Simpson Street Free Press

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]

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]

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]

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]

Robert Smalls Rode from Slavery to Congress
on a Stolen Confederate Warship

by Hanna Eyobed, age 15

Robert Smalls was born in 1839, son of a slave owner. Growing up, Smalls wasn’t aware of the miseries of slavery as he was removed from it. Being the master's son, he was worked less and was allowed inside to play with white children. As he started to grow up, his mother worried he wouldn’t understand the dangers of the world for black people. So when Smalls was about 10 years-old his mother made him work in the fields, witness whipping and live among his own people. As he became more familiar with slavery he decided to rebel. Fearing for his safety, his mother asked the owner to send him to Charleston to work. [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]

The California Condor: Back from the Brink

by Dyami Rodriguez, age 15

An endangered species has made a great comeback: a bird called the California condor. The California condor was heading towards extinction, but with the help of zoos and a reproduction program in Los Angeles and San Diego, they are now repopulating and living on their own.

Taking care of the condors was no easy task. Workers at the zoos fed the chicks by using condor-looking puppets. These puppets were also used to raise the chicks for a short time of their life. Once the condors had grown to maturity, they were released into the wild, but this species reintroduction was not easy either. Adult condors often electrocuted themselves on power lines, drank antifreeze, ate lead-contaminated meat, and were also hunted. Scientists wondered if these birds were ever going to live in the wild, or if they would remain dependent on the protection of humans.

In 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger banned lead ammunition in a territory he set aside for condors. Chicks in the area were being taught to stay away from power lines and hunt for their own food by their parents. In 2008, there were more condors in the wild than in captivity. Now condors have also moved into regions such as the Grand Canyon and Baja California. [read more]

How Has the Human Species Survived for So Long?

by Sydney Steidl, age 14

Homo sapiens are the only hominids (human-like) species to have survived in all of Earth’s climate changes over the last 45,000 years. Ever wonder how and why we’ve survived, when other hominid species, like the Neanderthal, did not?

Dr. Patrick Roberts and Dr. Brian Stewart published a research paper in 2018, Nature Human Behavior, claiming that since Earth’s geographies have diversified greatly since the first hominids appeared five million years ago, it was critical to our survival for us to adapt to them.

Other scientists credit our survival to our brain's capacity to form cultures and express creativity along with these adaptive abilities. We are “generalist specialists.” which some say is one reason we have survived for this long.

Other potential contributors to sapien survival are our cultural instincts and creativity. Anthropologist Dr. Melanie Chang says that art discovered from early hominids suggests creativity wasn’t exclusive to Homo sapiens, but has been part of us for much longer than we acknowledge. [read more]

Invasive Zebra Mussels Continue to Disrupt Local Ecosystems

by Makya Rodriguez, age 15

Many of us enjoy the local lakes here in Madison. But what people might not know is that our lakes are being invaded.

Zebra mussels are D-shaped mussels that can grow up to two inches in length. They usually have yellow and brown shells with stripes. This invasive species was first discovered in the Madison lakes in 2015 by a class of University of Wisconsin students, although evidence suggests the mussels were present in Lake Mendota as early as 2012. Since that time, zebra mussels have spread to other area lakes including Monona, Wingra, and Waubesa.

These invasive freshwater animals now live in about 250 of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers, according to the Department of Natural Resources. They arrived in North America as microscopic larvae traveling from Europe or Asia in the ballast water of ships and have since spread through the Great Lakes and various connected water systems. [read more]

The COVID-19 “Summer Slide” Will Target Vulnerable Students

by Leilani McNeal, 15, and Leila Fletcher, 18

No question about it, a worldwide pandemic changed the 2020 school year. What’s so far unclear, according to new research, is the fallout. Many education experts say the fallout will be very bad, especially for America’s most vulnerable students.

The 2020 school year played out in new and different circumstances. COVID-19 caused school districts around the country to close buildings and pivot where possible to remote learning. And for a number of reasons this causes new concerns among parents and educators.

Academic achievement is the primary mission at Simpson Street Free Press. So, we decided to examine school closings and investigate the ramification of online learning for students during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. [read more]

New Rules Restrict Use of Carcinogenic Firefighting Foam in Wisconsin

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 15

On August 31, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) finalized new rules that restrict the use of firefighting foam containing substances known to cause cancer. Under these rules, such firefighting foam may only be used in an emergency. Notably, the new rules prohibit use for training, which has been a significant source of environmental contamination at sites like the Dane County Airport.

The chemicals in question, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals.” This is due to the fact that these substances hardly break down in the environment. Beyond their longevity, PFAS exposure can increase the risk of bodily disorders and chronic diseases like cancer. PFAS are found in firefighting foam and tools we use every day, including food packaging and non-stick cookware. Due to their danger, Wisconsin has now started to limit the effect of these chemicals in our environment by restricting their use, and monitoring their spread. [read more]

The History and Spooky Legends of Lake View Hill Park­

by Zainab Yahiaoui, age 15

There is a fascinating and ongoing story happening in Madison’s northside. It is a story rich with mystery and local history, and it’s a story you can explore for yourself. Legend has it that Lake View Hill County Park is haunted by spirits. The forest and graveyard behind the Lakeview Lutheran Church next to the park are the site of the most suspicious activity, even though the park was the location of an old hospital. Some say the site is haunted because before the building was built the land was sacred to Native Americans.

As local legend has it, people who visit the area often connect with the dead as they walk through these ancient grounds. People who visit the woods come out with stories of what seems like paranormal activity. These strange occurrences include cold spots, awkward mist in some places, and sometimes they report a feeling of something grabbing them. Despite the rumors swirling around about the haunted forest, Lake View Hill County Park is also known for another thing. A sanatorium was built on the site in 1930. This sanatorium was made to accommodate tuberculosis patients since there was no cure for tuberculosis at the time. [read more]