Label: 2013 Countdown

December 31, 2013

One of my happiest days of 2013 was the day a young red fox came to visit at my house. I shared the photographs with my readers, and you all answered back with some wonderful writing! I hope you enjoy the top story of 2013 as much as I did. 

I want to wish a very Happy New Year to all my readers. See you in 2014! 


Readers of the Seymour Science blog looked at my photographs and read what I wrote about the red fox who visited my house. What I particularly like is that you looked closely, observed, and wrote about fresh details in the photographs. You found your own words for describing what was happening in the scene, using imaginative words that engaged all of our senses. And some of you created wonderful new scenes and even let us in on what the fox was thinking. Nice job!



We had many entries from students in Mrs. Bosch’s fifth grade class at Cannondale House, with good use of dialogue* (imagining what the fox is thinking or saying) to describe the scene. 

Ben wrote:

The sleek, sly, soft orange fox stared into the cold autumn breeze waiting, hoping for a midday snack to come. The leaves howled and the grass shivered. The rocky surface beneath him stung like ice with a layer of frost. The sun glimmered as if in need of a coat.

Chris: What I imagine is that that the fox was just sitting in this refreshing autumn breeze and thinking about how nice this sunny day is. It was just chilling on those rocks thinking, "my friends really have to try this, they sure are missing out." What I saw was a cool red fox laying down on the little pebbles, with its big fluffy tail flapping in the wind. Its giant ears were probably picking up every little sound around him/her. The face was so pointy, it could probably be used as a butcher’s knife.

Pearson: The orange and red fox sits lazily on the rocky ground as the wind blows gently on its silky fur. He looks up to see birds fluttering their wings looking for a worm. The fox gently lays back down. He is sunbathing. "Ahhhhhhh," he thinks, "this is nice." After some time he gets back up and trots to another nice spot with some food.

Mrs. Froehlich’s Kent House fifth graders used some great adjectives and compound descriptors to describe the fox. Look for compound descriptors like "Autumn-colored fur".... ""sun-colored".... "newly-formed dew." 

Mikey: As I gaze out my window, I see a lonely fox licking his autumn-colored fur. He stretches his hind legs and slowly lowers himself to the ground. He stifles a yawn, and shuts his eyes as he starts to bask in the warm autumn sun. He lies there, and I continue to watch him. After a while, he opens eyes and stretches again. Then, he trots off back into the shadowed depths of his kingdom.

Kayla: I can see the sun-colored fox laying on rocks that have been heated up by the bright sun. The fox is sun bathing, but also pretending to be asleep for a possible mid afternoon snack. It is a bright and beautiful autumn day in late October and the fox is startled by the...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 30, 2013


My #2 blog post of 2013 is all about a new mystery series that I published this year, EINSTEIN ANDERSON: SCIENCE GEEK.



  Einstein Anderson and his friend Paloma Fuentes are two sixth graders who love science and using what they know to try to stump each other. They also work together to solve mysteries.

I invented the Einstein character years ago when I was teaching middle school science. I used to try to stump my class with science puzzlers, and whoever could figure out the answer got to be "Einstein for the Day."

  Eventually, I wrote about Einstein Anderson in a series of science mysteries that were published quite a few years ago. It made me so happy in 2013 to completely update the series, adding new characters and real projects and experiments to go along with the mysteries. As I look back on my year, I am so pleased to have introduced this character to a new group of kids!

And that’s why this blog post is one of my very favorites of the year. I asked students to read part of an Einstein Anderson story and then tell me about Einstein and Paloma. What are their main characteristics? Are they like you….or different than you? Readers really responded with more than 50 pieces of writing. The description below, written by Michael from Wilton, Connecticut was one that I really loved.

Einstein is a really nice boy who has light brown hair and wears glasses.  He really likes computers and bird watching. He does not have a lot of friends.  Einstein is a deep thinker and really smart. He has one close friend, a girl, who likes a lot of the same things that he likes. Her name is Paloma.

Paloma has long dark hair which she keeps in a pony tail.  Both Einstein and Paloma both like wearing blue jeans. They both like bird watching and computers. Paloma does not have any other friends. Einstein and Paloma both like sports but would rather spend quiet time bird watching.

Einstein and I share a lot in common. We are both athletic, but quiet at the same time. We like to use computers and have a close friend that shares a lot of the same interests. I don’t like bird watching but I do have special interests just like Einstein. We both worry about our friend and think about a lot of things that many people may not understand. That special friend in our lives makes us feel really good and makes us feel special.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 29, 2013


I chose the #3 story of 2013 because it was one of my favorite science news stories of the year, about a newly discovered planet far from our solar system that is different than any other we have ever seen.



Eighty light-years from Earth, astronomers have discovered a planet that is six times bigger than Jupiter, floating all alone without a sun to keep it warm. Scientists have seen free-floaters like this before, but we have never been sure whether they were planets or stars that had died. This time, we have enough information to be sure it is a planet similar to the "gas giants" in our solar system - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These planets are very low in density and consist mostly of hydrogen and helium gases. If you tried to land a spacecraft on Jupiter, for example, it would keep sinking down through the gas, until it would be crushed by Jupiter’s gravity.

The new planet is named PSO J318.5-22, and it is near a group of young stars called the Beta Pictoris moving group, which formed about 12 million years ago. One of the stars in that group is circled by its own gas-giant planet that’s about eight times bigger than Jupiter.

"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this," team leader Michael Liu said. "It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone. I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do."

I don’t think that PSO J318.5-22 is a very good name for a planet, do you? My readers agreed, and some of you wrote in with ideas like "Purple Giant," "Starless 12000000," and "Planet Mega Purple."


Image: An artist’s rendering of PSO J318.5-22 by V. Ch. Quetz / MPIA

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 28, 2013



Our #4 story of the year started with a picture of two owlets.



For a Writing Wednesday earlier this year, I asked readers to look at this photograph of two baby owls and write six adjectives——words to describe the animals in the picture. You can read all the student writing here; I’ve selected a few that used particularly strong description words.

Caroline from Massachusetts wrote:

Sweet, petite, downy, intelligent, quick-witted, welcoming

Jalen, also from Massachusetts, wrote:






Cute birds that you don’t want to harm 

Jonathan didn’t think they looked very happy:


Big eyed





Natalee, from Auburn IN, imagined a scene:

They are both very cute and they look like they just got done eating a pig or something they are sooooooo cute.

Christine used her adjectives in several sentences describing the owlets:

These two baby owls have pointy beaks and feathers, they both have big brown eyes, and there feather colors are gray and black, it seems like you can snuggle with them. One is taller than the other, they have really sharp claws and there vision is really good at night. The one on the left looks more scared than the one on the right. I think if you separated them they wouldn’t live on.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 27, 2013



The #5 most popular story of the year was a mystery.



I asked students to read the poem below by Bobbi Katz and figure out what she is writing about. What are sandpaper kisses? How does the person in the poem wake up every morning? Is it a pleasant wake up, or an annoying one?

Students had a lot of fun trying to solve the mystery! Can you tell what this poem is about?

Sandpaper kisses

On a cheek or a chin -

That is the way

For a day to begin!


Sandpaper kisses -

A cuddle, a purr

I have an alarm clock

That’s covered with fur.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 26, 2013



Our #6 most popular story of the year stemmed from a dramatic photograph of a tornado in the African desert.


It was Writing Wednesday, and I asked my readers to imagine they were in Namibia seeing this tornado, and to describe the sight. I suggested that they use lots of strong adjectives to help the scene come to life for their readers: What does it look like? Sound like? How would you feel if you were there in the desert?

Some wonderful student writing came from this Writing Wednesday exercise. You can read all the writing by clicking here, but here are some samples of powerful, dramatic student writing.

Kahria in Las Vegas, Nevada wrote: The black tornado traveled across the desert like a witch’s hat tumbling in the wind. My heart was thumping fast. What if it comes my way?

Many entries came from students in Massachusetts, including this one from Olivia:

I would feel like it’s a beautiful sight, but I’d be terrified!

I’d run away as fast as I could!

I hate being close to stuff that can kill me!

Sand would be everywhere!

I hate it when sand gets in my mouth! It’s a terrible taste!

I would not like being there!

Another Massachusetts student, Jalen, wrote this:

I see vast sky of darkness and orange all around in my sight.

My eardrum hurts more than being on an airplane with an engine with a screechy microphone.

I know once it touches the ground there will be no stopping its powerful force of destruction. I see dust and a black cloud in the tornado and all around It I feel myself slipping away from the ground.

Will began his writing by describing the sound of the tornado:

"Swwswwswsw!" I heard a faint swishing sound in the distance. The sun was blazing here in the Namib Desert in Nambia, but in the background of this beautiful landscape, a deadly tornado uproots trees. It is pure black with dark gray dust to the side. It has fast winds—enough force to lift a brick building. I felt that warm wind. It sent a shiver down my spine. Dust clouded in my eyes along with a dry taste stuck on my tongue. This was a true, deadly twister.

Derek took a different point of view, writing as someone who was seeing the tornado from far away:

The tornado is taking trees from the ground. It’s a light breeze from where I am. It sounds like a whisper. It looks like a black hook coming from the sky. I feel the warm relaxing air. I wish I could see feel and hear that again.

Kaya used many strong adjectives to make the scene come alive:

During the sunset, a large, black, and intimidating tornado towers over the African sand. The whirling wind whips around wildly. Sand flies everywhere and showers the desert. I am scared that the tornado is coming too close to me. The tornado is beautiful and deadly at the same time. I hear sand sprinkling everything and the wind slashing violently.

And finally Kristina created an entire story based on this one photograph:

I was terrified! There was a giant tornado spinning and spinning! People were screaming and running for life! Some people froze looking at the tornado. The tornado sounded like swoosh! Swoosh!

My family was far ahead of me! I was lost with other people, but  then I saw Joey. He stopped walking, he was crying. "I’m too weak."

"Joey," I said as I ran to him. "Come on my back, we have to keep running!"The spit in my face! The desert was getting tons of damage. Joey started crying. "We’ll be safe soon Joey, I promise."

Finally we entered a safe shelter. I found my Mom and Dad. They said "You were so brave!" Joey told them how I saved him! Joey went off my shoulders.  

"Where is Colin?" Mom asked. "I don’t know."  Soon I heard an announcement. "There’s a 11 year old boy named Colin looking for his family." Dad rushed to find Colin! He did. We were all safe!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 25, 2013


Our #7 story of the year is once again all about great student writing by students at Skano Elementary School in Clifton Park, NY. My readers really enjoyed reading what these students found out when they did research on coral reefs.


Elizabeth, 4th Grade, 9 years old, in Mr. Farquharson’s class wrote:


Porcupinefish, also known as blowfish can blow themselves up to protect themselves from predators.  Giant Moray Eels are about 6 feet long and they blend in with the coral reef to protect themselves from predators.  Finally, Goby fish are less than 10cm (2 inches) long and they hide in coral reefs when they see a predator.  The coral reef is home to a lot of sea creatures and serves as a hiding place to many of them.

Photo: Giant Moray Eel 


My name is Dylan M. and I am in Kindergarten in Mrs. Benkoski’s class at Skano Elementary. I want to enter this contest because I love learning about what is under the sea and all the fish and beautiful creatures living in the ocean. My three choices are: The Long-Spined Sea Urchin, which can be found in the Bahamas or the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea. 

My mom has seen them before in the Mediterranean Sea when she visited Italy. They are black and have long, spiky looking needles sticking out of them and are shaped liked a circle and are pretty cool looking.

They live in shallow water which means you could easily step on them accidentally and my mom says it hurts REALLY bad because she did once. And they eat algae.

Photo: Long-Spined Sea Urchin

My second choice is the Spotted Moray Eel. I would love to be able to see an Eel, they look so creepy with their beady eyes. They have dark brown or purple spots all over their bodies and grow about 3-4 feet in length. They eat Crustaceans and fish and are dangerous so don’t get bitten by their sharp teeth!

My third choice is a crab. The Ghost crab in particular blends with their environment because they match the color of the sand. They can travel fast at 10 miles per hour, which is super fast. They eat crabs, clams, insects, and vegetations. I thought it was cool that they eat other crabs.

I entered this contest because I enjoy learning about other eco systems.


Alyssa, in Mrs.O’Brien’s 2nd grade class,  came up with many more than three interesting reef animals:

  Coral reefs are full of amazing beauty! Some of the creatures living on the coral reef are banded coral shrimp, giant moray eel, longnose hawkfish, parrot fishes & a variety of clownfish including percula clownfish, tomato clownfish, maroon clownfish & pink skunk clownfish! I am a big fan of the ocean & all its living species! 

Photo: Lightning Maroon Clownfish


Bradley also did a lot of research:

Some animals that live in coral reefs are blowfish, angel sharks, bivalves and lemon sharks.


Blowfish are also called Putterfish, Globefish and Fugu. They are poisonous and it can swallow water to double its size.

Bivalves have soft bodies that are protected by two hard shells. The...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 24, 2013

For some reason, my readers really love stories about moose. One of my most popular blog posts EVER was called "Moose Emergency," and provoked an outpouring of writing from my readers! Once again this year, a story about rescuing a baby moose proved to be very popular and for that reason it is the #8 story of the year.

A Pennsylvania doctor on a Montana fishing trip caught something very surprising - a 25-pound baby moose!

Dr. Karen Sciascia and her guide were fishing in Montana’s Big Hole River when they spotted a moose trying to cross the rushing water. "We were watching this adult female struggling back and forth, and we didn’t see a baby until we got close," said Dr. Sciascia.

The current was so fast that even the large adult moose struggled, and when her calf entered the water it was swept downstream.

Sciascia and guide Seth McLean followed downriver, finally spotting the tiny moose’s nose just above the water. "We got up alongside it, and I scooped it up from the river under its front legs," Sciascia said. "It was [still] breathing, and I could feel its heart beating real fast."

McLean rowed the raft upstream and they dropped off the calf at the other side of the river. The mother had disappeared into the woods but returned to the river after hearing the crying of her young calf. "It was cool to be in the right place at the right time," Sciascia said.


Thanks to the Missoulian for the information in this story.

Photo: Four Rivers Fishing Company

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 23, 2013


This story came about because we asked students in a school that I was visiting to write three fascinating facts about sharks. The result was some terrific student writing.



Here is some of the very strong research and writing by the students of Lower Gwynedd Elementary School (and kids from other states, too) as part of the Three Fascinating Facts about Sharks contest. Some of the information that you all found was simply too good not to share!

Helen, a third grader in Mrs. Salvitti’s class, wrote:

1. Some sharks remain on the move for their whole lives. This forces water over their gills, delivering oxygen to the blood stream. If the shark stops moving then it will suffocate and die.

2. A pup (baby shark) is born ready to take care of itself. The mother shark leaves the pup to fend for itself and the pup usually makes a fast get away before the mother tries to eat it.

3. Not all species of shark give birth to live pups. Some species lay the egg case on the ocean floor and the pup hatches later on its own.

Photo: Gills of a nurse shark 

And how about these interesting facts from Shelby:

1. Sometimes they will take a bite out of their prey or just sink their teeth in to get a taste before they start really feeding.

2. A shark attack on a human usually occurs in less than 6 feet 6 inches of calm water, and within a relatively short distance from shore.

  3.The Megamouth shark is one of the rarest of the shark species. It was discovered in 1976. 

Photo: Megamouth Shark 

We loved all these great comparisons from Zac:

1. Every shark has tiny sensors at the tip of its snout to help it find food like a metal detector finding treasure.

2. Sharks have teeth all over their body. Their skin has really tiny spikes, like a prickle bush.

3. A shark’s teeth are in rows like a roller coaster ride. If a shark looses one of its teeth, one will grow back right away and move forward to take the place of the old one. Just like when a person gets off a roller coaster, a new person will take their place for the next ride.       

Andrew, from 3G0, managed to come up with three unique facts that no one else submitted:

1. Nurse sharks are nocturnal predators.


2. Dogfish are a type of shark.

3. Horn sharks are oviparous.

Photo: Horn Shark


And finally this from fifth grader Cassidy S. This is practically an essay - your information is fascinating, indeed!

1. In New Zealand, there is a shark that barks like a dog. It is called the Swell Shark. It is a catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. It is found in the subtropical eastern Pacific Ocean.

2. Most sharks give birth to their babies. Only a few sharks lay eggs. Most sharks have six to twelve babies at a time, but a Tiger Shark and Hammerhead can have as many as 40 babies at a time.

3.  The Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the world. It has more than 4,000 teeth, but each is less than 1/8 inch long.  A shark may go through 1,000 sets of teeth during its lifetime.  When a shark loses a tooth, one...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 22, 2013

Once again, we will finish off December by counting down your favorite stories of the 2013. It was very difficult to choose the Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013 because there was so much wonderful writing contributed by my readers. We love seeing your writing, and we are going to celebrate it here in the top stories of the year.


Readers loved this photograph of the piglet squid, which I described as a "roly poly, rubber-nosed Cephalopod."

Brittany L. from Indiana had a wonderful description of her own, writing: "The Piglet Squid looks like a white balloon painted with polka-dots, with gooey tentacles for hair and smiling eyes."

And Jithmi from North Carolina echoed the comments of many other readers when he wrote: "This is awesome. I’ve never seen a creature like this before." 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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