Label: 2012 Countdown

December 31, 2012


The Top Seymour Science Story of 2012 was the passing of the brave astronaut and explorer Neil Armstrong. Nearly 100 of you commented on this story about his amazing life.


      You may have heard that an astronaut named Neil Armstrong died today. He was a hero to me and to many others – the man who took a “giant leap for mankind” when he first walked on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Neil Armstrong was a man of courage, and although he was a private person, he gracefully accepted his role for the rest of his life as the “face” of the space program and a symbol of man’s exploration of the solar system beyond our own planet.


This is a photograph of a footprint on the moon, left by our astronauts back in 1969. It marked the first time that human beings walked on ground that was not Earth. That footprint may last for a million years or longer, because there is no air on the moon. Without air there is no wind to blow the dust around.

The print of that first giant step for mankind will live forever on the moon, just as Neil Armstrong’s brave quest to explore and learn more will live forever in our memories.

When asked how they would like Neil Armstrong to be remembered, his wife and family said:

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

I think we can do that, don’t you? 

Tessa, from Galax, Virginia wrote: I’m soo sad that Neil Armstrong died. He was so awesome to me. I look up to him. 

A reader named Amy added: I am so sad hearing about Armstrong’s passing. Tonight when I go outside I will look up to the sky and say ‘thank you Neil Armstrong for all you did. You’re always in my mind.’ 

And an anonymous reader commented:

I like how he was the first astrounaunt to ever walk on the moon.

I like how when he was walking on the moon, how he wasn’t afraid.

I like how he was a hero to everyone on planet Earth.

I like how he could survive on the moon when there is no air.

I like how he was a man of courage and wisdom. 


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 30, 2012

Once in awhile we select a Writing Wednesday topic that you all really want to write about. That happened in 2012 with a story called “Moose Emergency.” I love this story because your responses show the world that my Seymour Science readers are people who care about animals and our planet Earth. And, you believe that your words and your actions will make a difference.

Rather than pick from your writing, we are going to include every single one of your responses here. This is the #2 Seymour Science Story of 2012.

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! This week, we are asking you to use your writing to convince people to support an important cause. 

The Problem: 2012 is one of Alaska’s snowiest winters ever. 92 inches of snow have already fallen in Anchorage, Alaska - that’s 18 inches more than they usually get in a whole year! And there are still ten weeks of winter left.

The snow is so deep that moose - the largest deer on Earth - are using plowed highways and railroad tracks to get around. This is dangerous, and they are being hit by trains and cars in record numbers. Although the moose is not officially endangered, the population is much smaller because of hunting and other human activities.

The Alaska Moose Agency wants the governor to declare a "Moose Emergency," so that they can get permission to clear trees and cut paths to give the moose safe pathways to walk on.

Your Assignment: Imagine that you are part of the Alaska Moose Agency, and you are making posters to hang up all around town, asking for a Moose Emergency. The poster can’t have too many words on it, or it will be too hard to read. So, you must argue your case, and make people care about saving the moose… 50 words or less.

Tips to Make Your Writing Powerful:

o   Set the scene by appealing to your reader’s senses and imagination.

o   Include descriptive details to help to convince the reader that your cause is important.

o   Use strong verbs to get your reader to take action.


 Kids from all over the country, but particularly students from James Fallon Elementary School in Wayne, NJ and Mr. Keane’s 4th grade class in Prospect, Connecticut, leapt to the defense of the moose!

Here is all of your passionate writing. Way to go, readers!


Poor Little Moose :(             - Will, Ohio


Save the Moose: Please save the moose they are going to go endangered. Please help they don’t want to go in the railroads and streets but the floor is covered in snow you can’t blame them. They will go extinct please help them. They need lots of help please help.      - Arctic Penguin, New Jersey


Save the moose! Clear pathways for the moose. Drive slower and more carefully. Stop hunting moose. Save them from trains. Stop hunting the moose. Stop eating a lot of moose  smile  - Mr. Mystery


Save the moose from being endangered. Help convince the Alaskan Government to make safe paths for the moose to walk. Alaska is having a major snow storm and the only places moose’ can walk is plowed...

read more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 29, 2012

Over the summer I received a letter recently from Susan Hall, the Media Specialist at the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) School in Ohio. Ms. Hall wrote: As a 5-8th grade school, we are using your book GLOBAL WARMING in a summer Cyber e-reading program, paired with a fiction book titled FIRST LIGHT by Rebecca Stead, which also deals with global warming. Our very curious learners are enthusiastic about your book and have some questions for you!

Those very curious learners asked very good questions….and they have earned themselves a place as the #3 Seymour Science Story of 2012!



What a good idea to study this topic through both fictional and nonfiction texts! So, I’ve agreed to answer four questions from Ms. Hall’s summer students here on my blog. I hope that other readers will find this interesting, as well.

Why do so many people think global warming is a government conspiracy? (Andrew)

It is difficult to answer this question because no one really knows why people’s opinions are so diverse. The only thing that I can really answer is why I think that global warming is REAL and NOT a conspiracy. I think global warming is really happening because the overwhelming evidence of countless studies is that global warming does exist and that it is influenced by human activities. Just because a certain percentage of people believe that there is a government conspiracy is not evidence that there is one. For example, some people believe that humans and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time despite the fact that all the evidence points to the fact that dinosaurs became extinct tens of millions of years before humans appeared. 

How could we simulate the earth’s atmosphere to study and test the effects of global warming? (Daniel)

Setting up a computer simulation to track complex climate changes is very difficult. Yet the ones that have been done all seem to suggest that global warming is real and happening very quickly. 

What change in energy use would most dramatically slow down global warming? (Camryn)

Becoming more energy efficient is the single most important change we can help to bring about. The largest single source of greenhouse gases is electric power generation. The average home contributes more to global warming that an average car. That’s because much of the energy comes from power plants that burn fossil fuel to make electricity. So the less electricity we use, the more we are helping cut down on the use of fossil fuels. 

Is it possible to reverse global warming? (Miriam)

Many scientists think that it’s possible to slow it down rather than just reversing the process. Either way, it’s to all our advantage if we conserve energy to reduce our use of fossil fuels. 




Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 28, 2012

One of the top Science News stories of 2012 was the superstorm Hurricane Sandy. The New York and New Jersey areas are still trying to recover from the afteraffects of this storm surge, which destroyed homes, shut down the power grids, and will affect oceanside communities for years to come.

We chose this photograph our #4 Seymour Science Story of 2012 for its powerful illustration of the awesome power of this unprecedented storm.

I can hardly bring myself to call this the "Cool Photo of the Week." It is more like the ASTOUNDING photo of the week!

This shipwreck was long buried under the sand dunes on Fire Island - a barrier island off Long Island, New York. The force of Hurricane Sandy completely reconfigured the beaches of Fire Island, and exposed the bones of this wrecked schooner.

Park rangers think that it is the wreck of the Bessie White, which ran aground off Fire Island in either 1919 or 1922 - almost 100 years ago! The Bessie White was a four-mast Canadian schooner which went aground in heavy fog. The crew and the ship’s cat escaped in lifeboats, but they couldn’t save the ship or the tons of coal that it was carrying.

Seeing the sand rearranged to the point that this buried shipwreck is revealed really gives you an idea of how strong the winds and surf are during a hurricane. 

Caroline, from Indiana, captured the reaction of many of our readers when she wrote: "That is so cool, and who would think that a 100 year old thing would still be there?!"


Photo: Cheryl Hapke, USGS  

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December 27, 2012


Once again, today’s story started with a Writing Wednesday assignment.

We asked our readers to look at the photograph below and describe the owl’s hunt for prey. These writers appealed to the reader’s different senses (sound and sight), used strong action verbs to describe the owl’s quest, and won themselves a place as the #5 Seymour Science Story of 2012!

The first author is a regular Writing Wednesday contributor.

As the owl swoops around, blending into the sky, the owl is going fast without going wooossshhhh.  On the hunt for mice.                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Will in Ohio


Two students from Singapore also joined in on Writing Wednesday. For our North American readers who may not have studied Southeast Asia yet, Singapore is an island nation just to the north of Indonesia, and it is made up of 63 islands! Here is what they wrote:

The owl lifted off the branch with a powerful stroke of his spectacular wings. He let a hoot slip out and ring in the air. He listened to the silent night to hear the scurrying feet of his dinner. There it was, a nice plump mouse. He broke into a dive and opened his claws wide, as wide as they would go.  He felt the warm body of the mouse and forced his claws closed over the warm body. Then prepared himself for a feast.                        -Pollyanna

The Barn Owl glided through the air, flapping its wings in a perfect rhythm. Eyes narrowed down at the little mouse hurrying to get home. Swooping down the owl listened to the little feet of his dinner scurrying away. He folded his wings up tight, opened his sharp claws and dove in for the kill. After closing his sharp claws on the mouse the owl immediately lifted himself higher and higher into the sky and went back to his nest and put dinner on the table for the rest of the family.                    - Erin


And there was more. Our writers were clearly inspired by this photograph:

Barn owls look like they pay attention to where they are going because in the picture they were looking really straight. also, when the barn owls are hunting they look like a hawk because of how sharp they look. :0 - Olivia, New York 


The owl might be silent so it’s prey dosen’t know its coming. So it is really silent. When you see something that an owl might eat you might hear silence then swoop its gone. That is my opinon. - Sarah, Oklahoma 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 26, 2012



Our #6 story of 2012 is about the life of one of the giants among children’s nature writers, Jean Craighead George.



Yesterday was a very special day, because I went to the memorial service for the great writer Jean Craighead George. She died this year at age 92, and her daughter Twig told me that her mother had still been writing up until four days before her death. Isn’t that wonderful?

Jean grew up in a family of naturalists, in a house full of rescued wild animals. She once told an interviewer that when she started kindergarten she was shocked to discover that she was the only child who had a turkey vulture for a pet! She wrote in an essay for "Children’s Books and Their Creators": "I have discovered I cannot dream up characters as incredible as the ones I meet in the wilderness."

  Jean was an outdoorswoman her whole life, and many fellow authors and editors who spoke about knowing her yesterday described trips they made with Jean to visit the wolves in Yellowstone National Park, to the great aquarium in New Orleans, and to observe whales migrating in Alaska. Amy Kellman, a librarian from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a longtime friend of Jean’s, quoted a line from one of Jean Craighead George’s books in which she was describing a peregrine falcon named Oxie, who "did things her own way." Kellman said that she always thought Jean was describing herself when she wrote about the independent falcon.

Her son, Dr. Craig George, is a Senior Wildlife Biologist in Barrow, Alaska, working with bowhead whales. Craig told the gathering that just a few years ago his mother camped with them on unstable ice, at minus 20 degrees, during the bowhead census. "She was absolutely fearless," he said.


Jean Craighead George wrote more than 100 books. The most famous one was JULIE OF THE WOLVES. Have you ever read it? It is a wonderful story about a girl known as Miyax in her small Eskimo village; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When Miyax runs away from her village, she finds herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness. In danger of starving to death, Miyax survives by copying the ways of the wolves. She is soon accepted into their pack, and when she finally returns to her old life, she struggles to decide who she is - Miyax of the Eskimos—or Julie of the wolves? 

Here is a passage from the story:

Miyax stared hard at the regal black wolf, hoping to catch his eye. She must somehow tell him that she was starving and ask him for food. This could be done she knew, for her father, an Eskimo hunter, had done so.


Jean Craighead George was a great supporter of the Wolf Conservation Center near her home in Chappaqua, New York.

At the end of yesterday’s memorial service, stories, we all sang "This Land is Your Land"......and then Twig asked for a minute of silence.

As we sat quietly, the doors in the back of the auditorium opened and a trainer leading a white wolf entered the room. We all rose to our feet as this gorgeous creature, from the wolf sanctuary that Jean Craighead George loved, took the stage and looked at us all. It was magical.


I admired Jean as a writer and a person. She was, and still is, an inspiration to my own writing. She will always remain one of the towering figures in children’s literature, one of the inspirational models for the rest of us in her field.



Photo: Rocco Staino / School Library Journal

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 25, 2012

One of the really special things about being a children’s author is that you receive many letters and notes from readers who love your books. This year I received a note that was so sweet and wonderful, I decided to publish it here for others to read, and have named it #7 in the list of best stories of the year. Thank you, Lilly in third grade!

Hi. i’m Lilly. I am nine and in third grade. I love your non-fiction books especially BIG CATS. My favorite animal is a big cat, it is the cheetah. I am kind of obsessed with cheetahs. I would love if you could answer some questions I ask you…what’s your favorite animal, How many pets do you own, What city do live in. Could you please send me a few pictures of animals. Have you ever encountered a cheetah? You are so inspiring to me… you inspire me to do what i love. You say we should protect wildlife which i agree. I have an acrostic just for you…




You have a beautiful heart


On my mind every time I see an animal

U r awesome

Rescuing animals in words


Somebody to know



One of my favorite authors

Notice how wonderful you are at writing

Thank you again for your lovely letter and wonderful acrostic. I’m so touched and pleased at what you wrote, Lilly. Cheetahs are great big cats and they are fascinating. I’ve only seen cheetahs in zoos and I’m afraid that I don’t have pictures of the animal to send to you. I only use photos of wild animals that are taken in the wild (not in zoos) in my books, so I get the photos from scientists who study the animals in nature.

I’m not sure I have a single favorite wild animal, but I do enjoy reading and writing about them. The first book I wrote and that was published when I was an adult was a book about animal behavior and I’ve written dozens of books about all kinds of animals since then. 

I live near New York City, and although I don’t have pets any more, I do miss my dog Nova and my two cats, Mittens and Newty Fruity. In fact, I have started  to keep and breed fish again, because I realized that I have missed having pets!

Loved to read your poem.

Isn’t it amazing to read about Big Cats?

Lover of animals

Like me, a protector of nature

You made my day with your writing! 



Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 24, 2012

#8 on our list of the Top 10 Stories of 2012 is an amazing science news story. More than a year after the massive tsunami in Japan, debris from the huge waves started to show up on the West Coast of North America. This blog post was a Writing Wednesday exercise, and the story moved many readers to write about their own feelings.

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! Every week there is a new opportunity to publish your own creative writing on the Seymour Science blog. This week, we are asking you to read a science news story about a long-lost soccer ball, and then answer a question about that story.

The Facts:

  It is a good thing that Misaki Murakami’s name was on his soccer ball. He thought it was lost in last year’s tsunami in Japan, but it was returned to him after it washed up on an island in Alaska last weekend.

15-year-old Misaki Murakami was home when the tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, and he grabbed his pet dog and ran to safety on higher ground. His family lost everything, including their house, and have been living in temporary housing ever since. 

Misaki and his family members have been looking for their belongings, but the soccer ball is the first thing that has been found. His name and the name of his school were written on the ball with a Sharpie because this was not just any old soccer ball. It was a goodbye gift from his teacher and classmates when he had to change schools seven years ago. He has kept it next to his bed ever since.

Your Assignment: Once you have read and understood the story above, answer this question. Why was it so surprising that Misaki got his soccer ball back, and why was it important to him?  



One of our regular correspondents, Will B. in Ohio, wrote: It was surprising he got his soccer ball back because that is like trying to find a needle in a big pile of needles….like the size of Texas!  I saw the Tsunami in video.  I cannot imagine finding anything after that.   The ball was important to him because his friends gave it to him.  


Many kids from a school in Pennsylvania also wrote about this story, and why finding the ball was so important.

To Misaki Murakami, the soccer ball is a suprise present from his classmates and his teacher seven years ago when he had to go to a new school.That is why the soccer ball is so important to him.It was on a island in Alaska that is really far away.   — Joyce


It was suprising that he got his soccer ball back because water could have carried it anywhere! It was special because his friends gave it to him.      — Bradley


It was his favorite thing and he lost it. Someone found it in another continent. He was so happy that his soccer ball came back.      —Sean


I THINK IT IS AMAZING because it washed up very far away from him. I know how you feel because I lost something that was special to me too!! : )      — Bryn


It was suprising to him that he found his ball because it was like 100000000000000000000000000 miles away. That is a real cool fact. I would love to know who found the ball????      — Ryan



Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 23, 2012


Every December we finish the Seymour Science blog by counting down the Top 10 Stories of the Year. We choose stories that lots of readers commented on, stories that were very important in science news, or in this case, a blog post full of terrific kid writing.


#9 on our list was written by a group of first graders in Menands, NY. Working with their teacher, Ms. Sposito, this little class spent an afternoon uploading photos of themselves with my books and telling me what they liked about what they were reading. These are first graders…..brand new readers and writers doing all this good work. And their writing was fun to read, too!


Abbi and Sabrina wrote: We loved your KILLER WHALES book Seymour Simon. We liked the part about the blowhole.  The picture of the pod looks like a group of whales huddling together to have a meeting. How did you get the photo under the water?



Toby and Varun are fans of AMAZING BATS: We like how you added all the facts about the different kinds of bats. How do you know this much about the gigantic flying fox?


Leilah and Mady learned some surprising things from BABY ANIMALS: We loved your Baby Animals book. We were amazed when we read that a humpback whale is 12 feet long at birth.  We were also surprised to find out that baby garter snakes don’t live with their mothers. 



Alicia, Roshni and Brody wrote: We read your book AMAZING BATS. We loved it! There were some parts we really liked. We thought it was disgusting but cool when we read that the ghost bat eats rats. We wondered, does the little brown bat’s stomach hurt when it eats 600 bugs an hour? We think it is silly to sleep upside down!



LaTrell and E-Sonne wrote: We loved your book KILLER WHALES. Whales are cool because they swim really fast and are so huge! We learned that killer whales eat fish. 



Jayden, Lyam and Alyssa liked the same book: We think the Killer Whale book was amazing! We did not know that whales can breathe on top of the water. We think it is cool that whales use flippers to steer and turn. How did you make the book? 


Alexa and Reem wrote: Hi Seymour Simon. We are glad that you are coming this week because we love your Seymour Simon books! We love to read your BABY ANIMALS book. We liked learning about ducklings. We hope you make more books. See you on Thursday. 



Aditi, Shafe, Alexis and Kamellia like BABY ANIMALS, also. They asked: How do you know so much about baby animals? We are so amazed by your books! We want people to read your books. We found out that baby animals are surviving all over the world. They are living things. Have a nice trip coming all the way to Menands. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 22, 2012

Every December we finish the SeymourScience blog by counting down the Top 10 Stories of the Year. It was very difficult to choose the ten best stories of 2012, because there was so much wonderful writing contributed by my readers. You are all getting better and better at reading blog articles and making them even better by sharing your own writing - I am very proud of you!







Our number 10 most popular story of the year was about Yakini, a newborn gorilla.

It’s not just humans that find the doctor’s stethoscope is too cold when we go for our checkups. Look at Yakini’s face when the cold instrument touches her skin as she is being examined at the Melbourne Zoo, in Australia. I think we all know that feeling!

This post was so popular that we had comments from around the world.

Helena, from Spain, wrote: "WAW! He is the cutest gorilla i have ever seen!" 

Lauren from the UK, who read this story on the Science Fun to Go iPad app, wrote: "He is soooo cute I just want to cuddle him! Seymour Simon I love this app it’s amazing! I love u not literally but u know what I mean lol"

Several readers were worried, wanting to know if the baby gorilla was sick. No one needs to worry. Just like human babies, gorilla babies also get regular checkups from their doctors, who are called veterinarians. 

This story was part of the "Cool Photo of the Week" series, which appears most Tuesdays on my blog. If you would like to see many more "Cool Photos," click on this link to see three years’ worth! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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