Happy 45th Anniversary Capitol Reef National Park!

“National parks are America’s largest classrooms.”–National Park Service

A visit to a national park, actual or virtual, is a valuable learning experience. The state of Utah offers abundant learning opportunities as home to five national parks: Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. This week marks the 45th anniversary of Capitol Reef being established as a national park. On Aug. 2, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Capitol Reef a national monument. President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation establishing Capitol Reef as a national park on Dec. 18, 1971. I would like to commemorate Capitol Reef’s anniversary by sharing some interesting facts about this beautiful park.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure located in south-central Utah. Capitol Reef received its name because early settlers observed that the white domes of Navajo Sandstone resembled the dome of the U.S. Capitol building. Prospectors in the area called Waterpocket Fold, a ridge in the earth’s crust, a reef because it was a difficult barrier to transportation. The park encompasses 241,904 acres. It is the state’s newest and least-visited national park, attracting almost 750,000 visitors every year.

I recently got to explore this often overlooked park, and I can tell you that if you take the time to visit this wondrous place, you won’t be disappointed. The park contains colorful canyons, red sandstone cliffs, ancient Fremont petroglyphs, diverse wildlife, the historic Fruita orchards, and amazing geological features. Capitol Reef National Park is defined by the Waterpocket Fold. The classic monocline extends for nearly 100 miles. The majestic park’s prominent landmarks include Cassidy Arch, Chimney Rock, Hickman Bridge, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, and my personal favorite, the Castle.

The Castle in Capitol Reef National Park

The Castle in Capitol Reef National Park
(Credit: Michelle Brault)

I was impressed by Capitol Reef’s geologic features, but I was equally impressed with the park’s unique history. People have lived in the area of Capitol Reef for thousands of years. The earliest inhabitants of the Capitol Reef area were archaic hunters and gatherers, the Fremont people, and Mormon pioneers who settled in the area that is now known as the Fruita Rural Historic District.

As much as I enjoyed learning about the park’s history and seeing the spectacular scenery, because I am an animal lover, the highlight of my visit was spotting mule deer. Capitol Reef is home to 71 mammal species, 239 bird species, 15 reptiles, 13 native fish species, and 5 amphibians.

I am so grateful that 45 years ago, Capitol Reef was reclassified as a national park. Since there are so many gorgeous destinations to visit in Utah, I have a feeling that if Capitol Reef had remained a monument, there is a chance I would have missed out on this remarkable place.

Take your students on a virtual field trip to Capitol Reef National Park! Explore these resources available in ProQuest eLibrary and SIRS Issues Researcher:

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park Research Topic

Utah Forests and Parks Research Topic

Remembering Walt Disney

50 years ago today, the world mourned the loss of one of its most beloved figures. Walter Elias Disney died of acute circulatory collapse brought on by lung cancer. He passed away at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California on Dec. 15, 1966. He was 65 years old.

Disney had undergone surgery for the removal of a lung tumor on Nov. 21. The tumor was discovered while he was being treated at the hospital for an old neck injury he had sustained during a polo match. He returned to St. Joseph’s Hospital for a “post-operative checkup” on Nov. 30. He remained in the hospital until his death.

Walt Disney Research Topic

Walt Disney Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on Dec. 5, 1901. Walt Disney is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry during the 20th century. He created the beloved cartoon character Mickey Mouse and revolutionized the theme park industry by building Disneyland. Walt was an innovator and visionary leader who became a cultural icon.

He co-founded the media conglomerate that is now known as The Walt Disney Company with his brother Roy O. Disney in 1923. He was a pioneer in the animation industry, a film and television producer, an entrepreneur, and a dreamer. He was even the original voice of Mickey Mouse.

Although Walt Disney has been dead for 50 years, his legacy lives on. Generations of children have grown up watching his animated classics and live-action films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mary Poppins. Millions of people, including myself continue to enjoy his theme parks each year and The Walt Disney Company has become an entertainment empire.

On the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s death, I encourage you to explore more about his life and legendary career by checking out these resources available in ProQuest eLibrary and SIRS Issues Researcher:

Disneyland Research Topic

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Walt Disney Research Topic

Walt Disney Company Research Topic

Walt Disney World Research Topic

Walter Elias Disney

Happy Centennial, San Diego Zoo!

The San Diego Zoo is celebrating its 100th anniversary. I’ve visited the San Diego Zoo twice and both times I was amazed by the sheer size of the zoo. Located in Balboa Park, the 100-acre San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world, with more than 3,700 animals representing over 650 species and subspecies. The goal of San Diego Zoo Global, the umbrella organization for the San Diego Zoo, is to help end extinction. San Diego Zoo Global participates in more than 130 conservation projects in over 35 countries and has reintroduced 43 species into the wild. In honor of the San Diego Zoo’s centennial, here are some interesting facts about the history of the world-famous zoo.

Bai Yun, a female Giant Panda at San Diego Zoo, California

Bai Yun, a female Giant Panda at San Diego Zoo, California
By Mfield, Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), [ CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It All Started with a Roar

The idea of opening a zoo in San Diego was conceived by Dr. Harry Wegeforth. On September 16, 1916, the local physician was driving past Balboa Park with his brother, Paul, when he heard an abandoned lion roaring. The lion had been left over from an exhibit for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition. Dr. Wegeforth said to his brother, “Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo! You know…I think I’ll start one.”


Dr. Wegeforth, his brother, Dr. Fred Baker, Frank Stephens, and Dr. Joseph Thompson formed the Zoological Society of San Diego (now San Diego Zoo Global) on October 2, 1916. Originally, the San Diego Zoo consisted of animal exhibits left behind from the Panama-California Exposition.

In 1917, a brown female bear named Caesar became one of the first animals given to the San Diego Zoo. Caesar had been living on a Navy ship as a mascot, but after getting too rambunctious, the sailors decided to donate her to the new zoo. When Caesar arrived at the harbor, zoo officials didn’t have any trucks to transport her. Dr. Thompson, the acting director of the zoo at the time, sat her in the front seat of his roadster and drove her to her new home at the San Diego Zoo.

Zoo Exhibit Design

The San Diego Zoo became the first zoo in the United States to display animals in open-air grottoes in the 1920s. The exhibits featured large moats as an alternative to cages. This meant there were no longer bars between the zoo animals and the visiting public.

Balboa Park

The Board of Park Commissioners for the City of San Diego approved the site for the zoo in Balboa Park in 1921. The same year, Ellen Browning Scripps donated $9,000 for a fence to indicate the zoo’s designated boundaries. Her donation made it possible for the zoo to charge an admission fee of 10 cents when it had its grand opening in January 1923.

Giant Pandas Arrive

In 1987, San Diego fell in love with two giant pandas Basi and Yuan Yuan when they came to the zoo for a 200-day visit. The pandas were seen by over 2 million people during their stay. The appearance of two giant pandas outside of China was a rare event. By hosting the giant pandas, the San Diego Zoo gave people the opportunity to see the charismatic species in person and raised awareness about their endangered status.

On September 10, 1996, two giant pandas from the People’s Republic of China arrived at the San Diego Zoo. Bai Yun and Shi Shi were part of a landmark 12-year research loan agreement that has been extended multiple times. On August 21, 1999, Bai Yun gave birth to Hua Mei, who is the first surviving giant panda cub born in the United States.

The black-and-white bears remain as popular as ever among zoo visitors. I visited the San Diego Zoo in the beginning of 2016 and I believe the wait time to view the pandas was between 1-2 hours.  Unfortunately on that visit I didn’t get a chance to see the pandas because I spent too much time admiring my favorite animal–the polar bear. Have you been to the San Diego Zoo? What’s your must-see animal at the San Diego Zoo? Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

If you’re not able to visit the San Diego Zoo in person, check out the zoo’s videos and live cams to see your favorite animal. To learn more about the San Diego Zoo, explore these resources available in SIRS Issues Researcher.

Animal Attractions: Amazing Tales from the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Animals

San Diego Zoo Centennial

San Diego Zoo’s Panda Cam

Happy 100th Birthday National Park Service!

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The National Park Service has been taking care of America’s national parks since 1916. The centennial will commemorate the achievements of the National Park Service over the past 100 years and kick off another century of preservation, conservation, and enjoyment of the nation’s beautiful national parks. In honor of the National Park Service’s centennial, I would like to share some interesting facts about the National Park Service and the National Park System that you and your students may not know.

National Park Service Research Topic

National Park Service Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

1. The National Park Service was established on August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” into law. The National Park Service was created 44 years after Yellowstone became the country’s first national park. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act on March 1, 1872.

2. There are approximately 22,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal workers employed by the National Park Service. 221,000 volunteers donate their time to the National Park Service.

3. The National Park System includes “412 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.” The areas include 59 national parks, 83 national monuments, 78 national historic sites, 50 national historical parks, 30 national memorials, 19 national preserves, 18 national recreation areas, 11 national battlefields, 9 national military parks, 10 national seashores, and 4 national lakeshores.

4. The largest national park in the United States is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska at 13.2 million acres. The country’s smallest national park is Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas at 5,500 acres.

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most visited national park in 2015 with 10,712,674 recreational visits, followed by Grand Canyon National Park (5,520,736), Rocky Mountain National Park (4,155,916), Yosemite National Park (4,150,217), Yellowstone National Park (4,097,710), Zion National Park (3,648,846), Olympic National Park (3,263,761), Grand Teton National Park (3,149,921), Acadia National Park (2,811,184), and Glacier National Park (2,366,056 ).

I feel lucky to have traveled to six of the country’s ten most visited national parks. I will be celebrating the National Park Service’s birthday by visiting three of Utah’s national parks in the fall. You can join in the National Park Service’s celebration by visiting a national park in your state. The National Park Service is offering free admission to all sites from August 25th through August 28th to mark the occasion.

To learn more about the National Park Service and America’s magnificent national parks, explore these resources available in eLibrary and SIRS Issues Researcher.

Find Your Park

National Park Foundation

National Park Service

National Park Service Research Topic

National Parks Research Topic

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Are you going to visit a national park to help the National Park Service celebrate its birthday? How many national parks have you visited? What is your favorite national park? Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

Celebrate Great Outdoors Month

June is recognized as Great Outdoors Month. In 1998, President Clinton established Great Outdoors Week to celebrate America’s natural treasures. The week-long celebration was expanded by President George W. Bush in 2004 when he issued the first Presidential Proclamation designating the entire month of June as Great Outdoors Month. This recognition emphasizes the benefits of outdoor recreation and encourages Americans to enjoy our magnificent public lands and waterways. The annual tradition has continued under the Obama administration. In 2015, proclamations were issued by all 50 governors declaring June as Great Outdoors Month.

Hikers on the North Inlet Trail

Hikers on the North Inlet Trail
By Brian & Jaclyn Drum (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Exciting events occurring during Great Outdoors Month include National Trails Day, National Fishing & Boating Week, National Get Outdoors Day, National Marina Day, and the Great American Campout. Great Outdoors Month reminds people to take the time to appreciate the natural beauty around us. If you are interested in getting outside and reconnecting with nature, here are some ways to celebrate Great Outdoors Month.

Plan a camping trip, take a hike, go rock climbing and horseback riding. Watch wildlife. You don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors. Walk or jog in a neighborhood park. Ride a bicycle. Have a picnic or barbecue in your own backyard. Plant a garden. If you like the water, beaches, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are great places for outdoor activities. Go boating, fishing, swimming, diving, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking. Visit a national or state park.

I love exploring national parks. I’ve visited some of the most popular ones, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. National parks offer visitors stunning landscapes, breathtaking views, and an opportunity to view wildlife in their natural habitat. National parks are amazing and I hope someday I’ll be able to visit all of them, but my favorite park is not a national park, it’s a state park on the central coast of California.

Often overshadowed by national parks, I believe state parks are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a perfect example. Point Lobos may not get as much attention as Yosemite, but in my opinion, it is the most beautiful place in the world. Many beautiful state parks—like Point Lobos are exceptional for hiking, photography, sightseeing, and observing wildlife.

eLibrary contains many resources related to national and state parks. If you want to learn more about America’s national parks, click here. If you want to find more information about state parks, perform a basic search in eLibrary by typing in the name of a state followed by parks. For example, I’m planning a trip to Utah and I want to know more about Utah’s state parks. I type in Utah parks and I get this Research Topic page in the results list Utah Forests & Parks.

How will you celebrate Great Outdoors Month? Check out the following SIRS WebSelect and ProQuest eLibrary resources to get some ideas about how you can enjoy outdoor recreation.

Camping Research Topic

Hiking Research Topic

National Park Service

National Park Service Research Topic

National Parks Research Topic

The National Parks: America’s Best Ideas

SeaWorld: The Captivity Debate

On March 17, 2016, SeaWorld made the shocking announcement that it will end its controversial practice of breeding killer whales. The 29 orcas in SeaWorld’s care will be the last generation of killer whales enclosed at the company’s theme parks. The killer whales will not be released into the wild. They will live in SeaWorld’s parks for the remainder of their lives, but they won’t be replaced. SeaWorld’s theatrical killer whale shows are also being phased out nationwide. The shows will be replaced by exhibits that highlight the natural behaviors of killer whales. The company’s plan to end its killer whale shows was announced in November 2015 and initially only applied to SeaWorld San Diego, but now applies to all three locations, including SeaWorld San Antonio and SeaWorld Orlando. The shows will end in San Diego in 2017 and in San Antonio and Orlando in 2019.

Shamu Show with Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego

Shamu Show with Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego
By Yathin S Krishnappa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

SeaWorld’s decision to envision a future without its iconic Shamu attraction comes amid mounting criticism by animal rights activists over the company’s treatment of captive marine mammals. SeaWorld has faced increased scrutiny for keeping killer whales in captivity since the tragic death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. A killer whale named Tilikum battered and drowned the 40-year-old animal trainer on Feb. 24, 2010, at SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The growing backlash against SeaWorld intensified with the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish,” which scrutinized the company’s practice of keeping killer whales in captivity and focused extensively on Tilikum, the killer whale involved in the deaths of three people, including Dawn Brancheau. The film attributed Tilikum’s aggressive behavior to his life in captivity and accused SeaWorld of mistreating its killer whales.

“Blackfish” was largely responsible for shifting public opinion about the use of captive wild animals for entertainment purposes. The documentary incited widespread outrage after airing repeatedly on CNN and changed Americans’ perception of SeaWorld. Since the release of the documentary, SeaWorld has suffered a decline in attendance, revenue, and stock value. In October 2015, SeaWorld was dealt another blow when the California Coastal Commission moved to ban the breeding of killer whales in captivity as a condition of its approval of SeaWorld’s proposed plan to expand its killer whale habitat in San Diego.

Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego Show

Orcas at SeaWorld San Diego Show
By Leon7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

SeaWorld tried to repair its tarnished image by launching an advertising campaign aimed at refuting the claims made in “Blackfish,” defending its treatment of killer whales, and promoting the company’s rescue and conservation efforts. SeaWorld also committed to donating $1.5 million to a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program as part of the company’s pledge to contribute $10 million to fund conservation and research of killer whales in the wild. But eventually Americans’ growing discomfort with companies using animals as entertainers forced SeaWorld to relent and change its policies for killer whales.

SeaWorld’s ground-breaking conservation and animal welfare reforms won praise from a long-time foe, the Humane Society of the United States. The two organizations announced a new partnership focused on protecting marine wildlife and ocean preservation. They will work together to advocate for animal welfare and ocean conservation. In addition to the partnership, SeaWorld has committed to spending $50 million over the next five years to rescue and rehabilitate marine animals.

However, not everyone is satisfied with SeaWorld’s historic changes. Some critics want SeaWorld to release the killer whales currently in captivity to sea pens. SeaWorld’s most vocal detractor, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, released a statement saying that “SeaWorld must do more and ‘open its tanks to the oceans to allow the orcas it now holds captive to have some semblance of a life outside these prison tanks.'” In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Joel Manby, the president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, wrote that releasing the killer whales back into the wild is “not a wise option.”

“Most of our orcas were born at SeaWorld,” Manby wrote, and “those that were born in the wild have been in our parks for the majority of their lives. If we release them into the ocean, they will likely die. In fact, no orca or dolphin born under human care has ever survived release into the wild. Even the attempt to return the whale from ‘Free Willy,’ Keiko, who was born in the wild, was a failure.”

Keiko was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1979. He was trained to perform at a marine park in Mexico City. The star of “Free Willy” became famous after the movie was released in 1993. In the movie, a young boy helps return the captive killer whale back to the ocean. Inspired by the film, a real-life campaign began to return Keiko to the wild. In 1998, Keiko was moved to a sea pen in Iceland, where his handlers tried to teach him how to survive in the wild. Millions of dollars were spent to coax Keiko back to the open ocean. He was released in July 2002, but never fully adapted to life in the wild, remaining dependent on humans. Keiko died of pneumonia on Dec. 12, 2003.

What do your students think about the controversial debate over keeping killer whales in captivity? They can learn more about both sides of the debate in our Animal Cruelty Leading Issue.

SIRS Leading Issue: Animal Welfare

SIRS Leading Issue: Animal Welfare by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issue Researcher

Students can find more information about killer whales, SeaWorld, and the captivity debate through resources available in ProQuest eLibrary and SIRS WebSelect:

A Whale of a Business

Killer Controversy: Why Orcas Should No Longer Be Kept in Captivity

Killer Whales Research Topic

SeaWorld Cares

SeaWorld Research Topic

Whales in Aquariums

What are your thoughts on SeaWorld’s recent announcements? Do you support or oppose keeping killer whales in captivity? Do you think SeaWorld’s killer whales should remain in captivity or be released to sea pens?

Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

Celebrate National Skating Month!

U.S. Figure Skating recognizes January as National Skating Month. It is a time for ice skating rinks and figure skating clubs to celebrate and promote the sport. When I was growing up, I dreamed of becoming a figure skating coach. I started taking ice skating lessons when I was five and fell in love with the sport. In honor of National Skating Month, I would like to share some interesting facts about three of my favorite female figure skaters.

Dorothy Hamill Research Topic Screencap

Dorothy Hamill Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Dorothy Hamill: At 19-years-old, Dorothy Hamill captured the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Hamill quickly became known as “America’s Sweetheart” because of her sweet personality, bobbed hairstyle, and skating skills—she invented her own signature spin, the “Hamill camel.” Shortly after the Olympics, Hamill won the World Championship title in Gothenburg, Sweden. She then decided to turn professional and toured with the Ice Capades from 1977-1984. Hamill won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance in the 1983 production of “Romeo & Juliet on Ice.” She also competed on the 16th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2013.

Katarina Witt Research Topic Screencap

Katarina Witt Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Katarina Witt: Katarina Witt is a two-time Olympic champion, four-time World champion, and six-time European champion. The East German figure skater captivated both judges and spectators with her technical skating skills, beauty, charisma, and showmanship. She won her first Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and her second at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She became the first female figure skater since Sonia Henie to retain her Olympic title. Following her victory at the 1988 World Championships, Witt retired from amateur competition and embarked on her professional skating career. She toured with other world-class figure skaters, including fellow Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano and headlined her own skating shows. She ended her successful professional skating career in 2008.

Sasha Cohen Research Topic Screencap

Sasha Cohen Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Sasha Cohen: Sasha Cohen is one of the most graceful and beautiful figure skaters of all time. Her given name is Alexandra Pauline Cohen. Sasha is a Ukrainian nickname for Alexandra. The 2006 U.S. figure skating champion is known for her flexibility, exquisite spirals, and outstanding spins. Cohen finished fourth at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Four years later, she won the silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. In addition to performing in ice shows, Cohen has also engaged in acting. She has done commercials, guest starred on television shows, and landed movie roles. Cohen made a cameo appearance as herself in the movie “Blades of Glory.” On Jan. 22, 2016, Cohen was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

You can read more about these Olympic figure skaters and the sport of figure skating in eLibrary. Check out these resources:

Figure Skating Research Topic

Dorothy Hamill Research Topic

Katarina Witt Research Topic

Sasha Cohen Research Topic

Celebrate National Book Blitz Month

When you were growing up, did you love to read? I did. Reading is a passion of mine that began at an early age. Many of my all-time favorite books are the ones that I was assigned to read in school. Books such as The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Outsiders, and Wuthering Heights enhanced my love for reading. January is National Book Blitz Month. It is a great time for librarians, media specialists, and teachers to promote reading and introduce students to new authors. In honor of National Book Blitz Month, here are 10 web sites from ProQuest SIRS WebSelect and Research Topics from ProQuest eLibrary about notable authors suitable for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Child Reading at Brookline Booksmith

Child Reading at Brookline Booksmith
By Tim Pierce (originally posted to Flickr as lost) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Emily Bronte was an English author and poet. She is best known for writing Wuthering Heights, her only novel. The enduring tragic love story of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw is regarded as a classic of English literature. Her sisters, Charlotte and Anne Bronte were also famous writers. (Emily Bronte Research Topic)

2. Beverly Cleary is an American author, whose contributions to children’s literature have made a lasting impact. She has written over 30 books for children and young adults since 1950. Her beloved characters, including Ramona and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ribsy, and Ralph S. Mouse have delighted readers for generations. (Beverly Cleary Research Topic)

3. Charles Dickens was a well-loved 19th century English author whose works were widely read during his lifetime. The famous Victorian novelist created unforgettable characters, including David Copperfield, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and Oliver Twist. His classic novels–A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities remain popular to this day. (Charles Dickens Research Topic)

4. Anne Frank was a Jewish victim of the Holocaust. Anne and her family went into hiding for two years during World War II to escape Nazi persecution. While in hiding, the teenage girl kept a diary in which she chronicled her experiences. Sadly, Anne never saw her dream of becoming a famous writer realized as she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15. Her wartime memoir Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was published posthumously and has been read by millions. (Anne Frank Research Topic)

5. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss was a beloved American author and illustrator of children’s books. The best-selling author combined fantastic creatures with wild rhymes to create stories that both educate and entertain children. Some of his most popular books include The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Lorax. (Theodor Seuss Geisel Research Topic)

6. Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, literary critic, and editor. He is best known for penning mystery and macabre tales. He is remembered for his popular poems and short stories, including “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” and is regarded as the inventor of the modern detective story. (Edgar Allan Poe Research Topic)

7. J.K. Rowling is a British author whose best-selling series of fantasy novels about Harry Potter, a young wizard in training, captivated children and adults around the world. Her seven books chronicling Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry achieved critical acclaim and unprecedented commercial success. (J.K. Rowling Research Topic)

8. William Shakespeare is regarded as the world’s greatest dramatist. He was an English playwright, poet, and actor. His plays, written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries can be divided into three genres: comedies, histories, and tragedies. Some of his most recognizable plays include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Romeo and Juliet. (William Shakespeare Research Topic)

9. Shel Silverstein was an American poet, musician, illustrator, and author of children’s books. He wrote several successful children’s books, including The Giving Tree, The Missing Piece, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. His masterful poetry collections, including Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic still resonate with children today. (Shel Silverstein Research Topic)

10. John Steinbeck was an American author, best remembered for writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Considered Steinbeck’s masterpiece, the iconic novel portrayed the struggles of migrant laborers during the Great Depression. His other major works include Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, and Cannery Row. (John Steinbeck Research Topic)

Conservation Lessons from Monterey Bay

I love Monterey, California. It is my favorite place in the world, primarily because of its natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Being from the East Coast, I am always thrilled to see the sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals that inhabit the bay. After viewing a recent PBS special celebrating the diverse marine life converging off California’s coast, I realized that a great way to help students understand the importance of marine conservation is to teach them about the revival of Monterey Bay.

Humpback Whale at Monterey Bay

Humpback Whale at Monterey Bay
By Chananst (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Monterey Bay may be brimming with wildlife now, but that wasn’t always the case. Today, southern sea otters, also known as California sea otters are some of the most easily seen marine mammals in the bay. I’ve spotted sea otters along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail from Cannery Row to Old Fisherman’s Wharf, while on the Elkhorn Slough Safari boat tour in Moss Landing, and from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s ocean-view deck. It is hard to believe that these charismatic creatures were almost exterminated for their luxurious fur.

Sea Otter in Moss Landing

Sea Otter in Moss Landing
By Agunther (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


In the 1700s, fur traders began killing sea otters for their valuable pelts.  It is estimated that the population of southern sea otters numbered 16,000 before the commercial fur trade began. By the 1900s, sea otters were nearly extinct. Luckily, steps were taken to protect the plummeting population. The “International Fur Seal Treaty, which banned the hunting of sea otters and fur seals,” was signed in 1911. By the 1930s, most people thought that southern sea otters had been completely wiped out by the fur trade. However, in 1938, a group of 50 sea otters was “discovered” near the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California. The small group thrived–from those survivors, the population today is approximately 3,000–and expanded their range, eventually reaching Monterey Bay.

Sea otters weren’t the only animals exploited and they aren’t the only ones that have returned to the bay. Whales were heavily hunted for commercial purposes and sardines were overfished by the fish canning industry. Pollution and overharvesting caused the sardine population in Monterey Bay to collapse after World War II. The disappearance of sardines from Monterey Bay brought financial disaster to Cannery Row, the canning street made famous by author John Steinbeck. The loss was an early lesson for the community about the consequences of depleting the bay’s resources. So after decades of pollution and overfishing, how did the bay recover? Monterey Bay is healthier today than it was 50 years ago because of the efforts of environmentalists, politicians, and scientists—including Dr. Julia Platt.

Dr. Julia Platt arrived in the nearby seaside town of Pacific Grove in 1899 with a Ph.D. in marine zoology. She observed the growth of the canneries and the pollution of the bay. In 1931, she was elected mayor of Pacific Grove. She convinced the “California legislature to pass a law granting Pacific Grove the right to manage not only the town’s waterfront but also ‘certain submerged lands in the Bay of Monterey contiguous thereto.’” With that legal authority, Platt established the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge and the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens. Platt’s foresight to create refuges to protect the marine life in those areas would eventually help restore the bay’s health.

Additional conservation efforts to protect ocean habitats and wildlife also helped the bay recapture its former glory. The Marine Mammal Protection Act enacted in 1972 provided sweeping protections for sea otters, whales, sea lions, and seals. In 1977, southern sea otters were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened on Oct. 20, 1984. The world-class aquarium has become a global leader in ocean conservation. Public awareness raised by the aquarium’s exhibits showcasing the unique habitats and sea life of Monterey Bay sparked the designation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. This federally protected marine area, often referred to as the “Serengeti of the Sea,” stretches along California’s central coast from San Francisco to Cambria. The sanctuary is home to 34 species of marine mammals and offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the world. The dramatic recovery of marine life in Monterey Bay is a conservation success story that shows what can happen when ecosystems and wildlife are given a chance to recover.

To learn more about Monterey Bay and ocean conservation, explore these resources available in SIRS WebSelect:

Classroom Resources from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

For Educators—Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay

10 Years Later: Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Ten years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. Nearly 93,000 square miles were impacted by Katrina. 138 counties and parishes were affected by the storm. New Orleans, Louisiana, Gulfport, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama were among the devastated cities that bore the brunt of Katrina’s destruction. The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is a great opportunity for educators to help students learn about one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.

People sit on a roof waiting to be rescued after Hurricane Katrina.

People sit on a roof waiting to be rescued after Hurricane Katrina.
By Jocelyn Augustino / FEMA (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To commemorate the anniversary, here are 10 facts about Hurricane Katrina:

1. Hurricane Katrina struck Florida first.

On August 23, 2005, a tropical depression developed in the Bahamas. The tropical depression intensified into Tropical Storm Katrina the next day. On August 25th, Katrina made landfall in South Florida between North Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach as a Category 1 hurricane, with wind speeds of approximately 80 mph.

2. Hurricane Katrina became a Category 5 storm on August 28, 2005.

After crossing over Florida, Katrina moved into the Gulf of Mexico and strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of approximately 175 mph.

3. The first-ever mandatory evacuation for New Orleans was issued on August 28, 2005.

The day before Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the city. It is estimated that about 80% of the city’s residents evacuated. Residents who lacked transportation were urged to go to the Superdome, a domed sports venue and home of the New Orleans Saints. The stadium was to be used as a “shelter of last resort” for people unable to evacuate the city. Approximately 26,000 people sought refuge in the Superdome. Unfortunately, the stadium, which became synonymous with the misery of Hurricane Katrina, was undersupplied and understaffed–demonstrating how woefully unprepared local, state, and federal government officials were for the catastrophic event.

4. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near Buras, Louisiana, with winds estimated at 125 mph. Katrina continued northward and made its final landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near the Louisiana/Mississippi border with winds estimated at 120 mph.

5. Approximately 80% of New Orleans was underwater.

Much of the damage and devastation from Hurricane Katrina was due to the storm surge. Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge overwhelmed the levee system built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the city from flooding. The flooding was so extensive in low-lying areas like the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish that people climbed to rooftops for safety.

6. Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and the third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history.

The storm caused an estimated $108 billion in damage and resulted in 1,833 fatalities, according to CNN. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has described Hurricane Katrina as the “single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history.”

7. Hurricane Katrina displaced more than one million people in the Gulf Coast region.

Hurricane evacuee shelters accommodated 273,000 people at their peak. FEMA trailers were used to house approximately 114,000 households. Up to 600,000 households remained displaced a month after the storm.

8. New Orleans lost more than half of its population.

The population of New Orleans decreased from 484,674 in April 2000 to approximately 230,172 in July 2006, almost a year after Hurricane Katrina. By 2013, the city’s population was at 78% of what it was before Katrina in 2000.

9. Hurricane Katrina damaged over one million housing units across the Gulf Coast.

Approximately half of the damaged housing units were in Louisiana. 134,000 housing units in New Orleans were damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flooding.

10. Post-Katrina, the federal government has spent $120.5 billion on the Gulf Coast region.

$75 billion of that money was used for emergency relief operations.

To learn more about Hurricane Katrina, explore this month’s SKS Spotlight of the Month. For more information on Hurricane Katrina, check out these related resources available through ProQuest eLibrary and ProQuest SIRS WebSelect.

Hurricane Katrina (2005) Research Topic

Hurricanes Research Topic

In Depth: Hurricane Katrina

Storm That Drowned a City