Back to Back Issues Page
Kids Science Newsletter #37, Opening Northwest Passage
October 07, 2013

Opening Northwest Passage


Our Kids Science Newsletter is published each month during the school year. This Kids Science Newsletter includes a question of the month, current science events, science trivia and a simple science activity that is fun for everyone.

Question of the Month

Do insects have a heart and blood?
(answer follows the simple science experiment)

Science Current Events

Opening Northwest Passage
Early explorers dreamed of finding a passage way through Canada to the Pacific Ocean. The Arctic ice sheet has always made passage for commercial cargo vessels to travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. A Danish cargo ship loaded with coal made the historic voyage traveling from Vancouver to Finland. The ship left Vancouver on September 17th saving 1000 nautical miles of travel. The voyage saved the ship owner nearly $200,000 because of the shorter distance and being able to carry 25% more coal that the ship could have carried if it traveled through the Panama Canal. The canal is too shallow for the ship to have carried the extra 25% of coal. Shippers are looking forward to traveling through the Northwest Passage in the future as the sea ice continues to melt freeing up the Northwest Passage for commercial shipping vessels.
Rats are Trained as Detectives
Using dogs to use their noses to detect narcotics and other banned substances has been in use for some time. Dutch police have discovered they can use rats for the same purpose. The rats can be purchased and trained for only about $13 compared to much higher costs for police dogs. The rats can be trained in 10 to 15 days to distinguish a certain smell. The Danish hope to begin using the rats as early as next year. Rats are very shy and do not like working around crime scenes or containers with workmen around them. They will be used in controlled and quiet areas to do their work.
Update on OR7 the Lonely Wolf
The three year wolf that has been wandering around the country side in Oregon and California still has not found a mate. He started his quest in September 2011 and has traveled over 3000 miles before settling down this summer in the Southern Cascade Range. Biologist have been tracking the male with GPS during this time. He seems to have settled down to live in an area that covers 270 square miles. Scientists are not sure how much longer they will be tracking the animal because of the risk to both wolf and scientists is they tried to replace the tracking collar.

Science Trivia

  • Sir Francis Beaufort, a British Admiral, devised the Beaufort Scale for measuring wind speed at sea in 1805. He used a scale with 13 classes from 0 to 12 and how it would affect a man-of-war sailing ship. At 0 all the sails would be up. At 6 half of his sails would have been taken down and at twelve all of the sails would be stowed away until the winds died down.
  • Elephants sometimes make purr-like sounds when content.
  • The security threads in $5 bills and higher will turn blue if they are held under ultraviolet light. Money isn't made out of paper, its actually made out of linen.
  • Whiskers in cats are hairs that work as sense organs. They have special nervous connections that make them highly sensitive to movement. Those nerves are directly connected to a part of the brain that keeps track of movement around the cats. Porcupine quills are also a special type of hair that has been enlarged.

Simple Science Activity
Tree Rings


Tree rings indicate the age of a tree and also what the weather was like in previous years. Look for a tree that has been recently cut down. You can then study the tree rings before the wood has weathered too much. If you can't find tree see if you get a limb of a tree and cut it off to study the limb's tree rings.


  • Tree stumps or cut off tree limbs
  • Paper
  • Pencil


  1. Find a tree stump or limb that you can study.
  2. Each tree ring as two parts: a wider light ring and a narrow dark ring.
  3. Starting at te center of the tree count to the outer edge where the bark is located.
  4. You can measure the size of teh growth rings with a small ruler.
  5. If you cannot find a tree to count the tree rings see if someone in your area is cutting some limbs off a tree to study. Have them cut a small section of the limb so it is about 1 inch thick. This is a tree cookie.
  6. The tree cookies do not tell the age of the tree but instead tell the age of the limb.
  7. Look for differences in size of the tree rings on your stump for an indications of a drought.
Science behind the experiment
The size of tree rings indicate the weather in previous years. When the area has plenty of water and good growing conditions the tree increase in size a greater rate than years when there is a drought. You can also tell how long a tree lived by counting the tree rings.

Answer to the question of the month
Do insects have a heart and blood?
Yes, insects have both hearts and blood although they are different from ours. The heart of an insect is a long tube that runs along the top of its body. It pumps blood along the tube which brings digested food to the organs and takes away waste material. An insects blood is light green, yellowish or clear because it does not carry oxygen.

Links to our back issues of Kids Science Newsletter

Our Other Websites

Ring of Fire Science
Science Kits for Kids
Kids Earth Science
The Science Site

Please share this newsletter

Please share this newsletter with a friend by forwarding it to them. If you know of a group who might enjoy the newsletter please let them know about it also.

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

Back to Back Issues Page