Newspaper Sections

Special Series


About SSFP

Wright Free Press Home Page

From the Big Bang to Humankind: How Life Emerged

by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 14

About 12 billion years ago, a big explosion, presently known as the “Big Bang,” created the universe.

The solar system we live in began to form 7.4 billion years ago. Earth was created by rock, ice, dust, and gas combining together. While forming, the Earth released an enormous amount of energy, causing the planet to heat up. For 100 million years, the components of planet Earth remained molten as they shifted into layers. Heavier minerals like iron and nickel, sank to the center and now form the dense core of the Earth, measuring 2,200 miles wide. The lighter minerals settled towards the surface of the Earth, creating its crust. The core and the crust are separated by 1,800 miles of molten rock, called the mantle. Certain lighter rocks gathered together to form “islands” or land. [Read More]

Behind the Deadly Hiroshima Bombing

by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

On August 9, 1945, the United States ended World War II at a terrible human cost by dropping the “Fat Man” nuclear implosive bomb in Nagasaki. This was three days after the atomic uranium bomb named “Little Boy” had decimated Hiroshima.

As a part of the Manhattan Project, the United States created the atomic bomb. The United States’ decision to deploy an atomic weapon was seen as an alternative to its planned invasion of Japan in November 1945. The uranium bomb left Alamogordo, New Mexico, for Hiroshima on July 14, 1945, after undergoing a successful test. [Read More]

Orcas Learn to Hunt in Family Groups

by Tierra Flowers, age 13

On March 21, 2019, researchers in Western Australia were studying orcas, a species also known as killer whales. Suddenly, the scientists witnessed a phenomenon that no one had previously seen. They observed orcas killing the world’s largest animal, a blue whale.

On that day, this group of researchers from the Cetacean Research Center was traveling on a boat to their usual orca observation site. However, when they stopped to remove some trash from the water, they suddenly noticed some splashing in the distance. They observed the dorsal fins of several killer whales and saw that they were attacking a large whale species. That whale turned out to be a blue whale. [Read More]

The International Space Station Is Retiring, What Does this Mean for Space Exploration?

by Theodore Morrison, age 14

The International Space Station is considered a constant symbol of humanity's achievements in the fields of space science and diplomacy. Many will be shocked to learn that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has plans to retire and crash the station straight into the ocean in 2031.

According to The International Space Station Report, NASA is aiming to crash the ISS into the Pacific Ocean at a location called Point Nemo, the farthest point at sea from any landmass. To put the distance in perspective, it is 2,000 miles North of Antarctica and 3,000 miles East of New Zealand. The ISS will, probably, rest forever at a point known as the spacecraft graveyard. [Read More]

The Armistice Day Blizzard: Worst Winter Storm in Wisconsin History

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 14

Anyone who lives in the northern Midwest has experienced his or her fair share of snowstorms. These snowstorms though, do not compare to the Armistice Day Blizzard, one of the most devastating natural disasters in Wisconsin’s history.

The name originates from the storm which occurred on Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, a day that celebrated the end of World War I and a new period of peace. However, this blizzard was anything but peaceful.

The Armistice Day Blizzard on November 11 and 12, 1940 caused a drastic drop in temperature that resulted in more than 150 deaths in Wisconsin. The blizzard formed when cold northern air combined with warm moisture from the Gulf Coast, which created a sudden drop in air pressure. The storm generated winds up to 80 MPH, creating 20-foot snowdrifts, laying down a foot of snow, and conditions similar to those of a hurricane. [Read More]

How One of China's Most Beautiful Attractions Saved Lives

by Sedona Afeworki, age 14

Where would be a good place to hide if something bad ever happened? The Guilin Hills is a place in China where many people hid during World War II and the following civil war when clashing armies turned the region into a battlefield. The hills also have a lot of caves, one of many ways they’ve played a role in Chinese history.

The Guilin Hills, which means “forest of cassia trees”, stands within the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region near the Li River in southern China. The Hills are part of the “limestone region”, which spreads from south-central China to Vietnam.

Between 1949 and 1973, Guilin was closed to most sightseers while Communist forces were in power. In 1973, it was reopened, and Guilin transformed into one of China’s most beautiful attractions. [Read More]

The Mammal that Helped Take Over the Globe

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 12

Researchers have discovered a prehistoric mammal with a two to five years life cycle that they call the Manbearpig. The mammal’s short lifespan is likely due to their months-long pregnancy, a trait scientists believe helped mammals dominate the world after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The name Manbearpig came from the features it contained: a face like a bear; a body similar to a pig; and five fingered hands. These mammals are also known by their scientific name, Pantolamba bathmodon, and were plant eaters. The Manbearpig lived about 62 million years ago. The Manbearpig was one of the largest mammals of its time and seemed to appear after the dinosaur extinction, which allowed mammals to grow to larger sizes than ever before. It was a member of the placental group of mammals, animals who do their prenatal development in the womb of their mother.

Researchers were able to discover how fast they would grow throughout their life from the enamel of their teeth, which looked different during different life stages. These mammals' lives were short and they died at a younger age than typical animals, between two and five years of life. The Manbearpig had a really short life cycle because it stayed in the womb for about seven months, a pregnancy much longer than is observed in modern marsupials, but similar to extreme modern placentals like giraffes and wildebeests. The most extreme modern placentals are usually walking within hours of birth, and usually only give birth to one baby per litter. This species nursed for one or two months after they were born. In a year, they would reach adulthood. The longest a Manbearpig was found to have lived was 11 years. [Read More]

The Closest Black Hole to Earth is just 1,500 light-years Away

by Emily Rodriguez Lima, age 13

There are plenty of black holes in outer space. Astronomers have found what they believe is currently the closest black hole to Earth.

Gaia BH1 is about 1,560 light-years from Earth and has a mass 10 times bigger than that of the sun. It is the first black hole discovered to be close to Earth, the second closest is around twice the distance at 3,200 light-years away.

Like many black holes, Gaia BH1 eats gas from massive stars that are clustered together. As the black hole eats the gas, it forms a disk around the black hole that can only be seen through x-rays. A star that is orbiting a black hole at a safe distance will not get eaten, but since the gravitational pull of a black hole is massive it can get pushed and pulled around space. [Read More]

The Grizzly Is North America’s Giant

by Moore Vang, age 14

The grizzly bear or the brown bear is one of the most dangerous bears in North America. It is gigantic, extremely powerful, and wildly unpredictable. Its fur is light brown with white-tipped hairs and it has a distinct shoulder hump. Interestingly, it can run as fast as a horse but only for short durations.

The scientific name of the grizzly bear is Ursus arctos and it can reach up to a weight of 1,000 pounds. Its subspecies, the Alaskan brown bear, also known as the Kodiak bear, can weigh twice as much as a grizzly bear.

The grizzly bear has long front claws that grow up to four inches. These bear are omnivorous, eating small mammals, fish, and insects—as well as different types of vegetation, including roots, leaves, fungi, and fruit. Shockingly, they can also catch massive prey, such as deer or moose. [Read More]

The Peshtigo Firestorm and Tornado

by Jeremiah Warren, age 11

The Peshtigo fire was a huge fire that destroyed the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. Although the fire is considered one of the deadliest fires in America history, somehow it is largely forgotten.

In the 1800s many fires were set on purpose. It was a common practice to clear land for farming and for building railroads in 1871. On the day of the fire, a cold front moved west that brought very strong winds. This pushed the fire out of control, creating a big wildfire that headed toward the town of Peshtigo.

Another reason the Peshtigo fire is forgotten is that a big fire in Chicago happened on the same day. The Great Chicago Fire also started on October 8, 1871. [Read More]

Gladys West Used Math and Science to Map Planet Earth

by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

Gladys West was a splendid mathematician. She was an African-American woman who accomplished many things during her career. Glady West is best known for developing a Global Positioning System, which today we call GPS.

“When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, I’ve got to get this right.” said Gladys West.

Gladys West was born on October 27, 1930 on a farm in southern Virginia. She spent the majority of her childhood working on her family’s farm. In addition to farm labor, her mother worked at a tobacco factory and her father worked for the railroads. West viewed her parents as an inspiration for what she became. Early on in her life, Gladys decided that she did not want to work in farms or factories like her parents. She wanted an education. [Read More]

Fuerte disminución en la población de manatíes de Florida alarma a los expertos

por Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, 14 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins 17 años de edad

Un manatí es un animal acuático que es grande y de movimiento lento que vive en Florida. Desafortunadamente, estas criaturas se están extinguiendo.

Los manatíes son herbívoros, significa que solo comen plantas. Los manatíes les gusta comer pastos marinos, algas y otras plantas que se están en agua dulce. Viven a lo largo de la costa atlántica de América del Norte desde Massachusetts hasta Texas. A menudo se mudan al norte en el verano. Pero en invierno, los manatíes se encuentran en áreas como Florida porque requieren temperaturas cálidas para sobrevivir.

Los manatíes de hoy se están muriendo de hambre. Alrededor de 1,000 de los manatíes en la región han muerto en los últimos años. Eso es cerca de una sexta parte de toda la población de manatíes en el sureste de los EE. UU. y Puerto Rico. El Indian Río en Florida es un lugar donde los manatíes están muriendo debido al hambre y la contaminación. [Read More]

Belle Case La Follette Was a Powerful Early Figure in the Fight for Women's Rights

by Amelia Pearson, age 12

Have you ever heard of Belle Case La Follette? She was a woman who fought for the right to vote and was a strong leader for women's equality and peace.

La Follette was born in Juneau County, Wisconsin on April 21, 1859. Her parents were farmers and they sacrificed everything to send her to college in 1875. While in college, La Follette performed well in school and also developed a passion for literature. It was also during this time that she met her future husband, Bob La Follette. Although she was four years younger than Bob, they were both in the same class. She actually ranked above him as one of the top students.

La Follette graduated in 1879 and began teaching high school while her future husband Bob studied law. The couple married in December of 1881. In 1882 La Follette had her first child, Flora Dodge. At the same time, she started to have an interest in law after working on her husband's legal work. She soon enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School and eventually graduated in 1885. She was the first female graduate of law school. La Follette never practiced law by herself. She did, however, continue doing legal work and was even acknowledged by the Wisconsin Chief Justice for a legal brief she wrote for her husband. [Read More]

Unique Features of Wisconsin’s Native Owls

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 12

Not only are owls pretty to look at but they are important to the environment. Wisconsin is lucky to have just the right climate and pool of available prey to attract these fascinating creatures.

Five species of owls call Wisconsin home: barn, eastern screech, barred, long-eared, and great-horned owls. Other types of owls often migrate to Wisconsin from Canada.

Owls are hunters and meat-eaters. They play an important role in keeping the predator-prey relationship in balance. Owls help control the population of disease-carrying rodents and small mammals. This is vitally important in both urban and rural areas where rodents can flourish. [Read More]

Hace 200 millones de años, la Tierra tenía un solo continente: Pangea

por Santiago Rosero Perea, 11 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

En 1915, el escritor y meteorólogo alemán Alfred Wegener escribió el libro El origen de los continentes y océanos. El libro de Wegener propuso la teoría de la deriva continental. La teoría de Wegener fue bastante controvertida durante ese tiempo. La teoría explica que los continentes de la Tierra cambiaron de posición a lo largo de la cama oceánico a lo largo del tiempo geológico.

En 1910, mientras estudiaba un atlas, Wegener estaba curioso por saber si los contornos de los continentes encajaban o no como un rompecabezas. Después de una inmensa investigación. Se le ocurrió la hipótesis de que todos los continentes existentes solían formar un "supercontinente". Wegener lo llamó Pangea, que en griego significa “toda la Tierra”. Informó que este continente existió hace 250 o 200 millones de años, y luego comenzó a separarse y eventualmente creó los continentes de hoy. [Read More]

Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter and Conductor on the Underground Railroad

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 11

Harriet Tubman, a former slave, helped many African-American slaves reach freedom via the Underground Railroad. She also made significant contributions to the Union Army and was an important activist during the Civil War. She was known for being the first African American woman to assist the Union Army during the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County in Maryland between 1820 and 1822. Tubman was born into slavery. She was one of nine siblings, born to Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross. When Harriet Tubman was young she got hit in the head for helping a man who was being beaten for trying to escape, causing her to have horrible headaches and narcolepsy.

Tubman escaped slavery by using the Underground Railroad. She then navigated people who were trying to escape to freedom by using the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman was never caught and never lost a passenger while assisting people to freedom. Because of her success in escaping many slaves, Tubman had a $40,000 bounty on her head. [Read More]

How Teens Learn to Avoid Risky Behavior

by Jacob L. Dunn, age 12

Many teenagers engage in risky behavior, such as committing crimes, due to impulsiveness. There are various factors that influence teenagers to be so impulsive, including social and peer pressure and difficulty in controlling their actions.

In social situations, teenagers can experience peer pressure and stress related to their social environment. This can lead some teens to commit actions that could put them in scary or dangerous situations that are unknown to them. While many people may assume that a contributing factor for why teens engage in such risky behavior is because they underestimate the possible negative outcomes of their actions. However, the opposite is the case, according to postdoctoral student at New York University, Agnieszka Tymula.

“Relative to adults, adolescents engage more in unknown risks than they do in known risks,” stated Tymula. She claims that instead, teens are more open to this sense of the unknown, which serves as one explanation for the ways that the teenage brain works when it comes to high-risk situations. [Read More]

Did the Titanic Really Sink? Or Did its Owner Switch Ships?

by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 13

The Titanic sank in 1912 and while many were left shocked, others were left questioning: did it actually sink?

There is no denying that on April 15th of 1912, approximately 1,500 people died in a ship that sank in the North Atlantic. But the question is, which ship actually sank? There is a fringe conspiracy theory that the whole crash was actually an insurance scam gone bad.

The White Star Line shipping company had a problem. Their ships were slow compared to their competitors. To solve this problem, in 1902 and WSL Chairman J. Bruce started to work on a new class of ships, the Olympic class. He had to design ships that would be world-class, bigger, and more luxurious than any before. The three ships in the new class were the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic. [Read More]

From Modest Chateau to Palace Fit for Kings

by Ashley Mercado, age 14

King Louis XII originally chose Versailles, an area just outside of Paris, as the site for a modest hunting chateau. However, over the years it developed into something far more elegant.

“Louis” was a commonly chosen name for princes over many generations. To distinguish the different kings, roman numerals would be placed after their name to note who was who in order of their birth. Louis the XIV, also known as the Sun King, wanted to expand the chateau into a grand palace, and began construction on the project in 1661. Versailles became Louis the XIV’s permanent residence in 1682, and later the French court was established there. The heart of the building was the Hall of Mirrors—a big gallery of 17 windows that offered a grand view of the stunning gardens.

Louis XIV directed the architect Gabriel to do further work on the building, such as the addition of an opera salon and an additional palace called the Petit Trianon. Louis XVI added a library, and his wife Marie Antoinette took over the Petit Trianon. Two designers worked on Versailles. The original designer was Louis Le Vau followed by Jules Hardouin Mansart who assumed responsibility and worked on Versailles for 30 years. The one responsible for the landscaping of Versailles was Andrė Le Nȏtre. In October of 1789, revolutionaries angry at the rich due to colossal income inequality went to Versailles and caused great damage to the palace. [Read More]