From sunglasses to parking meters and so much in between, something to interest everyone.
by James Wayne
Regular contributor to the Gazette
July 1, 2008
The character trait for July is JUSTICE.
Treating other people as you wish to be treated
Not seeking unfair advantage
Acknowledging and seeking to undo our own mistakes
Holding ourselves to the same standard to which we hold others
The first sunglasses were used in 1200 in China. They had lenses made from rock crystal and were demonstrated to the Ming Dynasty emperors. Sunglasses are only one piece of summer equipment. List 5 personal things you think make summer more enjoyable.
In 1992, British physicist Steven Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time became the most popular book ever printed in Great Britain. Hawking, a brilliant professor who discovered Hawking Radiation and proved that black holes are not really black, wrote the entire book using a special computer that calculated which letter to print by measuring where his eyes looked on a card containing the alphabet. He had to use this because he is totally paralyzed except for his thumb and his eyeballs and eyelids. Think of someone you know or have heard of who managed to do something remarkable despite a serious physical handicap. What qualities did that person need to reach the goal?
In 1775, George Washington took command of the American army in Cambridge, MA. He had only a few thousand untrained, unorganized men, no cannons, no uniforms (except his own), little ammunition, and almost no supplies, and his enemies had one of the strongest, largest, and best-prepared armies in the world. He also had no country; the United States would not come into existence until a year and a day later. List 5 things you think Washington should have done first to get his army ready to fight. Tell which one you think was the most urgent.
Twin sisters Pauline and Esther Friedman were born in 1918. The two girls each became newspaper advice columnists, using the names Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren. Ann Landers once wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work; so most people don’t recognize them.” What do you think she meant by that?
Phineas Taylor Barnum, one of the founders of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey Circus (“The Greatest Show on Earth”) was born in 1810. Fairs, circuses, carnivals, and amusement parks can be a lot of fun. If you went to one, what are three things you would like to do? Why those three things?
Lhamo Dhondrup was born in Tibet in 1935. He later became the 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He wrote, “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” What do you think he meant by that?
The first comic book was published in 1802. It was called The Wasp, and was created by Robert Rusticoat in Hudson, NY. Which comic book or graphic novel character do you enjoy the most? Why that one? (If you don’t read comic books or graphic novels, think of the movies or television programs created about them and select one of those.)
In 52 B.C., Julius Caesar captured a tiny fishing village on the banks of the Seine River, called Lutetia, inhabited by a tribe of people called the Parisii. He set up his headquarters on an island in the river and established it as a center of Roman civilization. This event is regarded as the founding of the city of Paris. Think of three ways to celebrate the birthday of this famous and beautiful city.
Today is the birthday of the doughnut-making machine, which was invented in 1872 by a sea captain named John F. Bondel. Describe your three favorite kinds of doughnuts.
In 1958, the first parking meters were installed in England. Parking meters help pay for the repair and upkeep of streets, but they also discourage shoppers, who prefer to shop where they don’t have to pay to park. Pretend to be either a shopper or a merchant and write a paragraph to the mayor of a city that is planning to install parking meters, giving your opinion about them.
Author E.B. White was born in 1899. He wrote books for young people, including Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. His books used animals as characters, as have many other authors. Which stories with animal as characters have you liked best? List at least three.
John and Isaiah Hyatt got a patent for the process to make celluloid in 1870. Celluloid was the first readily available plastic, used today for ping-pong balls and guitar picks. Plastics are widely used today for many things. If all the plastics disappeared, what things made of plastic would be hardest to replace? List 5 things.
The first World Cup soccer tournament began in 1930 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 to become the first world soccer champion. Soccer is considered the most popular sport in the world, but there are many others. Which sport is your favorite? Why do you like that one best?
President Gerald R. Ford was born in 1913. Born Leslie King, Jr., he changed his name to honor his stepfather. If you were to change all or part of your name, what would you change it to? Why would you like that name?
Rembrandt van Rijn was born in 1606 in Holland. Rembrandt is one of the painters called Masters because of his talent and skill. What kind of paintings do you like the best? Describe a favorite painting of yours.
In 1981, the brand name Datsun was changed to Nissan in the United States. The Nissan car company spent a lot of money on the change so that its cars would have the same name all over the world. Think of a company that makes an important product and suggest a new name for it. Write a paragraph telling why your name would be better.
In 1938, pilot Doug Corrigan took off from New York in the late evening, having filed a flight plan for Los Angeles. The next day, he landed in Dublin, Ireland. For the rest of his life, he was known as “Wrong Way” Corrigan, but many people think he did it on purpose as a publicity stunt. What do you think: was it a genuine mistake, or a publicity stunt? Write a paragraph explaining your opinion.
Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected President of South Africa, was born in 1918. He once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” What do you think he means by that?
In 1843, Amelia Jenks Bloomer wore a pair of long, loose pants in public, the first time anyone had attempted to make pants for women fashionable. They were worn under a skirt, and were designed to let a woman be physically active without showing her undergarments. Although practical, they were not successful because they were so different from other women’s clothing of the time. Describe something that you liked or found useful that did not catch on and become popular.
July 20: Billboard magazine begins its weekly list of the most popular songs. The first number 1 hit was “I’ll Never Smile Again,” sung by Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. List your 4 favorite songs. Select the one you like best, and tell why you like it.
Today is a good day to set a land speed record. Louis Rigally became the first person to drive a car faster than 100 miles an hour in 1904, and Sir Malcolm Campbell became the first to drive one over 150 miles an hour in 1925. Since then, the record has been broken many times. What sports record would you like to see broken? Why that one?
In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh sent a group of colonists to set up an English colony on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina. War between England and Spain broke out, and the English were unable to visit the colony or carry it supplies for three years. When they did return, the colony had disappeared, becoming the legendary Lost Colony. What do you think might have happened to the colony? Write a paragraph explaining your idea.
The first Olympic games opened in Greece in 776 B.C. They were far smaller than the modern games. Which Olympic sport is your favorite? Do you follow that sport between the Olympic Games? Tell why you think that sport is so interesting.
William Sydney Porter was released from prison in 1901. He had been convicted of embezzling from the bank he worked in. To provide money for his family, he wrote short stories under the pen name O. Henry, and became one of the most famous American short-story writers. Think of the short stories you have read. Which of them did you like best? Why did you like it?
Lance Armstrong became the first American ever to win the Tour de France bicycle race in 1999, despite having suffered from cancer. He later went on to win 6 more times, to become the most successful bicycle racer in history. Bicycles are very useful and fun, but can be dangerous. List 4 safety rules a bicycle rider should follow.
Happy birthday, US Post Office! The U.S. post office was established in 1775 by the Continental Congress, with Ben Franklin as the first Postmaster General. Although text messages, email, and faxes allow people to send written messages without using the post office, most people still like to receive letters (other than bills and junk mail). What is your favorite way to send written messages? What advantage does that way have over other ways?
In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best isolated insulin in Toronto, Canada. When your body is unable to produce or use insulin, you get diabetes, which can be fatal. This discovery allowed scientists to extract insulin from animal blood for humans to use. (They did not need to kill the animals. Only a limited amount of blood was removed from each animal. Today, most insulin is produced artificially.) Thanks to this discovery, diabetics can, with care, lead happy and productive lives. What kind of reward, other than money, should people like Doctors Banting and Best receive for their discovery? Describe a reward you would give them, such as a prize or medal.
Former professional basketball player and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley was born in 1943. He once said, “Becoming number one is easier than remaining number one.” What do you think he meant by that?
The New York Yacht Club was founded in 1845. It is the oldest yacht club still existing in the United States. If you could have a big, fancy yacht, what are some of the things you would want to have on it? List 5 features you would like on your yacht, and tell why you want them.
“Defenestration” is a long word that means “the act of throwing something out of a window.” The most famous defenestration in history took place in 1419. During a quarrel between Catholics and Protestants in Prague, in what is now the Czech Republic, the Protestants threw the Catholics out the windows of the town hall. The Defenestration of Prague marked the beginning of a long series of deadly wars between Protestants and Catholics in northern Europe. Have you ever defenestrated anything, such as a ball or a paper airplane? Tell what you defenestrated, and why you did it. (If you have never thrown anything out a window, tell about something you might like to throw, and why. Throwing people is not allowed; we don’t need any more long wars.)
Two famous sports journalists were born on this date. Arthur Daley was the first sportswriter to win a Pulitzer Prize. He was born in 1904. Sports broadcaster Curt Gowdy was born in 1919. He won honors in 20 sports halls of fame, including the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame, and a Peabody Medal for broadcast journalism. If you became a sports journalist, what sport would you most like to cover? Why that sport? Would you rather write about it or broadcast about it?
James Wayne has taught third grade and every grade from fifth to twelfth during a full-time career of 34 years, either in regular classrooms or in AG or AP classes. He began his writing prompts as a way to help teachers improve writing scores in his district. A native of North Carolina, James is a graduate of Duke University and a Vietnam Veteran, having served with the 101st Airborne Division. He continues to work part time for Onslow County Schools as a coordinator of the Academic Derby, a televised scholastic competition serving elementary, middle, and high schools. James resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina.