Kids Deserve Their Own Science News

Readers of this site — that is, ScienceNews.org — may have recently encountered some stories on our home page headlined with the prefix: For Kids. Producing such stories is not new for us, although they’ve only been available via this particular online portal since April. Prior to that, three stories were posted on our sister site — ScienceNewsforKids.org — each week during the academic year, and every other week during the summer and winter-break periods. The Society for Science and the Public (formerly Science Service Inc.) has been committed to bringing news and feature stories about science and engineering to middle-school-age students, their teachers, and families — and remains so. As you will witness in the coming weeks and months.

Some people may have noticed that the frequency of the student-oriented postings (although not their quality) has faltered a bit recently. It reflects some hiccups, this summer, encountered with launching the redesigned flagship Science News print magazine and its website. Both were huge undertakings that went surprisingly well (although some small glitches are still being ironed out).

But for people who value science and the idea of delivering to a young audience not only the insights of research but also descriptions of what scientists do and why, there’s nothing quite like the long-running Science News for Kids. Many hundreds of news and feature stories have explored such topics as

—            in space and astronomy: light pollution’s impact on Earth-based astronomy, monster black holes, an unexpected near-starfree void in space spanning a billion light-years across, and solar storms that can tear the tail right off a comet

—            in agriculture: America’s disappearing honeybees, gene banks that cryogenically store our crop heritage — seeds and other plant tissue — for breeding better crops in the future, and treating plants with an all-nature liquid fertilizer excreted by people

—            in the environment: growing concerns over global warming, how scientists study the rules by which Antarctica’s ice sheets live — to predict what will happen if Earth’s climate warms, air pollution’s effects on rainfall; the pollution associated with fish farming and how to clean it up, and the role of science in helping conservationists protect wildlife from poaching

—            in biology: the unusual marriage of fungi and algae, better known as lichens; the benefits in animals’ response to fear; redesigning zoos to make them safer for visitors and more comfortable for the wild residents, cockroach love songs, and how octopuses can walk

—            in physics: a new stringed instrument that strums like a guitar but rings like a bell, development of a ring-shaped device that’s invisible to microwaves, how studying ice crystals may lead to developments that better protect people from avalanches; a novel backpack that generates electricity as its wearer perambulates, and electricity’s role in the human body

—            in technology: forensic applications of terahertz radiation, light-emitting diodes as lamps for communities lacking centralized electricity, robots that mimic the locomotion skills of a slug to climb walls and cross ceilings, and greener automobiles

—            in human body: why banked blood quickly goes stale, honey’s value in treating human colds, one gene’s effect on how well people function when short of sleep, stem cells that might one day fight disease, and how the eyes of people known as Asian sea-gypsies have adapted to excel at seeing under water.

Some websites may dazzle with glitzier pictures and animation, but none reliably deliver explanatory news on the depth and breadth of science better than Science News for Kids. So if you or the young people in your life haven’t been reading these stories, it might just be time check them out. In fact, many adults have noted that although these stories have been selected with the interests and vocabulary of 10-to-13-year olds in mind, they can inform and entertain even the 60-something set.

As Labor Day — and the opening of the school year — approaches, I should point out that the Science News for Kids site is, unfortunately, undergoing some construction work. So please excuse the mess and temporary confusion as we work to ultimately improve its accessibility and function.

And for now, at least, there are two ways to access the material.

We realize that some teachers, parents and kids will want more in-depth material than our old site provided. By accessing the middle-school stories from ScienceNews.org, students, their teachers and parent scan now seamlessly tap into a universe of additional offerings from Science News. Do you like pictures? Check out Sights & Sounds; it’s a feature found at the bottom of the home page and hosts plenty of cool science photos. Miss those Science News for Kids stories from yesteryear or puzzles and science-fair experiments? There are more than you can imagine still archived and searchable at the old site. Beginning shortly after Labor Day, the newest kids’ stories will be available there as well as at our main site.

And if there are any middle-school science teachers out there who want to weigh in on how you’ve used our middle-school site in the past — along with any kudos or pet peeves — PLEASE contact me ASAP. We’re looking to make the student-oriented content even better, and soon. Our kids deserve nothing less.

Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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