Module E – Weeks 18 to 34

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Lesson 50 – Misc Iconic Word List “Filling Final Gaps” Vocab-Builder

NEW WORDS: Burke, Iraqi, Israeli, Manitoba, PC, Rubens, Sabine, absentee, accumulation, acumen, ancestor, annotate, anticipated, approximated, arthritis, asylum, ballot, bike’s, blatant, bombing, boorish, brighten, cemetery, character’s, citation, cited, compiled, compliment, comprehension, conceived, condemned, confirmed, constitutes, consultation, contradiction, correlate, corresponding, counselor, credible, critic’s, deduction, defendant’s, differentiation, dimensions, disobey, displacement, disposal, economist, embassy, emission, enforcement, entities, exaggerate, excluded, exploitation, expository, expressway, figurative, fingerprint, fluctuations, focaccia, foreshadow, gush, handlebars, hawkish, hearted, huddle, hypothesize, illiberal, immigration, impending, imposed, induced, insights, irrelevant, italics, lipase, livid, luckless, manipulation, medication, megaphone, minimized, minorities, monitoring, monograph, morality, nomination, nonresident, norms, notation, orientation, outcomes, parameters, paraphrase, parlance, photographer, plaque, plausible, posed, preclude, prodding, proofread, provider, rape, rating, registered, rejected, reorganize, reservation, respondent, restate, restraints, retiring, revision, salami, sanctions, shatterproof, simulation, slime, snatch, spew, subjective, subsidiary, successive, suicide, suspect’s, sustainable, synthesize, tapes, technological, thirteenth, timeline, traffic’s, trapper, trifle, typhoon, utility, validity, viewpoint

The refugee compounds were overflowing.

I’d describe her politics as “moderate.”

Insulin is one of our key human hormones.

The defendant’s story is credible.

I’ve never had bad reactions to a flu shot.

Put the angry prisoner in restraints.

This oil spill is a biological disaster.

Enclose this area into a screened porch.

His actions break the parameters of basic morality.

The experiment’s outcomes were as expected.

Hand me that bolt and its corresponding nut.

We’ve imposed sanctions on Iran.

I’d paraphrase the critic’s article as “that movie stinks.”

Ghostly entities floated above the cemetery.

I anticipated that you’d like this gift!

Summarize this article in a paragraph.

Based on what we know so far, that’s a plausible theory.

That island claims only one inhabitant.

We need to extend the timeline on vetting the vaccine.

Ten to one he’ll exaggerate his story.

Where do you hypothesize that the virus came from?

Mom is a career public utility employee.


I’m going to the doc for a consultation about this pain.

They rejected today’s products due to quality problems.

I’ve seen her give speeches on many occasions.

The price increase’s effects for the company were disastrous.

I’m learning to read musical notation.

The king posed for his portrait painting.

Your opinion is subjective, and not based on research.

You should print foreign words in italics.

The officer shouted at the crowd through a megaphone.

This fingerprint does not match the suspect’s.

The gift that I gave her was a small trifle.

That villain is a cold-hearted brute.

That plastic cup is shatterproof.

Your visit with me tomorrow will brighten up my day.

I need to reorganize this messy closet.

The alien drooled slime when it opened its mouth.

The fee for a nonresident of the state is $10 higher.

This thirteenth egg will make it a “baker’s dozen.”

I must compliment you on your pretty new dress.

He’s a member of the Iraqi Army.

I accept your nomination to run for President!

He ordered a bombing of their military base.


She’s a law enforcement officer.

He is a follower of the Muslim religion.

Did you remember to take your medication?

Today’s the orientation session for the new students.

I gave the movie a 4.5 rating.

The dentist said, “There’s an accumulation of plaque on your teeth.”

What are the dimensions on your chest of drawers?

Minorities are well-represented at our company.

We need more differentiation between these two products.

She approximated that there were 400 jelly beans in the jar.

Our new child gave us a tax deduction this year.

We need more sustainable energy sources.

I wish that someone would annotate this difficult novel.

Do you think that our immigration policies are too illiberal?

She cited Shakespeare in her monograph.

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books.

Add this clause into the revision of the contract draft.

Proofread your book report before turning it in.

His comment was figurative for saying that he didn’t like me.

Class, this week we’ll learn to write an expository essay.

The Monroe Doctrine said to Europe, “stay out of the Americas’ affairs!”

I’m at your disposal to help out if you need me.


I don’t know if that act constitutes a crime or not.

The cop gave me a traffic citation.

I’m continually prodding him to wash his hands.

That medication induced sleep for her last night.

I think that this chapter will foreshadow the character’s impending doom.

It was an ill-conceived plan.

Principal Burke is retiring in June.

I bet this is a fragment from a meteorite!

“The Charge Of The Light Brigade” is a poem about a suicide mission.

Our lack of evidence will preclude our getting a conviction.

I’ve confirmed our reservation for dinner out.

That comment illustrates my point about his boorish behavior.

They minimized typhoon damage by boarding up their windows.

I sent in an absentee ballot in the last election.

She is seeking asylum in the American Embassy.

I have an ancestor who was a Canadian fur trapper in the 1700s.

My doc gave me a clean bill of health at my checkup.

You should never disobey your parents!

Floss between your teeth every night!


Grab your bike’s handlebars tightly.

Traffic’s backed up three miles on the expressway.

See if you can snatch the football away from me.

Tears always gush from my eyes at weddings.

I’ll have a salami and cheese sandwich with focaccia bread.

The new emission law will make the air cleaner.

An economist on the news said that stocks are about to go up.

Which photographer got such a great shot at the finish line?

He’ll be livid when he finds out that he’s a respondent in a court case.

Amy, how did your huddle today go with your guidance counselor?

Which company is your healthcare provider?

The Israeli government condemned yesterday’s restaurant bombing.

My PC is sluggish, and it needs more random access memory.

Eight kilometers is just under five miles.

“The Rape of the Sabine Women” is one of Rubens‘ best-known paintings.

The boss excluded me from his big meeting today.

We’re noticing odd fluctuations in Arctic weather patterns.

Synthesize this information and see what you make of it.

Linda is quite a progressive politician.

Manitoba is a Canadian province.


This important book is about the exploitation of Native Americans.

I dare not speculate what garbage he’ll spew in his next speech.

He must learn to follow the norms of our society!

Please see if these two experiments correlate with each other.

She has strong insights on how to deal with kids who bully.

Please restate what you just said in more kid-friendly parlance.

The General’s viewpoint on strong defense is pretty hawkish.

Dad works for one of their subsidiary companies.

The recession has caused much displacement in the job market.

Have you registered for the trade convention?

This computer simulation projects how the disease will spread.

Their luckless team has had three successive bad coaches.

His kind of business acumen is fairly irrelevant in our industry.

I highly question the validity of these test scores.

With her father, that little girl is a pro at manipulation.

Have you listened to any of the Presidential tapes from the Oval Office?

Sometimes what he’ll say, and then how he’ll act, are a blatant contradiction.

Granny is having difficulties with her arthritis.

There were lots of technological changes in the twentieth century.

You should be monitoring your comprehension while you read.

A lipase enzyme helps the body digest fats.


Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)

Lesson 51 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Babylonians, Canis, Copernicus’s, Orion, Orion’s, Scorpio, Taurus, Turks, accumulating, acknowledged, adverse, agleam, allegorical, ancients, ascended, asserted, astronomical, behemoths, benefiting, binding, binoculars, blazon, breakthroughs, broadening, celestial, circumfuses, circumnavigated, circumnavigating, circumvolves, clasps, colliding, completes, concocting, confines, confronting, contention, contingent, contour, coruscating, craters, deceive, designating, dispersed, dissipates, dissipation, editor’s, educating, eggshell, emerging, empyrean, entrusted, envisaged, explodes, fantasies, fantastical, faultlessly, finalizes, firmament, fleas, forefathers, forefront, furnishes, glittery, gloated, hypothetical, illuminating, inchmeal, indicator, indomitable, inexhaustible, infinite, intensified, inventively, lifeless, luminous, mapped, marvels, materializing, mechanisms, metamorphic, mirroring, morphing, mountaintops, orbital, patterned, plummeting, proficiency, reappearing, recline, reproved, retires, revel, revolved, revolves, scintillating, scorpion, skewered, spotlighted, stargazers, stargazing, starlit, streaked, stunningly, tethers, translucid, turbulent, unimaginably, universe’s, unswerving, waning, waxing

Chapter One: Introduction To The Sun And Space
Have you looked up at the sky lately? What did you see? Did you see a translucid, blue sky? Were there a few distant, eggshell-colored clouds? Was the sky streaked with gray clouds?

Sometimes you can see an airplane or a bird flying by. Or even a red balloon that had been let loose. Some days, it’s fun to recline on your back in the grass. You can stare up at the metamorphic shapes of the puffy, white clouds overhead. Perhaps you have flown in an airplane. You were up among the clouds, high above the Earth’s surface.

You can think of the sky in two layers. There is a big blanket that circumfuses Earth. It’s like a big bubble of air. This bubble covers the whole Earth. It surrounds all of the ground and oceans. It surrounds everything else on the Earth’s surface, including you! This bubble of air is called the “atmosphere.” But the blue atmosphere does not tell the whole story. The second layer of the sky is all of outer space. That lies beyond the atmosphere. It’s an infinite expanse of stars, moons, and other astronomical objects.


Of course, it’s easy to forget that outer space is there. Especially on a sunny day! But it’s always there. The Earth, your home, is just one little object in space. It’s moving around in the middle of it all. It’s like a speck of sand amidst all of the sands in the ocean.

During the day, the sun shines over the Earth. It’s shedding light on all the animals and plants that live on the Earth’s surface. The sun’s rays are dispersed across the skies. Of course, the sky appears blue to your eyes.

The sun itself is a star. It is not part of Earth or Earth’s sky. In fact, the sun is far, far away from Earth. On average, it’s 93 million miles away! It would take more than three months to reach it. And that would be in our fastest rocket ship. But what if you could reach the sun in a rocket ship? You’d never be able to get close to it. That’s because the sun, like other stars, is an enormous ball of very hot hydrogen gas. The surface is around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit! Each thing that gets too close to it burns up instantly.

Just how enormous is the sun? Think about this. Let’s say the sun was a huge bowl, and the Earth was a little marble. You could stuff about one million marbles into that bowl! That’s right! It would take a million Earths to fill the sun!


The sun is just one out of billions of stars in space. However, the sun is our star. It is the Earth’s star. Without the sun, Earth would be a cold, lifeless hunk of rock. All living things on Earth rely on the sun in one way or another. That includes the trees, the bees, the flowers, and the fleas. We need the heat, light, and energy of the sun. Life is thriving here on Earth because of it.

The rising sun is an indicator of the start of a new day. In the morning, the sun rises in the east. Then, its rays shed light across the land. People wake up and get ready for a new day. They’re getting dressed and eating breakfast. Then, they’re traveling outside to wherever it is they go. That could be to school, to the office, to a store, or simply out for a walk.

Have you ever noticed your shadow on the ground? That’s when the sun is behind you while you’re walking down the sidewalk. Then your body blocks the sun’s rays. That creates a shadow on the ground. Your shadow is not the only shadow in the world. Clouds cast shadows as well. So do buildings and trees. Have you ever rested under the shade of a tree on a hot summer day? If so, you were resting in the shadow cast by the tree’s leaves and branches.


Think back to a hot summer day. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. And if you don’t use sunscreen, then you may get a sunburn. Ouch! The sun’s energy can burn your skin. That’s bad for you. Sunburns don’t just hurt. If you get sunburned too often, it can cause serious damage to your skin.

On the other hand, the sun’s light is good for you, too. When your bare skin is exposed to sunlight, your body creates Vitamin D. That’s one of the many vitamins that your body needs in order to stay healthy and strong. So, playing outside in the sunshine isn’t just fun. It’s good for you, too!

Now, what happens at the end of each day? The sun goes down in the west. You can see it morphing, minute-by-minute. Soon, it’s not blue anymore. It becomes black, and new sights are materializing. Instead of clouds and birds and blue sky, you may see an array of coruscating stars. You may see something else, as well. That would not be the sun. It would be another object hovering in the skies above. You guessed it. It’s the moon.


Over the next few days you will learn lots about outer space. We’ll go beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. We’ll talk about the sun, the moon, and the stars. You’ll learn all sorts of amazing and interesting facts. This study of the stars, and other things in outer space, is called “astronomy.” What you’ll read in the coming days will give you a basic introduction to astronomy. But it’s only a beginning. There is so much to learn about the stars and other objects in space. Why, you could spend the rest of your life educating yourself about it. And you’d never run out of new things to learn and discover. That is because astronomy is the study of everything beyond our little home that we call Earth. And astronomers know this. There is just no end to the amount of new knowledge and surprises to be discovered in the study of outer space.


Chapter Two: The Earth and the Sun
All plants, animals, and people rely on the sun for life. The sun’s energy furnishes life to plants. That, in turn, provides food for animals and people. The sun’s heat keeps the surface of the Earth warm enough for plants and animals to survive.

For people on Earth, it’s allegorical to say that the sun “rises” in the morning. What happens each morning at dawn? The sun appears on the horizon in the eastern sky. At dawn, some folks say, “Look! The sun is coming up!” This first view of the sun above the eastern horizon is called sunrise.

What happens over the course of the day? The sun seems to move across the sky. It slowly follows a path from east to west. In the evening, the sun sets in the west. Ever so inchmeal, it gets lower in the sky. Then it retires below the horizon. That’s when people say, “The sun is going down.” This dissipation of the sun’s light below the western horizon is called sunset.

So, we view the sun the way that we can see it from where we live on Earth. It makes sense to say that the sun moves across the sky each day. It’s rising, or moving up, in the east. And it’s setting, or sinking down, in the west. But that’s not quite true. What really makes the sun appear to rise and set each day? It’s the daily rotation, or spin, of the Earth that makes it seem like that.


Earth spins, or rotates, on its axis. Imagine the Earth’s axis as a hypothetical pole. The pole is skewered through the center of the planet, from north to south. It takes twenty-four hours, or one day, for the Earth to spin, or rotate, all the way around one time. This daily rotation explains why there is always night and day on Earth. As it spins, certain parts of Earth’s surface face the sun. They are then benefiting from its heat and light. When it’s light on one side of the Earth, it’s dark on the adverse side. So, if it is daytime where you are right now, then on the other side of the Earth, it is nighttime. The children there are sound asleep. And what about when you’re nestled in your bed tonight? Children on the other side of the planet will be waking up to a bright new day.

This rotation of the Earth, though, is not the only way that Earth moves in space.

Earth is a planet. So, it also moves, or revolves, around the sun. The word “planet” means a large object in space that revolves around a star for light. Earth moves, or revolves, around the sun. It follows a constant path. The path that Earth follows around the sun is called the Earth’s orbit.


Earth follows the same path as it orbits the sun. It takes about 365 days, or one year, for Earth to make one complete revolution around the sun. But how and why does Earth orbit the sun? The answer to this question involves one of the key lessons that you can learn in astronomy.

In space there are large objects, like the sun. And there are smaller objects, like the Earth and moon. All objects in space actually pull on all other objects. But larger objects pull harder than smaller objects. This binding force that causes objects to pull on each other is called “gravity.” As this pulling action happens, the force of the sun’s gravity holds Earth in its “orbital” place. Earth continues to follow its orbit around the sun. And it cannot wander off into space.

So, the sun pulls on the Earth and other objects out in space. In the same way, the Earth pulls on objects on or near its surface. Because of this, your feet stay planted firmly on the ground. And if you jump up, you come straight back down. If you throw a ball in the air, it falls straight back down, too. This force of gravity holds things on the ground. And it confines the planet Earth to its orbit around the sun. Similarly, it tethers Earth’s moon to its orbit around the Earth.

You can’t tell that the Earth is always moving. It rotates, or spins, all day and every day, as it travels in its year-long course around the sun. These two types of movement are the rotation and the revolution of the Earth. They create the days and years that we keep track of on the calendar.


Chapter Three: Stars
Night comes each day. At that time, you say “good night” to the sun. Our daytime star, the sun, disappears. And you can say “hello” to all the inexhaustible numbers of other stars that blazon in outer space. Remember, the stars are always out there. Outer space does not disappear during the day, reappearing at night. Here’s how you can see those stars at night. It’s because the sun’s light is no longer illuminating your part of the Earth. But the stars are always there.

Let’s head to dusk. It’s just after the sun has set in the west. But it’s before all of its light has faded. The first stars of night are emerging. One, two, three, and then more and more. The darker it is, the more stars you can see. What if you live in the city? Then you can’t see as many stars as people who live in the country. Lights in the cities brighten the night sky. They make it hard to see the stars. Out in the country, though, it’s not the same. The night sky explodes with glittery, scintillating stars. And further out in the wilderness, it’s far from buildings, street lights, and cars. There, the night sky is even more fantastical!


They may look small. But lots of stars that you see are behemoths. Lots of them are larger than our own sun. And do you remember this? Our sun is so big that you could fit a million Earths inside of it! The stars look small because they are so far away. And the stars look like they’re blinking. But they’re really shining steadily. The gases in our atmosphere cause their light to look like it is twinkling.

Just how far away are the stars? Here’s one way to think of it. Let’s say that you were put on the fastest rocket ship today. They launched you into space. It would take you thousands of years to reach the nearest star beyond our sun! That’s about 73,000 years, to be more precise. That’s unimaginably far away. But you can still see the light from that massive, hot star. That’s even though it looks more like a tiny, twinkling diamond from here on Earth.

At night, astronomers study the stars. They work in “observatories.” These are buildings where large telescopes are housed. They’re built high up on hills or mountaintops. That way, there aren’t buildings or trees to block the telescope. The roof of the observatory is inventively designed. It can open up. That lets the telescope move up, down, and all around without colliding into anything.


Astronomers need big, powerful telescopes to do their work. This is the kind of telescope that you find in an observatory. They are stunningly big!

But what if you don’t have a massive telescope. What if you don’t have a fancy mountaintop observatory? You can still revel in the marvels of stargazing. There’s another way to get a decent look at the stars, or the moon. A pair of binoculars will do the trick. Or you can use a telescope like this one. You’d be surprised by all the things that you can see through one!

Through lots of study, astronomers have found out lots of cool facts about stars. And that’s even though no one can go to and check out a star up close. Astronomers have learned that some stars are older than others. Some stars are hotter than others. Some appear red through the telescope. Others appear blue. Stars change color depending on how hot they are. And how hot a star is depends on its age, size, and other factors.


But you don’t need a telescope to have acknowledged the wonders of outer space. If you look at the sky long enough on any given night, you’ll finally see a meteor. Our nickname for that is a “shooting star.”

A meteor is just a rock that flies through space. It looks like a streak in the sky. And then it’s light dissipates fast. It happens in the blink of an eye. At first glance, it may look like a star that’s plummeting through the sky. But stars don’t move like that. Meteors are not stars at all. There are billions of meteors out there. Some of them are quite large. But most are tiny. They’re between the size of a grain of sand and a baseball.

Meteors are whizzing around all over the place in outer space. Sometimes, a meteor crashes toward Earth. But before it can hit Earth’s surface, it crashes into our atmosphere. For a space rock, hitting the Earth’s atmosphere is like a person running into a brick wall. Except that the atmosphere doesn’t stop the meteor. It hits the atmosphere at a very high speed. Then it keeps moving through the atmosphere. As it does so, it creates intensified heat. The meteor burns up as it enters the uppermost parts of Earth’s atmosphere. That’s when it creates its streak of “shooting star” light.


Sometimes, bits and pieces of meteors survive their trip through the atmosphere. They fall on through to the surface. This is rare. But it does happen from time to time. You can find pieces of them on the ground. What do we call it when part of a meteor lands on Earth? It’s then termed a “meteorite.” That’s fancy for “space rock.”

The meteorite in this picture is not the most exciting rock you’ve ever seen. But it’s amazing to think that it came from space. Sometimes, by studying meteorites, scientists find new types of rock that don’t exist on Earth!

Outer space is a strange, wonderful place. We’ve learned much by studying the stars, planets, and other objects in space. Astronomers now know lots of things about the universe. And we and our planet Earth are but a teeny, tiny part of it. Feast your eyes on this massive star cluster for a moment. Imagine, if you can, the massive number of stars. Ponder the incredible distances between us and them. And think of how much more there is to learn about our universe. For instance, look at the center of this photo. There in the middle is a little cluster of fourteen bluish stars. Added together, it’s estimated that these fourteen stars, combined, are over 20,000 times larger than our sun! That’s so huge, it’s hard to think about. And that’s just fourteen stars out of all the stars in this photo!


Chapter Four: Stargazing and Constellations
Let’s go back thousands of years. There were no telescopes or spaceships. People did not have the mechanisms and knowledge that we have now. But they were just as curious as we are. They, too, pondered the stars and other celestial bodies. Think of the ancient Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, Turks, Mayans, and Babylonians. They, and countless others, all studied the stars. They tried to figure out what they were. They wondered why they were there.

They did not know what the stars were made of. They did not know how far away they were. But ancient peoples were in the habit of designating names for the stars. And they mapped them out, as well. They knew which stars shone in the sky at certain times of year. Now, thousands of years have passed on Earth. But the stars have pretty much stayed the same. So, think of when you look up at the stars at night. You see the same stars that the ancient forefathers saw, as well!


The ancient Greeks thought that the stars had been placed in the sky by gods. It must have been some kind of magic. They thought they were there to tell stories. There were lessons to be learned from them. The Greeks called out groups of stars in the night sky. They seemed to form shapes. These shapes are called “constellations.” In the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world, we still call the stars by the names that the ancient Greeks or Arabs used so long ago.

Here’s one of the first groups of stars that young stargazers in the U.S. learn about. It’s also the easiest one to spot. It’s called the “Big Dipper.” It looks like a huge soup ladle up in the sky. It’s made up of seven stars. And it looks different in the sky, based on the time of year. Sometimes the Big Dipper looks right side up. Sometimes it looks upside down. Sometimes it seems to be standing on its handle! That’s not because the Big Dipper moves. It’s because the Earth is rotating on its axis and is circumnavigating the sun.


The Big Dipper has a friend called the “Little Dipper.” It also contains seven stars. The bright star at the end of the handle is special. It’s called Polaris. It’s also termed “the North Star.” It’s unlike other bodies among the universe’s firmament. It stays in the same place in the sky as we observe it from Earth. And it’s always in the north.

Since ancient times, people have entrusted themselves to this star. It has helped folks to find their way in the world. Knowing which way is north is a key need. It’s the first step to knowing in which direction you’re heading. Columbus and other sailors used to look for the North Star on starlit nights out on the wide seas.

This picture shows one of the most famous constellations of all. It’s call “Orion.” Ancient Greeks told myths about Orion. He was a famous hunter. The constellation Orion is known all over the world. It contains eight main stars. Orion’s Belt is made up of the three stars in a row across his body. It’s the easiest part to spot. It takes a bit of imagination to look at these stars and see a hunter. The single star in the upper left is supposed to be the contour of a raised arm. It’s holding a club or a sword. With his other arm, extending from another single star, he clasps a shield.


According to one myth, Orion gloated that he had high proficiency as a hunter. He asserted that he could kill all the animals on Earth. The gods reproved him by creating Scorpio. That was a giant scorpion that Orion could not defeat.

Not far from the Orion constellation is Taurus. It shows the head and horns of an indomitable bull. It’s often said that the hunter Orion is confronting the bull, Taurus. So, according to the myths, Orion has a turbulent time up there. He’s being chased by a giant scorpion. And at the same time, he’s fighting a giant bull!

Fortunately, Orion has a couple of friends. He has two unswerving hunting dogs. They’re called Canis Major and Canis Minor. These dogs follow Orion through the sky. They help him to fight Taurus the Bull.

There are eighty-eight major constellations. And most people around the world use the same basic list. When they were first named, most ancient people could only guess what stars really were. They told stories and myths about them. These were patterned on what they could see with their own eyes when they looked up at the sky. But we’ve learned that there’s much more to space than meets the eye. Sometimes when we look into outer space, our eyes can deceive us.


The first astronomers used math and science to explain what they saw in the sky. They no longer made up stories. They developed hypotheses. These were based on facts that they learned about space.

Here’s an example. Ancient people saw that the sun ascended on one side of the sky in the morning. And it set on the other side of the sky at night. What they saw was the sun’s “movement” across the sky. It made them think that the sun moved, while the Earth stood still. Most ancients thought that everything in the universe went around the Earth. That included the sun and all of the stars. It took thousands of years before folks thought that the opposite was true. Beliefs changed. At some point, most thought that the Earth, in fact, revolved around the sun. This discovery was made by an early astronomer. He was named Nicolaus Copernicus.

Copernicus was the first to use science to explain that Earth revolves around the sun. But hardly anyone believed him at the time. That was about 500 years ago.


An astronomer named Galileo came after Copernicus. He believed what Copernicus said. He, too, thought that the Earth circumnavigated the sun. He invented telescopes that helped astronomers prove that Copernicus’s contention was true. Galileo did not invent the first telescope. But he did invent more powerful telescopes. These helped him and other astronomers make lots of key discoveries about space. For this reason, he’s thought by many to be the “father of modern astronomy.”

Much time has passed since these early astronomers. In that time, we’ve been accumulating an incredible amount of knowledge about the stars and the universe. And we now use tools like telescopes so that we’re broadening that knowledge each day. Copernicus and Galileo would be amazed by the breakthroughs that people have made in astronomy. And much of that has occurred over just the past century. Compare this large modern telescope to the one that Galileo was holding in the last picture. Astronomers today use telescopes like this one. Thus, they can study the stars and other distant parts of outer space that Galileo could not have envisaged.

Yes, we have gained new knowledge about outer space. But our understanding of the stars is still built upon the stories and knowledge passed on by people for thousands of years. Think of this the next time you find a constellation in the sky. You’ll know that other stargazers have been studying and telling stories about that same group of stars for thousands of years.


Chapter Five: The Moon
Earth’s closest empyrean neighbor is spotlighted in this photo. What is this famous celestial body called? It’s the moon.

We’ve been looking at the moon and wondering about it for thousands of years. And we’ve always been concocting stories about it. Some ancient myths claimed that the moon was the sun’s sister. Others said that the moon was a huge face looking down on Earth. Some children’s fantasies even said that the moon was made of cheese!

In fact, the moon is really just a big, cold, dark rock. You heard that faultlessly. Yes, the moon can appear to be agleam and luminous in the night sky. But the moon does not produce any light of its own. It’s not a star, like the sun. It’s just a rock. The light that you see when you look at the moon is really light from the sun. The moon is mirroring the sun’s light.

While Earth orbits the sun, the moon orbits Earth. How long does it take Earth to orbit the sun? It’s about 365 days. Right, that’s one year. How long does it take for the moon to orbit Earth? It takes a little more than twenty-seven days. Right, that’s about a month. In that time, the moon makes a complete trip around the Earth. But the moon also rotates on its axis as it orbits Earth. In fact, the moon circumvolves exactly once, as it orbits Earth exactly once. This is a remarkable feature. It keeps the same side of the moon always facing Earth. This means that we can’t see the back of the moon when we look up in the sky.


The appearance of the moon’s forefront changes each day of the month. That’s contingent upon where it is in its orbit. Follow the arrows in this diagram. You’ll see that the moon orbits Earth in a counterclockwise transit. The sun is over on the right-hand side of this diagram.

This image gives you a better idea of what the moon looks like during each of its phases.

During the first half of its orbit, the moon is said to be “waxing.” That means that over the course of a few nights, more of it becomes visible from Earth. Then, halfway through its cycle, the full moon appears. That means that the side facing Earth is also facing the light of the sun.

Then the moon completes the last half of its monthly orbit. Less and less of it is visible each night. During this time, we say that the moon is “waning.” Less of the moon is seen. By the time it finalizes its cycle, it looks like just a shiny sliver of light in the sky.

On other nights, it looks like there’s no moon at all! Remember how the moon does not make any light of its own? Well, sometimes the moon is between the sun and the Earth. So, the side of the moon facing the Earth does not reflect any sunlight. When this happens, the side of the moon facing the Earth is dark. It looks like there’s no moon in the sky.


This is called a “new moon.” The moon never looks exactly the same from one night to the next. The moon does not change its shape. It’s always a big, round rock. Instead, it only APPEARS to change shape. That depends on how sunlight hits the moon during its orbit.

On some nights, you can see just a sliver of the moon. This is called a “crescent moon.”

On other nights, it looks like the moon has been sliced in half. This is called a “half-moon.” Remember, the moon only LOOKS like it is changing shape. It is always a big, round rock. But it can look different during its orbit. That depends on how the light reflects off of it.

Halfway through its cycle, the moon looks like this. This is called a “full moon.” That’s because the full, round moon shines in the night sky. It’s possible for a full moon to appear twice in one calendar month. That’s just every once in a while. That’s because it takes only twenty-seven days for the moon to complete its orbit around Earth. Most months have about thirty days. When this happens, it’s called a “blue moon.” But this is rare. It only happens every few years. Have you heard someone say that something only happens “once in a blue moon?” They simply mean that it does not happen very often.


Some folks say they see a man’s face when they look at the full moon. That’s why we sometimes talk about the “man in the moon.” That’s as though there really were a face on the moon. Can you see what appears to be two eyes, a nose, and a mouth on the moon? Of course, there is no face on the moon. It’s just a big, round rock.

Part of the reason that we see a man’s face is because of dark areas on the moon’s surface. What made these dark areas? They’re places where lava from inside the moon poured out onto the moon’s surface. This happened long ago. These areas no longer have lava in them. But the holes left behind reflect sunlight differently than the rest of the moon’s surface. So, what happens when you look up at a full moon? You’re really seeing deep and dark holes across the moon’s surface.


Notice this when you take a close-up look. You can see that the moon’s surface is also covered with hundreds and thousands of craters. To understand why these craters are there, you need to know a few more facts about the moon. Unlike Earth, the moon has no atmosphere. There is not a protective bubble of air around the moon. Nor does the moon have any water, soil, plants. There are no other signs of life whatsoever.

(Editor’s note: In October 2020, NASA released information that claims that “water has been definitely found on the moon.”)

Without an atmosphere, the moon has nothing to protect it from all the meteoroids that zoom through outer space. As you learned, meteoroids strike Earth all the time. But most of them burn up in the atmosphere in a streak of light known as a meteor. Meteoroids, however, do not burn up when they hit the moon. They just crash right into the moon’s surface. They leave what are known as impact craters.

Later, you will learn the amazing, true story about real men on the moon. These were not just lava lakes that look like a man’s face. These were actual men who traveled to the moon and walked around on it. How do you think they got there? Keep listening over the next couple of days. You’ll soon learn the answers.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)


Lesson 52 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Canaveral, Europa, Europa’s, Gagarin, Mars’s, Shepard’s, Soviets, Sputnik, Uranus’s, Venus’s, abstracted, affirmation, ammunition, annals, antecedently, applauding, apprehensively, befitting, bewitching, bounteous, capped, capsule, categorize, circa, collections, construe, contemplating, copiousness, cratered, debris, deter, disconnected, dispatching, distinguishing, enhancing, enmeshes, escalate, fixated, gyrate, horizon’s, humanity, imaginations, impingements, initiated, inventive, irregularly, memorable, monitored, murky, mythos, naut, ogled, ominous, operable, orbiter, parachute, pinpointed, precondition, preposterous, propel, proximately, resolute, revolve, robotic, rovers, samplings, scrutinizing, signified, solely, spacecraft’s, spacecrafts, spacesuits, strikingly, succeeding, tempests, treadmills, turbulence, unattainable, undergoing, underlying, underway, unduly, velocities, woolgather

Chapter Six: History of Space Exploration and Astronauts
Think about when people first ogled the stars. It’s human nature to woolgather about people flying into outer space. What might that be like? For most of the annals of humanity, the thought of heading into space was viewed as preposterous. Humans traveling in space, most folks thought, was utterly unattainable. There was no way that we’d ever be able to go there. Still, this did not deter people from using their imaginations. They kept coming up with inventive ideas for space travel.

The Chinese invented the first rockets. That was hundreds of years ago. They used gunpowder. That’s the same type of ammunition used to fire guns and cannons. Lighting the gunpowder would propel the rocket into the air. Things changed about one hundred years ago. Scientists started to make huge advances in rocket technology.

Let’s move to circa 1950. We had been continually enhancing rocket technology for many years. We were now to the point of seriously contemplating space travel and exploration. Back then, there was a nation called the Soviet Union. It no longer exists today. It consisted of Russia and other countries near Russia. At the time, the U.S. was the only other nation in the world as large or as strong as the Soviets. The leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. had strong egos. Each wanted to show the world that theirs was the more powerful country. They’d do this by being the first to launch a rocket into outer space.


This photo shows scientists in the U.S. They were launching the first rocket. It was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1950. This was just a test. It was to see whether this type of rocket engine was operable for successful space flight. This was the first of hundreds of rockets to be launched from there.

The Soviets succeeded in putting the first man-made object in orbit. That was on October 4, 1957. They launched a satellite called Sputnik One. A “satellite” is any object that moves in a constant orbit around another object in space.

Sputnik One was carried into space aboard a rocket. Then, it was released. It orbited Earth for a number of months. Then, it reentered the atmosphere and burned up.

Sputnik One was a great success. Because of it, the “Space Race” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was now underway. Each country was fixated on proving that it had a better space program. For many years, the Soviets continued to lead in the Space Race. The leaders and people of each country took this quite seriously. It was not a game. It was a true matter of national pride.

The U.S. built its own space program. It was called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It’s called “NASA,” for short. The scientists at NASA hurried to try to catch up to the Soviets. A few months passed after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik One. NASA scientists in the U.S. launched a satellite of their own. It was called Explorer One. You’ll see it pictured here.


The Space Race went on at a heated pace into 1961. That’s when Soviet Yuri Gagarin became the first person to go into space and return safely. This picture of Gagarin was taken on the way to the launch pad for his historic journey. You can bet that he was feeling quite nervous at that point.

The Americans were close behind. A couple of months passed after Gagarin made his famous flight. Then a man named Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into space. This picture was taken shortly before Shepard boarded the Freedom 7 spacecraft. Notice that, like Gagarin, Shepard was wearing a helmet and a special suit. Space travelers need special gear like this. It allows them to survive the extreme conditions of outer space. In space, there is no air. And the temperatures can be both incredibly hot or cold.

Returning from outer space is just as dangerous as launching into outer space. This photo shows the Freedom 7, Alan Shepard’s ship, after his flight. Shepard is inside that little capsule! When his flight was finished, the capsule reentered the atmosphere. A parachute opened to lower it gently to Earth. Shepard landed in the ocean, as planned. The capsule floated there until a helicopter came to recover him.


Space travelers like Alan Shepard are called “astronauts.” The word astronaut comes from two Greek words. They are “astro,” meaning “star,” and “naut,” meaning “sail.” So, an astronaut is a “star sailor.” Being an astronaut can be one of the most interesting jobs in the world. But it is by no means an easy job.

Astronauts spend years in training to prepare for journeys into outer space. Astronauts must be healthy and strong. That’s because space travel can be tough. Astronauts are stuffed into tiny spaces. Then they’re launched into space in a rocket powered by thousands of gallons of powerful fuel. It is scary. And it is uncomfortable. But astronauts put up with it.

This picture shows astronauts undergoing training. These Apollo 17 astronauts are learning to use equipment for their mission.

Early NASA astronauts also spent hours and hours running in place on treadmills. They would soak their feet in ice water. And they would undergo a number of other difficult, painful tests. All of this was intended to make them tough. They had to be tough to be astronauts.


Chapter Seven: Exploration of the Moon
In 1961, the U.S. president was John F. Kennedy. He announced that the U.S. would send astronauts to the moon. And we’d do it within ten years. This seemed impossible to many folks. But Kennedy and the NASA scientists were resolute about succeeding. Thus, they initiated the Apollo Program. This team would send people to the moon. But there was a lot of work to be done before anyone could get near the moon.

Surveyor 1 was the first spacecraft that Americans sent to the moon. But it was unmanned. There were no people aboard. The purpose of Surveyor 1 was to survey the moon’s surface. It carried equipment to study the land, temperature, and other things about the moon. NASA needed to know these things before dispatching people to the moon.

The Apollo program flew lots of missions. The first one, Apollo 1, was a disaster. The spacecraft caught on fire before they had a chance to launch it. After that, the Apollo scientists had better success. First, there were unmanned missions to test a number of rockets and systems. This picture shows Apollo 4. It was an unmanned mission to test a rocket engine. This is the type of engine that would later fly men to the moon.


Next came manned missions. But these astronauts did not get to go to the moon. Instead, they were practicing and testing equipment. They had to make sure that everything would work properly. This photo shows the crew of the Apollo 7 mission.

Finally, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There were three astronauts aboard. They were Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. This picture was taken shortly before they went on their memorable mission.

It took four days for them to travel the 239,000 miles from Earth to the moon. During the launch, the astronauts were sitting in the very top of the rocket. Once it reached space, the part that they were in disconnected from the rocket. That part continued on toward the moon. The rocket was not needed once the ship had reached space.

Michael Collins was the pilot for the command module. This drove the lunar module close to the moon. But it did not actually land there. The lunar module was called the Eagle. It was attached to the command module during the journey from Earth to the moon. Once they got close enough to the moon, the Eagle broke off from the command module. Then it was to land on the surface. The Eagle orbited the moon, as Aldrin and Armstrong prepared to descend and land on the surface.


The Eagle was approaching the surface. Hundreds of scientists back at Mission Control were scrutinizing their computers apprehensively. They wanted affirmation that everything was going as planned. There is little room for error in space travel. The NASA scientists monitored every single part of the ship. They were making sure that every fuse and wire were working properly.

At the same time, people all over America were glued to their television sets. They were also nervously waiting to see what would happen. The Eagle was equipped with television cameras. So, everyone back home could see and hear everything that was happening 239,000 miles away on the moon! The moon landing excited people all over the world.

It took longer than expected. But finally, Neil Armstrong announced the famous words, “The Eagle has landed.” Great sighs of relief and cheers went up from mission control. And folks were applauding in living rooms across America.

Next, Armstrong prepared to leave the Eagle. He would soon step out onto the moon. This picture shows what Americans back home saw on their television sets. As you can see, the picture was not very clear. But look closely. You can see Armstrong about to set foot on the moon’s surface.


Armstrong stepped down. He landed on the fine, soft dust of the moon’s surface. With his first step he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” What did he mean? He meant that he himself had taken a small step. He went just from the Eagle’s ladder onto the moon. But that step signified a huge leap in terms of the advances that humans had made by landing on the moon.

Aldrin followed Armstrong down the ladder. Both astronauts wore special spacesuits. They were designed to endure the harsh temperatures on the moon’s surface.

The astronauts conducted lots of experiments. These would help future astronauts and scientists. The first thing that they noticed was their mobility. They found out how easy it was to walk and move around. The moon has very little gravity compared to Earth. Here on Earth, when you jump up, you come straight back down. But that’s not so on the moon. When you hop on the moon, you stay up for a few seconds. And then you come down rather slowly.

The astronauts collected samplings of the moon’s dust and rocks. Then they planted an American flag in the moon’s soil. Antecedently, they had specially prepared the flag. They had inserted wires into it. That way, it would be firm and appear to be waving. It looked realistic, even though there’s no wind on the moon.


Five more Apollo missions landed successfully on the moon. In the end, the Apollo astronauts brought back a total of 842 pounds of moon rocks. Lots of these rocks are on display in museums around the world.

Apollo 17 was launched in 1972. It was the last mission to reach the moon. No one has returned to the moon since then. That is bound to change as humans continue to explore outer space.



Chapter Eight: The Solar System, Part One
Think of what we’ve known for thousands of years. Stargazers have known that the sun, moon, and stars are not the only celestial bodies in the night skies above Earth. Ancient stargazers knew that there are other planets up there, as well. What they did not know is that these planets, like Earth, revolve around the sun. Astronomers now know of eight major planets, including Earth, that revolve around the sun. In addition, there are a number of “dwarf planets,” or little planets.

The word “solar” is used to construe something that relates to the sun. Here’s an example. Solar energy refers to the heat and light that come from the sun. Planets and other bodies that orbit the sun make up what is known as the “solar system.”

This diagram shows the eight major planets in our solar system. These eight planets have little in common. But they do all orbit the same sun on their own special path. Beyond that, each planet is unique. The first four planets you’ll learn about are called the “inner planets.” Those are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. And it’s the smallest of the eight major planets in the solar system. Mercury can be seen from Earth. But it is hard to spot. You can only see it in the early morning or early evening.


Most planets in the solar system are named after Roman gods and goddesses. The planet Mercury is named after the Roman god Mercury. In mythology, the god Mercury was very fast. So, it makes sense that this planet is named after him. It takes just eighty-eight Earth days for Mercury to complete a revolution around the sun. So, it is a quick little planet. Unlike Earth, Mercury does not gyrate much. It spins on its axis just one and a half times during its revolution around the sun.

At first glance, you might notice that Mercury looks a lot like our moon. It has a rocky, heavily cratered surface. Mercury has some of the largest known crater impingements in the solar system. That means that it has taken a real beating from some very large meteors. In fact, some craters are about fifty miles wide.

Mercury has no atmosphere to protect it like Earth does. And because it is so close to the sun, the surface of Mercury is very hot, or very cold. Temps on the surface facing the sun can range anywhere from 300 degrees to nearly 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. On the surface facing away from the sun, it can be as low as 350 degrees below zero.

Venus is the second planet from the sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love. Aside from the sun and the moon, Venus is the brightest celestial object that you can see from Earth.


It takes Venus proximately 225 Earth days to revolve around the sun. However, like Mercury, Venus does not rotate on its axis very fast. In fact, Venus actually rotates in the opposite direction that Earth does.

Venus is sometimes referred to as the “morning star,” or the “evening star.” That’s because it often appears as a bright object in either the evening sky, or in the morning sky. Venus is also known as Earth’s sister planet. That’s because it’s the closest planet to Earth. Further, the two planets are roughly the same size.

Beyond that, though, Earth and Venus have very little in common. Venus’s atmosphere consists of a very thick layer of clouds. So, it is hard for astronomers to study its surface. We do know, though, that the surface is very hot and dry. Venus’s murky atmosphere enmeshes much of the sun’s energy. That means that temps on the planet can escalate to above 800 degrees Fahrenheit!

You should recognize the planet in this photo. It’s your home planet, Earth. We’re the third planet from the sun. Earth is the only planet that does not take its name from a Roman or Greek god. The word “Earth” is an ancient word. It originally meant “ground.” When the word Earth was invented, the people living here did not even know that it was a planet. This photo was taken by the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission. They did not get to land on the moon. But they did get to fly around it.


One of the distinguishing factors that sets Earth apart from other planets is our bounteous supply of water. Water is a precondition for life. Without water, there could not be any living things like people, plants, or animals. Yes, some other celestial bodies in our solar system have some water. But Earth is the only planet whose surface is mostly liquid water. And Earth is also the only planet with a copiousness of oxygen in the air. Oxygen is also an underlying requirement for life.

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. Mars is named after the Roman god of war. Mars is often referred to as the Red Planet. That’s because of its color. You can see Mars from Earth. And even without a telescope, it’s fairly easily pinpointed because of its reddish tint.

The farther you get from the sun, the colder it is. Further, the longer it takes to complete a single revolution around the sun. It takes Mars 687 Earth days to revolve around the sun. It’s interesting, though, that Mars rotates on its axis at about the same speed as Earth.


Mars has two moons. But they are small and irregularly shaped. One of them is pictured here. Astronomers believe that these moons are really large asteroids. They think that they became trapped in orbit as they passed by Mars billions of years ago.

Because Mars is somewhat close to Earth, NASA has been able to send several spacecrafts to explore that planet. NASA has sent several unmanned spacecrafts to orbit Mars. NASA has also managed to send several small robotic vehicles, called rovers, to explore Mars’s surface. The photo that you see here is the first color photo ever taken on another planet! It was snapped by the Spirit Exploration Rover. Most of the rocky surface of Mars is covered in a layer of rust. That’s why Mars is a reddish-brown color.

NASA scientists hope to send astronauts to Mars one day. But it may be many years before technology exists that might allow them to accomplish this. Perhaps you’ll decide to be an astronaut when you grow up. Maybe you can be the first person to set foot on Mars! It will not be easy to put a person on Mars. But people used to think it was impossible to go to the moon, too.


Chapter Nine: The Solar System, Part Two
In the last chapter, you learned about the four inner planets of our solar system. Those are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Now you’ll learn about the outer planets. They are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. And we’ll talk about the famous dwarf planet, Pluto, as well.

The first key difference between the inner and outer planets is this. The inner planets are all made up of rocks and metals. Whereas the outer planets are made of different types of gases.

The planet Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun. In Roman mythos, Jupiter was the king of the gods. He was the strongest and most powerful of all. The largest planet in our solar system is named after him. Jupiter is so big that you could stuff about 1,300 planet Earths inside of it.

It takes Jupiter nearly twelve Earth years to make one revolution around the sun. But Jupiter rotates on its axis faster than any other planet in the solar system. This massive planet rotates all the way around on its axis in less than ten hours. Jupiter is made mostly of hydrogen and other gases. Because of its fast rotation and the mixing of its gases, it is planet of turbulence and tempests.


The best-known feature on Jupiter is its large, red spot. This spot is actually a massive storm. The storm is so big that you could fit three planet Earths inside of it! Jupiter can be seen with the naked eye from Earth. And sometimes you can see its red spot with an ordinary telescope.

There are at least ninety-two moons in orbit around Jupiter. Most of them are very small. But four of these moons are well-known. They were all discovered first by the famous astronomer Galileo. These are easily perceptible with a pair of binoculars. Each is interesting in its own way. Europa, the small one in the upper right, is a lot of folks’ favorite.

Europa is slightly smaller than our own moon. Yet it is one of the most bewitching celestial bodies in the solar system. Europa’s surface is covered in ice. And its atmosphere contains a lot of oxygen. Many astronomers believe that beneath Europa’s ice there is an ocean of liquid water. This means that maybe there is some form of life on this distant little moon.

The next planet in the solar system is Saturn. It’s the sixth planet from the sun. It’s the second-largest planet in the solar system. But it’s still much smaller than Jupiter. Saturn is famous for its rings. It’s not the only planet with rings. But no other planet has rings like Saturn’s. This incredible photo was taken by an unmanned orbiter in 2004.


Saturn has a number of layers with different types of clouds. And it is quite stormy, too. Though it’s not as stormy as its neighbor Jupiter. Because it is so far from the sun, it takes Saturn nearly thirty Earth years to make one complete orbit. Different parts of Saturn rotate at different velocities. But for the most part, Saturn rotates on its axis very quickly. It takes a little over ten hours to complete one rotation.

The rings of Saturn are always moving around the planet. They are made up mainly of ice and a few other types of materials. The rings are pretty much huge collections of dust. And there are some larger chunks here and there. No one is sure how the rings got there. Some astronomers believe that the rings formed when one of Saturn’s moons exploded. They think that the debris became trapped in orbit. Others say that the material in the rings is left over from the time when Saturn was formed. That would have occurred billions of years ago. You can see Saturn from Earth during certain times of the year. And with an ordinary telescope, you can see the rings.


The seventh planet is Uranus. It has the coldest atmosphere of any planet in the solar system. It is really far from the sun. So, it takes Uranus eighty-four Earth years to make one complete orbit. Uranus is made of hydrogen. But its atmosphere also contains a lot of ice and other substances not found on Jupiter or Saturn. Uranus is named after a Greek god of the sky. That makes it the only planet other than Earth that’s not named after a Roman god. It’s possible to see Uranus from Earth with the naked eye. But you really have to know where and when to look for it. That’s because it appears very dim from here on Earth.

Uranus has one very special characteristic. It rotates on its side! You can’t see it in this image. But in comparison to Earth and the other planets, Uranus’s axis is sideways. It’s as though someone turned the planet on its side.

The planet Neptune is the eighth and final major planet in the solar system. In Roman mythology, Neptune was the god of the sea. So, this is a befitting name. That’s because of the planet’s beautiful, blue color. We still don’t know why Neptune is blue. And it will probably be a while before we figure it out. That’s because Neptune is nearly three billion miles from the sun. That makes it hard and expensive to send unmanned probes to explore it.


It takes Neptune nearly 165 Earth years to orbit the sun. The planet is never visible to the naked eye from Earth. And you’ll need a fairly powerful telescope to get a good view of its coloring.

Not so very long ago, students in school were taught that there were nine planets in the solar system. That count included Pluto. Ever since Pluto was discovered in 1930, it had been considered a planet. However, in 2006, astronomers decided to categorize Pluto as a “dwarf planet.” There are other such bodies in our solar system.

In Roman mythology, Pluto was the god of the underworld. That was an ominous and dreary place. This is a good name for such a cold and abstracted dwarf planet. Pluto is about four billion miles from the sun. So, it is unduly cold and dark out there. The planet is made almost solely of frozen nitrogen. Nitrogen is a type of gas. It takes Pluto about 243 Earth years to orbit the sun.


We have a lot to learn about Pluto and other celestial bodies in the outer reaches of the solar system. But it’s not easy to explore this area. For now, this is about the best photo we have of Pluto. And it was taken from three billion miles away by a special spacecraft called the Hubble Space Telescope. So far, Pluto remains unexplored. A special probe was launched toward Pluto in the year 2003. But it did not reach the planet until 2015.

(Editor’s note. Here is a link to a brief but fascinating NASA article about the above-noted 2015 probe to Pluto. Trailer: “The mountains discovered on Pluto during the New Horizon’s spacecraft’s flyby of the dwarf planet in 2015 are covered by a blanket of methane ice, creating bright deposits strikingly like the snow-capped mountain chains found on Earth.”   )








Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)

Lesson 53 – Part Three (“Sun, Moon, and Stars” Unit)

NEW WORDS: Danielle, Galilei, Gan, Gordon, Lin, Lin’s, Luna, Shen, Shi, Wu, Xian, autumnal, brewed, chamomile, comprised, discernible, duskiness, equated, equator’s, equinox, establishes, foresee, graduates, hemisphere’s, incorrectly, indeterminate, manifestation, nonchalantly, planetarium, planetarium’s, predictable, repetition, sequencing, setter, solstice, solstices, sunrises, sunsets, supervisor, transitioning, transitions, universities, unquestionably, vernal, welkin

Chapter One: The Mysterious Movement of the Moon
It’s early in the morning on a school day, while Lin establishes himself at the kitchen table. It’s still dark outside, and he’s tired. It’s hard to wake up on these dark, cold mornings! Sleepily, Lin looks out the kitchen window, and the sky is just beginning to brighten. He takes a sip of the soothing chamomile tea that his mom has brewed for him. Lin can see the moon. “It’s morning,” he thinks, “so, why is it still dark, and why is the moon still in the sky?”

Just before dinner that evening, Lin walks his pet Gordon setter, Luna. The sun has set beyond Lin’s ken, and the duskiness presses onwards. Lin again notices the moon in the sky, but it’s in a different place than it was that morning. Again, he wonders why the moon is visible when it’s not yet nighttime. He thought that the moon came out only at night. But, in fact, the manifestation of the sky is transitioning all the time.


When he sits down to dinner, Lin looks for the moon through the kitchen window. But the moon is not there! Lin saw the moon when he walked Luna just a few minutes ago. He knows it’s in the sky. So why can’t he see it through the window, like he could at breakfast this morning? He knows that he saw the moon this morning when he was sitting in this same spot. He was looking through this same window.

Lin thinks back to the beginning of first grade. The mornings were bright and sunny, not dark. He walked the dog before bedtime instead of before dinner, because it was still light outside later in the day. “But where was the moon?” Lin thinks to himself. “Why can I only see the moon sometimes? And why does it seem to move from place to place?”


Chapter Two: What Causes Night and Day?
Lin saw changes in the day and night welkin, and what caused these changes is indeterminate for him. Think about the difference between day and night. It’s the sun! When the sun is out, it’s daytime, and it’s light outside. When the sun is not in the sky, it’s nighttime, and it’s dark outside.

To learn about day and night, we first need to understand some things about the Earth. Earth gets light from the sun, and our sun is a star! It looks much bigger and brighter than the other stars that you see in the night sky. That’s because it is much closer to Earth. Lots of other stars are larger and more luminous than the sun. They just seem tiny because they’re so far away.

How do we describe where the sun or moon is in the sky? You’ve probably heard people use the words north, south, east, west, up, and down. These are directions that let us describe the locations of objects or places. They can help us tell where the sun or moon is in the sky.


The sun always rises in the east, and it appears to move across the sky during the day. Then it sets in the west. One daytime plus one nighttime are equated with one Earth day, which is twenty-four hours long. Where Lin lives, the sun rises and sets once in every period of twenty-four hours. Look at the labels for east and west. Can you point to where the sun rises and sets?

You may be wondering why you cannot see the sun in the sky all the time. We have sunrises and sunsets because Earth is shaped like a ball, and it spins. When one side is facing the sun, the other side is facing away from the sun.

Only one half of Earth at a time faces the sun. It is light, and daytime, on that side. It is dark, and nighttime, on the other side. But as Earth spins, the light side transitions to dark, and the dark side becomes light. This is why we have night and day. This pattern happens every twenty-four hours. Where is it daytime in this picture, and where is it nighttime.


Chapter Three: Longer and Shorter Times of Daylight
Lin noticed that sometimes it was dark outside when he ate breakfast, and sometimes it was light. But he eats breakfast at the same time every day. That must mean that on some days the sun rises earlier, and on some days it rises later. The length of day and night changes throughout the year. If you collect data, you can see a pattern.

Think about the changes that Lin noticed. Then think about what you have learned about Earth and the sun. What time of year do you think it was when it was dark outside in the morning? What time of year do you think it was when he could walk his dog before bedtime?


By collecting data and using statistics, you’ll see that the sun rises and sets at predictable times. The times change a little bit each day. You can play outside much later in the summer than you can in the winter. That’s because the sun rises very early and sets very late in the summer. So, summer unquestionably has the most daylight.

In the fall, our days get shorter and shorter. Winter has the least amount of daylight. The shortest day of the year is in December where Lin lives. Then, as winter turns to spring, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset nonchalantly grows longer and longer. The longest day of Lin’s year is in June. Then the amount of the daylight slowly decreases as summer turns to fall. The days get shortest in December. This pattern is an annual repetition. It is the same time of day in both pictures. Why is it bright daytime in one picture and getting dark in the other?


Chapter Four: Why Does the Moon Seem to Move?
What did Lin notice about the moon when he saw it both in the morning and at night? He saw it when it was still light outside, and he saw it when it was dark. He saw it in different places in the sky. Just like the sun, the moon’s place in the sky changes. And just like the sun, its movement follows a predictable pattern.

The moon is very bright against the dark night sky. But it is not only a night sky object. The moon appears in the sky both during the day and at night. The sun’s bright light sometimes makes the moon harder, or even impossible, to see during the day.

Like the sun, the moon rises and sets. It rises in the eastern sky, then it sets in the west. During the time that the moon is discernible, it appears to move across the sky. Unlike the sun, the moon actually moves! It moves in a path around Earth. Earth also spins. So, the moon’s place in the sky changes.


Can you tell if the moon is rising or setting here? Not unless you know which direction the picture is facing. If the picture shows a view to the east, which is it? Can you tell if the moon is rising or setting here? If the picture shows a view to the west, which is it?

The moon has the shape of a round ball. Because we see only one side of the moon, it sometimes looks like a circle. But sometimes its shape looks different. The moon’s shape changes over the course of one month. These changes happen in a predictable pattern, and these changes in shape are called the moon’s “phases.”

The full moon has a complete circle shape. The quarter moon is a half-circle shape. The crescent moon looks like the shape of the white part of a fingernail. During the new moon phase, the moon is hard to see. The whole circle is dark.


Chapter Five: How Does The Starry Sky Change?
Lin has figured out that the appearance of the sun and moon changes in the sky. But what about the stars in the sky? Do those change, too? The sun is just one of many billions of stars. Except for the sun, stars are very far from Earth. They are so far away that they look like tiny points of light in the sky. You can see stars because they make their own light.

Stars are in the sky all the time, but we can only see them at night. During the day, the sun’s bright light blocks out light from other stars. When the sun sets, the stars show up against the dark sky once again. Some stars appear to be larger and brighter than others. Still, it is hard to tell them apart.


With so many stars in the sky, how can we tell which one is which? A long time ago, people imagined picture patterns from stars, much like you can connect dots to draw a picture. These star pictures are called “constellations.” Look at these constellations. What do their shapes make you think of? Does this look like a hunter? Does this look like a scorpion?

Constellations can contain just a few stars or many stars. The Big Dipper is one of the easier groups of stars to spot in the night sky. The Big Dipper is comprised of seven stars and is shaped like a ladle. (A ladle is a type of deep spoon that you might use to serve up soup.) The Big Dipper is visible in the northern night sky.

Remember what Lin noticed about objects in the sky. He noticed the way the positions of the sun and the moon change. Do you think that the positions of stars change, too? How could you find out?


Chapter Six: Science in Action — Meeting an Astronomer
Lin has learned a lot about the objects in the sky since he started noticing them through his kitchen window. He knows where the sun rises and sets. Sometimes, Lin sees a full moon, and at other times, he sees a skinny crescent moon. Sometimes he can’t see the moon at all. Lin has made enough observations that he now knows the sequencing. He can foresee how the moon’s shape will appear from one week to the next.

Now Lin is excited to be on a class field trip. The students are visiting a planetarium, which is a special kind of dark theater. Stars are projected on the curved ceiling, and it makes the dome look like the night sky.

The planetarium’s supervisor is named Danielle. “The planetarium can show what the night sky will look like here tonight,” Danielle says. “It can also show what the night sky would look like on any other night, and from any other place on Earth!”

Danielle explains that scientists who study stars and other objects in space are called astronomers. “Astronomers have been observing the night sky for thousands of years,” she tells the class. “Long ago, people looked at the stars, and they noticed that they saw different groups of stars during different seasons. They recorded what they saw and discovered patterns. Now scientists know that they can use those patterns to predict which stars they will see on any given night. In a planetarium, we can display what that looks like.”


Astronomers a long time ago recorded what the stars looked like in the sky. They made maps of the stars. A planetarium combines lots of information from many star maps, from many places. Danielle tells the students about some of the first makers of star maps. She also tells the students that some of the lights in the night sky are not stars at all. They are other planets!

Danielle then tells the class about Shi Shen, Gan De, and Wu Xian. They were Chinese astronomers who lived more than two thousand years ago. They mapped the positions of stars, and their star chart used lines to connect groups of stars together into constellations. Those constellations are different from the ones that Lin is used to. They imagined different pictures made from stars in the night sky.

Then Danielle talked of Galileo Galilei, who was an Italian astronomer. He lived more than four hundred years ago. Galileo used a telescope to view objects in the night sky. He looked more closely at the moon than anyone had before him. Galileo discovered that there were many more stars in the sky than people had ever seen before. He recorded the way that they moved and changed, and he found many patterns. Galileo’s data changed how people thought about the universe.


APPENDIX: Editor’s Note — Don’t EVER fall for this trick!
There’s a well-known story from 1989 that a number of Harvard graduates and faculty flunked a very basic test about the Earth and the sun. Harvard is one of the most respected universities in the world. And you have to be really smart to do well there! But, SURPRISE!

Twenty-five people were asked why it’s warmer in the summer and colder in the winter. Twenty-two of them answered the question incorrectly. Those 22 said that the Earth was closer to the sun in summer, and further from the sun in winter. WRONG!!

Never get caught on this one! The correct answer is that the temperature swings are due to the Earth rotating on its axis at a 23-degree angle. As the Earth makes its annual rotation around the sun, it’s tilt determines how much sunlight hits both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres each day.

In the north-of-the-equator’s “summer,” more sunlight hits the Northern Hemisphere. There’s more sunlight, so that warms things up more. In the Southern Hemisphere, during that time, it’s their “winter.” In the south-of-the-equator’s “summer,” the Earth’s tilt provides more daylight to them. Therefore, at that time, it’s “winter” in the Northern Hemisphere.


There are two specific days in the year when both hemispheres receive virtually the same amount of sunlight. The “vernal equinox” describes the day that the Northern Hemisphere’s spring begins, and that’s usually around April 21. The “autumnal equinox” describes the day that the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn begins, and that’s around September 21.

Then we have our “solstices.” The Northern Hemisphere’s “winter solstice” is the day that winter officially begins, which is around December 21. So, on that day, the Northern Hemisphere is receiving its lowest dose of daily sunlight. That also means that in the North, it’s the “shortest day of the year.” Then there is the “summer solstice,” the day that summer officially begins in the North. That’s around June 21. And that marks “the longest day of the year” for the Northern Hemisphere.

So, think back to Lin’s story above. Not only does the Earth’s “tilted” rotation explain the Earth’s changing annual temperatures as we move from season to season. It also explains why the “length of our days” also constantly changes!

So, now keep this in mind for the rest of your lives and never get tricked! If you get to go to Harvard, you’ll be one of the graduates who gets this question right!

Here’s a brief article describing the 1989 questioning of some folks at Harvard:

Lesson 54 – “” Academic Word Builder

NEW WORDS: abbreviate, articulate, attributed, ballet, book’s, condos, contend, continuum, deviation, devise, diminished, ethical, flawed, font, footer, fugue, ignores, inferred, instincts, irony, justification, optional, origins, page’s, plagiarism, presumption, rephrase, societal, stanza, substitution, symbolic, termination, transformation, variables, violation, vomit, waive, wildfire   

I saw two ghostly entities.

This liquid has a high concentration of bleach.

Make this deviation from our plan.

I’ll compose a fugue for the piano.

That act constitutes fraud.

What’s your justification for saying that?

She highlighted this stanza of the poem.

Do that, and you’ll suffer bad consequences.

We acknowledged her help with the project.

Caterpillars go through a major transformation.

The patient’s in the recovery room.

She’s a resident of Maine.

“Raining cats and dogs” is a figurative phrase.

The coach questioned his team’s motivation.

Rate it on a continuum of one-to-ten.

There are fluctuations in the radio signals.

I have a persistent cough.

She cited Shakespeare in her paper.

That’s the dominant wolf in the pack.

I never conceived that he’d say that!

Choose from these five categories.

Sherlock Holmes posed as a chimney sweep.


I predicted that they’d win!

I’m at your disposal to help out.

Stealing is a violation of the law.

How would you characterize her mood?

Sign this revision of the contract.

My bank account is low on funds.

What’s the timeline for the project?

I’ll waive my fee for this consultation.

His mental state has diminished.

She played the hymn with intensity.

Many in the audience yelled, “Bravo!”

Paraphrase it to make it simpler.

The end of her novel was full of irony.

They’ve learned about the origins of these species.

Solve the problem for these two variables.

Is this brand a good substitution?

He made another antique car acquisition.

The two lawyers began corresponding with each other.

What’s your assessment of her thoughts?

Dessert is optional.

Increase the font on this page’s footer.

Their country has known ten years of stability.


This region has a broad diversity of plant life.

His story was credible.

Your main assumption is flawed.

You can abbreviate “doctor” as “doc” or “Dr.”

That criminal is not ethical.

He’s devoted to his wife.

A cop gave me a parking citation.

This book’s illustrated with lots of color.

This flute composition is hard to play.

She wrote a terse conclusion to the experiment.

My car’s registered in the State of Utah.

She has a strong reliance on her instincts.

Don’t get too much exposure to the sun.

Our teacher’s name is Mrs. Burke.

Ultimately, these actions will get him in trouble.

The project’s implementation occurs next month.

Let’s persuade mom to let us stay up late.

They converted these apartments into condos.

Inevitably, we have four seasons each year.

I learned much from his narrative of Lincoln’s life.

Use this hot sauce at your own discretion.

The eagle is symbolic of the American spirit.


That saying is attributed to Mark Twain.

It’s my presumption that you’re hungry.

That crook is dependent on the manipulation of people.

I speculate that the stock market will go up soon.

Our school has a high percent of minorities.

Let’s devise a tricky play to show the coach.

I’m mad at you as a consequence of your bad manners.

After my intervention, the two stopped fighting.

I accompanied mom to the ballet.

Rephrase that so that I can understand it.

You need great coordination to be a tightrope walker.

What went on in the show’s preceding episode?

He sought out his dad in the crowd.

That married couple has a great relationship.

My job termination is effective this Friday.

Courts are supposed to protect our constitutional rights.

His political orientation is left-wing.

I love classical music.

I contend that the Bears will beat the Rams.

The doc induced her to vomit.

Articulate your plan’s details to me.

The virus’s transmission is spreading like wildfire.

Hypothesize who will win the election.


She inferred that I am dumb!

What are the requisite skills of a nurse?

His behavior ignores societal norms.

They rejected my offer to buy their house.

Ice cream sales correlate with hot weather.

I’ve compiled a list of good movies for you.

You exaggerate your skills.

What’s the underlying reason she did that?

Is this a meteor fragment?

Our kids have lots of interaction at school.

He’s guilty of plagiarism in his book report.

I proofread my test and found two spelling errors.

What insights did you gain from her lecture?

I can’t emphasize enough how careful you need to be.

There’s been a huge displacement of people in their civil war.

What did you conclude from your analysis?

We welcomed her participation in the brainstorm session.

I’ve been assigned to the dorm on the hill.

Invariably, we can count on some snow days this winter.

This chapter will foreshadow a surprise at the end of the book.

My financial advisor sold some of my stock.

I still need to annotate my thesis.

This info is irrelevant to the court case.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)


Lesson 55 – Early Explorers And Settlers 

NEW WORDS: Anglican, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Raleigh, Rolfe, abandonment, acquiring, backfiring, bankrolled, befell, belatedly, chancy, coerced, colony’s, commissioned, commonwealths, confiscated, cooperating, covetous, craving, cultivating, declined, denomination, directive, disembarking, disinter, dominion, earmarked, egalitarian, endeavors, excursion, expedited, gallant, harboring, heeled, highborn, lucrative, miscalculation, oceangoing, opportunistic, overlong, overran, pathfinder, protectorates, pummeled, puritan, puritans, reconnaissance, seaway, sustaining, swampland, upshot, urgently, validated, vanquished, weathered

Chapter One: The Conquistadors
Christopher Columbus was a pathfinder. He had sailed the Atlantic. He went to the Americas. That was in 1492. We used to think that he discovered America. But we now know that’s not true. The Vikings had been there centuries before.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were Spain’s monarchs. They had bankrolled his excursion. The upshot of his trip was that it made the king and queen quite happy. The land that Columbus went to was “new.” It was not known by the Europeans of that time. The king and queen planned to be very opportunistic. They hoped to find lots of riches in the Americas!

Let’s turn to the decades after Columbus. The Spanish and the Portuguese did lots of reconnaissance in the New World. They validated much about Central and South America. These lands did, indeed, have gold and silver. People just had to disinter it out of the ground.


We’ll now meet the “Conquistadors.” That means “conquerors” in Spanish. They went to Central and South America. They had a blunt directive. They were to gain dominion over the land and the people.

Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro were such men. They helped to make Spain rich. Cortes vanquished the Aztec of Mexico. He took all of their land. Francisco Pizarro overran the Inca of Peru. The Spanish killed many of these people. Some also died from diseases that the Spanish brought with them. Others were coerced into digging for gold and silver.

These conquerors came back to Europe. They brought back much gold and silver. Some European kings and queens were covetous. They wanted their countries to get rich, too! And Spain and Portugal were not just acquiring riches. They were setting up protectorates there, too.


Chapter Two: Queen Elizabeth and the Lost Colony
So, other European commonwealths wished to be in the game. They sent their traders and fishermen to the New World to make money. Let’s see what England did. Queen Elizabeth wanted English settlers to go there and take land, too. She was craving to do what the Spanish and Portuguese had done.

So, she had need of someone gallant. He’d have to set off on a chancy voyage. He’d have to find land that could be settled on. She chose Sir Walter Raleigh. This highborn noble set sail for the eastern coast of North America. He was commissioned to find the best place to build an English colony. He found just the spot! When he returned, he sent a group of men to Roanoke Island. That was just off the coast of what’s today North Carolina.

The first English settlers sent there did not last long. Life there was too hard. They came back to England. Later, Sir Walter sent a second group. These were English men, women, and children. They went to Roanoke Island to try again. For a while, things went well.

A child named Virginia Dare was born there. But only three years went by. By then, all of these settlers had disappeared. The colony was in a state of abandonment. No one knows for sure what befell them. That’s why it’s called “The Lost Colony.”


Chapter Three: The English Travel to Virginia
For a while, the English did not send more folks to the New World. But they were sustaining lucrative trade and fishing there. These traders brought back lots of valuable goods. They had furs, lumber, and pearls. They got rich.

Some of these traders went to King James. He was the new king of England. They had a plan. They wished to try settling again in the New World. They wished to send settlers to search for gold and silver. King James said, “yes.” The traders expedited their endeavors to find oceangoing vessels, supplies, and men.


It was just before Christmas in 1606. Three ships sailed into the Atlantic. Here were their names. The Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. There were 105 male passengers on board. There were 39 sailors. Also on board was a note from King James. It told them what to do. It told them how to behave when they got to the New World.

Soon after they set out, the weather was not cooperating. The winds died down. The ships went nowhere. They were stranded for six weeks. The ships just sat there. They waited for a wind to fill the sails to take them west. They had to dig into their supplies. They ate food that was earmarked for use in their new home. They drank the water that they had brought with them. The weeks went by. Lots of them became sick.

Belatedly, strong winds did come. But these winds were too strong. They blew the ships in the wrong direction! Bad storms swept across the seaway. Enormous waves pummeled the ships. Things eventually calmed down. An overlong four months after they left England, the three ships reached what is now Virginia.


Chapter Four: John Smith and the Powhatan
Right after disembarking in Virginia, the king’s note was read out loud. The king wanted them to find a good place to settle. He did not want them to be seen by passing Spanish ships. The land should also be near a wide, deep river. This colony was to be named Jamestown, after King James. The settlers were to urgently search for gold and silver.

A number of men had been chosen to run the colony. One of them was a young adventurer named John Smith. Smith was a natural leader. But the other leaders didn’t like him. He was not well-heeled and powerful. They declined to treat such an ordinary person as him in an egalitarian way. Instead, they left him tied up on one of the ships.

This was a big miscalculation. The other leaders chose swampland to settle on. The land was also bad for farming. The damp swampland was good for one thing, though. And that was for harboring mosquitoes. Further, these deadly creatures carried a disease called malaria. The settlers were also not near clean drinking water. Half of the settlers died in the first few months. Then, to add to their problems, the Powhatan were not happy that they had come. These were the Native Americans whose land the settlers had confiscated.


After some time, John Smith DID become the colony’s leader. He persuaded those who had weathered the first few months to get to work. They chopped down trees. They built homes. And a strong log wall was built around the settlement.

That first winter was very hard for the settlers. They were all cold and very hungry. Smith also knew they would have to make peace with the Powhatan. They needed to trade with the Native Americans for food. John Smith set off to do just that.

Smith became friends with Chief Powhatan. He was the leader of the Powhatan. He had a daughter named Pocahontas. She also became a good friend to Smith. The Powhatan agreed to trade corn and meat for axes and blankets. The food that the Powhatan gave to the settlers was enough to last them through the winter. In the spring, those who had survived were able to plant their own crops.

Pocahontas helped the settlers a lot. She encouraged her father to give the starving settlers food. And she may even have saved John Smith’s life. After a time, she married a settler by the name of John Rolfe. Pocahontas then traveled all the way to England and met King James.


Chapter Five: Enslaved People in the Colonies
The settlers got to know the Powhatan. They saw that they grew tobacco plants and smoked tobacco in pipes. The English settlers had not found gold. But they had found a plant that could make England rich. They realized how smart cultivating their own tobacco would be. Then, they could ship it back to England and sell it.

Before long, the English were smoking lots of tobacco from Virginia. In fact, Jamestown was making tons of money. Now, the colony’s farmers wanted to grow even more tobacco. But to grow more tobacco, they needed more people. Some people came from England to do this hard work. But before long, there was a need for even more workers.

Over a period of time, people were enslaved. They were brought from Africa to work on large farms. These were called “plantations.” These were mostly in the English colonies in the South. Enslaved Africans were not free. They did not choose to plant tobacco. These enslaved people were bought and sold like the tobacco that they were growing. This is an abominable part of our U.S. history.


Chapter Six: Pilgrims Arrive in Plymouth
One community of people, called the Pilgrims, set off for Virginia for different reasons, as they did not want to grow tobacco or find gold. Instead, they wanted to pray to God in their own way, which was not possible in England at that time. So, the Pilgrims set sail on a ship called the Mayflower.

The Mayflower was a small ship, and there was not much room for its hundred-and-two passengers and thirty sailors. The passengers slept mostly on the floor, and in hammocks below the main deck. For the first month, the voyage went well, however, then stormy weather arrived, and the passengers became very ill.

The storms at sea were so bad that the Mayflower was blown off course, so, the Pilgrims never actually arrived in Virginia. Instead, they arrived in what is today Massachusetts, in New England. The place they chose to settle had once been a Wampanoag village, and the Pilgrims named their new home Plymouth.


The Pilgrims had also arrived as the weather was turning cold, and it was too late to plant crops, so somehow the settlers needed to get through the cold winter months.

The Pilgrims set about building homes, but because it was so cold, the women and children slept on the Mayflower. Many people died due to the cold, sickness, and lack of food. People began to lose hope, but then spring came, and help arrived, too!

There was a Native American by the name of Squanto, who spoke English, and he demonstrated to the Pilgrims the best ways to plant crops on land that was new to them. Squanto also showed the Pilgrims how to be good hunters and fishermen.

With more food to eat, the Pilgrims grew strong again, and to celebrate, Squanto and members of the Wampanoag joined the Pilgrims for a feast of thanksgiving. They ate roasted deer and turkey, and they ate the fish that they had caught and the vegetables that they had grown. Once again, Native Americans had generously helped people from another land to survive, which over time, in a sense, largely ended up backfiring on them. This is another very sad chapter in U.S. history.


Chapter Seven: The Puritans
Just a few years after the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, another group of people came to New England, and they were called the Puritans. Like the Pilgrims, they left England because the king would not let them worship as they wanted, and his orders were that they could only worship in the religious denomination of the Anglican Church.

King Charles the first was actually happy to get rid of the Puritans, so he signed a paper called a “charter,” giving them permission to start a colony in Massachusetts Bay. With things going so well in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, more Puritans arrived, and within ten years, there were over ten-thousand people living there.


This colony also did well because the Puritans made sure that everyone worked. Even young people had to work, because the Puritans believed that children should be taught jobs that they could do as adults. This way they would always be useful.

The Puritans wanted their children to learn skills, as well as to know how to read and write, and they wanted everyone to read the Bible. Because education was so important to them, Puritan law said that every town must have a school, where all of the townspeople had to pay for both the school and its teacher. We still pay for public schools this way. The Puritans also started Harvard College.

After a while, the Puritans and others began moving to areas farther away, and new settlements began in what would become today’s states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Before long, there were thirteen colonies. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the colonists were helping to create a new country, the United States of America.


Image subtitles.

This is what gold looks like when it is first taken out of the ground. Sir Walter felt sure that they would be able to set up an English colony on this small island. Many different Native American groups had tobacco pipes.











Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)

Lesson 56 – Ancient China

NEW WORDS: Confucius, Qin, Qingming, adherents, archaic, burdens, chi, cocoons, conjoining, constituents, contended, deserves, discord, doctrines, emanates, emulating, encounters, flourished, folktale, forebears, foreigner, foreigners, fussy, graves, guarded, herding, honoring, imagining, inundated, jubilee, kinder, loosen, mashing, nomads, popularity, potentate, resolving, scion, spacious, suboptimal, swells, terminates, traditionally, trustworthy, upsurge, virtuous, watchtowers, yields


Chapter One: China’s Great Rivers
China is a giant land with flat plains, rich farmland, high mountains, and hot deserts. Across part of this spacious land swells the second longest river in Asia. That’s the mighty Huang He. The Huang He is yellow in color, because of the silt that the river water carries with it. “Huang He” means “Yellow River.”

The Huang He emanates high in the mountains and flows for 3,400 miles. It finally terminates when it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Until recently, the Huang He’s flooding often inundated farmland near its banks. The river water covered land that was often dry, and it brought with it lots of rich silt. That helped the crops to grow. Too much floodwater, though, could be a suboptimal problem!

The Yangtze River flows 3,915 miles. It, too, begins high in the mountains, and it, too, brings water to farmers. The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia, and it’s so large and fast that it takes most of its silt out to sea.

But what have these rivers got to do with China’s archaic times? Well, lots of early civilizations began near rivers, and an ancient Chinese civilization grew first along the banks of the Huang He. It flourished because farmers there could increase their crop yields on the rich farmland. More crops meant that more people could be fed; thus, over time, there was an upsurge in the population.


How do we know about a civilization that began over 4,000 years ago?
Archaeologists spend time digging up the past. This pot is thousands of years old, and it was found in a place by the Huang He. Over time, other civilizations and kingdoms developed all across ancient China.

These rivers weren’t just good for farming, and riverboats carrying key people, as well as food, sailed along the Huang and Yangtze Rivers. Then, let’s move to about 1,400 years ago, where people had begun to build human-made waterways. These are called “canals.” They would connect the two rivers, and that way, it helped in conjoining many parts of China. This was the oldest, and longest, human-made waterway, and it was used to transport food to the cities of ancient China. It earned the name “the Grand Canal.”


Chapter Two: Family and Ancestors
In ancient China, each family member had a job to do, but the head of the family had the greatest burdens. They had the job of looking after the farm or business, and they had to take care of the entire family. Key decisions were also made by the family head, like resolving who someone would marry, or they might have to decide what job someone would do.

Taking care of the family also called for honoring the “ancestors,” who were all of the past family members who had died. People honored their forebears by continuing to treat them like part of the family. They talked to them, they told them about key events, they brought them gifts, and they carved their names on little wooden blocks. Lots of these things are still done today!

The Qingming Festival is an ancient celebration that’s held in honor of all ancestors. Traditionally, people visited their ancestors’ graves, and they brought gifts of food and flowers. People still do this today. The Qingming Festival is also a celebration of spring. “Qingming” means “clear and bright,” like a beautiful spring day.

Another jubilee that’s held in honor of the ancestors is the Hungry Ghost Festival. This happens each year in August, and its popularity is greatest in the southern part of China. During this festival, unloved ancestors, or angry ghosts, are offered food, so that they will not be hungry or angry! Here you can see a painting from long ago that shows the angry ghosts being fed.


Chapter Three: The Teachings of Confucius
Before China was one country, it was made up of lots of kingdoms. Each one had a different potentate. They often had hostile encounters with one another. A man named Confucius spoke out against this frequent discord. Confucius said that if people were kinder, there would be fewer wars. He contended that people could change their ways. He became a famous teacher. He traveled throughout all of China. Lots of people listened to his teachings. They called him “Master.”

Confucius taught his adherents many things. He said that goodness, or virtue, is shown by how people act. He also said that every person can be a prince by emulating one. They don’t really have to be the scion of a king. And he said that a king only deserves his job if he is kind to his people.


Confucius taught that family should be very important. He said that families are special. That’s because they last across time. We go from parents and grandparents, to children and their children. He thought that the people of China were one big family. He wished that the rulers would act like thoughtful parents.

One day, the rulers of ancient China made a big decision about Confucius. They thought that people should study his teachings in order to be a ruler. They thought that disciples of Confucius would make the most virtuous and trustworthy constituents of the government. So, what would you have to do if you wanted to work for the government? You had to pass a test on the doctrines of Confucius!


Chapter Four: The Great Wall of China
Long ago, nomads lived in the lands outside of ancient China. They lived by hunting and herding animals. Nomads moved from place to place. They were always looking for good places to feed their sheep or goats. The Chinese did not want the nomads on their land. They did not like that the nomads did not settle in one place. Further, they lived without a government. And so a gigantic stone wall was built across part of China. That was to keep out the nomads. This wall was called “the Great Wall!” Can you see its route on the map?


The building of the Great Wall began under Emperor Qin. He was the very first emperor of China. He was a powerful leader. He defeated the rulers of many kingdoms. He took their land and made China larger. He wished to help protect his citizens and their farmland. So, he ordered that a long wall be built on the northern border of China.

Millions of people worked on building the Great Wall. They had to stack large, heavy stones to build a wall that is at least three stories high! It took many years to complete just part of the Great Wall. Lots of people died building it. Today the wall is about 5,500 miles long.

The Great Wall was built to keep the Chinese people safe from the nomads and other invaders. It also helped to protect the rich fields where wheat and rice crops grew. Soldiers stood guard along the wall and in the watchtowers at all times. Even so, nomads did still try to raid their rich and powerful Chinese neighbors. Sometimes they succeeded. Some even became rulers of China. But they always ended up following the Chinese way of life. Throughout China’s long history, lots of battles were fought along the Great Wall.


Chapter Five: Writing the Chinese Language
Remember that Emperor Qin wanted a great wall across parts of China. But he also wanted there to be one style of writing in all of China. He believed that this would help to unite the people. He asked a man named Li Si to create this new style of writing. In China today, everyone uses what Li Si created. It is, in fact, the oldest written language still used in the world.

Chinese does not use letters to spell words. Their people have a different picture for each whole word. These pictures are called “characters.” They sometimes look like the words that they stand for. The written characters for blossom and plum are shown here.

Why might learning to write Chinese words be more difficult than learning to write English words? Well, children in China have to learn new characters for every word. And there are thousands of words. We learn the twenty-six letters that make up the English alphabet. And with them, we can write every word in English. Which one sounds easier to you?

In China, people can write their characters across the page or down the page. Chinese writers begin by imagining that there is a small square on the page. Inside the lines of the imaginary square, they carefully draw the characters. A character is made up of a certain number of lines, or strokes.


Chapter Six: Chinese Inventions
Look at your book. What is it made of? It’s made of paper. Think about all the times today that you have seen or used something made of paper. A long time ago, in ancient China, people learned to make paper. They were the first people to do so. And they were the first to make and use paper money.

Early paper was made by mashing up rags, old rope, the bark of trees, and water. This mixture was then flattened and dried. Paper became easy and cheap to make. And many things could be made from paper!

Imagine that every book in the world had to be made by hand. Someone had to write each word on every page. For a long time, even for hundreds of years after the invention of paper, books were made this way.


Then, in ancient China, people came up with a better way to make books. They developed an early form of printing. They made small blocks of wood and carved a character on each block. They put the small blocks together. Then they put ink on the blocks. Paper was pressed on the blocks. Then, a page of printed words appeared in seconds. The blocks could be put together in different ways to make other pages.

In America, fireworks light up the night sky on the Fourth of July each year. But did you know that fireworks were invented in ancient China? One day, an experiment went wrong. As a result, a gray powder, called gunpowder, was invented. Gunpowder exploded when lit. People began to add ingredients to the gunpowder so that the explosions would be colorful. Today we call these explosions fireworks!

Many hundreds of years ago, the Chinese learned how to make porcelain. Porcelain is made from special white clay instead of the usual brown clay. Clay is a sticky, muddy substance. It comes from the Earth. It’s used to make pots, cups, plates, and other things. The Chinese used porcelain to make beautiful, delicate dishes. These dishes were nicer and more valuable than the ones made from brown clay. Porcelain is often called “china” in English. Can you guess why?


Chapter Seven: Beautiful Silk
An old folktale tells us that thousands of years ago there was a queen named Si Ling-chi, who was sitting in the garden of her royal palace, drinking tea and watching little caterpillars spin their cocoons. They were up in some mulberry trees, and suddenly, one of the cocoons fell into her teacup!

Si Ling-chi watched the cocoon floating in her tea, and she saw that a tiny thread had come loose from the cocoon. She pulled on it and was amazed to find that the cocoon was made from one very long thread. This was a silk thread. As the story goes, Queen Si Ling-chi learned to spin silk thread, and she used it to make beautiful cloth.

The making of silk became a closely guarded secret. In fact, in China, you could be killed if you ever told a foreigner the secret of how silk was made. The reason for this was that silk could make people a lot of money, and the Chinese wanted to be able to sell their silk to foreigners. Beautiful silk robes were made for the rich and powerful, and that included the rulers of China. Chinese rulers often wore the color yellow.


So many people went to China to buy silk that the main road from Europe to China became known as the “Silk Road.” There were many dangers on the Silk Road, where there were lots of bandits and many miles of hot, dry desert. But silk was so desired that people were willing to travel a long way to get it.

You may be wondering exactly how silk is made. Well, some of what’s involved in making it is the same now as it was thousands of years ago. To begin with, you need silkworms, and silkworms are fussy. They must have mulberry leaves to eat, and they munch on mulberry leaves for about forty-five days. Then, the silkworms spin their cocoons, and they spend three or four days making a single thread. When the cocoons are ready, silk makers put the cocoons in steam or hot water to loosen the ends of the thread. The thread from just one cocoon might be three thousand feet long, which is more than half a mile! The thread is used to make many things, including beautiful silk cloth.


Chapter Eight: The Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is the most important of all the Chinese celebrations, and the celebration lasts for two weeks. This celebration goes back hundreds of years. People everywhere fill their homes and streets with bright red decorations. Red is the color of good fortune and happiness. Special wishes for the New Year are often written on the decorations, and food is an important part of the two-week celebration, too. The food that is eaten is meant to bring good luck!

After a New Year’s Eve dinner that includes lots and lots of food, families spend time together playing games and talking, often staying up all night. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky, and in the morning, Chinese children are excited because they get presents. Their parents give them little packages of “lucky money” wrapped in red paper. The rest of the day, people visit relatives, friends, and neighbors and wish one another good luck. And the present giving lasts for the next five to seven days!

The New Year’s Day parade is a part of the celebrations, and the star of the parade is the Chinese dragon. People carry a large, colorful dragon through the streets, and they perform a dragon dance, but the Chinese dragon is not like other dragons, as it has a camel head, tiger paws, and eagle claws, and it blows steam instead of fire. That’s because the ancient Chinese believed that dragons controlled the rains.


Lesson 57 – Poems And Rhymes

NEW WORDS: April’s, Blake, Casey’s, Charlestown, Cooney, Flynn, Frietchie, Frietchie’s, Lulu, Medford, Middlesex, Mudville, Parian, Somerset, Stonewall, Stonewall’s, aery, alders, aloft, artificer, awatching, barrack, barrows, batsman, beats, belfry’s, bier, blaming, borne, bouquets, bugle, carols, churchyard, clung, clustered, courier’s, crowding, defiance, delayed, doffed, doubting, drowsing, embattled, encampment, essence, exult, exulting, fleck, foes, forevermore, fourscore, fruited, gazes, girth, gleamed, grandeur, grenadiers, grim, hoary, housemates, impetuous, impostors, instep, intermission, invests, keel, kennel, kindled, knaves, ladder’s, lusty, maddened, maugre, melodious, mockingly, moorings, mournful, musket, muster, mystic, nobler, outlook, peril, phantom, ploughboy’s, preceded, raids, recoiled, redeem, regulars, responding, ribboned, scornful, seaward, sentinel’s, shaft, silken, sires, slouched, sneer, spar, spectral, spheroid, spires, spurred, stealthy, stilled, straggling, strangeness, swaying, tapering, throats, tides, trills, trumpets, tumult, unfurled, unheeded, votive, weathercock, whited, widens, windward, winnings, woodcutter’s, wreaths

Paul Revere’s Ride
Listen, my children, and you shall hear,
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five.
Hardly a man is now alive,
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march,
By land or sea from the town tonight,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch,
Of the North Church tower as a signal-light.
One, if by land, and two, if by sea,
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm,
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good night!” and with muffled oar,
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore.
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay,
The Somerset, British man-of-war.
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar,
Across the moon like a prison bar.
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified,
By its own reflection in the tide.


Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears,
The muster of men at the barrack door.
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch,
On the somber rafters, that round him made,
Masses and moving shapes of shade.
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Mere he paused to listen and look down,
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still,
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went,
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell,
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread,
Of the lonely belfry and the dead.
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent,
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,
A line of black, that bends and floats,
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.


Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near.
Then, impetuous, stamped the Earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth.
But mostly he watched with eager search,
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight,
A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark,
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet.
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and, the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night.
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.


He has left the village and mounted the steep.
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides.
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock,
Swim in the moonlight as he passed.
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast,
At the bloody work they would look upon.


It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze,
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed,
Who at the bridge would be first to fall?
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball?

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall.
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again,
Under the trees at the turn of the road.
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere.
And so through the night went his cry of alarm,
To every Middlesex village and farm,
Aery of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door.
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear,
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Poem By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Barbara Frietchie
Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,

The clustered spires of Frederick stand,
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple- and peach-tree fruited deep,

Fair as the garden of the Lord,
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde.

On that pleasant morn of the early fall,
When Lee marched over the mountain wall,

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,

Flapped in the morning wind, the sun,
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten,

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down.

In her attic-window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.


Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right,
He glanced, the old flag met his sight.

“Halt!” The dust-brown ranks stood fast.
“Fire!” Out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash,
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff,
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came.

The nobler nature within him stirred,
To life at that woman’s deed and word.

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head,
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.

All day long through Frederick street,
Sounded the tread of marching feet.

All day long that free flag tossed,
Over the heads of the rebel host.


Ever its torn fields rose and fell,
On the loyal winds that loved it well,

And through the hill-gaps sunset light,
Shone over it with a warm good-night.

Barbara Frietchie’s work is o’er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

Honor to her! and let a tear,
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall’s bier.

Over Barbara Frietchie’s grave
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

Peace and order and beauty draw,
Round thy symbol of light and law,

And ever the stars above look down,
On thy stars below in Frederick town!

Poem By John Greenleaf Whittier

Concord Hymn
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled.
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps.
And Time the ruined bridge has swept,
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare,
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Poem By Ralph Waldo Emerson   

After Apple-Picking
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree, 
Toward heaven still, 
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill, 
Beside it, and there may be two or three, 
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough. 
But I am done with apple-picking now. 

Essence of winter sleep is on the night, 
The scent of apples, I am drowsing off. 
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight, 
I got from looking through a pane of glass 
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough, 
And held against the world of hoary grass. 

It melted, and I let it fall and break. 
But I was well, 
Upon my way to sleep before it fell, 
And I could tell, 
What form my dreaming was about to take. 
Magnified apples appear and disappear, 
Stem end and blossom end, 
And every fleck of russet showing clear.


My instep arch not only keeps the ache, 
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round. 
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend. 
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin, 
The rumbling sound, 
Of load on load of apples coming in. 

For I have had too much, 
Of apple-picking, I am overtired, 
Of the great harvest I myself desired. 
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, 
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall. 

For all, 
That struck the Earth, 
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble, 
Went surely to the cider-apple heap,
As of no worth. 
One can see what will trouble,
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. 
Were he not gone, 
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his, 
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, 
Or just some human sleep.

Poem By Robert Frost 

The Snow-Storm
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow. And, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight. The whited air,
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveler stopped. The courier’s feet,
Delayed, all friends shut out. The housemates sit,
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed,
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come see the north-wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, naught cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths.
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world,
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art,
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Poem By Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl singing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day — at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Poem By Walt Whitman 

Oh Captain! My Captain!
Oh, Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done.
The ship has weathered every rack. The prize we sought is won.
The port is near. The bells I hear, the people all exulting.
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.
But Oh heart! Heart! Heart!
Oh, the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Oh, Captain! My Captain! Rise up and hear the bells.
Rise up, for you the flag is flung. For you the bugle trills.
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths. For you the shores a-crowding.
For you they call. The swaying mass, their eager faces turning.
Here, Captain! Dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer. His lips are pale and still.
My father does not feel my arm. He has no pulse nor will.
The ship is anchored safe and sound. Its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won.
Exult, Oh shores! And ring, Oh bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Poem By Walt Whitman

Casey At The Bat
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest,
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that,
We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake.
And the former was a lulu, and the latter was a cake.
So, upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.


But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despise-ed, tore the cover off the ball.
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnny safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell.
It rumbled through the valley. It rattled in the dell.
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat.
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place.
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.


Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye. A sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air.
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman, the ball unheeded sped.
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar.
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stem and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one on the stand.
And it’s likely they’d have killed him, had not Casey raised his hand.


With a smile of Christian charity, great Casey’s visage shone.
He stilled the rising tumult. He bade the game go on.
He signaled to the pitcher. And once more the spheroid flew.
But Casey still ignored it. And the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands. And echo answered fraud.
But one scornful look from Casey, and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold. They saw his muscles strain.
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip. His teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball. And now he lets it go.
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere. And somewhere hearts are light.
And somewhere men are laughing. And somewhere children shout.
But there is no joy in Mudville. Mighty Casey has struck out.

Poem By Ernest Lawrence Thayer 

If you can keep your head when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting, too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies.
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you can dream, and not make dreams your master,
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken,
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings,
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss.
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss.
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve your turn long after they are gone.
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the Will which says to them, “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch.
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute,
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And, which is more, you’ll be a Man, my son!

Poem By Rudyard Kipling

Lesson 58 – OUGH Builder

NEW WORDS: Anthony, Francisco’s, Marines, Norton, Throughline, Yarborough, afterthought, afterthoughts, auction, borough, cougher, coughers, den’s, disgusted, doughboy, doughboys, doughface, doughfaces, doughier, doughiest, doughlike, doughnut, doughnuts, doughy, dreadnought, dreadnoughts, droughty, fitness, forethought, furlough, furloughed, furloughing, furloughs, handwrought, latrine, listens, methought, misthought, nemesis, northerner, nought, outbought, outfought, overbought, overwrought, rebought, refought, resought, rethought, rigs, roughage, roughed, roughen, roughened, roughening, roughens, rougher, roughest, roughhewn, roughhouse, roughhoused, roughhouses, roughhousing, roughing, roughish, roughneck, roughnecks, roughness, roughrider, roughriders, roughs, roughshod, sergeant, slough, sourdough, southerners, stalled, suffrage, tames, tanked, thoroughbred, thoroughbreds, thoroughest, thoroughfare, thoroughness, thoughtfully, thoughtfulness, thoughtless, thoughtlessly, thoughtlessness, thoughtway, thoughtways, throughput, throughputs, throughway, throughways, toughed, toughened, toughening, toughens, toughie, toughies, toughing, toughish, toughly, toughness, toughs, toughy, troughs, underbought, unsought, unthought, whist, wrought

1) The “oh” sound of OUGH:
Gramps was a World War 1 doughboy.

We need thoroughness with your work.

These are the Derby thoroughbreds.

Queens is a New York City borough.

You did a thorough job.

He’s thoroughgoing with his inventory counts.

This veggie has a doughlike texture.

Though he studied hard, he got just a “C.”

There’s a wreck on the thoroughfare.

Her army furlough ends in 2 weeks.

This doughy bread is undercooked.

They invest in thoroughbred horses.

Although it’s on sale, it’s still costly.

There are 5 boroughs in New York City.

I’ll be furloughing on a beach somewhere.

A doughface was a Northerner who sided with the Southerners‘ wish to own slaves.

That’s the doughiest bread I’ve eaten.

That’s one of our busy city thoroughfares.

She comes home for a month during her furloughs.


World War 1 doughboys were named after Mexican-American War soldiers.

We’ll study Civil War doughfaces in History.

I’m thoroughly disgusted with your actions.

Your cookies are doughier than hers.

I love San Francisco’s sourdough bread.

I want a raspberry-filled doughnut.

Policemen love to eat doughnuts.

A “Yarborough” is a hand with no card higher than a 9. (In the games of Whist and Bridge.)

Has the dough risen?

This author gives the thoroughest description of quantum physics.

When he was furloughed, he went to France.


2) The “aw” sound of OUGH:
“Milady, methought you were radiant at the Ball!”

As an afterthought, he took off his shoes.

Ali outfought Norton for the Title.

They have wrought iron chairs on their porch.

We underbought this product, and we’ve run out.

His sculptures are handwrought, without any machinery to help.

He misthought the solution and really blew it.

He refought his nemesis 2 years later.

He thoughtlessly yelled in front of us.

He’s a thoughtless boss.

I’ll NOT be outbought on that Munch painting at the auction.

I bought roses on sale.

I thought we’d go on Sunday.

Her thoughtlessness ruined her friendships.

Their thoughtway is that college should be free.

His thoughtfulness earned him friends.

It’s unthought of to ask that of the Queen.


I rethought things, and you can go, now.

Our thoughts are with your family.

This gift was thoughtful of you.

She sought a way where both sides could win.

She brought her pet to school.

She thoughtfully pondered how to best handle things.

She was overwrought with panic when she heard noises.

Susan B. Anthony fought for women’s suffrage.

The sturdy dreadnought won all its battles.

Their thoughtways are dangerous to the concept of democracy.

Their fleet of dreadnoughts made their Navy strong.

Their strategy was planned with careful forethought.

Thankfully, the possible war went unfought.

They suffered unsought consequences.

They had afterthoughts after they put their plan in place.

She resought a chance to be the Party’s nominee.

Their effort was for nought, as the other team had more talent.

Knock 50% off of these unbought goods.

We overbought on that costly Christmas toy.

She rebought some blue-chip stocks when the Market tanked.

You ought to see that film!


3) The “uff” sound of OUGH:
Mom toughs it out with her exercises.

He toughed it out in Marine Boot Camp.

Sis roughhouses with our dog.

Coach says we need roughening up.

This class is a real toughie. (Or “toughy.”)

Kurt loves roughing it in the woods.

The sergeant rode roughshod over the soldiers.

Playing rugby roughens you up.

Roughage in your diet is good.

Roughen the wall before you paint it.

Toughen up and stop those whines.

She toughens the surface with this sandpaper.

The Marines were toughly trained.

His 4-day beard roughened his “look.”

The final test was tough.

You’ll need roughly 4 pints of milk.

Roughhouse outside, not in here.

Of the 2 rugs, this one is rougher.

He roughs it when he camps out.

Had enough to eat?


The roughnecks were taken to safety before the storm hit.

These jeans have a roughish feel.

He needs toughening up to be a pro.

He toughened up in the army.

He shows toughness on the ball field.

That roughrider tames wild horses.

Slough off the pain, get back in the ring.

This rock is rough to the touch.

They roughhoused till they were tired.

My dad’s tougher than yours.

She’s toughing it out in fitness class.

I like the roughness of this canvas.

The bully roughed Jon up a bit.

This is the roughest sandpaper.

The den’s ceiling has roughhewn beams.

That’s the toughest steak I’ve ever had.

No roughhousing in the gym!

Don’t fall for his toughish look, he’s quite kind!

We read about Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders.

That “roughneck” works on oil rigs.

Our last 2 tests were toughies.


4) The “off” sound of OUGH:
Kids were coughing on me all day.

There are deep troughs on the sea floor.

My cat coughed up gross hairballs.

I need a cough drop.

Dad coughs a lot when he wakes up.

There are lots of coughers in the room.

Dig a trough to use as our latrine.

He’s a loud cougher.


5) The “eww” sound of OUGH:
Our factory’s throughputs are at all-time highs.

Use the throughway lane to get there.

Cheers went up throughout the room.

Their factory throughput was low.

She listens to NPR’s Throughline.

The MRI was a huge breakthrough for doctors.

All the throughways have stalled traffic.

This drug is one of our big breakthroughs.

A bird flew in through the open door.


6) The “ow” sound of OUGH:
The doughty knight won the joust.

Our state has bad droughts.

We see droughty conditions here.

We have not had a drought in 10 years.

The bough breaks, the cradle falls.












Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)

The History Of The Earth


Lesson 59 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Ayers, Bernardino, Gerry, Hawaii’s, Helens, Idaho, Wyoming, Yellowstone, aboveground, bedrock, boulders, clank, crevices, disasters, discouraging, dissolving, divides, eroded, erupts, formations, geo, geologic, geological, geologist, geologists, geology, geyser, geysers, gravitational, gurgles, hardened, igneous, magma, mantle, moles, mountain’s, northernmost, ology, outermost, pickax, releasing, remnant, reshaped, sea’s, spewing, spews, sputters, squished, stickier, thinnest, vents, weather’s, whopping

Chapter One: Our Home, Earth
Hi, kids! My name is Gerry. I’m a geologist. A geologist is a type of scientist. A scientist studies and learns all about the world in which we live. Geologists are scientists who study rocks and what’s inside the Earth.

That’s right, rocks! From pebbles to stones to boulders, from a grain of sand to the highest mountain, rocks are everywhere. And I want you to know all about rocks. I want you to know how they’re created. I want you to know how they’re used in people’s everyday lives.

People used rocks to make the jewels on this crown. People use rocks to make buildings, walls, and streets. A sculptor carved a big rock to make this sculpture of Abraham Lincoln.

Geologists use rocks to learn about the Earth. In the ancient Greek language, the word “geo” means Earth. And “ology” means “the study of.” We combine these word parts. Then we have “geology.” That means “the study of the Earth.” Since the Earth is mostly made of rock, we geologists spend most of our time studying rocks. Lots of the rocks that we see on the surface of the Earth are created by incredible forces at work deep inside the Earth. That’s from mountains down to pebbles. Thus, we don’t just study rocks. We also study the forces at work inside the Earth and on the Earth’s surface. We study the whole Earth.


Some scientists think that the history of the Earth begins a little over 4.5 billion years ago. That’s a very long time ago. Before that, some scientists believe that the materials that now make up Earth were orbiting the sun. That would have been when the sun was newly formed. And what’s Earth today was billions of little bits and pieces orbiting the sun. Over many years, these floating bits and pieces gradually stuck together. At some point they made up Earth. They also made up Earth’s neighbor, the moon. They also made up the other planets.

Let’s go back to when Earth was newly formed. It was pretty much one big ball of hot, melted rocks. Over time, though, some of these materials cooled and hardened. That allowed Earth to become what it is now.

Maybe you already know that Earth is a planet. Earth is one of eight major planets that orbits the sun. Do you know the names of any of the other planets? I do! Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Here’s where Earth is like the other planets in the solar system. Earth is trapped in the gravitational pull of the sun. This causes Earth to orbit the sun. It takes one year, about 365 days, for Earth to complete an orbit around the sun. But does Earth just move around the sun? Absolutely not! Earth moves through space, too.


This map shows the Earth’s north and south poles. These are imaginary points at the northernmost and southernmost parts of the Earth. The axis of rotation is like an imaginary “stick” going right through the Earth. And the “stick” goes through the north and south poles. There is not really a stick running through the Earth, around which it turns. The axis is an imaginary line around which Earth rotates. The Earth rotates in the same way that a globe spins, on its axis. It takes one day, or twenty-four hours, for Earth to make a complete rotation.

The map also shows the equator. That’s an imaginary line around the middle of the Earth. The equator divides the Earth into two equal halves. The area along the equator receives the most direct sunlight. Thus, it’s generally the warmest area on the surface of the Earth.

Earth is sphere-shaped, like a ball. And it’s surrounded by a thick blanket of air, called an “atmosphere.” That’s where clouds float around. Most of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Most of the water is in the form of our five oceans. These are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern (or Antarctic). And between these oceans there is land in the form of our seven continents. These are North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica.


People haven’t always known these important facts. 1) The Earth is round. 2) The Earth rotates on its axis, as well as orbits the sun. 3) There are five oceans. 4) There are seven continents. 5) Most of Earth’s surface is covered in water. It has taken hundreds of years for scientists and explorers to develop all of this knowledge. But this barely begins to scratch the surface of what we now know about Earth.

There are three important words you need to know. Keep these in mind whenever you are thinking about geology. “Heat” is the first. You can feel heat from a flame, or from the sun on a sunny day. Heat causes many changes to the Earth. The second word is “pressure.” That’s like the force that you use when you push on something. Pressure, or the force of weight, also causes many changes to the Earth. “Time” is the third word. To understand geology, you need to think about time in a whole new way. Forget about minutes, hours, and days. These amounts of time don’t mean much in geology. Geologists think in terms of many years. It takes a long time for pressure and heat to do what they do.


Think about the Grand Canyon. That’s in Arizona. It provides a lot of clues about the Earth’s formation. It took millions of years for it to form like it has formed. Rushing water in a giant river carved through the rocks to make this canyon. No other place on Earth allows us to see and study so many different layers of rock at the same time. The rock on the upper rim of the canyon is thought to be about 230 million years old. The rock layers at the bottom of the canyon are thought to have formed over two billion years ago. That rock is half as old as the Earth is believed to be itself!

Remember, heat, pressure, and time are the main factors of geology. If you understand those three words, then you are ready to learn lots of things about the history of the Earth.


Chapter Two: The Earth Inside-Out, Part One
Hello! Gerry the Geologist here again. I woke up this morning and started digging this hole in the ground. Each time I push my shovel into the Earth, I bring up a load of soil. And I’ve noticed that each load of soil has a few rocks in it. I’m digging this hole today to teach you about the outer layer of the Earth.

It’s beneath your backyard, the sidewalk, the school. It’s pretty much beneath most every place that people live. I’m talking about soil, which is sometimes called dirt. Different types of soil appear in the Earth in layers. Each layer of soil is made of different things. They can give it a different color, or a different texture.

The thickness of the soil varies depending on where you live. In some places on the Earth, the soil is several feet thick. In other places on the Earth, it is just a few inches. And in some places on the Earth, there’s no soil at all. Here, where I live, the soil is rich and dark near the surface. However, as I dig deeper into the Earth, I can see a definite color change. The color in this soil has changed from dark brown to bright red. That color change means that I’ve reached a layer of reddish clay. It’s getting a little harder to dig now. So, now I’ll have to use my pickax.


Clank! My pick just hit something really hard below the red clay. The farther down I go, the harder the clay becomes. Pretty soon, I will hit bedrock — a solid layer of hard rock that I won’t be able to dig through with my shovel. 

I dug this hole to show you that there are different layers of soil and rock beneath your feet. The farther you go into the Earth, the more things change. The dark soil on top is fairly easy to dig into with a shovel. But the deeper layer of clay is harder to dig. That’s because it’s been compacted, or squished. That’s due to the weight or pressure of everything above it.

What would you see if you could cut out a big chunk of Earth? This diagram shows you what the inside of the Earth would look like. The crust is the outermost layer of the Earth. It’s represented here by a thin, brown line. I’ve been digging into the very outermost portion of the crust today. Most of the Earth is rock. And most of that rock is beneath the crust in the other three layers. They’re called the mantle (red), the outer core (orange), and the inner core (yellow). From the surface to the middle of the inner core is nearly 4,000 miles. This is one thick planet!

I’ll teach you more about the mantle, outer core, and inner core next time. For now, let’s focus on the thinnest layer. That’s the crust. The Earth’s crust is between three and twenty miles, depending on where you are on Earth. Most people, plants, and animals live on the surface. That’s the outermost edge of the crust.


Remember, the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans and continents. Everything alive on Earth lives in, on, or above these oceans and continents on the crust. For example, you and your dog live on the crust. Worms and moles, on the other hand, live underground, or in the crust. Birds fly in the air above the crust. And fish swim in the water that is flowing on the crust.

The crust is where geologists, like me, look to learn about the history of the Earth. In the crust, we find different layers of rock. These teach us about different periods of time in the Earth’s history. Each layer of rock was formed during a different period of time in the Earth’s history. So, we can study each layer to learn about each period of time.

Geologists search the crust for clues about the history of the Earth. I already introduced you to this place. Remember the Grand Canyon? Here, the geology of the Earth’s crust sits like an open book waiting to be read. Layer upon layer of different rock tells a story. We can tell when this place was covered with a cool ocean, and when it was not.


Geological changes can do all sorts of tricky things to the rocks on the Earth’s crust. These formations are in Arches National Park. That’s in the state of Utah. They show what thousands of years of wind, rain, and ice can do to this type of stone.

Some rocks are mysterious. This is called “Uluru,” or “Ayers Rock.” It’s the only tall thing in an otherwise flat, barren grassland in the middle of Australia. Geologists have figured out that this is a remnant left over from a time when the entire surface there was covered in this type of rock. Eventually, all the other rock eroded away. That was due to wind and rain. Now, only this one mound of rock remains.

Different places tell different stories. Not all interesting rocks are aboveground. This photo was taken down in a cave. That’s a large hole or space underground. A cave is basically an area in the Earth’s crust that has been hollowed out for one reason or another. It’s usually as a result of underground water flowing in, and dissolving the rock over millions of years. Caves are really amazing places to explore!

People usually don’t think too much about what’s happening underground, deep below our feet. But the fact is that what happens deep underground has everything to do with what we see in the world around us. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at what goes on in those other layers. I’d better go ahead and fill in this hole now. See you next time!


Chapter Three: The Earth Inside-Out, Part Two
Let’s pretend that we can go deep into the Earth. We’ll go all the way to the center. That’s 4,000 miles from where you’re sitting now.

The first stop is the layer beneath the crust. That’s called the “mantle.” The mantle is a whopping 1,800 miles thick. It contains most of the Earth’s rock. As you’ve learned, most of the Earth is made of rock. Thus, most of the Earth is contained within the mantle.

The mantle is mostly solid rock. The closer to the crust, the cooler and harder the mantle tends to be. But as you go deeper the mantle gets hotter. It also becomes soft and gooey. Heat closer to the core causes the rock inside the mantle to move around quite a bit. But in most places, it’s still solid rather than liquid.

The mantle surrounds the Earth’s core. The core has two parts. They’re the inner core and the outer core. The inner core is a solid metal ball. It’s just a bit smaller than Earth’s moon. The outer core is also metal. But it’s not solid. It’s made up of melted, or molten, metal. So, what’s deep down inside the Earth is amazing. Think of what’s thousands of miles beneath your feet. There’s a giant sea of red-hot, molten metal. And it’s surrounding a solid metal ball.


Scientists think that the center of the Earth is hotter than the sun’s surface. And that’s a blazing 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit! The inner core is much hotter than the outer core. This may seem strange. How can the inner core of the Earth, which is hotter than the outer core, be solid, and not molten?

Here’s the reason. There’s incredible pressure that bears down on the inner core. Most of the Earth’s entire weight is pressing inward on top of it. Here’s what happens when  you put more pressure on something. It takes more heat to cause that thing to boil or melt. That’s why the metal at the center of the Earth is solid instead of liquid. Despite the intense heat, there is massive pressure caused by the weight of the rest of the Earth. So, the center of the Earth can’t melt. It remains solid.

The crust upon which we live is constantly being changed and reshaped. That’s due to heat and pressure caused by activity in the Earth’s mantle and core. Look at the San Bernardino Mountains in this picture. They’re a lot like other mountains along the West Coast of the U.S., from Mexico to Alaska. They were created by changes inside the Earth.


Remember, the parts of the mantle that are closest to the core are soft and gooey. That hot, gooey material in the mantle does not always stay in the mantle. Sometimes it rises  to the surface. Sometimes, some of that extremely hot molten rock, or magma, “escapes.” It pushes up through the mantle. It forces its way into cracks and crevices in the crust.

Over time, the magma collects in a magma chamber. There’s one near the bottom of this picture. The heat in the magma chamber releases gas from the magma. This builds up and creates pressure. The pressure builds until, one day, BOOM! The magma erupts in a volcano of lava, ash, gas, and fire. Once it’s released from the Earth, the magma becomes “lava.” That’s flowing liquid rock. It flows across the ground until it cools. Then, it hardens into rock once again. We call that kind of rock “igneous” rock.

Volcanoes can be very dangerous to humans. Let me explain something. Thanks to geologists, we have a pretty good idea when and where these geologic events are likely to occur. We help to predict where volcanoes are most likely to occur. This helps keep people safe by discouraging them from building homes close to dangerous areas. It’s not always possible to predict when and where geologic disasters will occur. But geologists work hard to give people as much warning as we can.


Chapter Four: The Earth Inside-Out, Part Three
Ah! Hawaii! I just love this place. The land is gorgeous. The folks are nice. The weather’s great. And the surfing is awesome. But for me, here’s the best part. It’s the volcanoes. If you like them, and all geologists do, then there’s no better place than Hawaii!

Here’s what most folks think of volcanoes. They think of the top blown off a mountain. Then lava flows out everywhere. Volcanic activity comes in lots of forms. And not all of them are as wild as a mountaintop eruption.

Hawaii is made up of eight major islands. Seven of them are inhabited. The islands were formed by volcanic activity. If it weren’t for volcanoes, Hawaii would not be there at all.

Hawaii is one of the best known volcanic hot spots in the world. A hot spot is a place where there’s been continuous volcanic activity. And it’s been that way for a long time. In Hawaii’s case, this activity started underwater. In fact, most of this type of activity occurs underwater. It happens deep down near the sea’s floor. Down there, the crust is fairly thin. So, it’s easier for magma to seep up from the mantle.


Here’s what goes on when a volcano erupts underwater. The lava that it lets loose cools quickly. Over time, millions of years, this lava piles up. That’s what happened in Hawaii. Over time, the lava, erupted often from the hot spot. It built up a pile that now reaches from the deep ocean floor all the way to the surface. There, it became new, dry land.

Hawaiian volcanoes erupt gradually. The lava bubbles, gurgles, and sputters. It does not just shoot up out of the Earth all at once. There’s still lots of volcanic activity on some of their islands. That means that the island chain is still growing.

Now let’s compare their volcanoes to another type. That’s the kind where a mountaintop DOES explode! This volcano erupted in the state of Washington. Remember, that’s on the West Coast of the U.S. This is what Mount St. Helens looked like until the year 1980. Mount St. Helens proves that it is often easy to predict WHERE a volcano will erupt. The hard part is figuring out WHEN.

Mount St. Helens has erupted many times over the course of 40,000 or so years. And during this time, the mountain’s size and shape has changed. Magma is always building up within Mount St. Helens. But it’s unlike the magma in the Hawaiian volcanoes. The magma in this area is much stickier than Hawaii’s magma. So, it does not gurgle and sputter through little vents. Instead, the magma gets stuck. Then, immense pressure builds up within the mountain. At some point, the pressure becomes quite intense. It gets to a point where the mountain can’t hold it any longer. So, what happens? BOOM!


When Mount St. Helens “blew” in 1980, it was the most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. Thousands of acres of forest were leveled. In an instant, the top and one side of the mountain were completely blown away. Lava was not the main problem with Mount St. Helens. First, it was the immense amount of rock and ash that exploded into the air. Second, there were massive landslides that followed as the mountain came crashing down into the valley below.

This is what Mount St. Helens looks like today. It’s still tall enough to rise above the clouds. But compare this to the first picture that you saw. You can see that it’s not the same as it used to be. It has erupted a number of times after that day in 1980. And it still erupts here and there, to this day.

Here’s another place in the U.S. with volcanic activity. This is Yellowstone National Park. The park is mostly in Wyoming. But parts of it extend into Idaho and Montana. This National Park is home to many interesting and beautiful sites. Like Hawaii, Yellowstone is situated on top of a hot spot. That’s a place where there’s lots of magma close to the surface. Here, the magma has stayed underground. It has not erupted onto the surface. 


Yellowstone is famous for its geysers. A geyser is a rare geologic event. It occurs when water seeps down through cracks into the crust. It then meets up with hot rocks. When the water touches the hot rocks, it turns into steam. More water seeps in. More steam is created. So, pressure starts to build. At some point, all of this heat and pressure forces the steam to find a way back out. This is a lot like other types of volcanic activity that you have learned about. This process, too, is caused by the build-up and release of pressure underground.

The result is a geyser. That’s steam and water spewing up out of the Earth. These particular geysers are pretty small. They spurt and bubble all day long in water pools, or springs. And they have a pretty, bluish-green color. That’s created by certain minerals that collect there.


This geyser has a name. It’s “Old Faithful.” The word “faithful” means trustworthy, or reliable. It got its name since you can count on the fact that it will erupt several times each day. We can’t predict exactly when it will erupt. But it typically blows its lid about every ninety minutes, give or take a few.

Old Faithful spews out steam and hot water for anywhere from one to five minutes. It can spew as much as 8,000 gallons of water, up to 185 feet in the air. You should see it in the summer. That’s when the park is full of visitors. Hundreds of people gather around to watch the world’s most famous geyser.

Although they come in many forms, shapes, and sizes, all volcanoes and geysers have two things in common. First, they are the Earth’s way of releasing heat and pressure from deep underground. Second, each one tells us a bit more about the history of the Earth. And one other thing. All volcanoes and geysers are extremely hot. So, always keep a safe distance and admire them from afar!


Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)

The History Of The Earth


Lesson 60 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Bryce, Yosemite, agate, amethyst, beryl, camarasaurus, chloride, compsognathus, corundum, critter, defending, dimetrodon, dimetrodons, dissolves, erupting, excavating, excavation, exoskeleton, facets, fossilized, gemstones, guesses, halite, imprint, imprinted, intrudes, jasper, judging, metamorphose, mineshaft, obsidian, oozing, oysters, paleontologist, paleontologists, paleontology, phenomena, rectangular, sedimentary, sediments, sludge, spoonful, stegosaurus, subjected, tetrapod, tetrapod’s, tetrapods, textures, traces, triceratops, trilobite, trilobites, turquoise, tyrannosaurus, unakite, unmixed, whirlwind, whopper


Chapter Five: Minerals
As a geologist, it’s my job to study rocks. There are so many kinds of rocks out there. And I’ve gathered up quite a few rocks in my time as a geologist!

Here are some of the rocks and minerals from my stash. I’ve polished these in a machine called a rock tumbler. It makes them shiny. And it really brings out the color. Look at what I have in just this one pile. I can see amethyst, tiger’s eye, rose quartz, turquoise, red jasper, agate, unakite, and onyx. Whoa! Sorry. I get carried away sometimes.

Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. All rocks contain minerals. Sometimes you can find pure minerals unmixed with other minerals. But most rocks contain a number of different minerals. There are over 3,000 types of minerals. And scientists still discover new ones from time to time.

Minerals come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. We use these characteristics to divide them into groups. Some of these groups are quite common. But others are quite unusual, and even hard to describe. I’ll tell you about a few of the best-known minerals.


This is a picture of “quartz.” Quartz is the most common mineral in the Earth’s crust. It’s not the most common in the whole Earth. It’s just the most common in the crust. This picture shows a type of quartz called milky quartz.

Quartz comes in many varieties. Those are clear quartz crystals on the top left. Some minerals form into perfect crystals like these, and some don’t. It depends on where and how they’re formed within the Earth.

Crystals can come in all different sizes. Some are as small as a pea. Some are the size of your arm, or longer.

What explains the color variations in the many types of quartz? These are largely caused by the addition of small amounts of other types of metals into the mineral. For instance, the gorgeous purple color of amethyst is caused by traces of iron and aluminum metal.

Examples of rare gemstones are some varieties of “corundum.” This is a mineral composed mostly of aluminum and oxygen. Red corundum is known as ruby. Blue corundum is known as sapphire. Rubies and sapphires are among the most beautiful mineral crystals on Earth.


Here’s another beauty. This is called “emerald.” Emerald is a variety of the mineral “beryl.” It also comes in lots of colors. That includes green, blue, yellow, and red. Deep-green emerald is my favorite.

And here’s one of the most famous minerals. Do you know what these beauties are called? These are “diamonds.” A diamond is the hardest mineral in the world. A diamond is hard enough to cut through glass, or scratch other minerals. The diamond on the left is a raw diamond. It’s how you see it fresh from the Earth. The diamond on the right has been cut and polished. The sides of a cut diamond are called “facets.”

You need special equipment and skills to cut and polish gems. That includes diamonds, or other gemstones such as rubies and emeralds. People who cut diamonds look through strong magnifying glasses. As they do their work, this helps them to see all the tiny little facets, or sides.

Here is one mineral that we use each day! Have you ever heard of “salt?” Salt, or “sodium chloride,” is a common mineral. It’s found in both the oceans and in the Earth. Sodium chloride is called “table salt” when we use it in food. It’s called “rock” salt when we use it to make roads safer in winter storms.


Some folks put table salt on food to make it taste better. In fact, salt is a key nutrient for people, as well as for animals. Your body needs salt. Not too much, but just enough. Too much salt is bad for you. What if you eat too much salt? Your body will tell you so. It’s because you’ll feel thirsty.

Salt appears in lots of forms in nature. Rock salt can be found in the form of “halite” crystals. They’re like the rectangular-shaped crystal pictured on the left in the image. You can’t see salt in water because it dissolves. But you’ll know it’s there if you ever taste ocean water.

Why do all these different minerals look the way they do? Each has its own story. And it gets pretty complicated. But you can bet that there were three basic things in common. These are heat, pressure, and time. These factors play a role in the formation of each mineral.

One thing to remember about the rocks that you find in nature is that you should leave them there. That’s so that other people can also enjoy them. If each person took even one rock, there soon would not be many rocks left! Without rocks, environments change dramatically. If the environment changes, the plants and animals that live there might have a hard time finding food and shelter.

Now I’ve told you a bit about some of my favorite minerals. Take a look at the ground the next time you go outside. You might see something interesting to you!


Chapter Six: The Three Types of Rocks
The right amount of heat can turn a solid rock or metal into a liquid. Pressure from the weight of the Earth can crush rocks. So can movement of materials inside the Earth. Over time, heat and pressure have strong effects. They create the rock formations and other geologic phenomena that we find in the world.

Working together, heat, pressure, and time create the three types of rocks that exist in the world. Each rock in the world can be placed into one of three categories. The three types of rocks are “igneous,” “sedimentary,” and “metamorphic.” Try saying each of these rock types out loud. Igneous. Sedimentary. Metamorphic.

The first rock type, igneous, is the most common. Igneous rocks come in many forms. Some form entire mountains. Some appear as boulders jutting from the Earth. This picture shows a close-up of one type of igneous rock. This plain, old, gray rock contains different types of minerals. But it hasn’t always been a plain, old, gray rock.


The word igneous comes from the Latin word for fire. That’s because igneous rocks begin deep down in the heat of the Earth’s mantle. As you’ve heard, the Earth’s mantle is full of a hot, gooey, oozing substance. That’s known as magma, or melted rock. The magma is constantly being forced toward the surface by pressure from within the Earth. It travels upward from the mantle through the crust. Then, the magma begins to cool and harden. Sometimes, the magma will erupt from a volcano. But sometimes, the conditions aren’t quite right for an eruption.

This formation is called “Half Dome.” It’s located in Yosemite National Park in California. When you look at Half Dome, you’re looking at an old magma chamber. A magma chamber is a pocket in the Earth’s crust where magma collects. As more magma enters the chamber, it gets hotter and pressure builds. Then, the magma can force its way up to the surface in the form of a volcano.


Or, sometimes, things happen as in the case of Half Dome. The magma just gathers in the chamber. It stays there without erupting. For whatever geologic reason, the heat and pressure did not get great enough to force the magma through the crust and onto the surface in the form of lava. Instead, the magma cooled and hardened within the chamber. Over time, the rocks and soil around the chamber eroded away. That left beautiful Half Dome alone, sticking high up above the Earth. Half Dome is certainly a big igneous rock!

Another type of igneous formation occurs when magma intrudes, or pushes itself, between two existing layers of rock. This means that not all the layers in this mountain were formed one on top of the other. Rather, some of the layers forced their way in between other rocks.

This is my favorite type of igneous rock. It’s “obsidian,” better known as volcanic glass. Volcanic glass forms when certain types of lava cool and harden. They then become smooth, shiny, and glass-like. Only certain types of lava, under certain conditions, become volcanic glass.

Some Native Americans used volcanic glass to make arrowheads and spearheads. What happens if you break a piece of volcanic glass?  You’ll find that it’s incredibly sharp and strong. Every now and then, I find ancient artifacts like this when I’m out rock hunting.


After igneous, the second major rock type is sedimentary. Sedimentary rocks are not formed like igneous rocks, which form from cooled magma. In fact, heat does not play much of a role in forming sedimentary rocks. Instead, pressure and time are the key factors.

The word “sediments” refers to tiny particles. These can be made of dirt or rock, which are carried along in water, ice, wind, or landslides. If you dump a spoonful of sand into a glass of water, you’ll see the sand gradually sink down and settle on the bottom of the glass. That’s much in the same way that sediments settle on the bottoms of lakes and oceans. Sediments are always floating around in lakes, oceans, and rivers. Over time, sediments in lake water settle and form a thick sludge on the bottom of a lake. More and more sediments settle on the bottom. Then, more and more weight presses down on the sludge. Over time, the pressure from the weight of the upper sediments can cause the sludge to harden into rock. Through time and pressure, layers of sediments are turned into sedimentary rock.

Coal is a type of sedimentary rock. It comes from decayed plants that have been under pressure for many years. Coal is a key energy source. People burn coal in order to create electricity for homes, and to make energy to power machines in factories. People get coal and other important rocks, minerals, and metals by mining them from the Earth. One way to mine coal is by digging a mineshaft, or tunnel, deep down into the Earth.


Another sedimentary rock is called iron ore. An ore is a rock that contains valuable minerals or metals. There are lots of types of ores in the world. But iron ore is one of the most important. Iron ore is the source of iron. That’s a strong metal which is used to make steel. Steel, in turn, is used to build lots of things. Some of these are bridges, cars, buildings, tools, and other things that you see and use each day.

Sandstone is one common type of sedimentary rock. Wherever you find sandstone, there’s a good chance that you’re walking in a place that used to be completely underwater. At one time or another, every place on Earth has been completely submerged in water. Thus, sandstone is quite common throughout the world. This photo was taken in Bryce Canyon. That’s in the state of Utah. This place is known for its unique sandstone formations.

Here is another sandstone canyon that I thought you’d like to see. Antelope Canyon, in Arizona, is a very special place. It is known as a “slot canyon.” It’s formed over many years. Water from rain and floods rushes through the sandstone. That causes it to erode.


These cliffs are made of limestone. That’s another type of sedimentary rock. Limestone is interesting, because it’s composed mainly of minerals left over from ancient sea creatures. These could be like clams, oysters, and other shellfish. When these creatures died, their shells sank down to the ocean floor. They settled in with the other sediments. Over time, the churning oceans ground the shells into a fine white powder. The powder settled. Then, more shells and sediments put pressure on it. It took many years, but eventually all the powdery shell leftovers were compressed into limestone.

Limestone can be subjected to intense pressure for an even longer period of time. When that occurs, it can turn into another kind of rock called marble.

Marble is very hard. And it often has a beautiful, pure white color. People have used marble for thousands of years. It’s used to make fine buildings and sculptures.

Marble is known as a “metamorphic” rock. That’s the third and least common type of rock. Metamorphic comes from the Greek word for transformation, or change. Metamorphic rocks are formed when other types of rocks undergo intense heat and pressure and change, or metamorphose, into new kinds of rocks.

Congratulations! You’re becoming a geologist! Now you know about the three rock types. They are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Won’t everyone be impressed when you tell them about the new words that you’ve learned?


Chapter Seven: Fossils
Hi there. My name is Pam. I’m a “paleontologist.” Gerry the Geologist is a friend of mine. He called me last night. He asked me to come in and finish teaching you about the history of the Earth. He’s sorry that he can’t be here. But all this rock-talk has him itching to see some neat rocks himself. So, he is off to hike in the mountains.

A paleontologist is a scientist. We study “paleontology.” That’s the study of life that was on Earth in the distant past. We study bones. That way, we learn about life on Earth long ago. This is not just any bone. It’s a dinosaur bone! I’ll teach you about dinosaurs soon.

Gerry told me that you now know about basic geologic facts. Those are heat, pressure, and time. And you know about sedimentary rocks. Some of these are sandstone and limestone. They’re formed from layers of sediments. They’ve been pressed together over time. These layers offer lots clues about the history of life on the Earth. Past life on Earth is my specialty.


Paleontologists need to know lots about rocks and geology. That’s in order to study living things. This is because of something called a “fossil.” A fossil is the preserved body, or imprint, of a plant or animal that lived long ago. That could be thousands, millions, or even billions of years past! Most fossils, like this one of a seashell, show you where the body of an animal or plant died and was buried. You find them under layer after layer of sediment. Over many years, more and more sediment pressed down on it. So, this shell became part of the stone that formed as a result of geologic pressure. You just see the impression, or shape of it. This is not the real shell. The creature itself, and its shell, decayed and rotted away. But its shape stayed imprinted in the rock.

As you dig down into the Earth, the soil and rocks are divided into layers. These layers show lots of geologic periods. These were times during which the crust and surface of the Earth changed. For instance, what if you find a layer of sandstone on dry land? Then you know that there may have been an ocean or river over that land at some point in the distant past. We can estimate how old some fossils may be. That’s thanks to our understanding of geology and rock layers.


Fossils are usually found in layers of sedimentary rocks. But they can be found in other rock formations, as well. It looks like the paleontologist in this picture has found a good place for fossil hunting. He has to dig with care to make sure that he keeps the fossils in good shape.

Every fossil is part of the Earth’s fossil record. The fossil record includes each thing that we’ve learned about the history of life from studying fossils. The fossil record is what paleontologists study. That’s in order to figure out what life on Earth was like many years ago. We can find when the animals and plants imprinted in the fossils lived. That’s based on the rock layers in which they were found. They use information from all fossils to create a timeline of life on Earth. Today, I’d like to show you a number of fossils from different time periods in the history of the Earth.

This is a fossil of a “trilobite.” That is an animal that’s believed to have lived some 550 million years ago. Trilobites may look like insects. But they are more closely related to lobsters and crabs. They came in many varieties. You could find them from a half-inch up to twenty-eight inches in length. They had antennas and lots of legs. And they had a hard outer shell called an “exoskeleton.” That exoskeleton is key. It meant that dead trilobites were easily fossilized when they became buried in the sand.


At about this same time, the fossil record suggests that the first plants appeared on land. Back then, there was no soil on the land. That’s because soil contains dead, decayed plants. Since these were the first plants on land, no plants had yet died in order to create soil. The first plants did not have the same characteristics as plants today. These plants were less than half an inch tall. And they had no roots, leaves, flowers, or seeds. But they WERE plants, nevertheless.

Soon came the Age of Fish. Lots of types of fish ruled the waters. Also during this time, plant and animal life on land began to spread quickly. The first soils formed on land. This allowed new types of plants with leaves, stems, and roots to grow. With new plants, came new land creatures ready to eat those plants. “Tetrapods” were the first amphibians. They made their way onto the beaches. An “amphibian” is an animal that lives part of its life in water, and part on land. A frog is such a creature.


Paleontologists have found many tetrapod fossils. An artist drew this sketch using a tetrapod fossil. It shows what a real tetrapod might have looked like. Do you think any of this tetrapod’s body parts look like they belong to a fish?

Then, lush forests full of trees and plants, such as ferns, began to grow. As forests increased, so too did the types and sizes of animals. The first giant reptiles appeared. Let’s look at this “dimetrodon.” The one in this picture is just a model that someone made. But they based this model on fossilized dimetrodon bones found in the Earth. We call the body part sticking up on its back a sail. That’s because it looks like the sail on a boat.

Dimetrodon was not a dinosaur. But it surely looked like one. And dinosaurs were soon to come. We will learn more about them next time. That is as far as the fossil record will take us today!


Chapter Eight: Dinosaurs
Hey there, fellow scientists! It’s Pam the Paleontologist again. Last time I was here, I gave you a whirlwind tour of the history of life on Earth. We went right up through the time of the dimetrodons, the first giant reptiles that had big sails on their backs. The age of the dimetrodons was followed by a time known as the Age of Reptiles. This era, according to some scientists, began approximately 245 million years ago.

This is a “Tyrannosaurus Rex,” or “T. Rex,” as some people call it. It was one of the largest and most fearsome predators ever to walk the Earth. We can tell by its teeth that the T. Rex was a meat eater. We also know that it was over forty feet long, and up to twenty feet tall. Judging by the size of its bones, it weighed about seven tons, or more than two average-sized cars.


This painting shows T. Rex facing off against a triceratops, a dinosaur with long horns and a shield-like plate on its head. Keep in mind when you look at artwork like this, that nobody today really knows what dinosaurs looked like. We have only seen their bones. Artists use information supplied by scientists today to try to make good guesses about what dinosaurs looked like when they were alive. They do all this based on their bones! Many people think of dinosaurs as giant reptiles, and in fact, the word dinosaur means “terrifying lizard.” However, many paleontologists now believe that dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than they are to lizards. Whatever the case may be, there are no dinosaurs on Earth anymore. They have all been “extinct,” or dead and gone, for many years. Now there are just fossilized bones of dinosaurs buried in the Earth’s crust.

Here is my personal favorite, the “stegosaurus.” Like the triceratops, the stegosaurus was an herbivore, or plant eater, but it had some pretty good ways of defending itself against the likes of T. Rex and other meat eaters. Stegosaurus had hard, sharp plates on its back, which would have made it difficult to bite. But just in case anyone tried, the stegosaurus also had a spiky tail that could really do some damage.


How do we find and learn about these incredible animals? Some scientists believe that dinosaurs ruled the Earth for more than 100 million years, and their fossilized bones can be found in many parts of the world, including the U.S. Dinosaur fossils are hard to find, and “excavating,” or digging up, their bones is not as easy as you might think.

Once paleontologists find an area that is likely to have dinosaur bones, we move in with our tools and begin careful excavation. Paleontologists must use sharp little knives and small brushes to gradually scrape away the sedimentary rock surrounding the fossils. It will take this paleontologist days, and maybe even weeks, to excavate this one bone. It’s slow work, but to me there is nothing more exciting in the world than carefully uncovering a bone that may have been buried in rock for 100 million years.

Here a paleontologist is excavating a large collection of bones from the sandstone cliffs of Dinosaur National Monument, an area located in the states of Colorado and Utah, where we have uncovered hundreds and thousands of dinosaur bones.


Can you see all the bones in this picture? That was one big dinosaur! But what did it really look like? It’s hard to tell because, over time, the bones have moved around and become broken. As a paleontologist, I sometimes feel like I spend half my life putting puzzles together. Often, we only find a few bones. The rest of the skeleton was long since destroyed, or perhaps even dragged away by a predator many years ago. Other times, lots of different dinosaur bones can be mixed in together. We paleontologists have to use our detective skills to figure out which bones belonged to which type of dinosaur.

In fact, those bones belonged to a mighty “Camarasaurus.” I knew as soon as I saw its head. This plant eater was sixty feet long and weighed about twenty tons. A real whopper!


Here is one artist’s idea of what the Camarasaurus looked like. It could use its long tail to fend off predators. Good thing that you don’t have to worry about these things anymore!

Not all dinosaurs were huge. In fact, some were really small. Take the “compsognathus.” This little critter stood just two feet tall and scurried around on two little bird-like legs. Compsognathus was a meat eater that fed on little lizards. We know this, because paleontologists found parts of fossilized lizard in the stomach cavity of a compsognathus fossil.

What happened to the dinosaurs? You can’t go and see a live T. Rex today at the zoo. That’s because dinosaurs are extinct. Some scientists believe that dinosaurs all died about 65 million years ago. According to fossil records, the extinction of the dinosaurs was quite sudden. Why? That’s something that we’ve been trying to answer since the first dinosaur bones were discovered and identified nearly 200 years ago.


For years, many scientists believed that extraordinary geologic events, such as super volcanoes, must have had something to do with it. These days, however, many scientists believe that the dinosaur extinction was caused by a giant meteorite from outer space. There are billions of meteors, or burning chunks of debris in outer space. Some meteors are quite large, but most are tiny, between the size of a sand grain and a baseball. Meteors are whizzing around all over the place in outer space. Occasionally, a meteor crashes toward Earth. When this happens, the meteor hits the atmosphere at an incredible speed, and usually burns up as it enters the uppermost parts of Earth’s atmosphere. Occasionally, bits and pieces of meteors survive their trip through the atmosphere and actually fall to Earth. This is very rare, but it does happen from time to time, and it is possible to find pieces of them on the ground. When part of a meteor survives the trip through the atmosphere and lands on Earth, the meteor becomes a meteorite, or space rock that has landed on Earth.


Now, let’s go back to dinosaur extinction. Some scientists think that the dinosaur extinction was caused by a giant meteorite from outer space. When the meteorite struck the Earth, it sent massive plumes of debris up into the atmosphere. This debris would have blocked out the light and energy of the sun, causing much of the Earth’s plant life to die, and severely lowering the temperature. Most creatures at the time would have been unable to adapt, and they would have died out before the skies had a chance to clear.

Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. But geologists have discovered at least one very large crater that was caused by a meteorite impact about the time that the dinosaurs became extinct. Whatever the case, we know that dinosaurs became extinct. And that made the way for new kinds of life on Earth. I, for one, will continue to study the Earth’s fossil record. I’m sure that we will find the answer some day. That’s because the clues about the history of the Earth are all there in the rocks. Ask my friend Gerry the Geologist. He will tell you the same thing!

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Early American Civilizations     

Lesson 61 – Part 1

NEW WORDS: Baakal, Bahlam, Bahlum, Chan, Chanil, Ikal, Kahn, Kanal, Kanal’s, Kukulcan, Mayan, Pakal, Pakal’s, Pik, Pik’s, Puh, Texcoco, Tun, Yucatan, Zuk, Zuk’s, another’s, bohlohn, chicle, cradled, crowned, garment, hollowing, hoon, kah, lah, lakeshore, noblemen, noiselessly, ohsh, openly, priest’s, rarest, retelling, richly, sapodilla, steadied, swiveling, talon, wahk, washahk, wook


Chapter One: The Maya: A Harvest And A Hurricane
Once there was a Mayan boy named Kanal. Kanal lived with his family some 3,000 years ago. This was in a place that’s now called the Yucatan Peninsula. One day Kanal was working in a field near his family’s village. He saw another Mayan boy coming his way. It was his cousin Pik. Kanal smiled. He said, “Hi. How are you?”

Pik had been lost in thought. He said, “Fine, thanks.” But he did not look happy. So, Kanal asked, “What’s wrong?”

Pik said, “My father told me he’s sure that a hurricane is headed this way. He’s worried. Will we be able to harvest the maize in our field before the hurricane gets here?”

Maize, or corn, was the Mayans’ main crop. They grew it for food 1,000 years ago, just as it still is now. Like most plants that we grow for food, maize should be picked when the time is right. Then you get it at its best. Kanal knew this. So, he knew why Pik was upset. “That’s bad news!” Kanal said. “Let’s go find my father. He’ll know what to do. He’s one of the wisest men in town.” So, the two boys went down the dirt path toward their town.


As they drew nearer, they saw the houses ahead. Each one was made of stone. Kanal saw his younger sister, Ikal. She sat in front of their house weaving cotton. She was making a brightly colored garment. She saw the boys and smiled. Kanal asked her, “Has Father come back from fishing?”

“Not yet,” said Ikal. “I know the best place to look for him. He said he’d likely try the place where he caught the big fish last week.”

So, the two boys went on through the town. An old woman smiled at them. Then, she waved them over. “Here is a little treat for you boys,” she said. She gave them some “chicle.” “Fresh from the sapodilla tree,” she smiled. Chicle is like chewing gum. The boys popped some into their mouths. They said, “thank you,” and they went on their way.

Ten minutes later, they reached the riverbank. They were looking a little upstream. They spied Kanal’s father, Tun. He stood knee-deep in water. The other village men were getting out of a canoe. Tun was strong and quite smart. Everyone liked him. Kanal and Pik watched what they were doing. Tun and the other men dragged a fishing net from the canoe to the shore. The boys hurried forward. Tun and the other men drew the fish in the net onto the bank and looked up.


“Hello, Pik,” he said. “Kanal, why are you here?”

“Father,” Kanal replied, “Uncle believes that a hurricane is headed this way. He’s worried about the maize. It could be destroyed if it is not completely harvested before the hurricane hits.”

Tun listened. Then he turned to Pik. “My brother can often tell about these types of things,” he said. “We’re family. We’ll all help you pick your corn. Tell Zuk (that was Pik’s father’s name) that I’ll come this afternoon. I’ll bring other family members to help.”

The boys grinned with excitement. “Thank you, Uncle,” said Pik. “I’ll tell my father.” He ran off to tell him the news.

Kanal looked down. He saw that his father had caught lots of fish. He picked some up. Tun took the rest. Then they went back toward town.

On their way back, Tun stopped each time that he saw other relatives. He asked if they would help harvest the maize for Zuk. Everyone said, “Yes.” Families all depended on each other. This was in their efforts to grow plants, to hunt and fish, and even to build or repair one another’s homes. Each person knew that when it was his or her turn to ask for help, the extended family would be there.


By the time Kanal and Tun reached home, everything was arranged.

Tun said, “This afternoon, your Uncle Zuk will find that he and Pik have all the help they need. The maize will all get harvested. Then we need to prepare our house for the storm.”

That afternoon, Kanal, Tun, and all their relatives helped Zuk and Pik pick their maize. They all worked late into the evening. Then everyone went back to their houses. They had to prep for the hurricane. They hoped that it would not damage their homes. But they’d just have to wait and see.


Chapter Two: The Maya: Journey To Baakal
Luckily, though the winds of the hurricane were very noisy, the storm did not damage Kanal’s home much at all. A week after the hurricane, Tun said to his family, “This was the best crop of maize that our field has ever given to us. The god of maize has been good to us. Your mother and I think that all of us should go to Baakal. Let’s go to the Festival of the First Star to thank him! Now that we have enough food, I want to offer thanks at the great temple. We owe thanks for the good things that the gods have done for us.

Well, you can imagine the excitement. Kanal’s sister, Ikal, could not stay still. She kept rushing back and forth between her father and mother, hugging each of them. Their mother, Chanil, was the happiest of all. She told them, “Wait until you see Baakal. There is no other place like it, they say. That’s except, of course, for Puh, the greatest city in the world. But I have seen Baakal. And I can’t think of a place that’s more wonderful.”

The children knew that their mother had seen Baakal twice before. Once, it was with her parents. And once, it was with Tun. Going there was a special occasion. That’s because Baakal was so far away.


It did not take them long to prepare. That’s because their extended family members would make sure that everything at home would be all right while they were away. Early the next morning, they all set out. Pik’s brothers and sisters were too young to make such a long trip. So, they stayed behind with their mother. But Pik and his father, Zuk, joined Kanal’s family. And they all entered canoes at the riverside. These canoes had been made by cutting down and hollowing out great trees from the forest.

The paddles noiselessly slid through the water. They were all used to traveling this way to other nearby villages. “But this time,” thought Kanal, as they moved away from the shore, “we’ll go all the way to Baakal.”

It took them three days to reach Baakal. At night, they stopped at other small villages. They’d drag their canoes ashore so that they would not drift away. Overnight, the six of them stayed with other extended family. They provided them with food for the night and the next day.

It was about noon on the third day. The river brought them out from among the trees onto an enormous, flat plain. Kanal, Pik, and Ikal had never seen such a giant space without forest covering it. The two fathers, knowing this, stopped paddling so the young people could just stare. Tun told them, “Many rivers flow into this plain, and right through it. On the far side, some of them join into a mighty river that flows all the way to the Great Water!” By this he meant the ocean, which none of them had ever seen.


They resumed their paddling. A few hours later, Zuk called out in excitement, “Look! Baakal!” He pointed off in the distance. The others strained to see what he saw. They could just make out high, bright red towers. They were all thrilled. But to Tun, the best part of the moment was hearing the excitement in his brother’s voice. You see, Zuk rarely let himself get excited.

A few more hours brought them to the very edge of the great city. As they came closer, more and more canoes and other boats crowded onto the river. They came from other streams and tributaries, that is, smaller rivers that joined into the big one. By the time they reached Baakal, the water was covered with people in boats. And there were just as many people approaching on nearby roads.

Baakal was everything that their parents had said it was. Pik called back over his shoulder to Kanal, “I can hardly wait to see it all.”

Chanil, Kanal’s mother, laughed. “We’ll be lucky to see even a part of it. There is so much to see.”

Tun grabbed the end of the canoe as he waded through the water toward the shore. He said, “Tomorrow we’ll see the greatest towers for ourselves. Then you will truly know the wonder of Baakal!”


Chapter Three: The Maya: King Pakal’s Tomb

That is the Maya word for the number nine. “Hoon, kah, ohsh, kahn, ho, wahk, wook, washahk, bohlohn, and lah hoon.”

That’s how you say the numbers from one to ten in the Mayans’ language. The family was all together. There were Tun, his wife, Chanil, his brother Zuk, and the three children, Then there were Kanal, his sister Ikal, and his cousin Pik. They all stood looking up at the most amazing building that they’d ever seen. It was nine stories high. Each story was smaller than the one below it. Wide stone steps ran up two of the four sides. They reached to the top level on which there stood a small building. It was made of stone, like the nine-stepped pyramid on which it stood.

“Nine stories high. Plus the temple on the top,” Tun said. “This is the tomb of the great King Pakal. King Pakal lies buried in a great stone case. It’s at the bottom of a hole that runs straight down the center of the temple. There’s a staircase in the temple at the top of the pyramid. That leads down into the tomb.”

“Can we see it ourselves?” Ikal asked.


“No. It’s a special place. Only King Pakal’s son, our great king Chan Bahlum, can go into that temple.”

The children looked up with even greater interest. They knew that this was a place so special that only a king might enter it. Tun glanced around to see that no one else was listening. He then added in a mysterious tone, “They say that there is treasure buried with King Pakal.”

The three children turned to look at him with wide eyes. They were unsure if he was teasing or serious. He went on. “Some say that there is green jade. It is said to have been carved to make all sorts of gorgeous jewelry, bowls, and tools. Perhaps even furniture. No one knows for sure.”

Chanil added, “Except for our king, Chan Bahlum. It was he who put it there. That is, if the tale is true.”

Pik looked at his father, Zuk. “Do you think it is true, Father? Is there really treasure?”

Zuk was still staring up at the temple. He answered thoughtfully. “I saw King Pakal once, long ago. He was dressed in robes woven of the finest cotton in many colors. And he wore a headdress of magnificent feathers, made from the rarest birds. He wore magnificent jade necklaces. And he carried a scepter carved into lots of shapes.”


“He did not walk on the Earth, as we do. He was carried through the streets on a great chair. It sat atop two long poles that were laid flat. There were key noblemen with him. For them, carrying the king through the streets was a great honor. They carried the king any place that he wished to go.” He turned to look at his son. “I think that if King Pakal wanted to be buried with a treasure of jade, then yes, there must be jade.”

The children looked at one another in wonder. Then, they looked back at the pyramid. But Tun and Chanil looked at one another. They were silently sharing a different thought. They were both thinking, “I have not heard Zuk speak so many words at once in many years.” Finally, Tun said to the others, “Let’s go see what is on the other side of King Pakal’s pyramid. I heard this from a man in the market this morning. He said that King Chan Bahlum is building more great buildings over there.” So, they hurried off to see what other sights there might be.


Sure enough, Pakal’s son, King Chan Bahlum, had ordered a whole series of buildings to be built. These new buildings were wonderful in their own way. The roof lines of the temples on top were carved in wonderful designs. After a while, they tired from walking around. So, they all went to sit in the shade of some wide-spreading trees.

After a while, Kanal asked his father a question. “Why did King Pakal make such a wonderful place to be buried in? It is much greater than the places that you showed us this morning, where the other kings and queens are buried.”

Tun answered quietly. “I will tell you. But you must not repeat it.” The three children grew quiet. They sensed that he was about to trust them with some special, grown-up sort of secret. Then Tun told them about King Pakal.


Chapter Four: The Maya: The Festival Of The First Star
Tun began telling the others about King Pakal. He was the Mayan king who had ruled Baakal. He was buried in a magnificent pyramid tomb in that city. He spoke softly so that other people might not overhear. Tun said, “Mayan kings become kings based on who their fathers were. When a king died, if he did not have a son, his brother or his nephew might become king.”

“But King Pakal was different. His mother was the queen. And according to Mayan tradition, shortly after his twelfth birthday, his mother crowned Pakal king. But he was worried that some might say he was not worthy of being a ruler. So, he always tried extra hard to show what a great ruler he could be. Some people think that this is why he built such a great pyramid in which to be buried.”

“I don’t know if that’s why he built such a great pyramid. But I know that to this day, King Pakal was the greatest king who ever ruled Baakal. And now his son, King Chan Bahlam, is a great ruler like his father.”


“But all this is something we do not talk about openly. That’s because King Chan Bahlam might not like it. He does not want anyone to remember that there was a question about his father being king. That’s because they might say the same thing about him. Though after all this time, I don’t think that anyone would do so. Still, do you all see why I say these things softly?”

The children whispered, “Yes,” all at the same time. They felt very grown-up to have been told this story. For a while they were quiet. Then, they and the grown-ups rose to their feet. They went on to explore more of the great city.

Pik was swiveling his head from side-to-side. He was determined not to miss anything. Pik told Kanal, “I never knew there could be buildings so big.”

“Yes,” Kanal agreed. “Or such a big market, with so many things for sale. And so many people buying and selling.”

“Or so much noise!” Ikal said. Her brother laughed at her. “Well, it’s true!” she protested. “Our village is never this noisy.”

Chanil said, “It’s because of the Festival of the First Star. All of these people are here to celebrate the appearance of the first star and the god, Kukulcan.”


The Maya believed that the stars and planets were gods. So, for hundreds of years, the Maya studied the sky very carefully. They had no telescopes to make distant things look closer and clearer. No one had invented a telescope yet. But the Maya built what we call “observatories” for studying the sky. To observe means to look carefully at something. So, an observatory is a place to observe the sky.

The ancient Maya built observatories atop temples and high places. And the Maya priests studied the sky from them. The Maya scheduled their holidays and many other events to match the movements of stars and planets. The Maya figured out exactly when planets and stars would appear in certain places in the sky. They used this knowledge to create the most accurate calendar in the world. They had festivals centered on the appearance of stars and planets. They were like the Festival of the First Star.


Today we know that the Festival of the First Star was not really about a star at all. What Chanil called “the first star” is really a planet that looks like a star. We call this planet “Venus.” Like our own planet Earth, Venus travels in a wide circle around the sun. It is often the first star-like light that we see in the evening sky when it starts to get dark. Of course, without a telescope, the Maya could not see Venus clearly enough to know that it was a planet. So, they called it a star. To them it was the “first star.” And it was very important to them.

So, the festival celebrated the time each year when the “first star” (Venus) appeared at a certain place in the sky. People came from far away to take part. During the festival, there would be singing and dancing. And Mayan people would make offerings to the god that the first star represented to them, Kukulcan.

While Kanal, Pik, and their families were visiting the city of Baakal, 1,000s of other Mayan families were there, too. They all watched the lines of richly dressed nobles walking to the temples.


They watched the appearance of King Chan Bahlam with special excitement. He was carried to the foot of a pyramid. Then, he walked slowly up the wide steps to the top. He disappeared into the temple. They waited the whole time that he was inside. When he reappeared, they cheered mightily. They knew that he had asked the gods to be kind to his people. And they hoped that the gods would agree.

The celebration stretched into the night. Kanal’s family looked around in wonder. But the greatest wonder was what was happening to Zuk. He watched the excitement and joy in his own son’s face. Then, Zuk’s face began to show those emotions, too.

Well into the night, Pik fell asleep. Zuk gently lifted his son into his own powerful arms. He carried him, smiling down at his son’s face. Kanal was awake long enough to see all this before he, too, fell asleep. He, too, was picked up by his own father. Ikal had already been asleep for an hour. She was cradled in her mother’s arms.

They got a good night’s sleep. Then, the next morning, they’d begin the long canoe journey home.

The morning fog cleared in the first hour of their journey home. Pik turned to call to his cousin Kanal in the other canoe. He lost his balance and nearly fell into the river. His father grabbed him by the shoulder. He steadied him in the canoe. And then Zuk laughed and joked. “My son, you are not a tortoise. Do not leap into the water.” And hearing his brother laugh, Tun smiled to himself. Then he dipped his paddle once more into the water. He was glad to be going home.


Chapter Five: The Aztec: The Legend Of The Eagle And The Serpent
The Aztec people had been walking each day for months now. They were searching for a new home. They carried the oldest and youngest among them. Some of the weakest were not able to complete the long journey. Some new Aztec had been born on the way. They were passing their first days of life in the constant motion of travel. They took short breaks to eat. They stopped only at night to sleep.

Now the Aztec were in the center of a great valley. Their leaders were at the front of the long line. They strode once more to the old high priest. “Is this the right place for us to stop?” the leaders asked. “Is this our new home?”

The priest was very old. His long hair was gray. Wrinkles furrowed his brow. But he stood as straight as the mightiest warrior. When he spoke, it was always with a voice that was strong and sure. Once again, he told them, “No, not yet. We are waiting for a sign from the gods. When they want us to stop and make a home, they will tell us.” So, their journey continued.


Finally, one day their forward scouts came back to report to them. “There is a great lake ahead. And in the center is an island. There are no signs of enemies anywhere. There are not even any people to be seen.”

“Then we will camp on the shore,” said the Aztec leaders. “We can all use a rest. And we can wash the dust off of ourselves.” So, they all moved forward.

In a number of hours, they had reached the lakeshore.

Suddenly, the high priest’s eyes opened wide. He raised his hand and pointed. “Look!” he exclaimed. “On the island.”

The people all turned to see what the priest had seen. On the island stood a tall, green cactus. Sitting atop it, unharmed by the cactus’ sharp thorns, was a great bird. It was a noble eagle. One of its powerful hooked talons, or claws, held the eagle steady on the cactus branch. In its other talon was a long, wriggling snake. The Aztec people looked on in wonder. As they watched, the eagle began to eat the snake.

“It is the sign!” the people all muttered. And they fell to their knees on the green lakeshore.


A small boy knelt on the ground beside his mother. He tugged at her robe and asked, “What sign?” The mother gathered her son close to her. She promised that he would hear the story of the Aztec people before the end of the day. For now, they sat in awe of the sight that was before them.

Other children were curious, as well. What was this unusual sign all about? Why were their parents and grandparents so amazed by the sight of the eagle eating the snake? That afternoon, they sat in wonderment at the foot of the ancient priest. He was retelling the story that had been passed down among the Aztec for generations.

“Many, many years ago,” he began, “our people lived in the far north. One year no rain came to their lands. Their crops dried out. They died in the sun-baked fields. They feared that the rain god was angry with them. But they did not know what they had done wrong. So, the Aztec leaders turned to the wise priests. They asked them, ‘What shall we do?’ ”


“The priests answered, ‘The gods wish us to leave our home. Our stories have told of a time when all our people would have to move on. That time has come.'”

“‘We will go south,’ the Aztec leaders said to the hungry people. ‘Some of our brothers have gone there already. They are serving as soldiers for the rulers of other tribes. These brothers have sent back word that there is a huge valley there. And it has plenty of water. They say we may have to fight the people who live there to force them to let us in. But we are Aztec! We fear no men, only the gods.'”

“And so, a few days later, they put all that they could carry onto their backs. They set out for the promise of green valleys with plenty of water for drinking and growing crops. Day after day, month after month, they traveled. They rested only at night. That was many years ago. But our people have never been settled for long. Each time we settled in the green valley around us, we have been forced to move. Time after time, we’ve had to go from one place to another.”


“For years, we have sought the sign of our new home, predicted by the gods long ago. The gods told us to look for an eagle on a cactus eating a serpent. Then we would know that we have found our true home. For nearly one hundred years now, our people have wandered in search of this sign from the gods.”

“And so,” the old priest continued, “you can see why this is such an important day for our people. At last, we have found our home.”

The children smiled at each other. They began to understand the importance of seeing the wondrous sight of the eagle eating the snake. They began to realize that they would no longer have to wander without a home. “We are home,” they said to each other. “Yes,” their parents said to them. “You are home. We are all home.”

That is the legend of how the Aztec came to live on and around Lake Texcoco in what is now Mexico. The legend explains why they built their city on islands in the lake. They began with the island on which they had seen the eagle.










Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Early American Civilizations


Lesson 62 – Part Two 

NEW WORDS: Argentina, Arteaga, Bingham, Bingham’s, Cempoala, Chile, Cortez’s, Cuzco, Ecuador, Hiram, Incan, Manco, Moctezuma’s, Totonacs, Urubamba, Vitcos, Xochimilco, adequately, blossoming, bottomed, cacao, casually, chinampa, chinampas, cliff’s, conquistadores, courteous, courthouse, dredged, emperor’s, energetically, entrances, fancily, feather’s, fertilizing, goddess’s, governors, haired, hinted, lawbreaker, legends, murmur, overpowering, overwhelmed, possesses, possessions, respects, retrace, rocked, sandals, senor, separating, shaky, slats, stationary, straps, suspension, swamplands, swishing, terraces, thrusting, tiredness, tokens, truthfully, unthinkable, whitewater, wield, wildly, wing’s


Chapter Six: The Aztec: The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
Torn Wing was paddling his canoe across the lake. The overpowering smell of blossoming flowers reached him before he could even see them. As he came closer, countless small islands, or chinampas came into view. He could see why people referred to these islands as “floating gardens.” The Aztec made these islands that appeared to float on the surface of the water. But chinampas could not actually float away. Each island was firmly attached by roots that grew down into the bottom of the lake.

Torn Wing maneuvered his narrow, flat-bottomed canoe among the canals separating them. He recalled his uncle’s story about how the chinampas were formed.

The Aztec had dug ditches out of the swampy land for water to flow through. Then they covered rafts made of reeds and branches with mud dredged up from the bottom of the lake. Over the years, layers upon layers of mud were added. Finally, with the help of roots from the willow trees, the islands became stationary. Hundreds of narrow rectangular islands, separated by a network of the water ditches called canals, covered the swamplands. For the people who had long sought a way to grow plants, even in times when there was no rainfall, these island gardens provided a wonderful solution.


The surrounding water kept the Earth moist all year long. It was used in irrigating and fertilizing the fields. Maize, beans, squash, tomatoes, and chili peppers grew in abundance. They supplied the large city of Tenochtitlan and beyond. The gardens of Xochimilco were truly an agricultural wonderland!

Torn Wing’s uncle was Wing Feather. He had described Xochimilco to Torn Wing after the young man’s father, who was Wing Feather’s brother, had died.

His uncle had said this to him. “My brother was a good man and a good farmer. Did he teach you everything that he knew?”

“Yes, Uncle,” Torn Wing had answered. “I worked at his side in the fields. We always had the best crop of any near our village.”

“Good,” his uncle had said. “I want you to know that even though your parents are gone now, you are not alone. Your aunt and I want you to come and live with us as our son. I can use your help in my business. And since we have no son of our own, when I grow too old to work, it will become yours. But Nephew, I do not want to make you leave your familiar home. You may prefer to stay in your own village. If so, I will help you by giving you cacao beans. But I promise this if you choose to live with us. You should know that the city of Tenochtitlan and its nearby floating gardens are a wonderful place to be.”


Torn Wing quickly gave his answer. “Then I will come, Uncle.”

Torn Wing had easily followed his uncle’s directions to Lake Xochimilco. But now that he was at last among the watery roads of the place, he had forgotten his uncle’s warning. He had said, “There are so many sights to see. It is easy to become overwhelmed and lose your way.” Sure enough, Torn Wing was lost. He decided to retrace his route to the edge of the floating gardens and start again.

Just then, though, he heard an old woman’s voice. She asked, “Are you lost? Perhaps I can help.”

Turning, he saw a short, gray-haired woman smiling warmly at him. She was sitting in a boat tied by a rope to the nearest chinampa. “If you are lost,” she said energetically, “you are not the first. When I was a girl, I came here for the first time. It took weeks before I learned my way around.”

Torn Wing smiled back. He said, “You are very kind. As a matter of fact, I am lost. I was trying to find my uncle. His name is Wing Feather.”


Her smile grew even wider. “I know him! He and my sons are friends. They can take you to him.” She squinted closely at the young man. “So you are Wing Feather’s nephew. He told us that you were coming. My name is Moon Wish.” She turned and called over her shoulder, “Star Web! Loud Song! Come here!”

From around the far side of a high, thick cluster of plants came two of the biggest men Torn Wing had ever seen. He thought to himself, “These two certainly do not look anything like their tiny mother.”

The two young giants grinned. “It is good to meet you,” the first one said. “I am Star Web. I am the good-looking brother,” he joked. “This is my little brother, Loud Song.” Actually, Loud Song was even bigger than Star Web. But he didn’t seem to mind this introduction. He laughed and gave his older brother a friendly pat. Then Star Web added, “Loud Song is especially glad to become friends of Wing Feather’s relatives.”

Then Loud Song said, “I will lead you to your uncle.” He slid into a canoe so smoothly that it hardly rocked beneath him. Then he said, “Follow me,” and he started off. Torn Wing had just enough time to say good-bye to Moon Wish and Star Web. Then he paddled off quickly in order to keep his guide in sight. “What a wonderful place!” he thought. “This is my new home!” All the tiredness of his journey was forgotten in his excitement. He enjoyed his ride further into the heart of the floating gardens of Xochimilco.


Chapter Seven: The Aztec: In the Palace of an Emperor
Moctezuma the Second was the emperor of the Aztec people. Therefore, he was the commander of the fierce Aztec army. And he was the highest of high priests. One day, he was moving through his immense palace. That was in the city of Tenochtitlan. It was the capital of the Aztec empire. Before him walked one of the four most important Aztec nobles. This nobleman served the emperor. He was dressed in brightly colored, cotton clothing. And his head was encircled by magnificent tropical bird feathers. They stuck out of a headdress made of gold.

This fancily dressed nobleman led the way through the halls of the palace. He headed toward the throne room. He passed one of the enormous dining halls. Then he turned down a corridor that ran between two large libraries. Far behind in the gigantic palace lay hundreds of bedrooms. This included the great emperor’s, where the bedsheets would be slept upon just once. Then they would be thrown away.

Behind him, the nobleman heard a sound. It was the steady slapping of the emperor’s golden sandals upon the floor. And he heard the swishing of leaves. Other nobles were fanning the emperor’s body. This was to keep him cool as he walked.


They entered the throne room. It was more than half full already. The men and women looked down silently. They knew that the emperor was approaching. No one was allowed to look at the emperor’s face. Those who were wearing shoes had already slipped out of them. They knew that they must take them off in Emperor Moctezuma’s presence. To break any of these rules would have seemed unthinkable to the Aztec. Everyone knew that it would mean death to the lawbreaker.

The feathered nobleman stopped as he went up to the throne. He stood aside. He turned his eyes downward as Moctezuma walked forward and sat down upon his jeweled throne. Moctezuma was a man whose wealth could not even be measured. In his palace were entire rooms filled with gold and silver. There was everything from fabulous, hand-carved jewelry to masks.

Now another of the Emperor’s noblemen spoke. “Oh, Speaker,” he began. This was the Emperor’s most important title. It meant that it was he who was thought to speak to the gods. This was in order to keep them on the side of the Aztec.


“Today there are lords here from the eastern part of your empire. They come to pay their respects to you. But they also bring more details of the strangers who come from the east.”

The nobleman brought the lords forward. The emperor said, “We have reports of strangers who ride upon huge deer. What have you seen with your own eyes? And what have you heard?”

Now the oldest of the visiting lords took a step. He forced himself not to look upward upon Moctezuma’s face. He gave the emperor his report. “I, too, have seen these men. But now their leader has done something that we do not understand. He has ordered his people to burn the wooden ships at sea. They are now camped on the shore with their deer.”

Moctezuma gave his full attention to the man’s words. Then he turned to the Snake Woman who stood beside his throne. Oddly, the Snake Woman, the second most important person in the government, was not a woman at all, but a man.

The title of “Snake Woman” was given to a man. It was given in honor of one of the Aztec goddesses. That goddess’s importance was second only to the gods of the sun and the rain. The Snake Woman helped the emperor to run the nation.

The emperor asked the Snake Woman a key question. “What does the burning of the wooden ships mean? Could it be that they intend to never leave our lands?”


The Snake Woman replied to him. “I do not know, Oh, Emperor. But it seems to show that the strangers feel safe enough here to cut off their own form of retreat.”

The Snake Woman nodded to the nobleman. He then continued with his report. “There is other news. These strangers have made friends with the Totonacs, the people of Cempoala. And together with them, they are starting in this direction.”

At this, a worried murmur ran through all those in the throne room. The Totonacs were enemies of the Aztec.

The lords went on with their report. Then followed more reports on other matters by other servants of Moctezuma. Afterward, the nobleman with the magnificent feathers again led the emperor through the halls. This time they went to his main dining hall. There, Moctezuma and hundreds of his nobles sat down to a feast. They ate off of beautiful plates that were given away after just one use.

Later, Moctezuma and his chief advisors met. The emperor said, “Send gold and silver to the leaders of these strangers. Let the nobles who bring these gifts tell the strangers that they are on Aztec land. It is land ruled by Emperor Moctezuma, who sends these small tokens of his power and wealth. They will know from these gifts the great wealth and power that we wield here. And perhaps they will turn and leave our empire.”


Chapter Eight: The Aztec: Cortez’s Letter
Your majesty. In order to fully describe the city of Tenochtitlan and the emperor, Moctezuma, it would require more writers than just myself. And it would take a very long time. I will not be able to fully explain everything. But I will do my best to describe the amazing things that we have seen.

The Aztec state is in the shape of a circle. It is completely surrounded by tall mountains. There are two lakes that take up almost the entire valley in which the city is located. One of the lakes is freshwater. And the other is a saltwater lake.

The great city of Tenochtitlan is made up of two islands that sit in the middle of the salt lake. That’s called Lake Texcoco. There are four entrances to this enormous city. In order to cross over the lake into the city, large bridges were constructed. The bridges are so wide that as many as ten horses walking side by side could cross them. The main streets are very wide and straight. Some of the smaller streets are made of land. And some streets are made of water. They are similar to streams or canals. The people of the city use canoes to travel in the streets made of water.


There are several main squares. All of them contain markets. One of the squares is very large. On any given day, there are thousands of people in it buying and selling things. Because there are so many different kinds of products, it would be impossible to name every single thing. But some of the items include food, precious stones, shells, feathers, medicines, wood, coal, sleeping mats, clothing, pottery, and so much more! Along with all the items that are for sale, there are also restaurants and barber shops. A building, like a courthouse, also sits in the market. People in this building are like judges. They resolve arguments and order punishment for criminals.

Also in Tenochtitlan, there are many beautiful temples. The priests live in a part of each temple and dress in black. These priests wear the exact same clothing for their whole lives. And they never cut or comb their hair.

Since the lake surrounding the city is a saltwater lake, there are aqueducts that carry the water from the freshwater lake into the city. The aqueducts carry the water over the bridge. Once over the bridge, the water is distributed throughout the city to be used for drinking, and for other purposes. The water from the aqueducts makes up the whole city’s water supply! It is quite amazing to see.

Order has been established and is well-kept in the city. The people of the city are very friendly and courteous to one another. They behave much in the same way as Spaniards. I found this most surprising. That’s because of how different they and their city look from ours.


In regard to Emperor Moctezuma, his empire is quite unbelievable. I have been unable to find out how large of an area he rules. I believe that he rules a land at least as large as Spain.

However, I have seen with my own eyes his great wealth. He possesses many, many objects made from gold, silver, and other precious metals. They are all made by wonderful craftsmen. Within the city, there are quite a few palaces. They are so wondrous that I could not possibly describe them adequately.

One of the smaller palaces is attached to a beautiful garden with a balcony that runs over top of it. Two high-ranking princes live inside this palace. Also, inside the palace are ten pools of water. Some of the pools are of saltwater. And some are of freshwater. In each of the pools live different kinds of birds. The birds that need saltwater live in the saltwater pools. And the birds that need freshwater live in the freshwater pools. Each type of bird is given the type of food that it likes best. It might be worms, maize, seeds, or fish. The royalty here are able to just look out a window and be amused by the birds in the various pools.

I have tried to write these descriptions as truthfully as I can. That way, your Majesty may have an accurate picture of this part of the world.

Your humble servant,     Hernan Cortez.


Chapter Nine: The Inca: Who Were the Inca?
The Inca were one of many groups of people who lived in North, Central, or South America long ago. They lived in the western part of South America. You can see that on the map. The Inca lived in parts of what we now call Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, and Chile.

They controlled about twenty-five hundred miles of land. That’s about the same distance as if you measured from one side of the U.S. to the other.

More incredibly, the Inca created almost 20,000 miles of roads. They walked or ran in order to share ideas and information with other Inca in faraway parts of their empire. Lots of these roads are still used today.

The Inca controlled so much land because they conquered other nations of people. Each time they did, the size of their empire would grow. When the Inca conquered other nations, the emperor of the Inca would often have the conquered villagers move to a new area. The rest of this chapter is a story about a village that was forced to move.

“I do not understand,” cried the girl. Her name was Little Flower. She was five years old. “Why do we have to move? This is where we live.”


Her older sister, Blue Sky, tried to explain. She had been trying to do so for three days now. “The emperor of the Inca has ordered our people, the people of the Village of Stone Walls, to move.”

“He says that we must go and live up in the big, tall mountains closer to his city of Cuzco. He says that if we are living among his own people, we will not try to be so different from them. He says that we will get to be friends with the Inca people. And before you ask me again, Little Flower, I will tell you one last time. The emperor of the Inca now rules the Village of Stone Walls. We have to do as he says. If we don’t, he will be very angry.”

Blue Sky thought about how much to tell Little Flower. She did not want to upset her sister. She was usually a very patient older sister. But now she was tired of talking about this over and over again. “After all,” she thought, “I am not so old myself. I do not like to think about these things, either.” But then she looked once more at her little sister. She really did love her. So, she said as gently as she could, “If the Inca emperor gets angry with all the people of the Village of Stone Walls, it will not be like when papa or mama gets mad at you or me. It will be much worse. So, I think that we had better do what he orders. Don’t you?”


Little Flower thought about this. “Yes,” she answered. “I guess we had better do it.” Blue Sky smiled and went back to collecting their things. But the smaller girl whispered to herself, “But I still don’t like it.”

Three days later, all the people who had lived in the Village of Stone Walls were almost ready to move. They were sad to leave their home. Even the oldest and wisest of them felt the way that Little Flower felt. After all, they were about to go somewhere that no one from the Village of Stone Walls had ever even visited. The people from the Village of Stone Walls were used to living in the dry, flat desert lands down near the ocean. They were near the coast of what is today called Peru. They had never been a mountain people. Nor had they lived anywhere as cold as where they were moving. Yet the colder, high mountains is where they had to go.

The people of the Village of Stone Walls used llamas to carry loads for them. Llamas were very gentle. But they were strong enough to carry a lot on their backs. Blue Sky and Little Flower loaded all the possessions that they were able to take with them onto their llama. Early the next morning, Blue Sky, Little Flower, and the rest of the people from the Village of Stone Walls left their homes. They would be on a journey to make new homes in the mountains around Cuzco.


Chapter Ten: The Inca: The Runner
He waited by the side of the road, glancing back every minute or so. He had already warmed up his muscles, stretching and bending, preparing for what he was about to do. Now he was ready. While he waited, he thought about a few years ago when he had first become a runner for the Inca.

“You are the fastest runner in our village,” the old man had told him on that day five years before. “Everyone in our village farms. We pay the emperor by giving him part of our crop each season. This is how we pay for soldiers to protect us and for priests to pray for us. But no matter how much we give, always the answer comes back to us. They say ‘More, you must give more.’ But you, boy, can change all that. If you become a runner, our people will not have to give as much of our crop to the emperor. If we do not have to give as much of our crop to the emperor, it will mean more food for hungry mouths. It will bring honor upon you, your family, and your tribe.”

He looked into the old man’s eyes. He knew that he had no choice.


It was soon after the old man told him this. The royal servants came to the village high upon a steep mountainside. They had heard how fast the boy could run. They were there to see if he really was such a fast, long-distance runner.

The servants sent one man some distance down the mountain road. They then had the young runner sprint to the man as fast as he could. He raced along, loving the free feeling of running. The wind was blowing his hair. And his feet seemed to move as if they had minds of their own. He had run fast that day to show that he could. And that same day, the servants took him from his village and his family. They were the only people and the only home that he’d ever known.

“Now you have the honor of being a runner,” he was told. “The emperor has commanded many roads to be built. That way, he can send orders and messages all over his mighty empire. Then he receives back news from even the most distant corners of his nation. You will carry news, orders for the soldiers and governors who serve our emperor, and occasionally even small objects.”

“Another runner will appear at a specific time and at a specific place. He will bring these things to you. Then you will carry them for many miles and hand them, in turn, to the next runner. It is a great honor to serve the emperor in this way. And you will be cared for accordingly. You shall always be well fed. There will always be warm, comfortable places for you to rest or sleep at the end of your time running. And look, this bracelet of gold and copper is for you to wear.”


Since that time, the runner had carried news many times. Sometimes the runner before him handed off a leather bag with straps that he could throw over his shoulders. That way, it would not get in the way of his even stride. He himself never knew what the bag contained. He was forbidden to look. His job was simply to carry it onward.

Now as he waited, he wondered what he was to carry this time. Was it news for him to memorize and pass on to the next runner? Would there be a bag this time?

How far was he to run before he would see the next runner waiting for him by the road, as he himself now waited?

Then he looked once more along the road. He saw another runner coming.

But what was this? The man was having trouble standing upright. He was gasping for breath. It was obvious that he had run faster than he ever had before.

“What is it?” the runner said.


The other man answered him. “Strangers, in metal. They are riding on, I cannot tell you. I do not know what to call them.”

None of this made sense to the runner. But before he could speak, the man told him, “There is no time. Take this.” He shrugged himself out of the straps and handed him the pouch. “Run as you have never run before! There are enemies among us!”

The other man gasped. “Run! Run, my brother!” So, the runner swung the straps over his own shoulders. But before he left, he helped the other man sit down with his back to the trunk of a shady tree to rest. “Here is water,” he said. He gave the other messenger his own supply. “I will take the news. I promise you the emperor will receive this message!”

Then, as he turned and sprang forward with all his might, he heard the other man calling out to him. He repeated again, in deep, gasping breaths, “Run! Run, my brother!” After that, all he heard was the sound of his own footsteps as he settled into his running pace. He turned the bend in the road, knowing that he had a long way to go.


Chapter Eleven: The Inca: Machu Picchu, A Lucky Discovery
Now we come to an amazing tale. It’s about an archaeologist named Hiram Bingham. He stumbled upon an entire city. But he wasn’t looking for it. He was looking for something else!

Bingham was interested in learning more about the Inca. His biggest interest was about their struggle against the Spanish invaders.

Do you remember the Spanish conquerors? They were called “conquistadores,” in Spanish. They destroyed a lot of the Inca culture when they attacked them. So, Bingham had to depend on legends and folktales for some of his information.

One of these legends told of the last Inca emperor, Manco the Second. He had built a city called Vitcos. He used it as a headquarters to fight the Spanish invaders. The old story hinted that Vitcos might be down the Urubamba River toward the jungle. That was in the area now known as Peru, South America.

Peru is high in the Andes Mountains. These mountains include some of the world’s tallest, most challenging peaks. Bingham decided that he would begin his exploration in the ancient city of Cuzco. His only other clue about Vitcos was that the city was said to have been built where a huge white rock overlooked a pool in a river. Of course, Bingham didn’t know if all of these so-called clues and legends were true. There might never have been such a city. Bingham went looking for Vitcos, anyway.


In Cuzco, Bingham started out with a small group of companions. They all rode mules along roads that soon turned into trails. One night, the small travel party camped near a river. A bit later, a stranger appeared. He was a local police sergeant. His tiny house was nearby. “My name is Arteaga,” he said holding out his hand. Bingham shook his hand. Then he replied, “I’m Hiram Bingham.” Arteaga listened about Bingham’s interest in old ruins. Then he said, “Senor, I have heard of some ruins. If you like, I will take you there. Just know this. It will be quite a tough climb.”

Bingham said, “If you can take me, I can get there.”

They set out the next day. The rest of Bingham’s companions stayed behind. They weren’t willing to climb the dangerous slopes. They were worried that the rumor of ruins was not true. They did not want to waste their time while putting themselves in harm’s way.

The two had walked for nearly an hour. Then, Arteaga led Bingham down to a cliff’s edge. Below lay a silver-gray river. It was raging into whitewater rapids. Bingham could hear it roar as it raced along below. “Urubamba River,” said Arteaga casually. “We’ll go there.” Then, he pointed to a shaky-looking rope suspension bridge. It had wooden slats that looked as if it would collapse under the weight of a bird. Bingham took a deep breath. Then he started out onto the bridge. He picked his way carefully. He tested each board before he put his weight on it. And he prayed that the ropes would hold. The bridge swung and swayed wildly with each step that he took. He told himself, “Don’t look down. It will only frighten you more.” Finally, he was across. And then Arteaga followed.


For hours, they walked on through dense forest. They came to an open spot. There, some Incas lived in huts and grew food on narrow, level strips of land called terraces. These terraces had been carved into the mountainside by their Inca ancestors. They had been used this way for centuries. Arteaga and Bingham shared lunch with these people in a hut. It was clearly an important occasion for their hosts. They seldom saw visitors. So, it was kind of like a treat for them.

After lunch, Arteaga and Bingham climbed an additional 1,000 feet. There, they emerged from the trees onto a level place. Vines and bushes covered much of it. But he could still see stone walls that had been built to make more terraces. Looking beyond, he saw a remarkable sight. “Look, Arteaga!” he shouted. Spread out across the mountain top lay an enormous set of stone buildings. Their wooden roofs had long since gone. But their carefully fitted stone walls were still standing.


Here they were. They were 2,000 feet above the raging river. And there was another higher mountain peak thrusting up behind them. This dramatic setting took Bingham’s breath away for a moment. Arteaga asked, “Senor, is this your lost city of Vitcos?”

“I don’t know,” Bingham replied. “But whatever it is, it is amazing.”

Indeed, it later became clear that this was NOT the city of Vitcos. But this discovery, a city that seemed to float among the clouds, was even more fantastic. With no record of its existence, Bingham named his discovery after the towering mountain. He called it “Machu Picchu.” That means “Old Mountain” in the Incan language.

The Inca living nearby in the mountains did not know who had built the deserted city. Neither did they know what had happened to the people who had built it.


Later, Bingham wrote that Machu Picchu might have been the last hiding place of Inca royalty. Maybe they had built it so high that no Spaniard had even guessed it existed. Or perhaps the city had been some special religious center for the Inca. He never learned the answer.

A few weeks passed after reaching Machu Picchu. Bingham stood above a watery pool next to a huge white rock that was carved with Inca designs. Bingham had now found the ruins of Vitcos. That was the place that he had originally been seeking. But it was the discovery of Machu Picchu and its dramatic setting that would bring Bingham worldwide fame.

As for Machu Picchu, its beauty remains today. Photographs have made it so famous that thousands of visitors make the long trek there from all over the world. Machu Picchu has been chosen as one of the most important historic places for people to preserve and care for in the whole world.

We now know that Machu Picchu was used as a summer capital for earlier Inca emperors. That’s where the royal court would go in the hottest months. Scientists found documents written by the ancient Inca. These writings cleared up the mystery of Machu Picchu. Maybe someday you will be an archaeologist. Then you, too, can find answers to mysteries like the mystery of Machu Picchu!

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Early American Civilizations


Lesson 63 – Part Three

NEW WORDS: Nahuatl, Q’uk’umatz, Quechua, Sapa, Tepew, experimented, forearms, gatherers, jaguars, ovals, pumas, quipu, skillful, storytellers

Chapter One: Hunters and Gatherers
Long ago, people all over the world found food by hunting and gathering. This meant that they moved from place to place. They followed animals. They gathered plants, nuts, and berries. Some people walked great distances to hunt and gather as they went. Others went in small boats. They followed the coastlines until they found a place to hunt and gather.

Let’s look at some of these wandering people in North America. They followed herds of very large animals. They were known as woolly mammoths. Woolly mammoths looked like African elephants. But they were a little different. Their ears were smaller. And their tusks were longer! I’m sorry to tell you this. These amazing creatures are extinct today.

Animals such as them did not just provide people with food. They also gave them fur, skin, and bones. These were used to make clothing and tools. And even simple, warm homes.

At certain times of the year across North America, people gathered fruits, berries, and plants. They used these foods in the winter.

They even gathered a sweet syrup from the trees in the forests and woodlands. And they fished in the oceans, rivers, and streams, too!


Chapter Two: From Hunting to Farming
Over many years, people moved across North America. This movement of people also happened in Central and South America. But then there came a time when some people became quite good at farming.

They took wild plants that they had eaten for hundreds of years. Then they experimented with these plants. After some time, they developed a new crop called corn. This became a key food source for them.

The development of farming created more food for people to eat. This meant that more people could live in one place. Some people continued to travel in search of food. But many settled down. They stayed in places where they could raise food crops and hunt on land near their farms.


Chapter Three: The Marvelous Maya
The Maya were one of a number of groups of people who lived and farmed in the Americas. They became expert farmers. They made canals, or channels dug into the Earth. These carried water to areas of farmland that were dry. They farmed on mountainsides and in the forests. They hunted and fished, too.

Successful farming led to the growth of a great Maya civilization. The Maya built great cities. These and their surrounding lands were ruled by kings and queens. Farmers grew the crops that fed the increasing Maya population.

The Maya built pyramids. These were used to worship their gods. They believed that their gods controlled the world. Here are some of them. The Maya believed in gods of mountains and earthquakes, thunder, and the sky. Maya priests were in charge of the many religious ceremonies. These were part of everyday life.


Maya priests were doctors and astronomers, too. The astronomer priests closely watched the movements of the stars. They learned about the sun’s path and the changing of the seasons. The Maya did this without any tools or instruments. They did it all with just with the naked eye!

They studied the night sky. After some time, they were able to create a calendar. It recorded the change of the seasons, and the number of days in a year. The Maya came up with 365 days, too! Maya farmers used it to tell them when to plant and harvest their crops. They also planned their celebrations around it!

The Maya came up with their own number system. It was made up of lines, circles, dots, and ovals. Numbers were used to record information. It might be about such things as crops and goods.

The Maya also had a system of writing. It was made up of symbols called “glyphs.” The sons and some daughters of key people learned to read and write. When they became older, some became scribes. They would write down important information on paper. The paper had been made from tree bark. They also carved messages on stone walls and on buildings.

The Maya played a popular ball game. The game had a different name depending on where it was played. Almost every Maya city had a ball court. It was as big as a modern football field. The ball used in this game was a heavy, rubber ball. Players had to keep the ball in the air using only their knees, hips, shoulders, and forearms. Players scored points by passing the ball through stone hoops. The team with the most points won.


Chapter Four: The Amazing Aztec
Let’s go back hundreds of years in the Americas. A group of people had set off in search of a home. These people became the builders of the Aztec Empire. Here’s how the story goes. The Aztec believed that their sun god had told them to search for a sign. This sign would be an eagle eating a snake, while sitting on a prickly pear cactus. When they found such a thing, they were to settle in that place.

The story keeps going. They found an island in the middle of a beautiful lake in central Mexico. There, they spotted an eagle perched on a cactus. And yes, it was eating a snake! It was on that island that the Aztec built a most amazing city. It was called “Tenochtitlan.” That means “the place of the prickly pear.” The island and the city are now modern-day Mexico City.

This is the modern flag of Mexico. On it you can see the eagle, the snake, and the cactus. This Aztec story is a key part of Mexican culture.


The Aztec built bridges from their island city to the shore of the lake. The lake contained saltwater. They could not drink that, of course. So, the Aztec used clay pipes to bring in fresh water from the mainland nearby. That water was used for drinking and cooking.

They built canals, or waterways, and moved about the city in canoes. They farmed on the island, too. They did that by forming gardens on raised beds. The Aztec did this by digging up mud from the bottom of the lake and piling it up. Then they shaped the piles into long, narrow gardens. They’d plant such crops as maize, beans, and squash. They also grew flowers.

Tenochtitlan also had streets and tall buildings. At the very center of the city was the Great Temple. The Aztec emperor, and the priests who were in charge of all religious practices, lived in grand palaces there. The Aztec believed in many gods. But the sun god and the rain god were among the most important. The Great Temple was used for the worship of Aztec gods.


More than 200,000 people lived in the city of Tenochtitlan! It was one of the biggest cities in the world at the time. The city had busy marketplaces. There, lots of people traded goods. Farmers brought their crops to the city from the gardens and fields nearby. They traded crops for things that they needed. People also traded gold and silver jewelry, tools, clay pots, clothing, feathers, and seashells.

The Aztec were strong and skillful warriors. They conquered other people and took their land. They created a vast empire. The Aztec emperor was the most powerful person in the empire. One of the greatest Aztec emperors was Moctezuma II. He was so powerful that when he entered a room, people threw themselves on the floor.

Some Aztec boys learned to read and write. The priests were their teachers. Some were also taught medicine and astronomy. Others learned to be craftsmen or farmers. All boys trained from an early age to be warriors. Girls learned other skills. These included pottery and weaving.


Chapter Five: The Incredible Inca
The Aztec created a great empire. But the Inca built an even bigger one. It stretched all along the western coast of South America.

Today that empire would include large parts of a number of modern-day countries. These are Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. At the head of this amazing empire was a man in charge of millions of people. He was the all-powerful Sapa Inca.

The Inca were expert road builders. They built a road called the Royal Road. It stretched for 2,000 miles. For a time, it was the longest road in the world. Inca soldiers could move quickly along the road if they were needed. And farmers could easily move from place to place to trade their crops. These included cocoa and lots of different kinds of potatoes.

The Inca also used a chain of speedy messengers. They would run along the Royal Road. They would take important news from place to place. The Inca did not have a written language. So, each runner had to remember their message. That way, they could tell it to the next runner.


However, the Inca did have their own way of counting and recording information. They used a quipu. A quipu was a group of different colored strings. It had knots tied in a certain way. The strings and knots might show numbers of soldiers, or give information about farmers’ crops.

Like the Maya and the Aztec, the Inca worshipped different gods. Of special importance to them was the sun god. Here, the Inca sun god is shown wearing the sun as his crown. He is also shown crying precious raindrops. That is a sign that he has the power to bring rain to the farmers’ crops. The sun god holds a thunderbolt in his hand. That shows his strength and power!

The Inca also built great cities with temples and palaces. Perhaps one of the most remarkable cities ever built is the Inca city of Machu Picchu. It sits high up in the Andes Mountains of modern-day Peru. The stones used to build the city were very carefully cut. They would fit together like jigsaw pieces. The city was built for a powerful Inca king.


Chapter Six: A Story from the Americas
The people of these early civilizations often wondered how the world was created. Their religions helped them to make sense of this mystery. For some, it provided answers. The Maya had their own story about the creation of Earth. Maya storytellers passed this story from one generation to the next. And these stories are still told today.

This is the Maya story of how Earth and its people came to be. In the beginning, there was no Earth. There was only darkness. But then the gods created a place between the sea and the sky. This happened when two of the gods, Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, shouted out the name “Earth.” All of a sudden, Earth appeared. Mountains rose up. And plains appeared. Trees and plants grew all across the land.

But the Earth was silent until the gods filled it with animals of every kind. Suddenly there were jaguars, pumas, snakes, deer, and antelope on the land. The gods filled the oceans with animals, too.


But soon the gods realized that they needed people. They began by making “day people.” The day people looked good. But they could not move. They could not walk about. And when the sun shone bright, they began to melt!

The gods knew that they must start again. So, they decided to make wooden people. The wooden people were stronger. They did not melt in the warm sun. But the wooden people were not quite right. For one thing, they could not think for themselves.

The gods tried one last time to create the people who they wanted to live on Earth. They asked the animals to help them. The animals showed the gods a perfect place for people to live. In this place grew yellow and white corn. The gods created humans from that corn.

The first humans could hear, see, and think. The humans thanked the gods. And they built great temples in their honor. These humans were exactly what the gods had hoped for. So, now the gods were happy.


Chapter Seven: The Maya, Aztec, and Inca Today
At least six million Maya still live in Central America. Many speak the languages of their ancestors, follow their traditions, and, as you have heard, listen to their stories. They weave cloth, grow the same crops, and eat the same food. But they also go to school, watch TV, and play games just like you do.

In Mexico, descendants of the Aztec enjoy celebrating their culture. Many people speak Nahuatl. That’s the language of the people who made their home on the island in the lake. They perform Aztec dances and wear traditional dress. And just as their ancestors did, the Aztec people of today love flowers. They are a big part of their holidays and celebrations.

If you were to travel up into the Andes Mountains of Peru, you would meet the descendants of the Inca. You would meet people in brightly colored clothing. They’d be walking on mountain paths with llamas at their side. You would hear Quechua. That’s the language of the people who built Machu Picchu. You would most likely be invited to taste the different kinds of potatoes that the Inca people love to eat. And you would be able to watch the sun set over the beautiful Andes Mountains.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
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Native American Stories

Lesson 64 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Adoette, Adoette’s, Aholi, Akando, Alemeda, Alo, Aponi, Awan, Delsin, Etu, Hakan, Kele, atlati, birch, butternuts, chasers, discarded, guardians, hazelnuts, hesitating, kachinas, mammoth, mammoth’s, milkweed, rabbitbrush, shaded, shamans, shimmering, signaling, skunkbrush, slingshots, spur, strapped, thrower, toothy, tracker, urging, wands, whooping


Chapter One: Etu, the Hunter
We walked silently and carefully across the glistening snow. The sun shone on the snow and made it sparkle and shine like the stars in the night sky. Before we left our camp, my brothers had told me many times that I must do exactly as they said. If I did not, they would send me away. They said that as we walked, I must step silently and carefully into my older brother’s footprints. My oldest brother, Hakan, was six years older than me. He was the lead tracker. His footprints led the way. My brother Delsin was three years older than me. He followed closely behind Hakan, stepping easily into his footprints. I was right behind Delsin, trying hard not to wobble from side to side as I stepped into his enormous footprints.

My father and uncles moved in a straight line some distance behind us. These were the men in our family who hunted and killed the great creatures that roamed across the land we lived on. Each man held a flint-tipped spear and an “atlati,” or spear-thrower. My brothers and I had our slingshots slung over our shoulders. This was my first hunt. We were following a herd of woolly mammoths. We were waiting for one member of the herd to fall behind. As soon as it did, the men would move forward and drive it into a ditch. We had to be careful, though. It was important that the creature did not sense our presence. If it did, it would certainly charge at us using its great size and curved tusks as powerful weapons. If this happened, the herd itself would panic and would stampede, for sure.


I loved to listen to the sound of the crunching snow beneath our feet. I loved the feel of the icy wind against my cheeks. All around, the tips of tall, green grass sprang up from the snow-covered land. The woolly mammoths dined on the lush grass. They used their tusks to push the snow aside so that they could reach every juicy part of it.

We walked until the sun began to sink in the sky, and a golden haze touched the shimmering Earth. I spotted various clumps of tall grass that brought faint color to the mostly white, crisp terrain. As we walked, I thought about my mother and sister, who were also at work. They were repairing the shelter that we had built from mammoth skin, bones, branches, and Earth. Several days earlier, strong winds had damaged the camp that we had set up near the herd. They knew, as did we, that mammoth flesh could feed many people for quite some time. It could be dried and saved so that it lasted until the next successful hunt. A mammoth’s skin and fur could be made into warm clothing, or it could be used to make a cozy shelter.


Suddenly, my brother Hakan stopped moving and raised an arm. Then, he signaled for us to crouch down. We immediately did as he commanded. I peeked around to see the men behind us doing the same thing. My brother put a finger to his lips and looked at us directly, signaling us to be quiet. I could tell that he had spotted a lone woolly mammoth. As we crouched down in the snow, the hunters began to move forward. I held my breath as my father and uncles moved past us. I knew that they would not use their spears until the giant creature had been cornered in the ditch, with no way out. My heart pounded in my chest as I watched the men suddenly surround what seemed to be a young mammoth. They drove it with such skill into the snow-covered ditch, whooping and hollering as they went. Then, without hesitating, my father and uncles launched their spears. I watched this great and powerful creature fall, crashing to the ground.


Chapter Two: Adoette and Awan, the Bird Chasers
“Adoette, it’s time to go,” whispered Awan. “The sun is almost up!”

“I’m coming,” Adoette replied softly as she tiptoed through the doorway of her home. “I have fish for us to eat later,” she continued.

“I have water for us to drink,” Awan said as he smiled at Adoette.

The children chatted with each other as they made their way towards their family’s cornfield. The cornfield was a short distance from their village near the river. As they walked, the sound of crows cawing rose up into the warm, spring air. The crows had returned to signal that wintertime was over. The warmth of the sun was once again encouraging life in the sleeping Earth.

The sun was a yellow haze on the horizon as the two children walked together. Adoette and Awan had the important job of scaring the crows away from the corn seeds that had been planted in the field. The crows had returned just in time to watch the men of the village plant their crops. The dirt, no longer frozen, was now warm enough for planting. Using a hoe fashioned from the jaw bone of a deer and a small tree branch, the men created long, thin channels in the dirt. They placed the corn seeds one footprint apart in the bottom of each channel. They covered the seeds with dirt and watched as the rainfall and the sunshine did the rest.


Each family group had its own cornfield. Corn was an important crop. It could be stored for the winter in grass-covered pits. Corn was used to make flour for fried cakes, breads, and puddings. The husks of the corn plant were used to make baskets and mats. In addition to corn, each family grew beans and squash. They also hunted and fished. Once the corn was planted, the women checked to make sure that the young seedlings got plenty of water. If the spring rains did not come and water the Earth, then the women and children did. The children also had the job of protecting the young plants from all kinds of hungry critters.

Adoette and Awan were sent to the family cornfield each day to guard the crop. As the corn crop had just been planted, crows were the worst enemy. They would either dig up the newly planted seeds with their sharp talons, or they would wait for the seeds to germinate. Then, they would pull up each seedling plant, cawing with delight as they consumed the corn seed and discarded the rest.

As the two children arrived in the cornfield, they could see that several crows were already there. The crows sat in the dirt, watching the young plants. Adoette and Awan placed their supplies on the ground and yelled at the crows. The crows stared at the children with their coal-black eyes. Then, they flapped their wings and flew away. One crow, however, could not quite lift its body off the ground and instead tried to scuttle away from the children. It made its way towards some low-lying shrubs.


“Oh, it’s injured!” exclaimed Adoette. “We must help it.”

“Help it?!” screeched Awan. “We’re supposed to chase it away.”

“If it can’t fly, it could be eaten up by any number of creatures,” continued Adoette eagerly.

“You are crazy,” said Awan.

Slowly, Adoette made her way towards the crow. The crow had stopped moving just in front of a shrub. It had turned to look at Adoette. “Are you injured?” Adoette asked the bird softly. “Here, let me help you.” The crow inched its body under the shrub and stared intently at Adoette. Adoette sat down in the dirt and chatted with the crow for a while. Awan, unhappy with his cousin’s behavior, stomped off to look for snakes. Eventually, Adoette reached in under the shrub and gently, yet confidently, picked up the bird. The crow flapped its wings for a second or two, but then settled down in Adoette’s arms. When Awan returned, he found Adoette watching the field with a crow in her arms.


“What are you going to do with it?” asked Awan, who was quite astonished by the sight of his cousin cuddling a crow.

“I’m going to make it better,” Adoette exclaimed. Awan simply shook his head.

For the rest of the day, the two children guarded the corn crop. When the sun began to set, they made their way back to the village. Adoette walked proudly beside Awan, carrying the enemy in her arms.


Chapter Three: Akando and Aponi, The Gatherers
I stared up at the blue sky and squinted. It was hot. There was not a cloud in the sky. Even though the leaves on the trees were now changing to splendid colors that made me stop and stare, the intense heat of the sun still lingered. I stood for a moment and rested my tired feet. I could tell that the heat of the day would soon be replaced by an explosive thunderstorm. I glanced back toward our village, but it was now almost completely out of sight. I couldn’t see the roofs of the houses and storage rooms, nor the smoke rising up from each family hearth. I could, however, still see our chief’s home. I could also still glimpse the ceremonial buildings that sat upon the large mounds that my people had constructed.

My brother Akando and I had been sent out with our baskets to gather wild fruits, berries, and nuts. In fact, this was the time of the year when most of the children in our village were put to work. This was the time of year when the children gathered nuts, fruits, and berries that could be preserved or dried. We also gathered wild onions and milkweed. This food would be needed when the Earth was frozen. It was important that we gathered what nature provided for us before the rains came and washed it all away, or the frost came and killed it.


The crops that we grew, sunflowers, corn, squash, and tobacco, were also being harvested. Some of the older children were busily helping in the fields. Only the Shamans were allowed to gather tobacco and the roots and bark that were used for medicine. My brother told me that the Shamans offered tobacco to the four directions of the Earth before the roots of the medicine plant were taken. I looked ahead, in search of Akando. My brother was so far ahead of me that I was losing sight of him. “Akando, slow down,” I called to my brother. “Can we rest for a while?”

Akando looked back at me. He is my twin brother, and even though we are the same size, he is stronger than I am. Akando had a large birch bark basket strapped around his waist. It was almost full to the brim with hickory nuts and hazelnuts. I had a basket strapped to my waist, too. Mine was smaller than his and it was only half full with butternuts and acorns. “Just for a short while, Aponi,” he yelled back. “We haven’t even begun to collect the berries.”

Akando walked back and sat down beside me on the ground. “Want to play a game?” he asked.

“Yes. What game?” I replied eagerly.

“We’ll play a guessing game,” Akando replied. “Now, turn away until I say you can look.” Akando was very bossy, but I loved him. He always stuck up for me when some of the children in the village teased me. “Okay, ready!” said Akando.


I turned around to see that three large, autumnal oak leaves had been placed on the ground. Akando had placed a stone under one of them and I had to guess which one. I only had one guess. We would do this three times, then we would switch, and Akando would have to guess. He always beat me. “The one in the middle,” I said hopefully.

“Wrong!” exclaimed Akando. “It’s the one on the left,” he said, as he lifted up the leaf to reveal the stone. My next guess was also wrong, but my third and final guess was correct.

“Now, it’s your turn,” I said. As always, Akando beat me. He got two out of three guesses right.

“Okay, let’s go,” he said, urging me on. “The sooner we gather all that we can, the sooner we can return home.”

“I guess,” I said, but I continued to sit on the ground.

“Later on, if you like, I will show you how to beat me in the guessing game,” Akando offered, trying to spur me on. It worked.

“Really?” I asked, jumping to my feet and picking up my basket.

“Really!” Akando replied. “But first you have to fill that basket!”

“Okay,” I said, smiling at him. Then, I grabbed my brother’s hand and walked with him beneath the canopy of red-, gold-, and copper-colored leaves.


Chapter Four: Alemeda, the Basket Weaver
“Alemeda! Where are you?” my mother called. I did not answer. Instead, I crept around the corner of our home and hid. I waited and watched in the cooling shade. I held my breath. I was just about to close my eyes when a lizard raced across my bare feet. It tickled.

“She’s hiding from you,” my younger brother Kele announced. “She’s over there, he said, pointing towards me. I did not reply but stuck my tongue out at Kele. He was always getting me into trouble.

“Alemeda, we need you. We have work to do. We must finish the baskets,” my mother said, as I made my way towards her. She was not angry, but it was clear that she was not going to let me play. I had work to do.

I walked slowly towards the shaded area that my father had constructed out of wooden poles and a covering. I kicked at the dirt as I walked. There were several of these structures scattered around our village. Women could be found sitting under them weaving baskets of various shapes and sizes. They also created a whole host of other things. Men could be found sitting together shaping tools for hunting and farming. All of the women in our village made baskets. Baskets were very important because they were used for carrying water, for storing grain, fruits, nuts, and berries, and even for cooking.


“Sit near me,” my grandmother said as I came and stood beside her. I sighed deeply and threw myself down on the ground next to her. She smiled and handed me the basket that I had begun to make the day before. “Our people have been making these baskets since time began,” she said. “This skill has been handed down from one generation to the next. It is important that you learn it, Alemeda.”

“I know,” I replied, and then I sighed again. “But I would rather learn how to hunt than weave baskets,” I admitted.

My grandmother laughed out loud. “When I was your age, I thought the same thing,” she replied.

“Really?” I asked, looking at her wise, old face. “Then, why are you making me do it?” I asked eagerly, wondering if there was a way out.

Grandmother looked at me for a few moments before she replied. Then she asked, “When you hunt, or fish, or even farm, what are you going to do with the food that you have provided?”

“Eat it!” I exclaimed cheerfully.


“But we can’t eat everything at once,” she chuckled. “We must save the corn that we harvest. We must dry some of the meat that we hunt for, we must store the fruits and berries that we gather. We must store this food safely so that we can survive during the time when the sun has turned away from us. You will come to see, Alemeda, how important it is to learn this skill. Now, remember what I told you yesterday. All coiled baskets are made from plants that bend easily. Plants such as yucca, split willow, rabbitbrush, or skunkbrush are the best.”

“I remember,” I said, still not convinced that I wouldn’t be happier hunting. “Is that why we can also make rope, sandals, mats, and even clothes out of these plants that bend easily?” I asked, trying not to sound too interested.


“Yes, these plants have many uses. But it is our skill as weavers that enables us to make these things. Plus, Alemeda, you want to get married don’t you?” she asked as she revealed a large toothy grin.

“No,” I replied immediately.

My grandmother exploded with loud laughter. “Well, in case you ever change your mind, your skill as a weaver might get you noticed by any one of those boys that you like to go hunting with,” she continued, her eyes shining with delight.
“Yuck,” I said by way of a reply, and then I spat in the dirt to make my point even more clearly.

“Well, just in case you change your mind, we had better get to work,” Grandmother said with a chuckle. Then, together we began to weave the baskets that my people had been making since time began.


Chapter Five: Alo, the Spirit Giver
Hello! My name is Alo. I am a ten-year-old Hopi boy. Welcome to my village. It snowed last night, just enough to cover my feet. The snow did not stay on the ground for long though. The warmth of the morning sun melted it all. My younger brothers and sisters had hoped to play in it. They were disappointed to see the shimmering blanket of snow disappear so quickly into the thirsty Earth.

Today is an important day for my people. Today is the Bean Dance Ceremony. The spirits, or as my people call them, kachinas, have arrived on Earth. They left their home on the tall mountains on the darkest day of the year and came to us. That was several weeks ago. From that day until the day when the sun shines longest in the sky, they will stay with us. They are our guardians. Long ago, they lived here on Earth and taught us how to hunt, gather, and farm. Then, they left us but agreed to return for half of the year.

In case you do not know, the word kachina means “father of life.” For us, living as we do in the hot, arid desert lands of our forefathers, we could not survive here without the help of the spirits — the kachinas. Kachinas care for every living thing on Earth, and all living things go to the spirit world when they die. So, you see, kachinas are actually the spirits of everything that has ever lived. They govern the moon, the stars, the thunderous heavens, and the crops, as well as our health. Many of the kachinas are our ancestors who have become the cloud spirits that bring us rain.


On certain days of the year, the kachinas take us on a journey into the spirit world. Today is such a day, and I will at last make that journey. I will take part in the Bean Dance Ceremony. This is one of our most important ceremonies. Today, the people of my village will ask the spirits to help us as we once again prepare the Earth for planting. We will ask especially for the gift of rain. I have offered many, many prayer feathers and gifts of corn seed to the spirits in preparation for this ceremony. My mother now calls me the “spirit giver.”

On days such as today, boys from the age of ten to the elders in our village wear special kachina clothing and face masks. Only boys and men can do this. The special clothing and masks represent spirits. These items reveal what spirit we are going to become. For you see, when we take part in these ceremonies, and wear the special clothing and masks, we actually become those spirits. Perhaps you could come to the ceremony. If you can come, pay close attention to the Aholi Kachina spirit. That is the Hopi rain spirit. The boys and men who will become that spirit will wear multicolored cloaks and may even carry wands. They will wear bright blue masks or headdresses. They will hold rattles made from gourds. When they shake the rattles, it sounds like rain falling. Often, within hours of the ceremony, rain will actually begin to fall.


I will not be asking for rain though. My father is very ill, and so today, I will become the Bear Kachina. The Bear Kachina can cure the sick, and when I become that spirit, I will make my father well again. If you come to the ceremony, you will know me by the mask that has the bear paw prints on either cheek. It is my first time in such an important ceremony, and I must do my best. I must cure my father. This year he was not well enough to make the kachina dolls for my sisters. My uncle had to do that for them. We need him to be well again soon. My brothers and sisters want to play with him. I want to help him prepare the fields and plant and harvest the beans and corn that we grow each year. Oh, but I must go now. It is time. If you can come, please look for me, but do not call out my spirit name. That will bring bad luck.












Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view.)

Native American Stories

Lesson 65 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Cherokees, Dustu, Elan, Elan’s, Etu’s, Meda, Miki, Miki’s, Nyah, Salali, Yutu, Yutu’s, bursts, chickadees, comforts, communicates, fearfully, forefather, frostbite, funnel, glowed, gwaheh, gwaheh’s, husk, inviting, jokingly, linger, obedience, offended, peels, progressed, publicly, reared, runt, shaman, slingshot, snowfall, spiraled, stagger, stating, sulkily, sumac, towline, towlines, trainers, trickles, walrus, wean, weaned, wigwam


Chapter Six: Meda and Flo, the Forest Children
“Flo, I’ll race you to that tree over there,” said Meda, pointing to one of the maple trees.

“Okay,” I said confidently. I was one of the fastest runners among the girls of my age in our village. I wondered why Meda was even challenging me to a race. Immediately, Meda flew like an arrow straight toward her target. She was clearly hoping that a quick start would give her an advantage over me. However, like a shooting star that bursts across the night sky, I was on her heels in no time. Just before we reached the tree, I passed her and touched the tree trunk.

“I won,” I exclaimed. “You’re pretty fast though, Meda,” I admitted. “Considering that you are a year younger than me, that was quite a race!”

“Yes! This time next year, when we return to the maple tree forest, I’ll be able to beat you,” Meda said confidently, while at the same time grinning at me.

I grinned back. “I’ll still be a year older than you,” I said rising to the challenge.

“I know. You’ll always be that. But I have a feeling that this time next year, I will be taller than you,” she replied as if she were stating a fact.


“Well, we’ll see about that,” I replied as I eyed her feet. They were already bigger than mine and she was only a thumb size shorter than me. I couldn’t help thinking that she might be right, but I wasn’t going to admit it.

This was my favorite time of year, by far. It was the time of year when the eagles built their spring nests. The chickadees made their strange, eerie call in the early morning. The snow was melting all around, and tree buds were emerging daily. This was also the time of year when my family, along with my uncles and aunts and their children, set up camp in the maple tree forest. We did this every year at the beginning of spring. We left our summer and winter village and returned to our camp in the forest. In the fall, we camped near the fields that we planted our crops in.

We always returned to the same maple forest camp. It was a good-sized clearing encircled by a large number of maple trees and birch trees. We returned here each year to collect the sap from the maple trees and turn it into the sweet syrup that we all loved so much.

This year we were lucky. The winter winds and frequent snowfall had not destroyed our wigwam frames from the previous year. We only had to wrap the deerskin that we had carried with us around the frames. After we made our campfire, the children had a chance to play before the real work began. Once we were settled, the men would use their axes to make small, deep cuts in the trunks of the maple trees. Then, we would wait for the sap to trickle out. As it did, the women and children would funnel the sap into birch baskets or clay pots. We used curved pieces of cedar wood or hollowed-out sumac stems as funnels.


Sap from the maple tree looks like water when it first trickles out from inside the tree. Once the sap is collected, my mother and aunts cook it in a clay pot. Sometimes, they put the pot right on the open campfire. Other times, they put red-hot rocks right into the clay pots. After you’ve cooked it for a while, the sap turns into sweet syrup. If you keep on cooking it, the sap turns into sugar. During this time, the older girls also collect birch bark. They strip the bark from the trees and pound it until it can be shaped and molded into storage containers or dishes. The men and boys busy themselves hunting and fishing. In the evening, we all spend time together around the campfire exchanging stories.

“Come on, Flo,” yelled Meda, who had wandered off to watch the men at work. “I can smell dinner cooking.”

She was right. The succulent smell of deer meat wafted up into the crisp evening air. “Race you back,” I announced. This time I took off like an arrow shot from my father’s bow.


Chapter Seven: Yutu, the Dog Trainer
“Come here, Miki,” I called. Miki had been the runt of the litter. He had been puny and sickly for the first weeks of his life. My father was sure that he would die. I fed him and kept him warm, sometimes sneaking him into my cozy bed at night. I gave him the Inuit name for small. Miki wagged his tail and scampered toward me. Then, he plopped down right on my feet and rested his head on the snow.

When Miki’s brothers and sisters were old enough to be weaned from their mother, my father began to train them to be sled dogs. My people, the Inuit, are expert dog sled trainers. That’s because we live in a land that is frozen for a large part of the year. So, we rely a lot on our dogs to help us travel and hunt.

Inuit sled dogs have to be strong and fast. When Miki was younger, he was neither of these things. Sled dogs have to pull heavy loads and travel across long distances as speedily as they can. We Inuit live by our wits. We hunt and fish across this frozen land. We travel across the snow and ice in our sleds crafted from bones or antlers, seal hide, and even frozen salmon skin. We build snow homes made from blocks of snow as we go. Our dogs have to be able to sniff out seal breathing holes or stand firm with the other dogs when they come across a polar bear. I couldn’t imagine Miki doing any of these things, but he would have to.


My father had made it clear that he would have to earn his keep. I had grown up watching my father train the dogs. When the dogs are young, they are always eager to run, but they are less willing to work together. They have to be taught how to pull the sleds together, as a team. My father knows just how to talk to them. His voice is firm, and they obey him. This is important. When the dogs are pulling the sleds, they must all obey the commands given by the driver of the sled.

There are a number of ways to hitch the dogs so that they can pull the sleds. Quite often they are tied in pairs to a single towline. In deep snow, sometimes it is better to have the dogs pull the sled in a single line. This way, they can make a path through the snow. If the snow is packed down hard, a fan hitch is best. This means that the dogs are attached to the sled by their own individual towlines. The dogs themselves are more able to live in this frozen land than people are. They have thick, waterproof fur coats. Their ears are extra furry to prevent frostbite. Their paws are large and have thick pads with fur. Miki frequently jumps on me with his enormous paws and knocks me over. Their large, bushy tails can curl around their faces at night and keep them warm.


Once Miki was strong enough, I began to train him. At first, I worked with him on basic obedience. Then, I harnessed him to a towline and had him pull small loads of wrapped furs across the snow. The very first time he had to pull something, he raced off like an arctic fox. He thought we were playing a game. He soon learned to pull like I needed him to, though. He was also super fast. I felt sad for Miki. If he hadn’t been so sickly, I’m sure he could have been a lead dog. My father had watched me as I trained Miki. I think even he was surprised by how well Miki progressed. Miki had been by my side ever since he was a small puppy. Today was the day that he would leave me. He was going with my father and uncles on a hunting trip. They would be gone for several weeks. I bent down and patted Miki on the head. He immediately sat up and licked my face. “Be good, Miki. Do what you are told. Follow the other dogs and listen to my father. Do you hear me?” I said to him. Miki looked right at me and wagged his tail. Then, my father came and led him away.


Chapter Eight: SalaliDustu, and the Festival of Hope
“It’s time that you two lazy lizards did some work,” came the sound of my grandmother’s voice. “There is a lot to do before we go to the ceremony.”

“Okay, Grandmother,” I replied. “I will go help mother prepare the food for the feast.”

“What will you do?” asked my grandmother, as she turned to face Dustu. “Do you have a plan?” Dustu shook his head. “Well, I will give you one. I would like you to get small branches for the campfire. Now run along.” Dustu knew better than to argue with her. He reached for his axe and began to walk away. I knew that he would make his way to the forest edge.

“Oh, can I go with him to help him carry the wood?” I offered. Dustu was my younger brother, and I did not like it when he went into the forest alone.

“All right,” Grandmother replied. “Remember though, you have work to do!” With that, she promptly walked off to make food for the feast.

“Dustu, wait for me,” I called, as I chased after him. He turned to me, grinned, and then started to run. We reached the edge of the forest at the same time. Immediately, Dustu began to chop down small, slender branches and I began to gather them up. “Are you excited about the ceremony?” I asked. “I can’t wait to see the dancing!”


“I guess,” he said, sounding glum.

“What’s wrong, Dustu?” I asked. “Usually you are even more excited than I am about the ceremony.” Dustu was silent. He just kept chopping small branches off the trees. “Heh! If you don’t tell me, I’ll have to pull your ears off,” I said jokingly. Dustu tried hard not to laugh. He kept on chopping branches. Eventually, he sat down on the grass beneath a row of birch trees and began to attack the Earth with his axe.

“Father and Mother are making me apologize to Elan,” Dustu said sulkily.

“Why?” I asked, surprised.

“I pushed him in the river and he can’t swim,” he replied, with a serious look on his face.

“Why did you do that?” I asked, astonished.

“He’s always calling me names,” he replied, his face turning red as he spoke.


“Well Dustu, if you have to apologize, this is the best time of year to do so,” I replied. This was indeed an important time of year. The people of our village had been busily preparing for the Green Corn Festival. During the Festival, we Cherokees celebrate our first corn crop. We prepare for this special event by cleaning our homes and our village. We make new clothes, pots, and baskets. People say that they are sorry to anyone who they might have offended. We give thanks to the sun for providing us with everything that we need. It is thought of as a new beginning. Both my brother and I had already received our cleansing washes, and we had fasted, too. “I guess that they are hoping that you and Elan will work things out and become friends,” I offered.

Dustu simply shrugged and stood up again, ready to cut down more branches. Eventually, when we had more wood than we could comfortably carry, we staggered back toward the village. “I can’t wait until the ceremony begins,” I announced. “Tonight is the night of the full moon. At the campfire gathering, the leaders will announce who is getting married. Later, we will have a feast.” Dustu was silent. “Okay, I’ve had enough. What do I have to do for you to smile again?” I asked. I was determined to make Dustu feel happy again before the festivities began.

“Well, Salali, there is one thing,” he said at last. “Promise me that you won’t ever marry Elan.”


“What?” I yelled. “That will make you happy?”

“Yep!” proclaimed Dustu.

“It’s a deal. I promise that I won’t marry Elan,” I proclaimed solemnly.

“Good!” said Dustu. “That makes me very happy!”

“Glad to hear it,” I replied. Little did Dustu know that I planned to one day marry Elan’s brother.


Chapter Nine: The Hunting of the Great Bear: An Iroquois Tale
Long ago, there were four brothers who were all skillful hunters. One day, during the time of year when morning frost covers the earth, a messenger came to the village where they lived. “We need your help,” said messenger. “A great bear has come to live in the forest where we hunt. It also comes into our village at night.” The four hunters did not say a word. Instead, they gathered up their spears and called to their dog. Then, with the messenger, they set off for the village. On the way to the village, they noticed that the forest was very quiet. They also noticed deep scratches on the trunk of a pine tree. The scratches had been made by the great bear as it reared up on its hind legs. It had done this to mark its territory. The tallest brother raised his spear to try to touch the highest scratch marks, but he could not.

“Ah, it is as we feared,” he said. “The great bear is Nyahgwaheh.”

“This bear has magic powers,” said the second brother fearfully.

“Don’t worry,” said the tallest brother. “The bear’s magic will not work on us if we find its tracks first.”

“Yes, that is true,” said the third brother. “If we find Nyah-gwaheh’s tracks and begin to follow them, then it must run from us.”


“This sounds like hard work,” said the fourth brother, who was both chubby and lazy. “Do we have any food?” he asked. His brothers ignored him. As the brothers and the messenger entered the village, they were struck by an eerie silence. Only the village leader was there to greet them.

“We have come to help you,” said the first brother.

“Do you have any food?” asked the fourth brother.

“Pay no attention to him,” urged the oldest brother. “We will find this great bear.”

“I wish you luck,” said the village leader. “When we follow the great bear’s tracks, they disappear.”

“Do not worry,” said the second brother. “Four Eyes can track anything, anywhere.” Four Eyes licked his master’s hand. Four Eyes had two black circles on his head, one above each eye.

“Let’s go,” said the first brother.

“What, no food?” exclaimed the fourth brother as he ran behind the others.


The four brothers followed Four Eyes. Four Eyes sniffed the ground. They could all sense that Nyah-gwaheh was close by. It was important that they found its tracks before it began to follow them. The fourth brother, who by now felt very hungry, took out his pemmican pouch. He opened the pouch and reached in. Instead of food, he found nothing but worms. Nyah-gwaheh had transformed the food into worms. Meanwhile, like a monstrous ghost, Nyah-gwaheh moved through the forest, planning to creep up behind them.

Suddenly, Four Eyes lifted his head and barked. “We have found you,” yelled the first brother. Nyah-gwaheh began to run. The brothers followed. The great bear ran and ran, across valleys and hills. As they ran, day turned to night. Higher and higher they climbed to the top of a mountain.

The fourth brother grew weary. He pretended to fall and injure his ankle. “You must carry me,” he said. Two of the brothers lifted him up while the other one carried his spear. The great bear began to tire. So did the brothers. Eventually, Four Eyes got close enough to the bear to nip its tail. “You can put me down now,” said the fourth brother, who was nicely rested. The brothers put him down. Immediately, he sprinted off in front of his brothers. Minutes later, the fourth brother was close enough to the bear to kill it with his spear. When the three brothers caught up with him, he had already built a fire and was cutting up the meat.


“Sit down. I hope that you are as hungry as I am,” said the fourth brother, smiling. Together, the brothers cooked and ate the meat of the great bear.

“Brothers,” said the first brother staring down at his feet. “We are not on a mountain, we are high up in the sky.” He was right. The great, magical bear had led them up into the heavens.

Suddenly, Four Eyes began to bark. “Look,” said the second brother. The four brothers stared at what was left of Nyah-gwaheh’s body. The great bear was coming back to life. As they watched, it began to run away. Four Eyes took off after it.

“Let’s go,” said the first brother. The brothers reached for their spears and ran after the great bear. They chased it across the sky. And so it remains. Each autumn, the brothers chase the bear across the sky. When they catch it, they kill it. As they cut up the meat, blood drips down to Earth and colors the leaves of the maple tree red. As they cook the bear, fat drips down and makes the grass pale and lifeless.


Chapter Ten: Crow Brings the Daylight: An Inuit Myth
Long ago, when the world was new, the Inuit people lived in darkness. They did not know what daylight was. It was Crow who first explained it to them, and even then, they did not believe him. Crow knew about daylight because he traveled back and forth between the north and the south. Nevertheless, the Inuit people asked to hear about daylight over and over. The young boys and girls were especially interested in what Crow said.

“How wonderful it would be if we had daylight,” said one boy. “It would make hunting a lot easier.”

Eventually, the Inuit people grew tired of hearing about daylight. They wanted daylight, and they begged Crow to bring it to them.

“I can’t do that,” said Crow. “I am old now and no longer strong enough to travel so far.”

The Inuit children pleaded with Crow to do this one thing for them. Finally, Crow agreed to travel south.


Crow flew for miles and miles through the darkness that covered the lands of the north. He became tired, but he continued his journey. Eventually, Crow saw a tiny rim of light far off in the distance. He knew that daylight was not far away. All of a sudden, daylight appeared all around Crow. Crow found himself in a world of light and vibrant colors. Crow knew that his journey was over, and he came to rest on the branch of a tree. Crow felt the warmth of the sun on his wings. He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he realized that the tree he was sitting in was just outside a village. Near the village was a long, winding river. Crow watched as a young girl used a bucket to collect water from the river. Crow decided to follow the girl. He turned himself into a speck of dust. Then, he floated down to settle in the girl’s fur cloak. The girl carried the bucket of water back to her family’s snow lodge.

It was nice and warm inside the snow lodge. Crow, disguised as a speck of dust, peeped out from inside the girl’s hood. He saw a box that glowed around the edges. “This must be daylight,” thought Crow to himself. Crow had a plan. He floated into the ear of a small boy who was playing by himself. The boy rubbed his ear and then began to cry. His ear had started to hurt. His grandfather, who was the chief of the village, came running to find out what was wrong.


“Don’t cry,” said his grandfather.

Crow, who was still inside the boy’s ear, whispered to him, “You want to play with a ball of daylight.” The boy repeated the words. The boy’s grandfather asked his daughter to bring the glowing box to him. When she did, he reached inside and removed a glowing ball. Then, he tied it with string and handed it to the boy. The boy loved the gift that his grandfather had given him.

However, Crow scratched at the boy’s ear and he began to cry again.

“What is wrong?” asked the boy’s grandfather anxiously.

“You would like to play outside,” whispered Crow. Once again, the boy repeated Crow’s words.

“Off you go, then,” said his grandfather.

The boy ran out of the snow lodge. Immediately, Crow left the boy’s ear and turned back into his feathered self. Then, quick as a flash, he swooped down and grabbed the string with his beak. Crow pulled the glowing ball away from the boy and flew up into the blue sky.


After a long while, the Inuit people caught sight of a ray of light. The light grew brighter and brighter. Finally, they saw their old friend Crow flying towards them. The Inuit people jumped for joy. Crow dropped the ball of light and it spread across their land. The light chased away the darkness. The sky became a brilliant blue and the snow glistened and sparkled in the sunlight.

Crow smiled. “There is one thing that you must know,” Crow said quite seriously. “Daylight will not last forever. I was only able to take one ball of daylight. This ball of light will need to rest for six months each year. It will need to regain its strength. While it is resting, darkness will return.”

“We do not mind,” said a young Inuit girl. “Having light for half of the year is better than a whole year of darkness. Thank you, Crow. You are our hero.”

Crow solemnly bowed his head.

Ancestor—a person in your family who was alive long ago, even before your grandparents (ancestors). Apologize—to say you are sorry.
Arctic—relating to extreme cold and winter.
Arid—extremely dry due to a lack of rain.
Autumnal—relating to the season of fall.
Axe—a tool with a sharp blade on the end of a long handle that is used to chop wood (axes).

Basic—relating to the most important part of something.
Birch—a tree with hard wood and smooth bark that peels off easily in strips.

Caw—to cry like a crow (cawing).
Ceremonial—relating to a formal series of events that mark an important occasion.
Channel—a long, narrow row dug for planting seeds (channels).
Chat—to talk in an informal, friendly way (chatted).
Cleansing—makes very clean.
Clearing—an open space in a forest.
Cloak—cape (cloaks).
Command—an order to do something (commands).
Construct—to build (constructed).
Craft—to make with skill and care (crafted).
Critter—a small animal (critters).
Crouch—to stoop or squat (crouched).

Earn his keep—to gain a position through hard work.
Elder—an older person in a community who is respected and seen as having authority (elders).
Emerge—to come into view from a hidden place (emerging).
Eye—to look at something in a close or careful way (eyed).

Feast—a special meal with much food and drink in celebration of something.
Festival—a special celebration of something.
Festivities—activities that are part of a celebration.
Flesh—the meat of an animal.
Flint—a type of hard rock.
Forefather—an ancestor (forefathers).
Frostbite—a condition in which part of your body freezes.
Funnel—(verb) to pass through a narrow opening; (noun) a cone with a narrow opening at the bottom that is used to pour something into a narrow container (funnels).

Generation—the average length of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their children, about 25 to 30 years.
Germinate—to sprout.
Glow—to give off a steady light (glowed, glowing).
Gourd—a hard-skinned fruit that grows on a vine, such as a pumpkin or squash (gourds).

Harness—to attach to a set of straps that connect an animal to something that it pulls (harnessed).
Haze—smoke or mist that fills the air and makes it hard to see.
Headdress—a decorative head covering usually worn for special occasions (headdresses).
Hearth—the area in front of a fireplace.
Hind—at the back.
Hitch—to connect one thing to another.
Hoe—a tool with a long handle and a flat blade used for gardening to loosen dirt and dig up weeds.
Horizon—the line in the distance where the Earth or ocean seems to meet the sky.
Host—a large number of things.
Husk—the outer covering of seeds such as corn (husks).

Kachina—the Hopi name for spirit (kachinas).

Lead—first, serving as the leader.
Linger—to be slow to leave (lingered).
Litter—a group of baby animals born at the same time to the same mother.
Lodge—a small home used for a short time period.

Mammoth—an ancient elephant that was covered with woolly fur and had long tusks that curved upward.
Mark its territory—an animal shows the area in which it lives by leaving some kind of mark throughout the area, such as a scent, scratches on trees or plants, or other signals.
Milkweed—a plant with juicy leaves.
Monstrous—gigantic, horrible.

Obedience—the act of following orders.
Offend—to make someone upset or angry through words or actions (offended).

Pemmican—food eaten by Native Americans made by mixing dried, pounded, fine meat with melted fat.
Pouch—a small bag made of leather or fabric.
Preserve—to prepare food to keep for future use (preserved).
Previous—the last one before now.
Proclaim—to announce publicly (proclaimed).
Puny—small and weak.

Rear—to stand up on hind legs (reared).
Rim—the edge of something round.
Runt—the smallest animal in a litter.

Sap—liquid that flows inside a plant.
Scamper—to run quickly and playfully; scuttle (scampered).
Scuttle—to run quickly and playfully; scamper.
Settled—living in a new place.
Shaman—a person who heals the sick and communicates with spirits (Shamans).
Shelter—a structure that covers people.
Slingshot—a Y-shaped stick – with elastic bands attached – that is used to shoot small stones (slingshots).
Sniff—to smell something.
Solemnly—in a very serious way.
Speck—a small spot.
Speedily—in a fast way.
Spirit—a ghost of a person who has passed away (spirits).
Sprint—to run fast for a short distance (sprinted).
Squint—to look at with partially closed eyes (squinted).
Stagger—to walk unsteadily as if about to fall (staggered).
Stampede—to suddenly run away in fear as a large group.
Store—to put things away for future use (stored).
Strip—to tear something off.
Succulent—rich, inviting, mouth-watering.
Sulkily—in a way that shows you are angry or upset but don’t want to talk about why.

Talon—a sharp claw of a bird of prey (talons).
Terrain—the shape of land.
Tobacco—a plant whose leaves are harvested for smoking or chewing.
Towline—a rope or chain used to pull something (towlines).
Tracker—a person who follows animal tracks.
Trickle—to flow extremely slowly in a thin stream or drops (trickles).
Tusk—one of two long, curved teeth that stick out of an animal’s mouth, such as an elephant or walrus (tusks).

Urge—to try hard to persuade (urged).


Waft—to carry through the air (wafted).
Wean—to feed a young child or animal food other than its mother’s milk (weaned).
Weary—extremely tired.
Wigwam—a hut made by covering a framework of wooden poles with bark or animal hides.
Wits—the ability to think quickly and make good decisions.
Wobble—to move from side to side in an unsteady way.
Woolly—covered with soft, thick, curly hair.

Illustration subtitles:
Etu steps into his brother’s footprints. A herd of woolly mammoths grazing. Etu’s mother and sister repair their shelter. The hunters corner the mammoth. Adoette and Awan head toward the cornfield. People working to plant corn seeds. Awan scares crows away while Adoette notices a hurt crow. Awan returns to find Adoette holding the crow. Awan continues to guard the corn crop. Aponi looks back toward her village. Food that children gathered. Aponi calls to Akando to wait. Akando and Aponi play a guessing game. Akando and Aponi walk hand in hand to collect more food. Alemeda hides from her mother. Alemeda walks through her village. Alemeda talks to her grandmother as they weave baskets. Grandmother and Alemeda work and laugh together. Alo looks out over the snow-dusted desert while kachina spirits swirl in the sky. Kachinas travel down the mountain, giving life to the desert. Alo dresses for the ceremony. Alo looks back at his home and family. Flo and Meda race to a large maple tree. Signs of spring in the forest. Everyone in the camp works to tap and cook maple syrup. Meda and Flo race back to the camp. Yutu with Miki. Yutu and Miki watch as Yutu’s father works with other dogs. Yutu’s father works with dogs using a fan hitch. Yutu says goodbye to Miki before he sets out on his first hunting trip as a sled dog. Grandmother sends Dustu and Salali to work. Dustu chops branches, looking glum. People prepare for the Green Corn Festival. Salali makes Dustu feel happy again. The four brothers examine marks left by the great bear. The four brothers listen to the village leader. The search for Nyah-gwaheh. Chasing Nyah-gwaheh higher and higher. The four brothers realize they are high up in the sky. Every autumn, the brothers chase the bear across the sky. Inuit children beg crow to tell them about daylight. Crow watches a girl collect water. The boy’s grandfather comforts him with a ball of daylight. Crow flies away with the glowing ball. The Inuit people celebrate daylight.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Fairy Tales <With Scarier Characters!> 

Lesson 66 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Balthazar, Casper, Doolittle, Eggleston, Groucho, Miller’s, Rapunzel, Rapunzel’s, Rumpelstiltskin, Winklehopper, bantling, benevolently, bequeath, boasting, comatose, confining, contraption, croaking, dogged, dominions, fete, gadded, galled, gandering, hawked, ickiest, jauntily, jubilant, ka, lighten, loneliness, merciful, overheard, petrified, pinkie, pixie, regretfully, rejoicing, resounding, saturnalia, scratchy, sheepshanks, snickerdoodle, stalls, synchronously, turrets, unwillingly, vacated, warty, wheel’s, whir, whirr


Chapter One: Sleeping Beauty 
Once upon a time, there lived a king and queen. For many years they had been quite sad. This was because they had no child. At last, a little daughter was born to them. The king was now jubilant. So, he planned a grand fete in the palace. He would invite all of his friends and relatives to attend it.

Now, in his dominions, there were thirteen fairies. Of course, the king wished to invite all of the fairies to the feast, too. He hoped that each might look benevolently upon his child. Perhaps they might bequeath to the bantling a special pixie gift. But the king had only twelve gold plates for the fairies to eat from. So, regretfully, it was decided that one fairy had to be left out.

The saturnalia was held. And what a wonderful celebration it was. It was drawing to an end. At this point, the fairies came forward. They would now give the child their special gifts. One said this to the child. “I give you the gift of virtue. That way, you may be good.” Another said, “I give you the gift of wisdom. That way, you may be wise.” A third fairy gave the child the gift of beauty. A fourth gave her riches. And on it went. Each fairy gave everything in the world that one could wish for.


Eleven of the fairies had given their gifts. The twelfth was just about to speak. Then suddenly, in came the thirteenth fairy. She was the one who had been left out. She was very galled. She hawked in a resounding voice, “When the princess is fifteen years of age, she shall prick herself with a spindle. Then she shall die!”

She spoke not another word. Then, the angry fairy quickly vacated the hall. Everyone was petrified at what she had said. Then the twelfth fairy came forward. She said, “I cannot undo the evil spell. But I CAN lighten it. Here, then, is my gift to the child. The princess shall not die. But she will remain peacefully comatose for a hundred years.”

The king was dogged in his determination to protect his child. “Surely,” he said, “my daughter can’t prick herself with a spindle if she never sees one.” So, he gave a kingdom-wide order. Each spindle in the kingdom was to be burned.

The princess grew up. And all the fairies’ gifts to the child were plain to see. She was good, wise, kind, and quite a beauty. Each person who saw her, loved her.


The day came that she turned fifteen. The king and queen were away from the palace. The princess was left on her own. She gadded about the palace. She was gandering into all sorts of places. She was peeking into rooms that she had not explored before. She climbed a confining, winding stair. It led to a little door. There was a rusty key sticking out of the lock. She turned the key. The door opened with a grating creak. And there in a little room was an old woman. She sat with a spinning wheel. She was busily spinning away.

She entered the room. “Good day,” said the princess. “What are you doing?” she asked. You see, she had never seen a spinning wheel before.

“I’m spinning,” was the reply.

The princess stretched forth her hand. She asked, “What is this contraption that spins around so jauntily?” But hardly had she spoken. All of a sudden, she pricked her pinkie on the spinning wheel’s spindle. And that’s all that it took. The evil curse was released upon her. In that very moment, she fell into a deep sleep.

At the same time, sleep fell upon each person in the palace. The king and queen had just come home. They were in the great hall. They, too, fell fast asleep. All the creatures at the palace also fell asleep. The horses in their stalls. The dogs in the yard. The pigeons on the roof. The flies on the wall. Why, even the fire on the hearth went out. And the wind stopped. And not a leaf fell from the trees.


In time, a hedge of thorns grew around the castle. It grew thicker and higher each year. At last, nothing could be seen of the castle. Not even the flags on the highest turrets.

The years passed. Stories spread throughout the land. There were tales of a beautiful princess sleeping behind a wall of thorns. Many a young prince came. But none could break through the thorns. Many more years passed. But at long last, there was soon to be some resolution to the curse.

There came into the country a king’s son. He had overheard an old man tell the story. There was supposed to be a lost castle. It stood behind a hedge of thorns. There, an enchanted princess was said to lay sleeping. The prince said, “I shall make my way through. I will see the lovely princess.” The old man warned him. He said that many had tried and failed. But the prince would not listen.


For now, the hundred years were at an end. The day had come for the sleeping princess to be awakened. The prince drew near the hedge of thorns. It changed into a hedge of beautiful flowers. They bent aside to let him pass. He reached the castle yard. He saw the horses and dogs lying asleep. And on the roof, the pigeons were sitting with their heads under their wings. He entered the castle and climbed the steps. The prince saw everyone still asleep. The king, the queen, the cook, the maids, everyone. All was so quiet. He could hear his own breathing.

At last, the prince went up the narrow winding stair. He came to the room where the princess was sleeping. He saw her looking so lovely in her sleep. He could not turn his eyes away. He bent down and kissed her. Then, she opened her eyes and smiled at him.

Together, they went down the stairs. There were the king and queen waking up. And synchronously, all the people in the castle were waking up. They were looking at each other in great surprise. The horses in the yard got up and shook themselves. The dogs sprang up and wagged their tails. The pigeons on the roof flew into the fields. The flies on the wall buzzed and crept a little farther. Even the kitchen fire leapt up and blazed.

At last, the wedding of the prince and princess was held. There was great feasting and rejoicing. And they lived happily together for the rest of their days.


Chapter Two: Rumpelstiltskin
Once upon a time, there was a poor miller who had a beautiful daughter. She was so beautiful and clever that he could not help boasting about her.

One day, the miller happened to come before the king, and to impress the king, he began boasting about his daughter. And before he knew it, he found himself saying that his daughter was so amazing and so wonderful, why, she could even spin gold out of straw!

“That,” said the king, “is a talent worth having. Bring your daughter to me, and let us see what she can do.”

When the girl was brought to the palace, the king led her to a room that was almost full of straw. He pointed to a spinning wheel and said, “Get to work. You must spin this straw into gold by early morning, or else!”

The poor miller’s daughter. Of course, she could not spin straw into gold! What could she do? She could think of nothing, and in the end, she sat down and began to cry.

And that’s when, all of a sudden, “ka-lick,” the door opened, and in walked a little man. “Good evening, miller’s daughter,” he said. “Why are you crying?”


“Because,” she answered, “I must spin all this straw into gold before morning, and I don’t know how.”

Then the little man came close to her and whispered, “What will you give me if I spin it for you?”

“Why, I, I’ll give you my necklace,” she stammered.

The little man took the necklace, stood at the spinning wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, he spun, and he spun, and by sunup all the straw had been spun into gold. When the king arrived at sunrise, he was amazed. But the sight of all that gold made the greed for more grow in him.

So the king took the miller’s daughter to a larger room, filled with yet more straw, and told her that she must spin all this into gold in one night. Again the girl did not know what to do and sat down to cry, when, ka-lick, the door opened, and in walked the little man.

“Crying again, I see,” he said. “So, I suppose you have to spin all this into gold, too. What will you give me if I do it for you?”

“The ring from my finger,” answered the girl.


So, the little man took the ring, stood at the spinning wheel, and whir, whir, whir, he spun, and he spun, and by sunup all the straw had been spun into gold. When the king arrived, he was overjoyed at the sight, but hungry for still more gold. So, he took the miller’s daughter to an even larger room filled with straw and said, “Spin all this in one night, and if you succeed, well then, you shall be my wife.”

The king had hardly left the room when, ka-lick, the door opened and in came the little man asking, “What will you give me if I spin all this straw for you one more time?”

“I have nothing left to give,” the girl answered sadly.

“Then promise me this,” said the little man. “Promise me that when you are queen, you will give me your first child.”

The miller’s daughter thought that there was really very little chance that she would ever be queen, and so she promised, and the little man set to work at once. By morning the gold was piled so high that it reached the ceiling. When the king arrived, he was pleased to see all the gold that he wanted. He married the miller’s daughter and made her queen.

In a year’s time, the king and queen had a fine little baby. She thought no more about the little man or her promise to him. Then one day, as she sat alone in her room rocking her baby, ka-lick, the door opened, and in walked the little man, who said, “Now it is time for you to give me what you promised me.”


The queen, filled with fear, held her baby tightly. “Please,” she said, “I will give you all the riches of the kingdom, only leave me my child.”

But the little man said, “No, I would rather have a living being than all the treasures in the world.” Then the queen began to weep and wail, and the little man felt pity for her. “Okay, okay, I will give you this one chance,” he said. “In three days, if you can guess my name, then you may keep your child.” And then he was gone as quickly as he had come.

The queen lay awake all night thinking of all the names she had ever heard. She sent a messenger to ride through the land and collect all the names that could be found. And when the little man came the next day, she tried all that she had been able to think of. Names like Alexander, Balthazar, Casper, Doolittle, Eggleston, Ferdinand, and many more. But after each, the little man only said, “That is not my name.”

The next day the queen sent servants all around the kingdom to find the most unusual names, and when the little man came, she tried them. “Are you called Sheepshanks? Roast-Ribs? Snickerdoodle? Groucho? Winklehopper?” But after each, the little man only said, “That is not my name.”


On the third and last day, the queen was worried sick. She held her child tight and wondered what to do, when ka-lick, the door opened and in walked, no, not the little man, but the messenger who the queen had sent in search of names. He bowed to the queen and said, “My lady, as I passed through the woods last night, I came to a high hill, and near it was a little house, and outside the house a fire was burning, and around the fire danced a funny little man, and as he hopped up and down, he sang this.” 

“Today I brew, tomorrow I bake,
And then the fair queen’s child I’ll take.
And no one can deny my claim,
For Rumpelstiltskin is my name.”

The messenger left, and almost as soon as he had gone, the little man arrived. The queen greeted him by asking, “Is your name Jack?”

“That is not my name.”

“Then are you called Harry?”

“That is not my name.”

“Then perhaps,” said the queen, “your name is, Rumpelstiltskin!”

“No! No! Who told you that?” cried the little man. And in his anger, he stamped with his right foot so hard that it went into the ground right up to his waist. Then he stamped his other foot, and he went deep into the ground way over his head. And the queen and her child never feared him again.


Chapter Three: Rapunzel
There once lived a man and his wife who, more than anything in the world, wished to have a baby. Finally, one day they learned that their wish would come true.

Now, at the top of their house, in the very back, there was a little window. And from this window you could see a garden full of beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables. But around the garden was a high wall. And no one dared to enter the garden, because it belonged to a mean witch.

One day the wife stood at the little window and looked down into the witch’s garden. There she saw fine-looking leaves of rapunzel, which is a kind of lettuce. And it looked so fresh and green that she felt that she simply must have some. Day after day she longed for it. The more she wanted it, the more she became pale and sad when she could not have some.

Her husband saw her looking so sad and became worried. “Dear wife, what is the matter?” he asked.

“Oh,” she answered, “I feel that I must eat some of that rapunzel from the garden behind our house.” Her husband loved her very much, and he thought, “I must get my wife what she desires. I will get some of that rapunzel, no matter what.”


That night he climbed over the wall into the witch’s garden. He quickly filled a sack with rapunzel and brought it back to his wife. At once she ate it with delight. But she liked it so much, and it tasted so good, that the next day she longed for it twice as much as she had before. So, that night, the husband climbed the wall again and picked more rapunzel. He turned around to go back, when he saw before him the angry eyes of the witch. “How dare you climb into my garden, you thief,” she hissed. “How dare you steal my rapunzel! You will pay dearly for this!”

“Oh, please,” said the terrified man, “be merciful. I only did this because I had to. My wife, you see, is having a baby, and she was looking out the window and saw your rapunzel, and she needed some more than anything else in the world.”

“Well then,” the witch said, “you may have as much rapunzel as you want. But that’s on one condition. When your wife has the child, you must give it to me. I will take care of the child, like it’s my very own.”

The man was so flustered that he said, “yes,” and then tried not to think any more of it. But later, at the very moment when his wife gave birth to a lovely baby girl, the witch appeared and reminded him of his promise. She brought the child to live with her.


The witch named the baby Rapunzel, and she grew up to be a beautiful girl. When Rapunzel was twelve years old, the witch took her deep into the forest. There she locked her in a tower with no steps and no door, only a small window near the top. Whenever the witch wanted to be let into the tower, she would cry from the ground below, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!”

Rapunzel had beautiful, long hair that shone like gold. When she heard the voice of the witch, she would open the window and let her hair fall down, down, down to the ground far below. Then the witch would hold onto the hair and climb up to the tower window.

A few years passed like this when, one day, the kings son was riding through the forest, and he came upon the tower. As he came near, he heard a voice singing so sweetly that he stood still and listened. It was Rapunzel, in her loneliness, trying to pass away the time with sweet songs. The prince wanted to go inside to see her, so he looked for a door in the tower, but there was none. He rode home, but the song had entered into his heart, and each day he went into the forest and listened to it.

Once, as he was standing nearby behind some trees, who should come up to the tower but the witch. The prince watched, amazed, as the witch called out, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!” Then he saw how Rapunzel let down her long hair, and how the witch climbed up it and went into the tower. He thought, “So that is the ladder. Well, then, I too will climb it.” The next day, as dusk fell, he came to the tower and cried, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!” And she let down her hair, and the prince climbed up.


Rapunzel was greatly frightened when she saw the prince, for she had never seen a man before. But he spoke kindly to her, and he told how her singing had entered his heart, and how he felt that he could have no peace until he had seen her. Then Rapunzel forgot her fear, and when he asked her to be his wife, she put her hand in his hand and said, “I would gladly go with you, but I have no way to get out. Do this for me. The next time you come, bring a bundle of silk. Then bring some more each time you come, and I will make a ladder of it. When it is finished, I will use it to climb down from this tower, and then you will carry me away from here on your horse.” They agreed that he would come to her each evening, since the witch only came in the daytime.

So things went on this way, until one day Rapunzel, without thinking, said to the witch, “Why do you climb up so slowly, while it takes the king’s son only a moment?”

“Oh, you wicked child!” screamed the witch. “I thought I had you hidden here from all the world. But you have betrayed me!” In a rage, the witch grabbed a pair of sharp scissors and cut off poor Rapunzel’s hair. Then the witch took Rapunzel from the tower and brought her to live deep in the forest.


Later that day, when evening fell, the prince came and called out, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!” The witch lowered the cut-off hair, and the prince climbed up. But instead of seeing his dear Rapunzel at the top, he saw the gleaming eyes of the witch. “Aha!” she cried, and she laughed at him. “You came for your darling, but the sweet bird is no longer in its nest, and she sings no more. You will see her no more!” Filled with horror and sadness, the prince fell from the tower. The fall did not hurt him badly, but the thorns on which he fell cut his eyes and blinded him.

So, blind and alone, he wandered in the forest for several years, eating only roots and berries, and weeping over the loss of his dear Rapunzel. At last he came to a place in the forest where Rapunzel herself was wandering. He heard a sweet voice that he thought he had heard somewhere before. When he went toward the sound, Rapunzel saw him, wrapped her arms around his neck and wept. When Rapunzel’s tears touched the prince’s eyes, he could see again. He was both happy and amazed, because he’d thought that he’d never see her again.

And so the prince took Rapunzel to his kingdom to be his bride, where she was welcomed with great joy. They were soon married, and they lived happily ever after.


Chapter Four: The Frog Prince, Part One
Once upon a time, a mighty king lived in a palace in the shadow of a dark, mysterious forest. He had only one child, a beautiful little girl with long, flowing hair, and her favorite plaything was a bright golden ball that looked just like the sun in the sky. Day after day, she would run and skip under the shadow of the huge forest trees, tossing and bouncing her ball to amuse herself. She liked to pretend that her ball was indeed the sun and that the whole wide world was hers to play with.

One day, however, as she spun the ball in her little hands, it slipped from her fingers, rolled over the leafy ground, and fell, splash!, into a deep well. She ran quickly to the edge of the well and peered in, but her beautiful golden toy had vanished into darkness.

She began to cry loudly, because she was not used to disappointment, when she suddenly heard a timid, scratchy voice behind her say, “What is the matter, princess?”

Spinning around, she realized that the speaker was the ickiest frog that she had ever seen. “I have dropped my ball into the well, and it is lost forever!” she wailed.


The frog looked at her and blinked. “I could get it for you, if you would do something for me.”

“Oh, froggy! I’d give you anything you want if you could get my lovely ball back! You could have my crown!”

“I do not want a crown,” the frog said.

“Or all my jewels!” she offered.

“What would a frog do with jewels?” he wondered.

“I do not care!” the princess snapped. “Just get my ball!”

“Well,” the frog said, “I do not want jewels, but I do want a friend. It is a lonely life being an icky frog. If I fetch your ball from the dark, chilly well for you, will you agree to be my friend forever afterward, and love me, and share everything that you have with me?”

“Of course!” the princess promised. But in her heart, she thought, “Who cares what that old frog wants? He’ll never leave this well, anyway.”


The frog did not know her thoughts, however, and he dived eagerly down into the well. A few seconds later, he emerged from the water holding the precious golden ball between two slimy webbed hands. “It was very cold down there,” the frog remarked, but the princess was not listening.

“Hurray!” she cried, and seizing the ball, she immediately ran back to the palace. The frog croaked after her, “Wait! I can’t run as fast as you can!” She ignored him, however, and considered the matter settled.

That night, though, while the court feasted, a loud knock sounded on the door. The princess loved visitors, so she ran to open the door, but who should stand on the palace stairs but the icky, warty frog! She slammed the door in his face and ran back to her delicious dinner on her golden plate. Behind the heavy wood door, though, she could hear him croaking. He said, “Oh careful, careful, princess fair! Promises are more than air!”

“Who was at the door, my daughter?” asked the king.

“Nobody! Just an old frog,” she said, and she told him how the frog had retrieved her ball from the well on the condition that she would be its friend and share everything that she had with it forever afterward. She thought that her father would be pleased with how she had escaped the frog’s demands, but, to her surprise, he frowned.


“Daughter, we must keep the promises that we make. What kind of kingdom would we have if we all treated each other the way that you have treated this poor frog? The frog kept his promise to you, and he helped you. Now, you must keep your promise to him. Go and let him in.”

The princess was shocked and wanted to refuse, but she could see from her father’s stern looks that she had to obey. Unwillingly, she got up and opened the door. The frog was still sitting patiently on the steps of the palace. When he saw the princess, he smiled happily. A smiling frog is quite a sight to behold. And he bounced up and down with froggy glee.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Fairy Tales <With Scarier Characters!>    

Lesson 67 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Gretel, Gretel’s, Hansel, Hansel’s, beanstalk, bellowing, beseeched, boing, bounding, broiled, capsizing, coldhearted, comforted, croaker, dolefully, elephantine, enchantment, fo, frenemy, fum, goosefeather, gracelessly, griped, gruesome, harpylike, heaving, importuned, insecure, irked, kerplunk, lazybones, lobbed, mire, miry, musicality, nagged, perking, plumper, queasy, reacquire, relented, revulsion, ricocheted, roused, rudely, rudeness, screechy, scummy, scuttling, slumberous, snuffling, spittle, thirstily, thunderously, woodcutter


Chapter Five: The Frog Prince, Part Two
Unwillingly, the princess let the frog into the magnificent palace. He ricocheted up and down, as frogs will when they are happy. But she only glared at him dreadfully. She thought this to herself. “Why should I have to keep my promise to this old croaker? All he did was reacquire my ball from the well.” Her father insisted, though, that she should be his friend. She had to keep her promise.

The frog hopped after her into the great dining hall. He went BOING! BOING! He jumped onto the dining table.

“So, princess,” he said, “we shall be the best of friends now.” Then he let out a contented croak. He began to eat from her shining gold plate and sparkling silver bowl. Frogs do not eat very neatly, I’m afraid. And the princess saw how he smeared the food all over his face. She turned away with revulsion. She refused to look at the frog. Neither would she speak to him. She still felt queasy just thinking of such an ugly creature eating with her.

“What a lovely golden plate,” the frog remarked. “It reminds me of your ball. You have such pretty possessions, princess. It must be nice to be a princess. You have everything that you want.”


“If I had each thing that I wanted,” the princess retorted, “you would not be eating with me.”

The frog ignored her rudeness. “May I have a drink from your cup?” he asked politely. The princess was about to refuse. But her father caught her eye. And so, she relented. The frog drank thirstily. Perhaps it was because of that long hop from the well to the palace doors! “Would you like to drink now?” he asked. He nudged the cup back in her direction.

“You must be joking!” she snapped. “Princesses do not drink after yucky frogs.”

The frog sighed. He just continued eating. But soon he began to look slumberous. “I’m tired,” he said. “Will you take me up to bed?”

“I could never have such a miry frog in my bed!” the princess burst out.

Her father was about to scold her. But the frog beat him to it. “Oh careful, careful, princess fair! Promises are more than air.”

What could she do? She had promised. So, she ran up the stairs to her bedroom. All the way up, she could hear the frog hopping behind her. BOING! BOING! And he was leaving little muddy footprints, splish! splash!, on the castle floor.


She opened the door to her bedroom. She and the ugly frog stood in the doorway. They looked at the princess’s lovely room. It was hung with silk curtains and beautiful paintings. And there were lots of jeweled lamps. A thick, soft goosefeather quilt lay across her cozy bed. And a full, plump pillow waited to support the princess’s pretty head.

The princess left the frog at the door. She climbed into her beautiful bed. She wished that the frog would go away. But he sat on the floor looking up dolefully at her.

“I want to sleep on your pillow,” the frog said.

The princess shook her head. “No! Please! You can sleep anywhere you want. Just not on my bed. Please! You are just too gruesome. And you will leave scummy spittle and mire on the pillow.”

“I want the pillow,” the frog said. “You promised! You said that you’d share everything with me!”

The princess importuned and cried. But she could not change the frog’s mind.

“You promised,” he said. “And promises are more than air.”

At last, she had to give in. But she was quite irked. She climbed down. She lobbed the frog roughly onto the pillow. Then she climbed back into bed herself.


She tried to keep far away from her new frenemy. “I wish that you’d just leave,” she hissed into the darkness.

The frog was silent for a long while. Then he whispered, “Princess? There’s one more thing.”

The princess griped.

“Could I have a good-night kiss? I have been such a lonely frog. And you did promise that you’d love me.”

The princess was exhausted by now. She did not even bother to argue. In the dark, she rolled over. She planted one kiss on the top of the frog’s cold, wet head. “Now! Please go to sleep,” she beseeched him.

“Good night,” croaked the frog.

The next morning came. The princess woke up. She found the frog still snuffling on the pillow. The princess watched him sleeping for some time. She began to feel impatient for him to wake up. Oddly, she found that, as gross as he was, she preferred to argue with the frog to playing by herself. It was too quiet without him croaking away. At last, she poked him hard with her finger. “Get up, you lazy toad!” she said.

The frog did not stir. So, with the palm of her hand, she gave him a rough shove. That sent him sliding off the pillow. He fell onto the cold, stone floor of her bedroom. But something happened the moment that his little webbed feet touched the ground. The warty frog disappeared. And there in his place sat a handsome little prince! He was rubbing his eyes sleepily. He looked up and smiled at the princess.


“Hello, princess! Thank you so much for keeping your promise.”

“Who are you?” she asked. She was very much surprised.

“Why, I’m the frog,” he said. “There was a wicked witch living in the forest. She turned me into an ugly frog. And only you could save me. I knew that your heart was just as golden as your plate and your ball. And I was right! Now I am free of her spell!” He looked at her. “Thank you, princess. Now I will leave you in peace. I will go back to my home. It’s on the other side of the forest.”

“Wait!” said the princess. “I thought that we were supposed to be friends forever after. And promises are more than air, you know.”

The prince laughed. “So they are. Shall we go play with your ball?”

And together they ran down the stairs. And they headed out into the bright golden sunshine. They were friends forever afterward. And when they were quite grown up, they were married with great celebration and joy. They invited the entire kingdom to their wedding. In attendance, there were even a number of frogs that the prince had met during his long enchantment.

They lived happily ever after, of course. And the princess was always glad that she had kept her promise.


Chapter Six: Hansel and Gretel, Part One
Once upon a time, near a deep, dark forest, there lived a poor woodcutter with his wife and two children. The boy was named Hansel, and the girl was named Gretel. The family never had very much to eat, and now, when times were hard, people around the land were starving, and the poor woodcutter could not get enough food to feed his family. As he lay in bed one night, tossing and turning with worry, he turned to his wife and said, “What is going to happen to us? How can we feed our poor children when we haven’t got enough for ourselves?”

“Listen to me,” said his wife. “Early tomorrow morning,” the coldhearted woman said, “we’ll take the children deep into the woods. We’ll give each of them a piece of bread, and make a fire. Then we’ll leave them and go about our work. They won’t find the way home in time for dinner, and we will eat their share.”

“No!” said the man. “I can’t do that. I can’t leave my children alone in the woods, where there are wild animals. It will get dark and cold as the sun sets.”

“Then you are a fool,” snapped the woman. “You might as well accept it that we will all starve.” Then the harpylike wife nagged the poor man, and scolded him, and kept at him until, at last, he agreed. “But I feel sorry for my poor children,” he said quietly.


The two children were so hungry that they had not been able to sleep, and so they heard everything that their stepmother had said to their father. Gretel cried, but Hansel whispered, “Don’t worry, I will think of something.” And when their parents had gone to sleep, Hansel got up, put on his little coat, and sneaked outside. The moon was shining brightly, and the white pebbles that lay in front of the house glittered like silver coins. Hansel stooped and filled the pocket of his coat with as many pebbles as it would hold. Then he tiptoed back to bed and said to Gretel, “Go to sleep, little sister.”

At daybreak the woman came and woke the two children. “Get up, you lazybones! We’re going to the forest to get some wood.” She gave them each a piece of bread and said, “That’s your food for the day. Don’t eat it all at once, because it is all that you will get. We’ll have supper after we return from the woods. That is, if you are home in time.”

Gretel carried both pieces of bread in her apron, for Hansel’s pockets were full of pebbles. They all started out on their way to the forest. As they walked, Hansel kept turning and looking back at the house, again and again. His father said, “Hansel, what are you looking at? You must watch where you’re going.”

“Oh,” said Hansel, “I’m just looking at my little white kitten, sitting on the roof of the house to say good-bye.”


The wife said, “You little fool, that’s not your kitten. That’s just the sun shining on the chimney. Now, come along!”

But Hansel stayed a few steps behind, and kept turning, and each time he turned, he dropped a pebble from his pocket to mark the way.

When they were deep in the forest, the father said, “Gather some firewood, children. I’ll start a fire, so that you won’t get cold while we work.” Hansel and Gretel gathered a little mountain of twigs and sticks, and when the fire was burning, the wife said, “Stay by the fire, you two. We have to go and cut wood. When we’re finished, we’ll come back to get you.”

So Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire. After a time, they ate their bread. And after a longer time, they got so tired that they closed their eyes and fell asleep. When they woke, it was dark, and they were all alone. Gretel began to cry, but Hansel comforted her. “Wait a little until the moon rises,” he said.

When the full moon had risen, Hansel took his little sister by the hand and followed the pebbles, which glittered like silver coins and showed them the way home. They walked on through the night, and at last, at the break of day, they came to their father’s house. They knocked on the door, and when the woman opened it, she was shocked. But all she said was, “Why, there you are! Why did you stay so long in the forest? We thought that you were never coming home again.” Of course, their father was glad to see them, for it had broken his heart to leave them alone.


Not very long afterward, times were hard again, and there was little food to eat. Again the children heard their stepmother say to their father one night, “There’s nothing left but a half loaf of bread. After that, we’re done! We don’t have enough food for ourselves and the children. This time we’ll take them so deep in the forest that they won’t find their way back for a week!”

“But, wife,” said the man, with a heavy heart, “it would be better to share our last bite of food with the children.”

But the wife would not listen to him. And, she knew that if she kept at him, she could get him to give in and agree with her plan, as he did before.

Much later, when their parents were asleep, Hansel got up to collect pebbles, just as he did before. But he couldn’t get out, since his stepmother had figured out how they had found their way home the last time and had, thus, locked the door! So, Hansel got back in bed and tried to think of a different plan.

Early the next morning the woman roused the children out of bed. She gave them a piece of bread, even smaller than before. As they walked into the woods, Hansel broke up the bread in his pocket, and every once in a while, he stopped to throw a crumb on the ground.


“Hansel,” said his father, “what do you keep stopping and looking back for?”

“I’m looking at a little pigeon that’s sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me,” answered Hansel.

“Little fool,” said the wife, “that’s not a pigeon. It’s only the sun shining on the chimney.” So, they walked on, and Hansel dropped bread crumbs all along the way.

The woman led the children deeper into the forest than they had ever been in all their lives. Again, they gathered sticks for a fire, and the woman said, “Sit there, children, and when you are tired, go to sleep. We’re going to cut wood, and when we’re finished, we’ll come get you.”

Later, when it was lunchtime, Gretel shared her small piece of bread with Hansel, because he had left his in crumbs along the path. Then they fell asleep. As evening came, no one came to get them. When they woke, it was dark, and they were alone. When the moon rose, they started for home, but they could not find the bread crumbs. The birds had eaten them up. “Come, Gretel,” said Hansel, “I know that we can find our way.” But they couldn’t find it. They went on all night, and the next day from morning until evening, but they could not find their way out of the forest. They were terribly hungry, for they had nothing to eat but a few berries. When they were so tired that they could drag themselves no farther, they lay down under a tree and fell asleep.


Chapter Seven: Hansel and Gretel, Part Two
It was now the third morning since they had left their father’s house. They started along again, always looking for the way home, but instead only going deeper into the forest. Unless help came soon, they would surely starve.

At about noon, they saw a pretty snow-white bird sitting on a branch and singing so beautifully that they stopped to listen. Then the bird spread its wings and flew before them, as though to say, “Follow me!” And so the children followed the bird until they came to a little house. The bird flew up and perched on the roof. And then the children saw that the walls of the house were made of gingerbread, and the roof was made of cake, and the windows were made of clear sugar candy.

“Let’s eat!” cried Hansel. Hansel reached up and broke off a piece of candy, while Gretel chewed on a piece of a wall.

Suddenly they heard a thin, screechy woman’s voice call out from inside the house.

“Nibble, nibble, like a mouse, Who is nibbling at my house?”

The children answered, “It’s only the air heaving a sigh. It’s only the wind passing by.”


The children were so hungry, they went on eating. But then the door opened, and a very old woman came out, leaning on a cane. Hansel and Gretel were so frightened that they dropped the food from their hands. But the old woman just nodded her head and said, “My dear little children, what has brought you here? Come inside and stay with me. I’ll take good care of you.”

So she took them by the hand and led them into her little house. There they found a wonderful meal of hot pancakes, with honey, nuts, apples, and cold milk. After that, the old woman showed them two little white beds, and Hansel and Gretel lay down and wondered if they were just dreaming.

Now, the old woman seemed kind, but, in fact, she was a wicked witch! The story goes that she had built her house just to trap little children, and that once she had them, she would cook them and eat them! She could not see well, but she had an excellent sense of smell. Earlier in the day, she had sniffed Hansel and Gretel coming near.

The next morning, before the children were awake, the witch got up and looked at their rosy cheeks. “Mmm, what a fine meal I will have,” she cackled. She got Hansel out of bed and put him in a cage. Then she went back and woke up Gretel and shouted, “Get up, you lazybones! Fetch water, and cook something nice for your brother. Feed him well, for once he’s nice and fat, I will eat him!”


Gretel screamed and cried, but it was no use. She had to do what the wicked witch said. Day after day, she cooked pots full of rich food for Hansel, while she herself ate nothing but crumbs. Every morning the wicked witch would creep to the cage and say, “Hansel, stick out your finger so I can tell if you are plump enough to cook.” But clever Hansel held out a little bone that Gretel had given him, and the old woman, who could not see very well, couldn’t tell that it wasn’t Hansel’s finger. She wondered why he wasn’t getting any plumper. When four weeks passed, and Hansel seemed as thin as ever, the witch grew impatient. “Hurry up and get a pot of water,” she snarled. “Be he fat or thin, I’m going to cook him and eat him.”

As she filled the kettle with water and lit the fire, tears ran down Gretel’s cheeks. “First we will bake,” said the old woman. “I’ve heated the oven, and the dough is ready.” Then she pushed Gretel toward the oven, where the flames were burning brightly. “Stick your head in,” the witch said to Gretel, “and tell me if it’s hot enough for us to bake the bread.” But Gretel knew what the witch had in mind. She knew that the witch meant to shut her in the oven, bake her, and eat her! So Gretel said, “I don’t know how to do it. Where do I look? Could you show me how?”

“You silly child!” cried the old woman. “There’s a big opening, don’t you see? Why, I could fit in myself!” And she stuck her head in the oven. Then Gretel rushed up and, with all her might, pushed the witch into the oven. She shut the iron door and locked it tight. Gretel ran right to Hansel and let him out of the cage.


“Come, Hansel, we are free!” she cried. “The old witch is gone!” Hansel sprang out and hugged Gretel, and the children danced for joy and then ran out of the house. Then, because they had nothing to fear, they went back into the witch’s house. There they found chests full of pearls and precious jewels. “These are better than pebbles!” laughed Hansel as he filled his pockets, while Gretel filled her apron.

“Now, away we go,” said Hansel. Then he said quietly, “If only we can find our way out of the forest.”

When they had walked a few hours, they came to a wide lake. “There’s no bridge, and no stepping stones,” said Hansel. “We can’t get across.”

“And there’s no boat, either,” said Gretel. “But look,” she said. “Here comes a duck. I will ask her for help.” So, she called out to the duck.


“Duck, duck, here we stand, Hansel and Gretel on the land. Stepping stones and a bridge we lack, Carry us over on your nice, soft back.”

And, lo and behold, the duck came over. Hansel got on her back and told Gretel to sit behind him.

When they were on the other side of the lake, they walked on for a little while and soon found a path. The forest began to look more and more familiar. At last, in the distance, they saw their father’s house. They began to run as fast as they could. They burst through the door and cried out, “Father! We’re home!” Then they threw themselves into his arms.

Ever since he had left the children in the forest, the man had been worried sick. As for his mean wife, he told the children that she had left him and was gone forever. Now, he hugged his children as though he would never let them go. As he squeezed Gretel to him, the pearls and jewels fell from Gretel’s apron. Then Hansel reached into his pockets and pulled out handful after handful of treasure.

They were together again, their troubles were over, and they lived in perfect happiness for a long, long time.


Chapter Eight: Jack and the Beanstalk, Part One
Once upon a time, there was a poor widow who had an only son named Jack, and a cow named Milky White. All they had to live on was the milk that the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the market and sold. But one morning, Milky White gave no milk.

“Oh, Jack,” said the poor widow, wringing her hands, “we have nothing to eat and no money. We must sell poor Milky White.”

“Cheer up, Mother,” said Jack. “It’s market day today. I’ll sell Milky White, then we’ll be better off, you’ll see.”

So Jack took the cow and started down the road. He had not gone far when he met an unfamiliar old man. The old man said, “Good morning, Jack.”

“Good morning to you,” said Jack, and he wondered how the old man knew his name.

“Well, Jack, where are you off to?” said the man.

“I’m going to the market to sell our cow there.”

“Oh, yes, you look like just the sort of fellow to sell a cow,” said the man. “Now, I wonder,” he asked Jack. “Do you know how many beans make five?”


Jack thought this was a strange question, but he answered anyway. “Two beans in each hand, and one bean in your mouth. That makes five.”

“Right you are!” said the old man. And then, pulling something out of his pocket, he said, “And here they are.” He held out five very unusual beans. “Now, because you’re such a smart fellow,” he said to Jack, “I will trade you these beans for your cow.”

“Well, now,” said Jack, “that would be a nice trade for YOU!”

“Ah, but you don’t know what kind of beans these are,” said the man. “If you plant them tonight, then by morning they will grow right up to the sky.”

“Really?” said Jack, whose interest in this was perking up.

“Yes,” said the man. “And if it doesn’t turn out to be true, then you can have your cow back.”

“All right, then,” said Jack. He gave the man the cow, took the beans, and went home.

“Jack, are you back already?” said his mother. “I see that you’ve sold Milky White. How much did you get for her?”

“Mother, you’ll never guess,” said Jack.


“Oh, you good boy!” said his mother. “Did you get five? Or ten? Maybe even, no, it can’t be, twenty?”

“I told you that you couldn’t guess!” said Jack. Then, reaching into his pocket, he said, “See here, Mother. I got five beans. You plant them, and then overnight they.”

His mother cut Jack off mid-sentence. “What!” she cried. “Beans! You gave away my Milky White for beans? How could you be such a fool? Off to bed with you, and no supper. And as for your precious beans, here they go, out the window!”

So Jack went to his little attic room, without dinner, where he flopped down and finally fell asleep.

When he woke up, the room looked funny. The sun was shining into part of it, but all the rest was dark and shady. He jumped up and went to the window. And what do you think he saw? Why, the beans his mother had thrown out the window had landed in the garden, and overnight they had sprung up into an enormous beanstalk, which went up and up and up, till it reached the sky. So, the old man had been telling the truth!

The beanstalk grew right up to Jack’s window. All he had to do was step out onto it and then start climbing it, like a ladder. So Jack climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, until at last, he reached the sky. And when he got there, he saw a long, straight road. He followed the road until he came to a great, big, tall house, and on the doorstep, there was a great, big, tall woman.


“Good morning, ma’am,” said Jack, quite politely. “Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?”

“Oh, so you want breakfast?” said the great, big, tall woman. “Well, you’ll BE breakfast if you don’t get out of here. My husband is a fierce giant, and there’s nothing he likes better than a nice cooked boy on buttered toast. You’d better get going, for he’ll be coming soon.”

“Oh, please, ma’am,” said Jack, “I haven’t eaten since yesterday, really and truly.”

Well, the giant’s wife wasn’t so bad after all. She took Jack into the kitchen and gave him a chunk of bread and cheese, and a jug of milk. But Jack hadn’t half-finished these when, thump! thump! thump!, the whole house began to tremble with the noise of someone coming. And it was someone big!


Chapter Nine: Jack and the Beanstalk, Part Two
“Goodness gracious, it’s my husband!” said the giant’s wife. “What on Earth shall I do? Quick, jump in here!” And Jack jumped into the oven just as the giant came in.

He was a big one, to be sure. He had three cows tied to his belt. He threw them down on the table and said rudely to his wife, “Here, wife, cook me a couple of these for breakfast. But wait. What’s this I smell?”

“Fee-fi-fofum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

“Now, dear,” said his wife, “it’s nothing but the leftover smell of that little boy you had for dinner yesterday. Go along and wash up, and by the time you come back, I’ll have breakfast ready.”

So the giant went off, and Jack was about to jump out of the oven when the woman whispered, “Wait till he’s asleep. He always has a nap after breakfast.”

The giant gulped down his breakfast. Then he went to a giant chest and took out two big bags. He sat down, and from the bags he took out piles of gold coins. He began counting them, very slowly. “One, two, uh, three, um, ah, four.” Then his head began to nod, and soon he began to snore, so that the whole house shook.


Jack crept out of the oven, tiptoed past the giant, grabbed one of the bags of gold (which he could barely lift), and ran lickety-split back to the beanstalk. He threw down the bag of gold, which fell, kerplunk!, into his mother’s garden, then climbed down, until at last, he reached the ground.

“Well, Mother?” he said. “Wasn’t I right about the beans? They really are magic!”

For a while, Jack and his mother bought what they needed, and a little more, with the bag of gold. But at last, the bag was empty, so Jack made up his mind to try his luck again at the top of the beanstalk. He climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and once again, sure enough, there was the great, tall woman standing on the doorstep of her house. And once again, he asked for something to eat.

“Go away, boy,” said the woman, “or else my husband will eat you up for breakfast. But, say, aren’t you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, on that very day, my husband lost one of his bags of gold?”

“Did he, now?” said Jack. “How very strange! Maybe I could help you find it, but I’m so hungry that first I must have something to eat.”

So the great, tall woman gave him something to eat. But he had hardly taken a bite when, thump! thump! thump!, they heard the giant’s footsteps. Once again, the wife hid Jack in the oven.


It all happened as it had before. In came the giant, bellowing, “Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!” Then, after gulping down three broiled oxen for breakfast, the giant said, “Wife, bring me my hen and my golden harp!”

The wife brought them. The giant looked at the hen and barked, “Lay!” And the hen laid an egg, all of gold. Then the giant looked at the golden harp and said, “Sing!” And the golden harp sang with great musicality. And it went on singing, until the giant fell asleep and started snoring thunderously.

Jack snuck out of the oven and crept like a mouse on his hands and knees. Then he crawled up the table, grabbed the hen and golden harp, and dashed toward the door. But the hen began to cluck, and the harp called out, “Master! Master!” The giant woke up just in time to see Jack running away with his treasures.

Jack ran as fast as he could, and the giant came bounding after him and would have caught him, only Jack had a head start. When Jack got to the beanstalk, he climbed down as fast as he could. The giant reached the beanstalk and stopped short. Looking down toward the Earth far below, he felt insecure. He didn’t like the idea of climbing down such a ladder. But, like it or not, the giant swung himself down onto the beanstalk, which shook with his elephantine weight.


By this time, Jack had climbed down and reached home. “Mother!” he cried. “Give me an axe, and hurry!” His mother came scuttling out with an axe in her hand. She ran with Jack to the beanstalk, and then she screamed with fright as she saw the giant gracelessly making his way down.

Jack swung the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk. The giant felt the beanstalk shake, and he stopped to see what was the matter. Jack gave another chop, and another, and another, and the beanstalk finally began capsizing. Then the giant fell down and broke his crown, and the beanstalk came tumbling after.

From then on, Jack and his mother had all the money and music they wanted, for the hen gave them golden eggs, and the harp sang for them all day long. And they all lived happily ever after.












Lesson 68 – Misc Iconic Word List “Filling Gaps” Vocab-Builder

NEW WORDS: Jew, Nazis, Rolex, Saskatchewan, appreciation, aquarium, betray, bullied, butler, celebrity, chokes, chronology, coherence, comments, conformity, congratulate, consensus, consistently, copycat, critique, crumple, curdle, dazzle, defensive, dependable, deploy, despot, despots, diction, earnings, enlarge, ethics, eyelash, flatten, flexibility, formulate, gargle, genre, graphic, hierarchical, implies, incompatible, inhibition, initiatives, instructor, integration, investigator, invoked, irritate, lawful, lawsuit, liquor, lockup, marginal, mediation, misbehave, miscellaneous, modified, morphine, motel, mouthwash, noonday, novels, oust, phony, plumbing, politically, politicians, portray, predominantly, preview, prohibited, prosecutor, refrigerate, reinforced, rejoin, reset, simile, succinct, supplementary, survivor, terrorism, testify, torment, trump, verify, vs.

This is the “miscellaneous stuff” pile.

The troops will oust this despot.

Buy wine at the liquor store.

You can get rabies from a bat bite.

That was a terrific show.

There’s a dead fish in our aquarium.

There’s an eyelash in my soup!

Dazzle me with a card trick.

When will the flu case rise flatten out?

That is not a lawful act!

We need a plumbing fix with the sink.

I will testify at his trial.

The bomb blast was an act of terrorism.

A Jew in Nazi Germany was in grave danger.

The prosecutor had a strong case.

File a lawsuit in the State Court.

He’s the chief investigator on the case.

Dad’s the team’s defensive coach.

There’s much complexity in this math proof.

We abbreviate “etcetera” as “etc.”

Your body has lots of flexibility.

We’ll learn of lots of cultures in this class.

This new fact implies that you’re wrong.


She wrote a tough critique of my paper.

There’s much conformity among these young folks.

Tell me the chronology of events that led to the crime.

Your speech should be more succinct.

After a “stimulus” comes a “response.”

My stage fright inhibition keeps me from acting in plays.

The integration of East and West Germany must have been hard.

That film invoked thoughts of my childhood.

Sales are slow, thus, profits are marginal.

There’s a lint particle on your shirt.

My son loves graphic novels.

We’re prohibited from going into that room.

Both sides were pleased with the outcome of the mediation.

Formulate a plan to fix this mess!

She kept her composure while on the witness stand.

The phrase “she is like a rose” is a “simile.”

If you need more facts, read these supplementary pages.

We have more females than males in our class.

I get to portray the Queen in the school play.

They hate each other, and it is politically driven.

There are lots of variables in the weather.

This new computer game is incompatible with my old software.


When you speak, articulate more clearly.

They tried to devise a plan to escape from the P.O.W. camp.

In this place, they predominantly speak Spanish.

Your term paper is full of plagiarism, so you get an “F!”

Congratulate her on her award.

I will not betray my country.

Mom, tell Sis to stop being a copycat!

Milk will curdle if you pour it into orange juice.

She was openly ticked off by his rude jokes.

The kids had a lockup party at church on Friday night.

Don’t misbehave with the sitter!

Let’s stop driving and stay at a motel tonight.

She’s quite a dependable friend.

Let’s rejoin this topic at the next staff meeting.

Despots want to enlarge the lands and people that they control.

Show me your fitness routine.

It seems that there is often a lack of ethics with lots of politicians.

Today I’ll sit in for your instructor, who is ill.

She was born in Canada, in the province of Saskatchewan.

Biological warfare is banned among the Earth’s nations.

So, your consensus is to move forward with the project?

Don’t neglect to write your Christmas thank-you notes.


These extra-credit questions are optional.

His diction is so poor that I can’t understand him.

These boots are reinforced at the toe.

She showed appreciation for her gift.

Tell me about the mechanics of this engine.

He had no coherence because he drank too much.

India has a hierarchical caste system.

He inferred that you’re a good pool player.

My son lacks athletic coordination.

There can be no deviation from our plan!

My driver’s license will verify who I am.

I contend that he will cheat on the test.

If your arteries are clogged, you might have a heart attack.

The airline industries were hurt by COVID-19.

It was quite an irony when the bully got bullied.

This painting is attributed to a student of Rubens.


There are many pressures on a U.S. president.

This email has an attachment of the file.

It is not ethical to steal!

My presumption is that she will hide in the den.

Keep your mean comments to yourself.

My dog’s loyalty to me is rock solid.

I’ve modified the draft with your changes.

Check out this preview of the show!

I prefer to read the science fiction genre.

Her pain diminished after a dose of morphine.

Adolf Hitler was the monstrous leader of the Nazis.

That golf pro consistently chokes in the last round.

The CEO said, “We have four key initiatives this year.”

Deploy troops to help with the storm clean-up effort.

After 250 days, they freed the hostage.


My cat’s whining might torment you.

Sis will irritate mom with her scratchy fiddle playing.

There’s no need to refrigerate the pie.

I gargle with mouthwash each night.

They’ll try to sell you a phony Rolex watch!

Reset the stopwatch.

Don’t let the dog crumple up your art work.

I bet the king’s butler is paid well!

The noonday sun is quite hot.

This week’s best game is the Rams vs. the Jets.

Immigration was a hot topic when Trump was president.

Dad got cited for a traffic violation.

I bet that celebrity has had more than one face-lift.

You have to pay taxes on your earnings.

I made a reservation for dinner at that new restaurant.

There was only one survivor in the plane crash.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Animals And Their Habitats

Lesson 69 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Gilas, acacia, acacia’s, acacias, acclaimed, adapting, adventurers, alleyway, assorted, backpack, barbs, bemired, blisteringly, brainy, broadleaf, buck’s, burrowing, camouflage, camouflaged, campo, capacities, caribou, choicest, clambering, coexist, contiguous, cuties, dangly, desolate, duck’s, ecru, effortlessly, emergent, emprise, enlighten, escaping, factual, firma, firsthand, forest’s, gelid, giraffe’s, gonzo, gutters, hasta, haven, hirsute, intensely, jiggling, johns, lamina, lionesses, masticate, moistureless, muskox, muskox’s, muskoxen, ooops, opossums, opportunely, outrunning, oxpecker, oxpeckers, penetrated, pines, pipeline, pluvial, popsicle, prepping, propitiously, savannas, scavenger, scavengers, siphon, skeptical, snowscape, someplace, sparsity, stripping, susceptible, temperate, terra, thickly, tundra, unfavorable, uniquely, veldt, venturer, vista, vultures, warmers, wellspring, wolverine, woodpeckers, zebra’s


Chapter One: What Is a Habitat?
Hi, adventurers! You’re here to learn something new. And, believe it or not, I’m here to enlighten you. I know that you may be skeptical about this. What could you learn from a rat clambering out of a dumpster? But I’m Rattenborough. I’m the acclaimed rat explorer.

I travel the world. I look at plants and animals. I check out all the assorted places that they call home. I’ll take you on a special trip all around the world. You’ll learn of some cool, amazing places and animals. And we’ll start our fun trip right here, at my home! I know. I know. It does not look like much. But it’s special to me. And it has each thing that I need.

Here’s my home. It’s the alleyway where I live. Take a look. What do you see? There are trash cans, litter, and boxes. There are drains and dripping pipes. There are old buildings and gutters. It’s the choicest home for a rat. It has all the things I need to live.

All living things need food and water to survive. Animals, like me, also need their own haven. So, animals need food, water, and shelter to stay alive. My food comes from these trash cans. I get food from the litter on the street, too. My water comes from the gutters, drains, and pipes. My family and I have a shelter down under some contiguous steps. All of these things make up my habitat. That’s a place where an animal or plant lives. It offers food, water, and shelter. It’s true that my alleyway is not a “natural habitat.” That would be like a forest or a pond. But so many humans are using up much of the Earth’s natural resources. So, some creatures have been forced to survive in human-made habitats.


What were those three things again? If a place lacks any of these three things, then it’s not a good habitat.

Animals and plants live in habitats that are just right for them. It’s just like people not being able to live underwater or in the air. Plants and animals can’t all live in the same sorts of places, either. You don’t hear of elephants living near the North Pole. They don’t like to live in ice. And you don’t hear about polar bears living in the moistureless desert! Pumpkins don’t grow in the sea. And fish don’t live in trees.

I can tell you this firsthand. Rats can’t live just anywhere in the world. I don’t like the weather to be too cold. And I need to live where food is not hard to find! That’s why I like my cozy home under the steps. It’s warm enough for my family and me. There’s plenty of water. And there’s a good supply of food in the trash.

How about we have a look around? You might have a park like this somewhere near your home. People like to spend time playing and relaxing in this park. But it’s a habitat for lots of other things, too! Think about the grass, trees, flowers, and bushes in this park. They need food and water to live, too.

The animals that live in the park share it as a habitat. That includes the pigeons that fly around looking for crumbs to eat. And there are the squirrels, owls, and chipmunks that live in those trees. And there are the bees, fireflies, and mosquitoes buzzing about. And there are the raccoons and opossums that come out at night. There are even the frogs and fish in the pond nearby.


This is a picture of a place called the Arctic. Do you think that you could live easily in the Arctic? It has very cold temperatures and snow-covered ground. Not many things can live there. But later, I’ll show you some cool (no pun intended!) plants and animals that do live in the Arctic.

Most animals have to live in habitats that are specific to them. But you human beings are brainy. You can build habitats for yourselves! What if you want to live in the desert? There’s not much water there with which to grow food or to drink. Well, you can build a pipeline. It will bring you water for watering crops or for drinking. You can have food transported to the desert by road or rail. That’s because it would be hard to grow food in the desert. And you can build houses for shelter. That way, you don’t have to sleep in the sand. In fact, people like you have been able to live in very hot, cold, and dry places.

We’ll go on a trip that will take us all over our amazing planet Earth. Over the next several weeks, I’ll show you some  animal and plant habitats that might not be like yours. You’ll see some uniquely wonderful places where things can live.

I can’t wait to show you all these places. But first I have a lot to pack. We’ll go all over the world. So, I’ll need a backpack full of gear. So, hold on to your whiskers. Ooops, I mean your hats. And make sure that you’re prepping for an exciting emprise!


Chapter Two: Animals of the Arctic Habitat
Hello, again. Rattenborough the venturer here. Let’s tour one of the coldest habitats on Terra Firma. It’s the Arctic tundra. Here, there are not lots of plants. To be factual, there are no trees at all. And it’s blisteringly frigid! A rat like me has to wear long johns and mittens.

The wind here is quite strong. That makes the air feel even colder. The ground is frozen. And nearly everything is covered in ice. In the winter, daylight lasts just a few hours. And at times, the sun is not emergent at all. Some ice will still be here in the summer. But in the summer, there is a bit of change. The top lamina of ice melts. So, the ground gets wet and bemired. The temps here are so low that most people and animals would freeze. All of these things add up. They make the Arctic tundra one of the most unfavorable habitats on Earth for plants and animals.

Some living things can stand it here just in the summer months. That’s when the temps are warmer. But some can live here all year long. Arctic plants grow quite close to each other. And they don’t grow very tall. That keeps them from being blown away by the Arctic winds. The kinds of plants that can live here are mosses and some types of grasses. For once, I’m one of the tallest things around!


The animals that live here year-round have had to adapt to the harsh conditions. Adapting to a habitat means that the creature has changed over the years. It now has special traits that help it to live in that place. Lots of animals in the Arctic have changed by growing heavy fur coats. These help them stay warm in the cold. This creature is called a muskox. The muskox’s long, hirsute coat has an extra layer of hair underneath. That keeps him warm when the temps are cold enough to turn a rat into a popsicle. And it sheds its extra coat in the warmer summer months. Muskoxen move in herds. So, they can huddle with each other for more warmth. Their hooves are quite wide. That keeps them from slipping on the snow and ice. In the winter, they use their sharp hooves in one other way. They dig under the snow to find plants to eat.

Here comes a creature that I want to stay far from. It’s a wolverine. It uses its fur coat to keep nice and warm. Like the muskox, the wolverine has large paws. They help him move across the snowscape. And that comes in handy when he’s trying to catch food.

These creatures are caribou. They’re part of the deer family. They’re sometimes called reindeer. These caribou are moving in a huge herd. That helps to protect them against attack by other animals.


Caribou hair traps air. That helps to keep them warm. Their hooves change, depending on the time of year. So, they can walk and run in mushy, wet terrain. Or, they can be fleet of foot in hard, icy terrain. Male caribou have antlers, too. That helps them dig for grass in the snow.

This Arctic fox has a coat that changes during the winter. Its brown summer coat morphs into this thick, white fur. That helps the fox blend into its surroundings. The fur also covers its feet. That helps it to walk on snow and ice. The fox’s fur helps it a lot. It can hide and sneak up on birds, hares, and rodents like me!

The Arctic hare’s white coat is much heavier in the winter. Its ears are smaller than those of other hares. That means that less of its body is susceptible to the cold. In other words, this is no place for critters with long dangly ears. They’d have to have long dangly earmuffs to keep those ears from freezing! The hare’s white coloring also helps it hide in the snow. And its back feet are wide and large. They’re like small snowshoes. So, it can run fast in the snow.

There are other habitats in the Arctic besides the tundra. Varied kinds of plants and animals live in these other regions. The Arctic Ocean is a habitat rich in sea life. Animals there rely on the sea for their food. You won’t believe how cold the water is in the Arctic Ocean. Most living creatures could not stay alive in it but for a few minutes.


Animals such as the walrus call the Arctic Ocean home. These huge creatures just love the gelid water. And they can swim around for a long period of time!

Here’s how walruses have adapted to life where they live. Their bodies store blubber under their skin. Blubber prevents heat from escaping from their bodies. Walruses also have long teeth, called tusks. They use them, almost like arms. With their help, they pull themselves up out of the water and onto the ice.

Look at these cuties. They’re seals. Seals have blubber under their skin, too. Some types of seals are born covered with a layer of white fur. That keeps them warm until they develop blubber.

Seals are incredible swimmers! Like fish and walruses, seals don’t have arms and legs. Instead, seals have flippers. So, they swim by jiggling their bodies from side-to-side. They use their flippers to steer. They swim very fast. So, they catch plenty of tasty fish. Thank goodness, they don’t eat rats!


Here comes a polar bear! Look out! Let’s hide behind this rock. I’ll tell you about this amazing creature.

The polar bear is perhaps the best known of all the animals that live around the Arctic Ocean. These animals are astonishing. They’ve adapted quite well to the harsh, Arctic habitat.

Polar bears are the largest bears in the world. Male polar bears weigh up to 1700 pounds. That might be heavier than everyone in your class put together. And I’m including your teacher. And polar bears grow up to ten feet from head to toe. Yikes!


Polar bears are covered with a heavy coat. It’s made up of two layers of fur. And they have a layer of blubber under their skin. Their ears and tails are very small. So, not too much of their bodies are exposed to the cold weather. It’s a good thing that they have all that fur and blubber and sharp claws. That’s because polar bears spend most of their life living on sea ice. Those are chunks of ice that float in the Arctic Ocean. Sometimes polar bears take a dip in the icy Arctic water. They swim from one chunk of ice to another. And they have webbed paws. They’re sort of like a duck’s feet. They help them to swim almost effortlessly. They use those mighty paws to hunt their favorite food. Sorry, seals. Like all living things, polar bears need water to survive. And they get that water from melted snow and ice.

Adult polar bears spend most of their time living on sea ice. Polar bear cubs, though, are born on land. Their mothers burrow in the snow to make a den. They’ll then hide in the den while they have their babies. They stay in the dens with their young all winter. In the spring, they finally come out. The cubs stay with their mothers for almost two years. Mom teaches them hunting and survival skills before they leave home.

Now, speaking of home, I really must go. It’s really frigid here. And my whisker warmers just aren’t doing the job! We’ve learned lots about the Arctic habitat and the animals that have managed to adapt and survive here. I think that our next stop should be somewhere warmer. Don’t you? Remember that even habitats as intensely cold as the Arctic tundra and Arctic Ocean can be full of life. Now, it’s not easy for me to stay hidden in all this snow. And I can barely move with all these clothes on. So, I’ll get out of here before I’m spotted by that Arctic fox. Hasta la vista, baby!


Chapter Three: Animals of the Sonoran Desert Habitat
After nearly freezing, and almost becoming a polar bear snack in the Arctic, I thought that we should go someplace where my whiskers and tail could thaw out and warm up. So I’ve brought you to a desolate desert. There are lots of deserts all over the world. You know that you’re in a desert when it doesn’t rain very much. Lots of deserts can also be very hot. Because it’s so hot and dry, only certain types of plants and animals can live there.

Welcome to the Sonoran Desert. It’s in the southwestern part of the U.S. and the northwestern part of Mexico. The temps are quite hot during the day. And it doesn’t rain much. The heat and sparsity of rain make it hard for some plants and animals to live in the desert. They must all be uniquely adapted to live in the hot weather and to survive with so little rain.

How do they do it? Some plants can save and store water inside their plant parts when it does rain. Other plants grow only in shady areas near mountains or rocks.


Because there are very few plants that can be used as shelter, the animals that have adapted to living in the desert often seek shelter underground. They make their homes under the sand. Living underground helps them to stay cool when it gets hot. And it keeps them hidden from other animals that may want to eat them for lunch!

Ouch! What did I walk into? Aha! Here is one plant that lives in the Sonoran Desert. The saguaro cactus is the world’s largest cactus. Cacti don’t have leaves. They have prickly spines instead. That’s exactly why it hurt so much to touch this one! The incredible saguaro lives for up to 200 years. And in that time, it can grow as high as a house. And it can weigh as much as several cars!

The most amazing thing about the saguaro is that it is a habitat in itself. That’s right. It does not just manage to live and thrive in the desert habitat. But just by being there, it provides food, water, and shelter to lots of varied animals. Let me get my climbing gear out. And I’ll put on some gloves to protect me from these sharp spines. I’ll meet you at the top.

You know that it hardly ever rains in the desert. But when it does, the saguaro cactus saves and stores huge capacities of water in its roots and stems. The cactus saves the extra water. It uses it to survive during those times when it is very dry and does not rain.


In the spring, white flowers grow on the saguaro. At night, when the desert cools down, these flowers open to show sweet nectar. Butterflies, bats, and birds feed on that before the flowers close the next day, when it once again becomes very hot. In the summer, red fruit begins to grow on the saguaro. Lots of animals eat the fruit of the cactus.

Here is a gonzo bird called a Gila woodpecker. The Gila pecks holes into the soft cactus with its beak. Then it makes a nest for its eggs.

The Gila woodpecker is an omnivore. That’s an animal that eats plants as well as other animals. Gilas feed on cactus fruit and berries, as well as insects that have penetrated the saguaro. Opportunely, I brought a sandwich. So, I won’t have to join these Gilas for a buggy lunch!

It’s way too hot for a normal rat like me to live here. I’m glad that I brought my fan with me. Interestingly enough, birds like this Gila woodpecker can live in the desert habitat because their feathers help protect them from the hot desert sun. They trap cool air next to their skin. Still, most birds only go out to feed in the early morning or evening, when it’s cooler outside. From noon to late afternoon, many of these birds seek shelter in the holes that they’ve dug in a cactus, or in other shady places.


Here’s a bird that makes its home in the saguaro cactus, too. It’s the elf owl. The elf owl is the world’s smallest owl. It’s just five inches long. That’s a bit bigger than one of your hands. It moves into nests that have been abandoned by Gila woodpeckers. The elf owl, like most owls, is nocturnal. That means that it rests during the day and wakes at night to hunt for food.

The elf owl is also a carnivore. A carnivore is an animal that eats only other animals, and no plants. It uses its large eyes to hunt in the dark night for bugs that live in the desert. Most owls eat mice and, I’m sad to say, rats. But I think that I’m safe from the elf owl. That’s because I’m bigger than it is!

Oh look, here comes a desert cottontail rabbit. That’s another animal that lives in the Sonoran Desert. The desert cottontail looks a little like the Arctic hare that we saw in the tundra. But it has larger ears and longer back legs.


Desert cottontail rabbits are herbivores. Herbivores are animals that eat only plants, and no animals. The desert cottontail eats grass, and even cacti.

Smaller animals like the desert cottontail always need to watch out for larger animals in the desert that might eat them. Lots of animals and plants are part of a cycle called the food chain. You’ll learn about the food chain in a future lesson. Coyotes, for instance, like to eat rabbits. In fact, there’s a coyote coming this way. So, let’s stay up here and watch it.

Coyotes are found all over the U.S. And that includes the Sonoran Desert. As you can see, the coyote has a light, ecru-colored coat. That helps to reflect the sun’s rays, and to camouflage it. Coyotes are carnivores like the elf owls. Coyotes have good senses of smell, hearing, and vision. And they can run quite fast. That means that they’re superb hunters. They’re scavengers, too. Coyotes live in dens. They make them by burrowing into the ground. I think this one has smelled something. That’s because he’s just run off.

Now, I’m getting down from this cactus. I need to do that before another coyote comes along to make me its dinner! It seems like rats are on the menu each place that I go!


Chapter Four: Animals of the East African Savanna Habitat
It’s Rattenborough, your intrepid adventurer here. Now I’ll show you something a little different. We’ve been talking about habitats. Those are the places where plants and animals live. And we’ve spent time in three of the most extreme habitats in the world. Those are the freezing Arctic tundra, the Arctic Ocean, and the scorching Sonoran Desert. Now, I’ve come to a habitat that should be of great interest to you. Some of the most famous animals in the world live here.

Welcome to the East African Savanna. Savanna is another name for grassland, a wide-open, vast stretch of grass-covered land. In more southern Africa, it’s called a “veldt.” In South America, it’s called a “campo.” You know that you’re in a grassland when there’s a lot of grass around you. But there aren’t lots of trees or bushes.

The East African Savanna has warm weather all year round. But it has only two seasons. They are the pluvial summer and the dry winter. The plants and animals that live here have had to adapt to these two different kinds of weather in the summer and winter. Propitiously, I brought my umbrella in case it starts to pour!


Boy, I can barely see a thing in all this grass. There’s so much of it. As the name grassland suggests, grass is the most important plant growing in the savannas. The grasses are very hardy. That means that they can survive the tough conditions of their habitat. That includes long spells of dry, hot weather, as well as heavy rainfall and flooding. The grass has adapted to these conditions by growing very deep roots. Even if the grass above ground is destroyed, the roots underground survive, and the grass can grow back. This grass grows very quickly, as much as an inch per day! The grass in your backyard might take a whole week to grow an inch.

Yikes, I’m surrounded by hooves! That’s because grass is food for many of the larger animals here. These are creatures like elephants, zebras, gazelles, and antelope. They masticate on grass all day long.

I don’t think that grass is all that tasty, to tell the truth. But these animals depend on the nutrients in the grass to survive. It’s all that they need to eat. It would seem that because so many animals eat the grass in the savanna every day, there wouldn’t be very much grass left after a while. But, remember, this grass grows back very quickly. So, there’s usually plenty for the varied herbivores, like zebras and antelopes, to eat!


Grass is not the only important wellspring of food in the savanna. Many animals get their meals from the acacia tree. Giraffes, with their long necks and tongues, are able to eat twigs and leaves from the top of the acacia. Not only are giraffes’ tongues long, but they are also very tough. It is a good thing, too. That’s because the twigs of the acacia tree are covered with sharp thorns that the giraffes eat along with the twigs and leaves!

Elephants eat grass, and they like acacias, too. They rest in the acacia’s shade and eat the acacia leaves, branches, and seeds. They even like to strip off the bark and chew on it.

I think that this acacia tree might be great to climb to get a better look at the savanna. But don’t forget that it’s covered in prickly barbs. Ouch! Acacias have adapted well to their habitat. Acacias have small leaves that don’t dry out as quickly as larger leaves would in the dry, hot months. The roots of an acacia grow very deep into the ground. That allows them to collect water from far underground when there is not much rainfall. And their sharp thorns help keep some animals from eating too many of the branches. These trees are right at home in this habitat.


Animals living in the savanna have adapted to their habitat in lots of ways. Some animals, like the giraffe, have long, powerful legs so that they can quickly run away from predators. Those are animals that hunt and kill other animals. Their long legs also help them travel long distances searching for food. Can you imagine a rat like me keeping up with a giraffe or zebra? Not a chance!

Now, there’s a little bird that’s been sitting on this giraffe the whole time that I’ve been watching. This is the oxpecker. Oxpeckers perch on the backs of large animals. This oxpecker will use its sharp claws to hold on to the giraffe, who will hardly even know it’s there. The giraffe and the oxpecker coexist. The oxpecker feeds on the fleas and ticks living on the giraffe’s body. And it warns the giraffe of any predators that might be trying to sneak up on it. In turn, the giraffe will let the oxpecker live on its back and provide the oxpecker food (fleas and ticks), shelter, and protection from predators. The oxpecker will spend most of its life on the giraffe’s back. What a partnership!

So, here I am, back in all this tall grass. And I bet that you recognize the black and white stripes of the zebra that I’ve just run into. Zebras are specially adapted to living in the savanna. They have strong, long legs that make them very good at outrunning lions and other predators. And the stripes on the zebra’s legs and body don’t just make it look pretty. They camouflage the zebra against the grass so that predators can’t see it. Zebras eat the grass on the savanna. So, they are herbivores.


Over there I can see the largest land animal in the world. Can you guess what it is? This African elephant is very big. It eats up to 400 pounds of trees and grasses each day! That’s about the same amount as the weight of nine first-graders!

African elephants are adapted to the hot weather in the savanna. They have huge ears that they flap like fans to stay cool and keep away bugs. They also have thick skin. That protects them from branches and thorns.

Do you see the trunk on that elephant? It uses its trunk for all sorts of things. The trunk is, of course, the elephant’s nose for breathing and smelling. But the trunk is also used like a hand for lifting things, gathering food, and even holding onto other elephants’ tails. Baby elephants, or calves, use their trunks to grasp other elephants’ tails. That keeps them from wandering away from the rest of the herd and getting lost. Elephants also use their trunks to drink water. They siphon up the water with their trunks. They then put the water from the trunk into their mouths. They also use their trunks like a hose for showers and playtime!

These animals are lions. Lions live in groups called prides. The females, or lionesses, do most of the hunting. They are carnivores that hunt zebras, elephants, and all kinds of other savanna animals. Most groups of lions have just one or two male lions. The male lion is huge. And he’s incredibly strong. He has a furry mane, powerful jaws, and fearsome claws. Unless this lion meets a stronger lion, no other animal in the savanna habitat can match the lion’s strength and power.


Animals that are hunted by predators are called “prey.” One of lions’ favorite prey to hunt and eat are zebras. Zebras try to use the camouflage of their stripes to hide in the grasses of the savanna. That way, the lions won’t see them.

Up at the top of this tree, I can see and hear birds that are waiting for the lions to finish eating. That’s so that they can have dinner. These birds are called vultures. A vulture is a “scavenger.” As you’ve learned, that’s an animal that eats dead-animal “leftovers.” Gross, huh?!

All of the animals and plants that you’ve learned of so far are part of something that we call the “food chain.” That’s pictured in this image. What do you see at the bottom of the picture? It’s the savanna grass. The arrow points from the savanna grass to the zebra. That’s because the zebra eats the grass. The next arrow points from the zebra to the lion, because, you guessed it. The lion eats the zebra. The next picture after the lion is a picture of the soil. That’s because eventually the lion dies. And its body then becomes a part of the soil. Then more grass grows out of that soil. And that starts the chain all over again.

Next, I think that we should head to a habitat that’s a bit closer to home. We’ll explore some plants and animals that might look quite familiar to us. But for now, I’m going to go check out more wildlife. I’ll see you soon.


Chapter Five: Animals of the Temperate Deciduous Forest Habitat
Greetings, from Rattenborough. Here we are with the next chapter in our habitat stories. We’ve looked at some very exotic, faraway places. Now, I thought that we could visit a habitat that’s quite common in many parts of the U.S. This is a forest habitat. You know that you’re in a forest habitat when each place you look there are trees all around you!

You may be wondering why I’m up a tree. Well, I’m enjoying the gorgeous view of a forest in North America! There are over 500,000 acres of forest in this national park. Lots of you may have seen forests like this before, either in real life or in books. You may know of some of the plants and animals that live here in the Smoky Mountains. A lot of them live in other parts of the U.S.

There are lots of varied kinds of forests in the world. The forests of the Smoky Mountains are called “temperate” forests. A temperate forest grows in an area that has four seasons. That includes a warm summer and a cold winter. And it receives steady rainfall throughout the year.

This forest is also called a “deciduous” forest. That’s because it’s full of deciduous plants. These are trees, bushes, and shrubs that lose their leaves every fall. Then they grow new leaves again when the temps start to rise in the spring. The temperate deciduous forest has a much friendlier climate than the other habitats that we’ve learned about. And it can support lots of varied kinds of plant and animal life.


A temperate deciduous forest is made up of broadleaf trees like oak, maple, beech, and elm. These trees grow very tall. And they are thickly covered with wide leaves that are better at collecting sunlight than trees like pine trees. Pines have needles instead of leaves. Under these taller trees, there are “saplings” (young trees). There are also shrubs and bushes and plants that bear fruit. Closer to the ground grow shorter plants like grasses and wildflowers.

I’ll start at the top and work my way down. That way, I can show you this cool habitat. The tree I’m standing in now is an oak tree. This oak is quite tall. And it’s covered with leaves and acorns. An acorn is a seed. And if it gets planted in the forest soil, it can grow roots and a shoot which will one day turn into an oak sapling.

Oaks have something in common with the saguaro cactus in the desert and the acacia tree in the savanna. Oak trees provide shelter and food for lots of animals. Owls, woodpeckers, mice, and foxes make their homes in the branches, or around the roots, of the oak tree. And acorns are food for squirrels, birds, deer, and other animals.

Look at that tasty insect! Well, the oak tree is home for hundreds of different kinds of insects, like the stink bug and the weevil, which eat its leaves and acorns. Moths and butterflies lay their eggs in the tree. Other insects, like ants and timber beetles, live under the bark of the oak, or in dead and fallen trees.


Just as insects are drawn to the oak as a source of food, so are animals that feed on insects. Spiders and all kinds of birds hunt for tasty bugs among the branches of the oak tree. Bears and other animals find food here, too. The oak tree is an amazing habitat in itself!

Down on the forest floor there are all kinds of shrubs. Their fruits are food to lots of varied species of animals. That includes rabbits, chipmunks, deer, and omnivores like bears. Mmm, some of these blueberries are perfectly ripe. And they taste delicious. What a tasty treat!

Down here on the ground, I can see wildflowers, grasses, and clover. These plants, which cover the forest floor, are home to many types of insects. They are food to grazing animals such as deer and mice.

One cool thing about the plants in a forest is that they often grow leaning in the same direction. Isn’t that strange? Well, they have to do that because they are looking for sunlight. The leaves of the big trees get all the sun. Only a small amount of sunlight gets through to the forest floor. That’s why it’s so shady in here. The plants down here have to grow toward the sun. That way, they can get enough light to make the food that they need to survive.


You may have seen this fuzzy green stuff. It can grow on rocks, trees, and the ground in the forest or countryside. Mosses are small green plants which grow in clumps in damp and shaded places. They cover parts of the forest floor like a carpet. And they are home to lots of small animals and insects. It feels really soft to walk on, thick and spongy, and it tickles a bit!

Now we’ll take a look at some of the animals that live here. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to almost 400 kinds of animals. Animals that live in the temperate deciduous forest are adapted to living in a habitat with four seasons.

Let’s start with the mighty oak tree again. This awesome tree is home to lots of animals. I’m standing at the nest of one of them. It’s the gray squirrel. This little animal is covered in warm, gray-brown fur. And it has a white chest and a long, bushy tail. Squirrels live in holes in the trunks of trees, or in nests high up in trees like this one. Their nests are built from twigs, leaves, moss, and grass. Squirrels use their strong back legs and sharp claws to help them leap from tree to tree and to run up and down tree trunks. And they use their tails to help them balance. Squirrels are omnivores and spend most of their time looking for food. The squirrel eats mostly acorns from the oak tree. But it also eats nuts, mushrooms, berries, seeds, and even bird eggs and insects. This squirrel might nibble on an acorn or two now. But it will also bury and store many acorns underground. That way, it will have them in the winter when other food is hard to find.


A barred owl lives in a hole in this oak tree. I have to be careful, because owls are carnivores. Unlike the elf owl in the desert, this owl happens to enjoy eating rats! This owl also eats other small animals like mice, insects, and even other birds. Owls have very good hearing and excellent eyesight. That allows them to find their prey easily in the thick forest. Owls are nocturnal, which means that they only come out at night. So, I have some time before this one is ready for a late-night snack.

Hold on, what’s that scratching sound coming from below? It’s a black bear! Black bears are common in North American temperate deciduous forests. And there are more than 1,000 in this national park. They are large animals. They weigh as much as fourteen first-graders would weigh all together. What happens when they stand on their hind legs? They can be taller than a person!

Bears are omnivores. And they hibernate, or sleep, during the winter in hollowed-out trees or caves. When they’re hibernating, bears use less energy. So, they don’t need to eat any food for many days at a time. This is a good thing. That’s because in the winter, the foods that bears eat are scarce and hard to find.

Bears are covered in thick, black or brown fur. And they have sharp claws to strip the bark off trees. They do that to uncover the insects that live there. This bear will use its long, sticky tongue to get into every crack to hunt out the insects. And they’ll make a delicious meal for him, I’m sure.


I just saw a deer through the trees. Deer often live in the temperate deciduous forest. That’s because it’s such a good place to stay hidden. But they often hunt for food in neighboring meadows. This is a buck. A buck is a male deer. And we can tell because male deer have antlers.

Did you know that a buck’s antlers fall off each year? And they will grow back again. Bucks mark their territory by stripping the bark off of trees with their antlers. Bucks also use their antlers for fighting with other male deer. This deer is a white-tailed deer. Its coat is tan right now. But in the winter, it will change to gray-brown. It also has patches of white on its underside. This helps the deer to be “camouflaged.” That means hidden in the environment. How do you think the change in color from tan to gray brown with patches of white in winter helps to camouflage the deer?

Deer graze on grasses and eat tree leaves, berries, and acorns, among other things. They mostly come out to feed at night when the light is low. And they rest during the day. This white-tailed deer has strong, long legs. They are good for running and jumping, and for escaping from predators like wolves, coyotes, and people.
The temperate deciduous forest’s climate can support lots of varied plants and animals. That’s because it has four seasons. It’s called temperate because it never gets too cold, like the Arctic. And it doesn’t get too hot, like the Sonoran Desert. There is a steady rate of rainfall throughout the year. That way, plants can grow, and animals can have food and water to keep them alive. This is just one of the many kinds of forests in the world. Next we’ll take a look at another kind. It will be quite different in a lot of ways. I’ll see you on our next junket.


Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Animals And Their Habitats        

Lesson 70 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: DDT, affix, amphibious, bibcocks, boa’s, boas, bullfrogs, bumbershoot, cattail, cattails, delivering, devilfish, disintegrating, disposing, disruptive, droning, endanger, endangered, equatorial, forage, fungi, gluey, hammerhead, hammerhead’s, hammerheads, hastening, hued, imperceptibly, installment, kapok, khaki, leafcutter, lily’s, lobster’s, macaws, mallards, manta, marquee, muskrats, nebulous, octopi, parasol, pesky, pileous, pilose, pilous, pincers, plankton, preferential, regeneration, regrows, reporting, resurgence, safeness, saline, seastar, sensitivity, shallower, stairsteps, starfish’s, tapered, thawing, trouble’s, vaulting, waxy


Chapter Six: Animals of the Tropical Rainforest Habitat
Hello there. Rattenborough reporting from a fascinating habitat. This one has the greatest variety of plants and animals of any habitat on Earth. Welcome to the tropical rainforest. Tropical places are warm and wet. A rainforest is a thick forest of plants that stay green year-round. So, a TROPICAL rainforest is a warm, wet, thick forest of plants that stay green year-round. There are tropical rainforests in lots of places around the world close to the equator. But the one that we’re seeing is the Amazon rainforest. It’s in South America. It’s the largest equatorial rainforest on Earth. It is so dense that a rat like me could easily get lost. It’s hot and humid here. The temperature is always quite warm. And it rains a ton all year long. My fur is feeling very wet and gluey. So, it’s a good thing that I brought my bumbershoot. There are between eighty and two hundred forty inches of rainfall here each year. That makes this one of the wettest places that you can find on land.

Temperate deciduous forests, which you learned about last time, have broadleaf trees that lose all of their leaves in the fall. The Amazon rainforest also has broadleaf trees. But the main difference is that most of the trees here stay green all year long. The evergreen trees in this tropical rainforest replace their leaves imperceptibly. This occurs throughout the year as the leaves age and fall. So, the trees always look green. And they never have bare branches like the trees in a temperate deciduous forest. Because the climate here is the same all year round, plants don’t need to slow down for cold winter weather. And the animals that live here always have a good supply of food all year, too.


Take a look around. The trees in the rainforest are so tall that they grow as high as thirteen-story buildings. Some grow much taller than that! I’m standing in a tree right now. As you can see, the trees grow thickly and close together. So, from above, you can see only a canopy of thick, green leaves. You can’t see the forest floor at all.

The sun’s light can’t get through this marquee of leaves. So, everything under them is really dark. I’ve brought a flashlight to help me see down there.

The plants in the Amazon rainforest have adapted to this climate in lots of ways. It’s so dark in the rainforest underneath the canopy that most plants have large leaves. That way, they can catch as much light as possible. Lots of the plants have waxy leaves. Their ends are tapered to help the water drip off of them. That’s just like the water running off of my parasol.

Many types of vines grow in the rainforest. Vines are climbing plants that grow on trees. And they can wind themselves around tree trunks. Lots of animals use these vines, almost like sidewalks and ladders. They help them to cross from one tree to another.

The rainforest floor is a very shady place. That means it’s a good habitat for mosses and fungi. They just don’t need much sunlight. If you can believe it, there are even some plants that don’t need any light at all to grow! They grow on the forest floor. They get their energy from the disintegrating leaves instead of from sunlight.


I’m way up in a type of tree called a kapok tree. I’m up so high that you won’t be able to see me! The kapok tree is one of the tallest trees around. The kapok has a very long trunk. And its branches and leaves form a canopy over the plants and animals below. That makes this tree a good shelter for animals like birds, snakes, and monkeys.

There are also lots of kinds of animals that call the Amazon rainforest home. There are many types of interesting and multi-hued birds, frogs, insects, reptiles, and other animals. They live in the trees and other plants of the tropical rainforest. These huge toucans use their large beaks to cut fruit from branches. They also eat lizards, as well as other birds. Macaws, which are a kind of parrot, travel in groups. They use their hooked beaks to break into hard nuts and fruits. And you don’t want to get too close to the poison arrow frog. It’s very pretty to look at. But it has poisonous skin to protect it from its predators.

I’m back in the tall kapok tree. Let’s see what kinds of animals call this habitat home. Over there, I can see a squirrel monkey. This is a very friendly little animal. It shares a lot of things in common with the squirrels that live in the temperate deciduous forests. The squirrel monkey is very small. It has a long, thin tail that it uses to help balance. It has strong legs that it uses to jump and run. And it has claws which help it climb up and down trees and vines. In fact, squirrel monkeys are so good at traveling, by vaulting and running along branches, that they hardly ever touch the forest floor.


The squirrel monkey is an omnivore. It eats insects, fruits, and flowers. And it spends most of its time during the day moving around the forest to find food. The squirrel monkey has excellent eyesight. That’s useful for finding small insects, fruit, and berries growing among the green leaves of the tropical rainforest trees. Squirrel monkeys live in large groups. That makes it harder for their predators, eagles and snakes, to get them. Now, this monkey is acting a little strange. Experience has told me that this kind of behavior likely means that trouble’s on the way. Aha, yes! Look who’s coming. It’s some kind of snake. Snakes also tend to eat rats. So, I’ll climb a bit higher and take a look from a distance.

Wow, look at the size of this snake! It’s a boa constrictor. That’s one of many kinds of snakes that live in the Amazon rainforest. It’s a pretty big snake. This one is about thirteen feet long! Boas can have slightly different coloring and patterns on their skin. But they are all well camouflaged in the trees, plants, and vines of the forest.

This boa constrictor, like all snakes, is a carnivore. It eats other animals such as bats, which are its preferential food. It also dines on rodents (yes, rats included!), lizards, birds, and even the small squirrel monkeys. The boa constrictor is mostly nocturnal. So, it comes out to hunt when it’s getting dark, like now.

Snakes can eat animals that are much bigger than they are. This boa’s jaws open very wide. So when it finds an animal to eat, such as birds and squirrel monkeys, it can swallow it whole.


The boa constrictor is not the only carnivore in the rainforest. In fact, it will have to watch out that it does not become dinner for a hungry jaguar, like this one. Jaguars look a lot like leopards. They have khaki fur with dark spots. But they’re bigger than leopards. They have shorter tails and legs, and bigger heads and paws. This jaguar is about seven feet long. And it likely weighs around 200 pounds.

Jaguars are well adapted to living in the rainforest. They enjoy great sensitivity with their hearing. And they have an excellent sense of smell. A jaguar can see very well during the day, and at night. All these things make it easier for it to find, stalk, and catch its prey.

I can barely hear the jaguar moving through the forest. That’s because its paws are covered with very thick fur, with pads on the bottom. They can travel very quietly. So, jaguars don’t have to run far to catch their prey. Thus, instead of having long legs for running, they have short, strong legs that are good for pouncing on other animals from the ground, from trees, or in the water.

A jaguar spends most of the day resting. Then it goes out to hunt at night. It’s also quite good at climbing trees. That means that I should get out of here before it’s able to sniff me out!

I’ve moved to the bottom of the kapok tree onto the forest floor. There’s one last, very interesting animal I want to show you. I must be hastening. It’s getting dark, and I may have to use my flashlight to show you.


These are leafcutter ants. These ants burrow underground and make nests in groups called colonies. The various ants in the colony have different responsibilities. There are worker ants, soldier ants, and their queen. The worker ants are traveling to the kapok tree nearby. There, they’ll use their sharp jaws to bite off pieces of the leaves to bring back to the nest.

Did you know that ants can carry up to ten times their own body weight? That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? The soldier ants are there to protect the worker ants on their way to and from the nest. These ants spend most of their lives working for food! Nature is amazing, isn’t it?

Well, it’s quite dark now. My fur has been sticking to me since we got here. So, I think that it’s time to leave the hot and humid Amazon rainforest. We’ve learned a lot about this exotic habitat, its climate, and the plants and animals that have their homes here. Now for somewhere quite different.


Chapter Seven: Animals of the Freshwater Habitat
Hello again! Glad you could join me. I thought that we needed a real change. So, I’ve come off of dry land to a place where it’s wet all the time, a lake. A lake is an area of water that is surrounded by land. There is a lot of water in the world. In fact, water covers most of the Earth’s surface. But, only a tiny part of the world’s water is freshwater. That’s the kind of water that you and I can drink, because it has very little salt in it.

Fresh water is found in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. The water in these streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds comes from rain and from thawing ice and snow. Isn’t it amazing to think that the water from the drinking fountain at school, or from the bibcocks in your house, all comes from rain?

I’m here at the water’s edge to explore this lake and the plants and animals that call this freshwater habitat home. Freshwater habitats have many kinds of fish, birds, insects, and other animals. Standing here, I can see an enormous leaf in the water. Let me climb onto it so that we can get a closer look.


This is a water lily leaf. A water lily is a plant that lives in water near the edges of ponds and lakes. Plants are important in freshwater habitats because they make oxygen for animals to breathe. Plants are also food for the animals to eat. And they can provide shelter to protect animals from their predators. The leaves of the water lily are very large, round, and green. And they float on the surface of the water.

The water lily is well adapted for living in this habitat. Like the kapok trees in the rainforest, the lily’s large leaves let it get as much sunlight as it needs for food and energy.

Lilies are also food for many animals, believe it or not. Animals, like deer, porcupines, beavers, and turtles, all eat the leaves, whereas ducks and geese like to eat the roots. Some animals, like fish and frogs, use the lily leaves as hiding places. And the flowers bring bees and other insects. I am going to float around the edge of the lake on this water lily leaf. But I’m going to have to leave soon. That’s because this pesky turtle will not leave my leaf alone!

I’ve pushed out from the edge of the lake a little. Already, I can see another kind of plant that lives here. It’s called a cattail. It gets its name from the unusual way that it looks. Thankfully for me, it doesn’t have much to do with real cats! Cattails have long, thin stems with foot-long, furry flower spikes at the top. They turn from green in the early summer to brown in the fall. The flower spike feels soft and pilose (also “pilous” or “pileous“) and looks a little like a cat’s tail. But I think that it looks more like a hot dog! The plants can reach up to nine feet in height. That lets them get as much sunlight as they need.


As with water lilies, some animals use cattails for food and shelter. Muskrats and geese like to eat the roots of the cattail. And the juicy green shoots are a favorite of moose and elk. Many kinds of birds make their homes among the cattails. It’s very hard to see anything in there, because cattails grow so thickly. So, it’s a good place for birds to build their nests, and to lay and hatch their eggs. Predators like snakes and frogs also live among the cattails and search for animals like birds and insects for food. I think that I’m going to move on now. As you know, I’m not very good with snakes!

Come with me beneath the water. Let’s take a look at what’s under there. Here are some nice-looking rainbow trout. Fish can only live in water, and they breathe underwater using gills on the sides of their bodies. Gills take in oxygen from the water around them. Fish have strong tails that they use for swimming, and fins that they use for steering and balance.

The rainbow trout is a carnivore. It eats other water animals like insects, other fish, and sometimes shellfish. It even eats some small land animals like mice, if it gets the chance. So, I’m sure that it wouldn’t mind a nibble of rat! Rainbow trout like to live in rivers, but some prefer the deeper water of big lakes.


I enjoyed exploring beneath the surface of the water, and now I’m going to rest on a lily pad again. While I’m drying off a bit, let me show you a kind of frog called a bullfrog, that I can see sitting at the water’s edge. Frogs are amphibious, which means that they live both in the water and on land. Bullfrogs are the largest kind of frog found in North America. They can grow more than half a foot long and weigh more than a pound. That’s a really big frog!

The bullfrog gets its name from the loud, cow-like noise it makes. I bet birds and turtles would be pretty surprised to know that a frog can make such a loud sound! Pretty neat, huh? This bullfrog is resting now. But it will come out to forage when it gets dark. Bullfrogs eat a lot of different kinds of food. They are carnivores, so they eat small fish, snakes, birds, and insects, like this dragonfly that’s droning about my head.

Adult dragonflies are flying insects with long bodies and wings. Dragonflies live around lakes, streams, and other freshwater habitats. That’s because they lay their eggs in water. Adult dragonflies eat other insects like mosquitoes, flies, and bees.

The dragonfly uses its long wings to hover around in the air where it catches its food. It has to be careful, because the bullfrog isn’t the only one that likes to eat dragonflies. Birds and turtles like to eat them, too.


The water is getting a little rough out here. Ah, that’s why. Here come some birds that like to eat insects. These are a kind of duck called mallards. Ducks are birds, and they can live both in and out of water. But it’s the water where they spend most of their time. Like all birds, ducks, like these mallards, are covered in feathers.

Did you know that ducks’ feathers are waterproof? Ducks rub special oil from their tails all over their feathers. Because oil and water don’t mix, water drips right off of the ducks without getting their feathers wet.

Ducks float on the surface of the water and have large, webbed feet to help them paddle. They dip their heads under the water, and use their beaks, which are called bills, to search for food at the bottom of the lake. Mallards eat grasses and seeds from plants, and small animals like insects, worms, snails, frogs, and small fish.

Well, we’ve had a good look around this freshwater habitat. But I have to get off of this lily leaf before these ducks knock me off! There’s another kind of water habitat, and we’re going to have a look at it next time. I hope that you’ll join me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start my long trip back to shore!


Chapter Eight: Animals of the Saltwater Habitat
Welcome to the last habitat that we are going to explore. In the last chapter, we explored freshwater habitats. Now, we’re going to learn about another kind of water habitat, a saltwater habitat. Saltwater habitats, as you could guess from their name, contain lots of salt. This means that we can’t use salt water for drinking. Would you like to drink a cup of saline water? No thanks!

It’s hard to imagine, but more of the Earth is covered in water than is covered with land. Most of that water is salt water in oceans and seas. Oceans are huge areas of salt water that stretch all around our planet. And they are home to almost half of the world’s species of animals, and millions of different plants. The water in the ocean comes from rain, as well as from rivers and streams that flow into the ocean. Seas are smaller areas of salt water that have land around them, or around part of them.

I’ve come to the largest ocean, the Pacific, to show you a bit more about ocean habitats and the plants and animals that live in them. I’m standing on a beach looking out at the water. You can see that the waves are crashing onto the beach. This beach, and any land that runs alongside the ocean, is called the coastline, or shoreline. Now, you may think that when you are standing on the land looking at the water, that the land stops where the water starts. It certainly looks that way. But let me get my trusty scuba gear out and walk into the water.


Now that I’m in here, I’m still standing on land. It’s just that the land is under the water. The land slopes downward the farther I go out into the water. That means that the water is getting deeper and deeper.

The interesting thing about the ocean floor, which is the land under the ocean water, is that it isn’t flat. As on land, the Earth beneath the ocean waters has both mountains and valleys. This makes some areas of water in the ocean deeper than others.

The Pacific Ocean is full of both plant and animal life. But not all of them share the same space. The conditions under the water are very different in various places. Some parts are deep, and some are shallow. There are cool parts, and there are warm parts. Some are dark, and some are full of light.

There are plants and animals in nearly every part of the ocean. Some are in the deep, open waters far from the land, and some are in the shoal waters closer to the shore. Some animals, like turtles, jellyfish, and crabs, live closer to the shore. There, it’s shallower and warmer.

Some animals like it better near the surface of the water. Others prefer to live down at the very bottom of the ocean, on the deep ocean floor. They have all had to adapt to the conditions of their habitats. For instance, the animals that live in the deeper parts of the ocean have had to adapt to total darkness. That’s because the sun’s light just can’t reach that deep.


Some fish, like the devilfish, have very large mouths and sharp teeth. So, they can catch their prey as easily as possible. Other sea creatures have feelers on their bodies that help them feel where their food is. And some animals make their own light with special chemicals in their bodies. That’s like when you carry a flashlight in the dark!

I have now arrived at a special part of a saltwater habitat called a coral reef. It’s made up of many tiny animals called corals. Corals stay in one place all their adult lives. They have stomachs and mouths, and even skeletons! These skeletons can be on the inside or outside of the coral animals and are also called coral. When the coral animal dies, its skeleton remains in place. Then, other coral animals will come and live on top of the old skeletons. The colony in which the coral lives is called a coral reef.

I’m here in the Pacific Ocean at a coral reef. In addition to the coral, there are many other kinds of animals around a reef! I have found everything from fish and shellfish, to octopi and sharks, to snails and turtles.


Here is an animal that lies in and around this coral reef. You know its name, since most of you can probably guess it based on its shape. It’s a starfish! This starfish, also known as a seastar, has five arms, which make it look like a star. Although it is called a starfish, it’s not actually a fish. It belongs to a group of animals that have a spiny skin all over their bodies. If I touch the starfish, I can feel that its body is covered with tiny, hard bumps. They help protect it from predators, such as sharks, manta rays, and other fish. Starfish are also able to protect themselves in another amazing way. If another animal actually catches and bites off one of the starfish’s arms, the starfish will not die, and it can still escape! In time, a new arm will grow back to replace the missing arm! When an animal regrows a missing body part, it’s called regeneration.

The starfish doesn’t swim. It crawls very slowly along the ocean floor using hundreds of tiny tube feet. These feet affix to whatever the starfish is crawling over. As it crawls along the floor, the starfish is always on the lookout for food. This starfish’s prey includes fish, snails, clams, oysters, and crabs.

Here is another animal that lives in salt water. This shellfish is called a lobster. Lobsters live on the ocean floor in openings between rocks. Their hard shell stops most other animals from trying to eat them. Lobsters have many legs that they use for crawling about. And they use antennae on their head to feel their way along the nebulous ocean floor. I have to watch out for that lobster’s claws! They are called pincers, and they are very strong! The lobster uses them to defend itself against its prey, and to catch and crush its own food.


Lobsters are carnivores. They eat fish, worms, and other shellfish. I’m going to move out of the way of this lobster before I get squeezed!

Looks like I moved right into the path of another predator. This is a hammerhead shark. If you take a look, you can see how the hammerhead got its name. Its head is very thick, and it looks like a hammer from above, with an eye and a nostril on each end. The hammerhead shark is a large fish. It grows up to twenty feet long and weighs over five hundred pounds. That’s about the same weight as ten first-graders! Hammerheads like to live in warm waters. So, they are mostly found near the coast where the waters are shallow and warmer.

Sharks are carnivores. The hammerhead’s favorite food is a fish called a ray. But it also likes to eat octopus, lobster, crab, and fish, including other sharks. Most sharks have smooth and slender bodies, which help them to swim fast. Their mouths are full of sharp teeth to help them catch their prey.

Let’s go back up to the surface. There’s a sea animal that I’m sure you’ll want to see. But we have to travel farther out to sea, away from the coral reef and into deeper water, to see it. This amazing creature is the biggest animal in the world. It’s a blue whale! Blue whales have blue-gray skin and are covered in a layer of blubber that helps keep them warm in the frigid ocean depths. Blue whales are so big that they can weigh as much as twenty-five elephants! In fact, blue whales are the biggest animals known to have lived on Earth. They’re even bigger than dinosaurs!


The blue whale spends all its time living in deep water. But unlike fish, it can’t breathe underwater, because it does not have gills. It needs to breathe air just like we do. The blue whale can hold its breath and stay under the water for as long as thirty minutes, before eventually coming up for air. It breathes using blowholes on the top of its head. Sometimes, when it does come up for air, it breathes out a huge fountain of water from the blowholes.

Blue whales are carnivores. They eat lots of food to build up their blubber during the summer months when food is easy to find. Blue whales eat teeny, tiny sea creatures called plankton. The plankton that blue whales eat are small shrimplike shellfish that are about the size of your little finger. It’s incredible to think that the biggest animal on Earth eats one of the smallest animals on Earth.

The ocean is so huge and deep that we could spend all year looking at the plants and animals that live there, and still not see them all. In fact, there are still many living things in the ocean that people, and adventurous rats, have not even discovered yet. I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about the animals in this saltwater habitat in the Pacific Ocean. We still have one more stop to make on our worldwide tour of habitats. I’ll see you next time!


Chapter Nine: Habitat Destruction and Endangered Species
Rattenborough here, delivering the final installment of our exciting habitats adventure. We have traveled all around the world. We’ve looked at some of the different habitats where plants and animals live. A lot of those habitats, such as the Arctic and the Sonoran Desert, have climates to which you and I would have a tough time adapting. As we’ve seen, though, there are different living things in each habitat that we have visited.

Because some living things are so well-adapted to the specific conditions of their specific habitats, any large change in their surroundings could make it hard for them to survive. Just think what would happen if it got even a little colder in the desert. Some of those animals who are so good at keeping cool wouldn’t know how to stay warm. Or what if it stopped raining in the rainforest? What would happen to all of those plants that need lots of water? Or what if something happened that was disruptive to the food chain of a certain animal? What if that animal relied on a certain type of plant or animal to eat, and that food source was taken out of its habitat? That animal would no longer have food that it needs to survive.


Sometimes habitats change because the temperature or the weather changes. But unfortunately, people often affect habitats as well. Whether they realize it or not, people can make it very difficult for plants and animals to survive.

From cutting down trees or starting forest fires, to disposing of dangerous waste and chemicals into our rivers, people’s actions can endanger lots of species of plants and animals.

Sometimes people’s actions destroy entire habitats. For example, someone walking in a forest might light a match and drop it. Then the whole forest might burn. Even if they were not harmed by the fire itself, many animals that used to live in trees would no longer have a place to live. When they lose their homes, animals find it much harder to continue to live in a particular habitat. If they can’t find new places to live, the animals will not survive. After a while, there will be fewer and fewer of these kinds of animals alive in the wild. When that happens, we say that they have become an “endangered species.” We say that these species are endangered for a very good reason. They are in danger of extinction. An animal or plant that is “extinct” has died out. It does not exist anywhere in the world anymore.


I’m on a mission to tell you about one animal that can teach us a lot about endangered species and how to save them. I have come here to Washington State. We’re in the northwestern part of the U.S. I’ll show you an amazing bird called a bald eagle. Look up at that tree there. You’ll see one of these eagles perched on the very top branch. You may recognize the bald eagle. That’s because it’s one of the national symbols of our country. Drawings of the eagle appear as a symbol on American money, and in many other places. Believe it or not, the bald eagle was almost extinct in the U.S. a number of years ago! If that had happened, there would be no bald eagles still living. So, we’re grateful to be able to spot this bald eagle today.

Bald eagles are scavengers. But they also eat rats and other small animals. So, I’d better stay out of the way. I think that the bald eagle looks very grand, don’t you? It is covered with dark brown feathers, and its head and tail are both white. Bald eagles are some of the largest birds living in this country. They can grow up to three feet tall, which is almost as tall as a first-grader! Wow, this one has just taken off into the air. And you can see that it has huge wings. In fact, their wings can spread to about eight feet in length. While this eagle is flying around, let me tell you more about these special birds.


There used to be thousands of bald eagles in the U.S. But farmers started to hunt them, because they thought the eagles were killing their farm animals. Then, later, people started to cut down the trees in which the eagles built their nests. They did that to make way for roads, houses, and shopping malls. With fewer places for them to make their homes, eagles found it harder and harder to survive. So, they started to die out. Soon, there weren’t very many bald eagles left in the whole U.S. People started to notice that there were fewer and fewer bald eagles. Then they decided to find out why.

Scientists began to study the eagles, and they discovered two things. The first was that a lot of eagles didn’t have enough room to build their nests. Eagles do not like to live in the same area as other eagles. So, they build their nests far away from each other. They like places that are very peaceful. And they need huge, strong trees that can hold nests big enough for the adults and their babies to live.

The scientists discovered that the eagles didn’t have enough room in the areas where they had been living. That’s because people were chopping down trees in order to build more roads and buildings. People were destroying the bald eagles’ habitat.

The other thing that scientists found out was that something bad was getting into the bald eagles’ food supply. Farmers sometimes use chemicals to keep bugs from eating their crops. One chemical, though, made the eggs that the eagles laid much thinner and easier to break. Because of this, many eagle eggs were breaking before they could hatch. No one knew before then that the chemical was hurting the eagles, but it was.


Luckily, the scientists found out which chemical was harming the eagles’ eggs. It was called “DDT.” Using the scientists’ information, the U.S. government made laws to protect the bald eagle and its habitat. That way, the eagles’ food no longer contained the harmful chemical. Thanks to these laws, more eagles were born, and the numbers of eagles started to rise again. Now, bald eagles have made an amazing resurgence. But people must always be careful to protect their habitat.

This bald eagle has returned to its nest up in that tree. Maybe it has some chicks up there that it needs to feed. Or maybe it’s just trying to keep warm. It is pretty chilly!

And speaking of returning to the nest, I’m afraid it’s time for me to go home now. I’ve really enjoyed our trip around the world’s habitats, and I hope that you have, too! Mrs. Rattenborough and my kids miss me. And to tell the truth, it’s been a dangerous expedition for me. I’ll be glad to get out of danger and into the safeness of my lovely home under the stairsteps. Home, sweet home. Or maybe I should say, “Habitat, sweet habitat!”











Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading
(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Animals And Their Habitats     

Lesson 71 – Part Three: “Changing Environments”

NEW WORDS: Alex’s, Stevenson, aerosol, affirmed, analyzing, apparatuses, ascertaining, beaver’s, blockaded, ceaselessly, coaxed, colocated, derelict, detects, discards, disordered, ecosystems, efficaciously, encroachments, endemic, evaluating, hectic, impactful, impinge, implementing, invasive, kudzu, limiting, monolithic, nutshell, nutty, optimize, pandemonium, procedural, readjust, replant, repurpose, restraining, reutilize, sabotage, soybeans, specimens, sprays, stimulated, supplanted, sweetgum, unforeseen, unwraps, wrapper


Chapter One: Alex’s Nutty Lunch
Alex’s class is quite stimulated today. It’s a warm spring day, and Mrs. Stevenson affirmed that they could eat their lunch outside! Alex detects a spot that he likes under a sweetgum tree, and he unwraps his granola bar. He’s about to take a bite when he sees a squirrel digging a hole nearby. The squirrel finds a walnut and begins to nibble. Alex’s granola bar has nuts in it, too! He and the squirrel are eating nuts at the same time, and Alex thinks that this is quite funny. Alex wonders how the squirrel’s nut got there. Where did it come from, how did it get buried, and how did the squirrel know where to find it? Then he looks at his own food. He didn’t have to dig a hole in the ground to find his own lunch.

He knows that it came from the grocery store, but where did it come from before that? He is eating nuts just like the squirrel, but how did his get into a granola bar and also inside a plastic wrapper? Think about your lunch. Where did the parts of it come from? Soon, the squirrel finishes eating and runs away. Bits of shell are left behind next to a hole in the ground, and it looks a little disordered. “How long will that hole and nutshell stay like that?” Alex wonders.

Alex decides that he will be neater than the squirrel, so, he will throw away his own trash. Where does the trash go next? There is always a story of where a meal came from, and after each meal, there is a story of what is left over and what happens to it.


Chapter Two: Living Things Have Needs
Alex thinks about how both he and the squirrel got hungry. A hungry feeling means that you have a need for food, and a thirsty feeling means that you have a need for water. People and other animals need food and water to stay alive. Thus, all plants and animals have needs.

Animals need food to stay alive, they need water and air to stay alive, and they need shelter to stay alive. Plants need land and space to stay alive, they need water to stay alive, and they need air and sunlight to stay alive. Plants and animals live where they can get what they need. The place around a living thing is called an environment. Plants and animals live in many kinds of environments.

The desert is a dry environment. A pond is a wet environment. A forest floor is a shady environment. An environment has many parts, and the parts work together. Some parts of an environment are alive. Plants and animals are living parts of an environment. Other parts are not alive. Rocks and water are not alive, but they make up parts of environments. What are some parts of this environment?


Environments can change. Seasons are one kind of change. Fall, winter, spring, and summer happen every year. Weather can change every day. It can get warmer or colder, and it can become wet, dry, sunny, or cloudy. Changes impinge upon the living things in an environment. Plants and animals have to readjust to these changes to help them survive.

A deciduous tree discards its leaves in the fall. This helps it since there is less sunlight in winter. Some animals sleep all winter. This helps them when there is less food available. This fox’s fur changes from brown to white in winter. This helps the fox hide when its environment becomes snowy.

Some changes happen suddenly. Plants and animals cannot get ready for them. Food and water may be hard to find after an unforeseen change. Animals can lose their homes. Wildfires are a sudden change. Movement of rock and dirt can be a sudden change. Sometimes an environment changes too much. Living things in the area cannot survive. A change can be so impactful that it can even endanger or kill a whole group of living things. They become extinct. Extinct plants and animals will not live anywhere on Earth again.

A big change may have happened to the environment when dinosaurs lived. A meteor hit the Earth, and it caused changes to the air and land. Many living things could not survive this sudden change, as Earth’s ecosystems were sent into monolithic pandemonium.


Chapter Three: Plants Can Change Environments
A squirrel can change the environment. It can dig a hole and bury a nut. The nut can grow into a tree. Can a plant change the environment? Think about the plant called kudzu. It can climb and grow on top of other plants. This changes the environment for other plants. It blocks their light. Trees can begin growing in small cracks in rocks. When they run out of room, they can grow around the rocks. The roots stretch out into the space that they need. Sometimes the space where a tree is growing does not have enough room for the tree’s roots. The tree roots keep pushing. They can break sidewalks apart.

Plants need sunlight. Trees that grow large make it shady below them. This changes an environment that used to be sunny. Vines that need sunlight climb to where they can get it. They can shade other plants when they grow on top of them.

Plants that have always lived in an area are called native plants. Other plants can start growing in areas where they are not endemic. If these plants grow and spread so quickly that they invade the space of native plants, they are called invasive plants. Water hyacinths are invasive plants in this lake. What will happen if they are allowed to continue growing?


Chapter Four: Animals Can Change Environments
Animals can change environments as they live to meet their needs. Do you remember the squirrel that Alex saw when he was eating lunch? Squirrels bury nuts so that they can always find food. Nuts contain seeds that can grow into new trees if they are left in the ground. Squirrels don’t mean to plant new trees. It is just a change that can happen.

Other animals change their environments on purpose to help them meet their needs. For example, birds build nests to lay eggs in. Ants hollow out wood so that they can live in large groups. Inside, the ants build many rooms. The beaver is one animal that changes its environment to meet its needs. Beavers chew through trees to cut them down. They drag the trees into piles in streams. The pile in the stream is called a beaver dam. The dam blocks the stream water. The blockaded water floods the surrounding land. It makes a deep pond. The beaver swims and finds food in the pond. From beneath the water, the beaver can climb up inside a pile of trees and sticks and make a room inside. The room inside the pile is called a lodge. It is the beaver’s home.


When a beaver changes the environment to meet its needs, it does not mean to sabotage other living things. However, a beaver dam changes a stream environment so much that some other living things can’t survive there anymore. Certain fish need the running water of a stream to lay their eggs. They cannot survive in the still water of a beaver pond. Many plants that live near a stream cannot survive the change when the land is flooded with water.

Alex now knows how plants and animals can change environments. Maybe by making things like granola bars, people can change environments, too. Changes that people make can turn into damaging encroachments on other living things. What do you think was here before these houses?


Chapter Five: Humans Can Change Environments
Alex thinks about the granola bar. He wonders about how the granola bar came to be inside a package. Foods like granola bars are packaged in factories. Stores have foods in boxes, metal cans, glass jars, and plastic bottles. The materials used to package food came from the environment. Paper, plastic, and glass come from natural materials. Plants and oil are some natural materials used to make these packages. Humans gather these materials to package things like granola bars.

Humans change environments to meet their need for food. Humans farm, and farmers grow crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, and oats. When some farms are built they use a lot of land. Huge areas of land are cleared. Animals that lived on the land cannot live there anymore. Trees and other plants that lived there naturally are supplanted with crop plants. In meeting our need for food, people change the environment.


Some farmers spray crops with materials that help their crops grow, or kill bugs that might harm the plants. When it rains, some of the aerosol can run into nearby streams. The streams can become dirty. Then animals that live in the streams might become sick, and some may even die. Meeting our need for food can sometimes create important changes in our environment. How can you tell that this stream is not healthy?

Some things that are grown on farms are used to make food in factories. Like farms, factories are built on land that was once home to living things. Land is cleared to make room for both farms and factories. If we are not careful, our factories can pollute the air and water around them. Pollution can make nearby environments unsafe for plants and animals.

What happens when food leaves the factories? Trucks and trains transport it to stores all around the country. Highways and train tracks run through environments. This affects the places where animals live. Sometimes animals cannot safely cross hectic roads. They can have a hard time getting what they need to survive.


Chapter Six: Humans Can Help Environments
People change environments to meet their needs. But people can make choices that help environments, too! You probably help the environment in small ways every day. You help when you throw away your trash after lunch, like Alex did. You help when you walk or ride your bike someplace instead of riding in a car. Alex met his need for food. Then he protected the environment.

People can help the environment by limiting water usage. If you turn the water off while you brush your teeth, less clean water goes down the drain. Then your city has less dirty water to clean. This helps the environment. Another way to save water is to do a few full loads of laundry instead of many small loads.

People can help environments by producing less trash. The trash we put into garbage cans is collected and taken to garbage dumps. Trash from many people piles up there. It changes the environment. We can do things to make less trash. For example, we can take our own bags to the grocery store. We can reutilize bags instead of throwing them away. We can find ways to reuse other containers instead of throwing them away. We can recycle plastic paper, cardboard, metal, and glass. Recycling means turning the material into something new.


People can help environments in big ways, too. They can replant trees or prairies on large areas of land that have been changed by human activity. When derelict buildings or farmland are no longer used, people can repurpose the land to what it was like before.

Farmers can care for the environment. They can find ways to use less water. They can allow other plants and animals to use the land to make the soil healthy. They can avoid using materials that cause pollution. Some farmers grow food indoors and without soil. This way of growing food means less harm to the environment. Some farmers use hay or straw for restraining weeds. This way they do not need to use sprays that can wash into streams when it rains.

Alex wonders what he could do to help the environment where he lives. Perhaps he will plant a garden for bees and butterflies. This kind of garden can help replace lost homes for these animals. They lose their homes whenever people clear land to build buildings and roads. Or maybe Alex’s class can push for implementing recycling bin usage at school during lunch. Alex can also pick up litter around his neighborhood. You can, too!


Chapter Seven: Here’s Science in Action: Let’s Meet a Soil Tester
Since Alex saw the squirrel while he was eating his lunch, he learned more about the needs of plants and animals. He knows that people and animals get what they need from their environments. He also knows that his environment is colocated among other living things’ living spaces. Alex now tries to take care of the environment. He always throws away his trash. He picks up litter in the park with his family every Saturday. He got other families interested in recycling. He even coaxed his teacher to create a classroom recycling bin.

One day in class, Alex asks his teacher how people know whether the land and water are healthy. She explains that scientists are often evaluating the water to find out what’s in it. They spend time analyzing soil, too. They are ceaselessly ascertaining if soil or water contains chemicals that could hurt living things. Scientists test soil to find out whether it has the nutrients that plants need to grow.


The students want to know more. Alex’s teacher takes them to a farm. A soil scientist will show them how he tests the soil. He collects data about what he finds. His data help farmers know whether the soil needs more nutrients. If the soil is missing nutrients that plants need, farmers can add them. Plant fertilizers can help plants grow more efficaciously.

The scientist uses a sharp tool to take soil specimens from deep in the ground. Then he takes the samples to a lab. In the lab, special apparatuses look for metals, nutrients, and other chemicals in the soil. The scientist collects data again and again over time. He compares the data. He shares his results with farmers.

How do these data help farmers? Sometimes soil does not have enough nutrients. Sometimes it has too much. This scientist will use the data to optimize the nutrients in soil. He will use data to find out whether soil has enough water. Data will help him find out if the level of any chemicals in the soil is too high or too low. Data from soil samples help farmers grow healthy plants.

Alex asks the scientist how he got interested in studying soils. He tells Alex that when he was a boy he learned about a man named George Washington Carver. Professor Carver was a very important African-American botanist and inventor who studied plants and soil. He used the data that he collected to develop ways to keep soil healthy. He taught farmers a procedural method called crop rotation. He showed them how planting different crops each year could keep the soil from losing nutrients. As a result, farmers grew healthier plants.


Lesson 72 – Ghost Stories


NEW WORDS: Airedale’s, Bernard, Chambord, Closser, Granville, Maupassant, Myla, O’Shanter, Rouen, Tammy, alluding, anguish, apparition, aristocratic, aroused, arrivals, assented, astonishment, avidity, barriers, blowflies, breakfasted, brethren, caressed, chateau, collapsing, complexion, cunningly, deathly, diplomacy, disorders, dreamlike, ecstasy, embarrassment, explainable, gaunt, ghastly, glades, groomed, hallucination, highroad, hilt, homesickness, immovable, impartially, inconsequently, indefinable, indistinct, inmost, inquest, inscriptions, irresistible, jaunty, mansions, marquis, merit, mongrel, muzzles, nobodies, notified, numbing, pardonable, perplexity, pined, plaited, plaits, portal, quartered, quavering, questioningly, quivering, reassured, regiment, reproof, rhythmical, romped, rustle, sadnesses, scout’s, screens, sensitiveness, sequestration, serpents, snuffled, softened, somniferous, sorrowful, stony, straining, strays, sunstroke, supernatural, swiftness, threshold, translation, tunic, unalloyed, unbound, unconsciously, understandingly, unendurable, unexhausted, unrest, weaknesses

At the Gate 

By, Myla Jo Closser

A shaggy Airedale scented his way along the highroad. He had not been there before. But he was guided by the trail of his brethren who had preceded him. He had gone unwillingly upon this journey. Yet with the perfect training of dogs, he had accepted it without complaint. The path had been lonely, and his heart would have failed him, traveling as he must without his people. But the traces of countless dogs before him promised companionship of a sort at the end of the road.

The landscape had appeared arid at first. The translation from his recent agony into freedom from pain had been so numbing in its swiftness that it was some time before he could fully appreciate the pleasant dog-country that he was passing through. There were woods with leaves on the ground that he could scurry through. There were long grassy slopes for extended runs. And there were lakes into which he might plunge for sticks, and bring them back to, well, who? But he did not complete his thought. You see, the boy was not with him. A little wave of homesickness possessed him.

It made his mind easier to see far ahead a great gate as high as the heavens, wide enough for all. He understood that only man built such barriers. And by straining his eyes, he fancied that he could discern humans passing through to whatever lay beyond. He broke into a run, that he might the more quickly gain this enclosure made beautiful by men and women. But his thoughts outran his pace. Now he remembered that he had left the family behind. And again, this lovely new compound would not be perfect, since it would lack the family.



The scent of the dogs grew very strong now. And coming nearer, he discovered, to his astonishment, that of the myriads of those who had arrived ahead of him, thousands were still gathered on the outside of the portal. They sat in a wide circle spreading out on each side of the entrance. There were big, little, curly, handsome, mongrel, and thoroughbred dogs of every age, complexion, and personality. All were apparently waiting for something or someone. And at the pad of the Airedale’s feet on the hard road, they arose and looked in his direction.

That their interest passed, as soon as they discovered the newcomer to be a dog, puzzled him. In his former dwelling-place, a four-footed brother was greeted with enthusiasm when he was a friend. He was met with suspicious diplomacy when he was a stranger. And he was given sharp reproof when he was an enemy. But never had he been utterly ignored like this.

He remembered something that he had read many times on great buildings with lofty entrances. “Dogs not admitted,” the signs had said. And he feared that this might be the reason for the waiting circle outside the gate. It might be that this noble portal stood as the dividing-line between mere dogs and humans. But he had been a member of the family. He had romped with them in the living room. He had sat at meals with them in the dining room. He had gone upstairs at night with them. And the thought that he was to be “kept out” would be unendurable.


He despised the passive dogs that he saw. They should be treating a barrier after the fashion of their old country. They should be leaping against it, barking, and scratching the nicely painted door. He bounded up the last little hill to show them by example. He was still full of the rebellion of the world! But he found no door to leap against. He could see large masses of people beyond the entrance. Yet no dog crossed the threshold. They continued in their patient ring, their somniferous gaze upon the winding road.

He now advanced cautiously to examine the gate. It occurred to him that it must be fly time in this region. That was the time of year when houseflies and blowflies were at their most annoying. So, he did not wish to make himself ridiculous before all these strangers by trying to bolt through an invisible mesh like the one that had baffled him when he was a little chap. That’s what the humans had used to keep the flies at bay.

Yet there were no screens here, oddly, and despair entered his soul. What bitter punishment these poor beasts must have suffered before they learned to stay on this side of the arch that led to the human beings! What had they done on Earth to merit this? Stolen bones troubled his conscience, runaway days, sleeping in the best chair until the key clicked in the lock. These were sins.


At that moment, an English bull terrier approached him. He was white, with liver-colored spots and a jaunty manner. And he was snuffling in a friendly way. No sooner had the bull terrier smelt his collar than he expressed his joy at meeting him. The Airedale’s stony reserve was quite softened by this welcome. Though, to be frank, he did not know yet just what to make of it.

“I know you! I know you!” exclaimed the bull terrier. Then he added, inconsequently, “What’s your name?”

“Tam O’Shanter. They call me Tammy,” was the answer, with a pardonable break in the voice.

“I know them,” said the bull terrier. “Nice folks.”

“Best ever,” said the Airedale, trying to be nonchalant, and scratching a flea which was not there. “I don’t remember you. When did you know them?”

“About fourteen tags ago, when they were first married. We keep track of time here by the license-tags. I had four.”

“This is my first and only one. You were before my time, I guess,” said the Airedale. He felt young and shy.

“Come for a walk, and tell me all about them,” was his new friend’s invitation.

“Aren’t we allowed in there?” asked Tam. He was looking toward the gate.


“Sure. You can go in whenever you want to. Some of us do at first, but we don’t stay.”

Tam asked, “Like it better outside?”

“No, no. It isn’t that.”

“Then why are all you fellows hanging around here? Any old dog can see that it’s better beyond the arch.”

“You see, we’re waiting for our folks to come,” said the terrier.

The Airedale grasped it at once. He nodded understandingly. Then he said, “I felt that way when I came along the road. It wouldn’t be what it’s supposed to be without them. It wouldn’t be the perfect place.”

“Not to us,” said the bull terrier.

“Fine! I’ve stolen bones, but it must be that I have been forgiven, if I’m to see them here again. It’s the great good place all right. But look here,” he added as a new thought struck him. “Do they wait for us?”

The older inhabitant coughed in slight embarrassment. “The humans couldn’t do that very well. It wouldn’t be the thing to have them hang around outside for just a dog. That wouldn’t be dignified.”


“Quite right,” agreed Tam. “I’m glad they go straight to their mansions. I’d hate to have them missing me as I am missing them.” He sighed. “But, then, they wouldn’t have to wait so long.”

“Oh, well, they’re getting on. Don’t be discouraged,” comforted the terrier. “And in the meantime, it’s like a big hotel in summer, watching all of the new arrivals. See, there’s something going on right now.”

All the dogs were aroused to excitement by a little figure. It was making its way uncertainly up the last slope. Half of them started to meet it. They crowded about it in a loving, eager pack.

“Look out! Don’t scare it,” cautioned the older animals. Word was quickly passed to those who were the farthest from the gate. “Quick! Quick! A baby’s come!”

Before they had entirely assembled, though, a gaunt yellow hound pushed through the crowd. He gave one sniff at the small child. Then, with a yelp of joy, he crouched at its feet. The baby embraced the hound in recognition. Then, the two moved toward the gate. Just outside, the hound stopped to speak to an aristocratic St. Bernard who had been friendly.

“Sorry to leave you, old fellow,” he said. “But I’m going in to watch over the kid. You see, I’m all she has up here.”


The bull terrier looked at the Airedale for appreciation.

“That’s the way we do it,” he said proudly.

“Yes, but?” The Airedale put his head on one side in perplexity.

“Yes, but what?” asked the guide.

“What about the dogs that don’t have any people. I guess you’d call them the nobodies‘ dogs?”

“That’s the best of all. Oh, everything is thought out here. Crouch down. You must be tired. Now watch,” said the bull terrier.

Soon they spied another small form making the turn in the road. He wore a Boy Scout’s uniform, but he was a little fearful since this was such a new adventure. The dogs rose again and snuffled, but the better groomed of the circle held back. In their place, a pack of odds and ends of the company ran down to meet him. The Boy Scout was reassured by their friendly attitude. Then, after petting them impartially, he chose an old-fashioned black and tan, and the two passed in.

Tam looked questioningly. “They didn’t know each other!” he exclaimed.


The terrier responded, “But they’ve always wanted to. That’s one of the boys who used to beg for a dog, but his father wouldn’t let him have one. So, all our strays wait for just such little fellows to come along. Every boy gets a dog. And every dog gets a master.”

“I expect that the boy’s father would like to know that now,” commented the Airedale. “No doubt he thinks quite often, ‘I wish I’d let him have a dog.'”

The bull terrier laughed. “You’re pretty near the Earth yet, aren’t you?”

Tam admitted it. “I have a lot of sympathy with fathers and with boys, having them both in the family, and a mother, as well.”

The bull terrier leaped up in astonishment. He cried out, “You don’t mean to say they keep a boy?”

Tam grinned and said, “Sure! Greatest boy on Earth. Ten this year.”

“Well, well, this is news! I wish they’d kept a boy when I was there.”

The Airedale looked at his new friend intently. “See here, who are you?” he demanded.

But the other hurried on. “I used to run away from them just to play with a boy. They’d punish me, and I always wanted to tell them it was their fault for not getting one.”


“Who are you, anyway?” repeated Tam. “Whose dog were you?”

“You’ve already guessed. I see it in your quivering snout. I’m the old dog that had to leave them about ten years ago.”

Tam asked, “Their old dog Bully?”

“Yes, I’m Bully.” They nosed each other with deeper affection, then strolled about the glades shoulder-to-shoulder. Bully then more eagerly pressed for news. “Tell me, how are they getting along?”

Tam answered, “Very well indeed. They’ve paid for the house.”

“I suppose you occupy the kennel?”

“No. They said that they couldn’t stand it to see another dog in your old place.”

Bully stopped to howl gently. “That touches me. It’s generous of you to tell me that. To think that they missed me!”

For a little while, they went on in silence. But evening fell, and the light from the golden streets inside of the city gave the only glow to the scene. Bully grew nervous and suggested that they go back. “We can’t see so well at night. And I like to be pretty close to the path, especially toward morning.”


Tam assented. He said, trying to be helpful, “And I will point them out. You might not know them just at first.”

Bully said, “Oh, we know them. Sometimes the babies have so grown up that they’re rather hazy in their recollection of how we look. They think we’re bigger than we are. But you can’t fool us dogs.”

“It’s understood,” Tam cunningly arranged, “that when he or she arrives, you’ll sort of make them feel at home while I wait for the boy?”

“That’s the best plan,” agreed Bully, kindly. “And if by any chance the little fellow should come first, there’s been a lot of them this summer, of course, you’ll introduce me?”

“I shall be proud to do it,” said Tam.

And so with muzzles sunk between their paws, and with their eyes straining down the pilgrims’ road, they waited outside the gate.


A Ghost

By, Guy de Maupassant

Translated for this volume by M. Charles Sommer.
We were speaking of sequestration, alluding to a recent lawsuit. It was at the close of a friendly evening in a very old mansion near Granville Street. And each of the guests had a story to tell, which he assured us was true.

Then the old Marquis de Chambord, eighty-two years old, rose from his seat. He came forward to lean on the mantelpiece. He told the following story in his slightly quavering voice.

“I, too, have witnessed a strange thing. It was so strange that it has been the nightmare of my life. It happened fifty-six years ago. Yet there is not a month when I do not see it again in my dreams. From that day, I have borne a mark, a stamp of fear. Do you understand?”

“Yes, for ten minutes I was a prey to terror. It was so powerful that – ever since – a constant dread has remained in my soul. Unexpected sounds chill me to the heart. Objects which I can ill distinguish in the evening shadows make me long to flee. I am afraid at night.”


“No! I would not have admitted such a thing before reaching my present age. But now I may tell everything. One may fear imaginary dangers at eighty-two years old. But before actual danger, I have never turned back, my friends.”

“That affair so upset my mind to the core. It filled me with such a deep, mysterious unrest that I never could tell it. I kept it in that inmost part, that corner where we conceal our sadnesses, our shameful secrets, and all the weaknesses of our life which cannot be confessed.”

“I will tell you that strange happening just as it took place. But I will make no attempt to explain it. Unless I went mad for one short hour, it must be explainable, though. Yet I was not mad, and I will prove it to you. Imagine what you will. Here are the simple facts.”

“It was in 1827, in July. I was quartered with my regiment in Rouen. One day, as I was strolling on the quay, I came across a man who I believed that I recognized. However, I could not place him with certainty. I instinctively went more slowly, ready to pause. The stranger saw my impulse. He looked at me, and he then fell into my arms.”


“It was a friend from my younger days. I had been very fond of him. He seemed to have become half a century older in the five years since I had seen him. His hair was white, and he stooped in his walk. It was as if he were exhausted. He understood my amazement, and he told me the story of his life.”

“A terrible event had broken him down. He had fallen madly in love with a young girl. He had married her in a kind of dreamlike ecstasy. After a year of unalloyed bliss and unexhausted passion, she had died suddenly of heart disease. She was, no doubt, killed by love itself.”

“He had left the country on the very day of her funeral. He had come to live in his hotel at Rouen. He remained there, solitary and desperate, grief slowly mining him. He was so wretched that he constantly thought of suicide.”

“‘As I thus came across you again,’ he said, ‘I shall ask a great favor of you. I want you to go to my chateau and get some papers that I urgently need. They are in the writing desk of my room. Alas, it was OUR room. I cannot send a servant or a lawyer. The errand must be kept private. I want absolute silence.'”

“‘I shall give you the key of the room, which I locked carefully myself before leaving, and the key to the writing-desk. I shall also give you a note for the gardener, who will let you in.'”


“‘Come to breakfast with me tomorrow. We’ll talk the matter over.'”

“I promised to render him that slight service. It would mean a pleasant excursion for me, as his home was not more than twenty-five miles from Rouen. I could go there in an hour on horseback.”

“At ten o’clock the next day I was with him. We breakfasted alone together, yet he did not utter more than twenty words. He asked me to excuse him. The thought that I was going to visit the room where his happiness lay shattered, upset him, he said. Indeed, he seemed perturbed and worried. It was as if some mysterious struggle were taking place in his soul.”

“At last, he explained exactly what I was to do. It was very simple. I was to take two packages of letters and some papers, locked in the first drawer at the right of the desk for which I had the key. He added this.”

“‘I need not ask you not to glance at them.'”

“I was almost hurt by his words, and told him so, rather sharply. He stammered back at me.”

“‘Forgive me. I suffer so much!'”

“And tears came to his eyes. I left about one o’clock to accomplish my errand. The day was radiant, and I rushed through the meadows. I was listening to the song of the larks, and to the rhythmical beat of my sword on my riding-boots.”


“Then I entered the forest, and I set my horse to walking. Branches of the trees softly caressed my face. And, now and then, I would catch a leaf between my teeth and bite it with avidity. I was full of the joy of life, such as fills you without reason. I felt a tumultuous happiness that was almost indefinable, a kind of magical strength.”

“As I neared the house, I took out the letter for the gardener. I noted with surprise that it was sealed. I was so amazed and so annoyed that I almost turned back without fulfilling my mission. Then I thought that I should thus display over-sensitiveness and bad taste. My friend might have sealed it unconsciously, worried as he was.”

“The manor looked as though it had been deserted the last twenty years. The gate was wide-open and rotten. One wondered how it held itself up. Grass filled the paths, and you could not tell the flower-beds from the lawn.”

“At the noise that I made kicking a shutter, an old man came out from a side-door. He was apparently amazed to see me there. I dismounted from my horse and gave him the letter. He read it once or twice, turned it over, looked at me with suspicion, and asked, ‘Well, what do you want?'”

“I answered sharply, ‘You must know it, as you have read your master’s orders. I want to get in the house.'”


“He appeared overwhelmed. He said, ‘So, you are going in, in, in his room?'”

“I was getting impatient. ‘By Jove, man!’ I said. ‘Do you intend to question me, by chance?'”

“He stammered, ‘No, sir, only, it has not been opened since, since the death. If you will wait five minutes, I will go in to see whether.'”

“I interrupted angrily, ‘See here, are you joking? You can’t go in that room, as I have the key!’ He no longer knew what to say.”

“‘Then, sir, I will show you the way.'”

“I responded, ‘Show me the stairs and leave me alone. I can find it without your help.'”

“‘But, still, sir,’ he objected.”

“Then I lost my temper. I yelled, ‘Now be quiet! Else you’ll be sorry!’ I roughly pushed him aside and went into the house. I first went through the kitchen. Then, I crossed two small rooms occupied by the man and his wife. From there I stepped into a large hall. I went up the stairs, and I recognized the door that my friend had described to me. I opened it with ease and went in.”


“The room was so dark that, at first, I could not distinguish anything. I paused, arrested by that moldy and stale odor peculiar to deserted and condemned rooms. That is, of dead rooms. Then gradually my eyes grew accustomed to the gloom. I now saw rather clearly a great room in disorder. There was a bed without sheets, that still had its mattresses and pillows, one of which bore the deep print of an elbow or a head. It was oddly as if someone had just been resting on it.”

“The chairs seemed all in confusion. I noticed that a door, probably that of a closet, had remained ajar. I first went to the window and opened it to get some light. But the hinges of the outside shutters were so rusted that I could not loosen them. I even tried to break them with my sword, but I did not succeed. As those fruitless attempts irritated me, and as my eyes were by now adjusted to the dim light, I gave up hope of getting more light, and I went toward the writing-desk.”

“I sat down in an armchair, folded back the top, and opened the drawer. It was full to the edge. I needed but three packages, which I knew how to distinguish. So, I started looking for them. I was straining my eyes to decipher the inscriptions, when I thought that I heard, or rather felt, a rustle behind me. I took no notice, thinking that a draft had lifted some curtain.”


“But a minute later, another movement, almost indistinct, sent a disagreeable little shiver over my skin. It was so ridiculous to be moved thus even so slightly, that I would not turn around, being ashamed. I had just discovered the second package that I needed, and I was on the point of reaching for the third. But then, I heard a great and sorrowful sigh, close to my shoulder. It made me give a mad leap two yards away! In my jump, I had turned around, and my hand was on the hilt of my sword. Surely had I not felt that, I would have fled like a coward.”

“A tall woman, dressed in white, was facing me. She was standing behind the chair in which I had sat a just second before. Such a shudder ran through me that I almost fell back! Oh, no one who has not felt them can understand those gruesome and ridiculous terrors! The soul melts, your heart seems to stop, and your whole body becomes limp as a sponge. Your innermost parts feel like they are collapsing.”

“I do not believe in ghosts, and yet I broke down before the hideous fear of the dead. And I suffered, oh, I suffered more in a few minutes, in the irresistible anguish of supernatural dread, than I have suffered in all the rest of my life!”


“If she had not spoken, I might have died. But she did speak. She spoke in a soft and plaintive voice which set my nerves vibrating. I could not say that I regained my self-control. No, I was past knowing what I did. But the kind of pride that I have in myself, as well as a military pride, helped me to maintain, almost in spite of myself, an honorable countenance. I was making a pose, a pose for myself, and for her, whatever she was, woman, or phantom. I realized this later, for at the time of the apparition, I could think of nothing. I was deathly afraid.”

“She said, ‘Oh, you can be of great help to me, sir!’ I tried to answer, but I was unable to utter one word. A vague sound came from my throat. She continued, ‘Will you? You can save me, cure me. I suffer terribly. I always suffer. I suffer, oh, I suffer!'”

“And she sat down gently in my chair. She looked at me. ‘Will you?’ she pined. I nodded my head, being still paralyzed. Then she handed me a woman’s comb of tortoise-shell. She murmured, ‘Comb my hair! Oh, comb my hair! That will cure me. Look at my head, how I suffer! And my hair, how it hurts!'”


“Her loose hair, very long, very black, it seemed to me, hung over the back of the chair. It was touching the floor. Why did I do it? Why did I, shivering, accept that comb? And why did I take between my hands her long hair. It left on my skin a ghastly impression of cold, as if I had handled serpents. I do not know why I did it. That feeling still clings about my fingers, and I shiver when I recall it.”

“I combed her. I handled, I know not how, that hair of ice. I bound and unbound it. I plaited it as one plaits a horse’s mane. She sighed, bent her head, seemed happy. Suddenly she said, ‘Thank you!’ And she tore the comb from my hands, and she fled through the door which I had noticed was half-opened.”

“Left alone, I had for a few seconds the hazy feeling that one feels in waking up from a nightmare. Then I recovered myself. I ran to the window and broke the shutters by my furious assault. A stream of light poured in. I rushed to the door through which that spectral being had gone. I found it locked and immovable.”

“Then a fever of flight seized on me, a panic, the true panic of battle. I quickly grasped the three packages of letters from the open desk. I crossed the room running. I took the steps of the stairway four at a time. I found myself outside, I don’t know how. I saw my horse close by, and I mounted the steed in one giant leap and left at a full gallop. I didn’t stop till I reached Rouen and drew up in front of my house. Having thrown the reins to my orderly, I flew to my room and locked myself in to think.”


“Then, for an hour, I asked myself if I had been the victim of a hallucination. Certainly I must have had some kind of nervous shock. Perhaps it was one of those brain disorders that gives rise to miracles, to which the supernatural owes its strength.”

“And I had almost concluded that it was a vision, an illusion of my senses, when I came near to the window. My eyes, by chance, looked down. My tunic was covered with hairs. They were long women’s hairs which had entangled themselves around the buttons! I took them off one-by-one and threw them out of the window with trembling fingers.”

“I then called my orderly. I felt too perturbed, too moved, to go and see my friend on that day. Besides, I needed to think over what I should tell him. I had his letters delivered to him. He gave a receipt to the soldier. He inquired after me and was told that I was not well. I had had a sunstroke, or something. He seemed distressed. I went to see him the next day, early in the morning, bent on telling him the truth. He had gone out the evening before and had not come back.”


“I returned the same day, but he had not been seen. I waited a week. He did not come back. I notified the police. They searched for him everywhere, but no one could find any trace of his passing or of his retreat. A careful search was made in the deserted manor. No suspicious clue was discovered. There was no sign that a woman had been concealed there. The inquest gave no result, and so the search went no further. And in fifty-six years I have learned nothing more. I never found out the truth.”


Lesson 73 – Ghost Stories


NEW WORDS: Elsie, Harris, Hinkle, Jenkins, Lavinia, Lavinia’s, Maisey, Maisey’s, Ouija, Wainright, aboveboard, affliction, afterworld, agility, aimless, angular, appearing, beginner, brassily, brogans, bulliest, carped, chattering, cheating, clerks, cocky, concealing, corrugated, countered, coyly, crisped, darlingest, demobilize, denial, disapprove, discontent, distinctly, dozed, dratted, driveling, duckiest, dunned, elaborately, elapsed, faculties, fads, fanatics, fascination, fervently, filtered, finality, flirt, flirtatious, footstep, forgivingly, frightful, gait, gurgled, harken, haunt, haunting, hoodoos, hopelessly, huffily, humbly, hunt’s, huntress, husbandly, hussy, hysterics, idiotic, illuminated, imbecility, inexorable, invitingly, kindling, kitchenward, leered, lithely, majestically, manipulators, maroon, meself, missus, missus’s, mornin, musty, outta, paradise, patronizingly, permanently, pestering, phoned, pitying, poppycock, premonitory, propositions, protruding, purgatory, queerly, rebuked, receipts, reckons, recollections, reminiscent, rimmed, sarcastically, sensibly, shirtwaist, simpered, skewed, spasm, sprinkle’s, staccatoed, stenographer, stupidly, subjecting, suddenness, swoon, tangle, telescoped, unaccustomed, unghostly, vaguest, waspishly, wife’s, wrest, writer’s, yer

A Shady Plot

By, Elsie Brown

So, I sat down to write a ghost story. Jenkins was responsible. “Harris,” he had said to me, “give us another on the supernatural this time. Something to give them the horrors. That’s what the public wants, and your ghosts are live propositions.”

Well, I was in no position to contradict Jenkins, for, as yet, his magazine had been the only one to print my stuff. So, I had said, “Precisely!” in the deepest voice that I was capable of. Then I went out.

I hadn’t the shade of an idea for a story. But at the time, that didn’t worry me in the least. You see, I had often been like that before. And in the end, things had always come my way. I didn’t in the least know how or why. It had all been rather mysterious. You understand, I didn’t specialize in ghost stories, but more or less they seemed to specialize in me.


A ghost story had been the first fiction that I had written. Curious how that idea for a plot had come to me out of nowhere after I had chased inspiration in vain for months! Even now, whenever Jenkins wanted a ghost, he called on me. And I had never found it healthy to contradict Jenkins. Jenkins always seemed to have an uncanny knowledge as to when the landlord or the grocer were pestering me. And he dunned me for a ghost. And somehow I’d always been able to dig one up for him. So, I’d begun to get a bit cocky as to my ability.

So, I went home and sat down before my desk and sucked at the end of my pencil and waited. But nothing happened. Pretty soon, my mind began to wander off on other things. These were decidedly unghostly and material things, such as my wife’s shopping, and how on Earth I was going to cure her of her alarming tendency to take every new fad that came along and work it to death. But I realized that this would never get me any place, so I went back to staring at the ceiling.


“This writing business is delightful, isn’t it?” I said sarcastically at last, out loud, too. You see, I had reached the stage of imbecility when I was talking to myself.

“Yes,” said a voice at the other end of the room. “I should say it is!”

I admit that I jumped. Then I looked around. It was twilight by this time, and I had forgotten to turn on the lamp. The other end of the room was full of shadows and furniture. I sat staring at it and presently noticed something just taking shape. It was exactly like watching one of these moving picture cartoons being put together. First an arm came out, then a bit of sleeve of a stiff white shirtwaist. Then there was a leg and a plaid skirt, until, at last, there she was “all complete,” whoever she was.

She was long and angular, with enormous fishy eyes behind big bone-rimmed spectacles. And her hair wax in a tight wad at the back of her head. Yes, I seemed to be able to see right through her head! And there was her jaw. Well, it looked so solid that, for the moment, I began to doubt my very own senses and believe that she was real, after all.


She came over and stood in front of me and glared. Yes, she positively glared down at me. But, to my knowledge, I had never laid eyes on this woman before, to say nothing of giving her cause to look at me like that.

I sat still, feeling pretty helpless I can tell you. But at last she barked, “What are you gaping at?”

I swallowed, though I hadn’t been chewing anything. “Nothing,” I said. “Absolutely nothing. My dear lady, I was merely waiting for you to tell me why you had come. And excuse me, but do you always come in sections like this? I should think that your body parts might get mixed up sometimes.”

“Didn’t you send for me?” she crisped.

Imagine how I felt at that! “Why, no. I don’t seem to remember.”

She barked back, “Look here. Haven’t you been calling on heaven and Earth all afternoon to help you write a story?” I nodded, and then a possible explanation occurred to me, and my spine got cold. Suppose this was the ghost of a stenographer applying for a job! I had had an advertisement in the paper recently. I opened my mouth to explain that the position was filled, and permanently so. But she stopped me.


She said, “And think about when I got back to the office from my last case and was ready for you. Didn’t you switch off to something else and sit there driveling so that I couldn’t attract your attention until just now?”

I muttered, “I’m very sorry, really.”

“Well, you needn’t be. That’s because I just came to tell you to stop bothering us for assistance. You ain’t going to get it. We’re going on STRIKE!”

“What!” I cried.

She rebuked me. “You don’t have to yell at me.”

“I didn’t mean to yell,” I said humbly. “But I’m afraid that I didn’t quite understand you. You said you were, what?”

“Going on strike. Don’t you know what a strike is? Not another plot do you get from us!”

I stared at her and wet my lips. “Is that where my ideas have been coming from?”

“Of course. Where else?” she noted.

“But my ghosts aren’t a bit like you,” I told her.

“If they were, people wouldn’t believe in them.” She draped herself on the top of my desk among the pens and ink bottles and leaned towards me. “In the other life, I used to write.”


“You did, eh?”

She nodded. Then she said, “But that has nothing to do with my present form. It might have, but I gave it up at last for that very reason, and went to work as a reader on a magazine.” She sighed, and rubbed the end of her long eagle nose with a reminiscent finger. “Those were terrible days, and the memory of them made me mistake purgatory for paradise. And, at last, when I attained my present state of being, I made up my mind that something should be done. I found others who had suffered similarly, and between us we organized ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau.’ We scout around until we find a writer without ideas, and with a mind soft enough to accept impression. The case is brought to the attention of the main office, and one of us assigned to it. When that case is finished, we bring in a report.”

“But I never saw you before!”

“And you wouldn’t have this time if I hadn’t come to announce the strike. Many a time I’ve leaned on your shoulder when you’ve thought that you were thinking hard.” I groaned and clutched my hair. The very idea of that horrible scarecrow so much as touching me! And wouldn’t my wife be shocked?! I shivered. “But,” she continued, “that’s at an end. We’ve been called out of our beds a little too often in recent years, and now we’re through.”


“But my dear madam, I assure you that I have had nothing to do with that. I hope that I’m properly grateful and all that, you see.”

“Oh, it isn’t you,” she explained patronizingly. “It’s those Ouija board fanatics. There was a time when we had nothing much to occupy us and used to haunt a little on the side, purely for amusement, but not anymore. We’ve had to give up haunting almost entirely. We sit at a desk and answer questions now. And such questions!” She shook her head hopelessly, and taking off her glasses wiped them, and put them back on her nose again.

“But what have I got to do with this?” I chirped.

She gave me a pitying look and rose. “You’re to exert your influence. Get all your friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board, and then we’ll start helping you to write.”


Then, there was a footstep outside my door. “John! Oh, John!” called the voice of my wife.

I waved my arms at the ghost with something of the motion of a beginner when learning to swim. “Madam, I must ask you to leave, and at once. Consider the impression if you were seen here.”


The ghost nodded, and began, very sensibly, I thought, to demobilize and evaporate. First, the brogans on her feet grew misty until I could see the floor through them. Then the affection spread to her knees and gradually extended upward. By this time, my wife was opening the door. “Don’t forget the strike,” she repeated, while her lower jaw began to disintegrate. And as my Lavinia crossed the room to me, the last vestige of her ear faded into space.

“John, why in the world are you sitting in the dark?”

“Just thinking, my dear.”

“Thinking, rubbish! You were talking out loud,” she carped.

I remained silent while she lit the lamps, thankful that her back was turned to me. When I am nervous or excited, there’s a muscle in my face that starts to twitch. And this pulls up one corner of my mouth and gives the appearance of an idiotic grin. So far, I had managed to conceal this affliction from Lavinia.

Then she piped up, “You know, I bought the loveliest thing this afternoon. Everybody’s wild over them!”

I remembered her craze for taking up new fads and a premonitory chill crept up the back of my neck. “It, it isn’t!” I began and stopped. I simply couldn’t ask. The possibility was too horrible.


She confirmed my fear. “You’d never guess in the world. It’s the duckiest, darlingest Ouija board, and so cheap! I got it at a bargain sale. Why, what’s the matter, John?”

I felt things slipping. “Nothing,” I said, and looked around for the ghost. Suppose that she had lingered, and upon hearing what my wife had said should suddenly appear. Like all sensitive women, Lavinia was subject to hysterics.

“But you looked so funny, John.”

“I always do when I’m interested,” I gulped. “But don’t you think that was a foolish thing to buy?”

“Foolish! Oh, John! Foolish! And after me getting it for you!”

“For me! What do you mean?”

“To help you write your stories. Why, for instance, suppose that you wanted to write a historical novel? You wouldn’t have to wear your eyes out over those musty old books in the public library. All you’d have to do would be to get out your Ouija and talk to Napoleon, or William the Conqueror, or Helen of Troy. Well, maybe not Helen. Anyhow, you’d have all of the local color that you’d need, and without a speck of trouble. And think how easy writing your short stories will be now.”

“But Lavinia, you surely don’t believe in Ouija boards.”


“I don’t know, John. They are awfully thrilling.” She had seated herself on the arm of my chair and was looking dreamily across the room. I started and turned around. There was nothing there, and I sank back with relief. So far, so good.

“Oh, certainly, they’re thrilling all right. That’s just it. They’re a darn sight too thrilling. They’re positively devilish. Now, Lavinia, you have plenty of sense, and I want you to get rid of that thing just as soon as you can. Take it back and get something else.”

My wife crossed her knees and stared at me through narrowed lids. “John Harris,” she said distinctly. “I don’t propose to do anything of the kind. In the first place, they won’t exchange things bought at a bargain sale. And in the second, if you aren’t interested in the afterworld, I am. So there!” And she slid down and walked from the room before I could think of a single thing to say. She walked very huffily.

Well, it was like that all the rest of the evening. Just as soon as I mentioned Ouija boards, I felt things begin to cloud up. So, I decided to let it go for the present, in the hope that she might be more reasonable later.

After supper, I had another try at the writing. But as my mind continued a perfect blank, I gave it up and went off to bed.


The next day was Saturday, and it being near the end of the month and a particularly busy day, I left home early without seeing Lavinia. Understand, I haven’t quite reached the point where I can give my whole time to writing. And being bookkeeper for a lumber company does help with the grocery bills and pay for Lavinia’s fancy shopping. Friday had been a half holiday, and, of course, when I got back the work was piled up pretty high. It was so high, in fact, that ghosts and stories, and everything else, vanished in a perfect tangle of figures.

When I got off of the street car that evening, my mind was still churning. I remember now that I noticed, even from the corner, how brightly the house was illuminated. But at the time, that didn’t mean anything to me. I recall, as I went up the steps and opened the door, I murmured, “Nine-times-nine is eighty-one!”

And then Maisey met me in the hall. She belted out, with her distinctive Scottish brogue, “Master Harris! The Missus reckons that yer‘ lost! She said that she’d phoned ye this mornin‘ to be home early, but for the lord’s sake for ye to not stop to arg-ya’ now, but to harken to get ready for the company, an’ to come on down.”

Some memory of a message given me by one of the clerks filtered back through my brain. But I had been hunting three lost receipts at the time, and had completely forgotten it.