Mindful Listening

Johnnyrandom Bespoken

PHOTO: Johnnyrandom

The five senses are sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. A person is mindful when they focus one or more senses on a single thought, emotion, flavor, texture, color or sound. Johnnyrandom is an artist and a mindful listener. He pays close attention to the sounds everyday things make. The sounds interest him so much that he records them with microphones, then creates songs.

Johnnyrandom Bicycle Sounds

PHOTO: Johnnyrandom

Bespoken is the name of a song Johnnyrandom created without piano, drums, guitars, or voice. Every single sound was made by a bicycle. Close your eyes and listen mindfully:


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. How can a person be more mindful?

3. What does focus mean? Click here for a kids’ online dictionary. Use the word in a sentence with an adverb.

4. Are other animals more mindful than humans? Explain.

5. How is Johnyrandom’s music different from music you enjoy?

6. How is his music similar to what you listen to?

7. If you could create a song with sounds made by a common object like a bicycle, what would it be? Describe what it would sound like. How would you make the sounds?

8. Use the following sentence frame to describe Johnnyrandom: I think Johnnyrandom is (adjective)because…

9. How are you and Johnnyrandom alike (compare)?

10. How are you and Johnnyrandom different (contrast)?

11. How can being mindful make life better?

12. If you could interview Johnnyrandom, what questions would you ask?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Close your eyes and listen mindfully to the song. Make tally marks on a sheet of paper each time you hear a new sound. Listen mindfully once more. Analyze the sounds and write down as many adjectives as you can that describe them. Use a thesaurus to discover the perfect word for each sound. Click here for an online thesaurus.

2. Do sounds have color? Can they form shapes? Create a drawing or painting that illustrates the sounds and adjectives from the question above. When finished, click here for a video that shows what sound waves actually look like.

3. A soundscape is a group of sounds that come together to form a setting you can hear. Explore the links to blog posts with sound recordings below. Close you eyes and listen mindfully. Create drawings, paintings or sculptures that illustrate the soundscapes of the recordings.

Under the Pier

From the Porch

On Lake Chapman

Valparaiso Funicular



IMAGE: iCivics

IMAGE: iCivics

Passing laws requires strong persuasive skills, and a willingness to compromise. Read the introduction below written by the game’s creators.

Want to make some laws? You can in LawCraft, where you play a member of Congress from the state of your choice. You’ll pick an issue that’s important to you and your constituents and take it all the way through the law-making process. If you’re successful, you’ll have a bill you can print and show off. See if you can make the compromises necessary to get your bill passed and still make a law you’re proud of!

Click the image above, or right here to start a game in a new tab, then answer the questions below during the process. Good luck!


1. How are the two houses of congress different? Click here for information about the legislative branch.

2. Why are constituents important? Click here for a kids’ online dictionary.

3. The six values in the game are liberty, equality, competition, cooperation, cost saving and generosity. List the values from greatest importance, to least importance.

4. Write and complete the following sentence frame: ________ is at the top of my list of values, which is the most important because…

5. Write and complete the following sentence frame: ________ is at the bottom of my list of values, which is the least important because…

6. How are democrats and republicans alike (compare)?

7. How are republicans and democrats different (contrast)?

8. Which party did you choose, and why?

9. Read and analyze all of your constituents’ letters. Write the top three issues from greatest importance, to least importance.

10. Why did you choose the issue at the top of your list?

11. How does that issue relate to your most important value (from question 4)?

11. How do amendments affect whether or not a bill gets passed?

12. Write a paragraph describing the entire process of getting your bill passed. Include transition words such as first, next, then, finally, etc.

13. How does the president affect laws?

14. On a scale of one to five, with one as easy, and two as extremely difficult, how would you rate the process of crafting and getting a law passed? Explain.

15. If you could have lunch with your representative, what would you tell them? What questions would you ask?

16. Would you be interested in a career as a lawmaker? Explain.


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Write a list of values that are important to you and other constituents in your community.

2. Write a list of questions you would like to ask your representative.

3. Click here, then enter your zip code to find the name and contact information (phone number, email and mailing address) of your representative.

4. Write a letter to your representative and explain what issues are important to you, and why. Ask them the most important questions from your list. Click here for an interactive letter generator from ReadWriteThink.

Reverse Graffiti


PHOTO: Cameron Brooks

PHOTO: Cameron Brooks

Have you ever written your name on a fogged up window, or “wash me” on a dirty car? If so, you are a reverse graffiti artist! Many paints have toxic chemicals in them, and brushes are either made using chemicals, or animal hair from hogs, horses, badgers or others. Instead of harming animals and the environment, reverse graffiti removes pollution

PHOTO: Alexandre Orion

PHOTO: Alexandre Orion

One of the first large works of reverse graffiti was created by Alexandre Orion, an artist from São Paulo, Brazil. Using rags and water, he scrubbed away layers of grime left behind by thousands of cars that drove through the tunnel each day. The local police wanted to stop Orion, but they couldn’t since cleaning is not against the law. Eventually, the city brought in trucks with water tanks and high-powered hoses to clean the walls along the tunnel. They also cleaned up other polluted tunnels in São Paulo. Around the globe, creative people are leaving thoughtful works of art on all sorts of surfaces by simply cleaning away dirt, dust and grime.


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. In your own words, write three details that support the main idea.

3. How do reverse graffiti artists create?

4. In the first photograph, why do you think the artist wrote the word listen?

5. Why would the police want to stop reverse graffiti?

6. Why do you think the city government chose to clean the walls in the tunnel?

7. Why do you think Alexandre Orion chose skulls for the polluted walls?

8. Describe places where you live that would make good locations for reverse graffiti.

9. Describe other forms of art that do not harm the environment.

10. Is public art important? Explain.

11. How does public art affect people?

12. If you could have lunch with Alexandre Orion, what questions would you ask him? What would you like to tell him about your creativity?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Public art often includes hidden messages that cause people to think or feel a certain way. If you could create public art, what important message or messages would you want to share? Write your message on a piece of paper, then create an illustration that communicates your message.

2. Find a dirty surface and ask an adult for permission to create a piece of reverse graffiti.

PHOTO: Flora Baker

PHOTO: Flora Baker

PHOTO: Flora Baker

PHOTO: Flora Baker

3. São Paulo, Brazil is famous for its vibrant street art. A few areas of the city are completely covered with works like the ones above photographed along Batman Alley. Some artists ask permission to paint on the walls, and some do not. Many city governments choose to paint over graffiti. Should graffiti be allowed in certain places, or nowhere at all? Write a letter to your mayor or commissioner and share your opinion. Use details, facts and examples to support your position.

4. Click here to learn more about Brazil.




When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…


Molly Bang crafts a tale about anger that kids of all ages can relate to. Click here to read When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry… at the ICDL (International Children’s Digital Library), then answer the questions below.


1. When you watch a movie or read a book, you are the audience. When writers sit down to create a story, they think about their audience, or who will read the book when it’s finished. Molly Bang is the author of When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry… Describe the audience.

2. Writers write for a reason. This reason is called the author’s purpose. There are three main purposes. The first is to entertain, which means to tell a story that is fun to read. The second reason is to inform. An author informs their audience when they teach them something new. The third reason is to persuade, which is when an author tries to get their audience to do something, or stop doing something. Describe Molly Bang’s purpose for writing this book.

3. Narratives are stories, and the characters are the animals, people, or other creatures in the story. Who are the characters in this narrative?

4. The setting of a narrative is where and when it takes place. What is the setting of When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…?

5. A narrative has a conflict, and a resolution. The conflict is the problem. The resolution is how the problem gets fixed. How would you describe the conflict of this narrative?

6. How does Sophie resolve the conflict?

7. Molly Bang received a Caldecott Award for her illustrations in this book. How does she use color to make the characters, setting and action come to life?

8. Writers use similes to compare two things with the words like or as. For example, an author could say a runner is as speedy as a cheetah. Metaphors compare two things without using like or as. When Sophie gets angry, Molly Bang uses the metaphor, “Sophie is a volcano, ready to explode.” Write another metaphor for anger that describes Sophie. Next, write a simile for Sophie.

9. Many authors use onomatopoeia to make their books fun to read. Onomatopoeia are words that  sound like something real. Some examples are bonk, splat and whoosh. Find “PABAM!” in the book. Why does Molly Bang (whose last name happens to be an example of onomatopoeia) use onomatopoeia on this page?

10. Create a list of five other examples of onomatopoeia that could be used instead of “PABAM!”

11. Alliteration is when authors use the same beginning sound for words. For example, a light, little leaf landed on a log in Louisiana late last night. Locate an example of alliteration in the book. Write the example of alliteration, then draw a picture that matches the words.

12. Look closely at each page of the book. Find your favorite illustration. Use alliteration to describe what you see on the page.

13. The five senses are sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. A person is mindful when they focus one or more senses on a single thought, feeling, flavor, texture, color or sound. Sophie is mindful after she cries. How does she use her senses during this part of the story?

14. How does mindfulness help Sophie feel better?

15. Describe a time you or someone you know were as angry as Sophie. Describe the conflict. Use transition words like first, next, then, before, after, etc. If there was a resolution, describe that too.

16. How could mindfulness have helped the person feel better?

17. When Sophie sits in the beech tree, Molly Bang writes, “The wide world comforts her.” Click here for a kids’ dictionary, then look up the meaning of comfort. How can the “wide world” comfort a person?

18. Describe a time something or someone comforted you. Use transition words like first, next, then, before, after, etc.

19. Think about a time when you comforted another person or animal. Describe what happened. Use transition words like first, next, then, before, after, etc.

20. When readers compare two things, they think about how they are the same. Compare yourself to Sophie.

21. Readers contrast two things when they think about how they are different. Contrast Sophie and yourself.

22. When Sophie gets home, it is “warm and smells good.” Warm and good are adjectives. Adjectives are used to describe something. Close your eyes and image the warm home, and why it smells good. Explain why the home smells good. Use other adjectives to describe what you imagine.

23. After reading When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…, what questions would you like to ask Sophie, her family, or the author?

24. Everyone feels angry, sad, or worried sometimes. These feelings are perfectly normal. It’s okay to feel these emotions, and it’s important to recognize them. Recognize means you know what something is, and that it is there. When we feel sad, worried, or angry about something, we can stop to be mindful of our feelings. When we hold on to one of these feelings for too long, it’s like trying to blow up a balloon more and more until it pops. When we feel like we’re going to pop like a balloon, we need to stop, recognize what is happening, then let out the air. Click here and explore a mindfulness exercise you can use anytime you feel like you’re about to pop like a balloon.


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Imagine yourself coming home. Close your eyes and count to thirty. Be mindful of your surroundings. Write and complete the passage below to describe the experience.

When I walk inside, my home smells __________. I also smell __________. I see __________, __________, and __________. They are __________. I can hear __________, __________, __________, and __________. I sit down, and the __________ feels __________, and __________. __________ brings me a __________ for a snack, and I can taste __________, and __________. My home is…

2. Create the scene of yourself coming home. Draw, paint or sculpt what you described. Give it to someone special.


ILLUSTRATION: Jared T. Williams

“From my earliest days, I have been drawn to the heart of wildness, to wild lands and wild rivers and wild things, to the places and beasts outside the rule of humankind.”

-Dave Foreman

The more different kinds of plants and animals thriving around the globe, the more balanced Earth becomes. This is called biodiversityRight now the planet is out of balance because there are too many people. Humans have caused many types of animals to become extinct, which means they have all died. Right now there are many types of animals that are very close to extinction because there are not very many left. When an animal is close to becoming extinct, it is endangered.

In Rewilding North America, author Dave Foreman explains why people need to provide more space for animals, and bring back ones that are extinct. Foreman says more animals are endangered than ever before because of choices humans make. In his book, he describes how people can bring these animals back.

One way to increase the number of animals is to create huge pathways so they can move up, down, and across continents. These paths are called corridors. Before humans, animals were able to travel great distances. This is called migration. When cities and highways are built, animals get trapped. When they cannot migrate, they often die. Foreman believes that highways should be raised high off the ground so animals such as bears and wolves can move without having to cross dangerous roads and highways.

MAP: The Rewilding Network

MAP: The Rewilding Network

Scientists are now able to bring back animals that are extinct. Rewilders like Dave Foreman believe people need to bring back extinct animals such as the saber tooth tiger. Large animals like the mammoths and giant tortoise are called megafaunaForeman believes that bringing back megafauna will increase biodiversity, and increased biodiversity increases balance.


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. In your own words, write four details that support the main idea.

3. How are corridors and migration related?

4. Why is the planet out of balance?

5. How do humans cause extinctions?

6. “I have been drawn to the heart of wildness.” What does this quote mean?

7. Is rewilding a good idea? Explain.

8. Use the following sentence frame to describe Dave Foreman: I think Dave Foreman is (adjective), because…

9. How are you and Dave Foreman alike (compare)?

10. How are you and Dave Foreman different (contrast)?

11. Some people around the world believe humans have dominion over nature, which means we have the right to use it anyway we want, even if it means destroying entire species of plants and animals. How do you feel about this issue? Explain.


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. National Geographic created a list of species that could be brought back from extinction. Click here to explore Carolina Parakeets, Woolly Rhinos, Tasmanian Tigers and more.

2. How would everyday life be different if some of these animals were brought back? Create an illustration of a rewilded world with raised highways and herds of megafauna migrating below.

IMAGE: Wonderville

IMAGE: Wonderville

3. From parks, farms, neighborhoods and schools, to highways, office buildings and shopping malls, humans use land for a wide variety of reasons. Scientists are often asked to determine the biodiversity of an area before it can be used. Exploring biodiversity begins with data collection, when scientists count the number of plants and animals that live within a certain area. The Wonderville website has a biodiversity game where kids can join a team of experts and collect biodiversity data. Click the image above, or right here to play.

4. Click the links below to learn more about rewilding.

The Rewilding Institute

Rewilding Europe

Rewilding TED Talk Video


Mad Housers

IMAGE: Mad Housers

The Mad Housers are a kind group of volunteers from Atlanta, Georgia who build free homes for homeless people. Anyone who wants to know how can see steps on the Mad Housers’ website, and even start their own Mad Housers group.

IMAGE: Mad Housers

In 2008,  Mad Housers met in Athens, Georgia at a homeless camp on Lexington Road called Tent City.  They built a hut for Radar, a young war veteran.

Mad Housers Build

PHOTO: Mad Housers


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. How do you think Radar felt?

3. What does volunteer mean? Click here to go to a kids’ online dictionary. Use the word in a sentence.

4. Why do some people choose to volunteer?

5. Why do some people choose not to volunteer?

6. What does veteran mean? Click here to go to a kids’ online dictionary. Use the word in a sentence that has an adjective.

7. In 2013, there were more than 57,000 homeless veterans in the United States. Why do you think the number is so high?

8. How is life different for veterans than people who are not veterans?

9. How could a family become homeless?

10. Sometimes homeless people hold signs that ask for help. Some people donate food or money. Some people don’t. Why would someone not help a homeless person?

11. If you could sit down and talk to a homeless person, what questions would you ask?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Start a food/clothing drive! Brainstorm a list of important items families use every day such as clothes, food, school supplies and books. Create a sign and a collection box so people can donate things. Contact a local homeless shelter to pick-up the donations, or ask a parent or guardian to drop them off. Leave a comment here and tell the world what you’re doing to help people in need. For more information, explore the links below.

14 Children’s Picture Books About Homelessness

Homelessness Fact Sheet for Kindergarten-Second Grade Students

Mad Housers Inc.

“Dead as a Dodo” (Indykids)

PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons


Click the image above or right here to read the article.


1. Why do people say “dead as a dodo”?

2. How does the suffix less change the meaning of flight?

3. How many years ago was the last dodo killed?

4. Why couldn’t the dodo fly?

5. Why don’t we know exactly what the dodo looked like?

6. If scientists can bring back extinct animals like the dodo, should they?

7. After reading the article, what questions do you have?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Create a comic strip about the dodo. Include what you learned about the extinct bird from the article. Click here for free, blank comic templates available for download and printing.

Skaters or Suits?

PHOTO: Reuters

PHOTO: Reuters

Under Armour is a company that makes clothing for sports like football, soccer, and hunting. Lockheed Martin makes parts for things such as airplanes and bombs. Together, the two companies designed a special race suit for the United States Olympic speed skating team. The new suits have a space on the back with small holes. The holes let body heat escape. Many people were excited about the suits, and believed they would give skaters an advantage.

In the first races, U.S. skaters (who usually finish in the top 3) finished 7th, 8th or 9th. Some skaters believe the new suits slowed them down, so they decided to go back to their old uniforms. No one is sure if it was the suits, or the skaters.


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. How are the new suits different?

3. Why would Under Armour and Lockheed Martin work together (motivation)?

4. Why did the skaters switch back to their old uniforms?

5. What does advantage mean? Click here to go to a kids’ online dictionary. Use the word in a sentence.

6. Do you think the team didn’t do well because of the suits, or the skaters?

7. What two companies do you think would make a good racing suit?

8. After reading the article, what do you want to know?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Design a new suit for speed skaters. What could you add that would help them go faster on the ice? What colors will you choose, and why? What textiles will you choose? Create a poster with labels that describe each part of the suit. Learn more about textiles, patterns, and the color wheel at The Children’s University of Manchester by clicking here.

Racing to Save the Stray Dogs of Sochi (New York Times)

PHOTO: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Click the image above or right here to read the article.


1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. Who is Olga Melnikova?

3. Why are there so many stray dogs?

4. How are they being rescued?

5. Who is the oligarch mentioned in the article?

6. An oligarch is one of the rulers in an oligarchy. Click here to go to a children’s online dictionary. Look-up oligarchy. Use the word in two sentences.

7. Why would someone going to Russia for the Olympics adopt a dog?

8. Why would someone going to Russia for the Olympics not adopt a dog?

9. What happens if a dog is not rescued?

10. What would you do about the dogs if you went to the Olympics?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Love animals? Global Animal is an online news magazine for people who love pets, and believe all animals have the right to live a healthy, happy life. Click here to read about people around the world who are working to help species other than our own.

Getting Wild With the Great White Shark (Indykids)

PHOTO: Terry Goss

PHOTO: Terry Goss

Click the image above or right here to read the article.


1. What does the word serrated mean? Click here for a children’s online dictionary. Use the word in two sentences.

2. Why are sharks important for environmental balance?

3. How are facts and myths different?

4. Why don’t great whites attack humans more often?

5. How are myths and facts alike?

6. Why are great white sharks killed?

7. Why is it not a good idea to buy things made from sharks?

8. After reading the article, what do you want to know?


E     X     T     E     N     D     .     .     .     .

1. Love animals? Global Animal is an online news magazine for people who love pets, and believe all animals have the right to live a healthy, happy life. Click here to read about people around the world who are working to help species other than our own.