Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Totally True Tuesday - Guess What I Am

It’s been around for over 5000 years. It was an important staple to the Aztec Indians and it even helped in the inventing of the first microwave oven. Plus, movie night just wouldn't be the same without it.

Can you guess what it is?

That’s right, it’s popcorn.

A Kernel of History

The oldest corn recorded today was found in the Bat Cave in New Mexico. These ears of corn ranging from smaller than a penny to about 10cm long, are thought to be approximately 5600 years old. Kernels of corn have also been found in tombs in Peru and some still pop after 1000 years.

Popcorn, was known as momchitl, to the 16th century Aztec Indians, and played an important role in their lives. They used it not only as a food source, but also in their ceremonies.  Garlands and headdresses were made from thick rows of popcorn and used in traditional dances. Popcorn was also thought to bring peace and goodwill. Perhaps that is why statues of one of their most important gods, Tlaloc (Tlah-loc), their ancient god of rain, was also adorned with popcorn necklaces.

One account tells of the Aztec people scattering momchitl before the fishermen went out to sea. The popped corn represented hailstones and was given to the god of water in hopes of a safe journey for them.

Make it Pop!
Popcorn poppers have changed drastically over the years. Some ancient poppers were made out of soapstone or clay. This covered bowl was hung from a tripod-like holder and placed directly over the fire. Another method of popping corn is from the Winnabago Indians. They just stabbed a pointy stick through the entire cob, and then held it close to the fire. When finished, it was eaten like corn-on-the-cob.

Today, we have microwave ovens that do all the popping for us. In fact, it was popcorn that actually helped invent the first microwave. In 1946 an engineer by the name of Perry Spencer was experimenting with a new vacuum tube called a magnetron. (Magnetrons are used to produce the high energy that is used in microwaves.) When he was working with the magnetron, he realized the candy bar in his pocket had melted.

Being the electronics whiz that he was Percy Spencer had an idea and immediately sent for some popcorn. This time he placed the popcorn kernels near the tube and soon history was made. The kernels popped and he went on to create the first microwave oven.

More Popping Facts

~ The first microwave oven was 6 feet tall and weighed 341 kilograms. That’s 750 pounds!

~ Microwave popcorn sales amount to 250 billion dollars a year.

~ Popcorn pops into one of two shapes- the snowflake, which is big and fluffy or the mushroom which is round and firm.

~ The biggest popcorn ball recorded today is from The Popcorn Factory in Lake Forest Illinois. It weighs in at 3423 pounds and is 8 feet in diameter and 24.5 feet around. That’s about 50,000 times bigger than normal popcorn balls and it's all edible.

~ There’s actually a National Popcorn Day. It’s celebrated on January 19th.

Who knew popcorn had such a history? From caves to ceremonies to microwaves, this fun food has seen it all. Perhaps that’s why it has stood the test of time and still remains a favourite today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fun Facts Friday - What Am I?


What’s that sound? It’s coming from an old log. As you search the sound changes.


Now it’s fast and high-pitched. Suddenly, there’s a rustling of leaves. With lightening speed and a blur of racing stripes it zips past and disappears down a hole.

What Am I?

A Chipmunk!

There is about twenty-one different species of chipmunks living all over the United States and Canada. These rodents are closely related to the squirrel. How can you be sure what you saw was a chipmunk? It’s easy. Chipmunks are smaller (8-10 inches long) and have black and white ‘racing’ stripes down their grey and reddish colored backs. Also, those weird hiccup-like noises you heard are unique to the chipmunk. It’s his way of trying to ‘scare’ you away form his home.

Chipmunk Chambers

These hard-working rodents prefer to make their homes under the ground. They dig out long tunnels that lead to a sleeping chamber. Here, there’s a soft bed made from leaves, grasses or the fluff from seed heads. They also dig out another area to keep food in. Since chipmunks stay under the ground all winter long, they need to collect lots of food when the weather is warm.

Cheeky Chipmunk

Have you ever stuffed so much food into your mouth at once, that your cheeks puffed out? Chipmunk cheeks are extra stretchy so they can do just that. The chipmunk is constantly searching for his favorite foods of nuts, berries, acorns and seeds. They also like a bit of meat, so they’ll eat bugs and worms as well.

Once his cheeks are full, he quickly bounds back to his den to unload his haul.  The chipmunk may have to travel a ways from his den to find food, so these built in ‘storage compartments’ come in handy.

So next time your at the park, in the woods or even in someone’s back yard, keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked. You never know one of these cute little rascals might just pay you a visit.

Colour your own chipmunk by printing out our Chipmunk Colour Page!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Totally True Tuesday - It's Fat Tuesday!

Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras is a special celebration that occurs the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of lent).

Why is it called Fat Tuesday? Because this is the last day that eating rich, fatty foods is allowed before the traditional fasting of the Easter season begins. However, the festivities don’t end with just "piggy out." There’s parades with decorated floats, people dressing up in costumes and wearing colourful masks, dancing and sports competitions.

Mardi Gras celebrations happen all over the world. Let’s take a look at how other regions celebrate this unique holiday.

Around a 1000 men and boys of all ages dress up in a traditional costume (this group is called the Gilles). The costume is beautifully decorated with the colours of the Belgian flag - red, yellow and black patterned - with large white lace collars and cuffs. The suit is then stuffed with straw, giving the man inside a hunched appearance. To finish off the look bells are attached to their belts and wooden clogs are worn on the feet.

The festivities start bright and early at 4 am in the morning as the Gilles parade through the streets wearing masks, dancing and throwing blood oranges. However, once afternoon arrives the masks are taken off, but the festivities continue on into the night.

In Sweden the carnival is called Fettisdagen- "fett" (fat) and "tisdag" (Tuesday). On this day people are allowed to indulged in a yummy, cream filled pastry called semla. In fact, traditionally this is the only day they're allowed to eat this mouth-watering treat.


Carnivals, parades and fireworks mark this day in Germany and is called Fastnacht which means "Eve of the Beginning of the Fast." Even though Germany celebrates Fastnacht today with parades and such, many years ago it was different. Farm servants would wear masks and go from house to house collecting such fatty foods as eggs, bacon and sausage to later be consumed. This was a noisy affair, not unlike the current celebrations.

United States:

Not everyone in the USA celebrates Mardi Gras, however, New Orleans is the most notable. Mardi Gras is celebrated for many days prior to "Fat Tuesday." Dancing, costumes and parades all take place in Mardi Gras. People dress in elaborate costumes ride floats and toss what is know as throws to the crowds below. Typical throws include, beads, inexpensive toys, decorated plastic throw cups and specially made aluminum or wooden coins.

Have you or someone you know celebrated Mardi Gras? If so leave a comment or draw us a picture of what you did or saw and we’ll post it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fun Facts Friday - What Am I?

Everybody has one. Some are big, some are long, some are cute and button-like. It lets us know when something is sweet, yucky or burning. And every once in a while it even gets stuffy.

What Am I?

Your Nose!
What’s That Smell?

Did you know your nose can detect up to 10,000 different odours and that it takes millions of cells to do so? Around 6 million cells, in fact, located high up in your nasal passage is what gives us the ability to smell. And just like how each of our noses look different, they also perceive smell differently, too. This is called odour identity.

More Smelly Facts

~ Babies are very sensitive to the smell of their mothers.
~ Girls have a keener sense of smell than boys
~ Your nose can detect smells better late in the day

Clean it Up!

If you’ve ever been outside on a really cold, snowy day your nose may feel tingly when you breathe in that frosty air. However, before the air gets to your lungs, your nose has already warmed it, humidified it and cleaned it, making it safe for your lungs.

Nose Nasties

We all get those icky things in our noses commonly called Boogers. But even though these may be gross, they are actually a good thing. Tiny particles such as dust, dirt and pollen get trapped in your nose mucus preventing it from getting into your lungs. After this dries out it becomes a “booger” – basically containing all the stuff you’ve breathed in.

Being Nosey
Wikimedia commons
Did you know…

~ Your nose never stops growing? What fictional character is famous for a growing nose? That’s right, it’s Pinocchio!
~ Slugs have four noses?
~ It’s impossible to hum if your nose is plugged?
~ Anteaters and Bactrian Camels can “seal off” their noses to protect themselves form dirt?

Now you know what your nose already knows!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Totally True Tuesday - Happy Valentine's Day!

It’s February 14'th and that means it’s not just any ordinary Tuesday, it’s Valentine’s Day!

No one really knows how Valentine’s Day came about. One legend says that in third century A.D. the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, would not allow young men to marry (he thought this would make them better soldiers). However, a priest named ‘Valentine’ didn’t agree with this law and secretly wed young couples. When the Emperor found out he put Valentine to death. When? On February 14'th.

Here’s some more "hearty" facts:

~ approximately 1 billion Valentines are sent out each year!
~ Japanese women are expected to give chocolate and other gifts to men. Japanese men have to return the favour on March 14th, commonly known as White Day.
~ the oldest Valentine dates back to 1415 - a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was held prisoner in a tower
~ Teachers receive the most Valentines each year.

Did you send out a special Valentine today? If not, here’s a fun, do-it-yourself Valentine you can print, decorate and delivery.


1. Go to knowonder magazine and click the link - Be My Valentine  - print it out - you can use coloured paper or cardstock for a more durable Valentine.

2. Cut the Valentine out - you can make it as big or small as you’d like

3. Colour your Valentine - use makers, crayons, or pencil crayons

4. Decorate your Valentine - really use your imagination here using stickers, glitter, buttons or even ribbon - there’s no wrong way as long as it comes from your heart.

5. Sign your name - now you’re ready to deliver your homemade card to that special someone

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fun Facts Friday - What Am I?

I’m the largest organ in your body. I’m thickest on the soles of your feet and thinnest on your eyelids. I’m made up of three layers. What am I?

Your Skin!

Where would we be without our skin? It protects our inside organs and keeps out infections. It regulates our body temperature and helps us perceive pain, pressure and touch.

The Skinny on Skin
The human skin is made up of three layers;

~ Epidermis – the part of the skin you can see
~ Dermis – is where blood vessels and nerves are at work
~ Hypodermis – mostly fat and where your hair grows from

Here’s something fun to try. Look down at your hands. What do you see? Anything unusual? Even though you can’t see it, your skin is hard at work making new cells. It takes from two weeks to a month to make a new cell. When these cells are ready they will work their way to your epidermis, pushing the old dead ones to the surface. So when you look at your skin, you’re actually seeing dead cells. In fact, our skin loses about 30,000 to 40,000 dead cells every minute!

Skin-Tastic Facts!

~ Frogs don’t drink water, they absorb it through their skin

~  Polar bear's skin is black to absorb the maximum heat from the sun

~  Ostrich (see pic) makes the strongest leather

~  Besides humans, pigs are the only other animal that can get sunburned

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Totally True Tuesday - Guess Who?

I’m the strongest and most flexible muscle in the human body and the only one that attaches at just one end. I’m as individually unique as a set of finger prints and contain around 8,000 taste buds.

Did you guess who?   

I’m your Tongue.

Where would we be without our tongues? It helps us talk, whistle and lick an ice cream cone on a hot day. You can stick it out, make funny sounds with it and some people can roll it like a tube. But even though boys tongues are generally longer than girls, it’s still impossible to lick your own elbow.

Here’s something fun to try…stick out your tongue in front of a mirror. What colour is it? If it’s white that means you have a thin film of bacteria living on it, (and you should probably have another go with the toothbrush). If it’s pink, it’s perfect!

Terrific Tongue Facts;

~ a Chameleons tongue is twice as long as its body

~ a Blue Whales tongue weighs 5,400 pounds, that’s bigger than some elephants!

~ a millilitre of saliva contains 1,000,000 germs and 600 different types

~ the hardest tongue twister is “the sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick…”
Trying saying that six times fast.

~ a Giraffe’s tongue is bluish-purple in colour, is 21 inches (53 centimetres) long, super tough and covered in bristly hair. This helps them eat the thorny Acacia tree leaves.

~ a Woodpecker’s tongue wraps around its skull and is barbed and sticky to help them extract bugs from holes.

For more fun facts and silly stories, check out knowonder magazine. It's FREE!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fun Facts Friday - What Am I?

I’m a summer-time singer. My body has several legs, wings, and eyes. Farmers either love or loathe me. Can you guess what I am?

I’m a grasshopper

There’s between 11,000 and 18,000 species of grasshoppers worldwide and they’re found everywhere except the North and South Poles. But even though they’re common, they’re also quite fascinating.

Did you know…

~ Grasshoppers have an exoskeleton [ek-soh-skel-i-tn] which means the skeleton is on the outside of their body.
~ They have two sets of wings for flying – a front pair that is tough and rigid and a hind pair that is soft and flexible.
~ The grasshopper has three pairs of very strong legs. They use these to walk and to jump twenty times their own body length. Imagine if you could do that!
~ Grasshoppers have five eyes – two eyes are on the front of the head, two more eyes are located on the end of each antenna and the final eye is between the antennae. It’s no wonder they’re so quick!
~ Grasshoppers don’t have any ears, they actually hear through their knees.

Here’s Something to Chew On

Grasshoppers like to eat most plants, but some favour the flavour of wheat, oats, corn, barley, rye, clover, alfalfa, and cotton – all things we use and farmers hate to loose. In fact, a large group of grasshoppers called locust can quickly and easily devour a farmer’s crop in a matter of minutes.

However, some grasshoppers are actually a help to farmers. The Turnbull will dine on the weeds that kill crops. Other grasshoppers like the Two-Striped grasshopper will eat plants that are toxic to cattle.

Fun Facts

~  The smallest grasshopper is the Pygmy Grasshopper. It’s only 20 mm (1 inch) long!

~ The largest grasshopper is called the Giant Grasshopper and measures in at 60-90 mm (6-9 inches) for females and 45–55mm (4.5 – 5.5 inches) for males.

~ If you grab a grasshopper you may get “spit” on. This strong, brown, gooey, liquid is called tobacco juice and is used to deter predators.
Powered by Blogger.

knowonder Blog Design by Insight © 2009