It depends upon how you look at it. Cassiopeia may appear two-dimensional to us, but the stars that make up the constellation are always at different distances from the Earth. Though they may seem to be just a thumb’s width apart, in actuality they can be millions of light years from each other (and from us). If you research other constellations, you’ll find that each point of light may not be a star at all. Rather, it could be a nebula, another planet, or a galaxy full of stars–much like our own Milky Way. For more information, see the Telescopes issue of Kids Discover magazine.
There we go. Thanks for playing. I always like to begin conversations with potential friends by doing something just a little different. And that is me. Just a little different.
(You:) You’re not blogging from some kind of dark forest, are you?
Ha! No, but that would be funny. My name is Michael Kline, and for lots and lots of (20+) years I’ve brought my illustrative outlook to Kids Discover magazine in all manner of styles. Subjects that range from babies strapped to boards (Southwest Peoples) to flying cows (Severe Weather) cross my drawing desk daily, and the incessant parade of such items has given me the uncanny ability to carry on a conversation about anything, with anyone anywhere.
(You:) So this is a blog about dinner parties?
Oh for heaven’s sake no. I just wanted to let you know a bit about what you were in for.
My approach to art for the magazine (as well as the 40+ books I’ve illustrated) is straightforward. My mantra? “Never accept the first answer.” If I can come up with a good solution to an assignment, then I can come up with an excellent one. At the end of the day (there’s an overused cliche) I hope to leave my viewers/readers with something memorable, something fun, and hopefully something that kids can build upon.
(You:) You’re going to teach me to draw? I have laundry to do…
Nope. There are way too many of us out there already. But I am going to teach you a new perspective. As a parent you’ve likely realized that children are not born with instruction manuals (though I believe there to be a book entitled Parenting for Dummies). And by the same token, parents are not the easiest things to get a grasp on either. That’s where creativity (and yours truly) comes in. In the following weeks, months, years (as long as Kids Discover is happy with what I’m blogging and hasn’t been sued yet), I hope to provide you with some insight as to how to look at everything differently; from study habits to playtime, holidays to sleepovers, and siblings to snack time. Stick with me for awhile, and I guarantee that you will never look at dirty dishes the same way again.
(You:) Sounds like you have a Napoleon complex, but I’m always looking for ways to get the kids to study better or simply engage, so go on.
“Thank your.” (Greg Kinnear as Frank in You’ve Got Mail, 1988.) Whenever opportunity presents me with the chance to put on my jeans and sandals and leave the house/studio, I find myself the center of attention at area classrooms and libraries. The crowd can run from Pre-K to post grads, but the task remains the same: Get the kids engaged. And that usually translates as “Get their attention.”
One doesn’t have to look very far these days to see how much competition there is for the eyes and ears and brains of the under-4-foot generation. Video games, television ads that literally shout out your shortcomings along with a remedy, iThis and iThat…, heck, there are companies that want to put advertising in school buses. So how do you cut through the clutter?
(You:) How do I cut through the clutter? Seems like a herculean task and I only have the fortitude of Tinker Bell. (Ha ha, now I’m being funny.)
Patience. Rome wasn’t blogged in a day.
Let’s start with something every parent faces, a little thing known as homework. Generally, kids hate it, and parents hate the fact that kids hate it, even though when parents were kids they hated it too. So let’s change the perspective.
Perhaps your offspring is not content with the same droll drudgery that homework presents on a daily basis. Why not find a totally new space for the task at hand? Take a few pillows, make sure the lighting is good, and set up shop in the bathtub. It’s a fairly quiet space with few interruptions (unless of course you only have one bathroom), and the tile is very conducive to humming or singing to oneself. In short, the rules have changed. And be flexible. If your child begins to suggest other venues for studying (perhaps a darkened closet with an LED light, or beneath a blanket draped across a couple of dining room chairs), remember that the important thing is that you have their attention, and the homework is being addressed. Above all else, stick with your kids. Let them know that they are not in this alone.
More to come. And by the way, did you know that Alexander Graham Bell suggested that “Ahoy” be used as the greeting when answering the telephone before Thomas Edison’s “Hello” finally stuck?
Thanks for being here. Teach. Learn. Enjoy!
There is a lot of information to be found in a map, almost overwhelmingly so. With the proliferation of digital maps (and their apps), the art of cartography is diminishing somewhat, but knowing how to read a map is still essential for street smarts (ha ha).
When asked to explain the process of understanding maps and all that they offer for Kids Discover magazine, I set upon myself to map out something that defied organization and discipline for many years–my room as a child. Literally, you would have needed a map to find your way around. Look for the little puns in here as well. Enjoy! (Click the map for a larger image.)
Math can tell you how to determine the volume of a simple object (a ball or a block), but for those everyday objects that defy physical description (a pen, a stapler, one of your Hot Wheels® cars), the water displacement method is the way to go. And you can thank Archimedes for this discovery. When asked to determine whether the crown for King Hiero II was actually made of pure gold (instead of a mix of gold and silver), he was at a loss to come up with a solution. Supposedly though, while taking a bath, he noticed the level of water rise and came up with a way to uncover the actual mass of the crown. It’s been said that he got so excited over his discovery that he leaped up and began running naked through the streets shouting Eureka (Greek for “I have found it!”). Though I would advise against running through the neighborhood in your birthday suit, you should try this experiment at home. All you need is a measuring cup, some water, pencil and paper, and a toy or object that will fit into the cup.
As I sit writing this book,
Cats play in the yard
Right under my window.
Often they seem to jump and
Spin, and when they
Think no one’s looking, they
Inch their way up the bird feeder,
Causing all kinds of commotion.
Notice anything funny about the previous poem, other than the fact that the cats are playing rather than sleeping? Check this out. Take the first letter of each line of the paragraph, and what do you get? That’s right! A-C-R-O-S-T-I-C. Acrostics are often (but not always) written as poems, with the initial letters being thought out in advance. Some acrostics are even related to the initial word as well, as in this example:
Fried rice and figs
Oats and okra
Ovens and olives
Dips and dumplings
The acrostic doesn’t always have to be the first letters, though. Try one using the last letters in a paragraph or poem, as in:
“Please follow the path,”
Advised my dear ma,
“And then take a bath.”
I countered, “Ha Ha!”
See how easy it is? Share the fun of acrostics. Here’s the recipe:
serves: 1 player and 1 pen pal ingredients:
• Pencil and paper
• Stamp and envelope (or email)
Write a birthday card or note to a friend using her first and last name, or the name of her pet or favorite activity, as an acrostic. (You might need to include a note with the definition of acrostic, just in case she doesn’t get it!) If you email your note, keep in mind that an email may tend to wrap the text differently. You’ll be amazed at how creative you can get!
For more wordplay fun, check out WordPlay Café at amazon.com. N-Joi!
Summer is a great time to consider, well, nothing. It’s all about having time off from school, homework, chores (mostly), but don’t let your noodle get squishy and pudgy while on vacation. Here are a few fun ways to keep your gray matter in tip-top shape. (Click the image below for a downloadable, printable PDF from Kids Discover magazine.)
Summer is a wonderful time for kids; no school, no homework, no chores (for some anyway). But with the season comes some torturing temperatures. Be sure to watch for the warning signs of heat-related illnesses. Oh, and buy lots of ice cream. 🙂
We can’t really use the wind until we catch it. And what’s the most popular way to catch
the wind’s force? A windmill of course, which can do the work of many people. Inside the mill, a pole begins to spin. It goes all the way down into the mill. There it can do some pretty helpful things: It can turn a big stone wheel to crush grain. It can move a saw up and down to cut logs into lumber. It can pull up water from underground, which can be used to water crops.
For more fun with wind and solar power for kids (including a do-it-yourself solar-powered car), see Green Power Solar & Wind Power by Peter Lerangis at amazon.com.
If you’re really bored this summer, here’s a great way to have a bit of harmless fun; and it will only cost you 25¢. Find a place with lots of people walking by, like near a school or library. Place a little dab of superglue on a coin and stick it to the sidewalk (Gorilla glue or some types of epoxies work well, but use with care as the glues can be toxic and can actually glue your fingers together). Find a hiding spot and watch people try to pick up the coin in vain. If you wish to document your social experiment, use a camera to catch the frustration of your victims. For this and even more practical jokes, see AnnMarie MacKinnon’s Fun with Pranks, Gags, and Jokes, available at amazon.com.