March 28, 2012

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 contrast two different kinds of science news stories - a firsthand account, and a secondhand account.


The Facts: This week’s big science news story is about James Cameron, the film director who directed both "Titanic" and "Avatar." On Monday, Cameron used a specially designed submarine to dive alone to the deepest place on Earth. The place is known as the Challenger Deep, off the coast of the Pacific island of Guam, and it is almost impossible to imagine how deep it really is. The Challenger Deep is 120 times deeper than the Grand Canyon and more than a mile deeper than the tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, is tall.

Only two other people have ever made this dive. In 1960, Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh descended to the bottom in a bathyscape (a deep-sea diving craft) called the Trieste.

Read these descriptions of the two events. The first one is a firsthand account - which means that the story is being told by the person who was actually there. The second is a secondhand account - a story that is retold by someone who was not there, but has heard it from someone else.

Firsthand Account (James Cameron writing on Twitter): "Just arrived at the ocean’s deepest point. Hitting bottom never felt so good. Can’t wait to share what I’m seeing with you." 

Secondhand Account (U.S. Navy website):  "Only two people have ever been to the deepest part of the world ocean, and Dr. Don Walsh is one of them. In 1960 Walsh, along with Swiss inventor Jacques Piccard, piloted the U.S. Navy’s bathyscaph Trieste to a spot at the bottom of the Marianas Trench known as the Challenger Deep. Inside Trieste’s seven-foot diameter cabin and with more than 16,000 pounds per square inch pressure outside, Walsh relied on the knowledge and skills of the ocean engineers and marine technicians who built the craft and supported its operation."

Your Assignment: Tell us about the differences between the firsthand account and the secondhand account. Contrast and compare the two stories by telling us about the main focus of each. How is the information you got from each of them alike? How is it different?

When you are ready, click "comments" below and write about the differences and similarities between these two accounts.

Happy writing! 

Photo: Mark Thiessen / National Geographic

Educators: Today’s Writing Wednesday is designed to use in support of CCSS Anchor Standard RI.6: Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event of topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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