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Kids Science Newsletter #34, Solar Impulse Flight
May 08, 2013

Solar Impulse Journey Across America


Our Kids Science Newsletter is published each month. The newsletter includes a question of the month, current science events, science trivia and a simple science activity that is fun for kids of all ages.

Question of the Month

What is the surface of Mars like?
(answer follows the simple science experiment)

Science Current Events

Solar Impulse Epic Journey
The Solar Impulse plane is the first one ever constructed that can be flown day and night on solar energy without a drop of fuel. The plane started its epic journey on Saturday morning, May 4th. The plane took off from an airport near San Francisco at 9:00 am and landed at 4:00 am the next morning in Phoenix,AZ. Bertrand Piccard flew the Swiss made plane on the first leg of its journey across the United States. André Borschberg will also pilot the plane on part of its trip. The plan is to head for Dallas, TX in mid May then on to St. Louis, MO and Washington DC. It's final leg will take it to New York City in late June. The Swiss made plane was first introduced in June 2009. It took its first flight in December 2009. Follow the planes travels as it crosses the United States at this website:
Piccard Family of Science Adventurers
Bertrand Piccard who flew from San Francisco, CA to Phoenix, AZ is part of a pioneering family that has pushed the envelope on exploration. Bertrand's grandfather built the Trieste, a bathyscaphe, mini-sub, that carried his son Jacques and Lieutenant Don Walsh almost 7 miles to the bottom of the deepest point on Earth. The dive occurred on January 23, 1960. It was the only time anyone had traveled that deep until James Cameron went on his solo dive in March 2012. I have several links on my Pinterest boards with links to the Piccard family and others. Here is the link

Long Trip For Tsunami Fish
A 20-fishing boat that broke its moorings two years ago during the 2011 Japanese tsunami drifted across the Pacific and washed up on the coast of Washington this past month. Inside the boat were five striped beak fish that survived the trip across the Pacific Ocean. The boat was traced back to northeastern Japan where it broke loose from its moorings during the earthquake on March 11, 2011. Scientists believe the fish lived off small organisms encrusted or attached inside the boat.
Spring Snowstorms Hurt Bird Migration
Spring snowstorms across the Great Plains caused great difficulties for birds migrating north this past spring. The birds found their normal flyways blocked by the snowstorms and this meant that the birds were unable to feed on the frozen ground. The ground has only occasionally thawed so the birds could eat. In Canada the grounds are still frozen so the birds have nothing to eat further north.

Science Trivia

  • There are three families of clouds. They were given Latin names by Luke Howard in 1894. They are cirrus (curl of hair), cumulus (heap) and stratus(layers). There are 10 main types of clouds that are made up from these combinations of families. Clouds are also grouped by their height above the ground.
  • The average cow produces 40 glasses of milk each day.
  • Insects can get sick just like we do. Bacteria and viruses can be major problems for insects. Colony collapse disorder has been affecting bees in recent years. Scientists are attempting to figure out what is causing whole colonies of worker bees suddenly disappear. Normally when an insect is infected with bacteria blood cells in the animal are mobilized and quickly digest the invading bacteria.
  • Big Ben Clock in London is so large that the end of the minute hand travels about 118 miles a year as it makes its circle telling the time to people looking at it below.

Simple Science Activity
3D Volcano


In this activity you will be creating a shield volcano out of thin layers of dough. Then you will cut the volcano in half to show what the volcano would look like if suddenly it split apart.

  • Two cups of flour
  • One cup of salt
  • One cup of water
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cookie sheet
  • Knife or dental floss
  • Acrylic paint


  1. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Mix together the flour, salt and water to form a soft dough
  3. Knead the dough until smooth. (It will take about 15 minutes)
  4. Roll a small piece of dough for the red magma chamber and place it in the center of a piece of aluminum foil.
  5. Divide the dough into several balls to use for the layers of the volcano.
  6. Begin rolling layers of dough for the volcano.
  7. Each layer should be slightly larger than the previous layer increasing the size of the volcano at its base.
  8. Try to make your layers as thin as possible because basalt flowing out of a volcano is very fluid and creates thin layers on the slopes of shield volcanoes.
  9. When you have used up all the dough cut the volcano in half using a knife or a piece of dental floss.
  10. Place the two halves of the volcano on a cookie sheet and bake it for approximately 8 hours.
  11. Remove the volcano and tear off the tin foil.
  12. If the dough is still damp return it to the oven and bake until the dough is dried out and hard.
  13. Paint the volcano similar to the picture above.
Science behind the experiment Shield volcanoes, like the Hawaiian Islands, form over a hot spot in the ocean. Magma from the upper mantle flows out of the volcano's vent forming thin layers of lava. Over time the volcanoes grow large enough to reach the ocean's surface to form an island.

Answer to the question of the month

What is the surface of Mars like?
Mars was named for the Roman god of war because it looks blood red. Scientists looking at the planet discovered it looks this color from space because of the rusted iron in the soil. Mars is covered with basalt rock and Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain in our Solar System. Olympus Mons is a volcano that is 16 miles high.

Links to our back issues of Kids Science Newsletter

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Science Kits for Kids Kids Earth Science
The Science Site

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Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this Just For Kids Science Newsletter and tell me what you think!

Sincerely yours,
Myrna Martin

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