, especially at night and when no one is at home. Replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent lighting also saves money and energy over time. Encouraging your parents to run appliances like dishwashers in energy saver mode and turning the car off while waiting to pick you up from school are other ways to save energy. Recycling more material is also an important way to save energy since any type of manufacturing uses a lot of energy.

Continued Education

Continuing your education is essential for finding new energy sources that don’t contribute to global warming. Solutions to this problem can come from many bodies of knowledge, including science, technology, economics, and politics. A good education can also help you make good decisions in your daily life.

The World’s Most Unusual Bridges

6 Most Unusual Bridges in the World  

For as long as humans have been around, we’ve been using creative ideas and innovative building techniques to explore our surroundings. Often, that means creating ways to get across rivers, valleys, and canyons.

Bridges come in all shapes and sizes. Some have stood for centuries, like Greece’s Arkadiko bridge, crafted from stone in 1300 B.C. and still used today. Some of today’s bridges use amazing engineering techniques, while others look like beautiful works of art.

Here are 6 of the world’s most unusual bridges.

1. Helix Bridge

Singapore’s Helix Bridge looks like a massive double helix rolling across the water’s surface. That’s because the bridge’s creators had the shape of human DNA in mind when they designed it.

With a span of 920 feet, this gorgeous bridge allows people to walk easily from one side of the river to the other. Viewing platforms are perfectly positioned along the walkway. It’s an ideal place to stop and take a few photos of the surrounding city.

At night, strips of LED lights turn the Helix Bridge into a giant, glittering jewel. The bridge is so beautiful that it’s become a popular destination for tourists and Singapore residents alike.

2. Royal Gorge Bridge

Would you be brave enough to walk across 1,260 feet of wooden planks hanging 950 feet above a river below? That’s exactly what visitors to the Royal Gorge Bridge ask themselves!

Built-in 1929, this suspension bridge is the highest in the Western hemisphere. The bridge has two steel towers, more than 2,100 strands of wire cables, and spans a deep canyon 956 feet below. It’s been standing since 1929.

The walkway itself is made of more than 1,250 wooden planks. Each year, 26 million people visit the Royal Gorge Bridge… but we’re not sure how many of them are brave enough to walk across it.

3. Millau Viaduct

Spanning 8,071 feet across France’s Tarn River valley, the Millau Viaduct is a marvel of modern engineering. It’s the highest cable-stayed road bridge (a bridge held up by cables that cars can drive across) on the planet.

Its towers soar more than 1,100 feet into the air, making this bridge taller than the Eiffel Tower and almost as high as the Empire State Building! The bridge is so tall that, on a foggy day, it’s impossible to see the valley below. Drivers on the bridge say it feels as though they’re cruising above the clouds.

It only took three years to build this incredible bridge. The designers of the Millau Viaduct had to come up with an entirely new technique to make it work. Unlike other cable-stay bridges, the towers were constructed first, before the roadway was laid in place.

4. Chenyang Wind and Rain Bridge

For centuries, the Dong people of China’s Guangxi Province have constructed strong, sturdy bridges… without using any nails! These gorgeous covered bridges are topped by towers, porches, kiosks, and pavilions that are meant to offer shelter from the weather. That’s why they’re known as “wind and rain” bridges.

Among the most famous is the Chenyang Wind and Rain Bridge. Just over 213 feet long, the bridge spans the Linxi River. It’s made completely from wood and stone, without any nails or rivets.

The soaring pavilions — up to four stories high — sit on sturdy stone towers in the river. The Dong craftsmen were so good at making the wooden pieces fit together perfectly, that the bridge has been standing for more than 100 years.

5. The Twist

Is it a bridge? A building? A sculpture? The Twist is all three and more. Spanning the Randselva River in Jevnaker, Norway, this unique bridge is truly a work of art; part of the Twist’s interior space even houses an art gallery. 

The bridge is located in the middle of a forest, and designers had to overcome several challenges, including different heights at each end of the bridge. Architects came up with a clever solution: Twist the entire bridge by 90 degrees.

That means when you walk through the bridge, the ceiling and floor switch places. At the twist, the ceiling flows down the wall to become the floor, while the floor stretches up the other wall to form the ceiling.

6. Golden Bridge

Just north of Da Nang, Vietnam lies one of the world’s most unique-looking bridges. The Golden Bridge stretches for 500 (golden) feet across a beautiful forest. But the most amazing part about this bridge is that it’s held up by two giant hands.

Walking across this shimmering bridge is like entering your favorite fantasy novel. Though it’s just a few years old, the hands are crafted to look like ancient stone, carefully holding up a glittering golden thread. Adding to the fun, visitors take a cable car ride to climb slowly up the mountain to reach this magical bridge.

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?

Poetry To Instill A Love Of Nature

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, /For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. / I loafe and invite my soul, /I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

 –Walt Whitman, Song of Myself (1892)

(Illustration by Maurice Sendak, from “Open House for Butterflies” by Ruth Krauss)

  • Sometimes we all need to get quiet and centered. The great outdoors are perfect for just that, so go sit in a garden, park, or your very own backyard, grab a book of poetry and unwind. Sharing this with the children in your life is not only fun and educational but also incredibly beneficial. 

Learn about the Beauty of Nature

Learn from the best! Read the naturalist poets such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, William Blake, and William Wordsworth. 

Reading poetry to your children and encouraging them to read on their own when they’re old enough is so important. It instills a love of and appreciation for nature. 

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson viewed nature as the “Universal Being.”
  • Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (first published in 1855) is a vast collection of poems that Whitman wrote and then rewrote over and over throughout his life:

“A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose? Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.”

  • Robert Frost’s “Birches” (1915) is an incredibly well-known and beloved poem that is often recited by school kids: 

“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, /And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk/ Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, /But dipped its top and set me down again.”

  •  Of course, Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” are just as popular, if not more so.
  • William Wordsworth was one of the English Romantic poets whose 1807 poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” has endured and become a favorite for the ages. His mediation on nature (specificaly daffodils) is lyrically beautiful and extremely well-known, as it is one of his most anthologized poems.
  • William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience is a collection of poems that were published together in 1794. They are known for their words but not entirely. Blake actually created impressive engravings that he painted by hand to correspond with each poem! “The Blossom” (from Songs of Innocence) is a joyful and light-hearted ode to nature. This is exactly the sort of poetry that children can enjoy.
  • William Butler Yeats—one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century—wrote of nature and its majesty, its simplicity, and beauty. His vision of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (written in 1888) makes us all want to retreat there with the honeybees: 

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, /And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; / Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, /And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

For more information on what to read, great children’s literature, and other literary tips, visit Full Cycle Publications at the website.

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):

  • https://www.spartanandthegreenegg.com/product/spartan-and-the-green-egg-explorer-embroidered-outer-space-patches-collection-set-of-14-patches-sew-on-or-iron-on/
  • https://www.spartanandthegreenegg.com/product/oceans-pin-collection/
  • https://www.spartanandthegreenegg.com/product/sge-explorer-stickers-set-1/
  • https://www.spartanandthegreenegg.com/product/sge-explorer-lanyards/
  • https://www.spartanandthegreenegg.com/product-category/sge-medallions/

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.

Beneath The Sea: Ancient Ruins



When we think of underwater worlds, we think of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, sunken ships filled with pirate booty, lost civilizations (maybe even Atlantis), of awesome sea creatures that have never before been discovered, treasure chests overflowing with gold coins and Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) with his trident.

(UNESCO: Underwater Cultural Heritage)

UNESCO’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention began 20 years ago, and its aim was (and is) to protect ancient historical sites that are submerged beneath the oceans. One of the main goals of this mission is to keep these amazing locations safe, to protect them from “treasure-hunting and pillaging.” Without the preservation of certain underwater monuments, we wouldn’t know about wars that have been fought, civilizations that have been conquered and lost, and important architecture that’s been washed away beneath the waves.

Spartan and the Green Egg’s Underwater Sites

Discover some of the world’s most fascinating underwater (and underground) places with Spartan and the Green Egg! Learn more about the world around you, get inspired to travel, and collect your explorer pins to prepare for adventure!

  • Underwater Museum in Cancun, Mexico: “The Underwater Museum is devoted to showing the importance of conservation. Tourists have to visit numerous diving points in order to see all the sculptures that have been placed under water. The museum was made to help control where visitors go diving. This is very important because the natural reefs in the area were getting damaged by a surge of tourists and explorers.”

  • Dragon’s Triangle: “The Dragon’s Triangle has many nicknames, including the Devil’s Sea as well as the Pacific Bermuda Triangle. It is located in a part of the Pacific Ocean, right near the Miyake Island in Tokyo. Dragon’s Triangle has very mysterious origins. There have been many instances of ships going missing. Between 1952 and 1954, Japan lost five different military vessels and over seven hundred crewmen. In response, they sent a research vessel to find out what happened, but that too went missing.”

  • Skocjan Caves: “The Škocjan Caves are a network of underground caves and canyons that can be found in Slovenia. The Reka River runs through many of the underground caves, creating the largest underground wetlands in all of Europe. What makes the Škocjan Caves so impressive is that it was naturally created. Many in Europe consider it to be the European equivalent of the Grand Canyon in America.”

  • Jacob’s Well, West Bank: “Jacob’s Well, also called Jacob’s Fountain and the Well of Sychar, has been associated with religious practices for around two millennia. Hewn from stone, the well is 135 feet deep and located in the city of Nablus in Israel. To access it, one must descend the stairs under the church at the Bir Ya’qub Monastery. Presently under Israeli occupation, the site is a source of contention between Jews and Christians.”

  • Klein, Curacao: “Klein (or Little) Curacao is home to Curacao’s longest beach, which is popular for its beautiful white sand and clear water. It is also a diving hot spot famous for its underwater caves and coral reef systems. The island itself is uninhabited but does have a few structures, including an old lighthouse.” Located in the Dutch Caribbean, this beautiful (and untouched) island is also home to several wrecked ships, including the rusted remains of an old oil tanker. Little Curacao is also known as a breeding ground for green sea turtles that come back every year and lay their eggs.

  • Deep-Sea Vents, Atlantic Ocean: “The Deep-Sea Vents are often referred to as hydrothermal vents. They are giant underwater structures shaped like chimneys. The vents release clouds of scalding water, which turn a black color because of all the minerals mixed in with it. The water can reach temperatures of 700 degrees. Despite the hot temperatures, there are still many underwater species that make their homes around the vents.”

To learn more about what UNESCO is doing to preserve our underwater cultural heritage, visit the link below for more information:


To learn more about the sites mentioned in this blog, visit Spartan and the Green Egg’s website along with the links below:







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Traditional Houses Around The World

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Origins Of Winter Holidays

Winter Holidays around the Globe

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

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

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

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


How to Celebrate

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

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

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

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

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

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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 Submarines


Mysterious and odd-shaped, submarines give workers ways to explore the deep sea. Submarines don’t just allow others to see the hidden parts of the world’s oceans though. They are also used to do many things in workplaces around the world.

At first glance, submarines look pretty special. The vessel can travel deep distances underwater. Inside the submarine are special tanks known as ballasts that hold large amounts of water. Submarines also have a power source. A power source is what helps power the vessel when it operates. A submarine may have different power sources: batteries, engines, or nuclear power. Some submarines use more than one of those power sources.

A submarine uses sonar to navigate through the darkest depths of the oceans in the world. Sonar puts out sound waves that bounce off objects around the submarine as it travels. When the sonar wave bounces off the objects, it sends back a signal to the vessel. A submarine usually has other equipment stored inside for crew

members. Inside, clean water, air, and various supplies are kept for the crew on board.

History of The Submarine

Submarines have a pretty cool history. Did you know the first submarine was not actually a submarine? The very first working submarine was a rowboat covered in leather!

Cornelis Drebbel, an inventor, made this early submarine in 1620. The vessel traveled depths as deep as 4.5 meters (15 feet).  In 1776, a US inventor named David Bushnell also made an early submarine. The submarine was later used in the American Revolution. A few years later, Robert Fulton built a small submarine named the Nautilus. The Nautilus helped attach small explosives to ships.

During the 1900s, inventors and engineers continued to make submarines that ran on newer power sources. By then, a submarine could run on an electric motor powered by a battery if the vessel was travelling underwater. Submarines could also run on diesel engines for traveling on water surfaces.

Both types of submarines were used in World War I and World War II.

The US Navy’s vessel, the USS Nautilus, was first deployed in 1954 and ran on nuclear power.

Submarines Today

Military around the world use submarines. Submarines protect the ships used in the Navy and also do other tasks. Scientists and researchers famously use submarines to conduct deep-sea research. A lot of the information about deep-sea creatures would not be available without submarines! Submarines are also used by salvagers to recover lost ship parts. Some places even allow tourists to ride in a submarine to see the deep sea first hand!

How Submarines Stay Underwater

Ever wonder how a submarine stays underwater? The ballasts inside a submarine help keep the vessel underwater. When the vessel wants to sink, the ballasts fill up with water.

Water is very heavy. When it fills a submarine ballast, it helps the vessel become much heavier. When it’s time for the submarine to rise, the water in the ballasts is emptied. When the water leaves the ballasts, it makes the vessel lighter, so it can rise out of the deeper parts of water. To move around, a submarine usually has a propeller on its back end.




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Learning a Foreign Language

(photo courtesy of schooladvisor.my)

·      Why Learning a Foreign Language is Rewarding:

Learning a foreign language may be one of the most challenging yet rewarding things a person can do. It comes naturally to some and is more difficult for others but one thing is certain: it’s easier when you’re young. It’s also a lot easier to learn a foreign language if one is immersed in the sounds and is among native speakers. It is incredibly rewarding to learn another’s native tongue as it helps us to understand the nature of language and what it truly means to communicate with each other. It is also rewarding to try and expand one’s mind as much as possible and to have learning challenges: always learning is like setting out on a constant adventure where your mind is the mode of travel.

There are many benefits to learning a new language and the Eton Institute (one of the most well-known and respected language schools in the world) has a whole list that may be of interest and encouragement for one embarking on this journey.  It has been proven that studying language keeps one sharp and helps to improve memory while even helping with the ability to multitask. Those are just a couple of amazing rewards one will reap when seeking out this particular kind of knowledge.

·      What To Do When Studying In a Classroom Is Not An Option:

Of course, taking classes or having a personal tutor is always an optimal way of learning but is not available for everyone. If one cannot learn in a classroom there are audiotapes and films available where one can listen and study. Of course, there are also books and the Rosetta Stone (an educational software company that helps to develop language and literacy). The Rosetta Stone has proven to be incredibly effective and is very popular among those studying foreign languages.

·      Fun and Inventive Ways to Actually Remember What You Learn:

If one cannot physically be in the country in which the language they’re learning is spoken then watching films is always a wonderful and artistic way to grasp the culture, landscape and, of course, the language. Another way, as aforementioned, to help enhance the learning process and to spark the imagination is to watch educational films and to sing songs. FluentU (Foreign Language Immersion Online) offers tips on how to learn a foreign language while watching movies regardless of skill level. Simple songs and nursery rhymes such as Frère Jacques are also helpful when learning a new language. Of course, materials such as flash cards are ideal for studying and it’s always more fun to work with a partner.

(photo courtesy of smartlanguagelearner.com)

·      Finally, Why One Should Want to Study a Foreign Language:

There are many reasons to learn a foreign language and they’re all pretty exciting because they all include discovering new and wonderful things about the world. Imagine being able to communicate with all sorts of different people while learning about exotic cultures and traditions across the globe. What an amazing opportunity! It’s incredibly important to know about the world around us and the people in it: learning a foreign language helps us to understand different ways of living and, in turn, we understand more about ourselves and where we come from. It’s also the perfect excuse to travel. To explore all kinds of world destinations, visit Nabila K’s Spartan and the Green Egg website for travel stickers and videos that include colorful images and information galore. Global Graduates is a wonderful website that focuses on studying world languages and studying abroad; it also offers helpful advice for encouraging children to learn a foreign language. For more information, look no further: https://globalgraduates.com/articles/motivate-your-child-to-learn-a-foreign-language

For further reading and to visit the sites mentioned in this blog, follow these links:  https://www.fluentu.com/blog/learning-language-through-movies/



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Learn About Horseback Riding

Horses are wonderful creatures! You may have seen horses featured in a variety of different books, television shows, and films. Did you know that long before cars, trains, and busses people used horses as a common way to travel? People often rode on horseback or as passengers in a horse-pulled carriage.

History of Horseback Riding

People have tamed and trained horses for many purposes. Throughout the history of the world, people have trained horses to use them as a way to take people from one place to another.

As early as 4,000 years ago, people who lived in central Asia began seeing the benefits of using horses to travel everywhere. However, something was different about their horses. The horses they raised were more pony than a horse and not well suited to carry people because of their small size.

By 2500 B.C., people began breeding horses to grow larger and stronger in size. Larger and stronger horses let people use them for different kinds of early travel. People in Western parts of Asia were said to have connected horses to wagons. Horses soon came to Greece and later came to Troy, where they fast became a part of their culture and daily life.

The Egyptians also used horses with chariots to invade the Amorite territory. Hundreds of years later, horse travel became better when riders came up with the bit, a part that goes into a horse’s mouth. The bit makes controlling a horse much easier.

As society around the world grew, horseback travel became a common way to go places. In cities, horses were used to pull stagecoaches for wealthy passengers. By the 1800s, horseback travel began to overlap with the use of early motor vehicles. As the price of motor vehicles began to decline, horses soon became less popular in the early 1900s and after the World Wars in the early 20th century.

Horseback Riding Today

Although horseback riding isn’t as popular these days, it’s still useful in many places around the world. Horses are still used to help people travel and move cargo from place to place for many reasons.

Police forces in large cities sometimes use trained horses for travel in special situations. You may see police riding a horse for special events or situations where they need to control a growing crowd. Some police use horses in search and rescue missions. Although not usually travel, horseback riders often race their horses in many contests. You may see horses complete in regular racing competitions, barrel racing, and roping events.

Horses are commonly used on farms and ranches for labor. It’s not uncommon to see a farmer or ranch worker using a horse to move heavy cargo across a large area.  Some places rent horses to people who want to learn to ride a horse. There are even dude ranches that let people pay to become a cowboy for a day!




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