Label: Kids Write

October 11, 2011

I receive many interesting questions from students who press the "Ask Seymour Simon" button, but this one takes the cake!


George wrote this week to ask how to pronounce the word  "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis."  This is supposedly the longest word in the English language, meaning "black lung disease," an illness that some coal miners develop from inhaling dust.

I say "supposedly," because it is actually a made up word. Most doctors, when diagnosing Black Lung Disease, would simply call it Silicosis. The mother of all English words, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, was invented in 1935 by Everett M. Smith, president of the National Puzzlers’ League. The puzzlers made history by officially recognizing the "longest word," and it has eventually made its way into all the standard dictionaries.

So, getting back to George’s question, how do you pronounce it?


If that’s still a bit hard to get your tongue around, you can hear it pronounced by clicking on this link to the Talking Dictionary of English Pronunciation.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Kids Write   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 14, 2011

I was so pleased to receive a letter recently from Cam P, who just started second grade in New Jersey. Cam’s favorite book is one of mine - TORNADOES. So, he decided to write his own book on the subject, called TWISTERS. Nice job, Cam, and thank you for your letter!

What Cam did - writing a book inspired by one of his favorite authors - is something that writers often do. One of my favorite authors is named Rachel Carson, and when I read her book THE SEA AROUND US, I realized for the first time that I could be a writer.

So, Cam (and other students who love to read and write about nature) - keep writing! You, too, might turn out to be a published author one day.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, Kids Write, Earth Science Books, Tornadoes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 12, 2011

Just after school started, I received a question from a fifth grade study group asking me: "Is the moon just a big rock?" Of course, that is exactly what the moon is, but being a former teacher, I never give a simple answer like that. Instead, I asked them if they would please do some research and write back to me with interesting information that they learned about the moon.

Well, they did a great job! I received this email from Angela, Diana, Martin and Andres, who are a science study group in Mrs. Williamson’s Fifth Grade class at Wolf Canyon Elementary School, in California.

Dear Seymour Simon:

Our science group found two great, interesting facts about the moon.

1)    The moon is the fifth largest satellite in the solar system.

2)     It is thought to be formed some 4.5 million years ago.

Thank you for your great science books!

Good work by Mrs. Williamson’s science group! They did their homework and found some very interesting facts about the moon.


Soon, we are going to learn all sorts of new information about the moon. On Saturday, NASA launched a new moon research mission called GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory). We are not sending human beings this time - there won’t be any new footprints on the moon - but we are using advanced photography techniques to learn much more about how the moon was formed. And in particular, we are going to get a much clearer look at the "dark side of the moon," which faces away from our planet Earth.


GRAIL consists of two satellites, which will separate from the rocket that is carrying them into space and become lunar orbiters (satellites that orbit around the moon). They will photograph the surface of the moon as they pass over it, and scientists will be able to accurately measure various formations and moonscapes based on how far apart the satellites are. The project will study how the moon was formed, what its interior consists of, and why the side seen from Earth looks so different from the lighter-colored "far side." We know that the far side is covered with hardened rock from lava flows, but there is much more we can learn.

Most exciting to me is that for the first time, NASA has put a camera onboard that is strictly for classroom use. Called the MoonKAM, teachers can register their classes and middle-school students can request photography of lunar targets for classroom study. Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, is heaing up the project. Imagine, allowing students to take their own pictures, so that they can study the surface of the moon. I wish that opportunity had happened when I was a middle school science teacher!

 Photos: NASA


Families & Educators: Please feel free to write to me any time if you have questions, concerns or suggestions about Safe Internet Practices for children or our Privacy Policy. Our goal at is to increase Internet fluency, build research skills, and empower students with knowledge of the world around them, as well as a love of science. Many children will need your help as they try these things for the first time, and we thank you for your support.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space, Kids Write, space books, moon, Exploration   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 24, 2011

I received a letter this week from Hickory Hill Elementary School in Papillion, Nebraska.  The third graders are asking a very good question, and I thought other readers might be interested in this, too. 

Dear Mr. Simon,

My third graders just finished reading the book Giant Snakes in a guided reading group and they had a question regarding the book. On page 16 it states, "Anacondas are the largest snakes on the world" and then on page 19 it says, "The Reticulated Pythons of Southeast Asia are the longest snake in the world." They are curious as to which one really is the biggest snake?  


We really appreciate your books and love the pictures! Thanks in advance for your help with our question!

Hello, Third Graders! Good question. Anacondas are generally the largest (meaning heavier and wider, foot for foot) than pythons. But the Reticulated Pythons are the generally the longest (but not the biggest or largest) snakes in the world. So it all depends upon what you mean by big.

To give you an idea of just how long these snakes are, look at this photograph of kindergartner Faith Hackett holding the head of a Burmese python at Wildwood Park and Zoo in Marshfield, Wis., during a presentation on rescued exotic animals.

Thanks for writing, and happy reading!  


Photo: Dan Young / Marshfield News-Herald via AP   

READERS: Are you wondering how to add your own "comment" to this blog? Click here for exact directions on how to add a comment so you can become one of our Seymour Science writers! We also want you to be safe and not share too much information when you write on this blog, so please take a minute to read about how to stay safe on the Internet. We love to hear from you, so give "comments" a try! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Animal Books, Teachers and Librarians, Kids Write, snakes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 11, 2011

A student named Makayla M. wrote today and asked: 

"Do you think that macaroni penguins are weird or cool? What is your favorite animal in the world?


I think all penguins are cool, don’t you? Macaroni Penguins are so unusual, with those magnificent, bright-colored feathers on their heads. You can probably find my book PENGUINS in your school library, and you’ll find a page in there that tells you how the Macaroni penguin got its name. (Hint: It has nothing to do with pasta.)

I can’t tell you my favorite animal because then the other animals would attack me!


(Photo from PENGUINS, by Seymour Simon. CollinsSmithsonian Books, 2007) 


Note to students Using the "ASK SEYMOUR SIMON" button: Please take your time and be sure that you enter your email address correctly. If it is misspelled, I can’t reply to you, so you never get an answer to your question. Type your email in, and then check your work! Thanks.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Kids Write, Seymour Simon   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 5, 2011

        I received a letter today from a student who wants to enter our BABY ANIMALS contest and has some questions about how to use Comments. I have asked Liz Nealon, who works with me on the blog, to help you all with the answers. Happy writing!


- Seymour

Dear Seymour Simon:

I am not sure how to comment. I went to the blog, do you just scroll down and click ‘Comment’?



I am so glad to have a chance to help everybody learn how to comment, because we love to read your writing!

So, let’s get started. At the bottom of each story on the blog, there is a link called "Comment." Move your mouse down, click on that link, and you will get a page that looks like this.

Here is what to do:

1. Type your first name and last initial (no last name) in the first box.

2. No email in the second box - that’s for grownups, unless you are entering a contest. If it is a contest, type in your email so that we can write to you if you are the winner. Once the contest is over, we will no longer save your email.

3. The third box wants to know your location. Just put your state or your country, not the name of your town. We think it is fun for you to see that your fellow Seymour Science readers and writers are from all over the United States, Canada and beyond!

4. The fourth box, called URL, is for adults only. If you enter anything there, we will delete it.

5. Next, click in the big white box and type away - that is where you put your comment! Once you have written your comment, please take a minute and read it over, to be sure that you have said what you mean to. Remember that this is going to be read by a lot of people, so take a minute to check your spelling, and make sure that this is a piece of writing that you want to share with others.

Below the big white box there is just one more thing to do before you are finished.


Type the two squiggly words that you see next to where the arrow is pointing, underneath. That is how you prove that you are a real person, and not an annoying SPAM robot.

Click "Submit" and you are done!


Have you ever noticed that when you add a comment to the blog it doesn’t show up right away? That is because an adult checks every comment before it is posted, to be sure that you did not accidentally give too much information (like your whole name), and also to be sure that what you wrote is something you want the whole world to read (no bullying, making fun of other kids, or saying things that might embarrass you).

That is all there is to it. Readers like "Anonymous" might want to show this blog to their parents and get permission before they try Comments. Once you do, we hope that your parents and teachers will feel good about it, and that you will have fun being part of the kids who talk about cool science with us on the Seymour Science blog.

So go ahead, give it a try! Click on "COMMENTS" at the bottom of this post, and let me know that you’re an expert now!

Families & Educators: Please feel free to write to me any time if you have questions, concerns or suggestions about our privacy policy. Our goal is to increase Internet fluency, build research skills, and empower students with knowledge of the world around them, as well as a love of science. Many children will need your help as they try these things for the first time, and we thank you for your support.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(6) Comments  •   Labels: Contests, Teachers and Librarians, Kids Write, Kids comments   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 5, 2011

        I received a letter today from a student who wants to enter our BABY ANIMALS contest, and has some questions about how to do it. "Anonymous" is asking very good questions, so I thought I would share both the question and my answer here, for all kids to see.


"Dear Seymour Simon:

I am not sure how to comment. I want to blog, do you just scroll down and click ‘Comment’? It is hard for me to do a lot on websites with blogging because my parents don’t like me giving my email out.


Anonymous (I don’t know if I should give my name away on the Internet)"

First let’s talk about Internet safety for my readers, because most of you are under 13 years old. Your parents are right in warning you to be very careful about giving out your whole name or your email address on the Internet. In order to stay safe, you should use only your first name (or first name/last initial, for example, I would be "Seymour S.").

Sometimes, if you are on a website that you know and your parents trust, you may want to give your email address for a very specific reason. For example, if you want to ask me a question by using the ASK SEYMOUR SIMON button, you need to give your email address so that I can respond to you. Or, when you want to enter a contest like this one, you need to give us an email address so that we can reach you if you are the winner. It is ok if you give us your parents’ or your teacher’s email address for this purpose. And, we only use the email address for that one specific reason, and then we delete it from our records. Your parents or teachers can read more about this in our Privacy Policy. We respect your safety, and we take it very seriously.

One more thing. You should never give your full name, your telephone number or your home address to anyone whom you meet on the Internet. If anyone is asking, you should tell your family, your teacher, or another adult whom you trust. No one, neither a grownup nor another kid, should be asking you for that kind of information on the Internet.

Thanks, "Anonymous," for asking these very important questions - it gives me a chance to remind you all about what I call the Internet Rules of the Road, so that everyone can enjoy this website and be sure to stay safe.

Next blog post, I will talk about how to comment on the Seymour Science blog. It’s not hard, you don’t have to give your full name or your email address, and we love to hear from you!

- Seymour

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Contests, Kids Write, Internet Safety   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 4, 2011

I received a photograph this morning from a student name Ryan S. He wrote:


"This is not very science related, I just knew Seymour does photography and decided to upload something. I took this one while on vacation in Florida."


Ryan, thanks for writing and for sharing your excellent photograph. What a magnificent sky! There are three different types of clouds in your photograph. The long, straight thin ones that are closest to the horizon are called stratus clouds. The ones just above them, still long, thin and low in the sky, but a little bit puffy, are strato-cumulous clouds. And the big ones that look like cotton balls high in the sky are cumulus clouds.





I found a good chart, from Web Weather for Kids, that you can use to identify all the different clouds you see. Or you could always read my book WEATHER, which includes many of my own photos of clouds.




Thanks for uploading your photo. And you thought it didn’t have anything to do with science! 

I love it when students upload photos and videos that we can use on the blog. Do you know how to send me a photograph or a video? It’s easy. When you are on the homepage of the website, look at yellow bar at the very top of the page. Click on the little picture of a TV screen, to the right of where it says "Send us Photos/Video". That will take you to a page that reminds you how to stay safe when you upload photos or videos to the Internet, and then a very simple page that will help you upload your photo, or even record a video on your webcam! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Kids Write, Seymour Photographs, Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 30, 2011

I am so proud of all of you who wrote to me in response to Earth Day! Today, the last day of April, we posted almost 300 promises that you have made to Earth Day’s BILLION ACTS OF GREEN website. Seymour Science readers have really stepped up to make a difference! I feel sure that you will all work hard to continue caring for our planet Earth every day.

As promised, we are publishing everyone’s writing about why they care about Earth Day. This list is alphabetical, so find your name and show your writing to your families, your teachers, your librarians and your friends. You are part of an important cause, and each of you deserves to be very proud of what you’ve done. 




Dear Mr. Simon, My carbon footprint was very surprising to me. To know how large of a footprint I am leaving is mind blowing. My carbon foot is 19.9. I have a fairly large family. I have 5 people in my family. To reduce my carbon footprint I could turn off the T.V. when I am not watching it. Also, I could reduce the amount of time I use the T.V. Another thing I could do is buy a reusable water bottle. I could also eat less fast food.  Sincerely, Alana




Alana B.:           

  I am going to celebrate Earth month 2011 by doing many good things for the Earth. A few things that I will do is cleaning up the nearby creeks and roads. Also, I will make the people that surround me aware of the Earth and how much we need to help it.




I love trees and that’s why I don’t waste paper so I recycle and encourage others to care about are world like a mother would care for her newborn. We can all do this together so join me!




  Hey Seymour Simon!  Our class is recycling all of our paper to help the environment!!!!!!!! Our class is going green!!!!!






  I am going to help my neighbors recycle (pick up) stray trash on the streets and our community!  Earth Day is everyday! ALWAYS RECYCLE!





  Me and my mom grow our own food like fruits and vegetables. Maybe I could start a garden at my dad’s too and that is how I will help the earth.



Amelia P.:           

  Hey Seymour Simon! Our class (Ms.Wolf’s class.) is going green! We are recycling all of our old papers! Your butterfly garden is really cool!



Andrew H.:           

  Dear Seymour Simon, 
My name is Andrew and I am a student at Churchville Elementary. My carbon footprint was 16.25. I am not too proud about that so I’ve been trying to lessen that score by walking more to "baseball practice" or my friend’s house. I also am only washing my clothes when I need to. My new wash day is Friday instead of ever other day. I also bought an aluminum bottle for water. I thank you for this opportunity to write back to you. Sincerely, Andrew


  My Earth Day Pledge is that I will never ever litter,

and not use too much electricity. 




  Here’s my idea to save the earth: when you’re done with electric appliances, more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Global Warming, Kids Write, Conservation, Earth Day 2011, Environment   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 27, 2011

Part of celebrating the Earth this month is recognizing its awesome power. I have written many books about natural events like tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, and many other natural occurrences that we humans classify as "disasters" for ourselves. 

A reader named Emily A. wrote last week to ask what the record is for the longest earthquake. I responded by asking her to do some research and tell us what she found out (once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess).

Emily came back with the correct answer.

Location:                    Sumatra
Date:                          December 26, 2004
Size:                          9.1-9.3
How long it lasted:      10 minutes

  This is the longest (and third strongest) earthquake that was ever recorded on a seismograph.

It was an undersea earthquake that is also known as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Like the one that happened recently in Japan, it set off a series of devastating tsunamis up to 100 feet (30 meters) high all along the coast of the Indian Ocean, killing more than 225,000 people in eleven countries. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand were hardest hit. The Sumatra Earthquake happened along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where 81% of the world’s earthquakes occur. This famous photograph is of the tsunami striking Ao Nang, Thailand.

It is difficult to measure exactly how long an earthquake lasts, because the tremors start gradually and when the big shaking stops, the actual tremor is still dying down. But, scientists think this lasted anywhere from 8½ to 10 minutes, which is very long. As a comparison, the big Northridge Earthquake that occurred in California in 1994 lasted just 15 seconds.

The Sumatra Earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.
With a magnitude of between 9.1 and 9.3, it is the second largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. 

Here is an interesting photograph, to show just how much the earth shifted during this massive quake. Some islands (like the one pictured here) grew as they were lifted above the water line, while others tipped over and partially submerged as they dropped back into the water. This island doubled in size during the quake. The land surrounding the green area was all underwater before the earthquake happened.

If you are interested in learning more about this record-breaking earthquake, Cal Tech has a website with more information, animations and graphics to explain what happened when this massive earthquake tore the earth apart across a fault break that was longer than the entire state of California.


Tsunami Photograph: David Rydevik

Island Photograph: Kerry Sieh, TO


What are you doing this Earth Month to contribute to the global effort to pledge a Billion Acts of Green? Click on "Comments," at the bottom of any Earth Day story, and tell me how you are making a difference. We will continue to accept your ideas through Thursday, April 28. Then, on Friday 4/29, we will publish all your comments in one big article, to honor each writer’s promise to protect our planet, and inspire other readers to do the same.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Earthquakes, Kids Write, Earth Day 2011, Earth   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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