We’re right in the middle of summer, and there’s a good chance your kids have been swimming, riding their bikes, and spending very little time on educational pursuits compared to the school year. There’s of course fun things you can take your children to that will make them think such as museums, but you can also work education into regular, dinner-time conversation. This doesn’t have to be a lesson, or a lecture; simply something interesting to talk about that can spark conversation. Today we’re going to give you a few items that your kids probably haven’t heard about in school that will inspire critical thinking and discussion.
- Easter Island
Most people have heard of Easter Island and seen images of the statues, but few know much beyond this. This island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world. No one quite knows when the island was settled and opinions on when this happened keeps changing. Much of what we know is based on oral traditions, and so is susceptible to scrutiny, meaning much of what we “know” is still a mystery. The people were spiritual, which is what led to the famous statues. When the first European arrived on the island, it was clear that the island had faced a huge decrease in population. The most pervasive theory is that the residents used up too many of the resources on the island. After stripping the land they had a hard time growing new crops and because of a loss of habitat, many of the animals started to disappear. Due to this, it is believed war broke out among the people for the best land. The Polynesian rat also could have led to a loss of vegetation. They stow away on canoes and eat trees, and it is estimated that there could have been millions of rats on the island. Now, an estimated 4-6,000 people live on the island. This topic can really make kids think about the environment and how what we do with it can have a huge impact.
- Chernobyl Disaster
While many adults know about this nuclear disaster, many kids do not. During systems testing, something went horribly wrong resulting in radioactive fallout. This led to a large evacuation of neighboring people, creating an exclusion zone that is still active today, 30 years later. While only several dozen people died as a direct result of the accident, it is estimated that thousands will die prematurely due to cancer and other radiation causes. With fire raging, firefighters were brought in to extinguish the blaze, leading to some deaths from acute radiation sickness. A containment structure was later built around the reactor to prevent further radioactive material from escaping. The drinking water was affected, and nearby trees and animals died very quickly. It is estimated that several hundred people are living in the exclusion zone now, against government wishes. Despite the disaster striking 30 years ago, it is estimated this area will not be fully safe for another 20,000 years. However, brief visits to the exclusion zone are possible through guided tours. During these tours, people are not allowed to touch anything or sit. It is still debated if these tours truly are safe.
- Nuclear Close Calls
Speaking of radioactive material, we can bet many of your kids don’t realize that there were times that we were close to having nuclear disasters due to weapons. For example, when the Soviet Union began placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, Americans became concerned, as this was within easy striking range of America. During the Cuban Missiles Crisis, tensions were high. What many people don’t know was that Soviet submarines with nuclear missiles were heading to Cuba. The pilots lost contact with Moscow and had no idea if they were at war or not. They nearly attacked, but a single individual refused to do so, and the submarines returned to the Soviet Union. This didn’t only happen during the Cold War, though. In the 1980s tensions rose again, and the Soviet Union became convinced the USA was planning a nuclear attack. It was understood that if one country shot a missile, the other would too. They both had satellites to work as an early warning system. On September 26th, 1983, there was a false alarm and the system detected multiple missiles launched from the United States. Protocol was for the man on watch to report this immediately, but he was skeptical that the information was accurate. He called to report a false alarm, despite not being completely sure that was accurate. If someone else was on duty, the Soviet Union may have launched their own missiles and started a nuclear war. These close calls show what a difference just a single person can make.
- Hawaii’s Lava Rocks
The last topic we are going to cover today is known as Pele’s Curse. Legend has it that anyone who removes a lava rock or sand from Hawaii will be cursed with bad luck. While this seems like a superstition, a surprising number of tourists mail lava rocks back to Hawaii each year, claiming sudden bad luck began right after returning home. The type of bad luck that is said to befall these people is severe; pets dying, people losing jobs and homes, sudden illnesses, and more. Some hotels even take the time to return the lava rocks to where they came from. This interesting legend is sure to grab the attention of your kids!
Don’t feel restrained to the topics we have covered today. There’s tons of resources out there to help you find interesting stories to share with your kids!