Simpson Street Free Press

What Else Died When the Asteroid Hit
66 Million Years Ago?

by Dani Garduno, age 10

People are familiar with the asteroid that killed off dinosaurs; however, that asteroid also killed 75 percent of life on Earth, including many trees. The forests eventually transformed into the rainforests we see today.

Before the asteroid, there were a lot of different plant species populating the Earth. Half of the plants were conifers and ferns, while the other half were flowering trees and shrubs. When it rained, nutrients flowed out of the soil. The conifers could grow despite the lack of nutrients. These trees had the unique ability of being able to grow with very little food, which was helpful for survival. Herbivores, specifically sauropods, the largest animals ever to walk our planet, helped prevent the trees from over expanding by opening gaps in the top of the forests. Insects also lived in the forests. Some insects only ate one type of plant leaf and other insects were generalists, which meant they ate many types of plants and were able to survive after the impact.

66 million years ago, the fireball hit overnight and triggered a massive extinction event. Plants, animals, and the soil were changed into present day Colombia. Woodlands were changed into rainforests like the Amazon. It took six million years for the rich diversity to return. The woodlands were replaced by dark, moist, green trees and shrubs. Many of these types of trees are seen today. When the asteroid hit, ash from the fires fertilized the soil and grew flowering trees and shrubs. These species evolved to create canopies, which blocked sunlight from the forest floor. [read more]

Evelyn Cunningham was a True Trailblazer in the Field of Journalism

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 16

Evelyn Cunningham was in her lifetime a well-known journalist, civil rights activist, women's rights activist, and an inspiration for many. However, she is not well known today.

Evelyn Cunningham was born on January 2, 1916. When she was young, she moved with her family from Elizabeth City, North Carolina to New York City. She attended public schools in New York, graduating from Hunter High School in 1934. She attended four universities including the Columbia University School of Journalism, and received her Bachelor’s degree in social science from Long Island University in 1943.

Evelyn’s professional journalism career started when she wrote for the Pittsburgh Courier, a well-known Black newspaper, from the 1940’s until the 1960’s. During that time, she reported about social justice issues and the Civil Rights Movement. She documented many lynchings, which earned her the name, “the lynching editor.” In 1961, she hosted her own radio show, titled At Home with Evelyn Cunningham, aired on WLIB Radio. On the show, she spoke about social and racial issues with well-known leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. [read more]

Exploring the Life and Legacy of Frida Kahlo

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 15

The famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, is known for her original and symbolic self-portraits and paintings. A new and important Frida Kahlo exhibit opened recently in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The exhibit is titled "Frida Kahlo: Timeless" and opened on July 31 at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art at the College of DuPage.

“Timeless” showcases Kahlo’s life story and includes 26 original works. Most of the pieces in the show were inspired by events in Frida’s life.

Early on a Saturday morning, a group of seven Simpson Street students met at our South Towne newsroom for a Frida Kahlo exhibit field trip. As we excitedly arrived at the College of Dupage, large posters with Kahlo’s face and name decorated the entrance, welcoming us. Before getting into the actual exhibit, museum workers checked and confirmed our tickets. [read more]

Mysterious Ancient Symbol Discovered
in South African Cave

by Makya Rodriguez, age 16

In the Blombos Cave of South Africa, scientists have discovered markings that show a hashtag-shaped marking. These markings date back to around 72,000 years ago. The hashtag symbol is used in a different manner in our modern world; it’s used to symbolize feelings, protest and it’s a way to organize and find content on social media.

The hashtag-like symbol in the Blombos Cave was discovered in 2011 on silcrete flakes. Although the markings on these flakes don’t have the same meaning as today’s hashtags, they are believed to be a form of ancient abstract art.

Ever since the start of excavations in 1991, scientists have made continuous discoveries in the Blombos Cave. The discoveries and artifacts are from various periods, and so are the silcrete flakes with the “hashtag” markings. After further research, scientists concluded that ochre, a natural pigment, was used to draw the hashtag-like markings. Additionally, ochre was used in other forms of art such as tattoos, paint for clay, and perhaps in medicine. [read more]

Creatures of the Cold: Life in the Arctic

by Maximiliano Moreno Lopez, age 9

Did you know that killer whales will prey on anything that they can catch? Did you know that the classic polar bear doesn’t have white fur and that they knock out seals from under the ice? Similar creatures that live in cold areas such as the North and South Poles must keep warm to survive. To stay warm, these creatures tend to have thick fur like a polar bear or layers of fat like a seal. [read more]

You Won't Believe How this Tiny Lizard Defends Itself!

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 11

Regal horned lizards have a very different look from other lizards. They have horns around their heads and have very small tails. Also, they have bodies that are wider since they have big stomachs. They grow up to five inches and have armored spikes. [read more]

Humans and Horses: Partners Since Ancient Times

by Maya Maclin, age 9

Horses are not like most farm animals. They are used for many things. For thousands of years people rode on horses to deliver mail and visit family members. [read more]

Monarch Populations in Sharp Decline Worldwide

by Francesco Dale, age 13

The monarch butterfly is possibly going to be included on the U.S. government’s endangered species list. This issue stems from global warming, urban development, and herbicides.

[read more]

What Kind of Animal Is a Bilby?

by Melanie Bautista, age 15

Most people know about the koalas and kangaroos in Australia but have you ever heard of the bilby?

If you live in the United States, you may not recognize the bilby. It is an Australian marsupial that looks similar to a rat or rabbit. Bilbies have been endangered for a while, and it is important to recognize the human impact on their environment. [read more]

Book Review: The Book of Three

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 13

The Book of Three is a novel written by Lloyd Alexander. The story is set in a fantasy world where a union of kingdoms has been established to defend against Arawn, the lord of death. The book tells the tale of an Assistant-Pig Keeper named Taran and his introduction to the world of heroics. Now without delay, let’s delve into this tale of heroes. [read more]

Playing Video Games Can Have Surprising Benefits

by Haliah Berkowitz, age 10

Do you like video games? Did you know that people who play video games can be very creative thinkers? In fact, did you know that video games can have huge social benefits? [read more]

Explore the Lussier Family Heritage Center

by Josepha Da Costa, age 16

Looking for fun activities to do this summer? The Lussier Family Heritage Center may have just what you are looking for!

Located just 10 minutes south of downtown Madison in William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park, the center provides outdoor and environmental learning experiences for children and adults alike.[read more]

Scientists Excavate Ancient Pit Filled with Dinosaur Bones

by Ellie Pleasnick, age 12

Utah is known for its preservation of dinosaur fossils. A particular site that stands out is Cleveland-Lloyd dinosaur quarry, a national landmark that is 148 million years old. For decades, scientists have studied this region to understand the Jurassic dinosaur fossils that have been left behind. In particular, they want to understand why the quarry is so packed with carnivorous bones. [read more]

What Is the Environment Like on the Martian Surface?

by Amare Smith, age 17

As the years pass and technology continues to improve, the possibility of humans one day living on Mars doesn’t seem that far away. [read more]

What Secrets Are Concealed at Area 51?

by Jessica Lopez, age 11

Do you believe that UFOs are real? Have you ever heard of people seeing UFOs near Area 51? Do you wonder what could exist at this location? [read more]

Amur Leopards Stalk Prey in the Cold Russian Wilderness

by Sol-Saray, age 9

Did you know that there are different types of leopards in the world? A really interesting one is called the Amur leopard! These leopards weigh 80 pounds, which is 30 pounds less than the African leopard. They prey on mice, bunnies, boar, and deer. [read more]

The Lunar Rover Helped Apollo Astronauts Get Around on the Moon

by Elim Eyobed, age 9

The Lunar Rover is a vehicle which was designed to help the astronauts from the Apollo Space program explore the Moon. It has no oxygen so the astronauts could only travel a half mile from their spacecraft. But the Lunar Rover allowed them to travel farther and collect samples of rocks and moon dust. It is large enough to hold two astronauts, their equipment, and rocks. [read more]

Book Review:
Lets Talk About It

Reviewed by Yani Thoronka

Following the death of George Floyd and other killings of unarmed black people, artists in the Madison community came together to show their allegiance and solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement. Their allyship was demonstrated through a series of murals, which lined State Street. These murals were painted on long, wooden boards that covered the windows of shops and other buildings from the State Capitol to Library Mall. [read more]

Emperor Penguins: Adapted for Life in the Antarctic Wasteland

by Maya Maclin, age 9

Emperor Penguins live in Antarctica. Penguins are birds and have wings, but they swim with their wings instead of fly. [read more]

Apple's Efforts to Curb Child Labor Fall Short

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 15

Apple is a huge multimillion dollar electronics company that sells myriad devices ranging from phones, to Macbooks, to operating systems. Over the years, it has had major partnerships with many different companies. [read more]

Flying Car Prototype Makes Successful Test Flight in Japan

by Amare Smith, age 16

Futuristic movies often feature flying cars, but the cars could become a reality shortly. A Japanese company named SkyDrive has been working to make our dreams come true. [read more]

Dog-Sized Lizards Invade a Delicate Ecosystem

by Ayden Ross, age 14

A dog-sized lizard, the Argentine black-and-white tegu, is rapidly taking over the Everglades National Park. This lizard, native to South America, is spreading throughout South Florida and the southeastern region of the U.S. Biologists are concerned because these lizards will eat almost anything that will fit into their mouths, from berries to small animals such as birds and reptiles, as well as the eggs of animals that nest on the ground such as endangered sea turtles. [read more]

The King Cobra: Terror Slithers in the Heart of the Jungle

by Malaya Lawson, age 9

If you see a king cobra, you should probably run away! King cobras are able to raise their heads off the ground enabling them to look directly at an adult’s eye. This isn't the only frightening fact about them, in fact, the king cobra’s venom is so deadly that it can kill 20 people, or even an animal as big as an elephant with one bite. [read more]

Major US Bat Species at Low Risk of COVID-19 Infection

by Alan Cruz, age 16

According to research at the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) here in Madison, big-brown bats, a species common in North America, are immune to coronavirus infections that cause COVID-19. Although 40 other bat species in North America were not tested, the research alleviates worries that wild bats in the continent may be contaminated by humans or spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to other species. [read more]

NASA Scientists Find New Evidence of Water on the Moon

by Makya Rodriguez, age 15

NASA scientists have now concluded that more water exists on the moon than previously believed. Using a satellite orbiting the moon, NASA has confirmed that there is water on both the sunlit and shadowed parts of the moon.

This information may help advance future lunar missions. “If we're right, water is going to be more accessible for drinking water, for rocket fuel, everything that NASA needs water for” said scientist Paul Hayne, who led the study. [read more]

Wolves: A Species Built for Survival

by Sol-Saray, age 8

Except for humans, wolves (Canis Lupus) are the largest land mammals most commonly found all over the world. Some wolves were tamed for the first time in East Asia 15,000 years ago; they are the ancestors of dogs and are the largest members of the dog family. [read more]

Twenty Years of Scientific Discovery Aboard the International Space Station

by Elim Eyobed, age 9

Did you know that a space station is similar to a house? It has showers, kitchens, and living areas. But it also has a control center where astronauts , or cosmonauts as they’re known in Russia, can work.

The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest space station that took a team effort to build. Sixteen countries contributed to the effort. Specifically, it took the cooperation of the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, and 11 European countries. The station was built on Earth and sent piece by piece into space and put together by the shuttle’s robot arms. [read more]

The Hair-Raising Science of Static Electricity

by Camila Cruz, age 13

Have you ever rubbed a balloon against your hair, causing it to stand up? This happens because of static electricity. This type of electricity is stationary, meaning it does not flow or move.

Hair has a positive charge. So when a person rubs a balloon on their hair, negative charges transfer to the balloon from the hair, leaving it positively charged and the balloon negatively charged . Because positive and negative charges attract each other, the hair is drawn towards the balloon causing it to look like the hair is standing up. [read more]

Cats Can Bond With People

by Desteny Alvarez, age 14

Although some cats don’t seem to connect with their caregivers, others do bond in some ways, according to a new study. Researchers now believe that this trait doesn’t just belong to dogs, as prior research indicated. [read more]

The Giant Panda Is a Gentle and Shy Creature

by Penelope Lawson, age 7

The giant panda is an endangered animal that lives in bamboo forests in China. There are only about 1,500 giant pandas left in the wild and their natural habitat is getting smaller, since they do not like living around people and there are fewer bamboo species in the forests too. [read more]

Beavers: These Amazing Creatures Are Highly Skilled Engineers

by Aissata Bah, age 10

Beavers live both on land and in water. On land, beavers are very uncomfortable. The front legs of beavers are very short, so they cannot walk fast. They cannot run away from their predators on land, but in water they are excellent swimmers. When in the water, beavers swim beautifully and fast. Wolves and bears are their predators. To keep their families safe, beavers build a small home in the water, which is called a lodge. The only way to get through the lodge is to swim through a tunnel. [read more]

Book Review: The Harry Potter Series

written by Written by J.K. Rowling

reviewed by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 14

I read my first Harry Potter book when I was in fourth grade and I absolutely loved it. The whole series was exciting, interesting, and hard to put down. Now, as a high school student, I realize how much the books taught me to enjoy reading. These books helped me learn to read for pleasure. [read more]

Volcanoes: Why People Live in the Shadow of Devastation

by Ruben Becerril, age 8

Did you know there are about 1900 active volcanoes on Earth and most of them are on the Ring of Fire? The Ring of Fire surrounds the Pacific Ocean and it is a 40,000 kilometer horseshoe shape. [read more]

Bizarre Ocean Creature Steals Power from Its Deadly Prey

by Zale Thoronka, age 11

Have you ever heard of benthic nudibranch animals? If not, continue reading because you are about to learn about one of them.

Benthic animals live at the lowest levels in a body of water. The benthic zone is the ecological region in the deepest parts of a body of water, such as an ocean, lake, or stream. [read more]

The Science of Antimatter: Matter's Strange Counterpart

by Jules Da Costa, age 12

Have you ever heard of antimatter? Antimatter is composed of antiparticles such as antiprotons, antineutrons and positrons. These particles have the same mass as normal matter but have opposite charge and properties. [read more]

Local Students Interview Negassi Tesfamichael

by Cris Cruz, age 17, and Josepha Da Costa, age 15

Negassi Tesfamichael is a former education beat reporter at The Capital Times. We recently had a chance to catch up with Negassi, who is finishing his first year at the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University. In his tenure at The Cap Times, Negassi covered important topics like the SRO debate, a changing school board, and the challenges of keeping teachers in the classroom. As students interested in media, we asked Negassi about his interest in the field of journalism. We were also eager to learn about his experiences in law school so far. [read more]

How Adélie Penguins Communicate

by Sofia Zapata, age 10

Voices and body language are the two most important ways penguins communicate with each other. The type of call depends on the species of penguin and the message they want to communicate. [Read More]

How Do the Deadliest Storms in the World Form?

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 11

Hurricanes are similar to tornadoes, but they form over water. While the official name for these types of storms is tropical cyclones, they are also called typhoons or cyclones, depending on where they occur. They cause damage to coastal cities and can kill thousands of people, and leave thousands of others homeless. [read more]

Mysterious Stone Ruins Stand Watch
at Indian Lake Park

by Desteny Alvarez, age 16

The historic Matz Farmhouse is located in the Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area, across the road from Indian Lake County Park in the Town of Berry in Dane County. A visit to Indian Lake County Park isn’t complete without stopping to view this landmark. History comes alive here and it’s easy to imagine what life was like for the pioneer homesteaders who settled in the area during the 1850s and 1860s.

Friedrich Matz, an immigrant from Germany, established the family farm at this site in 1852. Near the ruins of the farmhouse is a stone barn, which is in much better shape than the house itself. This structure looked to us like it would last a long time. The barn, like the house, was built by hand using local stone.

Dane County’s Indian Lake County Park and the Matz Farmhouse ruins are located on Wisconsin Highway 19, about two miles west of Highway 12. When visiting, we suggest taking time to read the historical marker located here. Across the road from these fascinating stone remnants are the main areas of Indian Lake County Park, which offer facilities and amenities for visitors. [read more]

Book Review: Akata Witch -- Written by Nnedi Okorafor

reviewed by Kadjata Bah, age 16

The book Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor is perfect for fantasy and coming-of-age fans. Akata Witch centers on Sunny Nwazue, a young girl living in Nigeria who discovers a secret, lush world of juju. Reminiscent of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, Okorafor brings a fun, rare, and unapologetically African perspective to the fantasy realm.

Sunny was born in America but lives in Nigeria with her family, where she is ridiculed for being an albino. However, behind her condition are magical powers that deem her a “free agent.” Sunny’s friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha—all graced with their own abilities—introduce Sunny to a strange world within her own, hidden from normal society. Sunny finally finds a place where she feels she belongs, but it isn’t long until she uncovers a much darker side to her new life as a free agent. Sunny must not only become familiar with her abilities and surroundings, but find and defeat a cold-blooded serial killer before a dangerous prophecy comes true. [read more]

Measuring the Devastating Impact of Ocean Trash

by Jazmin Becerril Gonzalez, age 13

Did you know that over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic exist in the ocean today? More surprisingly, there are four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer beneath the surface, and nearly 269,000 tons of microfibers litter the surface. Ocean trash is a major environmental concern that scientists have only begun to understand.

For years, scientists have studied the amount of ocean trash and its escalating effects on marine life. While studies date back decades, it was not until recently that certain small regions in the Southern hemisphere were analyzed. These remote regions were challenging to sample in the past; however, recent technology has made it possible to study them. This is an important development for understanding how plastic pollutes the world’s oceans.

Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said, “The first piece is to understand where [ocean debris] is.” Scientists are working to understand the full extent of plastic pollution in the ocean. Studying how much plastic is in the ocean is the first step in figuring out how to solve the problem. [read more]

Massive Ship Catches Fire in Sri Lanka!

by Allison Torres, age 12

Recently, a large container ship, the X-Press Pearl, caught on fire and sank off the coast of Sri Lanka and filled its west coast beaches with oil and plastic debris. The ship, based in Singapore, was carrying cosmetics and chemicals, including some substances that are very harmful to the environment.

The ship contained tons of oil and tiny plastic pellets, which are harmful to marine life because they release microplastic fragments into the water. When the ship caught on fire and remained on fire for multiple days, it released these substances into the water and onto nearby beaches. Chemicals and cosmetics are washing up onto the beach of Negombo, a place with a lot of tourism.

The navy of Sri Lanka and the Indian navy along with other experts tried to clean the waters near the ship. The navy wanted to move the ship further into the sea so it didn’t affect the fishing in the town, as it is their main source of food. Soldiers started cleaning operations on the beaches, but, unfortunately the ship sank as it was being towed out to sea, which makes the ongoing cleanup efforts more difficult. [read more]

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Radical
Abolitionist Reporter

by Hanna Eyobed, age 16

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born on October 9th, 1823, in Wilmington, Delaware. She attended a quaker school in Pennsylvania and was the eldest of 13 children. Her father worked for a newspaper run by a famous abolitionist named William Lloyd Garrison, called the Liberator. Shadd Cary’s father was a radical, and she followed right in his footsteps.

The “Fugitive Slave Law,” which stated that previously enslaved peoples were to be returned to their former owners, even if they were in a free state, caused outrage. This led Shadd Cary to move to Canada with one of her brothers, and soon after, the rest of her family followed. In hopes to save other black people from this fate, Shadd Cary wrote a report in 1852 to let others know of the freedom that lay in Canada.

Inspired by her father, Shadd Cary decided to start her own newspaper. She titled it The Provincial Freemen, and wrote most of the articles herself. Her newspaper was mostly directed towards black communities and was being distributed once a week. Shadd Cary devoted her life to “antislavery, temperance and general literature.” Along with the paper, Shadd Cary decided to open up a Canadian school focused on diversity and inclusion. She was dedicated to new ideas and changing the status quo. [read more]

Mysterious Collapse of an Ancient Civilization

by Camila Cruz, age 13

Many know about the Maya and the Aztecs, but have you ever heard about the lost city of Cahokia? Not many people know about the people who lived in Cahokia. Archaeologists do not know much about them either.

Although we know this ancient Native American civilization as the Cahokians, the name is a misnomer. Cahokia was named after a sub-tribe from Illinois that did not reach the area until the 1600s, long after the fall of the ancient civilization. The Illini did not know the people who lived in the city, so there is no connection between the two groups. Archaeologists still do not know the ancient group’s ethnicity, language, or exactly how they disappeared.

Cahokians lived in the area now known as Illinois and spread over six miles at its peak. Archaeologists believe the population of Cahokia was between 10,000 and 20,000 people. [read more]

Girl Scout Cookies Contain
Ingredients Linked to Child Labor

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 16

One might wonder what possible connections there could be between child labor, Girl Scout cookies, and two girls on opposite sides of the world. The connection, as it turns out, is palm oil.

Palm oil is important in the gobal food industry. It makes up 85% of the world's most consumed food oil. It is cheap, low in trans-fat, and has a long shelf life. Unfortunately palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation in countries like Indonesia, and child labor has long been a glaring issue in the industry. [read more]

Deidre Green Hired as Assistant Principal at Local High School

by Samuel Garduno, age 14

The Madison Metropolitan School District has appointed four new assistant principals at schools around the city. Among the four new assistant principals is Deidre Green, a former student and managing editor at Simpson Street Free Press. Green was recently hired at Capital High School.

In the sixth grade, Deidre Green began writing at Simpson Street. During her years at the Free Press, she worked her way up the ranks to become managing editor. As a student writer, Green recalled the most impactful experiences being the teaching she received from editors, especially Betty Kramer, a local volunteer. [read more]

The Macabre Dissections of Andreas Vesalius
Revolutionized Medical Science

by Devika Pal, age 16

Before the 16th century, there was little to no knowledge on human anatomy. Most of the information came from centuries prior and was largely incorrect. This changed in the 16th century with the anatomical discoveries of Andreas Vesalius. His works on dissecting and studying bodies helped greatly to expand the knowledge of human anatomy.

Vesalius was born in 1514 in Brussels into a Flemish family. His dad and grandfather were court officials to the Holy Roman Empire. As a young student, he developed an obsessive fascination with human anatomy. In fact, Vesalius started stealing and dissecting corpses at the age of 16. He studied medicine at Louvain University. In the 1530s, he left Belgium to study in Paris where he went out at night to graveyards, stole fresh bodies, took them back to his bedroom, dissected them, and slept next to them.

His works on human anatomy caught the attention of European anatomists Hacob Sylvius and John Grunter who invited him to teach at the University of Padua, Italy. At the age of 23, Vesalius became the head of the Department of Surgery and Anatomy at the university. [read more]

News from the Nest: Three New Peregrine Falcons Hatch in Madison

by Mariama Bah, age 14

Since 2015, peregrine falcons Trudy and Melvin have been nesting at the Blount Generating Center owned by Madison Gas and Electric (MGE). Three chicks hatched in May and were named and banded on June 3rd. MGE decided to name them after the neighborhoods that surrounded them when they were born. The male falcon was named Willy, after Williamson Street. Willy’s sisters, Jennifer and Brearly, were named after Jennifer Street and Brearly Street.

In the 1950s, peregrine falcons were a fairly common species in North America. But by the 1960s, their population was declining quickly. Scientists discovered this decline was due to the widespread use of DDT, an effective yet harmful insecticide used in gardens and on farms. The DDT directly affected the food-chain and falcon physiology. Specifically, it caused the birds to lay fragile eggs and ignore their young.

In 1971, Wisconsin was the first state to ban DDT, but by that time, peregrine falcons were considered extinct in the state. Recovery has been slow, with biologists breeding them in captivity, but they are hopeful. [read more]

Era Bell Thompson: An Influential Force in Journalism

by Katina Maclin, age 15

Imagine going to college, though being denied housing (in the dorm). Or, imagine cleaning toilets for a living even though you have earned a college degree. Or, just imagine graduating from college as a black woman just two generations away from slavery.

Era Bell Thompson had to face each of those challenges on her way to becoming an acclaimed journalist and author. She made history with her outstanding writing, journalism, and eventually earned global recognition. Her journey meant overcoming obstacles on her path to success, which made her an inspiring public figure.

Era Bell Thompson was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1905. She and family moved back and forth between Iowa and North Dakota during her youth. The challenges she faced during this period helped build her character. She had a difficult time in school because she was one of the few black children in the schools she attended. Her mother’s death while she was a student and dealing with racial prejudice and bullying were additional challenges. Despite this adversity and oppression, she persisted and graduated from Bismarck Highschool in North Dakota in 1924. [read more]

Wisconsin Oil Pipeline Leak Went
Unreported for Over a Year

by Sydney Steidl, age 15

Over 1,200 gallons of petroleum were spilled from an underground pipeline leak near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, in Spring of 2019, yet regulators were not notified for nearly a year and a half.

Workers for Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline, first noticed an odd smell during a routine visit to the site on April 26, 2019. A loose joint in the pipes was found on May 4, a temporary fix was made on May 17, and the pipe was permanently fixed a few weeks later. However, the spill went unreported to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) until July 13 of 2020, more than one year later.

When Enbridge first informed the DNR, they stated that 1.35 gallons of diluent, a petroleum material used for thinning crude oil, had leaked into the soil. This estimate proved to be greatly inaccurate, as the amount was later reported to be 1,225 to 1,386 gallons. Toxic chemicals contaminated at least 130 tons of soil, affecting about 3.5 acres of farmland about half a mile from the Rock River. [read more]

Crab Shell Bandages: the Future of Medicine?

by Dyami Rodriguez, age 16

Scientists at the University of Wuhan in China have discovered that shells from crabs, shrimps, and lobsters can help heal wounds faster, as well as reduce the chance of infection. The shells contain a material called chitin (Ky-tin), which have powerful healing properties. Scientists are testing ways to make chitin into gauzes and bandages to accelerate the healing process.

Jinping Zhou, a chemist at the University of Wuhan, wanted to verify that chitin would help wounds heal, so he and his team decided to perform tests on rats. The experiments consisted of three groups of rats and three different gauzes: a chitin gauze, a cellulose gauze, and another similar gauze. The team of scientists made four millimeter cuts on each rat and applied the gauze. After twelve days, the gauze made with 71 percent chitin showed the most improvement.

The steps to make chitin gauze are simple but time consuming. First, the shells of the lobsters, crabs, and shrimps are ground into tiny little pieces. Afterwards, they are submerged in a special solvent for 12 hours. Next, the product is heated and bleached, transforming into fabric fibers. Finally, the material is spun into a gauze and the process is complete. [read more]

What Gave the T-Rex its Powerful Bite?

by Jules Da Costa, age 13

Scientists always knew the Tyrannosaurus Rex (T - Rex) had a powerful bite but they were unsure why. Now, new research explains the science behind why the bite had such tremendous power.

Scientists have recently gathered data about the T- Rex’s bite. They discovered that the bone-crushing bite was powered by a stiff lower jaw. The stiffness came from a small boomerang-shaped bone called the prearticular. A study presented in April 2021 shows that this bone was what gave the T- Rex its flexible lower jaw. A flexible lower jaw allowed them to open their mouth wider than most reptiles to bite larger prey. Like all reptiles, T-Rex had a joint in their lower jawbone called the intramandibular joint. Scientists have shown that with a bone spanning this intramandibular joint, the T-Rex could produce a bite force of more than six metric tons of power, which is the weight of an average delivery truck. [read more]

Feeding Cows Seaweed Could Reduce Methane Emissions

by Theodore Morrison, age 13

Did you know that when cows burp or fart they release a gas called methane that is toxic for our atmosphere? When scientists added seaweed in small amounts to the diet of a group of cows, the cows showed a reduction in the release of methane.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is slowly destroying our planet. It does this by trapping heat inside our atmosphere. Methane stays in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide, but is 30 times more effective at trapping heat.

According to a study reported by the Guardian, the current emissions of greenhouse gasses in agriculture make up 10 percent of all emissions in the United States. Climate activists have responded by campaigning for a reduction in meat products. Scientists from UC Davis think that the process used to produce meat could be improved if we were able to obtain enough Asparagopsis taxiformis, a type of seaweed. [read more]

The Public’s Right to Know: Fewer Beat Reporters Covering Education Issues

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 16

The number of professional journalists covering the education beat has gone down. Across the United States more education reporters are retiring, taking buyouts, or being terminated.

The reshuffling of education journalists is not new and is often a natural progression of the news and media business. Some beat reporters join investigative teams, move to education-specific platforms, or change their reporting focus. It’s fairly common for smaller media platforms, born in the last decade or so, to attract veteran journalists. And of course, some employees move to journalism jobs outside of traditional newsrooms.

Notable departures from the education beat include Ann Doss Helms, an education reporter for the Charlotte Observer. Helms recently announced she would take a buyout after 16 years on the beat. [read more]

Ganymede: A Frozen World of Wonder

by Jazmin Becerril Gonzalez, age 13

You may not be able to walk on it, but scientists believe that sometime in the future, it may be possible for life of some kind to exist on one of Jupiter’s moons, Ganymede, which also happens to be the largest moon in the solar system.

Satellite images from NASA’s Galileo and Voyager probes show that Ganymede is icy and cratered with both light and dark patches across the surface. The dark regions cover 40% of Ganymede and could be at least three billion years old. The light regions are believed to be younger and contain ridges that are up to 2,000 feet high expanding across the surface. There are multiple hypotheses about how the darker and lighter regions appeared on the moon; most of them suggest that it had to come from some movement and freezing of water. When it comes to the composition of Ganymede, probes from the Galileo mission detected that it has a magnetic field, suggesting that Ganymede has metal somewhere in its core. Specifically, Ganymede could have an iron core that is surrounded by layers of ice and rock.

Although Ganymede has potential for life if it warms up, it lacks an atmosphere and remains cold even with direct sunlight. Compared to the Earth, Ganymede receives only four percent as much of the Sun’s brightness. This is why space probes that go to this moon, such as Galileo and Voyager, need nuclear generators for energy rather than solar panels. [read more]

Looking Back in History: The Zoot Suit Riots

by Sandy Flores Ruiz, age 15

In 1943, protests coined the Zoot Suit Riots (named after the outfits worn by young Latinos and minority groups) took hold of Los Angeles in the wake of swelling racial tensions and prejudice.

The outfit that became the namesake of the protests, the zoot suit, was a popular outfit in the 1930s. The style consisted of loose baggy clothing, jackets, shoulder pads, lapels, leg pants and accessories like chains, watches, and a variety of hats. For example, many Harlem dancers wore these types of clothing and their popularity spread across the country, specifically among Latin American, African American, and other minority groups. Over time, zoot suits evolved to be used to scapegoat minority groups. People who wore these outfits were seen as street thugs, gang members, and rebellious delinquents.

During World War 2, the zoot suits gained an even more malicious reputation as many service men viewed them as an unpatriotic waste of resources since the U.S. needed silks, wools and other fabrics to support war time efforts. Nonetheless tailors across the U.S in places like Los Angeles and New York continued to make zoot suits. As summer 1943 approached, tensions started to rise between white members of the military and zoot suiters, most notably in Los Angeles. [read more]

Ebony Relaunches as Online-Only Magazine

by Hanna Eyobed, age 15

Ebony Magazine has been creating safe and productive spaces for Black/African American people for over 75 years. While existing as paper copy for the entirety of its existence, Ebony has decided to rebrand itself to a solely online platform. This shift was executed because CEO of the magazine, Michele Ghee, thought it better suited the current times.

Ebony was the first Black magazine in America, dating all the way back to 1945. Its early issues sparked popularity with stories about Martin Luther King Jr. The magazine also documented many historic moments in the civil rights movement including the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and the Selma march in 1965. In the 1960’s the magazine covered the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In recent years, Ebony has shared inspiring stories of the Black community as well as highlighting the lives of Black celebrities like Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, and Michelle Obama.

However, it has not been an easy road to success. In 2016, Ebony struggled as the digital world grew, and was sold to its sister publication, Jet. It did not flourish and was sold again and incurred many lawsuits over underpaid writers. Ebony owners filed for bankruptcy after failing to repay 10 million dollars in loans, and by the spring of 2019 had ceased to print. [read more]

Freedom of the Press Advocates Mobilize in Countries Around the World

by Josepha Da Costa, age 16

Egyptian authorities have released two journalists who spent more than a year in pre-trial detention. Defense attorneys told Associated Press reporters that Solafa Magdy and her husband Hossam el-Sayyad are staying with family members at their home in Cairo. Magdy is a multimedia reporter and el-Sayyad is a photographer.

Egyptian government officials are investigating whether the two journalists misused social media platforms, disseminated false news, or joined an outlawed group, according to the couple’s lawyer Khaled Ali.

The Egyptian government has drawn criticism in recent years for its wide-scale suppression of dissent. Thousands of people, mainly Islamists but also well-known secular activists, have been jailed. [read more]

The Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin Remains an American Music Pioneer

by Katina Maclin, age 15

Aretha Franklin made a significant mark in the history of American vocal music. For example, she sang at the inauguration of the very first African American president Barack Obama. And she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aretha Franklin was popular and accomplished across musical genres.

Most people are aware that Aretha Franklin was crowned the Queen of Soul. Though the question still may linger as to why and what makes her immortal status beyond Rihanna's, Tina Turner’s, or Jennifer Lopez’s. Was it because she won many awards? Because she could sing so well? Or perhaps something else? Franklin was the Queen of Soul because she rose through adversity, she persevered, and because of her undeniable talent. [read more]

Mysterious Extinction of an Ancient Predator

by Aissata Bah, age 10

Although saber-tooth tigers have been extinct for around 12,000 years, long-held beliefs that they died out due to hunger, climate change, and human hunting are turning out to be incorrect.

In an attempt to find the real reason, researchers have studied the fossil teeth of 15 saber-tooth tigers and 15 American lions that were recovered at the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. These animal fossils ranged from about 11,500 to 35,000 years in age.

Scientists used a dental microwear analyzer to examine these fossils. The tool was developed by anthropologist Peter Ungar at the University of Arkansas. It generates three-dimensional pictures of the surface of a tooth. Eating red meat creates a parallel set of small scratches, but biting bones leaves larger and deeper pits. The investigation found a pattern of wear on the saber-tooth tiger teeth, and it looks similar to the pattern on the present-day African lion teeth. [read more]

A Land and a Culture:
Why I Love Eritrea

by Hanna Eyobed, age 15

If it is true, that home is where the heart is, then Eritrea is my rightful home. Eritrea is located on the Horn of Africa, along the Red Sea, and it neighbors Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sudan. Eritrea became a sovereign country only in 1993, after a 30-year war for independence.

When referring to incredible places, many people tend to speak of big bustling cities or spectacular landscapes. I think of the interconnected community, the unseen martyrs who fought for our independence and the beautiful traditions and sacred entities that inhabit the country. Both my parents, Asmeret and Eyobed, are from Asmara, the capital and largest city in Eritrea. So, my family’s link to our home country is strong. [read more]

PFAS Contaminate Groundwater Near Dane County Airport

by Gabriella Shell, age 14

Recent tests have revealed extremely high levels of dangerous contaminants called PFAS in the groundwater near former firefighting training grounds at the Dane County Regional Airport.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends no more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS in drinking water, an environmental contractor hired by the Dane County Airport found an excess of 68,000 ppt in groundwater at a site along Darwin Road. Another site, near Pearson Street, had PFAS levels over 20,000 ppt.

These two sites were used as firefighter training grounds in the 1950s through the 1980s, and are known as “burn pits.” The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources attributed the contamination at these sites to Dane County, the City of Madison, and the Wisconsin Air National Guard. [read more]

Wisconsin Mink Ranches Battle Coronavirus Outbreak

by Dyami Rodriguez, age 15

COVID-19 is not just a human problem. Recently, at a farm in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, over 3,400 mink died from coronavirus in a one month period.

These deaths were confirmed beginning early October of 2020, when Wisconsin State Veterinarian Dr. Darlene Konkle reported that a couple hundred mink on the farm had died from the virus. Much like humans, the mink were immediately quarantined to try to contain the spread.

Months later they are still in quarantine and they are constantly tested to determine when it can end. [read more]

Wisconsin Wolves Removed from Endangered Species List, but Controversial Hunt Leaves Future Uncertain

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 16

Wisconsin’s gray wolf population increased by 13 percent in one year according to a survey conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) between April 2019 and April 2020. This growth is attributed to the protections put in place by the federal Endangered Species Act in 1974. That rapid growth led to gray wolves being removed from the federal endangered species list in late 2020.

In 1985, the wolf population was as low as 14. Between 1990 and 1995, it rose from 34 to 83. It then increased from 248 to 815 in a matter of only 12 years. As a result of the protections under the law, the DNR’s overwinter wolf count rose from about 914 to 978 in 2018-2019 to 1,034 to 1,057 in 2019-2020.

“Wolves have a place in Wisconsin and the DNR is committed to keeping wolves on the landscape at biologically and socially-acceptable levels,” Randy Johnson, a large carnivore specialist at the Wisconsin DNR. [read more]

Why You Should Never Race a Moose

by Haliah Berkowitz, age 10

Did you know that moose can run very fast even for their huge size? Moose are the biggest animals in the deer family. On average, they weigh almost 2,000 pounds. Despite their huge size, they are extremely fast, both on land and in water. They can run up to 35 miles per hour or swim up to 10 miles without stopping. In fact, a five day old calf can outrun a grown human.

Given their size, adult male moose don’t have many predators. Animals like bears, wolves and cougars like to prey on moose calves instead. The biggest threat to adult male moose is getting struck by a car. [read more]

Madison Schools Announce Plans to
Embrace the Science of Reading

by Josepha Da Costa, age 15

Madison school officials plan significant changes in reading and literacy instruction. District administrators presented the proposed changes to school board members at a recent Board of Education meeting and signaled a shift toward phonics and the science of reading.

MMSD’s Chief of Elementary Schools, Carletta Stanford, acknowledged, “We know that what we’ve done in the past has not exactly hit the mark for where we want to be in terms of closing gaps.”

During the meeting Stanford explained recent research and discussed the expert advice that is helping school officials guide the pivot to a more science-based approach to literacy. Stanford referenced specific research findings stating that "early intervention is critical" and there needs to be "intentionality in explicit reading instruction." [read more]

Newly Discovered 'Skyscraper' Reef Towers Over the Ocean Floor

by Nevaeh Powell, age 13

Near the end of October while observing an area near the Great Barrier Reef, scientists found one of the largest underwater structures discovered in over a century: a reef structure made of coral.

The scientists that found the reef were on a year long expedition surveying the seabed around Australia. As the researchers were traveling on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research ship, the Falkor, they were using an subaquatic robot called SuBastian. SuBastian used technology that allowed the scientists to explore and create 3D maps of the ocean. As the group was on their journey, they discovered the tower or “detached reef.'' A detached reef is a structure, or tower in this case, that isn't attached to a larger nearby reef but sits alone at the bottom of the sea floor. [read more]

As Wildlife Moves North, Driftless
Landscapes Might Provide Refuge

by Abigail Comerford, age 16

Climate change has been an issue for decades, and currently scientists are concerned about how it's affecting plant and animal species across the country. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global temperatures are expected to rise two to four degrees in the next century, already having risen 1.5 degrees centigrade in the last century.

Jack Williams, a UW-Madison geologist and geographer claims that this is comparable to the rising of temperatures around 8,000 and 19,000 years ago when Earth came out of the last ice age. However, the difference today lies in the fact that the climate is warming at a much faster rate. As expected, this global change in temperature is threatening the lives of plants and animals everywhere. [read more]

Addressing the Long-Term Effects of a Sustained Reading Crisis

by Leilani McNeal, age 16

Low reading scores cause concern and debate around our country. Central to this national discussion are questions about how reading is taught in our schools. In fact, growing numbers of literacy experts say the way reading instruction is implemented in some American schools is outdated and ineffective.

The data is pretty clear.

America’s low reading scores are alarming on many levels. Kids who don’t read at grade level are much more likely to be disengaged at school, drop out, suffer long-lasting low self-esteem, or become incarcerated. And as new Madison Schools superintendent, Dr. Carlton Jenkins, recently pointed out in an interview with Simpson Street Free Press, reading scores in Madison, Wisconsin are lower than those in Mississippi and Alabama. [read more]

Dane County Expands Indian Lake County Park

by Josepha Da Costa, age 15

Recently, Dane County Board adopted a resolution that expands Indian Lake County Park. The resolution authorizes the purchase of 295 acres of land, which will be added to the park. This expansion makes Indian Lake County Park one of the biggest parks in Dane County.

“Indian Lake County Park is one of Dane County’s most popular parks, and it has seen even more visitors this year as a result of more people heading outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said County Executive, Joe Parisi, who signed the resolution. “This purchase will allow Dane County to enhance the park’s year-round outdoor offerings and make it the largest recreational park in our system.”

With the new purchase the park now spans 800 acres of land. During the pandemic, there has been an increase in visitors to the well-known park. The Indian Lake County park offers areas for activities like fishing and picnicking, also including a dog park.  [read more]

As Weather Warms, Dane County Park Officials Urge Public to Avoid Muddy Areas

by Alan Cruz, age 16

During the next few weeks, Dane County Parks staff will watch park facilities closely. Winter-spring transitions can lead to damage in county parks. Warm temperatures and rain pull frost from the earth during the spring thaw. This causes trails, dog-parks, and grassy areas to get muddy and soft.

A recent press release warns park guests that some county parks or sections of parks might be temporarily shut down over the next few weeks.  

Due to the closure of these parks and facilities, County staff requests that park visitors to remain on hard paths and roads. Understanding the value of outdoor recreational spaces for the community, staff wants people to know that “the spring thaw period combined with high use can have long-term impacts, especially on hiking trails.” [read more]

NASA's Planned Lunar Mission Will Include the First Women on the Moon

by Mariama Bah, age 13

In 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to reach the Moon. In 1983, Sally Ride was the first American woman to walk in space. And now through Artemis, a new lunar exploration program, there are plans to send the first woman to the Moon as soon as 2024.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN that the first female astronaut to walk on the moon will be someone “who has been proven, somebody who has flown, somebody who has been on the International Space Station already” and someone who is currently in the astronaut corps. Bridenstine wants to release the identities of the team soon, at least two years before the mission, hoping it will be a beacon of inspiration for girls all over the world who are witnessing this iconic time in history. [read more]

Fannie Lou Hamer: “We Didn’t Come All this Way for No Two Votes”

by Josepha Da Costa, age 15

“If I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I’m not backing off,” said a small woman who stands tall in the history of Black women. Fannie Lou Hamer helped Americans take giant steps toward equality in our country.

Raised in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer grew to be an impassioned and inspiring civil rights activist. She fought tirelessly for better treatment of African Americans and was a pioneer for voting rights.

Born to sharecroppers Lou Ella and James Townsend, Hamer was the 20th and last child in her family. Her childhood consisted of picking cotton alongside her family, leaving school at age 12 to continue working. In 1944 she married Perry Hamer and together they worked on a Mississippi plantation until 1962. On that plantation, she kept records as a timekeeper because she was the only worker who could read and write. [read more]

Alarming New Science Suggests Polar Bears Could Go Extinct in Our Lifetime

by Zale Thoronka, age 11

Did you know scientists estimate that there are currently only 25,000 polar bears left in the world? And, due to global warming, some scientists have predicted a large portion of the polar bear population will be gone by 2100. The increasing temperatures are melting arctic sea ice, which affects the polar bears in various ways. They are not great swimmers, so they rely on the ice in order to hunt seals for food and also to find their mates.

The life of polar bears, also known as ice bears, includes periods of feasts during the winter and periods without much food, in the summer. Normally polar bears will eat up to 100 pounds of meat to provide the energy needed to last them through the summer months. With rising temperatures and increased ice melting and therefore a shorter hunting season, they now find themselves hungry and on the verge of starvation during the summer months. These periods with a lack of food have been lasting longer than usual due to global warming.

"Ultimately, the bears need food and in order to have food, they need ice," said Péter K. Molnár, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "But in order for them to have ice, we need to control climate change." [read more]

An Investment: Restoring Dane County’s Pheasant Branch Conservancy

by Christy Zheng, age 17

Over one hundred years ago, the Acker family converted 160 acres of wetlands and prairies into a dairy farm. In 2019, Dane County purchased the property for an unprecedented $10 million—the largest land purchase for conservation purposes in the county’s history. Restoration of the farmland to its original ecosystems is currently underway, an effort that will advance flood mitigation efforts and improve water quality, among other benefits.

The former farm site will merge with the adjacent 550 acre Pheasant Branch Conservancy, a large natural area in northern Middleton. Dane County is partnering with the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, the Clean Lakes Alliance, and other community organizations to demolish structures on the property, encourage significant wetland revitalization and stormwater management, and cultivate prairies on former croplands.

Earlier this year, the Middleton Fire Department utilized some of the structures on the Acker farm site for training exercises. With their aid and the efforts of staff at the Dane County Land and Water Resources Department, all building demolition is now complete. Middleton-based Speedway Sand and Gravel will remove the rest of the concrete as part of a $429,800 contract. The concrete will be reused on-site to construct a parking lot. [read more]

A Preeminent African American Journalist with Deep Wisconsin Roots

by Kadjata Bah, age 15

Described as a “majestic” and “luminous” journalist, Lillian Parker Thomas Fox is one of many Black women who were pioneers in the field of journalism during the 19th century. Publishing her sharp and poignant writing across the Midwest, Fox aspired to direct “human thought forward.”

Born in Chicago, Fox moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin with her family soon after her birth in 1854. She was known to be an avid reader and devoted student until her studies ended abruptly during her third year of high school when she became engaged and married.

Nonetheless, Fox continued her intellectual pursuits. She wrote many articles for Wisconsin’s Black press, one of which fiercely called out American hypocrisy after the repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Fox wrote “You pity England with her Lords and Commons; Russia with its Czar and subjects, and yet practically acknowledge that you have a people among you of American birth whom you consider by God created for your servants, your inferiors by nature rather than by condition.” [read more]

Wisconsin Faces Major Water Contamination Challenges

by Gabriella Shell, age 14

Almost everyone has heard of the Flint water crisis that rocked the nation back in 2016 and has continued to make national headlines since then. However, few know that Wisconsin has its own problems with water quality that it has been grappling with for decades.

As Flint continues to struggle with replacing all of their old lead pipes, Wisconsin is dealing with the same problem along with added issues of contaminants in local drinking water. With a system of unrecorded lead pipes that are extremely costly and dangerous to replace, along with decades worth of potentially harmful chemicals and nitrates leeching into the groundwater, Wisconsin’s water system is more unstable and unsafe than meets the eye. [read more]

Scientist Discovers New Metal-Eating Bacteria in an Unusual Place: His Sink

by Jazmin Becerril Gonzalez, age 13

Bacteria are perhaps the earliest form of life on Earth and can be found everywhere. Earlier this year, scientists accidentally discovered something pretty crazy: a metal eating bacteria that they had suspected existed for decades but were unable to identify.

Dr. Jared Leadbetter, a microbiologist at California Institute of Technology, discovered the bacteria after leaving a glass jar covered with chemicals used in other experiments to soak in tap water in his office sink. When he returned after several months, he found a dark material covering the jar. At this point, he and his team conducted experiments trying to figure out what caused this chemical reaction. They concluded that the dark material was oxidized manganese caused by newly discovered bacteria which probably exists in tap water. [read more]