Chase is a 14 year old homeschooled teen living on Live and Learn Chase is a 15 year old homeschooled teen living on Live and Learn Farm. He writes about his interests, hobbies, and homeschool. He is in the 9th grade and is taking: Algebra II (VideoText Algebra), Biology (VHSG/Apologia), Exercises in English and Vocabulary in Action (Loyola Press), All About Spelling, TRISM's History Masterminds, IEW, One Year Adventure Novel.

About Chase

Chase is a 15 year old homeschooled teen living on Live and Learn Farm. He writes about his interests, hobbies, and homeschool. He is in the 9th grade and is taking: Algebra II (VideoText Algebra), Biology (VHSG/Apologia), Exercises in English and Vocabulary in Action (Loyola Press), All About Spelling, TRISM's History Masterminds, IEW, One Year Adventure Novel.

Backyard Activities for Kids

Have you ever wanted to spend time outside, but didn't know what to do? Or maybe you wanted to do an activity outdoors, but didn't know how to do it. Or maybe you were simply bored with your normal activities. I know, I've been there on more than one occasion.  So to help all of us come up with some creative ideas, I've decided to start a new series, Backyard Activities for Kids. I'll share activities you can do in your backyard or neighborhood that are affordable, educational, and will be fun for all ages!

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Before I get into the series, I thought I should give you a bit of the back-story on why I decided to start writing this series. For my entire life, I've lived on a forty acre farm in southwest Tennessee. It's been home to me for almost sixteen years now, but it's quite possible we'll be moving soon. As our needs and desires change, we have to change our way of thinking and living as well. So, a large house on a farm isn't quite what we're aiming for anymore. But during the last decade and a half I've done a lot of things on this farm, and I want to share them with other people so they can enjoy them too. And most of these things aren't exclusive to homesteads, you can do most of this just as easily in a neighborhood or large city.

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With forty acres we have a variety of landscapes and types of areas that we can (and do) use for our outdoor activities. Those include a pond that covers about an acre, a horse / cow pasture that is fenced in, thick woods with lots of hardwood trees, open fields, a garden area, a small stream and our front and back yards.  Here are a few pictures I've taken of these areas over the years.

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I'll be covering a lot of summer activities, but I'm also going to make sure to add plenty of educational things to do too. For most of us, the weather outside is getting warmer and warmer, and here it's great outside. So why not combine the two, learning and outdoor time? I attended a Montessori school before homeschooling and we had a formal outdoor classroom there. We haven't actually set one up at home, but we have always used our 40 acres as a classroom. A place to explore and enjoy. I'll be covering things we have done or plan to do this year. Topics will cover astronomy, biology, botany, practical life skills, you name it! Basically anything that you could do outside. And I'll even sneak in some math and language, because it can be done outside too!

In today's world, people are busier than ever with not much time left to enjoy the outdoors. So we have to be more focused on making the effort to slow down and get outside with our families. Outdoor activities seem to bring back some quiet and peaceful balance to our busy lives. Not to mention they are fun and create memories that will last a lifetime. You may actually find out you enjoy spending time outside more than you realized!

In one of my first posts I will discuss some of the outdoor daytime activities we normally do when we are camping. As an avid camper, I can tell you there are a ton of things you could do. From hiking to scavenger hunts, the possibilities are almost limitless. Add in some creative ways to document the camping trip and you have a homeschool unit study happening.

I hope you will follow along to see what backyard activities I will be sharing!

The Egg and the Packaging Test – Will it Survive?

Everyone has ordered something online at one point or another.  When you first decided to go online to buy something, you most likely thought about things like from where you plan on buying it, how much you’re willing to pay for it, etc.  But in reality, those tasks are minute challenges compared to what goes on behind the scenes.  A ton of work, research, and testing goes into packaging that item up, and getting to your household safely within a few days.  Last year, I got to see how all these things are done at a summer boxing and packaging program at Christian Brothers University.

the Egg and the Packaging Test

Packaging may sound like an odd career to some people, but here in Memphis, Tennessee, it’s a large and active industry. Memphis is a distribution hub for many of the neighboring areas, meaning things are constantly being shipped to and from the city.  When things are shipped, packaging is almost always involved somehow or another.  That’s part of the reason why CBU has its packaging program.  Nearby companies, FedEx for example, are constantly looking for more people who know how to test packages, run the machinery to construct the packages, and many other tasks like these.

Christian Brothers University began its packaging program in early 2001, and it’s been growing ever since.  Once the program was up and running for a while, CBU began hosting various summer programs for high school students.  The Packaging Summer Program was just one of these summer activities, but it was the first one I had attended at CBU.  And even so, I had a bit of an idea about what to expect.  A few months back, the staff in the Engineering and Packaging departments sneaked me in for a little tour of the labs in their building.  At that time I got to see all the labs, just not how they worked.  This time I got to see it all, and even use some of the machinery myself.

One of the first activities I got to do, aside from another tour, was run a few tests on the strength of a sample of cardboard.  Most of these tests had to do with the amount of force it took to bend and puncture the piece of cardboard.  After the tests, I jotted down the results so they could later be used in calculating the strength, and maximum carry weight, of a certain cardboard box. Next, I got to see how boxes were cut out.  In this case, they were using a simple, paper fold-up box.  After programming the design into the computer, it sent that data over to the actual cutting machine.  Here, you had to set the boundaries of the material that was being cut (so it wouldn’t cut off the material), give the machine a base reference point, which was also along the border of the material, and then press start.  The machine would cut out the design you gave it in the computer, and there you have it!  After punching out the design, it was easily folded into the right shape and size.

From there I went on to the packing station.  There I was given an egg, and had to find a way to safely pack it into the little five-by-three cardboard box, using as much packing material as possible in the right way.  The point of this was in the hope that my egg would be able to survive all the rigorous tests it would be put through later that day.

After everyone else finished their mini-boxes, we were divided into three groups of five.  My group was group #1.  This is where the test we performed earlier came in handy.  Based on the boxes’ dimensions, and on the measurements taken earlier, we were able to figure out just how many pounds this box could hold in a perfect environment.  The reason why I say “in a perfect environment”, is because some small factors, such as humidity and temperature, will also affect how much weight the box can hold.  These are constantly changing, so we couldn’t account for them.  Team one had almost finished calculating our boxes maximum strength, when we had to stop short for a lunch break.

At lunch, several guests from various packaging companies around Memphis came and spoke about their packaging careers.  They talked about how they came to enjoy their jobs, what they did, and what types of packaging they worked with.  I believe there were three main categories that they all worked in.  Boxing, bottling, and plastic packaging.  Boxing, of course, was about the logistics of packaging items inside of cardboard boxes, like FedEx.  Bottling was all about plastic and glass bottles, what’s the most efficient way to make them, and why they’re sued so often.  The latter was all about plastic packaging, like wrappers or Ziploc bags.  Believe it or not, all of these things fell under the broad category of packaging.  It’s not just about boxing up items and shipping them to your front door.

After lunch, we moved onto the final and possibly most enjoyable part of the day; the tests.  Since team one had already finished calculating the box’s strength, we had a little extra time to prepare for the brutal and violent testing stage.  Our goal was to fit all of the eggs that we had packaged up earlier into this one box, pack it with enough of the right material to absorb most of the shock, and still be able to close the box.  We managed  to fit all the eggs in, but we went a little overkill on the packing paper, and could barely shut the top of the box.  All this was in the hopes that our tiny eggs would be able to survive all the tests, which were to come soon.

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We then moved down the hall, into the first testing area.  The first test was rather simple, the drop test.   In this test, the box was dropped from a miniature forklift on various sides and corners.  I’m pretty sure almost everyone’s eggs survived this test, but we might have lost a few here.  The next test was the vibration test.  In this test, the boxes were set on a vibrating platform, and shaken at various frequencies. This was to simulate the vibration from either a truck, plane, or boat.

Next, the boxes were put between two large metal plates, and slowly crushed vertically.  No, it didn’t completely crush the thing flat, but it sure did leave a dent in it.  All this time it was telling us how much pressure the box was under.  This is where the earlier calculations came in.  If these numbers matched our earlier results, it means we passed with flying colors.  If not, it means that team most likely made a mistake.  As it turns out, there was a twenty pound difference from the number the machine gave us, the one we calculated.  For the record, that was pretty good.  No, our calculations didn’t come out perfect (most likely due to the environmental differences mentioned earlier), but twenty pounds is an acceptable margin for error.

The final, and quite possibly the most destructive test, was the smash test.  In this test, the box was placed on a tract, with a large wooden slab behind it.  The tract was slowly lifted on one end, eventually causing the cart the box was sitting on to go rolling down the tracks, and hit a wooden barrier.  At the same time, the slab behind the box would slam into the back of the box, most likely crushing any eggs inside.  Each team went through this process, and then did a few tests just for the fun of it.  Finally, after going through all these tests, we went back to the front of the building, and opened the boxes.

As it turns out, not all of our teams egg’s survived, but my egg made it through all the tests unscathed.  One of the three teams actually had all of their eggs survive. Our team definitely didn’t win, but I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed it.

Here are some pictures of the event!  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.704396969610044.1073741862.135651976484549&type=1

A: Alphabet Posts and Animals

Do you ever get that feeling when you’re about to begin writing, and you don’t know where to start? In some cases, you could sit there for hours, waiting for something to come to mind?  I know I’ve done that once or twice. But wouldn’t it be great if you could limit it down to a certain number of possibilities? It would certainly make the choice much easier. That’s one of the many reasons I’ve decided to begin writing through the alphabet.

Alphabet Blogging

What do I mean by “writing through the alphabet”? Well, think of it like this. For the next twenty-six weeks, I will write one post a week.  As you can see in the title, today I started on A. Next week I’ll do B, the week after that C, etc. Not only does it help organize your posts, it also helps keep people on a schedule. You also know what you’re going to be writing about next week, so you can go ahead and begin working on it.

So what have I decided to write about for my “A” post? Well, a few things came to mind as I thought about it, but I finally chose to write about animals. Recently, we’ve been doing a lot revolving around animals. From raising chickens, to finding turtles, we’ve done it all.  Most recently, we let some of our newest chickens out into the pen.

A few months back, we bought a lot of chicks.  A good twenty-five or so. You may think this is a lot, but in reality it’s the average batch size, out in the country you can fit a lot of chickens in one pen, and still have a ton of room left over. But we didn’t just go and buy chickens for the heck of it, or for the eggs and meat. We had bought another batch of chickens previously.  They were very fluffy, cute, and tiny, but they had a few other problems. We had to be so careful not to incubate or let those eggs get hatched because if they bred, it would create genetic problems, such as feather loss.  Not to mention they were just so small. And to top it off, half the batch was roosters, so they fought a lot.  It looked to me like this wasn’t their natural environment, maybe they came from farther north.  Whatever the case, we eventually had to get rid of them. These were their replacement and we learned a valuable lesson.

When I first saw these chickens, I knew they were the type I prefer. Not the small, fuzzy, antisocial chickens. These are large, friendly chickens that are almost completely tame. They’ve spent most of their early life away from the rest of the chickens, but now that they’ve grown into larger, more capable birds so we’ve decided to let them out with the other chickens. When I say “Other chickens”, I’m not referring to the ones we got rid of.  We still have a few that we’ve had for years, ones that are beginning to grow old for chickens.  Those, are the ones I’m talking about.

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It took as about thirty minutes to move all the chickens out. We would grab a chicken, go to the coop, and show them around inside.  This is so they know how to come in at night. Then I would hand off the chicken to one of my brothers, who would then bring it into the pen. We repeated this with every chicken, then we showed them the water and food. After that, they began testing out their wings. Since we had them kept in a small brooder, this was the first time they had actually gotten the chance to fly. Now, you may be thinking that chickens can’t fly.  That’s only partially true.  They can fly, but only for short distances, such as across the pen (or out of the pen, if they choose to).  And that’s what they would do, fly from one end of the pen to the other.  It was pretty funny to watch, one would fly from one end, and another from the other end, and they would almost collide!

Aside from chickens, we’ve recently found huge turtles in our pool, a snake in the carport, and more.  Sometimes, having all these animals around can get pretty annoying (like the snake, for example), but in general I don’t mind them. Of course, chickens are one of my favorite animals, and a whole lot more fun to play with than the snake was. Right down the street there is a large marsh, so as you could imagine, we get a few snakes.

But like I said, chickens are definitely one of my favorite animals. It’s the one animal we have in the most abundance. Unlike a few other chickens, these are friendly and healthy. They’re great layers, and worst-case scenario, they are good meat birds.  But I don’t plan on eating these chickens, I enjoy them too much!

My First Flight

Flying. Some of us have done it on big planes, others on small planes. Then some of us haven’t flown at all. That was me, until a few weeks ago, when I got to go on my first flight. At first, I was worried I would be nervous, or get sick on the flight (I used to suffer from motion sickness), but once I got up in the air, I had a blast!

My first flight

 

Before I continue, I would like to say that this flight was only made possible via the Civil Air Patrol, and the senior staff of the TN-194 unit. A few months back, my brother and I joined CAP, and since then we’ve written a few other posts about the experiences we’ve enjoyed since then. This flight was possibly one of my favorite experiences so far. If you want to learn more, check out www.capmembers.com.  For information on joining, go to www.gocivilairpatrol.com.

When we first stepped foot onto the flight line, I knew I would enjoy this flight. I had always imagined I would like to fly, but had never had the chance nor the occasion to. Actually, we had to search for a bit to find the plane, at the back half of the airport. When we got there, our pilot, who goes by Andy, was finishing up the pre-flight check. While he was finishing that, I took the liberty of checking out the outside of the plane. At first glance, the plane looked quite heavy, but in reality it was very light. Even leaning on it could have sent it rolling down a hill.

my first flight 2

We boarded the plane right as he was finishing the pre-flight. As he powered up the various systems in the cockpit, he explained to me what each one did (I got to sit upfront first). Finally, he powered up the engine, and the propeller roared to life. Soon we were moving down the runway, about to takeoff. Contrary to what you may believe, while the plane is on the ground, it isn’t controlled via a steering wheel. In reality, there are pedals in the bottom of the cockpit, one to go left, and one to go right. For brakes, simply push down on the upper part of the pedals. At the end of the runway, there was one final check. This is when you check the windows, make sure all instruments have power, and run over a few safety measures, such as the fire extinguisher’s location.

Then, we were off. I watched out the window as we picked up more and more speed, until suddenly, I felt a lurch, and the ground began to sink away. Like everyone says, the takeoffs are always the most uncomfortable, but once we were up in the sky it felt similar to driving down the road.  Soon after, I took out my camera and began getting good pictures. About fifteen minutes went by, and I was still snapping away at my camera, when Andy said something I couldn’t quite understand. When you’re inside a small plane, you have to use a headset to communicate with the other people in the plane. Somehow, I managed to get the one headset that wasn’t working correctly. I could hear to some degree, but I couldn’t talk back to anyone. So throughout the flight, I had to yell to be heard over the engine. Once again, he asked, but this time I understood him. My heart skipped a beat at what I heard!

He repeated, “Do you wanna fly?” To be honest, I hadn’t planned on flying at all throughout this flight. I expected there to be too many legal issues. So needless to say, I was quite surprised. When I first put my hands on the controls, I kinda did a stiff-arm thing, and kept the plane as level as possible without turning.  But shortly after that, I got over my nervousness and began to execute turns, altitude changes, and other maneuvers. Now keep in mind, this was my first time flying. Period. I had no idea of the turn capabilities of this plane, much less any other plane. So I did really small, and rapid turns, in short increments. I did the same when ascending, and descending. I flew for a good thirty minutes, before my brother in the back of the plane spoke out.

my first flight 3

Apparently my brief, shaky turns were making him sick, so we had to return to the airport. Luckily, he did not have any stomach problems during landing. Once we were back on the ground, I asked him what happened. He said that he had begun feeling numb, sweaty, and his vision was graying around the edges (obvious signs of passing out). And thus, my flight experience was cut short. But even so, Gage was willing to go back up if I wasn’t the pilot.  So this time, I was the one in the back, and he was upfront. It is weird being in the backseat, much different from that of a car. It is more disorienting than being upfront. But even then, he still was motion sick. So we had to go back once again, and this time he didn’t feel like going back up. my first flight 4

So it was just me and Andy, and we had a great time. Right before we took off again, he told me we were going to do a few advanced moves. By that, he meant pulling a few Gs, and even going to try “0 Gs”. The first maneuver was a rapid form of takeoff, usually performed on all-grass runways, where you have a much smaller runway. Basically, you takeoff at a much steeper angle, and a higher speed. I could actually feel the G force increase as Andy did this, and I was pushed back into my seat.  And I loved the feeling, it’s weird and fun at the same time. But after we were in the air, we did even more maneuvers like the previous one.

My personal favorite was hard banks to the right and left. The G force is clearly felt, and it becomes somewhat difficult to move your limbs. On the other hand, my least favorite part was the “0 Gs” flight. Now to understand what 0 Gs is, one must first know about Gs. In our everyday lives, we live at 1 G, which is the gravitational force of Earth. As you’re reading this, 1 G is being exerted on your body. However, at the edge of our solar system, there is very little gravity. (What little gravity comes from the sun, and other passing celestial bodies), meaning you would be at near 0 Gs. So 0 Gs is, in fact, what it would feel like if there was no gravity on Earth. This is achieved by briefly cutting off, or nearly off, the engine and letting the plane cruise on it’s own. This is a little terrifying at first, since it feels like your falling. Just as your brain begins to register this, the pilot will turn the engine back on, and you’re back to normal flying. Although you might feel a little lightheaded afterwards.

For the last part of my flight, I got to see how fast a plane can really go. By car, a trip from the airport to one of the nearest cities could take up to thirty minutes by car, and yet it took half that time by plane. Now I understand why everyone travels by plane! After the flight, I later learned that the maneuvers the pilot had done were all the ones I needed. We managed to fit all of them into a two hour flight, when in reality these are usually performed over five hours. Now I can’t wait for the next one. I am “hooked” on the flight experience.  Luckily, in a few weeks, I’ll be going on a C17 cargo plane. I can’t wait, and I plan on writing a post on that flight too!

Discovery Park of America Review

Have you ever been to a museum, theater, or a science fair? I imagine everyone’s been to at least one of those. What do you get when you mix all of those together? Well, you get the Discovery Park of America! Last Friday, my family and I took a day off to visit this $80 million dollar facility located in Union City, Tennessee, very near the Kentucky border. That’s quite a drive from our home in La Grange, Tennessee, over two hours actually. But once we got there, the long drive was worth it!

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When we got there, we were actually an hour ahead of our schedule, meaning we had a bit of free time before the first event began. So first, we explored the main building of the park. Honestly, I don’t know what I expected it to look like, but it couldn’t have been as cool as it looked in real life! When we first entered the huge building, the first thing I noticed was the enormous shark mouth right in front of the door. I recognized the sharp, finger-long teeth to be those of a Megalodon instantly. We actually found one on our North Carolina vacation a couple of years ago and I’ve been fascinated with them since then! Although I have seen several of these huge sharks’ mouths over the years, it never ceases to amaze me how big they get!

dpoa slideThe most popular attraction of the entire park was right behind the Megalodon teeth… it was a forty-eight foot metal statue, spanning the two uppermost floors of the Discovery Center. From atop the statue, you can see the lobby of the Center below, but that’s not all. Inside the statue’s head is a slide, that leads down the legs onto the second floor below! I have to tell you, being 14 years old, I don’t spend a ton of time on slides anymore, but this one was one really cool slide! My brother, Gage, took a video going down the slide. It was so much fun, I went down a second time and would have gone down again if we had enough time!!

 

 

helicopterOnce inside, I spent my hour in various places around the building. I began my tour at the aquarium section, a small but immensely diverse part of the park. It was also, quite possibly, one of the most popular parts of the park. There were fish, turtles, snakes, you name it. Across the room was the earthquake simulator, the native american exhibit, and the civil war artifacts. One of our favorite displays was the WWII exhibit. From tanks, to heli’s, to uniforms, to mines, they had it all. We loved seeing the WWII exhibit but the best part was the helicopter (as you can tell from brother Gage’s smile in the picture). There, in the middle of the room, they had erected an actual helicopter.  You could access the cargo hold, the cockpit, and other parts of the vehicle as well. We are in Civil Air Patrol and we all have a growing obsession with all things military and especially flight equipment!

After we had finished touring the WWII area, it was almost one o’clock, which was when the first event began. This event, which just happened to be the earthquake simulator mentioned earlier, was right next to the aquarium. Inside, was a widescreen TV, like a theater. But instead of chairs to sit in, there were rails. I continued to wonder how it worked right up until the movie began. Then, the floor began to vibrate and move around under my feet, as a clip of an earthquake began to play. Throughout the movie, I continued to feel the frequent rumbling, and the occasional spray of water as a wave crashed against the shore. That simulator was something else! I loved how the simulator made you feel like you were in the middle of the action, like you were the one experiencing the earthquake shown in the movie.

After we finished the earthquake simulator, we still had a bit of time to explore the rest of the park. Believe it or not, throughout the whole first part of our trip, I still hadn’t even visited the first floor! So now I took the time to enjoy all the exhibits on the first floor, a lot of which had something to do with natural history. I thoroughly enjoyed the rock and mineral exhibits! I’ve always had a fascination with geology, to the extent of filling up my bedroom with rocks and gems. As much as I would’ve wanted to have a few of these rocks on display in my room, I’m not sure they would fit!  There were huge pieces of amethyst in one of the exhibits that were almost seven feet tall! There were numerous other exhibits on the ground floor as well, such as a library, an automobile exhibit, prehistoric creatures, and more. I had just finished visiting all of these when it came time to go to the next event, The Interactive Starship Theater.

The theater itself looked like just that, a theater with an enlarged screen. But once you get a closer look, you’ll notice that there are controls on the arms of the chairs. These controls are how the players interact with the simulator. Throughout the simulation, there are five separate tasks that have to be completed by either the Engineers, Scientists, or Passengers. Of the thirty people in the simulator, eight people were chosen to be pilots. Against all odds, somehow all of us (well my two brothers and I) got a chance to be pilots. Several of the tasks included studying the sun, repairing a probe, and exploring the rest of the galaxy. We spent almost an hour in the simulator, performing the various tasks required to complete the mission. Eventually, the mission was completed and we finished exploring the galaxy. After we finished the simulator, it was almost three o’clock.

Glass ElevatorThat meant it was time for our final and possibly my favorite event, going to the top of The Tower.

The Tower juts twelve stories out of the roof above the central building, which is also known as the Discovery Center. We took the glass-walled elevator all the way to the top. I had an amazing view up there. I could see the whole park, a highway in the process of being made, and the  landscape far beyond that.  Almost just as impressive was the glass floor. It gives you a weird  feeling, when there’s only three inches of glass separating you from safety and a long fall to the ground. But I really enjoyed it, going up there and getting to see so much of the land.  I almost couldn’t leave when it was that time.

Glass Floor

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Discovery Park of America, it was an experience I won’t soon forget. I highly recommend you plan a trip to the Discovery Park of America! But try to make it a weekend visit! There was so much more to see and do that we didn’t have time to experience… Things like:

  • a tree maze
  • a grist mill
  • a train depot
  • a restored century-old chapel
  • and even more!

Oh well, that gives me something to look forward to when we visit next time!

Discovery Park of America

Skydiving

I am taking part in a homeschooling creative writing linkup for tweens and teens.  This post is for the 11th linkup and will be using the He had two thoughts before jumping out of the plane” writing prompt.  

He had two thoughts before jumping out of the plane. “This is crazy” and “I should stop thinking”.  Last week, John had finally made the decision to go skydiving.  Now, he’s having second thoughts.  “Relax,” the pilot told him “You’re over thinking it. Just step out.” That was the last thing he heard before he willed his legs to move, and jumped.

slydiving

The next thing he knew, he heard a deafening roar in his ears, and he saw a row of clouds rushing towards him. Instinctively, John closed his eyes and waited for himself to be creamed.  But it never came.  He opened his eyes once again, but the clouds were gone. Below him, lay one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen. As John looked out over the vast mountains, valleys, canyons, and lakes before him, time seemed to slow down. He took in every detail of the landscape below him. Then, as he began to recall procedure, time began to flow normally again. He reached for his parachute rip-cord, but couldn’t find it. He looked over his shoulder, but when he did he was paralyzed with fear. The rip-cord was gone.

The pilot set the plane controls to autopilot, and stepped into the back of the plane. “I need to close the hatch,” he told himself  “Then I’ll radio in to ground control.” But he changed his mind on his way back. He rushed back to the cockpit as fast as his ever tiring legs could carry him. When he reached the cockpit, he nearly fell out of his chair as he reached for the radio controls.  “Ground control” he gasped, “We have a problem!”  Moments later he heard a crackling voice respond “We read you, what’s going on?” He glanced back over his shoulder through the cockpit door to the main hatchway.  There, stuck to the hatch door handle, was a parachute rip-cord. “My passenger is free falling.” he replied as a sick feeling set into his stomach. Quickly, he ran back to the hatch to close it, but when he got there he was actually surprised.  He picked up the rip-cord and examined the end.  It was a clean cut.  “That explains why his parachute didn’t deploy. It was cut.” He thought to himself.  He reached to close the hatch, but jerked back his hand in sudden pain.  “Ow!” he yelled.  As he examined the hatch handle, he noticed a tiny piece of jagged metal; just big enough to cut through a rip-cord and a finger.

Panicking now, John began to fiddle with his backpack, trying to manually open the parachute.  He hauled the pack off his back, but his trembling hands failed him. He accidentally let go, and stared over his shoulder in horror, as his backpack tumbled end over end towards the sky. But he knew it was merely an illusion, he knew what was really happening. He was falling, rocketing closer and closer towards the ground. He knew these would be his last moments.

Ground control had been completely useless, the pilot thought to himself after a brief discussion. Frustrated, he grabbed an empty can and threw it against the wall. He watched it as it rolled across and followed its direction. It rolled right up to the flight suit cabinet, then it hit him… He knew exactly what he had to do, but he had to act fast. He opened the cabinet and snatched out a parachute.

As John frantically looked around for something that could help him out of this predicament, his life began to flash before his eyes. He saw everything from his first steps to when he got his drivers license, he saw it all, in startling detail. Then he heard someone calling out his name, almost a whisper. Could it be a part of his past memories?  It grew, and grew, until he knew it wasn’t in his head. Wrenching himself back to reality, he looked up, but couldn’t believe what he saw.

There, rocketing towards the ground at almost double his current speed, was the pilot. If it hadn’t been for the circumstances, John would have shouted for joy.  But his thoughts were jostled as two huge arms enclosed him, sending him and their owner tumbling.  It took a few seconds before he actually realized what happened.

He had made it! John shouted his thanks, and heartfelt joy, but he couldn’t hear the pilot’s reply over the wind whistling past his head.  Once he was back on the ground, he once again thanked the pilot. “I promise to do two things,” John said “First, to repay you somehow one day, and second-” He paused.  “And second, never to go skydiving again!”

 

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A World Without Light

This article is written by me, Chase.  I am 14 years old and am writing this post in response to our creative writing blogging class. The topic for this article is “An Invention that Could Change the World.”  There are many problems in the world.  Some of them are small and hardly even problems.  But others are true problems, problems that could hurt people and sometimes even take their lives. When I began writing this post, I wasn’t sure what to write about, but then something came to me. We all use electricity, and we use it quite regularly.  But as you well know, there are parts of the world that simply cannot get electricity. This means that those parts of the world have to go to great lengths to light their homes, heat their houses, cook their food, etc.  I thought about how awful it must be to live in a world without light, warmth, and the comfort they provide.  So my invention will be a way to get power to the parts of the world that don’t have it, and get it there easily and quickly. Because a world without light is not an option. 

 a World without light

I wouldn’t create electricity the conventional way.  Not by wind, water, or gasoline.  My invention will be more resourceful than that. It would use air pollution, the kind put off by cars and planes, to generate electricity!  So not only would more people be getting power, but thanks to my invention, the air in the surrounding areas would be much cleaner and better for the environment.

Focalian Inc.

But even if they have power in their area, what use would it be without a way for homes to receive it and use it?  Part of my service would be setting up a new and improved system of wires to go to every house, so everyone could cook and have light.  The wires themselves would be insulated in rubber and then buried underground. Why underground? Well, the main goal of electricity is to get to the ground, and it will go though most materials to get there. That means it will go through you. This is actually what can kill someone, the electricity trying to get to the ground.  But what if it’s already underground?  It won’t have to go though people, lowering the risk of people getting hurt.  As for coating it in a thick coat of rubber, rubber is one of the materials I mentioned earlier that won’t conduct electricity.  So if someone does touch a wire that somehow got above ground, they probably won’t get hurt.

Finally, I would supply everyone with lights, sinks, refrigerators, and more. Then I would move on to another part of the world, doing everything I mentioned above in every place that needed it. It would take years and lots of support financially, but in the end I think the world would be a better place. I might not even be able to see it completed in my lifetime. This just isn’t one of those thing you get out and do on a Sunday afternoon, you know.  But like I said, when it was completed I know the world would have one less thing to worry about and we would no longer live in a world without light.

This post is linked to our Live and Learn Farm Middle and High School Creative Writing LinkUp.  Join us!  

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An Odd Combo – Photography and Coding

This week’s topic is going to be fun, because it can be about anything I want. So I decided to write about two of my favorite topics right now, an odd combo – Photography and Coding.

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Actually, in a way they’re related.  I mean, unless you happen to be using film, your camera (whether you’re using a high quality DSLR, a point-and-shoot, or even your phone) is a computer. And for a computer to work, it has to have code. I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail, because I don’t want to scare anyone off with crazy code and text.  Instead I’m going to talk about why I love to do these things, and why they interest me.

My two favorite hobbies coding and photography

To start off, I want to talk about photography. I first became interested in photography when my mom registered me for an online photography class.  At first, I thought I wouldn’t be any good at it. But once I started turning in my assignments, I realized that I actually have some skill in this area. Soon I began to take better and more intricate pictures.  Believe it or not, taking a picture is only one half of the process I had to do before I presented my photographs in class.  I also had to edit them.  As time went on, I became better and better in this area too.  Eventually, I was no longer taking pictures of blurry or unknown subjects.  I was taking something that looked good and, combined with my skills in photo editing, my pictures were becoming great.  I wasn’t quite the best in my class, not by far.  But I finally knew how to take good pictures.

After I finished my year in photography class, I spent the summer helping my mom take pictures for stuff she was selling, and helped her edit photos.  When the school year started back, I decided to take a course on Photoshop, because I didn’t feel my photo-editing skills were at their finest. I’m still taking that class to this day, and I still love it.  Now I can not only edit photographs, I can actually create them, using some of the powerful tools provided by Photoshop.  It even comes with a 3D file editor.  But I’m beginning to sound like a used car salesman, so I’m going to move on.

The other thing that fascinates me is coding.  Unlike photography, this term could be a bit confusing, so here’s a good definition I stumbled upon.

Computer programming (often shortened to programming) is a process that leads from an original formulation of a computing problem to executable programs.” ~ Wikipedia

So basically, I like being able to tell a computer what to do, and for it to listen to my commands. The first computer language I started to learn was HTML, a basic website building language.  I learned to edit strings (sentences, words, letters, etc.) and get images, but I never actually learned how to write code in detail, mostly just editing.

But after a year or so, I began to explore a new type of code. This new language, known as Lua (pronounced “Loo-uh”), is oriented around a three dimensional area, aka not just a flat web page, but a virtual reality. This language came easily to me because I knew what objects I was trying to change and move, and I could “see” it with my eyes.

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Now, I’ve decided to move on to something more difficult.  To learn this language, I’m taking another class on Lynda.com. Mom calls this hackschooling… 

Hackschooling is a term coined by the homeschooling family of 13-year-old Logan LaPlante and explained in Logan’s speech at a TEDx event in February 2013.  The concept is that education, like everything else, is open to being hacked or improved, not just by working within the current system, but by going outside the educational establishment to find better ways to accomplish the same goals

With this language you can’t see your progress with your eyes, you can only code and see the results when running the program. This language, called Python, is more practical than all other languages I’ve studied, and can be used across multiple platforms. An example of something that uses Python would be a smart phone app. If you’re viewing this on your phone, you may actually be running Python as you read this. Now, I won’t be using it to makes apps just yet, but I’m going to use it to make my Raspberry Pi work. A Raspberry Pi is a miniature computer that can be programmed to do a variety of things, from managing messages to lighting your house, it can do it all.  I’m not quite sure what I’m going to program my Pi to do, but when I do decide I know I’ll make it something great.  And, chances are, mom will make me write an article about it!

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about me, and that I’ve gotten you interested in coding and photography too!  Until next week.

~ Chase

Dear Chase in Twenty Years

The future is always something that people think about, whether it’s what’s for dinner tonight or how the world will look in a thousand years.  So today, I’m going to write about what the future will be like in twenty years.  I might go a little crazy with my imagination, so everything in here might be a BIT far-fetched.  But that’s what I like about this subject, I can take it anywhere I want. To start off, I’ll give a quick overview of what’s happened in the last twenty years, then how life is now. Finally what I think life will be like after twenty years. Oh and one more thing, I will be writing this like a story so keep that in mind while reading.

In Twenty Years

April 5, 2034

Dear Chase 

“Today, the community of the town La Junange decided to host a community project. Any citizen twenty years or over is eligible to write a letter to themselves, twenty years in the past.  Just a few weeks ago, a scientist on the outskirts of our little town invented the tool that man has dreamed about for years: The Time Machine. The Scientist decided to hold off announcing to the world the news of his discovery, until he had tested it. Hence, the town’s community event. I personally think the idea is absurd, but I thought I might as well give it a try. So, I guess a bit of a history lesson is in order. Since I decided that I’m going to send this to the date 3/23/14, I’ll start my lesson there.  

Nothing of scientific importance happened for the rest of the years 2014 through 2016, but during the year 2017 something extraordinary occurred.  Someone had harnessed a new form of energy, known as Zero Point Energy. This energy was clean, long-lasting, and cost efficient to make. The brilliant scientist who discovered this new energy was Brazilian. The scientist wanted to share this energy with the world so everyone could benefit, but the Brazilian government thought it was a threat, so they kept it a secret.

2018 passed without anyone discovering their little secret, but in 2019, America noticed something was up, and dispatched spies to Brazil. They finally discovered the energy plant there, but not the energy itself. America, eager and curious about this new energy, spent the rest of 2019 trying to negotiate for its recipe, but the Brazilian government wouldn’t negotiate. In the year 2020, America officially declared war on Brazil, saying they were a threat and must be stopped. Word spread to the rest of the world, and soon 130 of the 200 or so countries were declaring war on Brazil. 

In 2022, the war really kicked off. At first, each country took turns fighting for the energy, but eventually nations allied, merged land, and within a year the world had changed its form completely. There were now 10 “Regions” as they were called. Brazil, now a part of the Peruvian Region, encompassed all of South America, Central America, and parts of the US. The fighting continued for three years, and ravished most of the world. 

In 2025, the Peruvian Region now controlled nearly half of the world, and the remaining Regions had merged into one huge Region, known as the Eastern Republic.  The Peruvian Region had merged with several other regions to form the Western Republic. The Western Republic, which controlled all of the Zero Point Energy, was winning the war, when a new power from within arose. At first it was a small group, simply known as The Order, but it grew and eventually managed to get a firm hold in the Western Republic’s government.  On July 21, 2026, The Order took control of the Western Republic entirely. Right after this, on August 2, 2026, the Western Republic halted their attacks and in exchange for peace agreed to give the Eastern Republic the Zero Point Energy recipe.

Eventually, the last remaining countries on the planet merged into one, solid republic, known as Paxia.  It was named from the Latin word for peace.  

Now that the world was finally at peace, science began to move forward, and progress. Soon Paxia was distributing food across the world and rebuilding civilization. Due to the advances in science this process was a lot faster than it would have been, but it still took years. By the year 2028, the world was finally back on track.

But in late 2028, Paxia split back into several of its original forms, but this time peacefully. It split into America, Europe, Africa, East Asia, West Asia, Ocstrailia, the last constituting all islands and countries at sea. Although the names of these countries may seem familiar to you, they are now located in completely different places than they originally were. Science continued to climb in the next six years, and the world prospered.”

Paxia Map

I stopped writing for a minute to reflect where I was in my story now. What else would I want myself to know about the future?  I sat in my home in La Junange, thinking about this. During the war, two small cities known as La Grange and Grand Junction had combined to form La Junange. In the background, I heard the Meal Manager beeping, telling me my pre-cooked dinner was ready. You could call the Meal Manager a refrigerator, stove, and oven all compiled into one thing that cooked your meals for you. But that gave me an idea. I then reached for my old fashion writing tool, known as a pencil, and began writing again. 

“That was probably more of a history lesson then you wanted, but it was necessary to tell you about what life’s like now. Today, everything is run off ZPE, or Zero Point Energy. Anyone in the world can use this energy for a small amount of the modern-day currency. It’s similar to what you might call an electric bill, only a lot cheaper. I believe in your time it totals up to about $1.78 a month, but now we use a different form of currency know as Pax, in honor of the former union of countries. But back to the subject at hand… anyone can use ZPE for a few Pax a month. And since everything now runs on ZPE, you can live off about 10 Pax a month. Here are a few of the many new utilities that run off ZPE. The Meal Manager, for one, makes all your meals for you and can replicate all the materials needed. Of course, the traditional way is preferred by a lot of people, but mostly only fancy restaurants can cook food that way. The Mindnet is a new device that allows a user to interface with the internet, but it’s still in the beta testing stage.

As far as life itself goes, not a lot has changed there. I’m sorry to say that people are still people, and are still just as greedy as they were twenty years ago. Although now, we do have better education techniques, more job opportunities, and more safety. The crime rate of the world has been decreased by 50%, and is still dropping.  

So in the end, not much has changed, except the bad things have gone down, and the good things have gone up. But one thing cannot be changed over time, and that’s people. We’re still greedy, we still get angry, we still have bad days, etc. Although this is the case now, I personally hope that one day things will get better.  But I know no matter how advanced we become on the science side, we can’t take the human out of us.

The next day, I went to the city hall, and turned in my small diary. I waited all day, when finally they called me up to the stand where the Time Machine sat. I carefully sat my book on the stand, and stood back. There was a growing hum, which continued to grow by the second. The Diary began to glow brighter, and brighter, until finally there was a loud pop and a blinding light. When I looked back, the diary was gone.

It was a cold, spring morning in early 2014, and I had just finished my chores.  I was just about to go inside, when I heard a hum, and it began to grow. I turned around, and noticed a light growing on the ground. It grew, and grew, and grew, until there was a loud pop. I looked back, and noticed a book on the ground. I cautiously picked up the book, and opened its cover.  I began reading, it started as follows:

“April 5, 2034

Dear Chase …”

 

I’m sharing this article with the Middle and High School Blogging Linkup

 

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An Insect Like Myself

This one might be a tough question: What would I do if I were an insect? I imagine a lot of people haven’t even thought about it, and neither had I. It took a bit of time to come up with an insect like myself. How does someone liken themselves to an insect in the first place? After thinking about it, I decided I would probably be an ant. I know this sounds a little weird, but in an odd way, I have a lot in common with an ant… all of which I will cover in the paragraphs to come.

An Insect like Myself

First of all, ants are just kinda cool. They have big, vicious, mandibles which sometimes contain certain chemicals that irritates our skin and body. Okay, maybe that part isn’t like me… But this part is… They build highly intricate colonies commonly known as “ant hills”, and I myself love to build stuff as well. I’m not claustrophobic, and actually like small, dim places. This pretty much sums up an ant hill, and I don’t think i would mind living in one much.

A fun fact that I found intriguing about ants is they learn differently from other insects. Most insects learn via imitation, but ants actually possess the ability to “Tutor” younger and less experienced ants, similar to how I tutor my brothers in our American History course, Paths of Exploration. They can also sense when the student ant needs a break, and slows down to let them catch up. On the other hand, when an ant is speeding up behind the tutor ant, they speeds up as well. They also possess the ability to choose what job they do in the colony, so long as it’s the one they’re best at. If a large group of ants are cut off from a food supply for some amount of time, they will actually stop searching and strictly guard and tend the nest.

Here’s another quick and fun fact.  One ant, known as the Pharaoh Ant, actually makes it’s nest inside of a sheet of paper. Believe it or not, It’s about the size of the head of a pen!

On the scientific side, my taxonomy would be completely different from that of a human. My new taxonomy would be as follows: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta, Order Hymenoptera, and Family Formicidae. All organisms within this taxonomy are classified as ants. This is very different from that of a normal human, which ends up in Family Hominidae.  

Although ants can be very interesting, they’re more often than not, considered pests. This is mostly because of their painful sting, but there are other things about them that are undesirable. Something I suspect almost everyone knows about is that ants are attracted to food. If you have a lot of ants in your area then you’re very familiar with this.  To prevent ants from getting your food, simply put it in a plastic bag when your done with it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this somewhat odd post, and in the process learned a little bit more about ants, how they think, and that in general they’re worth the trouble they sometimes cause.

If you are a tween / teen and like to write, join us for the Middle / High School Creative Writing linkup each Monday!

Middle and High School Linkup for Students and Moms!

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