Module E – Lessons 81 to 90


Click here for Lesson 81
Click here for Lesson 82
Click here for Lesson 83
Click here for Lesson 84
Click here for Lesson 85
Click here for Lesson 86
Click here for Lesson 87
Click here for Lesson 88
Click here for Lesson 89
Click here for Lesson 90
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 Human Body, Systems And Senses    

Lesson 81 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: adjusting, alleviated, angled, archetypal, back’s, bitty, braincase, cantaloupe, capabilities, cerebrate, channeled, cochlear, conduit, consisting, conspicuous, contractions, controllers, coordinated, coordinates, coordinating, corrections, cortexes, counterbalanced, coupled, deciphered, diaphanous, distinguishable, drumstick, earflap, earflaps, earlobe, earlobes, earwax, encased, encasing, eyeball’s, farsightedness, flinching, folds, forearm, funneled, furiously, grooves, hampers, hiccups, implants, incorporates, infections, insulating, interfering, interlocking, interprets, intricate, itty, likened, modifies, nearsightedness, noisiness, numbness, peddle, pediatricians, pinna, pinnae, plash, plexor, recreates, regulates, relays, resembling, resounds, rose’s, sclera, sectors, semicircular, sharpened, shorted, simmering, sirens, sneezing, spheroidal, strengthens, substitutes, sunglasses, swivel, threadlike, tingling, tingly, trajects, troubling, undulate, unlaxing, unseeable, urinate, variegates, vaticinate, whirled, wiring


Chapter Five: The Nervous System
Stand up and stretch with me a moment before we begin. Put your hands on your hip bones and bend forward as far as you can. Now, straighten back up slowly, one vertebra at a time. Ah, that’s better. Now, I’m ready to get started. Are you? As you sit back down again, think about the body systems that you used to move just now.

Did you use your skeletal system? You bet! How about your muscular system? Absolutely! Your muscles helped move your bones when you stood up and bent down. But, how did your muscles move? What told them what to do? Your brain! And your brain is part of a very important system. Does anyone know what that system is called? Yes, the “nervous system!”

The nervous system is your body’s command system, the one that sends orders to all parts of your body. It is your communication system, carrying messages that control all other systems. The central nervous system includes the brain and the spinal cord. Without these central controllers, none of your body’s other functions would happen.

Your brain is a soft mass of tissues protected by your skull, a rigid helmet-like structure of bones encasing the brain. The “spinal cord,” the main nerve pathway between your brain and the rest of your body, looks like a long, thick rope. It extends from the base of your skull, or brain stem, to your tailbone. Stretching down the back, this rope-like cord weaves its way through openings in your back’s bony vertebrae. Your spinal cord is protected by your “spinal column,” this flexible column of vertebrae.


A network of “nerves” links your brain and spinal cord to muscles and “sense organs” all over your body. Each nerve is a bundle of “fibers,” tiny threadlike cells encased in thin, fatty tissue. These bundles of specialized cells carry messages to and from the brain. These messages travel faster than the blink of an eye!

Some nerve cells collect messages from your brain and carry them to your muscles. This is what happened when you stood and bent over a few minutes ago. You consciously controlled your own actions with your brain. First, you made the conscious decision to stand, and your brain received that decision. Then, electrical signals were sent out from your brain, along nerve fibers, to your muscles, telling them to tighten, or contract. For every movement that you make, your brain coordinates the timing of muscle contractions, telling your muscles when to tighten, how much to tighten, and for how long. Your nervous system works with your bones and muscles to follow your brain’s commands.


Some nerve cells collect messages from parts of your body and from your environment and the world around you. These nerve cells are called “receptors.” Receptors collect messages through your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. Each of your five senses works with your brain to help you understand the world around you. Eyes pick up light and color and send pictures to the brain to help you see. Ears pick up vibrations from sound waves, carrying them to the brain to help you hear. “Sensory cells” in the nose react to chemicals in the air, sending messages to the brain to help you smell. Cells on the tongue react to chemicals in food, sending signals to the brain to help you taste. Receptors in your skin detect many different sensations, alerting your brain and spinal cord to feelings of pain, heat, cold, pressure, and touch.

Many times, nerve signals pass through both your brain and spinal cord, but not always. Have you ever touched a hot iron or a hot pot on the stove? What happened? Most likely, you jerked your hand away from the heat very quickly, almost unconsciously. The nerves in your fingers sent signals to your spinal cord, but this time you did not need your brain at all. Your spinal cord sent a message to your arm muscles, telling them to contract and pull back. This super quick reaction to an emergency situation is called a “reflex action?” because the body acts automatically, without thinking. Some of you may remember being at the doctor’s office for a checkup when the doctor or nurse tapped your knee gently with a hard rubber tool called a “plexor.” Other common reflex actions are flinching and sneezing.


Because a nerve is made up of many cells, nerves can send many messages at once. Each nerve cell sends its own message through the nerve. You’ve learned that some nerve cells collect messages from the brain, whereas others collect messages from the environment. Still other nerve cells collect messages from inside your body.

Inside the human body, the brain and spinal cord work together day and night, coordinating many activities that we don’t really think about too often. For example, your breathing is controlled by the central nervous system. What else is going on under your skin that seems involuntary, or automatic? Digestion, heart rate, and sleep patterns are all automatically controlled by the brain and spinal cord. Your emotions, moods, and memories are controlled and managed by the nervous system, too. The body’s command center, with its network of nerves, is always working, even while you sleep.

Hundreds of billions of microscopic cells are sending messages that go dashing about your body at amazing speeds every second. Many of these cells are bundled up inside nerves, the body’s wiring. These nerves branch out in all directions, carrying tiny electrical-chemical signals from your brain and spinal cord to the tips of your fingers and toes, to the inside of your eyes and ears, and to every other part of your body. Some nerves are much thinner than a strand of hair. Others are as thick as a bungee cord. All have an important part to play in the nervous system’s nonstop communication process.


The nervous system processes almost everything that you do. It helps you laugh and scratch your chin. It helps you run and walk and swim. It lets you scream with anger and shout for joy. It lets you smell tomato soup simmering on the stove, hear squirrels rustling in the leaves, and see a brilliant sunrise peeping over the hill. Thank your nervous system for that tingling feeling that you get when you jump into a cold stream, or the instant pain that you feel when you prick your finger on a rose’s thorn. Whether you are two or ninety-two, your nerves are a central part of everything that you do.

Next time, we’ll look more closely at your body’s main control center, the brain. Let’s pause for a riddle before I go.

I am called a bone, but I am really a nerve. My name suggests that I have a sense of humor. What am I?

Give up? I’m the “funny bone!” Does anyone know where the funny bone is located? It is a vulnerable nerve at the end of the elbow bone. If you hit that nerve at the end of your elbow, the nerve sends a tingly feeling up the rest of your arm. If you injure your funny bone, the result is anything but funny. It can be very painful, causing numbness in your forearm and hand. So as it turns out, the funny bone is not only not funny, but it’s not a bone at all! Be careful the next time that you’re wrestling with your friends. You won’t be laughing if you hit your funny bone!

Well, I’ll be back next time to tell you more about your body’s command center. Can you guess what I mean when I say, “command center?” See you later!


Chapter Six: The Nervous System and the Brain
Hi! I’ve got lots of fascinating facts to share with you today, so I’m hoping that my brain is in good working order. There’s a lot to remember. Raise your hand if you have a brain. Whew! I’m glad all hands went up. Yes, of course you have a brain. All vertebrates have brains. Who remembers what else all vertebrates have? Right! Backbones! You know that you have a backbone. You’ve been testing out those wonderfully flexible spines that support your bodies and protect your spinal cords.

You’ve learned that your nervous system is a complex network with two essential organs, your spinal cord and your brain. Your spinal cord is connected to your brain by the brain stem, the central trunk of the brain. Your brain itself is very soft, but it is well protected by your “cranium,” or “braincase.” This strong eggshell-shaped part of your skull is formed from eight interlocking bones, wedged together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Inside your skull, your brain floats in a clear liquid that cushions it and keeps it from banging against your skull. Your brain is covered in grooves and folds, resembling a huge walnut. About the size of a cantaloupe melon or a grapefruit, this jellylike, pinkish-gray blob has blood vessels running all through its wrinkled mass. They carry oxygen, water, and other important nutrients to the brain.


The brain, when fully grown, weighs about three pounds. That may seem pretty small and light for such a big body, but humans have larger brains than animals when compared with their body size. So, even though the brains of elephants and whales are actually larger than human brains, their brains are smaller than ours compared with the enormous size of their bodies.

There are three main sections of the brain. They are the “brain stem,” the “cerebrum,” and the “cerebellum.” Each part of the brain has an important function. Your brain stem, about as thick as your thumb, is approximately three inches long. It helps to relay messages between your brain and spinal cord. The bottom third of your brain stem, the part that blends into the top of your spinal cord, is called the “medulla.” The medulla is responsible for many of your body’s involuntary, or automatic, muscle movements. The medulla makes sure that your lungs are receiving oxygen by controlling your breathing and making sure that your heart is beating. The medulla helps you swallow and break down the food in your digestive system. The medulla controls your coughs and sneezes and hiccups, as well as your sleeping and dreaming. It also controls the movement of your head and neck.


The cerebrum is the largest part of your brain, filling the whole upper part of your skull. Language, memory, thought, sensations, and decision-making are housed in your cerebrum. Your cerebrum is “the thinking brain,” and the part of the cerebrum that does most of the thinking is called the “cerebral cortex.” Your cortex is the deeply wrinkled outer surface of the cerebrum. The more that it is used, the thicker it becomes. In other words, people who use their brains to think a lot develop thicker cortexes. Do you think that your cortex is getting any thicker? It is! You are learning a lot each day!

Let’s look more closely at the cerebrum. The cerebrum is divided into two halves, or hemispheres. The two hemispheres of the brain, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere, are linked to one another by thick nerve fibers. Interestingly, the nerves that connect your cerebrum to the rest of your body cross over to the opposite side as they enter your brain. This means that each hemisphere largely controls the muscles of the opposite side of the body. The left side of your cerebrum controls muscles on the right side of your body. The right side of your cerebrum controls muscles on the left side of your body.


One hemisphere is usually more developed than another in most people. If you use the right side of your body more, that is, you kick with your right foot and you hold your pencil in your right hand, the left hemisphere is dominant, or in control. It is the left hemisphere that is mostly associated with language, math, and reading. If, however, you use the left side of your body more, that is, you kick with your left foot and you hold your pencil in your left hand, the right hemisphere is dominant. The right hemisphere is mostly associated with imagination, music, and shapes.

The third part of the brain, in addition to the brain stem and the cerebrum, is called the cerebellum, meaning “little brain.” Tucked under your cerebrum in the back of your brain, your cerebellum resembles your cerebrum with two hemispheres of its own. Your cerebellum is the control center for balance and coordination. It is constantly adjusting the way that your body moves. As you practice any physical activity, such as dancing, your cerebellum receives messages about your body’s actions and positions. It sends commands back to your muscles, adjusting your movements. As your cerebellum gradually becomes more accurate in its corrections, you begin to notice improvements in your dancing, or whatever activity you are trying to perfect. For example, if you have learned to ride a bike, chances are you didn’t master it all at once. It took practice. Your cerebellum was in charge of your balance and coordination, making small adjustments with each improvement until you could peddle quickly and furiously on your own without even thinking about it.


Let’s try an experiment to demonstrate what the cerebellum does. Close your eyes and reach your arms out to your sides so that your body makes the shape of a “T.” Slowly, bring your arms forward, touching the fingertips together. You may open your eyes now. Was that easy for you? Your cerebellum coordinated your movements for you. If you damaged your cerebellum, you would not be able to do this simple exercise. No matter how hard you tried, your hands would jerk around without any control.

Now, let’s put all the parts of your brain together. Look at this picture of the brain. See if you can identify the three parts. They are the brain stem, the cerebrum, and the cerebellum. I’m going to ask you three riddles to test your knowledge and see how well your brain is working. Ready?


I am the largest part of the brain, divided into two hemispheres. I am sometimes called “the thinking brain.” What am I?

I am only three inches long, but without me the spinal cord would not be connected to the brain. One of my parts is called the medulla. What am I?

I look a lot like the cerebrum with two hemispheres of my own, but I am much smaller. Without me, you would not be able to balance on one leg. What am I?

Great job, everyone!

Your brain is not very big, and yet it is more powerful than the strongest computer ever created. All other systems of the body are dependent upon this complex, three-pound organ that lives inside your skull. Your brain is the center of your memory, thoughts, and feelings. Your brain is in command of your whole body. When your brain stops working, the rest of your body will stop working, as well.

Well, I think that I remembered everything I wanted to tell you today. Next time, we’ll look inside your skulls some more to see what else is tucked away within those bones in addition to the brain. See you then!


Chapter Seven: Vision, The Parts of the Eye
Imagine an archetypal day. You are always looking around at people and books and screens, at animals and cars and trees. Before crossing a street, you look both ways for traffic. What part of your body do you use to look at all these things? Your eyes, of course! And which body organ do you think helps your eyes to see? Yes, it’s the wondrous brain. Human eyes work together with the brain in order to see.

Of all your senses, your sense of sight is the one that you use the most. More than half of all the information that you collect from your environment is received through your eyes. Then, the information is sent to the back of your brain, sometimes called the “mind’s eye,” where your brain interprets what your eyes see and creates a picture for you.

Remember when we looked at the different parts of the skull? The cranium that houses your brain is only one part of your skull. Besides the eight, flat, “cranial bones,” there are twenty additional skull bones. Some of these bones form the “eye sockets,” two holes that are the perfect size for housing and protecting your eyeballs.


Before we take a look at an eyeball, let’s look at what surrounds your eyes. There are other things that also play an important part in helping you to see. Turn and look at your neighbor. See the hairs above the eyes? What are they called? Right, the eyebrows. They’re not just there to look pretty. They have a purpose. Does anyone know what they do? Your eyebrows help keep dust and sweat out of your eyes. Now, close your eyes. What is the skin called that covers your eyes? Yes, eyelids. Your eyelids protect your eyes, too, keeping your eyes moist by spreading tears over them. Tears are produced by “tear glands,” located above each eyeball on the underside of the eyelid. These salty water droplets keep your eyes wet and help fight germs. “Tear ducts” are tiny, raised bumps located in the inner corner of your eyes, containing openings no larger than a pinhole. These tiny openings are the drains for your tears! Your eyelashes, the short curved hairs growing on the edge of your eyelids, keep dust particles out, as well. There are muscles all around each eye. There are six in all. They control your eyes’ movements, allowing them to swivel in their sockets, looking up and down and side-to-side.

Now we’re ready to take a peek at the parts of your eyeball itself. Look at your neighbor again. What shape is his or her eyeball? It may appear oval to you, but the eyeball is actually well named because it is round, just like a basketball. It looks oval because some parts are hidden behind the eyelids. What color were your neighbor’s eyes? Did you notice? Look again. Does anyone know the name for the colored part of the eyes?


Let’s find out. Look at this picture together. The outer, distinguishable part of the eye incorporates the “sclera,” “cornea,” “iris,” and “pupil.” The white, outer layer of the eye is called the sclera. The thin, tough, diaphanous tissue that covers the colored part of the eye is called the cornea, and it allows light to pass through. Together, the sclera and the cornea protect the eye from germs, dangerous particles, and damaging light rays. The colored part of the eye, the disc located just behind the transparent cornea, is called the iris. At the center of the iris is a black circle. Do you see it? This dark spheroidal hole, called the pupil, variegates in size as it regulates the amount of light that’s entering the eye. The muscles of the iris control the size of the pupil, tightening to make the pupil smaller in bright light, and unlaxing to make the pupil larger in dim light.

You can only see clearly if the right amount of light enters your eyes. Eyes are designed to focus light. Every part of the eye has a role to play, including those parts that lie inside the eyeball. So, what is inside the eyes? Liquid and jelly! That’s right. Eyes are soft and hollow. The clear fluid and jelly inside them give them their round shape. There are three important parts inside the eyeballs that help you see. They are the “lens,” the “retina,” and the “optic nerve.”

In order to see, you need light. It can be natural light from the sun or electrical light from a bulb, but all seeing begins with light. The eye sees objects by seeing the light that reflects, or bounces off, objects. Imagine that you are looking at a house. The sun shines down on the house. Light from the sun bounces off the house and travels to your eyes.


Light rays bend toward each other as they pass through the cornea, the transparent tissue that covers the iris. This bending is the first step in focusing the light. The angled light rays then pass through the pupil to a clear disc called the lens. The rubbery, flexible lens modifies its shape in order to focus on near or distant objects, creating sharpened images. As the light rays pass through the lens, they bend even closer, cross one another, and land on the cup-shaped retina at the back of the eye. An image of the house is formed on the retina, but because light rays are bent, the image appears upside down on the retina. The light-receiving cells of the retina transfer light rays into electrical energy so that the nervous system can send information to your brain via the optic nerve. The short, thick, optic nerve is coupled to the back of the eyeball, just behind the retina. Acting like a cable, it passes through a tunnel in the skull and connects the eyeball to the brain. The optic nerve carries messages to the brain to be deciphered. The brain recreates the image so that the house is now seen right side up! As the eyes work together with the nervous system, this whole process takes less than one second to complete.


Eyes are so important to us that it is troubling when things go wrong with our eyes, interfering with seeing as well as we would like. Two of the most common eye problems are “nearsightedness” and “farsightedness.” Have you heard those terms before? Let’s find out what they mean.

We know that people come in all shapes and sizes. Look around you. Legs and arms and faces and heads are all different shapes and sizes. So, it makes sense that eyes vary in shape and size from person to person, too. The size and shape of the eye affects its capabilities to focus light and work well. In perfect vision, as light rays pass through the lens of the eye, they meet in just the right place to project a clear image on the retina. But sometimes the cornea or the lens is not quite the right shape to bend the light in the most effective way. Sometimes the shape of the eyeball affects how clearly images are projected on the retina. When these things occur, vision may become blurry.


In nearsightedness, the eyeball’s size in relation to the cornea affects its focusing power, so images are projected, or focused, in front of the retina. Nearby objects are seen clearly, but distant objects are out of focus. In farsightedness, the eyeball’s size affects the focusing power of the lens, so images are projected, or focused, behind the retina. Distant objects are seen clearly, but nearby objects are out of focus. Luckily, these problems can both be alleviated with glasses or contact lenses.

Before I go, let’s try a riddle or two.

I reflect off of objects and enter your eyes. I bend to help you see. Your sight depends on me. What am I?

Objects appear upside down on me. I live at the back of your eyeball. What am I?

I am the part of your eye that is colored. Sometimes I’m green, but I could be brown, or gray, or blue. What am I?

OK, it’s time for me to go! Next time we’ll look at the smallest bone in your body. Can anyone vaticinate where it is? Here’s a hint. It’s part of another sensory organ.


Chapter Eight: Hearing, The Parts of the Ear
Hear ye! Hear ye! Today we’re going to poke around in your skull once more to learn about another one of your sensory organs. I’ll give you a hint with another one of my special riddles.

We are located near your eyes. There are two of us. My twin hangs out on the opposite side of your head. We both hate the noisiness made by sirens. What are we?

Yes, we’re your ears! Your ears work together with your brain to help you hear. Cerebrate about all the different sounds you hear throughout your day. You hear alarm clocks, water running, doors opening, horns honking, bells ringing, people talking, and so much more. Your ears are very important in the classroom where you need to listen in order to learn. Your ears will help you thicken your cerebral cortex! You are going to hear about all the parts of the ear that work together as an interconnected system. Your ear is divided into three sectors. They are the “outer ear,” the “middle ear,” and the “inner ear.” Just like your eyes, only part of your ears is conspicuous. The other parts are hidden inside the insulating bones of your skull.

Mammals are the only animals with outer ears. The outer ear consists of flaps on either side of your head, the “ear canal,” and the “eardrum.” Your outer earflaps are called “pinnae” when referred to in the plural. They are made of skin and a tough elastic tissue called cartilage. Who remembers which other parts of the body contain flexible cartilage?


The bottom part of each earflap, or (singular) “pinna,” is called an “earlobe.” It is much softer than the top part because it does not contain any cartilage. Some earlobes are attached to the side of the head, whereas others dangle loosely. Do you know which sort you have? Turn to your neighbor and ask.

Shaped something like a cup, your outer ear is a sound catcher. It collects sound waves from the air around you and trajects them through your ear canal to your eardrum. Your ear canal is like a tunnel, about half as long as one of your pinky fingers. The inside of the ear canal is lined with tiny hairs, and “earwax” is constantly being produced by glands beneath the soft skin. Can anyone guess what earwax does? Earwax hampers infections by keeping dirt and other particles from building up in the ear canal. At the end of the ear canal, sound bounces off of a thin, flexible flap of skin that stretches across the end of this tunnel. This membrane, or thin skin flap, is called an eardrum because sound vibrates off of it in the same way that sound resounds off of the top of a drum when it is pounded with a drumstick. Your eardrum separates your outer ear from your middle ear.

Your middle ear is a tiny, air-filled space just behind your eardrum. As the eardrum vibrates, or shakes, three ittybitty bones inside the middle ear begin to move, too. These three bones are named for their shapes, which are the “hammer,” the “anvil,” and the “stirrup.” They are the smallest bones in your body. The stirrup is the smallest of the three, no bigger than a grain of rice. These three tiny bones form a chain, held in place by muscles, that leads from the middle ear to the inner ear.


Okay, it’s time for an experiment. Close your mouth and form a plash of spit inside your mouth. As you swallow your spit, listen closely. Did you hear anything? You should hear a little click. The middle ear is linked to the back of your throat by a narrow conduit. Whenever you swallow, chew, or yawn, the tube opens to let air travel in and out of your middle ear. That keeps the air pressure counterbalanced on either side of your eardrum, preventing it from bursting. Have your ears ever felt clogged in an airplane or while riding in a car over a mountain? Suddenly, you hear a loud pop, and they are fine again. The tube connecting your throat to your middle ear opened up. Thank goodness!

Your inner ear is located inside your skull. It is the most intricate and delicate part of the ear, consisting of a maze of tubes inside a liquid-filled, bony, hollow space. At the end of the maze is a snail-shaped, coiled, bony tube, filled with fluid. This part of your ear, lined with tiny hairs, plays a very important part in hearing. It is called the “cochlea,” which means “snail” in Latin. Some people who cannot hear get “cochlear implants,” which are invented devices that function just like the cochlea functions. The second part of the inner ear is the “auditory nerve,” which can be likened to the optic nerve of the eyeball.


So, just exactly how do ears work? Your ears collect “sound waves,” or vibrations. Sound waves are tiny, unseeable movements in the air. Sounds are only heard when these waves bump against the outer ear and get funneled into your ear canals. Different sounds have different wave patterns. Loud sounds, such as the sound of a jackhammer, have larger waves than softer sounds, such as the purring of a cat. The louder the sound, the larger the vibration is inside your ear. For you to hear sounds, vibrations must travel from your outer ear, through your middle ear, to your inner ear, and on to your brain for processing. Let’s follow a sound wave through an ear to see how it works.

First, the outer ear, or sound catcher, collects sound waves and channels them into the ear canal. Once the sound waves are channeled into the ear, they hit the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. As the eardrum vibrates, so do the three bones in the middle ear. Next, hinged together by miniature joints, the hammer hits the anvil, and the anvil hits the stirrup. All these vibrations in the middle ear cause liquid in the inner ear to vibrate, as well.


Wrapped inside the cochlea is a long, narrow ribbon with thousands of hearing cells, each consisting of many tiny hairs. The vibrations in the middle ear create waves in the fluid of the inner ear, which cause the tiny hairs of the cochlea to undulate, as well. Next, the sensory hair cells bend and stretch, producing nerve impulses. These signals are carried on nerve fibers, or threads, along the auditory nerve to the hearing center of the brain. The brain is able to recognize the nerve impulses, or signals, as sound, even determining the direction from which the sound comes. The brain receives lots of different vibrations at the same time and is able to tell the signals apart, passing the information along to you and allowing you to hear. These signals hardly ever get mixed up in your amazing brain. For some people, hearing is difficult or even impossible when one or more parts of this system are not working properly. When people are not able to hear anything, or perhaps only a very few sounds, we say that they are “deaf.”

Your inner ear is the seat of your hearing, but it has another important job to perform as well. Your balance is controlled by your inner ear. Nestled beside your cochlea are three curved tubes called the “semicircular canals.” These canals are filled with fluid and lined with tiny hairs, just like the cochlea. Whenever you move your head, which could be turning around, lying down, or bending forward, fluid inside the semicircular canals causes the hair to bend. The bending of the canals’ tiny hairs sends nerve signals to your brain to let it know where and how you are moving. Your brain then sends messages to your muscles to keep you steady, maintaining your balance. Have you ever whirled around so fast that you became dizzy and lost your balance? That’s because the fluid in the canals kept moving for a few seconds even after you stopped.


It’s almost time to stop for today, but first close your eyes and fold your hands in your laps. Let’s sit very quietly and find out how many different sounds we can hear in the room.

Just for fun before I go, I’ll leave you with another riddle.

I have ears, but cannot hear. What am I?


Chapter Nine: A Clean Bill Of Health
Today is our last day together. Dr. Welbody is here to help us review some of what you have learned about the human body. Take it away, Dr. Welbody!

Hello, everyone! It’s so nice to see you again! When Ricardo and I talked last night, I said that I hoped that you had learned how to take care of your bodies so that your pediatricians could give you a “clean bill of health.” Does anyone know what I mean by “a clean bill of health?” It’s just another way of saying that you’re healthy. If someone examines you and finds nothing wrong, they will give you a clean bill of health. It’s important to know how to keep your bodies healthy, so I will talk to you about that, too.

Humans are mammals. What do you know about mammals? All mammals are warm-blooded animals that grow body hair, produce milk for their young, and have brains and backbones. You have brains and backbones, so you are also vertebrates. All mammals are vertebrates, but are all mammals alike, such as cats and dogs, foxes and sheep, whales and seals? What makes you different from all of them? That’s a question that I’d like for you to think about as we review what you know about humans.


Humans have cells, tiny microscopic units that are the building blocks of their bodies. Similar cells group together to form tissues. Tissues form organs, and organs build systems. Remember that nerve cells become nerve tissue, which is what the organs in the nervous system are made of, whereas muscle cells become muscle tissue, which is what muscles are made of. All the systems working together form a complicated, interconnected network. Do other mammals have cells, tissues, organs, and system? Yes, cells are the basic building blocks of all living things, including all other mammals, and plants, too!

Humans have many interconnected systems, including the circulatory system, the digestive system, the excretory system, the respiratory system, and the three that we talked about the most, the skeletal system, the muscular system, and the nervous system.

Do all mammals have circulatory systems? Yes! Blood travels through mammals’ bodies. Do they have digestive systems? Yes, they eat and break down food. Do they have excretory systems? Yes, they sweat and urinate! Do they have respiratory systems? Yes, mammals breathe in air. Do mammals have skeletal systems? Yes, they have backbones. Do they have muscular systems? Yes, mammals run and jump, or glide and swim, moving those bones, so they must have muscles. And, do they have nervous systems? Yes, they react to their environments, so they must have nerves. Let’s take a closer look at your skeletal system.


Your skeletal system is made up of axial bones and appendicular bones, working together to give your body a sturdy framework for all the other systems. Your vertebrae are stacked in a column, forming your spine. Together with your protective skull and rib cage, they are your axial bones, running down the center, or axis, of your body. Your legs and arms are attached to your appendicular bones, the shoulder blades and the pelvis.

Can anyone remember what we call the point where two bones meet? Yes, it’s called a joint. Some joints move, others don’t, and some move just a little bit. And what’s the name of the connective tissues that wrap around your joints to hold your bones together? Yes, they’re ligaments.

What can you do to give your skeletal system a clean bill of health? Diet is important. Make sure that you eat enough foods with calcium to grow strong bones. Milk, broccoli, and dark, leafy greens are good choices. Posture is important, too. Make sure that you sit and stand up straight. Keep your back safe by bending your knees when you lift something heavy!


Rope-like tissues called tendons attach your bones to muscles. These skeletal muscles give your bones mobility, allowing you to touch your toes or climb a mountain. Because we control our skeletal muscles, we call them voluntary muscles. There are other muscles that we cannot consciously control. What do we call them? Right! Involuntary muscles. Smooth muscles are involuntary muscles. They contract and lengthen on their own, working day and night to complete their jobs. Who can give an example of a smooth muscle? A third type of muscle is also involuntary. This is your body’s most important type of muscle. It is the muscle that keeps you alive. Does anyone remember the name of the strong muscle that is found only in your heart? Yes, it is called cardiac muscle.

It is important to keep all of your muscles, both voluntary and involuntary, healthy. What can you do to give your muscles a clean bill of health? Diet is important. Muscles need protein found in eggs, meat, beans, and nuts. Exercise strengthens your muscles. Get all the exercise that you can as a way of thanking your muscles for keeping you in constant motion.

Your nervous system is your body’s command system, communicating with the rest of your body systems, telling them what to do. It works closely with your skeletal and muscular systems. Your skeletal muscles move your skeletal bones, but your muscles get their commands from messages sent by the nervous system. A network of nerves links your brain and spinal cord to muscles and sensory organs all over your body.


Nerves collect messages from your brain, from your senses, and from other places inside your body. Many messages can be sent at the same time, as electrical impulses dash around your body in split-second relays. Your nervous system, with your brain acting as its main commander, controls everything that you do.

Your nervous system is like an electrical system. Electrical wiring, whether in your house or in your body, can be shorted out if something goes wrong. So, how can you prevent that? How can you give your nervous system a clean bill of health? It’s no surprise that diet and exercise are just as important to your nervous system as they are to your other systems. Vitamins and minerals from healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, and protein from different foods, are all important. Drinking lots of water helps, too. Stay away from eating extra salty foods and from anything that is filled with too much sugar, such as soda. Apples and oranges are great substitutes. Be sure to get outside every day to play, and be sure to get plenty of sleep. Your bodies are working very hard as they grow, and they need plenty of nourishment, or food, and rest to grow on!


All we have left to review are your sensory organs, which include parts of your eyes and ears. Without these sensory organs, you could not hear me reading aloud, and you would not be able to see the images that I’m showing you. In order to see, you need light. Your eye sees objects by seeing the light that bounces off those objects. Light passes through the cornea, the outer covering of your eye. Light rays are bent by the cornea before they pass through the pupil, the black dot at the center of your eye, to the lens, and on to the retina at the back of your eye. A short optic nerve, attached to the eyeball, sends impulses to the brain, where the image is interpreted, and you see it.

What can you do to give your eyes a clean bill of health? Your eyes already have some built-in protection. Eyelids, eyebrows, and eyelashes keep dust and sweat away. Two deep sockets in your skull protect your eyeballs. But there are other things that you can do to prevent injury to your eyes. Never look directly at the sun. Avoid bright lights and smoky spaces. Give your eyes a rest, never sitting for too long in front of a computer or a television screen. Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from damaging chemicals in pool water or chemicals in a science lab, and wear sunglasses to protect from the glare from sunlight shining off of things such as polished surfaces or snow.


Your eyes and ears often work together to make sense of your world. Your ears include the outer ear, those flaps we see on the outside of your head, and two other sections, the middle ear and the inner ear, both hidden inside your head. Your outer ear catches sound waves from the air and directs them through your ear canal to your eardrum. The eardrum vibrates and begins to move the bones of the middle ear. The hammer, anvil, and stirrup set off vibrations in the inner ear, causing the tiny hairs of the cochlea, a snail-shaped bony tube, to move. These hair cells produce nerve impulses, sending them along your auditory nerve to your brain. Your brain sorts everything out, and you miraculously hear sound.


Your ears are delicate organs, as well, so how can you give them a clean bill of health? Most important, keep the noise volume down. Ears can be damaged when sounds are too loud. Although it is important to keep your ears clean, you must never stick anything in them. Objects might get stuck or otherwise cause damage to the eardrum.

Well, that brings us to the end of our time together. We’ve had lots of fun, and I hope that you have, too. We hope that you’ve also learned a few things along the way. Here is one last riddle before we leave you.

I am probably the most important three pounds in your body. I help you to think and reason. I control your movements, as well as all of your senses. I am the one organ that makes humans more advanced than other mammals. What am I?

Remember to eat a balanced diet, and to exercise every day. Dr. Welbody and I wish you all a clean bill of health at your next checkup! Bye for now!


Lesson 82 – Fantasy Stories

The Door In The Wall

By H. G. Wells

NEW WORDS: Athelstan’s, Brentford, Campden, Carnaby, Crawshaw, Earl’s, Fawcett, Frobisher’s, Gurker, Gurker’s, Hopkins, Hotchkiss, Kensington, Lionel, Lionel’s, Morley, Oxford, Paddington, Parliamentary, Ralphs, Redmond, Reynolds, Squiff, Wallace, Wallace’s, Westminster, abuzz, adolescence, apparitions, atingle, attainable, audibly, authoritative, backfired, beckoned, bedside, blabbed, blotched, blubbering, blueness, bluntly, blurs, cabman, capuchin, clattered, coincidence, colonnade, composer, confide, confidential, consecutive, contrive, convenience, counsels, coveting, creeper, cul, decorator, delphinium, denuded, desiring, despisingly, detachment, detour, disappearance, disappointments, disgraceful, doubtful, doubtfully, dreamy, eared, earnest, earthenware, effaced, enamel, evening’s, exhilarated, fearlessly, ferrety, flashback, flowerings, fragmentary, frankness, frowsy, fullness, futilities, gangers, gazette, glamor, glimpsed, goodnight, governess, gravely, grieving, guise, haltingly, hampered, hansom, haunts, heartfelt, heeded, hesitations, hoarding, humiliation, imaginative, impositions, imputation, inappeasable, inattention, inattentive, inconceivably, incurable, indescribable, inestimable, infantile, inflection, insatiable, interludes, intervening, irksome, justified, laurels, longings, loth, marveling, mellower, merited, misadventure, miscalculated, moment’s, motherly, motorcar, muddled, musing, napery, negligent, outlet, outrageously, overcomes, overmastering, overwork, pallid, parakeets, particularity, passionately, pauses, penetrating, peppered, persistence, perspiration, petty, planking, playmates, plumber, possessor, preoccupation, proactive, profoundest, punctuality, queerest, realities, recalls, recapture, reckoned, redemption, regrets, regrettable, reminiscences, repelled, resorted, reticent, rightness, scholarships, scholastic, shafts, shyness, simplicity, slackened, slackness, smartly, statuary, stripped, subtly, sundial, superstitious, tarnish, tawdry, tenants, thrashing, thrice, toilsome, tradesmen’s, trice, undertow, unfrequented, ungovernable, unprecedented, unreality, unreliability, utmost, vanity, void, vulgar, wallpaper, weedless, worldlinesses, wretch, wretchedness, yielded


Chapter One
I will now tell you a confidential story. It was just three months ago. Lionel Wallace told me a story. It was about a Door in the Wall. And he seemed convinced that it was a true story.

He told it to me with a direct simplicity of belief. Thus, I had to trust him. But the next morning, I was back in my own flat. I woke up with different thoughts. I lay in bed. I recalled the things that he’d told me. They were now stripped of the glamor of his earnest, slow voice. They were denuded of the focused, shaded table light. Gone was the shadowy atmosphere that had wrapped about him that night. And I was void of any effect from the pleasant, bright things around us that night. You’ll understand this kind of effect. It’s what one gets from the dessert, and glasses, and napery of the dinner that we’d shared. The time at dinner was like a bright little world. We were quite cut off from everyday realities. Now, I saw it all as frankly incredible. “He was mystifying!” I said to myself. And then I thought, “How well he relayed his story to me! It is not quite the thing I should have thought him, of all people, to do well.”

I sat up in bed. I sipped my morning tea. And I found myself trying to account for the flavor of reality that perplexed me in his odd reminiscences. What verb should I use here? I supposed that they did in some way “suggest, present, convey” experiences that were difficult to tell.


Well, I don’t resort to that explanation now. I have gotten over my intervening doubts. I now think as I did at the moment of his telling. I’m sure that Wallace DID tell the full truth of his secret to me. But I can’t know what he saw. Neither can I know what he THOUGHT that he saw. Was he really the possessor of an inestimable privilege? Or was he the victim of a fantastic dream? I can’t pretend to guess. Even the facts of his death, which ended my doubts for good, throw no light on that. That much, readers of my account must judge for themselves.

I forget now what chance comment or criticism of mine moved so reticent a man to confide in me. He was, I think, defending himself. He had been engaged in a great public movement. But it was one in which he had disappointed me. Perhaps I had made an imputation of slackness and unreliability about him. It might have insulted him, though I had not intended to do so. But he plunged into the tale quite bluntly. “I have,” he said, “a preoccupation.”

He paused. He was momentarily devoted to the study of his cigar ash. “I know that I have been negligent. The fact is, it isn’t a case of ghosts or apparitions. But it’s an odd thing to tell of, Redmond. I am haunted! I am haunted by something that rather takes the light out of things. And it fills me with longings.”


He paused again. He was checked by that English shyness that so often overcomes us when we would speak of moving, or grave, or beautiful things. “You were schooled at Saint Athelstan’s,” he said. And, for a moment, that seemed to me quite irrelevant. “Well,” and he paused yet again. Then very haltingly at first, but afterwards more easily, he began to tell of his hidden secret. It was a haunting memory of a kind of beauty. It was a happiness that filled his heart with insatiable longings. This flashback made all the interests and spectacles of daily, worldly life seem dull, tedious, and vain to him.

Now, I have better clues than I had then. This thing even seems to have been written visibly on his face. I have a photo of him. In it, his look of detachment has been caught and intensified. It reminds me of what a woman once said of him. She was a lady who had loved him greatly. “Suddenly,” she said, “the interest goes out of him. He forgets you. He doesn’t care a bit for you, right under his very nose.”

Yet the interest was not always out of him. When he was focused on something, Wallace could contrive to be a very successful man. His career, indeed, was full of successes. He left me behind him long ago. He soared up over my head. He cut a figure in the world that I just couldn’t compete with. And he was but a year short of being a young forty years old. And they say now that he would have been in government office, and very likely in the new British Cabinet, if he had lived.


At school, he had always beat me without effort. He was naturally talented. We were at school together at Saint Athelstan’s College. That is in West Kensington. He came into the school as my co-equal. But he left far above me. He enjoyed a blaze of scholarships. He demonstrated brilliant academic performance. And I did fairly well for myself. That makes his achievements even more impressive. And it was at school that I heard first of the Door in the Wall. And I was to hear of it a second time. That was only a month before his death. To him, at least, the Door in the Wall was a real door. He believed it to lead through a real wall to immortal realities. Of that, I am now quite sure.

And it had come into his life early. It was when he was a wee fellow. He was between five and six. I remember him making his confession to me with a slow gravity. He reasoned and reckoned the date of it. “There was,” he said, “a crimson Virginia creeper in it. One could see a bright, uniform crimson in a clear amber sunshine. It was against a white wall. That came into the view somehow. Though I don’t clearly remember how. And there were horse-chestnut trees’ leaves everywhere. They laid upon the clean pavement outside the green door. They were blotched yellow and green. They weren’t brown or dirty. So, the leaves must have just been new-fallen. I take it that means that it was October. I look out for horse-chestnut leaves every year, so I ought to know. If I’m right about that, I was about five years and four months old.”


He was, he said, rather a precocious boy. He learned to talk at an abnormally early age. He was viewed as oddly sane and “old-fashioned,” as people say, for his age. Thus, he was permitted an amount of initiative that most children scarcely attain by the age of seven or eight. His mother died when he was born. Then he was under the less vigilant and authoritative care of a nursery governess. His father was a stern, preoccupied lawyer. He gave Wallace little attention. Yet he still expected great things of his son. For all of Lionel’s brightness, he found life a little gray and dull, I think. And one day, he wandered.

He could not recall how he got away from the nanny. Nor did he recall the route that he took among the West Kensington roads. All of that knowledge had faded among the incurable blurs of memory. There was little recapture left for him of that remote childhood experience. But the white wall and the green door still stood out quite distinctly for him.


These next feelings also stuck with him. He did, at the very first sight of that door, experience a peculiar emotion. It was an attraction. It was a desire to get to the door, to open it, and to walk in. But at the same time, he had a clear, opposing conviction. He thought that it was either unwise, or wrong of him, to go in. He could not tell which way he should yield. He insisted that the situation was curious. He claimed that he knew, from the very start, unless memory had played the queerest trick on him, that the door was unfastened, and that he could go in as he chose. I try to see the figure of that little boy. He must have been simultaneously drawn and repelled. And another thing was clear in his mind, too. He did not know why, but he also knew that his father would be very angry if he went through that door.

Lionel described all of these moments of hesitation to me with the utmost particularity. He went right past the door. And then, with his hands in his pockets, and making an infantile attempt to whistle, he strolled right along beyond the end of the wall. There he recalls a number of low-end, dirty shops. Particularly, there were a plumber and decorator. There was a dusty disorder of earthenware pipes and sheet lead ball taps. There were pattern books of wallpaper, and tins of enamel. He stood pretending to look at these things. Yet he was coveting, passionately desiring the green door.


Then, he said, he had an impetuous gust of emotion. He made a run for it, lest hesitation should grip him again. Thus, he went plump with outstretched hand through the green door. And he let it slam behind him. And so, in a trice, he came into the garden that has since haunted him all his life.

It was hard for Wallace to give me his full sense of that garden. There was something in the very air of it that exhilarated him. It gave him a sense of lightness, and good happening, and well-being. There was something in the sight of it that made all of its color clean. It was perfect, and subtly luminous. In the instant of coming into the garden, one was exquisitely glad. These feelings occur only in rare moments. They occur when one is young and joyful, and when one can be glad in this world. And everything was beautiful there.

Wallace mused before he went on talking to me. Then he spoke with the doubtful inflection of a man who pauses at incredible things. “You see, there were two great panthers there. Yes, spotted panthers. And I was not afraid of them. There was a long wide path. It boasted marble-edged flower borders on either side. And these two huge velvety beasts were playing there with a ball. One looked up and came towards me. It was a little curious, as it seemed. It came right up to me. It rubbed its soft round ear very gently against the small hand that I held out. And it purred. It was, I tell you, an enchanted garden. I know. And the size? Oh! it stretched far and wide, this way and that. I believe there were hills far away. Heaven knows where West Kensington had suddenly disappeared to. And somehow, it was just like coming home.”


“You know, in the moment that the door swung shut behind me, I was in another dimension. I forgot the road with its fallen chestnut leaves. I forgot about the cabs and the tradesmen’s carts. I forgot the sort of gravitational pull back to the discipline and obedience of home life. I forgot all hesitations and fears. I forgot discretion. I left behind me all the intimate realities of this life. I became, in a moment, a very glad and wonder-happy little boy. I was in another world. It was a world with a rare quality. There was a warmer, more penetrating and mellower light. There was a faint, clear gladness in its air. There were wisps of sun-touched cloud in the blueness of its sky.”

“And in front of me ran this long, wide, inviting path. It had weedless beds on either side. They were rich with untended flowers. And, oh, these two great panthers! I put my little hands fearlessly on their soft fur. I caressed their round ears and the sensitive corners under their ears. And I played with them. It was as though they had welcomed me home. There was a keen sense of homecoming in my mind. And then presently, a tall, fair girl, garbed in a green dress, appeared in the pathway. She came to meet me. She smiled and said, ‘Well?’ to me. She lifted me, and kissed me. Then she put me down, and led me by the hand. There was no amazement. There was just an impression of delightful ‘rightness.’ It was like being reminded of happy things that had in some strange way been overlooked. There were broad steps, I recall. They came into view between spikes of delphinium flowerings. And up these steps, we went to a great avenue. It was between very old and shady dark trees. All down this avenue, you know, between the red chapped stems, were marble seats of honor and statuary. And there were tame and friendly white doves.”


“And, along this avenue, my new girlfriend led me. She was looking down. I recall the pleasant lines, the finely-modeled chin of her sweet kind face. She was asking me questions in a soft, agreeable voice. And she was telling me things. They were pleasant things, I know. Though what they were, I was never able to recall. Then, next, there was a little Capuchin monkey. It was quite clean, with a fur of ruddy brown and kindly hazel eyes. It came down a tree to us. Then, it ran beside me. It was looking up at me and grinning. And it soon leapt to my shoulder. So, on we went down the path. We were in great happiness.” Then, he paused.

“Pray, go on,” I said.

“I remember little things. We passed an old man who was musing among laurels. We walked by a place, gay with parakeets. We came through a broad, shaded colonnade to a spacious cool palace. It was full of pleasant fountains. It was full of beautiful things. It was full of the quality and promise of heart’s desire. And there were lots of things and many people. Some of them still stand out clearly to me. And some are a bit vague. But all of these people were beautiful and kind. In some way, I don’t know how, it was conveyed to me that they all were friendly towards me. They were joyful to have me there. They were filling me with gladness by their gestures, by the touch of their hands, by the welcome and love in their eyes. Yes.” He mused for a while. “And I found playmates there. That meant very much to me. I was a lonely boy. They played fun games in a grass-covered court. There was a sundial set about with flowers in the center. And as one played, one loved.”


“But, it’s odd. There’s a gap in my memory. I don’t remember the games that we played. I never remembered. Afterwards, as a child, I spent long hours trying, even with tears, to recall the form of that happiness. I wanted to play it all over again, in my nursery, by myself. No! All I remember is the happiness and the two dear playfellows who were with me the most.”

“Then soon came a somber dark woman. She had a grave, pale face and dreamy eyes. She wore a soft, long robe of pale purple. She carried a book. Then she beckoned and took me aside with her into a gallery above a hall. My playmates were loth to have me go. They ceased their game. They stood watching as I was carried away. ‘Come back to us!’ they cried. ‘Come back to us soon!’ I looked up at her face. But she heeded them not at all. Her face was very gentle. But it was also very grave. She took me to a seat in the gallery. I stood beside her. I was ready to look at her book as she opened it upon her knee. The pages fell open. She pointed, and I looked, marveling. In the living pages of that book, I saw myself. It was a story about me! And in it were all the things that had happened to me since I was born. It was wonderful to me. That’s because the pages of that book were not pictures, you see. They were actual realities.”


Wallace paused gravely. He looked at me doubtfully. “Go on,” I said. “I understand.”

“They were realities. Yes, they must have been. People moved. And things came and went in them. I saw my dear mother, whom I had near forgotten. Then there was my father, stern and upright. Then I saw the servants, the nursery, all the familiar things of home. Next, I saw the front door and the busy streets, with traffic to and fro. I looked and marveled. And I looked half doubtfully again into the woman’s face. I turned the pages over, skipping this and that, to see more of this book. And so at last, I came to myself hovering and hesitating outside the green door in the long white wall. At that point, I felt again the conflict and the fear. ‘And next?’ I cried. I would have turned more pages. But the cool hand of the grave woman delayed me.”


“‘Next?’ I insisted. I struggled gently with her hand. I pulled up her fingers with all of my childish strength. She yielded. The page turned. Then, she bent down upon me like a shadow. She kissed my brow. But the page did not show the enchanted garden. There were no panthers. There was no girl who had led me by the hand. There were no playfellows who had been so loth to let me go. Instead, it showed a long gray street in West Kensington. It was at that chill hour of afternoon before the lamps are lit. And I was there, a wretched little figure. I was weeping aloud, for I could not restrain myself. And I was weeping because I could not return to my dear playfellows who had called after me. ‘Come back to us! Come back to us soon!’ I was there. This was no page in a book. I was back to our harsh reality. Where was that enchanted place? Where was the restraining hand of the grave motherly lady at whose knee I had stood? Whither have they gone?”

He halted again. He remained, for a time, staring into the fire. “Oh! The wretchedness of that return to our earthly, hard reality!” he murmured.

“Well?” I said after a minute or so.


“Poor little wretch that I was, brought back to this gray world again! I quickly realized the fullness of what had happened to me. I then gave way to quite ungovernable grief. And two things stay with me, still. There was the shame and humiliation of that public weeping. And then there was my disgraceful homecoming. I see again a benevolent-looking old gentleman in gold spectacles. He stopped and spoke to me. He prodded me first with his umbrella. ‘Poor little chap,’ said he. ‘And are you lost, then?’ And me, a London boy of five and more! And he brought in a kindly young policeman. People were staring at me as the policeman marched me home. I was sobbing, conspicuous, and frightened. Now I came from the enchanted garden to the steps of my father’s house.”

“That is as well as I can recall my vision of that garden. It still haunts me. Of course, I can convey nothing of its indescribable quality of translucent unreality. What hung about the place was so unlike the common things of our earthly, daily experience. But that is the truth of what happened. If it was a dream, I am sure it was a daytime and altogether extraordinary dream. Hmm! And, of course, there came a terrible questioning. I was peppered with queries by my aunt, my father, the nurse, the governess, everyone.”


“I tried to tell them. But my father gave me a thrashing for telling lies. Later, I tried to tell my aunt. But she punished me, too, for my wicked persistence. Then, as I said, everyone was forbidden to listen to me. No one would hear a word about it. Even my fairy tale books were taken from me for a time. That’s because they called me ‘too imaginative.’ Eh? Yes, they did that! My father was of the old school. ‘Discipline the child. Spare the rod, spoil the child!’ It was clear that telling my tale had just backfired on me. So, I resorted to whispering it to my pillow. My poor pillow was often damp and salty from my whispering lips and childish tears. And I added always to my official and less fervent prayers this one heartfelt request. ‘Please God. Let me dream of the garden. Oh! take me back to my garden! Take me back to my garden!'”


“And indeed, I did dream often of the garden. I may have added to it. I may have changed it. I do not know. All this, you see, is an attempt to reconstruct from fragmentary memories a very early experience. Between that and the other consecutive memories of my boyhood, there is a gulf. A time came when it seemed like I’d never speak of that wondrous glimpse again.”

I asked an obvious question.

“No,” he said. “I don’t recall that I ever tried to find my way back to the garden in those years. This seems odd to me now. But I think that, most likely, a closer watch was kept on my movements after this misadventure. That would have been aimed at preventing my going astray again. No, it wasn’t until you knew me that I tried for the garden again. And I think there was a period, strange as it seems now, when I forgot the garden altogether. I would have been about eight or nine. Do you remember me as a youth at Saint Athelstan’s?”

“Rather! I certainly do!”

“In those days, I didn’t show any signs, did I, of having a secret dream?”


Chapter Two
He looked up with a sudden smile.

“Did you ever play Northwest Passage with me? No, of course you didn’t come my way! It was the sort of game that every imaginative child plays all day. The goal was to find a Northwest Passage to school. The way to school was obvious enough. The game consisted of finding some way that wasn’t so clear. One would start off ten minutes early. You’d go in some almost hopeless direction. Then you’d work your way ’round through unaccustomed streets. Well, one day I got entangled among some rather low-class streets. They were on the other side of Campden Hill. I thought that, for once, the game would get me into trouble. I feared that I would get to school late. I tried rather desperately a street that seemed to be a cul-de-sac. But I found a passage at the end. I hurried through that opening with renewed hope. ‘I shall make it on time,’ I said. Then, I passed a row of frowsy little shops. They were inexplicably familiar to me. And behold! There was my long white wall and the green door that led to the enchanted garden! The thing whacked upon me quickly. Then, after all, that garden! That wonderful garden wasn’t a dream!”

He paused.


“So, this was my second encounter with the green door. And it marks the world of difference there is between the busy life of a schoolboy and the infinite leisure of a child. Anyhow, this time, I didn’t, for a moment, think of going in straightaway. For one thing, my mind was stuck on getting to school in time. I was set on not breaking my record for punctuality. I must surely have felt some small desire, at least, to try the door. Yes, I must have felt that. But I saw the attraction of the door mainly as another obstacle to my overmastering determination to get to school. I was intrigued by this discovery that I had made, of course. I went on with my mind full of it. But I went on. It didn’t stop me. I ran past it, tugging out my watch. I found that I had ten minutes still to spare. At that point, I was going downhill into familiar surroundings. I got to school, breathless, it is true. And I was sopping wet with perspiration. But I had made it in time. I can recall hanging up my coat and hat. So, I had gone by the garden, and I had left it behind me. Odd, eh?”

He looked at me, deep in thought. “Of course, I did not know then that it wouldn’t always be there. School boys have limited imaginations. I must have thought that it was an awfully jolly thing to have it there. And it was good to know my way back to it. But there was the school tugging at me. I expect that I was a good deal distraught and inattentive that day. I was recalling what I could of the beautiful strange people who I should soon see again. Oddly enough, I had no doubt in my mind that they would be glad to see me. Yes, I must have thought of the garden that morning just as a jolly sort of place that one might resort to in the interludes of a strenuous scholastic career.”


“I didn’t go that day, at all. The next day was a half-holiday. And that may have influenced me. Perhaps, too, my state of inattention brought down impositions upon me. I may have miscalculated the margin of time necessary for the detour. I don’t know. What I do know is this. In the meantime, the enchanted garden was so much upon my mind that I could not keep it to myself. I told, what was his name? He was a ferrety looking youngster we used to call Squiff.”

“Young Hopkins,” said I.

“Hopkins it was. I did not like telling him. I felt that in some way it was against the rules to tell him. But I did. He was walking part of the way home with me. He was talkative. And if we had not talked about the garden, we would have talked of something else. And it was intolerable to me to think about any other subject. So, I blabbed.”

“Well, he told my secret. The next day, in the play interval, I found myself surrounded by half a dozen bigger boys. They were half-teasing and wholly curious to hear more of the garden. There was that big Fawcett. Do you remember him? And Carnaby and Morley Reynolds were there. You weren’t there, by any chance, were you? No, I think I would have remembered if you were.”


“A boy is a creature of odd feelings. I was, I think, in spite of my secret self-disgust, a bit flattered to have the attention of these big fellows. I remember, particularly, a moment of pleasure caused by the praise of Crawshaw. Do you remember Crawshaw? He was the son of Crawshaw the composer. He said that it was the best lie that he had ever heard. But at the same time, I felt a painful undertow of shame. I was talking about what I thought was, indeed, a sacred secret. Then that beast Fawcett made a joke about the girl in green.”

Wallace’s voice sank with the keen memory of that shame. “I pretended not to hear him,” he said. “Well, then Carnaby called me a young liar. He disputed with me when I said that the thing was true. I said that I knew where to find the green door. I told them that I could lead them all there in ten minutes. Carnaby became outrageously virtuous. He said that I’d bloody well have to. I’d have to bear out my words or suffer. Did you ever have Carnaby twist your arm? Then you’ll feel how it went for me. I swore that my story was true. There was no one in the school, then, to save a chap from the wrath of Carnaby. Though Crawshaw did put in a word or so of defense for me. Carnaby had forced me to play his game. I grew excited and red-eared. And I was a bit scared. I behaved altogether like a silly little chap. And the outcome of it all was that I was not starting out alone for my enchanted garden. My cheeks were flushed. My ears were hot. My eyes were smarting. And my soul was burning with misery and shame. There I was, leading a party of six mocking, curious, and threatening school-fellows.”

“And we never found the white wall and the green door.”


“You mean?”

“I mean I couldn’t find it. I would have found it if I could. And afterwards, when I could go alone, I couldn’t find it, either. I never found it when purposefully looking for it. I seem now to have been always looking for it through my schoolboy days. But I’ve never come upon it again in a proactive search for it. I’ve only seen it in unexpected encounters.”

“Did the fellows make things disagreeable for you?”

“Yes! They were beastly to me! Carnaby held a council over me for wanton lying. I recall how I snuck home. I went straight upstairs to hide the marks of my blubbering. I cried myself to sleep, at last. But it wasn’t for Carnaby. It was for the garden. It was for the beautiful afternoon that I had hoped for. It was for the sweet, friendly women. It was for the waiting playfellows and the game that I had hoped to learn again. Alas, that beautiful, forgotten game.”

“I believed firmly that if I had not told them, I would not have been punished in this way. I had bad times after that. I was crying at night. I was woolgathering by day. For two terms, I slackened and got poor grades. Do you remember? Of course you would! It was you! It was your beating me in mathematics that brought me back to the grind again.”


Chapter Three
For a time, my friend stared silently into the red heart of the fire. Then, he said, “I never saw it again until I was seventeen. It leapt upon me for the third time. I was driving to Paddington on my way to Oxford. I was to obtain a scholarship there. I had just one momentary glimpse of it. I was leaning over the apron of my hansom. I was smoking a cigarette. I was, no doubt, thinking of myself as quite an up and coming man of the world. And suddenly there was the door and the wall. There was the dear sense of unforgettable and still attainable things.”

“We clattered by it. I was too taken by surprise to stop my cab until we were well past it and ’round a corner.  Then I had a queer moment. It was a double and divergent movement of my will. I tapped the little door in the roof of the cab. I brought my arm down to pull out my watch. ‘Yes, sir!’ said the cabman, smartly. ‘Er, well, it’s nothing,’ I cried. ‘My mistake! We haven’t much time! Go on!’ And he went on.”


“I got my scholarship. And it was the night after that. I sat over my fire in my little upper room. It was my study, in my father’s house. I was enjoying my father’s praise, his very rare praise. And his sound counsels were ringing in my ears. And I smoked my favorite pipe, the formidable bulldog of adolescence. And I thought of that door in the long white wall. ‘If only I had stopped,’ I thought. ‘I should have missed my scholarship. I should have missed Oxford. And I would have muddled all of the fine career that was in front of me for the taking!’ I began to see things better! I fell to musing deeply. But I did not doubt then that this career of mine was a thing that merited sacrifice. The garden, those dear friends and that clear atmosphere, seemed very sweet to me. Yes, they were very fine, but they were now remote. My focus was fixing now upon the world and my responsibilities. I saw another door opening. It was the door of my career.”

He stared again into the fire. Its red lights picked out a stubborn strength in his face for just one flickering moment. And then it vanished again.


“Well,” he said and sighed. “I have served that career. I have done much work, much hard work. But I have dreamt of the enchanted garden a thousand dreams. And I have seen its door, or at least glimpsed its door, four times since then. Yes, four times. For a while this world was so bright and interesting. It seemed so full of meaning and opportunity. Thus, the half-effaced charm of the garden was, by comparison, gentle and remote. Who wants to pat panthers on the way to dinner with pretty women and distinguished men? I came down to London from Oxford. I was a man of bold promise that I have done something to redeem. Something, and yet there have been disappointments.”

“Twice I have been in love. I will not dwell on that. But once, I was going to see someone who, I know, doubted whether I dared to come. I took a short cut. It was at a venture through an unfrequented road near Earl’s Court. There, I so happened on a white wall and a familiar green door. ‘Odd!’ said I to myself. ‘But I thought that this place was on Campden Hill. It’s the place that I never could find somehow, when actually looking for it.’ And I went by it. I was intent upon my purpose. It had no appeal to me that afternoon.”


“I had just a moment’s impulse to try the door. Three steps aside were needed at the most. I was sure enough in my heart that it would open to me. But then I thought that doing so might delay me on the way to that appointment in which I thought my honor was involved. Afterwards, I was sorry for my punctuality. I should at least have peeped in, I thought. I could have waved a hand to those panthers. But I knew enough by this time not to seek again, belatedly, that which is not found by seeking. Yes, that time made me very sorry.”

“Years of hard work befell me after that. And never a sight of the door. It’s only recently that it has come back to me. With it, there has come a sense as though some thin tarnish had spread itself over my world. I began to think of it as a sorrowful and bitter thing that I should never see that door again. Perhaps I was suffering from overwork. Perhaps it was what I’ve heard spoken of as ‘the feeling of turning forty years old.’ I don’t know. But certainly the keen brightness that makes effort easy has gone out of things recently. And that’s just at a time with all these tense new European political developments. Of course, I ought to be working. Odd, isn’t it? But I do begin to find life toilsome. Its rewards, as I come near them, seem cheap. I began a little while ago to want the garden quite badly. Yes, and I’ve seen it three times.”


“The garden?”

“No. The door! And I haven’t gone in!”

He leaned over the table to me. There was an enormous sorrow in his voice as he spoke. “Thrice I have had my chance. Thrice! If ever that door offered itself to me again, I swore, I would go in out of this dust, and heat, and tension. I will leave this dry glitter of vanity. I will remove myself from these toilsome futilities. I will go in. And I will never return. This time I will stay. I swore all of this. And when the time came, I didn’t go. I didn’t do it. Three times in one year, I have passed that door. And I failed to enter it. Three times in the last year.”

“The first time was on the night of a critical Parliamentary debate. There was a vote on the TenantsRedemption Bill. The Government barely won the vote by only a majority of three. Do you remember? No one on our side, perhaps very few on the opposite side, expected that night’s events. The debate had collapsed like eggshells. Hotchkiss and I were dining with his cousin at Brentford. We were both unprepared. We were called up by telephone to come add to the vote. We set off at once in his cousin’s motorcar. We got there barely in time. While on the way, we passed my wall and door. It was livid in the moonlight. It was blotched with hot yellow as the glare of our lamps lit it. But it was unmistakable. ‘My God!’ cried I. ‘What?’ said Hotchkiss. ‘Nothing!’ I answered. And the moment passed. ‘I’ve made a great sacrifice,’ I thought, as we hurried by it. I do not see how I could have done otherwise, though. They needed my vote.”


“And the second occasion that I saw it was as I rushed to my father’s bedside. It was time to bid that stern old man farewell. Then, too, the claims of life were imperative.”

“But the third time was different. It happened a week ago. It fills me with hot remorse to recall it. I was walking with Gurker and Ralphs. It’s no secret now that you know that I’ve had my talk with Gurker. We had been dining at Frobisher’s. And the talk had become intimate between us. The question of my place in the reconstructed government Ministry lay always just over the boundary of the discussion.”

I asked him if any decision had been made.

“Yes. Yes. That’s all settled. It needn’t be talked about, yet. But there’s no reason to keep a secret from you.”

I congratulated him on his new position.

“Yes, thanks! Thanks! But let me tell you my story.”


“So, on that night, things were still very much up in the air. My position regarding the Ministry was a very delicate one. I was keenly anxious to get some definite word from Gurker. But I was hampered by Ralphs’ presence. I could not be as frank as I needed to be. I was using the best power of my brain. I tried to keep that light and careless talk not too obviously directed to the Ministry discussion. I had to stay away from that subject. Ralphs’ behavior since then has more than justified my caution. Ralphs, I knew, would leave us beyond the Kensington High Street. And then I could surprise Gurker by a sudden frankness. One has sometimes to resort to these little devices. And then it was that I saw it in the margin of my field of vision. I became aware once more of the white wall. And there before us was the green door, just down the road.”

“We passed it talking. I can still see the shadow of Gurker’s marked profile. His opera hat was tilted forward over his prominent nose. The many folds of his neck wrap were going before my shadow and Ralphs’ as we sauntered past it. I was within twenty inches of the door for a brief moment. Then I thought this to myself. ‘If I say goodnight to them, and go in, what will happen?’ But I was pulled by the world, yet again. After all, I was all atingle for that critical, private word with Gurker.”


“So, I could not answer that question to myself about going into the garden. I was too tangled up with my other problems. ‘They will think me mad,’ I thought. ‘And suppose I vanish now? Picture the headlines. AMAZING DISAPPEARANCE OF A PROMINENT POLITICIAN.’ That weighed on me. A thousand inconceivably petty worldlinesses weighed on me in that crisis.”

Then he turned on me with a sorrowful smile. And, speaking slowly, “Here I am!” he said. Here I am!” he repeated. “And my chance has gone from me. Three times in one year the door has been offered to me. The door that goes into peace, into delight. The door that leads into a beauty beyond dreaming, a kindness that no man on Earth can know. And I have rejected it, Redmond. And it has gone.”

“How do you know?”


“Oh, I know. Believe me. I know. I am left now to work it out. I must stick to the worldly tasks that have held me so strongly, that have blocked me from entering the garden when my opportunities came. You say that I have ‘success’. Success, this vulgar, tawdry, irksome, envied thing. Yes, I have it.” He had a walnut in his big hand, glaring at it. “If that was my success,” he said. Then he crushed it, looked despisingly upon it, and held it out for me to see.

“Let me tell you something, Redmond. This loss is destroying me. For two months, for ten weeks nearly now, I have done no work at all. I’ve just kept to the most necessary and urgent duties. My soul is full of inappeasable regrets. At nights, when it’s less likely that I shall be recognized, I go out. I wander. Yes. I wonder what people would think of that if they knew. I’m a Cabinet Minister. I’m the responsible head of that most vital of all departments. And I’m wandering alone, grieving. Sometimes I’m near audibly lamenting, for a door, for a garden!”


Chapter Four
I can see now his rather pallid face. And there was an unfamiliar, somber fire that had come into his eyes. I see him in my mind’s eye quite vividly tonight. I sit recalling his words and his tones. And last evening’s Westminster Gazette still lies on my sofa. It contains the notice of his death. At lunch today, the club was all abuzz about him. What is the strange riddle of his regrettable fate?

They found his body very early yesterday morning. It was in a deep excavation at a construction site near East Kensington Station. It was in one of two shafts that had been made there. They are in connection with an extension of the railway southward. It is protected from the intrusion of the public by a hoarding upon the high road. There, a small doorway has been cut for the convenience of some of the workmen who live in that direction. The doorway was left unfastened due to a misunderstanding between two gangers. And through it, he made his way.

My mind is darkened with questions and riddles.


It seems that he walked all the way from the Houses of Parliament that night. He has often walked home during the past governmental Session. And, so it is, I imagine his dark form coming along the late and empty streets. He’d likely be all wrapped up intently in thought. And, then, did the pale electric lights near the station cheat the rough planking into a semblance of white? Did that fatal, unfastened door awaken some memory in him? Did he think that it was the door to his precious garden?

Or was there, after all, ever any green door in the wall, at all?

I do not know. I have told his story as he told it to me. There are times when I believe that Wallace was no more than the victim of the coincidence between a rare but not unprecedented type of hallucination. Perhaps it was a careless trap of the mind. But that, indeed, is not my profoundest belief. You may think me superstitious if you will. And possibly foolish. But, indeed, I am more than half-convinced that he had, in truth, an abnormal gift. I think that he had a special sense. There was something, I know not what, that in the guise of that wall and door offered him an outlet. It must have been a secret and peculiar passage of escape. It led him into another and altogether more beautiful world. At any rate, you will say, it betrayed him in the end. But did it betray him? There, you touch the inmost mystery of these dreamers, these men of vision and the imagination. We see our world fair and common, the hoarding and the pit. By our daylight standard, he walked out of security into darkness, danger, and death. But did he see like that?


Lesson 83 – Marzano Grade 3-4 Words Finish-Up

NEW WORDS: Alaska’s, Anchorage, Atlanta, Chester, Colorado’s, Denver, Harrisburg, Houston, Jacksonville, Nebraska, Omaha, Pennsylvania’s, Richmond, Seuss’s, Sierra, Snoopy, Uruguay, Vermont, aflame, altitude, antonym, appliances, aspirin, auditorium, baton, batter, beagle, bibliography, braid, burro, calcareous, carnation, cassette, cauliflower, centipede, choke, cinder, clutch, coarse, cobra, coliseum, comics, contagious, coupon, cowhand, creepiest, crossword, crowbar, cymbal, decagon, denominator, dribble, dunce, eyeliner, falcons, falsehood, flask, fluff, freckle, fulcrum, furnish, graduation, grate, greyhound, grinch, grouch, guppy, hamerkop, handcuffs, hangar, harmonica, harpoon, holler, homonym, hutch, indent, juggle, junction, knuckle, lampshade, lapel, lever, licorice, mollusk, muggy, mumble, mutter, noodle, nozzle, numerator, oriole, ornery, parable, parallelogram, parenthesis, parka, partridge, passerine, pelican, petunia, plagiarize, polygon, poncho, poppy, portfolio, postmaster, precipitates, predicate, prisoner’s, prodigal, protrude, pus, recite, redcoat, revoke, rink, romano, sandal, scoot, scrimp, scripture, seafood, secrete, shoebill, shortening, showy, shuffle, sideburns, sift, slant, slowpoke, smear, smokestack, smudge, snapdragon, snooping, snub, sodapop, souvenir, spangle, splinter, stamen, steeper, strum, summerlike, suspenders, tassel, teepee, teeter, telegram, thumbtack, tiddlywinks, tingle, tinsel, tiresome, tole, tomahawk, topminnow, trademark, tuxedo, typewrite, ukulele, upland, veranda, vinegar, waffle, waltz, whaler, whinny, wrestle, xylophone, yak

In the Revolutionary War, a British soldier was a “redcoat.”

A xylophone was the first instrument that I tried to play.

I’d like oil and vinegar on my salad.

I’ll grate romano cheese for the spaghetti.

Take off the prisoner’s handcuffs.

I hate black licorice.

“The Prodigal Son” is my favorite parable in the Bible.

That soda makes my tongue tingle.

I heard him holler, “Ouch!”

We went to hike in the Sierra Nevada hills.

I hate when he cracks his knuckle!

Recite this poem to the class.

For lots of Native Americans, a teepee was their home.

Let’s have some iced tea out on the veranda.

Indent this sentence one inch.

Let’s go to the ice skating rink.

The Postmaster General wants to raise the price of stamps.

A Baltimore oriole is in the “passerine” bird group.

He has a pink carnation on the lapel of his tuxedo.

Native Americans used a tomahawk as a tool and a weapon.

President Chester A. Arthur had long sideburns.

To lose weight, I need to scrimp on what I eat.

Uruguay is the second-smallest South American nation.


Put this tinsel on the Christmas tree.

I love to hear blues harmonica tunes.

Don’t mumble, and speak louder.

The pelican is related to shoebill and hamerkop birds.

Omaha is in the state of Nebraska.

Honey, don’t smudge your eyeliner.

The yak is a wild ox from the Tibetan highlands.

The cassette player came before the CD player.

The horse let out a loud whinny.

A guppy is also known as a “topminnow.”

My right foot is bare because I lost my right sandal.

The fulcrum of a seesaw board is in the center of it.

“Kleenex” is a trademark for what we call “tissue paper.”

I don’t want to be the class dunce, so I’ll study hard.

I’ll take a plastic poncho to the game in case it precipitates.

Please don’t revoke my driver’s license!

He’s running a smear campaign against his opponent.

At this junction in the meeting, let’s take a break.

This antique tole lampshade is worth a lot of money.

A snapdragon is quite a showy flower.

Hurry up, you slowpoke!

A parallelogram can be a rectangle or a square.

I like to wrestle with my dog.


Don’t choke on your food!

Fluff up the pillows on the couch.

We should furnish our kitchen with new appliances.

A mollusk has a calcareous shell.

A “truth” is an antonym of a “falsehood.”

Let’s climb the hill with the steeper slant.

Where’s the nozzle for the hose?

Ouch, I got a splinter in my thumb.

Her not talking to me at the party was a rude snub.

Check out this cool souvenir that I got on our trip.

She loves chicken noodle soup.

I think that Snoopy in the “Peanuts” comics is a beagle.

Let’s move upland to get away from this constant flooding.

I think a centipede is the creepiest bug there is.

I have a freckle about every eighth of an inch!

I love your spangle earrings.

She has an impressive photo portfolio.

I heard him mutter a curse word.

Your nagging is becoming tiresome!

Strum me a tune on your ukulele.

She can dribble the basketball behind her back.

The orchestra conductor raised her baton.

The Coliseum in Rome is a must-see tourist site.


Dad can juggle five tennis balls at once.

There’s a big tassel on my graduation cap.

I love ice cream with cookie dough batter in it.

What’s that Christmas tune with “a partridge in a pear tree?”

Your scab might secrete gooey pus.

I’ll add cauliflower chunks to the salad.

A decagon is a type of polygon.

Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city, by geographical area, in the U.S.

Here is some Vermont maple syrup for your waffle.

The preacher read a passage from Scripture.

Bang that cymbal as hard as you can!

Do a thorough bibliography so that you don’t plagiarize yourself.

What lever can we pull to get him to change his mind?

Hand me a thumbtack from the corkboard.

There’s not one good coupon in today’s newspaper.

I’d need a parka to wear before going out in that blizzard!

Just look at the pollution coming out of that smokestack!

If you teeter too much, you’ll fall off of that log.

Mom, help me finish this crossword puzzle.

Is the top number in a fraction the numerator or the denominator?

Have you heard of the “oldie” game, tiddlywinks?

The whaler threw his harpoon at the whale.

A petunia is my favorite summer flower.


I must buy some shortening for this recipe.

The Atlanta Falcons have never won a Super Bowl.

Dr. Seuss’s Grinch is quite a grouch.

One burning cinder would set these newspapers aflame.

Your apology will predicate that you really feel guilty.

Houston, Texas can get some rough hurricanes.

I’m NOT a fan of greyhound racing!

Samuel Morse invented the telegram.

Sodapop will give you cavities!

All students must gather in the auditorium.

You left out your right parenthesis mark in this sentence.

It’s summerlike outside, but not too muggy yet.

Dad’s first job was as a cowhand at a dude ranch.

You’d better scoot so that you won’t miss the bus.

We need to repair the clutch on the car.

You find pollen on a flower on its stamen.

Being haunted by a ghost will harrow you.

I like to listen to the Blue Danube waltz.

A fox is snooping about the rabbit hutch.

Richmond is the capital city of Virginia.

Sorry, you can’t come into the stadium with a flask of alcohol.

I need to sift the flour a bit more.

It’s your turn to shuffle the cards.


A burro is a small donkey.

My car was broken into with a crowbar.

Gramps is an ornery old fellow.

A broken bone will protrude through your skin in a compound fracture.

Store your plane in that hangar.

The comedian told very coarse jokes.

My flu is quite contagious.

Philly isn’t Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg is!

I need suspenders to hold up my trousers.

Anchorage is Alaska’s most populated city.

A cobra is a very poisonous snake.

My grandpa used to typewrite all of his letters.

Take some aspirin for your headache.

The words “bear” and “bare” represent a homonym.

Denver, Colorado’s altitude is exactly one mile high.

Mom, teach me how to braid my hair.

Mom’s allergic to seafood.

I’d like poppy seed dressing on my salad.

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 Asian Civilizations

Lesson 84 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Ayodhya, Brahman, Brahman’s, Buddhism, Buddhists, Ganga, Gautama, Himalayan, India’s, Lakshmi’s, Rama, Ravana, Ravana’s, Rigveda, Sanchi, Sanjay, Sanjay’s, Shiva’s, Stupa, Stupas, Thanksgivings, Vishnu’s, abandons, alluvial, alluvium, anthology, archer, augmented, avenues, banyan, begetter, burgeoning, caravans, chump, citadel, cleanse, clicking, conch, consented, cotta, cycles, defrosting, deity, devotion, devour, dharma, discus, diyas, enlightenment, equanimity, eternally, evince, exemplifies, flatlands, flavorsome, fountainhead, garlands, gateposts, granary, hallowed, harborage, illuminate, imitation, ingest, ingrates, interlaced, interwoven, jeopardy, jostles, lamp’s, liberally, liberated, malicious, meditating, merges, narcissistic, needing, nestles, nonviolent, obliterate, piteously, rampaging, ranging, rattling, recede, reincarnated, reincarnation, relics, remuneration, routinely, ruination, saintly, sanctified, soul’s, souls, spawned, strains, strewn, sufferings, superincumbent, surging, swales, symbolizes, symbolizing, teamed, tenet, thaws, thereafter, tormented, transporting, turban, unannounced, unrealistic, unrelentingly, unthankful, vanquishing, verses, visually, watercourses


Chapter One: The Indus River Valley, Part One
These snow-covered peaks are part of the Himalayas. This is a wide-ranging mountain range that stretches for many miles across Asia. They form the highest mountain peaks in the world. Can you guess what happens to the snow on these peaks as it thaws out? That’s right. The snow becomes water. Then it comes down the mountainsides to form rivers in the swales below.

Water from these defrosting snows merges with heavy spring rains. This water fills rivers. Then it causes them to routinely overflow their banks each spring. Fertile soil from the rivers’ beds spreads out over the farm fields. As the water floods, it leaves behind this nutrient-rich soil. The soil is good for growing crops. Let’s act this out. We’ll do an imitation of the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas. Let’s all stand tall with our hands above our heads, with our fingertips touching. Pretend that they are like the mountain peaks. Now, let’s be the melting snow surging into the river. All of you move your hands toward the floor. Then make a whooshing sound. That will be the melting snow, the water that flows over the river banks, and the soil left on the land around the river.


Great civilizations all around the world have sprung up in river valleys. People have taken advantage of the rich soil in these valleys. They have learned to grow their own crops. Because of this, people began to stay in one place. They stopped needing to unrelentingly move in search of food.

Let’s travel to the Himalayan Mountains in Asia. One such civilization was born here. It was along the banks of the mighty Indus River.  Each year, snow from the mountains melts. The water from the melting snow and heavy spring rains floods the Indus River. That leaves rich alluvial soil on the land around the river. More than 4,000 years ago, people spread out across the Indus River Valley. They took advantage of the rich soil. They settled near the river. And they began to cultivate wheat and barley, peas, dates, melons, and bananas.

These folks knew what they had to do if they wished to live near the river. They’d have to control the floodwaters. They found ways to control the rising waters. They built irrigation watercourses to hold some of the water back. Then, they could let some of the water into the fields when needed. As their communities augmented, these folks teamed up to plan and build permanent cities by the river.


There were many permanent cities by the Indus River. Not so long ago, archaeologists found Mohenjo-daro. That was one of the most burgeoning cities of the ancient Indus River Valley. It was a city enclosed by brick walls. And it was designed in a square, grid-like pattern. There was a citadel. That was a fortress at the city’s center. That housed its leaders, who were priests. They were members of the ruling class. They performed both religious and governmental duties. Beyond the citadel, spreading out in all directions, a web of roads led to the homes of countless workers. Each person had a job to do. Some farmed the land outside the city walls. Some made bricks from the river’s alluvium. Others made these baked bricks into buildings.

Fine craftsmen designed jewelry. And they made distinctive stone seals. These were carved with pictures of buffalo, elephants, and tigers. Archaeologists found many of these stone seals. But they are not sure of their purpose.

And all over the city, merchants bought and sold their wares. The city’s wide avenues were lined with flat-topped, brick buildings. These roadways were easy for their common bull carts to navigate.

The city of Mohenjo-daro was part of this civilization. We say that groups of people have a “civilization” when certain things are in place. First, they have cities with large buildings. Second, they have a “division of labor.” That means that each person has a certain job to do. Third, they have some form of writing. There are other “traits” of civilizations, as well. This city had all of these things. In the next lesson, you’ll hear what it might have been like to live there.


Chapter Two: The Indus River Valley, Part Two
Today we are going to travel back in time. We’ll meet a child living in Mohenjo-daro, 2,500 years ago. The child’s father is a grain trader. Wheat from the surrounding fields is stored in a common granary near the citadel. Remember, that’s the safe place in the center of the city. The father’s job is to collect grain. Then he’ll take it through the city gates to the bustling harborage by the river. There, he will trade it for gold, copper, jade, and turquoise from distant lands.

Let’s meet Sanjay. He’s the boy in this picture. He’s waiting excitedly for his father in the courtyard of his family’s home. It is a special day. Sanjay has waited nine years for his father’s invitation to join him today.

Sanjay can hear the bull cart. It’s rattling down the side passage now. Then he sees him, the man in the turban. That’s Sanjay’s father. The turban he wears is a headdress. It’s made of cloth and is worn by men in this region.

“Hop in, son. Let’s go.”

Sanjay nestles into the back of the wooden cart. He braces himself against its sides. His father then guides the bull out into the main street. He has bathed and put on fresh cotton clothes. That’s because Father has promised that after the morning’s work, he will be allowed to join the priests in a special ceremony. They will give thanks to the mighty Indus River for all that she provides.


The cart jostles Sanjay about with each turn in the road. His thoughts head back to last spring. That’s when steady rains flooded the river. Floodwaters forcefully broke through the city walls. The flood toppled buildings in its wake.

Sanjay recalls it as if it were yesterday. There was an awful smell of wet mud that filled his home. He and his sister had to wade knee-deep in muck, waiting for the muddy waters to recede. Sanjay knows from experience that the river has the power to obliterate things in its path. Yet he knows, too, that the river is the source of life in the valley. Without it, there would be no crops for food, no cotton for clothing, and no means for easily transporting goods over long distances.

Sanjay’s thoughts are interrupted by an unannounced jolt of the cart. The cart takes its place behind other traders. They’re all lined up in front of the city granary. Enormous terra-cotta pots filled with grain are hoisted into the cart and set down beside him. He wonders how the wooden wheels beneath him can carry so much weight.

Sanjay turns to face forward in the cart. He sits on his knees. He strains to see over the approaching city gates to the sailing ships beyond. The cart sways to and fro from the weight of the pots. Sanjay’s father struggles to edge his way through the throng of bull carts. They’re all heading toward the loud and lively sounds of the harbor.


Once there, Father exchanges his grain for copper. The metal has come from Mesopotamia. He hopes to sell it to the jewelry maker for a good price.

The sun is directly overhead now. It’s about midday. Father steers the bulls away from the bustling port. He then comes to a standstill beneath the shade of a willow tree. Sanjay’s heart skips a beat. He steps down and leans into Father’s side. Sanjay walks with him toward a grove of banyan trees.

Gathered among cows and men, Sanjay’s eye is drawn to a holy man. He is seated on bare ground in a cross-legged position. His head is bent in silence. Bowing his head, Sanjay listens to the words that have comforted his people for many years. “Oh, Great River, Mother of the People, Provider of Life, we thank you. It is now six moon cycles since your banks last flooded. We pray that we may please you and be spared from future harm. Your waters give us life. To you we owe our lives. Accept our blessings, Great River.” A squeeze from Father’s hand lets Sanjay know that he is proud to bring his son to this sacred spot for the first time. Sanjay answers his squeeze with one of his own. And he whispers his thanksgivings for this day.


Chapter Three: Hindus and Hinduism
This is the Ganges River. Like the Indus, it, too, is in India. The Ganges flows down from the Himalayas. Like the Indus, its rich flatlands have long given life to Indians. But the Ganges has a greater role in the lives of lots of Indians. It is the sacred river of the Hindus. In fact, the Ganges is one of the most sanctified places in their country. Hindus from all over the world have a dream. And that is to one day come to the Ganges. Once there, they worship its hallowed waters.

In this shot, you can see Hindus bathing in the water. They believe that this will cleanse away their sins, or wrongdoings. Millions of them make the trip each year.

Who are those who show devotion to the Ganges? They are part of the world’s oldest religion. It is called “Hinduism.” It is the third-largest religion in the world. It’s the most practiced religion in India. And Hindus live in lots of countries around the world, including the U.S.

Some religions worship just one God. But they worship lots of gods and goddesses. In fact, their deities, male and female, take many forms. For instance, Hindus believe that the river Ganges is the Earth home of Ganga. She is a river goddess. That’s why the river is such a holy place.


There are over 300 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism. Each of them exemplifies what Hindus call “Brahman.” Brahman is a spiritual force. Hindus believe that this is the fountainhead of all life. They think that everything comes from and is interwoven with Brahman. All of their deities represent Brahman, the source of all life. Of them, the three most important gods are known as “Brahma,” “Vishnu,” and “Shiva.”

They believe that the god Brahma (not to be confused with the spiritual force Brahman) is the god of creation. This is the god who spawned heaven and Earth, the moon and the sun, the planets and the stars. In fact, he created the whole universe. Everything and everyone is part of Brahma. This deity is considered the begetter and god of wisdom. He is often painted or carved as he is in this shot. He has four faces and four arms.

They believe that the god Vishnu is the protector of the universe and the preserver of life. Vishnu is also portrayed with four arms. In each hand, he holds Hindu symbols of the universe. This includes a club, a discus, a conch shell, and a lotus flower. Hindus believe that it is Vishnu’s job to keep order on Earth. He makes sure that everyone and everything is safe.


The third most important god is Shiva. He is thought to be both a creator and a destroyer of the universe. He is often shown as a dancer. A third eye in the center of his forehead can shoot out fire. His powerful energy is thought to control nature. There’s a legend about Shiva. It is told that Ganga, the river goddess, came to Earth by way of Shiva’s flowing, interlaced mass of hair. Rampaging violently down from heaven, the river flowed through Shiva’s hair. The hair calmed its waters before reaching Earth. Thus, Hindus believe that Shiva the destroyer did, in fact, destroy the rage in the river’s waters. This stopped greater ruination on Earth. In the past, Brahma was worshipped by many. Today, Hindus mainly worship Shiva and Vishnu.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims all have and worship just one God. They each have one holy book, as well. Hindus, though, have lots of gods and goddesses. They have many sacred books, too. Key among these books are the “Vedas.” These are sacred hymns and verses. The most important such anthology is the “Rigveda.” It is an ancient book. It’s more than 3,000 years old!

There is much in Hinduism that’s like lots of other faiths. They believe that people should be good and kind to one another here on Earth. Hindus try to live their daily lives by working hard, telling the truth, and doing their duty for friends and family. Duty is one’s responsibility. That’s doing what one knows is the right thing to do. The Hindus call this “dharma.”


Dharma, or duty, is tied to another key tenet of Hinduism. Hindus believe that all creatures, humans and animals alike, have invisible parts called “souls.” These souls remain alive when they die. They also believe that these invisible parts are “reincarnated,” or born again. They come into the body of another person or animal on Earth when this happens. The Hindu belief in the soul’s rebirth is called “reincarnation.” Hindus believe that those who fulfill their dharma will be spared lots of cycles of reincarnation. They also believe that those who evince a good life on Earth will be freed from life’s troubles much sooner. Then they will become part of Brahman. At that time, they will eternally be at peace.


Chapter Four: The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal
Once upon a time, a tiger was caught in a trap. He clawed and gnawed at the bars of his cage, but he could not escape. While the tiger was struggling to escape, a Hindu holy man happened to pass by. The tiger called out to the holy man, “Oh, saintly Brahman, please help me! Let me out of this cage!”

Now, the Brahman believed in being kind and gentle to everyone he met, and it was part of his religion to treat animals like brothers. But, at the same time, he saw the jeopardy that he’d put himself in by letting the tiger out. “Why should I let you out?” asked the Brahman. “If I do, you will probably eat me.”

“No, no!” said the tiger. “I swear I won’t do that. On the contrary, I will be forever grateful to you and serve you forever!” The tiger sobbed and sighed and wept so piteously that the pious Brahman’s heart softened, and, at last, he consented to open the door of the cage.

But as soon as he was out of the cage, the tiger pounced on the Brahman. “What a chump you are!” said the tiger. “What is to prevent me from eating you now?”

“Nothing,” said the Brahman. “Nothing at all. But, Brother Tiger, consider what it is you are about to do. Isn’t it unjust to eat me when I have done you a good turn by letting you out of the cage? Do you think it is fair to eat me up when you promised that you would not do so?”


“It is perfectly fair,” said the tiger. “Ask anyone and they will tell you that this is just the way of the world. It’s dog-eat-dog out here. It’s everyone for himself!”

“Will they?” said the Brahman. “Suppose we ask the next three things that we see? Will they agree that it is fair for you to eat me?” And the tiger agreed to this proposal.

Now, there happened to be an old buffalo standing a little way off, by the side of road. The Brahman called out to him. “Brother Buffalo, what do you think? Is it fair for Brother Tiger here to devour me when I have freed him from his cage? Is it just, or fair, for him to eat me when he has promised not to do so?”

“When I was young and strong,” said the buffalo in a hoarse, tired voice, “I served my master well. I carried superincumbent loads and carried them far. But now that I am old and weak, what remuneration do I receive for all of my years of service? Nothing! He abandons me here by the side of the road, without food or water. I say, let the tiger ingest the Brahman, for these men are unthankful ingrates.”

“Aha!” said the tiger. “You see that the buffalo’s judgment is against you!”

“Indeed, it is,” said the Brahman. “But let us hear a second opinion.”


A few yards away, there was an ancient banyan tree that cast a shadow on the road. “Brother Banyan,” said the Brahman. “What do you think? Is it fair for Brother Tiger here to eat me when I have freed him from his cage? Is it just for him to do this when he promised that he would not?”

The banyan tree looked down and sighed. “In the summer,” said the banyan tree, “when it is hot, men take shelter from the sun in the shade which I liberally supply. But, when the sun goes down, they break off my branches and burn them in their fires. I say, let the tiger eat the Brahman, for these men are narcissistic, and they think only of themselves.”

“You see that the banyan tree agrees with the buffalo,” the tiger crowed.

“Indeed, he does,” said the Brahman. “But let us hear one more opinion.” The Brahman looked down the road and spotted a jackal jogging along the edge of the woods.

“Brother Jackal,” he called out. “What do you think? Is it fair for Brother Tiger here to eat me when I have liberated him from his cage?”

“I’m sorry,” said the jackal. “I’m afraid that I don’t quite understand. Would you mind explaining exactly what happened?”

The Brahman explained what had happened. He told the whole story, from start to finish. When he was done, the jackal just shook his head in a distracted sort of way, as if he did not quite understand.


“It’s very odd,” he said. “I hear what you are saying, but I can’t seem to understand it. It all seems to go in at one ear and out at the other. Could you take me to the place where all of this happened? If I can visually encounter where these things happened, perhaps I will be able to understand what exactly took place. Then I can give you my opinion.”

So, the Brahman led the jackal back to the cage, with the tiger trailing along behind them, licking his chops in anticipation of a flavorsome meal.

“So, this is the cage?” said the jackal.

“Yes,” said the Brahman.

“And what happened, exactly?” The Brahman told the whole story over again, not missing a single detail.

“Oh, my poor brain!” cried the jackal, wringing its paws. “Let me see! How did it all begin? You were in the cage, and the tiger came walking by.”

“Pooh!” interrupted the tiger. “What a fool you are! I was the one in the cage.”

“Of course!” cried the jackal. “That is very helpful. So let’s see. I was in the cage. But wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense. I was never in the cage, was I? Let me see. The tiger was in the Brahman, and the cage came walking by. No, that’s not it, either! Oh, dear! I fear that I shall never understand!”


“You are not listening to me!” roared the tiger. “It’s so simple! Look here. I am the tiger.”

“Yes, my lord!”

“And that is the Brahman.”

“Yes, my lord!”

“And that is the cage.”

“Yes, my lord!”

“And I was in the cage, do you understand?”

“Yes. Well, no. Please, my lord.”

“Well?” cried the tiger impatiently.

“Excuse me, my lord! But how did you get in?”

“How? Why, in the usual way, of course!”

“Oh, dear me! I am getting confused again! Please don’t be angry, my lord, but what is the usual way?”

At this, the tiger lost his equanimity. He ran into the cage, bellowing, “This way! Now do you understand how it was?”


“I think I am beginning to understand,” said the jackal. “But why did you not let yourself out?”

“Because the gate was closed!” moaned the tiger.

“This gate?” said the jackal.

“Yes!” roared the tiger.

Then the jackal gave the gate a little nudge and it swung closed with a clicking sound.

“And that clicking sound?” said the jackal. “What does that mean?”

“That means that the cage is locked,” said the Brahman.

“Does it?” said the jackal. “Does it, really? Well, in that case, Brother Brahman, I would advise you to leave it locked. And as for you, my friend,” he said to the tiger, “I suspect it will be a good while before you can find anyone to let you out again.”

Then the jackal made a little bow to the Brahman, and he went on his way.


Chapter Five: The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Hindustan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the elephant,
(Though all of them were blind);
That each by observation,
Might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the elephant,
And happening to fall,
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl,
“Bless me, it seems the elephant,
Is very like a wall.”

The second, feeling of his tusk,
Cried, “Ho! What have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an elephant,
Is very like a spear.”

The third approached the animal,
And happening to take,
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Then boldly up and spake.
“I see,” quoth he, “the elephant,
Is very like a snake.”


The fourth stretched out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee,
“What most this mighty beast is like,
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the elephant,
Is very like a tree.”

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said, “Even the blindest man,
Can tell what this resembles most,
Deny the fact, who can?
This marvel of an elephant,
Is very like a fan.”

The sixth no sooner had begun,
About the beast to grope
Than, seizing on the swinging tail,
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” cried he, “the elephant,
Is very like a rope.”

And so, these men of Hindustan,
Disputed loud and long,
Each of his own opinion,
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


Chapter Six: Diwali
What is this woman holding in her hands? This woman is a Hindu, and she is holding candles for Diwali. Diwali is one of the many festivals held every year by Hindus in India and around the world. Diwali means “Festival of Lights.” Diwali is an important festival because of what each light symbolizes. According to an ancient Indian legend, Diwali began many, many years ago to celebrate the victory, or success, of a king in battle. The story, however, begins with a Hindu god.

As you know, Hindus worship many gods and goddesses. Who is the god Vishnu? Vishnu is known by Hindus as the protector of the whole universe. Hindus believe that long ago when the Earth was tormented by a malicious demon named Ravana, Vishnu sent himself as a human being to save Earth’s people from Ravana’s cruelty.


Vishnu’s human form, born to the king of the holy city of Ayodhya, was named Rama. Prince Rama was intelligent and kind. An especially good archer, he grew up to be a noble warrior. Following Vishnu’s plan, Rama left his city to fight Ravana, the evil demon. He fought a long and difficult battle. Finally, after fourteen years, Rama was successful at vanquishing Ravana, and he returned home to become the new king. To celebrate his return, the people of Ayodhya lit rows of small, clay, oil-burning lamps called “diyas.” They placed these lamps in their windows, by their doors, and in the rivers and streams. The light of each lamp’s flame was a symbol of good, returning after years of darkness. Every year thereafter, Hindus in Ayodhya repeated the custom of lighting lamps, honoring the strength and goodness of Rama. Gradually, the custom spread to other parts of the land.

Today, Diwali is the most famous of all Indian festivals. Begun by the Hindus, Diwali is now celebrated by many Indians worldwide, not just Hindus. The timing of the festival, which is based on the cycles of the moon, falls on different days every year, but it is always in either October or November. For five days, people celebrate the goodness in one another. Lamps and candles illuminate windows and doorways. Walls and gateposts are strewn with tiny lights. Garlands of electric lights stretch for miles throughout the cities and the countryside. Each light stands for the good inside the person who lit it, symbolizing light over darkness, good over evil.


Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, is also welcomed into the homes of the Hindu people during Diwali. In the weeks before the festival begins, Hindu families clean their homes in anticipation of pleasing Lakshmi’s spirit when she visits them. They bow in front of statues to Lakshmi, thanking her and praying for a prosperous year ahead. Flowers adorn homes and businesses, and some businessmen even decorate their cars with flowers and palm fronds, hoping that Lakshmi will help their engines run well for the coming year! Diwali is a time of new beginnings, much like New Year’s celebrations in other parts of the world.

Diwali is celebrated differently in different parts of India. Customs vary, but nearly everywhere, people delight in spending these five days with family and friends. They send cards to relatives and give gifts to one another, and they buy new clothes for Diwali festivities. They play games, sing songs, say special prayers, and gather to share big meals, which include dried fruits, nuts, and lots of sweets for desserts. Firecrackers split the air on most nights, lighting up the sky even more during this magical Festival of Lights.


Chapter Seven: Buddhists and Buddhism
Look at this photo. Do you have any thoughts about what it could be? This is the Great “Stupa” of Sanchi. That’s one of lots of sacred dome-shaped shrines built in Asia. They were built to honor the Buddha. He was the founder of Buddhism. Today you will learn a bit about Buddhism. It is the world’s fourth-largest religion. We call those who practice this faith Buddhists.

It all began some 2,500 years ago. We’ll meet a baby called Siddhartha Gautama. He was born in the foothills of the Himalayas. Siddhartha was a prince. He was born to rich parents. His parents loved him very much. He was so much loved that they wished to protect him from all of the world’s sufferings. By doing so, they thought that he would always be happy. So, Siddhartha was sheltered behind the walls of the palace. He was given anything that he asked for. He had fine food and nice clothes. He had fun toys and lots of servants. He knew little about life outside the palace walls.


Siddhartha grew into a young man. At that point, he began to venture out past the palace walls. He was driven by a servant in a horse-drawn chariot. He was shocked and dismayed to see what his parents had kept from him. On one trip he saw a poor old woman. She was bent over and barely able to stand. On another, he saw a sick and hungry man. He was lying by the side of the road, crying out for help. On a third trip, he saw two people weeping. All around him people suffered. He worried about all of these people who he saw. What could he do to help them? Seeing all of this suffering, Siddhartha could no longer be happy with his comfortable life. And so, he left his riches behind. One night, he crept out of the palace. He moved beyond its walls. He headed out along India’s dusty roads. He went in search of answers to his questions.

For years, he wandered the land. He studied with spiritual teachers along the way. He was always asking his teachers how to conquer suffering. “How can we achieve happiness on Earth?” he would ask. None of their answers satisfied him. One night, he stopped to rest beneath a fig tree. He crossed his legs. Then, he vowed that he would not move until he had the answers to his questions.


Siddhartha sat under the fig tree for seven weeks. All that time, he was meditating on his questions. He finally had the answers that he searched for. And he felt like a different person. In those seven weeks, he thought that he had received “enlightenment.” He now had a new and deeper understanding about life. He could explain why people suffer. He could give advice to help to end suffering on Earth. He soon became known as the “Buddha.” That means “one who is awake,” or “Enlightened One.”

What do you suppose Siddhartha, the Buddha, learned during those seven weeks? He had learned a number of things. These lessons were known as the “Four Noble Truths.” Here they are.

First, all people face suffering and unhappiness. Second, suffering and unhappiness come from greed, or desiring too many worldly things. Third, suffering and unhappiness end when unrealistic desires end. Fourth, people can end suffering and unhappiness by following a few basic rules.

The Buddha’s rules may sound familiar to you. They include rules like these. Be kind to others. Do not tell lies. Do not cheat or steal. Do not be selfish. Do not harm people or animals. Train your mind to think clearly. The Buddha lived a long life. He forged his way through India teaching others about the Four Noble Truths and his rules for life. He had lots of followers in his lifetime. And Buddhism spread to many lands after his death. One person is credited with helping the spread of Buddhism. He was a powerful ruler named Asoka.


Asoka was not always an enlightened person. Rather, he was a warrior king. He had led many soldiers into battle. He had wounded and killed thousands of people as he expanded his empire. But one quite violent battle changed his life. He rode across the battlefield one day. He saw how his desires to rule a great empire were hurting others. He was horrified by what he had done. He decided that day to change his life. He vowed to study the teachings of the Buddha. From then on, he stopped sending men into battle. He became nonviolent. Instead, he sent trained teachers throughout Asia. Their goal was to spread the teachings of Buddhism.

Asoka’s trained teachers often traveled in great caravans. And they did much more than preach and teach. In India and far beyond, they took food and medicine to help people in need. Asoka also ordered his teachers to build hospitals for people and animals. He had them dig wells and irrigation ditches. He had them plant shade trees by the road, to comfort weary travelers. He had them build roads to ease traveling from place to place.

Asoka made sure that the Buddha’s messages of peace and kindness were carved on big rocks and stone monuments all over India. He let his people practice Hinduism and other religions. But he wanted everyone to be enlightened by the Buddha’s teachings. Stupas, like the one that you saw at the start of this lesson, already existed. But Asoka built lots more of them to hold relics of the Buddha. Today, Buddhists come from all over the world to worship at these sacred shrines.

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 Asian Civilizations

Lesson 85 – Part Two 

NEW WORDS: Analects, Bayankala, Cai, Confucianism, Confucius’s, Hadrian’s, Huangdi, Korea, Liang, Lu, Lun, Lun’s, Qin’s, adheres, aggressors, antagonists, athirst, attackers, batches, blossomed, bookmaking, borderlands, borderlines, breached, calligraphers, calligraphy, charred, combatants, compasses, competitions, concurred, copious, crackles, crumbled, destitute, disseminated, enormously, esurience, euphoria, fattened, fecund, fifteenth, forewarned, fortification, furbished, ginkgo, grudges, guidepost, guttersnipe, harnesses, hemp, hikers, impoverished, incipiently, individually, infringing, ingenious, insubordinate, itinerate, kudos, lattice, livings, mache, magistrates, mingles, ministers, mystical, neckties, obtainable, papier, partitioned, pilfering, pinhead, plateaus, plexus, politeness, potentiality, pulp, rapacious, sages, scattering, scowl, slaved, smoother, snowcapped, sparks, splintering, stockade, stringent, telephones, touring, trays, underbellies, unearthed, unwound, urchin, wakeful, whee, woodblock, wyvern, zigzagging


Chapter Eight: The Yellow and the Yangtze Rivers
The Tigris. The Euphrates. The Nile. The Indus. The Ganges. When you hear these names, what do you see in your mind? Where have you heard these names? What do they have in common? Right! They are all rivers. And what is special about these five rivers? That’s right. These ancient rivers supplied the water needed for the world’s first civilizations. Recall our lessons about the Tigris and Euphrates in ancient Mesopotamia. People worked together to grow food, build cities, and develop a way of writing. Pyramids were built up and down the Nile River in Egypt. And in Asia, we’ve learned of the Indus and the Ganges. They snake their way through India and Pakistan. They’ve long been worshipped for their life-giving waters.

Today you’ll learn about the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. These are two more rivers that belong to this special group. These two rivers are partitioned by the high, snowcapped Bayankala Mountains. They’re the two longest rivers in China. And they, too, are places where early civilizations blossomed. More people live in the Yellow and Yangtze river valleys than in any other region on the Earth.


Let’s go high up in the mountains where the Yellow River begins. Its waters are very clear there. But as it travels its long route through the high plateaus of the Bayankala Mountains, its color changes. Look at the picture. See if you can guess what makes the water turn yellow. Rain and wind wash the silt from the mountains into the river. The silt is a fine mixture of soil, sand, and clay. That makes the river a muddy yellow. As this happens, the river bottom rises. Knowing that, what do you think happens to the water in the river? It rises, too! And then what happens? Right! The river overflows its banks. It floods the land on either side of it. Does this sound familiar? What other rivers have you learned about that flooded? Is this flooding good or bad? You have already learned the importance of flooding in creating fecund land for crops. But what else can occur when large rivers like the Yellow River flood? They can also destroy whole cities. For this reason, the Chinese have two nicknames for the Yellow River. They are “Mother River,” and “China’s Great Sorrow.”

The Yangtze River is China’s longest river. It lies to the south of the Yellow River. There, the temperature is much warmer. And flooding is less of a problem. Its fertile valley is sometimes called “China’s rice bowl.” That’s because its temperate climate is just right for growing rice. Wheat and millet, used in making bread and noodles, grow well along the Yellow River. But rice, the main crop of China, had its beginnings along the Yangtze. Together, these two river valleys form the country’s greatest food-producing region.


The Chinese have always been inventors. Lots of their inventions have changed the way that people have farmed. They made the river valleys more productive. For instance, the ancient Chinese invented seed planting. Instead of scattering seeds on top of the Earth, they developed seed drills. These were used for planting seeds in ordered rows. They invented iron plows and harnesses. That way, horses or oxen could easily pull the plows. And they learned how to get water from low ground to the crops planted on higher ground. They invented a pump to irrigate the fields.

Because they were ingenious people, farming became easier due to their inventions. More itinerate people began to settle permanently along the banks of the two great rivers. That’s because food was copious. Then, the same thing happened in China that happened in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India. Cities emerged. Lots of separate cities and areas sprang up along the banks of the rivers. Each was led by a powerful king. The kings ruled over the people, much like the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The people built walls, houses, and temples. They made tools and weapons of wood, stone, bronze, and iron. They also built boats. And, with the invention of copper coins, they began to trade with one another up and down both rivers. As they traded and farmed, the Chinese continued inventing new tools and systems. One of these was writing. You’ll soon learn more about that. You may recall that this is a key trademark of any civilization.


Chapter Nine: Paper, Writing, and Calligraphy
Look at this image. Does it look like anything that you recognize? This is the Chinese character for “person.” A character is a symbol or picture. It’s used in a system of writing to represent spoken words. Each character stands for a spoken word or group of words.

Now, look closely at these three characters. These stand for the numbers one, two, and three. If you wanted to write three people, you would combine the symbol for the number three with the symbol for person. Like this.

Look easy? Let’s try another one. Can you guess what these characters mean? Together they mean “school.”

There are over 56,000 Chinese symbols. That’s compared to the twenty-six symbols, or letters, of the English alphabet. Most Chinese use only 8,000 of them in their day-to-day lives.

The writing system used in China today is much like the one used in the Yellow River Valley some 3,000 years ago. Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt had writing systems long ago, as well. But their cuneiform and hieroglyphs have not been used for quite a long time. So, it is remarkable to think that the Chinese are still writing with lots of the same characters that their ancestors used many years ago.


How do we know that the Chinese writing system has survived all these years? Well, it has to do with a fairly recent discovery. A most unusual writing surface was found. What do you use to write on today? Yes, paper. But Chinese farmers, digging in their fields, unearthed writing on a surface quite different from paper.

They wrote on bones! And this was long before paper was invented. The Chinese wrote questions for mystical spirits on ox bones. They also wrote on the hard protective underbellies of large river tortoises. The kings of ancient China used these bones during special ceremonies. With these writings, they sought answers to their most important questions.

Bones were not the sole things that they used for writing surfaces. They used a number of things for thousands of years before the invention of paper. They wrote on clay pottery, metal vases, silken cloth, wood, and bamboo strips. Bamboo, a woody plant that grows like a weed, was split and scraped. That made for a  smooth writing surface.

The Chinese invented many things. One of these included something to make writing easier. They invented paper! The first paper was made from a rope-like plant called “hemp.” The hemp was soaked and beaten to a pulp. It was then dried into long, flat sheets. This first paper was very thick and rough. It was not used originally for writing, at all. Instead, it was used for things as varied as clothing and soldier’s armor. It was also used as a protective wrapping for fine objects.


The Chinese continued to try other materials to write on. They wished to have a softer, smoother, lighter, writing surface. Here are some of the things that they tried. There were things like tree bark, fishing nets, wheat stalks, and cloth rags, to name a few. The person given credit for finding the right combination of materials was a man by the name of Cai Lun. It was he who made the most successful product. He created a type of paper that pleased his emperor immensely. At last, the Chinese had paper that was much thinner than the rough hemp fibers. Further, it was much less expensive than fine silk cloth. Cai Lun’s invention changed the world.

The softer, more durable paper meant that books were easier to make. Thus, for many years the Chinese had more books than any other country in the world. But their style of bookmaking took a long time. Think about how easy it is for you to get copies of books today. You just go to the library or bookstore. You pick out the book that you want right there. Before those books get to the library or store, they are easily printed and bound by machines. Well, in ancient China, each book had to be made individually. If you wanted a copy of a book, you had to copy it by hand yourself. You’d have to copy each individual character from the very first page to the very last!


Chinese inventors came up with a solution to printing more books. Block printing was invented. The text was written on a thin piece of paper. Then it was glued facedown to a wooden block. Then, each character was carved out to make a woodblock printing plate. A separate block was created for each page of the book. What would happen if you made a mistake? You had to start all over again! The method wasn’t perfect, for sure. But the Chinese never gave up. Over the years they developed better methods that spread throughout the world.

Today, lots of people view the Chinese writing system as more than a means of communication. The beautifully formed, graceful characters are appreciated as an important form of art. This art form has a name. It’s called “calligraphy.” “Calligraphers,” the artists who produce calligraphy, often use soft brushes. They are made of animal hair. They are then dipped in a special ink in order to draw characters for others to enjoy. Like many art forms, it takes a great deal of patience to master calligraphy. Do you think that you have the patience to try it?


Chapter Ten: The Magic Paintbrush
It was once upon a time, long ago in the land of China. There lived a destitute boy named Ma Liang. To help earn money for his family, he gathered batches of firewood to sell. But here’s what he really wanted to do, more than anything else in the world. He wanted to paint. Ma Liang was so poor, though, that he could not even afford a single paintbrush. One day, he passed by the school. He saw the children busily painting pictures. “Please, sir,” he said to the teacher. “I would like to paint, but I have no brush. Will you loan me one?”

“What!” cried the teacher. “You are just a little guttersnipe. Go away!”

“I may be poor,” said Ma Liang. “But I will learn to paint!” The next day, he went to gather firewood. He used a twig to draw birds on the ground. Then he came to a stream. He dipped his hand in the water and used his wet finger to draw a fish on the rocks. That night, he used a piece of charred wood to draw animals and flowers.

Each day, Ma Liang found time to make more pictures. People began to take notice. “How lifelike the boy’s pictures look!” they said. “That bird he has drawn looks as though it’s ready to fly away. You can almost hear it sing!”


Ma Liang liked hearing the people’s kudos. But still he thought, “If I just had a paintbrush!”

One night, after Ma Liang had worked hard all day, he fell into a deep sleep. In a dream, he saw an old man. The man had a long, white beard and a kind face. He held something in his hand. “Take this,” he said to Ma Liang. “It is a magic paintbrush. Use it with care.” When he awoke, he found his fingers wrapped around a paintbrush. “Am I still dreaming?” he asked. Quickly he got up and painted a bird. The picture flapped its wings and flew away! He painted a deer. As soon as he had put the last spot on the animal’s coat, it brushed its nose against him. Then it ran into the woods. “It is a magic brush!” he cried. He ran to where his friends lived. He painted toys for the children. He painted cows and tools for the farmers. He painted bowls full of delicious food for everyone.


No good thing can remain a secret forever, though. Soon, news of Ma Liang and the magic paintbrush reached the ears of the rapacious emperor. “Bring me that boy and his brush!” barked the emperor. His soldiers found Ma Liang. They brought him back to the palace. With a scowl, the emperor looked at him. “Paint me a wyvern!” he yelled. Ma Liang began to paint. But instead of painting what he’d been asked to paint, he painted a slimy toad. Then the toad hopped right onto the emperor’s head! “Insubordinate urchin!” said the emperor. “You will regret that!” He grabbed the magic paintbrush. Then he ordered his soldiers to throw Ma Liang into the stockade. Then the emperor called for his royal painter. “Take this brush and paint me a mountain of gold,” he commanded. But when the royal painter finished the picture, all the gold turned into rocks. “So,” said the emperor. “This brush will work just for the boy. Bring him to me!”

Ma Liang was brought back to the emperor. “Here’s what I’ll do if you will paint for me,” said the emperor. “I’ll give you gold and silver and fine clothes. I’ll give you a new house and all the food and drink that you want.”

Ma Liang pretended to agree. “What do you want me to paint?” he asked.

“Paint me a ginkgo tree that has gold coins for leaves!” said the emperor with esurience in his eyes.


Ma Liang took the magic paintbrush. He began to paint. He painted many blue waves. And soon, the emperor saw an ocean before him. “That is not what I told you to paint!” he barked. But the boy just kept painting. In the ocean he painted an island. And on that island he painted a tree with gold coins for leaves. “Yes, yes! Now, that’s more like it,” said the emperor. “Now, quickly, paint me a boat so that I can get to the island.”

Ma Liang painted a big sailboat. The emperor went on board with many of his highest governmental ministers. Ma Liang painted a few lines, and a gentle breeze began to blow. The sailboat moved slowly toward the island.

“Faster! Faster!” shouted the emperor. Ma Liang painted a big curving stroke. Thus, a strong wind began to blow.

“That’s enough wind!” yelled the emperor. But Ma Liang kept painting. He painted a storm. Then the waves got higher and higher. They tossed the sailboat like a small cork on the sea. Then the waves broke the boat to bits. The emperor and his magistrates were washed up on the shore of the island. Now they had no way to get back to the palace. And as for Ma Liang, here’s what people say. For many years, he went from village to village. And he used his magic paintbrush to help each person, in each place that he went.


Chapter Eleven: The Importance of Silk
Paper and printing, gunpowder and matches. Plows and kites, fireworks and rockets. Compasses used to find your way during travel. These are just some of the many things invented by the Chinese. At the time of these inventions, there were no telephones or computers. There were no televisions or radios. There were no airplanes, trains, buses, cars. So, how did people in other parts of the world learn about inventions in faraway China? Well, since the start of human history, curious people have looked out across deserts, mountains, and oceans. They have wondered what lay on the other side of these natural barriers. Explorers risked their lives. They traveled out from Europe, Asia, and Africa in search of new lands and people. These explorers were not disappointed by what they found. Their discoveries included new types of clothing, tools, and everyday objects. And, this often happens when people encounter new things. They want what the other people have!

Thus, trade began between people from different lands. Over time, people from one area of the world started to take the same paths for trade to other areas of the world. They’d travel the same routes from one place to another. This repeated itself, over and over again. One of the longest and most important trade routes was a lattice of roads known as “The Silk Roads.” These roads joined towns and shipping ports that were very far apart. One end was along the Mediterranean Sea and East Africa. The other end was in towns in the northernmost parts of China. For hundreds of years, this is how Chinese inventions were disseminated to other continents. It was due to trade along the 5,000 miles of The Silk Roads.


Do you think that The Silk Roads were really made of silk? Take a look at these pictures of silk objects. Silk is a very fine cloth. It’s known for its light, strong texture. It’s often used to make clothing, scarves, neckties, and decorative wall hangings. What else did the Chinese use silk for? It was used to send arrows flying on curved wooden bows. It was used for musical instruments and for fishing lines. Silk is so strong that the early Chinese even used it for paper and money! But silk is not a good material to build a road with!

The name “The Silk Roads” has nothing to do with the material used to build the roads. So, why was this long plexus of roads named for the beautiful silk fabric? Well, silk was invented by the Chinese. Silk was highly desired in Europe. Not only was it an amazingly smooth fabric. But it was dyed in a wide array of colors. And it could keep one warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A person who touched silk wanted to have it! Thus, for many years, silk was the main item traded on these roads. The Romans called China “the land of silk.”

People wondered how to make this fabric. They were willing to travel long distances, over dangerous ground. They had to travel far to buy and trade goods in exchange for the extraordinary cloth. For a long time, the Chinese kept the production of silk a deep secret.


Do you know where silk comes from? These mulberry trees hold the secret in their leaves. There are special moths in these trees. They are blind and unable to fly. They lay hundreds of tiny eggs, each about the size of a pinhead, on these leaves. When the eggs hatch, caterpillars appear. And they begin munching on the mulberry leaves, day and night.

The fattened caterpillars spin a single long thread around themselves. That forms a cocoon. What if these white, puffy balls were allowed to develop? What do you think would emerge? Right, a new moth! But, long ago, the Chinese learned how to stop the development of these caterpillars. That way, they could produce the prized, fine, silk thread. Chinese women began collecting the eggs of the silkworms. They placed them in special trays. They fed chopped-up mulberry leaves to the newly hatched caterpillars. Then they waited for them to spin their cocoons.

The spun cocoons rested for nine or ten days. Then they were baked. After that, they were plunged into hot water. That would loosen the thread. It could now be unwound and woven into fine cloth. This same process is still used in China and other silk-producing countries today.


Chapter Twelve: China’s Great Wall
People have been building walls all over the world for thousands of years. There are walls that hold up the roof of your house. There are walls that form the exterior of your school. And there are walls that make up the many buildings that you see each day. Some walls, though, are quite special.  They are known all over the world. Let’s look at a few famous ones.

This one is called Hadrian’s Wall. It was built in Great Britain. It extended from one side of the country to the other. It was incipiently built to keep aggressors out. But today, this wall serves as a friendly guidepost to many hikers touring the English countryside.

This wall is called the Western Wall by Jewish people today. And it is used as a sacred prayer wall. This wall is the only remaining support wall that was part of an ancient temple in Jerusalem.

And this wall is the Great Wall of China. It’s probably the world’s most famous wall of all. It snakes along over 4,000 miles of land in northern China. Like Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall was built to keep enemies out. The story of this great wall begins in the cold, dry lands north of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers.


You see, China is one of the largest countries in the world. Its borderlines span a great amount of land. The lands across this vast territory can be very different. Some areas are like the river valleys of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. You have learned about them, and you know that they are very fertile. Other areas, like the land far north of these rivers, are quite different. Up north, it is very cold and dry. And almost no crops can grow there. The people who lived in the cold, dry north had to make their livings in other ways.

Let’s go back long ago, to cold, northern lands beyond the borderlands of China. A group of nomads lived there by raising animals. They rode on horses. They herded sheep and goats from place to place in search of grass for grazing. Life was very hard for these nomadic people. Perhaps that’s why they became such fierce warriors. These northern nomads regularly breached China’s boundaries on horseback. They were known for pilfering food, gold, and animals.

The Chinese thought of lots of ways to keep the attackers out. All along the northern border of China, the Chinese built walls of earth, stone, and wood. The materials that they used depended upon what was readily obtainable in the areas where they lived.


For hundreds of years, the Chinese built lots of separate walls. The goal was to keep out northern invaders. But with the rule of China’s “First Emperor,” Qin Shi Huangdi, the decision was made to connect the many walls together into one long wall. They thought that this “Great Wall” would give them added protection. That was over 2,000 years ago.

Work went on with the Great Wall for another 1,500 years! Soldiers, prisoners, and peasants struggled to obey the orders of each new and powerful emperor of China who wanted to finish the wall. It was not an easy task. The wall stretched out across the land like a giant dragon. It was often built on the highest ground, like mountain ridges. That made it even more difficult for invaders to cross. Donkeys and goats were sometimes used to transport building materials. But people did most of the work. They would have baskets slung over their backs or balanced on poles across their shoulders. They worked from sunrise to sunset, building and repairing the Great Wall. The work was quite dangerous. Many workers died in the process.

Spanning 4,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built to act like a fortification. At intervals along the way, watchtowers were erected, or built, on the wall. At one time there were nearly 25,000 watchtowers. Supplies were stored inside these tall spires. They held items like bows, arrows, cooking tools, and medicines. Soldiers, posted atop the lookout towers, kept watch for infringing combatants. If they sensed danger, they used flags and drums to send signals from tower to tower. At night, fires along the wall forewarned Chinese soldiers of the potentiality of an enemy attack. Beneath the towers, soldiers who were camped in tents also watched for signals, ready to come to the defense of the wall, and all of the people behind it, at a moment’s notice.


New roads were continually built to reach the wall. Every day, Chinese people from near and far moved closer to the construction in order to provide soldiers and workers with their everyday needs. Some grew crops and cooked food for the soldiers and workers, whereas others made their tools and clothing. Irrigation canals were dug to supply everyone with water. For many years, people slaved to fulfill the Emperor Qin’s dream of one continuous wall. The building of the wall was a project that lasted over many lifetimes, passing from one generation to the next. It was an enormously long and difficult project.

With all of that hard work, do you think that the Great Wall protected the Chinese as planned? Yes, it did, for much of Chinese history, at least. There were times, however, when some determined antagonists broke through the wall. On two occasions, lasting for hundreds of years each, nomads from Central Asia forced the Chinese people to live under their stringent rule.

Today, the Great Wall is no longer used as a means of protection. Rather, it has become a tourist attraction. People come from all over the world to see it, walk on it, and learn more about it. It is truly a wonder of the world! Parts of the Great Wall have crumbled, but there are still many parts of it where you can walk along the same bricks and stones as the soldiers of long ago. Some people even pay money to sleep in the watchtowers. One day, that could be you.


Chapter Thirteen: Confucius
Long ago, in the Chinese kingdom of Lu, a baby was born. Known as Confucius, he was born at a time when all of China was facing great troubles. China, a huge country, was divided into small areas. These were ruled by lots of different leaders. No two leaders concurred with each other. So, instead of listening to each other, they formed large armies and fought long, tiresome wars with each other. Robbers rode through the countryside hurting other people. And greedy leaders wanted to conquer all of China for their own selfish reasons. They did not care about the ordinary people, who never had enough to eat and lived their lives in fear for their own safety.

Confucius was born into an impoverished family more than 2,000 years ago. His father died when he was quite young. His mother believed that education was very important. She made sure that he was able to learn from the many wise teachers in his village. Confucius also taught himself many subjects. He was happiest when he would study history. He liked to learn about the ways in which people lived long before he was born. He learned that China had not always been so divided. It had once been a peaceful, united country. It had been ruled by wise sages who wished to help their people. Confucius began to dream of a time in the future. He hoped for a time when people could live in a peaceful land led by wise rulers and their sages once again. He wanted to disseminate the word that it was possible to live without wars and confusion. He wished to give people hope for a better tomorrow.


Confucius spent his life educating others. He taught them how to live life in a more peaceful way. He began by trying to convince Chinese leaders of his ideas. But they were not interested. Although the leaders refused to listen to him, other people were athirst to hear what he had to say. As he taught his students how to build a peaceful country, Confucius would often begin his lessons by asking them to start with their own families. “Do you fight amongst yourselves?” he asked. “Do you argue with your parents? Or steal from your brothers and sisters?” He reasoned that if people could not get along in small groups, how could they expect their leaders to control the behavior of whole cities and towns? “Respect your parents,” he taught. “Obey them and take care of them as they take care of you. If you practice kindness in your families, then you shall also practice kindness in your communities. Then, kindness will spread to all people in all parts of the land.”

Confucius’s students would often ask him, “How should we treat each other?” His answer, always the same, sounded simple. “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you,” he replied.


Do you recognize these words? Have you heard them before? These words have the same meaning as the saying, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Many groups of people have similar sayings with the same meaning. This particular saying is often called “the Golden Rule.” That’s because it is thought to be an important way for people to live their lives. Confucius believed in the Golden Rule. He felt that if people always treated one another with kindness, the world would be a better place. He also thought that leaders should stop all wars, feed the hungry, and make sure that people were safe in their cities and towns. Everyone could then live in a happier world.

These were just a few of the thoughts that Confucius shared with others. He also believed that education was important. He tried to share this belief with lots of people. He thought that it was necessary to continually study and learn in order to become a sage, or wise person. In ancient China, as in many countries long ago, only people with money could go to school. Confucius thought that this was wrong. He said that all people, rich and poor, should have equal chances to learn.

Learning never stops, say the teachings of Confucius. A wise person learns from others in and out of school. Confucius meant that though you might learn key information about history and literature in school, you could also learn a great deal about how to behave toward one another outside of school. Have you ever heard of “learning by example?” If your teacher shouted all day long, then his / her example might make you think that this was the right way to behave. So, you might begin to shout all day long, too! But, if your teacher spoke politely, then you might be more apt to speak with politeness, too. You learn how to speak by example.


Confucius had devoted students. After he died, some students thought that his ideas were so important that they wrote them down in a book called the “Analects.” This book formed the basis of Confucianism. That is a way of thinking that is practiced widely around the world today. It is particularly popular in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Schools were even started to teach the sayings of Confucius, found in the Analects. If you ever hear someone quote Confucius, perk up your ears. Listen closely. You will probably hear something very wise, indeed!


Chapter Fourteen: Chinese New Year
Whee! Pop! Whee! Pop! The air crackles as fiery bursts of color illuminate the night sky. Sparks fly. Red. Green. Yellow. Blue. Eyes are glued to the night sky above. Fireworks are splintering the darkness. It is the start of the Chinese New Year.

In the U.S., we celebrate New Year’s Day on the same day each year. Who knows what day that is? That’s right. It’s on the first day of January. But in China, the calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Because of this, the Chinese New Year does not always fall on the same day each year on the calendar that we use in the U.S. The New Year in China begins with a new moon. And the start date ranges from the end of January to the middle of February. Unlike single-day New Year’s celebrations in the U.S., Chinese New Year lasts for two whole weeks!

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important of all Chinese festivals. It can be traced all the way back to the time of Confucius. For centuries, Chinese people have cleaned their houses from top to bottom in the days before the festival. They have bought new clothes, prepared special foods, and wished each other good fortune at the beginning of each new calendar year. These customs are maintained even today.


The celebration begins with fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. This is thought to scare away evil spirits. Then, there are other age-old traditions. Children are allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. That adheres to a traditional belief that each extra wakeful hour will add years onto their parents’ lives. And families gather to wish each other good luck. They feast on fish, pork, poultry, tangerines, oranges, dumplings, and special cakes.

Luck and good fortune are common themes for the Chinese New Year. The color red is thought to be a sign of good fortune and euphoria. It is the color chosen to wear during the festivities. Homes are decorated with red paper cut into designs. And happy wishes written on red paper are also hung throughout the house. Children and unmarried adults often receive red envelopes with money tucked inside. Those who receive these envelopes are also supposed to receive good fortune in the New Year.

Dragons are another good luck symbol in Chinese culture. During New Year’s celebrations, people dress up in dragon costumes and parade and dance in the streets. Red is often the most popular color for dragons. That makes them especially lucky!


The main focus of the two weeks of New Year celebrations is to prepare for a prosperous year ahead. People believe that evil spirits are scared off by fireworks and banished from homes, as every inch of every room is furbished clean. New clothes and haircuts give people a sense of fresh, new beginnings. People forgive one another for past grudges. They agree to put their disagreements behind them. Some people visit temples to give thanks and pray for good times ahead. Friends and families everywhere enjoy relaxing together.

At the end of the first week, on the seventh day of celebrations, everyone has a birthday! The Chinese celebrate everyone’s birthday on that day, rather than on the day on which each person was born. In China, time is measured differently than it is in the U.S. Their traditional calendar is called a “lunar calendar.” A lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. The New Year begins with the appearance of a new moon.


Each new year is named for a particular animal. The animals chosen are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar (or pig). There’s a Chinese legend about when the Buddha was dying. He called all the animals in the kingdom to his side. Only twelve animals came. He gave them a reward for their loyalty to him. He named a year after each of these twelve animals.

On the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year, the moon is full. On this night, the lucky dragon leads parades all across China. Up to fifty people fit inside large cloth dragons. They stretch the length of a city block. You see them bobbing and zigzagging their way through the streets. Cloth lions, also symbolizing power and luck, nod their papiermache heads in time to the drumming and music. Vendors sell dumplings to the throngs of people in the streets. These are sticky rice balls stuffed with sweet and salty fillings.

The fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year is also the day of the Lantern Festival. You will see thousands of colorful lanterns, large and small, cover the marketplace. Some people spend an entire year designing lanterns for competitions held that day. Others write riddles and post them on their lanterns for a popular guessing game. When the light of the lanterns mingles with the light of the moon on this final day of celebrations, there is joy and hope for the year ahead.

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 86 – The Culture Of Japan

NEW WORDS: Akira, Basho, Bunraku, Fuji, Hansard, Himeji, Hokkaido, Hokusai, Honshu, Japan’s, Kabuki, Kanagawa, Kurosawa, Kurosawa’s, Kyogen, Kyushu, Matsuo, Nagoya, Noh, Osaka, Pixar, Pokemon, Sapporo, Shichi, Shikoku, Takarazuka, Yomiuri, arranging, bonsai, bug’s, complexly, directors, documentation, easternmost, electronics, estimates, fermented, feudal, folding, funerals, geisha, gosan, haiku, hiragana, ikebana, intermixed, iriomote, judo, kanji, katakana, kimono, kimonos, literate, macaque, manga, masterpiece, matcha, melodramatic, miso, musicals, origami, overfish, performers, phonetic, primroses, pronunciation, quake’s, radioactivity, ramen, samurai, satire, scenes, scripts, shark’s, simplified, slapstick, slosh, slurped, soy, stylized, sumo, sushi, tidal, translated, tsunami, tsunamis, woodblocks, wrestlers, yen


Chapter One: A Nation of Islands
Japan is a country in Asia made up of thousands of islands. On many of the islands there are mountains, thick forests, and fields of rice. Japan’s nearest neighbors are Russia, China, and North and South Korea. Japan has four main islands. These main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Honshu is the largest island, and it is sometimes called “the mainland.”

Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and it is also the largest and busiest city in Japan. In fact, if you define population of a city as a “metropolitan area,” Tokyo has more people than any other city in the world. It’s population is close to thirty-eight million! Tokyo is on the island of Honshu. Other big cities are Osaka, Nagoya, and Sapporo. In terms of numbers of people, Japan has the eleventh largest population in the world. Most people in Japan speak Japanese.

Japan’s national flag is a white rectangle with a red circle in the middle. The circle represents the sun because the name Japan means “the land of the rising sun.” The sun rises in the east, and Japan is the easternmost country in Asia. So the rising sun appears there first.


The highest mountain in Japan is Mount Fuji. It is 12,389 feet (2.3 miles!) tall. The peak of Mount Fuji is so high that the snow at the top never melts. But Mount Fuji is not just a mountain. It is also an active volcano. There are many other active volcanoes in Japan.

Japan is home to wonderful wildlife and nature. It is perhaps most known for its macaque monkeys and red-crowned cranes. The Japanese macaque is also known as the snow monkey. These monkeys have a red face and long fingers with sharp nails. The red-crowned crane is an important symbol in Japan. It can mean long life and good luck. In Japan, there is also a small cat called an Iriomote that is related to the leopard. The cat gets its name because it only lives in the forests on Iriomote Island. Although it is related to the leopard, it is about the size of a house cat.

Most of the land in Japan is either forest or mountains, so there is less space for farming. Because there is little space for farmland, fish are an important food. In the waters near Japan, there are cold and warm water currents that make it a great place for fishermen. Today, Japanese fishing ships use large nets and special equipment to bring in huge catches of fish. Fishermen do have to be careful not to overfish, though! Although farmers in Japan have little space to grow many different crops, or to graze animals, they do grow a lot of rice and vegetables. Rice is grown in paddy fields. Japanese people have grown rice for more than two thousand years. In fact, Japanese people eat rice almost every day.


Chapter Two: Modern Japan
Japan is a very successful, rich country. Japan makes cars, electronics such as televisions and cell phones, and steel. These things are sold all over the world. Japan is also very involved in medical research and the fight against certain diseases.

The currency, or money, that is used in Japan is called the yen. The word “yen” means circle or round object. Cities have giant glass and steel skyscrapers. These tall buildings are not just places where people work. Many people live in them, too. Because there is less land to build houses on, most people in Japan live in apartments. In the cities, many people travel on the underground subway system. Super-fast bullet trains zip across the country. They go at speeds of up to two hundred miles per hour.

Japan is one of the world leaders in making robots that can be used in factories, offices, restaurants, hotels, stores, and even in people’s homes. There are pet robots, and even teacher robots!

Like the United States, Japan has three branches of government. The political party that wins the most seats gets to be in charge of the government. This means that the leading members of the government, including the prime minister, are elected by the people. As well as an elected government, Japan has an emperor. The emperor is called the head of state. There have been emperors in Japan for more than two thousand years.


Just like in the United States, children in Japan go to school five days a week. Japanese children learn such things as math, science, computer science, Japanese, English, history, art, and music. At lunchtime, children eat in their classrooms, and they take turns serving one another.

Earthquakes happen a lot in Japan. In fact, there are more than fifteen hundred each year. Even though buildings are made extra strong, sometimes they are damaged in a strong earthquake. Because there are so many earthquakes, children have regular earthquake drills at school, and people practice how to keep safe in their homes.

Despite the frequent earthquakes, there are still lots of skyscrapers in Japan’s big cities. Clever architects have actually designed these buildings to sway, so that they don’t just “crack” in an earthquake. This flexibility makes the buildings much safer. But if you live high up, you might sometimes get a surprise. Let’s say that you live on the twentieth floor and you are in your kitchen with a full sink of water, washing your dishes. A strong enough earthquake will make the top of the building sway enough that the water will slosh out of the sink all over you!


There was a tragic earthquake in 2011. It occurred under the ocean, off of the northeastern coast of Honshu. It was the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded, and its power generated a series of very destructive tidal waves (also called “tsunamis“). The largest tsunami was measured as thirty-three feet high! In fact, it was so powerful that despite the quake occurring below the ocean floor, a satellite orbiting the outer edge of Earth’s atmosphere picked up low-frequency sound waves from it! And Japan wasn’t the only place to feel the quake’s wrath. All the way to the other side of the Pacific from where it started, waves were experienced. There were twelve-foot waves in Hawaii. There were nine-foot waves on the Oregon and California coasts. Eventually, small waves were even felt from it as far south as Antarctica!

This quake destroyed much of Japan’s infrastructure along the coastline that the waves affected. The most serious damage was done to a nuclear power plant, where safety processes failed, and much radioactivity was leaked out of the plant. The most tragic outcome of the quake is undoubtedly the massive loss of life from it. Various estimates put the death toll at somewhere between 18,500 and 20,000 people.


On a lighter note, what do people in Japan do in their leisure time? Baseball is a popular sport in Japan. The Yomiuri Giants are one of the top baseball teams. Sumo wrestling is an important sport that dates back more than one thousand years. Gigantic sumo wrestlers oil and comb their hair to look like a ginkgo tree leaf. Martial arts such as karate and judo date back to when Japanese warriors were specially trained to fight for the local leaders who they served. People today still learn these special skills.

Japanese people love to read comic books and watch cartoons. Is there a chance that you like to read “graphic novels?” Well, “manga” comics and graphic novels originated in Japan. And did you ever get hooked on Pokemon? If you saw the show or one of the movies, you heard it in English, of course. But Pokemon actually comes from Japan, and the actors who you heard speaking the characters’ lines were not the original Japanese actors.

And what about food? Have you ever eaten sushi? Have you ever had ramen noodles? Have you ever slurped on tasty miso soup? Those all come from Japan. And what about ice cream? Some of the most creative ice cream flavors in the world come from Japan. Would you like to try squid ink, red bean, green tea (“matcha“), or seaweed ice cream? How about fermented soy bean, shark’s fin, or octopus? Yum?


Chapter Three: Japanese Art and Traditions
Japan has an ancient culture that stretches back for thousands of years. Long ago, rulers lived in castles, and soldiers fought to defend them and their land. Himeji Castle, also known as “White Heron Castle,” was built in the 1300s. The castle has eighty-three rooms and is the most visited castle in Japan.

Japanese is a spoken and written language. It is probably difficult to learn to write Japanese because it is written using three types of scripts, each with different characters. And the Japanese do not use spaces between words! Two of the scripts use characters that represent phonetic sounds. They are called “katakana” and “hiragana.” But the third script is borrowed from the Chinese writing system that you learned about earlier. The Japanese call these Chinese characters “kanji.” And the Japanese pronunciation of them is different from the Chinese.

When you see written materials in Japanese, you may see characters from all three of the above scripts intermixed on the same page. But do you remember that Chinese has some 56,000 of these characters? Japan has simplified their usage. You can read at a basic level in Japan if you know around 2,136 of the kanji. And most adults know something that’s closer to 3,200 kanji. So, between these borrowed Chinese characters and the two phonetic symbol-sets, you are considered to be “literate” in reading the Japanese language.


Kimonos are traditional, silk robes. Long ago, women and girls had special kimonos for certain occasions. The color or pattern of a kimono would show what the occasion was. For example, kimonos with flowers would be worn in spring. Today, kimonos are mostly worn at weddings, funerals, and special holidays.

The Japanese tea ceremony is an important Japanese tradition. Green tea is prepared, served, and drunk in a certain way. Traditionally, a tea ceremony happens in or near a garden.

November 15 is a special day for children in Japan. It is called Shichigosan, which means “seven, five, three.” If you are seven, five, or three years old, then this is your holiday! Parents take their children who have reached these ages to the temple to pray for health and happiness.

Children learn “origami” in school. Origami is the ancient art of folding paper into shapes, such as animals or things found in nature. The word “origami” means paper-folding, and people in Japan have been doing it for hundreds of years. Origami was once used in religious ceremonies. Today, it is a popular hobby.


Flower arranging, or “ikebana,” is very popular in Japan. To do it correctly, there are many rules to follow. For example, there are set numbers of branches and flowers for certain kinds of arrangements. Stems arranged a certain way might represent mountains. The petals of an open flower might be a pond. Another popular art in Japan is “bonsai.” Bonsai is the art of growing miniature trees. There are lots of rules to follow here, too. Bonsai trees can live for hundreds of years.

Every spring in Japan, people spend time admiring the beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time. There are flower-watching parties, picnics, and celebrations. Long ago, the arrival of the cherry blossom was a sign that it was the beginning of the rice-planting season.

Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. In a haiku poem, there can only be three lines with a set number of syllables. Line one has five syllables, line two has seven syllables, and line three has five syllables. This haiku was written hundreds of years ago by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Here it is translated into English.

An old, quiet pond,
A frog jumps into the pond,
Plop! Silence again.


Writing haiku has become popular in English, by the way. Usually, it is written with the same syllable patterns as in Japanese, i.e. a 5-7-5 pattern. There is documentation of the first-known English-language haiku contest, in England, in 1899. First prize went to a man named R. M. Hansard. Here is what he wrote.

The west wind whispered,
And touched the eyelids of spring,
Her eyes, Primroses.

Maybe your class can try writing some haiku!

Turning to the art scene, Japanese artists have a long tradition of painting nature scenes. Often these scenes have included birds, plants, water, and landscapes. One of Japan’s most famous pieces of art was actually created on painted woodblocks by the artist Hokusai. It is called “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” And there are many famous woodblock prints that feature Mt. Fuji in the scene.


Finally, let’s turn to Japanese drama. There are six types of theater in Japan. “Kabuki” is a stylized dance-drama where all the roles are played by men. “Noh” is also a dance-drama where all the characters wear complexly designed masks. “Kyogen” is a type of comedy that is rich with slapstick and satire. “Bunraku” is a puppet theater. The puppets are complex, sometimes with hundreds of moving parts each! It takes three people to operate each puppet! The “Takarazuka Review” is a theater company that specializes in doing western-style musicals that are largely melodramatic. And all the performers are women. The remaining theater style is called “Geisha Dances.” These are women performers with beautiful make-up and exquisite kimonos.

And what about film? Japan has given to the world many phenomenal movie directors. Perhaps the best known in the Western world is the great Akira Kurosawa. Have you ever heard of the Japanese “samurai?” These were a special warrior class in feudal Japan. They were highly trained in martial arts and were given the special honor of carrying not one, but two swords. Maybe Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” is his most famous film. There have been other movies made that borrowed much from this fine film’s plot. I bet you didn’t know that the popular animated Pixar film, “A Bug’s Life,” actually pays homage to Kurosawa’s masterpiece! Put “The Seven Samurai” on your wish list for someday. You’ll find some “best of” movie lists that call it the best non-English-speaking movie ever made!


Lesson 87 – 3-Letter Vocab-Builder

NEW WORDS: Attila, Coltrane, Dow, Eng, Foy, Hun, Jedi, Kir, Lanka, Mahal, MiG, Mir, Noah’s, Obi, Orc, Oz, PAC, Pax, Romana, SIM, Siam, Sri, Taj, Tao, Tet, Turk, Ty, Vox, Zed, Zedekiah, ado, aft, ail, alt, ami, amp, arc, asp, ass, awl, baseball’s, bi, bio, bisque, bot, bra, brunch, cam, capitalism, captain’s, caviar, cay, cetera, cocktail, cog, cox, coy, cud, cue, cur, da, din, disrespectful, duo, eau, ebb, ego, eke, emu, en, eon, err, et, ewws, fag, fastening, fax, fen, fey, fez, fob, fop, fou, gad, gar, gen, gib, gin, git, gnu, goa, gob, grandpa’s, guarde, guitars, guv, gyp, hag, haj, hajj, hex, hoy, hub, id, ilk, imp, ion, ire, irk, ism, jag, jib, jow, jus, jut, juvenile, keg, koi, lam, lei, lib, loo, lox, luv, lux, lye, mar, med, mib, mil, moa, mouthed, needlelike, nib, nit, nix, nog, nth, ohm, ohs, ole, om, ops, opt, oud, pap, pec, ped, pep, pew, pi, pic, ply, pol, pox, precision, raj, raving, rep, rev, rhino, riled, roe, rowdy, rue, sib, sic, ska, slang, sop, sorceress, sot, sox, ta, tat, tho, thyself, tic, til, tit, tog, tonic, tsk, uke, ump, urn, veg, vex, vie, vigor, vim, warped, wok, wry, yaw, yew, yob, zin, zinfandel, zit


Don’t make much ado about nothing.

The Captain’s at the ship’s aft.

Something seemed to ail him last week.

Press alt-four on your keyboard.

It’s good to see you, mon ami!  (“Mon ami” is French for “my friend.”)

Let’s amp up for the game!

He’s apt to take a nap at 2:00.

We saw an electric arc in Lab class.

Lots of creatures were on Noah’s Ark.

A cobra is in the “asp family” of snakes.

That farmer has a worthless ass that won’t move.

I’m in awe of your skills.

Make a new hole in your belt with this awl.

Aye, aye Captain!

We’ll ban folks from having a protest here.

They do that on a bi-annual basis.

What will you bid for the art work?

Write up your bio for your job hunt.

I want to be in show biz!

Let’s look at a shopping bot to check prices.

She bought a new bra at the clothes store.

Say your good-bys.

That cad has broken up with lots of his girlfriends.


The cam in your engine has become warped.

Let’s take the boat over to that cay.

I feel like a cog in a wheel at work.

It’s tricky in these waters, so get the cox to steer the ship.

She played coy to get his attention.

The cows are chewing their cud.

This pool cue is bent.

Let’s stay clear of that barking cur.

Put a dab of this in your hair.

De Soto discovered the Mississippi River.

Hey Dex, can you join the game?

She covered her ears, due to the loud din of the machines.

This chart shows the dos and don’ts of working here.

The Dow Jones stock index dropped 20 points today.

Batman and Robin are called the “dynamic duo.”

Let’s dye this sheet bisque.

She calls her fancy perfume “eau de vie.”

Now you’ll see the tide start to ebb.

That snoot has a big ego.

They can barely eke out a living.

The Spaniards sailed west to search for El Dorado.

Look at the antlers on that elk!

This elm tree is dead.


An emu is smaller than an ostrich.

Make sure you say “en guarde” if you attack my queen. (This refers to playing chess. The French term “en guarde” means “on guard.” It’s a warning that the most powerful chess piece is being attacked.)

Dr. Eng will be our new dentist.

An “eon” means something near a billion years.

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” (Alexander Pope.)

The King of Siam likes to say, “et cetera.” (From the famous musical, “The King And I.”)

I saw her yelling at her ex at the mall.

Can you lend me a fag to smoke? (This is a British slang term for “cigarette.”)

Fax this to our Utah office, please.

What’s the fee for me to sign up?

Cranberries grow in a bog, or as the English might say, a fen.

This fantasy has elves, fairies, and other fey creatures.

I often see that Turk with a fez on his head.

Fie on you, and pull your sword, you swine!

He tried to fob off a fake Rolex watch on us!

Look at the wild clothes that fop has on.

She’s certainly fou, and maybe just raving mad!

Mrs. Foy is our new teacher.

The book group will gab all afternoon.

I’ll gad about the countryside on my trip.

A gar has needlelike teeth.


I need to let that thought gel in my mind.

They seem to call folks our age Gen-X.

You’ll need a sturdy gib for the fastening to hold.

I’ll have a gin and tonic to drink.

Don’t listen to that dumb git.

The zoo just added a gnu that it got from South Africa.

I learned that the goa is like a gazelle, but found in Tibet.

Put a big gob of whipped cream on top.

Hey, guv, how can I help you? (British, short for “governor” — a term of respect.)

You’re trying to gyp me, and I won’t pay that much.

The old hag was thought to be a witch.

I went on a haj to Mecca when I was 25 years old. (“Haj” or “Hajj” is when an adult Muslim makes a pilgrimage to Mecca.)

“I’m going to hex your clan,” cried the evil sorceress.

Put the dish on the hob in the fireplace, to keep the food warm.

If we can sink that hoy, it will clog their harbor!

That city is a hub for lots of trade in the Midwest.

The hue of the sky in this photo is odd-looking.

Attila the Hun attacked the Eastern Roman Empire.

Your “id” is a psychology term for your instincts.

Our family never got along with people of their ilk.

That little imp likes to play jokes on us.

This ion has lost an electron.


If you do that behind his back, you will face his ire.

It will irk me if you don’t do a good job on this.

I’m finding one ism after another to learn about. (Like Communism, capitalism, etc.)

She went on quite a crying jag after her dear cat passed away.

If you practice Judaism, you are called a “Jew.” (You are “Jewish.”)

It’s so windy that the jib may tear. (On a sailboat.)

We’ll hear a jow from the city center at noon, from the large cathedral.

I’d like my steak served au jus. (“Au jus” is French for “served in its own juice.”)

Don’t let that jut out, or we might trip on it.

Take this keg of beer to the party.

I think she is kin to me.

I’d like a glass of Kir for my cocktail.

A koi is pretty, but it’s just a common carp, really.

That crook is on the lam, and he hopes the cops won’t find him.

The teacher’s too lax, and her class is rowdy.

Which color lei would you like to wear at the luau?

Oh no, it looks like I’ll have to go up front and ad lib a few words of wisdom.

That rushing lin will make for a good photo. (Also “linn.”)

Excuse me, but I need to visit the loo. (British for “toilet.”)

I hope they have lox and bagels at the brunch.

Hey, luv, how are you doing? (Alternate slang spelling for “love.”)

Use “lux” as the measure of the brightness of this candle.

The Settlers made their soap with lye.


It will mar the beach if they start to let cars drive on it.

Whoa, look at the huge maw of that open-mouthed croc!

That’s one med I’d best not forget to take!

Seeing that mib brings back memories of playing marbles as a kid.

The pilot wanted to see a MiG-15 at the aircraft museum.

He earned a cool mil last year!

The Mir space station was active for 15 years.

Though a moa looks like an ostrich, it’s related to the kiwi.

There’s an angry mob outside the White House.

I’ll keep mum about that topic.

I served in Nam for three years. (Short for Vietnam.)

She has lots of good, nay, noble qualities!

This precision cutting tool has a diamond nib.

His credit rating is nil.

That’s just a little nit, so don’t worry about it.

Act like that again, and I’ll nix your having your party at our house!

I love to drink egg nog at Christmas.

For the nth time, I’m telling you to brush your teeth before bed!

This pencil has been sharpened down to a nub.

After Gramps died, my grandma became a Catholic nun.

The poor oaf just is not good at sports.

Obi-Wan, teach me to be a Jedi!

That story line is an oft told tale.


Check out the correct ohm rating before you plug that cord into the speakers.

The magic trick brought out lots of “ewws” and “ohs!”

He’s just a good ole boy.

She chants “om” when she does yoga.

Ooh, that’s just wild!

He’s the head of Ops for the Secret Service.

I’m going to opt out of playing this hand of bridge.

They placed a gorgeous orb on top of the Christmas tree.

An Orc is the creepiest villain in fantasy lit!

There is iron ore in these hills.

Along with his guitars, he even owns an oud and a uke!

OY! Don’t run around the swimming pool!

That PAC has lots of influence on the candidates.

Her doctor suggests that she has a pap smear once a year.

The golfer got a par on the 17th hole.

When the Roman Empire took over other countries, they declared “Pax Romana.”

I strained a pec while lifting weights.

This is a ped crosswalk, so slow down!

Their Pep Squad gets the fans riled up!

They sit in the church pew at the front of the sanctuary.

Pi is an important number in math, and it is the number 3.141592.

He took a good pic of the angry rhino.

Please ply the fire with another log of wood.


I can’t get this pea pod open.

That pol is just looking out for his own interests.

Have you had chicken pox?

He’s a really good golf pro.

Gross, there’s pus coming out of this wound.

That was a really rad concert!

Gandhi gave the British Raj a lot of headaches.

He’s playing rap so loud that it will hurt his hearing!

Dad’s in the rec room playing pool.

Hi, I’m your new sales rep.

Ok guys, rev up your engines!

Is this fish roe good enough to be sold as caviar?

You’ll rue the day that you said that in public.

A mother spider carries her unborn babies in a sac.

See how gooey the sap on that tree is.

My favorite sax player is John Coltrane.

I bet you had no idea that she’s a sib of mine.

Sic that thief, Rover!

I need to update my cell phone’s SIM card.

The worst sin of all is murder.

The band at the restaurant plays cool ska music.

This bad drought is going to hurt his sod farm’s business.

Sop up the sauce with your dinner roll.


That poor old sot starts to drink wine at noon.

The Red Sox won last night’s game.

I prefer soy milk to dairy milk.

She’ll spend the weekend at a fancy spa.

Sri Lanka is an island off the coast of India.

Can you sup with us on Sunday night?

She yelled, “TaDa!” when she pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

I hope I can visit the Taj Mahal some day.

The Tao is a key world philosophy from Eastern Asia.

It was mean of me to get him back, but you know what they say, “A tit for a tat!”

The ground is so hard here I can’t get the golf tee to sit upright.

We’re going to celebrate Tet in Vietnam this new year.

Tho you are smart, my king, your queen is wiser still.

Know thyself, and know thy enemy!

He has a funny tic on the left side of his face.

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone!

Let’s tog up in masks and go get some Halloween candy!

Tsk, tsk, that’s naughty behavior!

He has to wear a tux since he’s a musician in the orchestra.

Ty Cobb was one of baseball’s greatest players.

The ump kicked him out of the game.

Grandpa’s ashes are in that urn.


I’m going to veg out all day watching football.

Tell your mom not to vex me all week that she’s here for her visit!

It’s easy to get there via the expressway.

You’ll see that both those boys will vie for her attention.

I’ve never seen anyone full of so much vim and vigor.

I vow to be faithful to you, my king.

I just bought a new Vox amp that sounds great!

All the rescued prisoners of war look dangerously wan.

The happy couple will be wed next weekend.

Not only are her jokes funny, but they also carry a lot of wit with them.

An actor named Frank Morgan played “The Wiz” in the famous “Wizard of Oz” movie.

Oh, woe is me, they are working me so hard!

I’m going to cook up a great stir fry in the wok, for dinner.

My, doesn’t she have a wry sense of humor?

A yak makes a “grunting” sound, not a “mooing” sound like cows do.

This strong storm will make the ship yaw way off course!

I have a yen for a banana split right now!

The archer made his bow from yew wood.

That disrespectful yob has already done time in a juvenile prison.

Trust me, just use my nickname “Zed,” which is way easier to say than “Zedekiah!”

My parents are wine snobs, and they won’t drink a zin. (That’s short for “zinfandel.”)

My sister freaked when she woke up with a zit on her forehead.

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 88 – Part One

NEW WORDS: abdomens, abet, antisocial, aphids, attaching, augment, backswimmer, beetle’s, bothersome, chews, chitin, chrysalis, cicada, cicadas, clusters, cockroach, combs, discovers, eaves, edifice, elude, exoskeletons, exposing, forager, foragers, foraging, grasping, grasshoppers, hatchlings, hideouts, hive’s, hives, honeycombs, incomplete, insect’s, insensible, interim, lacewings, larva, larvae, leafhopper, leafhoppers, maggots, mantis, mated, metamorphosis, militants, molts, mosquito’s, mosquitos, mouthpart, mouthparts, multiplicity, mush, nymph, nymphs, papery, preying, progression, prolegs, provenance, pupal, quiver, reinforcement, rhinoceros, softens, splintery, stingers, succeeds, suckers, sucking, sucks, swarms, swatted, teeming, thirds, thorax, tractable, transforms, trickery, waggle, waggling, wasp’s


Chapter One: Insects Everywhere!
Hi, boys and girls. I’ve been asked to join you today. I’ll talk about an important subject. That’s me. Who knows what type of animal I am? Right. I’m a fly. I’ll bet most of you have seen lots and lots of flies. I’m told that you find us flies rather bothersome. So I guess that you’ve swatted at one of my billions of cousins at least once in your life!

I wonder just how much you really know about us. For example, did you know that I could walk straight up a wall? I’ll bet you can’t do that! I have thousands of tiny hairs on my feet. They act like suckers. I’m a housefly. That’s the most common type. But there are lots of other fly species on Earth. A “species” is a group of plants or animals that are alike in important ways. Horseflies, robber flies, fruit flies, gnats, and mosquitos have lots of different species. They all belong to the same group.

Scientists group animals into different categories. What kinds of animals can you name? Yes. Fish, snakes, frogs, birds, and insects are just a few of the animal groups that you know. Flies, like me, belong to the largest group of creatures on Earth.

Who knows which group is the largest? Insects! Insects are small creatures with six legs and three main body parts. We flies are insects. And we share the planet with millions of other insects in all kinds of habitats.


“Habitats” are the natural homes of plants and animals. Can you name a few? Great deserts, forests, mountains, grasslands, and tundra are some that you may know of. In the next few lessons, some of my fellow insect friends are going to teach you lots of interesting facts about insects that live all over the place.

We insects live all over the globe. Well, everywhere except the oceans. Insects can even live in some very cold or very hot areas of the Earth!

We’ll start today by looking at meadow grasslands. Look out over this field of alfalfa. Do you see any animals in the picture? It just looks like an ordinary grassy field. There’s not much going on, is there? But, don’t fall for trickery. This field is teeming with life! If you sat down in the middle of this meadow and closed your eyes, you would likely hear birds singing. But you might be completely insensible about the often silent, hidden world of insects all around you.

Lots of insects depend on plants to live. Lots of insects eat plants. And some even lay their eggs on plants. The plant on which an insect lays its eggs, and which provides food for its young, acts as host. It’s called a “host plant.” Each host plant attracts varied types of insects. Lots of insects would die without their host plants. That’s because they’ve developed very specific diets needed for them to live.


Lots of meadow plants attract grasshoppers. Grasshoppers feed on the leaves and stems of the alfalfa plant. Harder to find is the tiny leafhopper. But this wedge-shaped insect can slow down the plant’s growth. It turns the plant brown as it sucks nutrition from its host plant.

Lots of insects, such as these tiny aphids, can damage entire meadows. Grasshoppers, leafhoppers, and aphids are all “pests.” Farmers aren’t happy when they discover them on their plants. That’s because they can destroy their crops. But not all insects are pests.

Who knows what this insect is called? That’s right. It’s a ladybug. Did you know that ladybugs are some of the most helpful insects on Earth? They feed on aphids and the eggs of moths and beetles that destroy crops. Lacewings and ambush bugs also eat aphids. So, farmers are happy when they see these insects on their plants.

From grasslands, let’s move to a forest habitat. Both cone-bearing evergreens and trees that drop their leaves each year live in this forest.

Many, like these pine trees, are hosts to a variety of bark beetles. These tiny insects can kill huge trees! How can that be possible? Bark beetles burrow, or dig, under the tree’s bark. They create a series of tunnels in which they lay their eggs. Well, let’s think about this. What does a tree need to live? By burrowing into the layer of wood beneath the bark, these beetles stop the flow of nutrients throughout the tree. Thus, that can kill the tree.


Lots of insect activity takes place overhead in the forests. But lots of insects live on the forest floor, too. Can you think of some? Ants are one of the most common insects on Earth. Lots of them live in the forest. Unlike many of us solitary insects that live on our own, ants are social insects that live in colonies, or groups. Let’s look at an interesting social ant that lives in the rainforest.

This is an “army ant.” Army ants travel in big raiding parties. They abet each other in order to hunt prey. They look like an army of militants as they move across the ground in a large group. These ants are known for swarming their prey all at once. That means that the swarm can attack a lot of prey at the same time. You’ll learn more about ants another day. So, let’s take a quick peek at one more forest insect.

This beetle is named for the long, large horn at the front of its head. Does its horn look like that of any other animal that you know of? I’m thinking of a much larger animal. Yes, a rhinoceros! The rhinoceros beetle uses its horn for digging hideouts and finding food along the forest floor. Male rhinoceros beetles use the horn for wrestling with other males. They do that in an effort to win over a female beetle. The male that succeeds in throwing the other off of a branch gets the female rhinoceros beetle. Sounds pretty rough, doesn’t it?


What kinds of insects do you think live in the coldest habitats? There are lots of types of flies on the tundra. That’s a very cold habitat. You’ll even find houseflies like me there.

This Arctic crane fly has amazingly long legs. And, guess what? Adult crane flies have no mouths. So, they never eat! Here’s another fact about them that’s not too surprising. They live for just a few days.

Some insects are aquatic. That means that they live in or near water. Here’s one that you may have seen in rivers, ponds, or streams. This is a dragonfly!

A few minutes ago, though, I told you that there is one large water habitat that does not support the life of insects. Do you know what that habitat is? The ocean!

Let’s look at the globe again. Is the Earth covered by more land or more water? Right you are. Nearly two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. And most of that water is in our oceans. Think about it. Oceans are the world’s biggest habitat. Yet no insects live there. But insects, found on only one-third of the Earth’s surface, are still the largest group of animals on Earth!

Flies. Grasshoppers. Ants. Caterpillars. Beetles. These are all insects. Yet they look quite different from one another. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. So, what makes an insect an insect? You’ll find out next time. In the interim, be thinking about how a fly is like a grasshopper. Or about how a beetle is like an ant.


Chapter Two: What Makes an Insect an Insect?
Hello, boys and girls. The last time you gathered to learn about insects you were joined by a fly, an insect with whom you are surely familiar. I am also a very common insect that loves to live in bathtubs or underneath kitchen sinks. My cousins and I often hide during the day so that you may not notice us. Does anyone know what type of insect I am? I am a cockroach. Do you think that I look anything like a fly?

There are millions of insects on Earth. At first glance, we may look very different from one another. What are some of those differences? What are some ways that we are the same?

Some insects, like butterflies and grasshoppers, have wings. But others, like fleas and microscopic lice, don’t. Some eat plants and others eat animals, but all insects have certain features in common. I am here to talk about what makes an insect an insect.

Our name should give you a clue. An insect’s body is built in sections, or parts. There are three parts, to be exact. We’ll use one of my friends, the ant, as an example.

All insects have a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. The head is the center of an insect’s senses, but different kinds of insects can have very different-looking heads. The thorax is the middle part of the insect’s body. The abdomen is the end of the insect’s body farthest away from the head.


What do you notice about the heads of these common insects? Do they look anything like yours? Do they have eyes? Yes, they do, but they are different from your eyes. For one thing, lots of insects have more than two eyes.

Most insects, like this cricket, have big eyes located on the side of the head. Lots of insects also have smaller, simple eyes on the tops of their heads. Look closely at this cricket’s head. Can you see its eyes? Although some insects see better than others, most insects also use other senses to get information about their environments.

Look at this bush cricket. Does it have a mouth? Yes, its mouth is a small hole at the front of its head, surrounded by mouthparts. You and the cricket both use your mouths to taste and eat.

Look at the multiplicity of insect mouthparts. Some look like sponges. Others look like scissors or needles. An insect’s mouth is carefully designed for eating certain types of foods. Some insects bite and chew solid foods. Others suck liquids. Still others pierce their foods.

For example, cockroaches like me eat just about anything that we can find. We have two pairs of jaws for biting, cutting, and chewing food well. Other insects, like the tiny aphids that destroy farmers’ crops, have mouthparts that look more like drinking straws. They feed by sucking sap from plant leaves and stems through these tubes.


Look how long and sharp this mosquito’s mouthpart is. It’s perfect for piercing the skin of its prey and sucking its blood. Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito? They love to feed on people, as well as other animals like horses and birds. Butterflies and bees have long mouthparts for sucking nectar from flowers.

So, now you’ve seen insect eyes and mouths. What else do you see on the head of these insects? Ah, yes, those long feelers! Those are the insects’ antennae, their most important sense organs. Insect antennae come in a variety of shapes and sizes and help insects learn more about their surroundings.

These jointed feelers, such as those on this cricket, are often covered with tiny bristles and pegs, and some are even quite feathery. Antennae are primarily used for smell and touch, although some can pick up sounds or detect movements in the air. Do you see a nose on this cricket? No, at least nothing that looks like your nose. Instead of a nose, the cricket uses its antennae to smell.

Eyes. Mouth. Antennae. What else might you expect to find on an insect’s head? What other sensory organs do you have on the side of your head? Right, your ears! Do you see any ears on this cricket? No. The cricket’s ears are located on its legs, attached to the middle section of the cricket’s body.


The middle section of an insect’s body is called the thorax. The thorax has three pairs of jointed legs and usually, but not always, two pairs of wings. Notice that I said “pairs.” A pair is two of a specific item. If there are three pairs of legs, how many legs does an insect have altogether? Yes, all insects have six legs.

Let’s take a look at the cricket’s thorax and see if we can spot its ears. Look just below its knee joint on the front leg. Do you see a smooth patch of skin? That is the cricket’s eardrum, which is very important, for it communicates with other crickets through sound. The cricket’s eardrum bends in and out to catch the sound waves so that it can communicate with other crickets.

Insect legs vary according to an insect’s lifestyle. How do you think the long, muscular, back legs of a grasshopper might help it? That’s right. Its legs are designed for jumping to quickly elude danger. Have you ever seen the fuzzy legs of a honeybee covered with yellow clusters of pollen that it carries back to its hive? And how do you think the backswimmer beetle’s pair of long legs help it in its water habitat? Notice the oar-like shape of the legs that it uses for paddling.

Caterpillars have three pairs of true legs on the front part of their bodies, but their long bodies need extra reinforcement, so they also have a number of pairs of stubby legs in back, to help them cling to stems and leaves. These false legs are called “prolegs.” Caterpillars loop along, grasping stems with their front legs, or true legs, before drawing their bodies up into a loop to hold on with their hind legs, or prolegs.


Only adult insects have wings, and some insects don’t have any wings at all. If an insect does have wings, they are located on the insect’s middle section, or thorax. Wings allow insects to move quickly from place-to-place, and they are surely one reason that insects have survived in such large numbers for so many years. Insect wings may look very different from one another, but a network of veins supports each wing.

When it’s quiet at night, especially in the summertime, you may hear an interesting chirping noise coming from insects outside. That sound may be a cricket! Crickets’ wings have veins. The veins of a male cricket’s wings are thicker, and shaped differently, from many other insects. You’ll learn more another day about how a cricket uses its wings to make its unique chirping sounds.

So far, we’ve looked at an insect’s head and its thorax. Every insect body is made up of three sections. What is the name of the third section? The third and largest section is called the abdomen. Do you have an abdomen? Yes, you do. Your abdomen is your belly. Like an insect, your abdomen is where you digest your food, or break it down so that your body can use it to grow and stay healthy. An insect’s abdomen is also the part of its body where the female produces eggs. The abdomen is also where insects breathe. Like you, insects need oxygen from the air to live, but they do not have lungs, and they do not take in air through their noses or mouths.


Instead, if you look closely at this cricket’s abdomen, you will see a line of tiny holes along its side. That is where insects take in air, containing oxygen, to breathe.

So, what makes an insect an insect? Well, it has three body parts. These are the head, thorax, and abdomen. It also has six legs. And most insects have wings. But that’s not all. All insects are invertebrates, meaning that they have no backbones. Instead of having skeletons inside their bodies, like you, insects wear their skeletons on the outside.

These waterproof “exoskeletons,” made of a tough, tractable material called “chitin,” protect the insect’s soft insides like a suit of armor. Just like your backbone and bones, an insect’s exoskeleton is the thing to which the insect’s muscles attach.

Here is a picture of another one of my cousins. We cockroaches were around long before the dinosaurs. I think that our thick exoskeletons may have something to do with our long survival, don’t you?

Next time, the narrator of the lesson will be an insect that holds its front legs together in a prayer position. What do you think that might be? She’ll tell you how insects grow from tiny eggs into adults. Be prepared to be amazed!


Chapter Three: Life Cycles of Insects
Hi, boys and girls. It’s time to meet one of the most fascinating insects on the planet. That’s me. I’m a praying mantis. I’m named for the way that I hold my two front legs together as though I am praying. I might look like I am praying. But my incredibly fast front legs are designed to grab my food in the blink of an eye!

I’m here to talk to you about the life stages of insects. That’s how insects develop from birth to adult. Lots of insects undergo a complete change in shape and appearance. I’m sure that you now know how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. The name of the process in which a caterpillar changes, or morphs, into a butterfly is called “metamorphosis.”

Insects like the butterfly pass through four stages in their life cycles. These are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Each stage looks completely different from the next. The young never resemble their parents. And they almost always eat something entirely different. The female insect lays her eggs on a host plant. When the eggs hatch, the larvae that emerge look like worms. Different names are given to different insects in this worm-like stage. And for the butterfly, the larva state is called a caterpillar.


Fly larvae are called maggots. Beetle larvae are called grubs. And the larvae of butterflies and moths, as you just heard, are called caterpillars. Larvae feed and grow as quickly as they can. They also molt, or shed their hard exoskeletons, many times as they grow. That’s because the exoskeletons don’t grow with them. In this way, insect larvae grow larger each time that they molt. They do that until they are ready to change into adult insects.

Once the larvae have eaten all that they can eat, they take a break. Sometimes people call this next stage a resting stage. But the larvae are hardly resting. A larva often spins a cocoon to protect itself during the pupa stage. During this time, it will stay quite still for several weeks. Inside this shell-like covering, the pupa transforms, or changes, into something that looks altogether different than before. Some insects have a soft cocoon for the pupa stage. And some, like the butterfly, have a harder case called a “chrysalis.”

If you’ve ever seen a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, you know how cool it is to watch the first quiver of its fully developed butterfly wings. Its wings were completely invisible before it disappeared into its seemingly magic chrysalis. It looks nothing like it did at any of its earlier stages. Scientists call this progression, through four separate stages, a “complete metamorphosis.” I can’t argue with that, can you? The change is indeed complete. Butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies all undergo a complete metamorphosis.


Not all insects change so completely. Some insects’ young, like mine, are miniature models of their parents after hatching. They do change, so they do experience a metamorphosis. But because it is not a “complete” change, scientists call it an “incomplete metamorphosis.”

Just like you, the young start off as a smaller version of what they will end up being. Just as you started off as a baby person and are slowly growing into an adult person, some young insects slowly grow and change into an adult.

A praying mantis goes through three life stages. They are egg, nymph, and adult. In the autumn, the female mantis lays as many as 400 eggs inside an egg case. This case is attached to a plant. In spring, the eggs hatch. The tiny praying mantis babies emerge from the egg case. These brand-new hatchlings, or nymphs, don’t quite look like me, do they? A little later, the nymph looks more like me. The only thing that it is missing is its wings. Even though you can’t see them yet, there are tiny developing wing buds. These nymphs eat the same sorts of food as I do as an adult praying mantis. They eat flies, aphids, moths, and other insects, just smaller ones.

Let’s take a close look at one of these nymphs. Can you tell at this stage that it is an insect? Can you find its head? How many legs are on its thorax? Can you see how many pairs of wings it has? Is there a third section, as well? What’s that called?


What is the outside skeleton of an insect called? That’s right. It’s an exoskeleton. The baby insect, or nymph, is born with an exoskeleton. But these hard, non-living coverings do not grow with the growing praying mantis nymph. As a nymph grows, its exoskeleton splits open.

The nymph wriggles out, and it is exposing softer skin that can stretch and expand before it hardens. It molts its exoskeleton again and again. It will grow a new one as many as ten times before it reaches adulthood. The nymph stage often lasts all summer long. After its final molt, each surviving praying mantis has a fully developed exoskeleton and full-grown wings like mine. Grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches belong to the group of insects that experience an incomplete metamorphosis that are like this one.

An insect’s life cycle is quite short compared to yours. In some cases, it takes only a few weeks. Scientists believe that this is one reason that there are so many insects on the planet. They are forever breeding and need to reproduce rapidly, because they have so many enemies.

Not all insects, though, have short life cycles.


The cicada looks a little like a grasshopper. And it is thought to have the longest life cycle of any insect. It can range from two to seventeen years. The adult cicada lays her eggs on twigs. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground and burrow into the soil, searching for tree roots. They feed on the tree’s sweet root sap. Cicadas undergo incomplete metamorphosis, so there is no pupal stage. The nymphs remain hidden beneath the ground, continuing to shed their exoskeletons. Once they are fully-grown, they make their way to the surface again. They shed their skin one last time. And then they emerge as winged adults. For some reason, all of the cicadas in an area emerge at once. And that’s either every thirteen years or every seventeen years.

When the cicadas all emerge, they fly everywhere. And their calls are very loud. When hundreds of flying insects swarm through the air, their loud buzzing noises and the snapping of their wings make quite a loud noise!

Next time, you will meet some other flying insects that may also move in swarms. Can anyone guess what insects they might be? I’ll give you a clue. Buzz!


Chapter Four: Social Insects: Bees and Wasps
Buzz! Buzz! Oh! You startled me! I am so busy that I nearly forgot where I was. I’m a honeybee, and I’m delighted to be here to tell you a little bit about my everyday world. Honeybees are quite social. Humans are social, too, which means that they live together in communities, or groups, instead of living alone. Social insects live in communities, too.

Most insects are solitary, living alone their entire lives. They are alone when they hatch from their eggs. They search for food alone, and they find their own shelter. There are thousands of different kinds of bees on the planet, and most of them live solitary lives. But honeybees are different. We live together in organized communities and depend upon one another to live, solving problems as a team. We gather and share food, build nests together, cooperate to raise our young, and help protect one another from enemies.

Honeybee communities are called colonies. Our colonies are made up of twenty thousand or more bees. We like to make our nests, or beehives, in dark places. That’s why you often see pictures of us buzzing about in the trunks of hollow trees.

People use beehive boxes to raise honeybees for honey. Perhaps you’ve seen these boxes in a field, orchard, or backyard.


Wherever we nest, we build honeycombs. This amazing edifice of layered cells is made from a waxy substance that we produce in our abdomens. Can you spot a pattern among the cells in this honeycomb? They are all six-sided.

What purpose do all of these cells serve? These cells are very important to our lives. Listen carefully, and I’ll tell you how they are important to the many jobs that we perform. Remember, I told you we are very social insects, and very busy. There is lots of work to be done, and each bee in the colony has its own job to do.

Every honeybee colony has a mother called the queen bee. The queen is always the largest bee in the hive, and she has only one job to do. She must lay eggs, lots and lots of eggs. She must produce more queens for other hives and make sure that there are enough worker bees to do the work in her own hive.

The queen bee flies from the nest to mate with male bees called drones. Once a drone has mated with the queen bee, it has done its job, and it dies. Drones cannot sting because they don’t have stingers.

When the queen returns, she lays her eggs, sometimes more than one thousand eggs a day. Where do you think the queen bee lays all these eggs? Right! She returns to the comb to lay them there in the cells. The queen then pushes tiny eggs, no bigger than a pinhead, from her abdomen into the waxy cells of the honeycomb, one egg to each cell.


In just a few days, the eggs hatch. The larvae get fed pollen by one of the hive’s female worker bees. The larvae grow and eventually spin silky cocoons.

Worker bees quickly seal over the small waxy cells of the honeycomb, protecting the developing pupa inside each cocoon. Does this process sound familiar? It should. The bees are undergoing a change. When they emerge from their cocoons, they will chew their way out of the cells, emerging as full-grown adults.

Most of the new adults are female worker bees. They only live for a few months, and they spend their whole lives working hard to keep the hive running well. They keep the hive clean. They serve as nurse bees, tending to the larvae. They make new cells and repair old ones, and they store nectar and pollen that others bring back to the hive. After several weeks working inside the hive, these hard-working females go outside to serve as guards, protecting the hive from enemies and bees from other hives. Each hive has its own special chemical scent, or smell, so it is easy to tell who doesn’t belong in the hive.

Near the end of her life, a worker bee becomes a forager bee, collecting a sweet juice from flowers. This juice, or nectar, is used to make honey. Foraging worker bees have keen senses of smell and sight, and very good memories. They may visit thousands of flowers each day to find the best nectar.


When a bee discovers a particularly good provenance of nectar, it returns to the hive to share its information with other foragers. First, it lets the other foragers smell the pollen so that they can identify the type of flower. Then, it performs a complicated and special waggle dance. As it circles about in a pattern like a figure eight, it wags its abdomen as it moves through the middle of its dance. The bee’s repeated movements, circling and waggling its abdomen, tell the others exactly how far away and in which direction from the sun the flowers are located. A bee that thinks she has found a really good flower patch does the waggle dance with lots of energy.

Where do you suppose the bees put the nectar when they return to the hive? They make the nectar into honey and store it in honey cells. These are the cells that are not being used for developing bees. The honey is an important food source for the bees.


While moving from flower-to-flower, worker bees rub up against a yellow powder called pollen. Honeybees will pack the pollen into baskets of hairs on their hind legs, and then they carry it with them. Pollen is used to feed the larvae, but this pollen is important stuff for another reason. Plants need pollen from other plants in order to make new seeds. This is called “pollination.” Honeybees are important because they carry the pollen between flowers of the same species, or kind.

I’d like to introduce you to a relative of mine. This is a paper wasp. Look closely at its body next to mine. What do we have in common? We each have a head. We each have a thorax with six legs, an abdomen, an exoskeleton, and wings. And, this particular wasp, the paper wasp, is a social insect, just like me. Some wasps are antisocial, but the black and gold ones nearly always live in societies.

Like honeybees, wasps live in large groups. What are these groups called? Yes, wasps live in colonies. Each colony has a leader, a female wasp who is bigger than all the other wasps and who spends most of her time laying eggs. Sound familiar? What is she called? Yes, the queen.


Like honeybees, wasps build nests. They build them in many different places, usually in hidden, difficult-to-see places that are protected from rain and bad weather, such as under the eaves of houses or in protected areas on trees. Wasp nests have a very different look from beehives on the outside, but their paper-like structures are similar to ours on the inside.

We’ll take a look at how paper wasps build their nests. The process begins with the queen. She finds plant fibers like dry grasses, old boards, and fence posts. Then she pulls them apart with her strong jaws. She softens the splintery pieces with saliva inside her mouth and chews them into a paste that looks and feels a little like paper. Then she sticks a dab of this paste to whatever surface she has chosen for her nest. The queen adds a tough stem to support the whole nest and begins attaching cone-like chambers to it. These clusters of six-sided chambers open downward to keep the rain out.

As the queen forms each chamber, she deposits an egg in each one. The eggs develop into larvae. The queen wasp takes care of the first larvae herself. She leaves the nest to find food, preying on and chewing other insects into mush to feed her young. About two weeks after hatching, the larvae enter the pupa stage, spinning cocoons inside each cell and covering the cells with silk.


These sealed cells break open a few weeks later and out come adult wasps with long legs, strong wings, and large eyes. Most of these newly hatched wasps are female workers who begin to take over the queen’s work right away. They hunt for food and feed the larvae, clean and repair the cells, and guard the nest. Others fan the nest with beating wings, and some even spread water over the combs to keep the nests cool. While the workers augment the size of the nest for more and more wasps, the queen goes back to laying eggs.

By summer’s end, many of the workers have died. There are often 250 or more cells inside the wasp’s papery nest. The wasps that do emerge at the end of summer are no longer female worker wasps. Instead, they are new queens and males. The new queens find shelter in protected places. These could be inside attic walls, inside logs, or under bushes. There, they hibernate all winter. When spring comes, the new queens come out from hiding and begin building nests for new colonies of wasps.

All wasps abandon their nests in the fall, using them for one season only. When fall comes and the leaves drop from the trees, look up and see if you can spot one of their papery apartment houses dangling from under a roof, or partially hidden behind a wall.

Next time, you’ll find out how some other social insects build their nests. Until then, be thinking about who they might be.

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 89 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Anopheles, Hercules, Namibian, acclimated, alikes, amplified, attracting, beeswax, bioluminescence, bioluminescent, bodied, bolls, bombardier, bubonic, calamitous, carrion, chaw, communicators, countertops, damages, determinate, elytra, encourages, entomologist, entryway, exude, filament, fliers, forelegs, gatherer, glowworm, glowworms, goliaths, harvester, limitless, lipsticks, lumin, male’s, mating, membranes, mimicry, mimics, misconceive, misjudged, misnamed, notify, nurseries, pandemic, partway, passageways, perforate, peskiest, plague, poisons, polishes, pupae, ribbed, schoolyard, scraper, seedpods, siphoned, spittlebugs, squashing, stilt, stinkbug, terrifically, treehoppers, tymbals, tympanum, whirligigs, wingless, wormlike, yellowish


Chapter Five: Social Insects: Ants and Termites
Hi there, everybody. I’m one of the most common insects on the planet. So, I’m sure you know that I’m an ant. But, did you realize how much my cousins and I look like a wasp? Take a close look.

See how slender, or thin, our waists are? Mine is unusually flexible. That makes it easy to bend and twist. Count my body parts. You’ll see that I have three parts, just like all other insects. These are my head, with its long antennae, my thorax, and my abdomen.

Here’s something that you might not know. I have two stomachs! Both are located in my abdomen. One is for my own digestion. And the other, called the “crop,” is just a storage bin where I keep food for other ants.

The fact that I store food for other ants should tell you something about me. Ants are social insects. We raise and care for our young in ant colonies. There are lots of different kinds of ants with many different ways of life.

“Carpenter ants” build their nests in wood. “Leafcutter ants” grow fungus on the leaves that they cut in vast underground gardens. The aggressive “weaver ants” live in leaves that they bind together in trees. The huge colonies of “army ants” travel in groups. They will eat everything in sight. “Trap-jaw ants” can jump distances of more than twelve inches! “Harvester ants” build huge nest mounds where they store seeds. Beware of the “red fire ants.” They sting like the dickens!


I am a black garden ant. I’m the type that you may see most often. So, that is the kind of ant that I am going to tell you about today. Like lots of other ants, we live in underground tunnels, or passageways.

Bees have honeycombs, paper wasps have paper nests, and we have tunnels. There are miles and miles of tunnels. They are full of little chambers, and hundreds of very dark chambers. A colony may have as few as twelve ants, or as many as a million or more. The center of an ant colony’s life is this nest of tunnels.

An ant colony begins with the queen. A young queen is born in one colony. But she leaves that colony to start her own. Her wings carry her into the air to find a mate. Once she mates, she sheds her wings and immediately finds a nesting place underground. There she builds a chamber, and she seals herself inside to lay her eggs.

When ant larvae hatch, the queen cares for the first brood herself. She feeds them with her own saliva, as they change from wormlike larvae into pupae and, finally, into adults. The queen does not leave the nest this entire time. She gets nutrition from her now-useless wing muscles in order to survive.


Ants undergo a complete metamorphosis. Most of the eggs develop into small female worker ants that begin their lifetime of hard work by gathering food for the queen. They must make sure that she is well-fed. The queen will never leave the nest again. She’ll live there for ten to twenty years, perhaps even longer. As the mother of the colony, she has her own special chamber. Her only job from this point on is to lay eggs.

The worker ants carry the eggs from the queen’s chamber into nurseries. There, they keep the eggs clean and moist by licking them until they hatch. Then they carry the larvae into separate chambers to feed them.

Black ants eat other insects, any crumbs that we can find, and the honeydew of aphids. We chew the food up well. Then, we put it in a pouch in our mouths where the liquid is squeezed out of it. We spit out the solid parts and swallow the liquid. Remember, we have two stomachs. One’s a crop for storing food, so worker ants come back to the nest with crops full of food for the young.

As they grow, the larvae molt a few times. And after a few weeks, they spin cocoons. The worker ants move these newly formed pupae into much drier chambers. There, they rest until they are ready to chaw their way out into the world.


As social insects, ants cooperate in lots of ways. When these new workers emerge, some will help care for the queen and larvae. Some will build and repair the tunnels. And still others will guard the nest.

These guards are called “soldier ants.” They have larger heads and jaws than the other ants. They place their bodies across the entryway to the nest to defend the colony. All ants, including soldier ants, exude chemical signals that other ants smell with their antennae. Soldier ants use these signals to notify the colony of danger. This is one way that ants communicate, or share information.

Another way that ants communicate is through touch. If an ant is hungry, it taps a food gatherer lightly with its antennae to let it know that it would like to eat.

They exchange the food, mouth-to-mouth, in what looks like little kisses. When food is shared, the ants also share and pass along some chemical information important for the entire colony. If one of us ants gets trapped when the soil around us caves in, we produce a squeaky sound by rubbing joints together. The other ants “hear” the cry for help through their legs.

Before I leave, I want to introduce you to another social insect that some people misconceive as “white ants.” Do you think these look like ants? They’re not. They’re termites. Termites are more closely related to cockroaches, yet they do not have hard exoskeletons. They are soft-bodied and nearly blind. They would not survive as solitary insects on their own. But they are very successful social insects.


There are a number of differences between termites and the other social insects that you have learned about, like honeybees, paper wasps, and ants. Termites do not go through as many stages of development. They skip the pupa stage, so their metamorphosis is incomplete.

The termite society is a bit different, as well. Both a king and a queen rule termite colonies. They start a colony together. The queen is the most important member of the colony. She sometimes lays six or seven thousand eggs a day. She is so well protected by the seemingly limitless numbers of worker termites that it’s almost impossible to find her within the colony. Just in case something should happen to the royal couple, termite colonies include substitute kings and queens, as well.

Termite workers perform similar jobs to the worker ants. But the job of guarding the colony rests with a small number of soldiers. They are equipped with strong legs and long powerful jaws. Unlike honeybees, paper wasps, and ants, where all the workers are female, in the termite colonies, both male and female workers are important members of the society.


Termites’ favorite food is wood. They can be calamitous if they choose to eat through the walls of a house! Depending on where they live, some termite species eat insects, waste materials, and fungus. They build their temperature-controlled nests underground, inside fallen trees, in timber, and in tree branches.

Does this nest look a bit like a wasp nest? I think so. It’s made of chewed wood and saliva like the wasp nest. But it also has added mud and soil. Some termites build mounds above-ground to house their colonies. These towering mud structures are hard as rock. And some are as tall as a two-story house! Lots of teamwork goes into building these mounds. And they have incredible air-conditioning systems to keep the chambers cool in very hot climates.

Next time, you’ll hear from an insect that glows in the dark. Until then, be thinking about who that might be.


Chapter Six: Insects That Glow and Sing
Can you blink, boys and girls? So can I. Does your abdomen light up when you blink? No? Are you sure? How can you tell? If you’re blinking, perhaps you just can’t see. Turn to your neighbor. Ask him or her to watch your abdomen while you blink. Did it glow? No? Well, I’m not surprised. If humans were able to produce their own light, they might never have invented the light bulb. We fireflies have been around long before light bulbs, electricity, or even candles. Our light organs, called lanterns, are found in our transparent abdomens.

Humans first discovered us lighting up the forests. They were amazed by how much light we produced. In ancient China and Japan, people collected us in transparent jars. They used us as lanterns to find their way in the dark. They named us “fireflies.” But we are not flies at all. And our light, unlike a fire, is cold.

“Cold light” is the way your ancestors explained our magical light. Scientists now know that chemical reactions create the light. They describe this process with a much bigger word. They call it “bioluminescence.” Can you say that? “Bio” means “living” and “lumin” means light. I think that’s a good name for it. Don’t you? We are living lights!


Other animals and plants glow, or light up like tiny electric bulbs. But most of them live in the ocean. Certain types of squid, jellyfish, corals, and even sharks, glow beneath the water. Plants such as algae in the ocean can also glow on the surface of the water. At times, this bioluminescence is so bright that it looks as if someone flipped on a light switch beneath the water.

It’s less common to find land animals that glow. I’ve told you that we are called fireflies. But do any of you call us by another name? We’re also called “lightning bugs.” But we are neither flies nor bugs. We are beetles. That’s another group of insects. Take a close look and see.

Like all insects, we have three body parts. These are the head, thorax, and abdomen. We have six legs, two antennae, an exoskeleton. And, like most insects, we have two pairs of wings.

We undergo a complete metamorphosis. We change from egg to larva to pupa to adult. Some of our eggs and larvae even glow! Have you ever heard of a “glowworm?” Glowworms are also misnamed. They are not worms at all. The larvae of fireflies and other insects are often called glowworms. That’s because they live on the ground like worms do. And they glow in the dark.


In order for any animals to survive, they must reproduce, or have babies. This means that we must all work hard to attract mates. Fireflies glow when they are seeking mates. The males fly through the dark, flashing very specific signals to females who sit patiently and wait for them. Our yellowish-green lights stand out against the night sky, as we signal one another with special codes. What happens when a female recognizes a male’s code as being from the same species? She flashes the same code back to him. Then the male lands beside her.

Have you ever noticed this? Some fireflies flash close to the ground with one pattern. But others seem to be higher in the air, with a different flash pattern, at a slightly later time of night? These are males of different species attracting their own females. Watch us next summer, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hi there. I bet you’re surprised to see me today. I’m not bioluminescent. I don’t glow, but I do sing. That’s what I want to talk to you about today. There are other ways that insects communicate.

Fireflies are silent communicators. They flash their glowing lights back and forth. How do you communicate with one another? You talk, don’t you? And what do you use to talk? Your mouths, of course! Although we insects use mouths for eating, just like you, we have no vocal cords, or voice boxes. So, we don’t use them for talking and singing. Even so, we grasshoppers can be a noisy bunch. Have you ever heard grasshoppers sing on a summer day? You won’t hear any words. But you’ll surely hear a chorus of sounds. Just like birds, each type of grasshopper produces a different song. If you listen closely, you can tell different types of grasshoppers from each other by the unique songs that they are each singing.


Nearly all grasshoppers have two pairs of wings, But we seldom use them for flying. That’s because we spend so much of our lives low to the ground. Male grasshoppers use their wings for communicating with one another. Female grasshoppers don’t sing. But they listen very carefully. They hear our sounds with “tympanum.” These are eardrums on the side of their abdomens.

Grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets all make sounds by rubbing body parts together. Sometimes it’s two wings. And sometimes it’s a leg and a wing.

To make sounds, I lift my wings and rub the front wings together. There’s a vein composed of lots of tiny teeth on the bottom of one wing. That rubs against the sharp edge, or scraper, on the top of the other wing. It is a little like rubbing your fingers along the teeth of a comb. As the two parts rub together, the wings vibrate. They move back and forth rapidly to produce the sounds that you hear.

You may be familiar with my cousin, the katydid. Katydids have long antennae, just like me. As they rub their front wings together, it sounds like they are calling out, “Katy did, Katy did!” Their high-pitched calls become faster and faster as the outside temperature rises. Some people even say that you can tell how hot it is by the number of times per second a katydid chirps. If katydids live in your part of the world, and you are patient enough, you may want to try counting the number of chirps that you hear every five seconds. Add thirty-nine to that number. Then you may have an accurate reading of the temperature! That depends on the species of katydid that you are hearing.


In some Asian countries, there’s a tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years. Male crickets have been kept in cages as singing pets. Do you know where the ears of a cricket are? You may remember that female grasshoppers hear with special parts on their abdomens. But crickets have “ears” on their forelegs. Both places must seem a little strange to you, since your ears are on the sides of your head.

Before I leave today, I want to introduce you to another singing insect. These insects are often misjudged as being grasshoppers and crickets. That’s because they look a lot like us.

Does anyone remember what this insect is called? This is a cicada. Cicadas are related to aphids, leafhoppers, and spittlebugs. Unlike grasshoppers and crickets, many cicadas have strong wings and are fast fliers. Male cicadas produce incredibly loud songs. But they don’t use their legs and wings to make those sounds.


Look closely at the abdomen of a cicada. On its underside, close to the thorax, a cicada has a pair of sound-producing organs called “tymbals.” These ribbed membranes are a little like the skin of a drum. The cicada uses its muscles to vibrate these drum-like organs. The tymbals pop and click as they move in and out. Their sound is amplified inside the mostly hollow abdomen. It acts like a drum and creates a loud buzzing song.

The shrill sound of hundreds or thousands of cicadas singing on a warm summer evening may be very loud.

Grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas all use sound to communicate. They do it in much the same way that fireflies use their lights. Males attract females for the purpose of mating, making sure that these winged insects will continue to survive.

Next time you gather to discuss insects, you will learn about the largest group of insects on Earth. Can you guess what that might be?


Chapter Seven: Armored Tanks of the Insect World
My grasshopper friend tells me that he asked you to guess the largest group of insects on Earth. Did you guess flies? Did you guess ants? Both ants and flies are good guesses. You may notice flies and ants more often than you do the enormous group of insects to which I belong. Do you remember seeing a picture of me in the first lesson about insects? Who remembers my name? Yes, I’m a ladybug. But did you know that ladybugs are beetles? Fireflies are beetles, too. Beetles make up about two-thirds of all insects on our planet. There are over 400,000 kinds of beetles.

By the end of today, you’ll know a lot about these amazingly diverse insects. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Beetles include fireflies, weevils, whirligigs, and rhinoceros beetles. You now know what makes an insect an insect. So what makes a beetle a beetle?

First of all, because beetles are insects, we share the same traits as all insects. We have a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. We have antennae, six legs, a hard exoskeleton, and wings. Most beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis.


What else do all beetles have in common? Beetles stand out in the insect world because of our heavy armor, or protective covering. In addition to our exoskeletons, our wings provide protection. Most beetles have two pairs of wings. But our front wings are not really wings at all. These thick, hard protective coverings are called “elytra.”

When we’re resting, we tuck our delicate back wings under our elytra, or front wings. At that point, you can’t see them at all. Then, when we’re ready to fly, we unlock our elytra and unfold our long, thin back wings. Our elytra provide lift like the wings of an airplane. But they stay quite still as our back wings beat up and down in flight.

Scientists believe that one reason that insects have survived in such huge numbers on Earth is because we can fly. But beetles are not the fastest fliers in the insect world. In fact, some ground beetles do not fly at all. Surely one big reason for our survival is the hard, outer wing cases that set us apart from other insects. Being tough, we’re able to burrow down under stones and logs. We get into very narrow places where we remain hidden, protected from predators. It’s hard to crush or bite a beetle.

We clever beetles have lots of means of protection. For instance, look at the bombardier beetle. This ground-living beetle produces chemicals in its abdomen. When attacked by a predator, the chemicals combine to form a bad-smelling, boiling liquid. The bombardier beetle makes a loud popping noise as it sprays its enemies with the chemicals. This sometimes causes a bad burn to the other insect. And it can cause pain to people, too.


Mimicry, or animal look-alikes, is another way that beetles protect themselves. Look at this beetle. What does it look like? It is called a wasp beetle. That’s because its long yellow and black body mimics, or copies, that of a wasp. How do you think this keeps predators away from the wasp beetle? Of course, they are afraid of being stung.

Another reason for the large numbers of beetles is the fact that different species adapt over long periods of time. This helps them to get better acclimated to their environments. Beetles live in some of the toughest places to live on Earth. Some survive in the intense heat of the desert. Others survive in underwater habitats, where they have to develop ways of breathing underwater.

Lots of desert beetles are wingless. They live beneath the sand, where it is cooler and less dry. Some, like these Namibian desert beetles, have stilt-like legs. Their legs allow them to rise above the hot sand. Still others have developed arched elytra. These create small air pockets to help protect them from the heat.

Insects need air to live. So, water beetles must come to the surface to get the oxygen that they need. Some water beetles, like this diving beetle, have developed a trick of carrying oxygen bubbles underwater. They trap the bubbles just beneath their elytra. This whirligig beetle solves the oxygen problem by staying mostly on the surface of ponds and streams. It uses its paddle-shaped legs to spin and turn. Its eyes are divided into two parts. It can see above and below the surface of the water at the same time.


Beetles have adapted over the years to eating different plant and animal foods, as well. With their strong, chewing mouthparts, nearly every possible food source is used by some kind of beetle. Weevils, like this boll weevil, are thought to be some of the peskiest of all beetles. Their long snouts allow them to bore down into the seedpods (“bolls“) of plants. Boll weevils have destroyed lots of fields of cotton. They lay eggs in the holes that they make. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the plants from the inside-out.

Some beetles feed on grains and seeds. Others chomp on apples, cherries, and other fruits. Still others live on wood and decaying plant life. Carrion beetles and their larvae feed on dead animals.

Dung beetles are named for the food that they eat. Dung is manure, the solid waste of animals. Dung is very rich in nutrients. And it’s an ideal food for young dung beetles. Adult dung beetles compete to get some of the dung. They roll the dung into balls and push them away from the other beetles. They bury the balls in the ground and lay eggs in them. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the dung.

Tiger beetles are fierce predators. They chase down almost any prey that they can find. And that can include other insects. Their fast legs and strong jaws make their job easy. Tiger beetles are the fastest runners in the insect world. Even the larvae of tiger beetles are predators who eat other insects. The larvae hide in burrows. There, they pop partway out and snatch passing insects with their jaws.


This stag beetle has horns like the antlers of a stag (a male deer). It looks rather fierce. But it’s among the most harmless of all insects. It eats mostly tree sap and other liquids. Its horns are actually its jaws. Male stag beetles use these jaws to wrestle with each other to vie for females.

Horned beetles, like this rhinoceros beetle, include some of the largest beetles in the world. Some of these beetles are also called Hercules beetles. That’s due to their great strength. The males use their horns to drive other males away from a female when it is time to mate. Many of them live in hot, wet, tropical areas.

Here’s one of the largest and heaviest of all insects. It’s the male goliath beetle of Africa. Goliaths can grow to be more than five inches long. And they weigh about as much as two golf balls. Their heavy bodies make them poor fliers. But they are able to climb trees with ease. They use their strong legs and good claws to do that.

Aren’t we beetles amazing? All insects, from those with eardrums on their abdomens, to those that make their own honey, to those that glow in the dark, are truly amazing. Lots of insects are so small that you may forget they are living all around you. They’re in the trees, underground, and even in your houses! It’s true that some insects can become a real nuisance. But lots of insects, like me, are extremely helpful. Next time, you will learn how important insects are to your everyday lives.


Chapter Eight: Friend or Foe?
Hi, boys and girls. Surprised to see me? I’ll bet that you were expecting another fabulous insect. Disappointed to see a fellow human being? I have been fascinated with insects ever since I was in second grade. So, I wanted to let you know that if you are like me, you might be lucky enough to keep learning about insects your whole life. I am an “entomologist.” Studying insects is my job.

Some people call me the “bug lady.” But I study much more than bugs. Here’s something that I did when I was your age. I called everything that creeps, crawls, buzzes, and flies a “bug.” Do you do that sometimes, too? Lots of folks do. But did you know that a bug and an insect aren’t the same thing? A bug is an insect. But not all insects are bugs. Confusing, eh?

Scientists determinate true bugs as insects with beak-like mouths. These piercing, sucking mouthparts allow the insect to perforate the leaf or stem of a plant. Then they can suck out the plant juices inside.

Let’s look at a few bugs. This is a stinkbug. This is a bedbug. Treehoppers and aphids are bugs, too. Here’s one you should recognize, a cicada. Look closely if you see one of these bugs outside. You may see its long, piercing mouthparts.


This is another familiar insect. What is it called? Right, a ladybug! It’s called a bug, but is it? Does it have a beak-like mouth with a long, piercing tube? No. Fascinating, isn’t it? A ladybug isn’t a bug at all!

I thought that you should know about bugs. But the reason that I’m here today is to talk to you about helpful and harmful insects. I’ll start with the bad news. You now know that some plant-eating insects cause major crop damage. Leafcutter ants can strip the leaves from an orange grove in one night. A swarm of locusts, or large grasshoppers, can strip large areas of grassland in just a few hours. Fruit flies are orchard pests, as well. The larvae of many moths, flies, bugs, beetles, and weevils are pests. The Colorado potato beetle is another insect that damages crops.

So, what’s the solution? Humans thought that they had a great idea. They created poisonous substances called “pesticides.” These chemicals would kill all of the insect pests on the whole field. That way, the crops could grow without being eaten. But there was a problem with that. Do you think that the pests were the only creatures living in the field?


It turns out that the pesticides can be just as big a problem as the pests themselves. These poisons destroy both harmful and helpful insects. Frogs and birds may eat the poisoned insects and become sick, too. They may even die. Pesticides have killed pollinators like the honeybee. Without pollinators, plants can’t make seeds to grow new plants or produce fruits. With fewer plants, fewer insects can survive. So, you see, the human use of pesticides changes the environment for everybody. And it does so in a bad way. Because of this, you can see how a person can be a foe, or enemy, of insects.

A better solution is being used by many farmers today. That’s to keep plant pests under control by introducing their natural enemies. They pit one insect against the other. Ladybugs and lacewings are predators that catch and eat aphids. Wasps and ants eat insects harmful to crops, as well. Doesn’t it make better sense to use animals to control the growth of pests and weeds instead of poisonous chemicals that kill all living things? I think so.

I do have a bit more bad news for you before I get to the good news. Some insects can be dirty. They can spread germs. What happens when flies, ants, and cockroaches walk across our kitchen countertops with the same feet that they use to crawl through dirt and rotting plants? They can poison our food and make us sick.


Some insects, such as mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, and lice, live off of host animals. These types of insects can be very harmful to people. The Anopheles mosquito carries malaria. That’s a deadly disease that has wiped out whole villages in Africa. Hundreds of years ago, fleas that carried deadly bacteria spread the “black plague.” The fleas got the bacteria from being on the bodies of infected rodents. Scientists more formally call it the “bubonic plague.” It was so bad that it killed millions of people. Almost one-third of the population of Europe was wiped out by this pandemic. Today, fleas are more irritating than deadly.

That’s enough bad news. Do you want to hear some good news? There’s lots of it! You now know how important honeybees and other plant pollinators are to the survival of the planet. Without pollinators, there would be no beautiful flowers or sweet fruit. That’s because the crops would not be pollinated. Crops must be pollinated in order to grow.


Scavenger insects, like the dung beetle, are important, too. They feed on dead plants and animals and their waste products. Thus, scavengers break up dead material and return rich nutrients to the soil.

Insects are also responsible for many products that humans use. What product does the honeybee give us? Yes, honey! They also give us beeswax. That’s used to make wood polishes and candles, and even lipsticks! And did you know that the spider is not the only creature that spins silk? Many other insects produce silk, as well. The silk moth lays its eggs on the leaves of mulberry trees. Their larvae, silk caterpillars, spin cocoons out of a single filament of silk. The silk from their cocoons is gathered. Then it’s unwound to produce beautiful silk thread used to make cloth.

You know that insects are a food source for other insects and animals. Now hold on to your hats. You might think that this is pretty gross. But did you know that many people eat insects, as well? Lightly salted crickets are eaten as snacks in many parts of Asia. Roasted grasshoppers with chili and lime are popular in Mexico. Roasted termites are a part of the regular diet of many Africans. Some Australians feast on beetle larvae. And some Europeans enjoy the sweet crunch of chocolate-covered ants.


You know that insects make up the largest group of creatures on Earth. Their ability to adapt over time to nearly every environment has made them terrifically successful survivors on the planet. We think that humans have been around for about 40,000 years. Some scientists think that insects have lived on Earth for about four hundred million years! They are the most varied of all animals. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Scientists guess that there are over one million species. But it’s hard to know for sure. That’s because it’s impossible to count them all as they crawl, fly, swim, and hide, all around the world.

Even with all of these millions and billions and trillions of insects, some are in danger of extinction. How can that be? It happens when many insects are killed at the same time. We humans are insects’ worst enemies. That’s because we often destroy their native habitats. For example, huge areas of the rainforests have been cleared. When trees are cut down for wood, all of the plants are removed. Thus, the insects that live on the plants are destroyed. Insects and other animals that feed on those insects are affected when they can no longer find enough food. Also, people build homes in the desert. That not only destroys animal habitats. It also quickly uses up all the water that the desert insects need to survive.


Grasslands are often cleared for planting crops. When the grassland host plants disappear, their visiting insects can’t survive. Water is often siphoned from wetlands to build farms, homes, and roads. When this happens, fertilizers from the farmers’ fields often run into the wetlands. That encourages plants there to grow out of control. They soak up all the water, and the wetland dries up.

So, why do you think it matters if insects become extinct? Isn’t it good to kill those often pesky, sometimes deadly, critters? I don’t think so. Think about the honeybee. It may sting you. But a moment’s pain is nothing compared to all the benefits it provides. It helps to pollinate plants that produce fruits or other foods that you need to survive. We still have a lot to learn about the insect world. But we do know that everything in our world is connected. We know that plants and animals depend upon each other for survival. We do not want to upset the balance of nature.

Now you know how important insects are to our world. So, I hope that you will think twice before squashing a bug beneath your feet. I encourage you to use your own schoolyard to look for insects and spiders. Where might you look? Lots of places, like under a rock, in the grass, on bushes and trees, on flowers, and in the soil. Remember, lots of insects are good at camouflage. So, don’t give up. They may be hiding in plain sight.

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 Ancient Greek Civilization    

Lesson 90 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Aegean, Alexander’s, Athenians, Bucephalus, Darius, Gordia, Gordian, Greece’s, Hades, Leonidas, Macedonia, Olympia, Olympics, Parthenon, Persians, Plato, Plato’s, Socrates, Socrates’s, Socratic, Sparta, Sparta’s, Spartans, Thermopylae, Zeus’s, acreage, agglomeration, bucketful, cleverness, concoction, decimating, footrace, footraces, households, integrated, javelin, lyre, marathon, mercantile, militaristic, philosophia, postulated, priorities, protrudes, retaliation, seethed, shipwrecks, sparked, spartan, stimulating, stoneworker, stringed, studded, teenagers, thinkers


Editor’s note. Students, this “PART ONE” of this lesson is eight short chapters. It’s a “high-level” introduction to Ancient Greece. You’ll learn of key places, events, people, etc. Then, after you’ve read PART ONE, you’ll move to sections that will dive deeper into what you learn in this introduction. Get ready for a big adventure! There are many fascinating things to learn about this great civilization.     

Chapter One: Introducing Ancient Greece
Greece is in southeast Europe. Much of Greece protrudes into the Mediterranean Sea. Lots of islands are integrated as part of the country, too. Let’s go back 2,500 years. Ancient Greece was not a single nation. It was an agglomeration of city-states. Each of these was a town, or small city. And nearby farm acreage was part of it. There were lots of city-states near the Aegean Sea. But there were other city-states elsewhere. Some were studded along the coast of Asia Minor. Some were in southern Italy. Some were in north Africa.

Athens was one of the largest of the city-states. Athens was the place where democracy was sparked. It had a unique kind of government. Lots of people got to help in resolving how things were done. There wasn’t just one ruler, like a king or queen. The men of Athens were the ones who had a say. Certain men were able to take part in setting the rules. They got together in what was called the Assembly. They had to be over eighteen years of age. And they had to be citizens. These men made key decisions for the city-state. The members decided which laws were passed. They said what taxes had to be raised. They debated other issues, as well. It might be something as crucial as whether to go to war or not. Before they made decisions, the members discussed the issues at hand. Here’s how they reached a decision. The members would vote by holding up their hands. There were ten elected generals in Athens. They were in charge of the army.

Of course, there were laws in Athens. Some were about how the city-state should be run. Some were about how people should behave. You did not want to do something that hurt the city-state. You might have to pay a fine. You might face a physical punishment. Personal arguments were often put before a jury. That group would say who was in the wrong.


Chapter Two: Life in Ancient Athens
Athens was a busy mercantile city. Thousands of people lived there. Lots of foreigners came there, too. They came to trade and to work. Often, the skilled craftsmen and artisans there were foreigners. There were enslaved people there, too. Rich families used enslaved workers to run their households and farms.

The Athenians thought that male citizens should be part of the government of the city-state. So, they wished for young men to have a good education. Boys were taught to read and write. They were taught math. They learned to play a stringed instrument called a “lyre.” They learned poetry by heart. They also did a lot of physical exercise. And each of them had to do two years of army training.

Women and girls in Athens did not have many rights. Women could not own property. They could not go to some public events. They could not take part in sports. But they did have a role in religious ceremonies. And they were a key part of family life. Girls learned the skills that they’d need to run a home. They learned to spin thread, weave cloth, and sew, as well.


Chapter Three: Life in Ancient Sparta
Sparta was a key city-state. It was some 100 miles southwest of Athens. Unlike Athens, it was not near the sea. Sparta and Athens were, at times, enemies. Sparta’s government had two kings, a council of elders, and an Assembly. The kings were in charge of the army. The Assembly could not discuss problems. Its members could only vote yes or no.

Priorities for living in Sparta were nothing like those in Athens. Spartans wished for their children to be tough. Boys were sent away when they were seven years old. They’d start to train to be soldiers. They weren’t allowed to wear shoes. They were taught to accept pain. Each boy would be part of a group of soldiers called a “phalanx.” Those in a phalanx were very loyal to each other.

Their society was militaristic. So, there was little time for writing and poetry. Things got tougher for Spartan boys when they became teenagers. They were given half as much food to eat as they were used to. This meant that they had to learn to find their own food. Spartan men had to do twenty-three years of army training.

Spartan women had more rights than women from Athens. They could own land. Some could read and write. They learned to ride horses. Each could play a musical instrument. They also did lots of sports. Favorites were running and gymnastics. Once they were mothers, Spartan women raised their sons to be brave warriors. Like the people of Athens, Spartans also had slaves.


Chapter Four: The Persian Wars
Let’s head back to 2,500 years ago. The king of Persia and his army invaded Greece. Their aim was to conquer it. The Persians were from what is modern-day Iran. They came in boats across the Aegean Sea. They had way more troops than the Greeks.

There were two crucial battles. One was the Battle of Marathon. The other was the Battle of Thermopylae. At Marathon, the Greek army was much smaller. But they fought bravely and cleverly. The Greeks defeated the Persians. The Persians had to escape to their boats and sail away.

There’s quite a legend tied to this battle. The battle was over. It’s said that a messenger ran all the way from Marathon to Athens. He brought news of the victory. Then he collapsed to the ground and died after he had delivered his message. The distance between Marathon and Athens is twenty-six miles. This is the distance that runners now cover in “marathon” races.


The Persians seethed for years after Marathon. They wanted retaliation for their loss there. They came back to Greece a few years later. They brought a mighty army. They’d try once more to defeat the Greeks. No single city-state could take on the Persians. So, some city-states joined together. This included Athens and Sparta. They had a plan for how they’d defend themselves. To get to southern Greece, the Persian army had to go through a narrow mountain pass. It was along the coast. It was at a place called Thermopylae. Just a few Persians could go through the pass at one time. The Greeks planned to block the pass. That way, they could slow the Persians down. And this is just what they did.

This decimating battle raged for three days. The Greeks killed thousands of Persians. But then the Persians found another path through. The Greek leader at Thermopylae was Leonidas. He was one of the two kings of Sparta. He knew that it was hopeless. But Spartans would not retreat. Their honor required that they fight on to protect other Greeks. So, Leonidas told most of the Greeks to retreat. The soldiers from Sparta and some others stayed with him. They fought bravely. But there were way too many Persians. All of the Greek soldiers were killed. This is not the end of the story, though. Later, the Greeks did defeat the Persians. They were driven out of Greece forever because of this war.


Chapter Five: Gods and Goddesses
The Greeks worshipped lots of gods and goddesses. They thought that they controlled the world. They thought that they should honor them. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece. They thought that their gods and goddesses lived at the top of Olympus. Or maybe they lived in the air above it. They postulated that the gods led happy lives. They drank a delicious concoction called “nectar.” They ate a tasty food called “ambrosia.”

Let’s meet some of the key Greek gods and goddesses.

Zeus was the king of the gods. He was the strongest of them all. He controlled the weather. Zeus had a terrible temper. He carried a thunderbolt around with him. And a bucketful of thunderbolts sat next to his throne on Olympus. He’d get angry. Then he’d throw thunderbolts at Earth, or at people who made him mad.


Hera was the queen of the gods. She was Zeus’s wife. The Greeks thought that she ruled over the heavens. She was also the goddess of marriage and birth. Hera was worshipped in all parts of Greece. Temples were built in her honor. Hera could be jealous, though. Lots of times she was angry with Zeus.

Poseidon was Zeus’s brother. When Zeus became king of the gods, Poseidon became the ruler of the sea. He had deep blue eyes. He had long hair the color of the sea. He carried a tall, three-pointed spear. It was called a “trident.” Why was Poseidon important to the Greeks? It’s because he controlled the sea. He could either let them have safe journeys, or he could cause shipwrecks.

Hades was another one of Zeus’s brothers. He was the king of the underworld. That’s where the Greeks thought that all people went after they died. He was also the god of wealth. That’s because precious metals and gems come from deep inside the Earth. Hades had a special hat. It made him invisible whenever he put it on.

Apollo was one of the sons of Zeus. He was the god of medicine and poetry. The other gods loved to listen to him make beautiful music. He was a master at singing and plucking the strings of his golden lyre. The Greeks admired Apollo. They’d go to temples built in his honor to ask for his advice.


Let’s move to the goddess Aphrodite. She was born from the foam of the sea. She was the goddess of love and beauty. So, of course, she was a great beauty. She had a son named Eros. Eros helped his mother spread the power of love. He’d help to make people fall in love with each other. Eros had a bow and arrows. He’d shoot one of his arrows into someone’s heart. That person would then fall in love with the first person who he or she saw. Later on, in ancient Rome, Eros was known by the name “Cupid.”

Athena was another goddess who was born in an odd way. One day, she jumped right out of the head of Zeus! She wore armor. On her head was a golden helmet. She carried a special shield. A person who looked at the shield was turned to stone. She was the goddess of Greek cities, war, cleverness, and wisdom. The city of Athens was named for her. The Parthenon temple in Athens was built to honor her.

Hermes was one of Zeus’s sons. He was the messenger of Zeus. He could run and fly very quickly. Both his hat and sandals had wings on them. And he carried a magic wand. Hermes was the god of shepherds, travelers, merchants, and thieves. He was the cleverest of all the gods.


Chapter Six: The Olympic Games
Let’s learn about the Olympic Games. They were an important athletic competition in ancient Greece. They were held every four years. Our modern Olympic Games are based on these ancient games. They took place in the Greek city of Olympia. They began as part of a religious festival. This was to honor the god Zeus.

At first, only local athletes took part. And there was only one event. It was a footrace that went the length of the stadium. But the games grew more popular. Athletes came from farther and farther away. As time passed, more events were added. Eventually, all of the Greek city-states took part. There were footraces. There was the discus toss. There was javelin (a kind of spear) throwing. There were a lot of other competitions. Some of these were jumping, wrestling, boxing, and horse and chariot races.

There was an official prize for winning an event at the Olympics. It was a wreath of olive leaves. It was placed on the head of the victor. But the real prize was honor. A victorious athlete would be a hero in his native city-state.


Chapter Seven: The Great Thinkers
The Greeks loved learning. Part of learning is finding new ways to look at and think about things. Some Greeks spent their whole lives doing this. They shared their ideas with others. Those ideas are still with us today. Here are the three best-known great thinkers of ancient Greece. They were named Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They lived mostly in Athens. All three of these thinkers had lots of students. These pupils believed in their ideas. These students spread what they learned far and wide. Let’s meet these three great thinkers. Their thoughts and writings are still important today.

Socrates was a stoneworker. But he was also a philosopher. The word “philosopher” comes from the Greek word “philosophia.” That means “love of wisdom.” Unlike other teachers, Socrates did not just tell his students things. He also asked lots of questions. He wanted students to figure out answers for themselves. One of his students might be talking about justice. Socrates would ask him what he meant by that. The student would try to explain. Then Socrates would ask even more questions. He thought that it was good to ask questions and search for answers. He thought that this would help people to understand things more clearly. Today, we call this process of question, answer, and debate “the Socratic method.” It’s all about stimulating “critical thinking.”


Plato was one of Socrates’s students. Plato loved to think about the questions that Socrates asked. But Plato was not just a great thinker. Plato was a writer, too. After Socrates died, Plato wrote down some of the conversations that Socrates had with him and other students. But that was not enough. Next, he tried to think of what Socrates would say about subjects that they’d NOT talked about. Plato wrote down about thirty of these imaginary conversations. People still read them today.

Aristotle was one of Plato’s students. He searched for knowledge by collecting and examining insects, animals, and plants. He thought that there is always more than one way to explain things. For instance, here’s how he thought that an animal could be understood. You’d examine what it looked like, what it was made of, how it moved, and what it could do. Without knowing it, Aristotle’s methods was were the start of the beginning of scientific research.


Chapter Eight: Alexander the Great
Now we turn to one of Aristotle’s students. He became perhaps the most famous man in the world at that time. His name was Alexander. His father was Philip II. He was the king of Macedonia. That was northeast of Greece. When Alexander was about twenty years old, his father was killed. So, he now became king. Alexander went on to conquer more land than anyone had ever done before. He became richer than anyone else. And he ruled more people than any prior king. That’s why we call him “Alexander the Great.”

Alexander was a strong, intelligent king. And he was also a fearless fighter. Here’s one of the first things he did when he became king. He attacked Greece’s old enemies, the Persians. At the time, Alexander just had a small army. And he did not have a navy. He faced the Persian king, Darius III, in a battle. The battle was so fierce that the king and the Persian army fled. Alexander won a great victory. Over time, he went on to conquer all of the Persian Empire. That had been the largest and most powerful empire of its time.

At one point, Alexander returned to Babylon. That was a major city in Mesopotamia. It was to be the center of his new empire. He began to make plans for more projects. He wished to build grand new cities. Sadly, he caught a fever and died. He was only thirty-three years old. Alexander is among the most brilliant military leaders that the world has ever known. He never lost a battle. And he never gave up.


Here’s a famous legend about him. One day, he and his army came to a city called “Gordia.” In the middle of the city there was an old chariot. It was tied up in such a way that the knot was very hard to undo. People said that whoever could undo the knot would rule the world. Alexander looked at the knot. But he could not see how to undo it. Then he had a thought. He drew out his sword. He split the knot apart. He had proved himself worthy of ruling the world! Today, we say, “someone has cut the Gordian knot.” We mean that the person has found a clever way to solve a tough problem.

Here’s another great tale. It tells of Alexander’s horse, Bucephalus. Here’s how it goes. When Alexander was a boy, a beautiful, black horse was brought to his father, the king. But no one, not even the king, could ride the horse. The boy stepped forward. He asked if he could try. It seems that Alexander had noticed something. The horse was afraid of his own shadow! The boy turned the horse around. He now faced the sun. So, the horse could no longer see his shadow. Then Alexander jumped onto the horse and rode off. When Alexander grew up, he rode Bucephalus into battle.

Click on this link to move forward to Module E, Lessons 91 – 99


Note to Educators, Parents, Tutors, and Students: AOCR ® has attempted to provide authorship to all reading content where we have been able to find it. Some content is in the public domain without evidence of authorship. Some content has been written by AOCR ®.

All content contained in the AOCR ® curriculum is from one of four sources: 1) Content written by AOCR ® personnel; 2) Content derived from the Core Knowledge ® curriculum; 3) Content that is — to the best of AOCR’s knowledge — in the public domain and free of any copyright restrictions — with or without knowledge of authorship; 4) Content that is provided to us by an author with their permission, which shall be noted at the beginning of such content.

Further, ANY lesson that is identified as “Core Knowledge ®” is following all stipulations required by Core Knowledge ® in order for AOCR ® to reproduce it. The guidelines outlined in the next few lines, in italic, apply to ALL passages that are identified as originating from the Core Knowledge ® curriculum:

This work is based on an original work of the Core Knowledge ® Foundation made available through licensing under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This does not in any way imply that the Core Knowledge Foundation endorses this work. With the understanding that for reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do that is with a link to this web page:   .