Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snow Globes


I was visiting a friend yesterday, and on her fireplace mantle, I noticed the most intriguing snow globe. Inside the perfectly shaped glass dome, was a replica of New York City. I could see the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. I could even see Central Park with tiny horse drawn carriages roaming the streets and paths.
I was entirely captivated by the little world held within this water-filled globe. I had to shake it. And when I did, sparkly snow swirled around the city and eventually settled again on the streets.
Snow globes! Who thought of this quirky idea? And where was the first snow globe made. I realized I had just found another MUSE! After dinner, I went home to my writer’s studio and did some research. Here is what I found:
It was the turn of the 20th century in Vienna, Austria. A surgeon asked Mr. Erwin Perzy, a medical instrument specialist, to make the Edison light bulb brighter. The surgeon wanted a brighter light for his operating room.
Perzy knew that shoemakers often placed a globe of water in front of a candle to make brighter light. He figured he would use the same strategy with the light bulb. He would sprinkle the water with white grit for even more light magnification.
Since the white grit simply fell to the bottom, Perzy scrapped the idea for making a brighter light. But he was intrigued with how the white grit floated to the dome’s floor. It reminded Perzy of snow. This fascination led Perzy to create the first snow globe.
In fact, Perzy patented the idea and began mass manufacturing this new toy. By 1908, the snow globe had become so popular that Austrian Emperor Franz Josef gave him a special award for his toy making skills.
And the company is still thriving today. Erwin Perzy’s grandson, Erwin Perzy III, runs the business, and has made special snow globes for President Clinton and President Obama’s youngest daughter.
Today, snow globes are made by many other manufacturers. And some are much more fancier than Perzy’s Original Snowglobes – which still come on a simple black base with minimal subject matter inside the globe.
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started:
WHAT IF your main character got trapped inside a snow globe? How did it happen, and what did she/he have to do to get free?
WHAT IF New York City was really inside a snow globe. Is there a larger world outside of the snow globe. Who does this snow globe belong to? What happens when they shake it?
WHAT IF your main character had kept something secret inside a snow globe? What is it, and what would happen if somebody or something found out about it or wanted to steal it?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own “what if” question in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us!
With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon
The word of the day is “Austria”. Here is the definition: a country in central Europe. Vienna is the capitol city.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frankenstein vs. Terminator (By: Ryan T.)


Chapter One: Frankenstein Gets a Pet

Once upon a……. whatever.  So, once there was a freaky maniac named Frankenstein.  He really was always alone. He sits in his mansion watching TV and eating potato chips.  Finally, he got his tushy up and said, “I NEED A PET!!!” 

So, he went to the freaky pet store, and he went in and there was a real vampire sitting at the front desk.  “Hello, welcome to the Freaky Pet Store. How can I help you?” he said in a deep voice.

Frankenstein said, “Oh, can I have an 8 foot Cobra please?”  

“Sure,” said the vampire. “Here is the food, and give him 5 cups of blood to drink every day, and this one is well trained.

“Thanks!” said Frankenstein.

“No problem,” said the vampire.

So, Frankenstein went home and he said to the pet, “I am going to call you Bob.” The Cobra smiled.

“Looks like you like your name,” said Frankenstein. Bob nodded.

So they went home and Frankenstein made Bob some food.

“Ok, so this is your food and here is 5 cups of blood,” said Frankenstein.

Bob wagged his tail and ate it with delight.  Frankenstein smiled, and he sat on his chair and turned on the TV, and he went on to cartoons, and then the TV shut off, and then guess who showed up on the TV screen? It showed the Terminator.

Chapter two: The Talk


The Terminator popped up on the TV screen.  

The Terminator said, “Hello! Got a pet too?”  

“Yes, I did, and who are you anyways? Said Frankenstein

“Well, I am the Terminator,” said the Terminator.  

“I have heard many stories about you,” said Frankenstein. 

“So, I have a pet dragon and I bet he can beat yours,” said Terminator. 

“Oh now that is a different subject. I believe that my pet, Bob, can beat your dragon,” said Frankenstein.  

“Well, if this is going to be a argument, there is a volcano crystal in my world and it makes you powerful. I am going to get it,” said Terminator. 

“Really,” said Frankenstein. “I am going to get it before you.” 

“Really! Then, I will pull you and your pet into my universe, and we will see about that,” said Terminator. 

“Noooooo!” said Frankenstein. Right when he said it, he saw the room twirl around and then he was gone.

Chapter three: Terminator’s world


Frankenstein fell on hard ground. He got up, and his pet was confused. 

“I think we are in Terminator’s world.” said Frankenstein. 

Bob nodded. Then Terminator went over to them. 

“Hi, this is my world. As you can see, you are going to battle me and my dragon,” said Terminator. 

“Terminator, what have you done?”  said Frankenstein.

“Well, I teleported you to my world,” said Terminator. “You have to battle me, ok,  so let’s go.”

He guided Frankenstein to a place. 

“Here! Wear this, and here is a sword! We are going to battle each other,” said Terminator. 

So,  they both put on their gear, and they stood at the edge of the volcano. 

“So, Frankenstein up on top of the volcano, there is a crystal in the air. Grab it and run down as fast as you can,” said Terminator. 

They stood there and waited for it to begin.                


Chapter four: The Battle

“Let’s go,” said Terminator.

So, they ran up the volcano, and Terminator swung his sword at Frankenstein. Frankenstein blocked it. Then, Frankenstein started battling with his sword, and then he ran even more.  Then Terminator tripped him, and Frankenstein landed on the ground.

This is your last look,” said Terminator.

Bob bit him hard.

“owwwwww!!!!” yelled Terminator.

Frankenstein kicked him, and Terminator flew and landed face first. 

“It’s on!” said Frankenstein.

Frankenstein ran up, and then Terminator jumped in front of Frankenstein. 

“Give up!” said Terminator.

“No,” said Frankenstein. 

They had a sword fight, and then terminator cut Frankenstein. 

“Oww!!” said Frankenstein. T

Then, Frankenstein kicked Terminator hard, and Terminator fell to the bottom of the volcano. 

“Oh, it’s on,” said Terminator.

Terminator called his dragon, and it was an electric dragon.  It struck lightning at Frankenstein, and it hit Frankenstein in the stomach.  Frankenstein fell to the ground huffing and puffing.  He felt like it had struck his soul out.

“Ha ha!” said Terminator. “I’m winning!”

“Not anymore,” said Frankenstein.

His eyes turned gold.

“What the heck?!” said Terminator.

Frankenstein smiled and threw his sword at Terminator, and it hit him. 

“Oww!!” said Terminator.

“Frankenstein! Someday I will get you!!!!!!” said Terminator.

He had a big black hole, and Frankenstein ran. Then, Terminator threw a grenade, and then Frankenstein caught it and threw it back at Terminator, and it blew up. 

Frankenstein ran up the hill, and finally he got the crystal.  Terminator jumped at him with a sword, and then Frankenstein grabbed a sword on the ground and stabbed Terminator. 

Then Terminator turned into gold dust.  Frankenstein went down the volcano, and he saw a portal. He and Bob jumped in the portal.  Then Frankenstein and Bob were at home with the crystal.                

THE END!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Popcorn

It is very hard for me to go to the movies without ordering a big bag of buttery popcorn. This Thanksgiving weekend was no different.

While I chomped down on the fluffy, yet crunchy goodness, I wondered how popcorn became so popular in America. At that moment, I knew I had found another MUSE!

After the movie, I went back to my writer’s studio to research POPCORN. Don’t’ tell anybody, but I popped another bowlful when I got there. I munched and munched while unraveling the history of this popular snack. Here is what I found:

The oldest ears of popcorn were found in a cave in New Mexico. These ears are believed to be around 4000 years old.

Native Americans were the first to eat popcorn. Some believed that little spirits lived within the corn, and when heated, the little spirits became angry. They would pop out of their little homes and disappear as a tiny cloud of steam.

Some Native American tribes also used popcorn for ceremonial use. The Aztecs wore headdresses adorned with popcorn. They would also decorate statues of the corn god with popcorn.

Traveling closer in time, Charles Cretors invented the first mobile popcorn popper in 1893. People could cart this machine around to fairs and expositions and make a good profit.  This led to increasing popularity of popcorn in America.

During the Great Depression (1930’s), popcorn stayed relatively inexpensive compared to other “luxury” type foods. A struggling family could usually afford the five cents a bag of popcorn would cost.

During World War II, Americans tripled their popcorn indulgence. Since sugar was sent to the U.S. troops overseas, there was less sugar to make candies and other snacks. Popcorn became a quick alternative.

Popcorn was already enjoyed at movie theatres before the invention of the television. Soon, Americans made the habit of eating popcorn while watching their favorite shows and movies at home, too. And with the invention of the microwave and microwavable popcorn, popcorn consumption rose even more dramatically!

Today, Americans eat 17 billion quarts of popcorn each year. That is an average of 54 quarts per person. I’m sure I eat at least double that! (snicker…snicker)

So, how does Popcorn pop, anyway?

Each kernel of popcorn contains a tiny drop of water. This water is stored inside a circle of soft starch. A hard outer hull bundles this soft starch.

When water is heated, it starts to expand. At 212 degrees, the water turns to steam and turns the starch into a gelatinous goop. After the contents reach 347 degrees, the pressure inside causes the kernel to POP!

The gelatinous starch spills out and cools very quickly. This causes it to harden into the fluffy shape we are familiar with. The kernel is now up to 50 times its original size!

While researching, I also found out that most of the world’s popcorn is grown in the great Midwestern state of Indiana! Indiana is also home to the most famous popcorn man, Orville Redenbacher! I’m sure you have seen his brand of popcorn in the aisles of your local supermarket. Here are his most famous lines:

“My gourmet popping corn pops up lighter and fluffier than ordinary popping corn. Mine is blowing the top right off the popper. Mine eats better, too. Try my gourmet popping corn. You’ll taste the difference, or my name isn’t Orville Redenbacher.”

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started:

WHAT IF my main character had a magic popcorn kettle? With some magic words, the kettle popped an endless supply of popcorn.

WHAT IF your main character lived on a popcorn farm in Indiana? One night he sees a spaceship land in one of the fields. What do the aliens want with his popcorn???

WHAT IF the ghost of Orville Redenbacher knocked on your door? Would you give him some popcorn to go away? Or would you invite him in to stay a while? What would your main character do?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own “what if” question in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us!


With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “gelatinous”. Here is the definition: having the nature of or resembling jelly or gelatin.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Frankenstein By: Alex K.

Once upon a time there was a man. The man loved monsters. He got invited to a science club. The man learned that if you have enough energy to shock a brain of a dead person, it would live again.
Five years later he built himself a castle. One night he heard a sound that was coming from the basement. He went downstairs to take a look. He saw a dead person in bars. It was saying something. It said “I want to live”.

So, he got a medal bar and stuck it through the dead guys head. He got two balloons and rubbed them together. Just then, a lightning bolt shot out of the balloons. The dead guy hopped up and did the tango with the man.

Then the dead/alive guy said, “Pumpkin!”

One minute later they were watching TV and NASA said that an asteroid was coming towards Earth. So the dead/alive guy got some rocket boots and a ray gun and went into space.

He blew up the asteroid with the ray gun. He went back down to Earth, and a whole crowd was cheering for him. He was very popular. He got a nickname called Frankenstein.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Frankenstein


After eating so many Granny Smith apples last week, I couldn’t get the color green out of my mind. And with Halloween around the corner, FRANKENSTEIN pushed Granny Smith and her apples out of the front seat and demanded to be the MUSE this week!
So, why is this giant, green monster such a popular Halloween character? I decided I would do a little research and electrify you with some fun facts!

First of all, to my astonishment, Frankenstein was not giant, he was not green, and he was not a monster. Frankenstein was the scientist who created the monster. Victor Frankenstein is the protagonist of Mary Shelley’s classic horror book, Frankenstein, published in London in 1818.

During a vacation to Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Mary Shelley began writing what she thought would only be short story. She used her surroundings as a setting and the concept if galvanism as a MUSE. Do you want to know what galvanism is??? Are you sure???
Galvanism was an experimental science used in the 1800’s. Scientists believed that if the right amount of electrical current was shocked into the brain of a dead body, the body could come back to life. Of course, this type of science proved to be unsuccessful in real life (as far as I know… wink).

But Mary Shelley’s protagonist was successful at galvanizing a corpse to life – the corpse is what we know as Frankenstein’s Monster. And this monster wreaks havoc throughout the pages of Shelley’s story. Unfortunately, the gory details are a little too much to share on this platform, phooey!
Over a hundred years later, Mary Shelley’s story had not died, Muah hahahaha! Universal Studios in Hollywood created a series of movies starring Frankenstein’s Monster.  Some of these films include: Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Son of Frankenstein.

With the popularity of these movies, Frankenstein’s monster became a huge icon of the horror genre. And this is when people began using the image and character of the monster as a Halloween icon as well. Frankenstein’s monster became known simply as “Frankenstein.”
So, look out for the giant, green monster on greeting cards, holiday decorations, and reruns of old movies. If you are lucky, Frankenstein might even ring your doorbell this Halloween demanding, “Trick or treat!”

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your protagonist used galvanism to bring a dead cockroach back to life? FRANKENROACH!

WHAT IF Frankenstein wanted a pet to keep him company? What would it be?
WHAT IF Frankenstein was your protagonist’s dad? What kind of life would your protagonist lead? What does your protagonist want more than anything? Does he/she just want normal dad without green skin and bolts in his head?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “genre”. Here is the definition: of or pertaining to a distinctive literary type. Examples: science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, horror, comedy, etc.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who is Granny Smith, anyway?

I was walking through Pike Place Market this weekend, and I saw a beautiful pile of bright green apples displayed at one of the several fruit stands. Written on a sign in bright red letters, the apples were advertised as “Granny Smith” for $1.99 per pound.

I have spent my whole life enjoying the sweet, yet tart deliciousness of the Granny Smith apple, but whose grandma is this apple actually named after? I wanted to shout right then and there, “Can the real Granny Smith please stand up!?”

But I didn’t. However, I had found my MUSE! I bought a pound of the bright green fruits and headed back to my writer’s studio to research. Here is what I found.

Maria Ann Sherwood Smith of Sussex, England is the real Granny Smith. She was born in 1799 to a farm laborer. (A farm laborer is a person who works on the farm but does not own it. That would be the farmer or planter.) She later married a farm laborer herself, Thomas Smith.
The couple had eight children before they decided to leave England with several other farming families to New South Wales, Australia. They boarded the Lady Nugent and arrived in Sydney on November 27th, 1838.

The couple had another child, and in the mid 1850’s, Thomas purchased 24 acres of land for the family’s first orchard.

And as the story goes, around 1868 Maria found some seedling apple trees growing along a creek bank on her property. She figured they had come from a variety of French crab apples. She kept working with the seedlings and finally developed the crunchy, sweet and sour cultivar we know today as the Granny Smith apple.

Sadly, Granny Smith did not live to see her apples reach commercial success. But her legacy lives on today for developing one of the best cooking and desert apples of all time. It wasn’t until 1935 that the Granny Smith was cultivated in England (her homeland). And in 1972, the Granny Smith was introduced to the United States.

Granny Smith died in 1870, and while she had several grandchildren of her own – she is the only woman known to the whole world as Granny Smith.

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character developed his/her own apple cultivar? Maybe this apple gives people invisibility if they eat it.

WHAT IF the ghost of Granny Smith was haunting the apple orchard in your story? What does she want? What will she do to get it?

WHAT IF you used James and the Giant Peach as your inspiration and wrote a story about a character and a giant apple. How could you make the story unique from Roald Dahl’s classic tale?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “cultivar”. Here is the definition: A variety of plant that originated and persisted under cultivation. This means that the plant did not originate in the wild. Humans have altered the plant to produce a better taste, a more desired color, higher yield, etc.. The Granny Smith apple is a cultivar. It never existed in the wild.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lobsters

While shopping at the supermarket, I passed the seafood counter and noticed a dead lobster in the lobster tank. As a creative writing professor, I knew I could not let this opportunity pass. I asked the attendant if she would donate the dead lobster to a good cause.
“You want a dead lobster?” she repeated.
“Well, you see, I’m a teacher, and this dead lobster will make the perfect MUSE for my students,” I told her.

“Let me call my manager,” she said.
Eavesdropping on her conversation, I heard her say to the manager, “Sir, I have a very strange request from a man who claims to be a teacher. He wants us to donate a dead lobster for a class project.”
The conversation lasted two or three minutes. When the attendant hung up the phone, she walked back over to the counter.
“You can have the dead lobster,” she said. “But you must write and sign a note stating that if anyone eats this dead lobster you take full responsibility.”
“Deal!” I said, a little too excited, probably.  
While I wrote and signed the “contract”, the attendant fished the dead lobster from the tank.  We traded lobster for contract, and I thanked her dearly.
JEEPERS CREEPERS, I had found another MUSE!
When I returned from the supermarket, I placed the dead lobster in a Ziploc and packed him in the deep-freeze. It was time for me to research lobsters. Here is what I found:
The lobsters we find in the supermarket or at restaurants are closely related to their freshwater cousins, the crawfish. I prefer to call them crawdads. In fact, if you look at these creatures, they truly look like miniature lobsters.
Lobsters, crawfish, shrimp, and crabs are all crustaceans. Crustaceans are a group of arthropods that all have exoskeletons (hard outer shell). Humans have “skeletons”, which is the opposite. Our structural foundation is on the inside. Crustaceans are all set apart from other arthropods because they have two-parted limbs, in most cases “claws”.
When lobsters are not hiding out in a crevice or burrow, they slowly crawl along the ocean floor looking for food. If they are spooked, they flip their abdomen (we call it their tail) back and forth to flee. Sometimes they can reach the speed of 11 mph.
Like snails and spiders, lobsters have BLUE blood. This is due to the copper in their blood. Our blood is red, due to the iron.
Lobsters possess a unique ability to produce a special enzyme that repairs their DNA. Some scientists believe that lobster could live almost forever, if they were not hunted, trapped, or if they did not contract a disease.
Lobsters are omnivores, which mean they eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists mainly of fish, mollusks (clams), other crustaceans, worms, and some plant life. Lobsters have been known to be cannibalistic in captivity.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest lobster ever caught was 44 pounds. This monster was caught off the shores of Nova Scotia, Canada.
The commercial lobster industry brings in over one billion dollars a year.
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character went swimming in the ocean and was encountered by a lobster three times his/her size?
WHAT IF your main character was a lobster trapper and he/she trapped the world’s only rainbow lobster. Maybe this lobster has special powers. What are they?
WHAT IF your main character was a lobster that was trapped and lived in the lobster tank at a supermarket. How does he/she escape?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.
With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon
P.S. The word of the day is “arthropod”. Here is the definition: any invertebrate in the phylum arthropoda, having a segmented body, jointed limbs, and usually a chitinous shell that undergoes moltings, including the insects, spiders, and other arachnids, crustaceans, and myriapods.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Indiana Bat

Last weekend I spent the night at my grandparent’s cabin in Owen County, Indiana. The cabin is situated next to a small lake and is in the middle of a wooded area.

Having spent much time at “the lake” during my childhood, I have always been ready to encounter the wild side of nature. Frogs, lizards, snakes, spiders, opossums, raccoons, and beavers are just a few of the critters one might encounter.

But this visit was a bit different. It was around midnight, and I was talking to my sister in the family room. All of a sudden, I saw a small black shadow dart between us. Back and forth it flew as my sister and I ducked our heads out of the way.
Soon, I realized we were cohabitating with a BAT! Yes, a real, live BAT!
After a minute or so, the little fur ball flew toward the ceiling and held tight to the wooden wall. And that is where we left our tiny friend. When we woke up the next morning, the bat was gone. Hopefully it had left the same way it had come in.
 One thing I knew for sure is that I had found another MUSE! And I couldn’t wait to do some research!
The bat I had witnessed was most likely an Indiana Bat. Yes, Indiana has its own species of bats. The reason they are called Indiana bats is because more than half of this species’ population hibernates in the caves of Indiana.
Sadly, I found out that the Indiana bat is endangered. This is mostly due to human disturbances. When people go caving they may spook the bats out of hibernation. This causes them to use too much of their stored energy, which causes them to die. So, please, stay away from caves during the hibernation months of bats.
The Indiana bat is tiny. It grows about two inches long, although its wing span can reach up to nine inches. Most Indiana bats weigh about one ounce.
At dusk, you can witness these little guys darting around hunting insects. The Indiana bat eats only flying insects including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. YAY! Chow down, my friends!
Female bats give birth to one “pup” in late June. The pup will be able to fly after one month.
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character found people intentionally disturbing bats during their hibernation? Maybe they are trying to capture the bats to sell to pet stores. What would your main character do about this?
WHAT IF Indiana bats were mythical creatures in disguise? Instead of a vampire, what do Indiana bats morph into?
WHAT IF an Indiana bat landed on your main character’s shoulder and spoke something in his or her ear. What would it say, and how would this advance your plot?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.
With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon
P.S. The word of the day is “hibernation”. Here is the definition: to spend the winter in close quarters in a dormant condition, as bears and certain other animals.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stag Beetle

I arrived to my best friend’s house after dark. His patio light was on, and as I approached the back door, I saw a gigantic bug latched onto the screen of the kitchen window.

I LOVE BUGS! And I knew immediately what kind it was. When I was a kid, we called them “pinching bugs”, but I learned the correct name is “stag beetle”. Once again, I had found a MUSE!
I collected the specimen and took him inside to get a better look. He had two extra large mandibles (pinchers) that looked like the antlers of a deer – hence the name “stag beetle”. And he was nearly two inches long. Although my best friend was not excited about having a gigantic bug inside his house, I kept the creature overnight.
The following day, I collected some dirt, rotting wood, and some leaves to make my new friend a habitat. And today, I plan to take him to my creative writing class at the Orchard School here in Indianapolis. There, I will have my students give our friend a name. Maybe he will even become the class mascot. After class, we will release our friend back to the wild (smile).
But before I take Mr. Stag Beetle to class, I think I should do a little research on his kind. This way I can answer some questions if some of my students are inspired to write a story featuring stag beetles.
Here is what I found:
Stag beetles go through complete metamorphosis. This means they grow from egg, larva, pupa, to adult. The female lays eggs on rotting wood. When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on this rotting wood. This stage can last for several years.
Once the larva is finished eating, it will burrow into the ground to pupate. Eventually the adult beetle will dig itself out of the ground and search for a mate. The adult beetle will live for one to two years.
Male stag beetles use their large mandibles to fight other males, and the strongest one gets the girl (wink).  
Adult beetles like to eat leaves and sap. The beetle I found has been feasting on a rotten apple. I hear they like any type of rotting fruit. YUMMY!
Stag beetles are not at the top of the food chain. Lizards, raccoons, snakes, toads, weasels, skunks, and even centipedes like to dine on the stag beetle.
And no, stag beetles are not considered a pest like termites. They are considered a beneficial insect because they promote the healthy decomposition of fallen trees in the forest.  Rotting trees decompose into fertile soil for new trees to grow.
By the way, stag beetles CAN fly.
With that new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your stag beetle character preferred chocolate cake instead of rotting fruit. And what if this led to your stag beetle character opening his/her own bakery?
WHAT IF your stag beetle character entered into the “Ultimate Pinching Bug Fight”? What could he win? What could he lose?
WHAT IF you wrote a story about a stag beetle that didn’t think he/she was a stag beetle. Maybe he/she actually thinks he/she is a ninja, princess, a moose, or a rooster.
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.
With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon
P.S. The word of the day is “mandible”. Here is the definition: either of a pair of mouthparts in insects and other arthropods that are usually used for biting and crushing food.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Smokey Bear

Traveling across this great land of ours, I saw the many lush and green forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. I couldn’t help but think about those brave individuals that help save these national treasures when a wildfire breaks out. Just about that time, I heard a news flash stating that wildfires had sparked across the state of New Mexico.
New Mexico, I thought over and over in my head. Isn’t that where Smokey Bear was found back in the 50’s? A muse had surfaced in my memory.
It was the spring of 1950, and a wildfire had broken out in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. After the fire, a group of soldiers, who had helped fight the fire, rescued a bear cub. It had climbed a tree to escape the blaze, and his paws and hind legs had been badly burned.
The soldiers named him “Hotfoot Teddy” but his name was later changed to Smokey Bear, and the bear became the national symbol and mascot for forest fire prevention. He was given a home at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. where millions of people came to visit him.
Smokey Bear received up to 13,000 letters a week addressed specifically to him. He received so much mail that the United States Postal Service gave him his own zip code (20252).
In hopes of producing an heir to Smokey, the National Zoo paired Smokey with a female bear named “Goldie”. The couple never had a cub, so another rescued cub from the Lincoln National Forest was given to the couple. News headlines across America read something like this: Smokey and Goldie adopt a cub.
This cub was given the name, Little Smokey, and he would eventually become “Smokey Bear II” after Smokey Bear was retired from his role in 1971.
Smokey Bear died in 1976. Smokey Bear II died in 1990. But there message will always live on: ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES!
With this new knowledge what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help get you started.
WHAT IF your character found a bear cub in a forest? Maybe there had been a wildfire or maybe not. What would your character do?
WHAT IF Smokey Bear was able to talk? Could you write down his story from his point of view? Maybe he has come to visit your school and plans to tell you what it was like to survive a wildfire and what it was like to be a national mascot for forest fire prevention.
What if your character woke up one morning and found their bedroom window opened. They look down on the floor and bear cub is staring them in the eyes?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us!
With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon
P.S. The word of the week is wildfire. Here is the definition: any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or wilderness area.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Octopus

I love to go fishing, but I am used to fishing in the lakes and rivers of Indiana – not the salt waters of Puget Sound. I figured it couldn’t be that much different though, so I took a fishing pole, some hooks and some worms down to the pier. I baited my hook and tossed the line in the water.
I waited and waited. Nothing. Wasn’t I supposed to catch a halibut or something?
I waited some more. Nothing. In Indiana I would have had at least a nibble by now.
And just as my mind began to drift away like the Washington State Ferry hauling cars across the sound, my pole lurched forward, and my line tightened.
I tugged and reeled and tugged some more. Whatever was on the end of my line was fighting hard to stay in the water.
When the beast finally surfaced, I could not believe my eyes. I was expecting a fish with fins and gills, not an OCTOPUS with eight arms! Toto, I believe we are not in Indiana anymore.
Not only had I caught an OCTOPUS, but I also found my MUSE! After releasing my new friend back to the cool waters of Puget Sound, I went back to my writer’s studio to research my MUSE. Here is what I found:
The octopus I had caught was a young Giant Pacific Octopus. This species is native to the Puget Sound and are the largest Octopi in the world. They grow up to 33 pounds with an arm span of up to 14 feet.
Octopi are the smartest invertebrate known to man. They have the intelligence of a house cat, and they are known for using problem solving skills. In captivity, octopi have learned how to open jars.
Octopi have superior defense skills. They can squeeze their soft bodies through seemingly impossible cracks. They can change their skin color to match their environment, and they can shoot a cloud of dark ink to confuse a predator. WOW!
The smaller an octopus species is, the more poisonous it is (usually). The most poisonous octopus is the Blue Ringed Octopus. This little guy has enough poison to kill a human being, and they only get four inches long.
Octopi usually eat mollusks and crustaceans, but they have been known to eat each other, too. The Giant Pacific Octopus will sometimes snag a shark for lunch. Now, that’s something to write home about.
And please do not call an octopus’ arms, legs. Spiders have eight legs, octopi have eight arms. And these arms are lined with two rows of suction cups each. They are used for holding onto things and tasting things. Yes, I said tasting.
By the way - Octopi, Octopodes, and Octopuses are all acceptable ways of describing more than one octopus.
With this new knowledge what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF a giant octopus lived under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge? Oops, this legend already exists, but we could embellish it (wink).    
WHAT IF your character woke up one morning and his/her arms and legs had turned into those of an octopus?
WHAT IF your character built a robotic octopus submarine? What would he/she go hunting for underwater?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.
With Imagination,
Prof. Watermelon
P.S. The word of the week is “invertebrate”. Here is the definition: of or pertaining to creatures without a backbone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheese

I was walking down the street, minding my own business when my senses were overtaken by a scrumptious scent – HOT MELTED CHEESE!
Following my nose, I found myself inside a pizzeria. I purchased two slices of extra cheese pizza and sprinkled even more parmesan on top.
I had just found another MUSE! CHEESE! CHEESE! And more CHEESE!
After savoring every last morsel of my pizza, I ran home to my writer’s studio and quickly began my research. Here is what I found.
Milk can be separated into two parts: curds and whey. The easiest way to see this up close is to look at cottage cheese. The lumps are curds. The liquid is whey.
There are three common agents used to make milk “curdle”. These are vinegar, lemon juice, and rennet. Rennet is an enzyme derived from plants or animals.
True cheeses are made from only milk curds. These curds are pressed together into balls, blocks, or wheels. Sometimes they are eaten immediately or sometimes they are aged or cured.
There are hundreds of types of cheeses and they can be made by different animal milks. Most are made from cow, sheep and goat milk. Some cheese is made from horse milk (not sure how I feel about that).
The stinkiest cheese is Limburger Cheese. The bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese is the same bacterium found on human skin, which causes body odor. YUCK! Luckily, aged Limburger cheese does not taste as bad as it smells.
Blue cheeses get the blue/green color from added mold. This mold continues to grow in veins as the cheese ages. One of the most famous blue cheeses is the Italian Gorgonzola. (I love that name!)
Cheese is made differently all over the world. Many cheeses are named after the region where they were first created. Limburger, Gorgonzola, and Stilton are examples of this. If the cheese was not made in that region then it really does not deserve the name.
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF the spider in “Little Miss Muffet” only wanted some curds and whey for herself and chased Miss Muffet around until she finally got some.
WHAT IF your little brother used his toe jam to make a new type of Limburger cheese.
WHAT IF you had a magic finger and whatever you touched turned to cheese?
The possibilities are endless! And please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a piece of paper and a pencil, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere! I look forward to seeing where you take us!
With Imagination,
Prof. Watermelon
P.S. The word of the day is “bacterium”. Here is the definition: bacterium is the singular form of bacteria. Bacteria are one-celled organisms, spherical, spiral, or rod shaped and appearing singly or in chains. They are in the kingdom Monera. Various species are involved in fermentation, putrefaction, infectious diseases, and nitrogen fixation. (Wow, lots more big words for you to look up.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunflowers

Sunflowers have been my MUSE since childhood. And I think I know why…

The first time I planted a sunflower seed, I watched the plant grow to over twelve feet tall. And the blossom was the size of a steering wheel. This was a true GIANT, and I was hooked. I have planted at least one sunflower every year since.
Not only is the sunflower’s size fascinating, they are also beautiful. Their colors range from the deepest oranges to the palest yellows. Some grow only two feet tall, while others truly reach for the sky.
Here are some more AMUSING facts!
Sunflowers are native to North America.
The tallest sunflower was grown in the Netherlands. It reached over 25 feet tall.
One sunflower plant can provide over 2,000 seeds. These seeds are used for snacking, birdseed, and sunflower oil production.
The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of Russia. Russia produces the most sunflowers in the world.
A sunflower’s blossom will follow the sun as it travels across the sky. This is called heliotropism.
 With that new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “what if” questions will help you get started.
What if Jack planted a magic sunflower seed instead of a magic bean?
What if we found crop circles in Russia’s sunflower fields?
What if little elves built a city in your sunflower garden?
The possibilities are endless! And please leave your own “what if” questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a piece of paper and a pencil, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere! I look forward to seeing where you take us!
With Imagination,
Prof. Watermelon
P.S. The word of the week is "Heliotropism". Here is the definition: The growth of plants or plant parts (especially flowers) in response to the stimulus of sunlight, so that they turn to face the sun.