Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Design Is Where You Find It", from Edcon Publishing.

kThe Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright











"The Story of Design and Designers" from Edcon Publishing


Nature is good, but mankind is not. Natural things are beautiful, but things made by people are ugly and spoil the world. This is what many people think these days.

There is some truth to these thoughts. Nothing that humans make can match the majesty and beauty of the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. We do scar the country with long stretches of concrete linking one mean city with another, and then we litter roads and cities with empty cans and waste paper. We visit national parks and other places of great natural beauty and spread our trash.

But there is another side to the picture. Not all humans insist on destroying beauty. The lives of many people involve one main idea: making the world a more pleasant place in which to live. Some of these people are the ones who work to preserve the natural world - to save the great redwood forests, to protect species of animals and birds that are disappearing from the world, and to clean our water and air.

Others are trying to make the world better by making better things. These people deal with design. They plan man-made things to appeal to our sense of beauty and fitness. We see their work everywhere.

There is the architect who designs graceful homes and towering office buildings. Many people admire only architecture of the past. They seek out gracious old homes and majestic old churches as if modern architecture were not
worth looking at. Even some architects prefer old designs and build new churches and public buildings modeled on the ones in ancient Greece and Rome. But there is also beauty in modern architecture - in shining glass and steel towers and graceful stone and brick shopping centers. There are also planned towns where every home is a designed gem, beautiful and durable enough to stand for generations.

Designers work with small items as well as with tall buildings. If you look around, you will see design everywhere in your classroom - the calendar on the wall, your pens and pencils, even in the books that you use. Doorsteps and paper clips are designed as well as churches. Your attention may be drawn to certain small designed things, such as a fine watch with a genuine gold band, or a handsome portable television set so small that you can easily carry it wherever you go.

But most design that we see we don't even notice. Did you know that design influences what we buy and how much we buy? People who run supermarkets know this. Their shelves are designed so that the packages seem to jump right into your shopping basket.

All kinds of packages involve design. In fact, some packages seem to be all design and little product! The next time you are in a supermarket or a drugstore, look at the rows and rows of household articles. Pick up a graceful bottle that looks as if it might hold a pint. The label may tell you that it holds only six ounces.

Design is more than the shape and size of the package. The writing and the bold colors on the label are also carefully designed. You can recognize many familiar products before you are close enough to read their labels. You can recognize them by the way the product's name is written or even by the bright patterns of red or blue or green. Picture in your mind the lines of cold drink cans on the shelf. Even though the cans are all the same size and shape, can't you recognize the brands without reading the labels?

You may think that the package designers are trying to help the store owners get your money. That is partly true, of course. No one could afford to run a store unless people bought goods, and no one could afford to be a designer unless people bought designs. Anyway, you are probably wise enough not to be fooled by a fancy package. You look at the price of what you are buying and read the label to see how much the package actually holds. You can admire a pretty box on the shelf without having to take it home.

You don't have to buy things that you don't need, but you can still share the designer's pleasure in the finished product. Take just one kind of package - the glass bottle. Dozens of kinds of bottles are found in stores: small bottles and large ones, squat bottles and tall ones, fat bottles and thin ones. Even when the bottles are empty, people save them. They save them as containers for coins or to build ship models inside them. They spend hours carefully making lamps from old store bottles.

We who love the land may resent the many miles of concrete highways. Still, we should notice that engineers often build with a thought for beauty. Few sights in the world can equal the soaring Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or the breathtaking views along the Skyline Drive in Virginia. Good designers take nature into account. If they can make natural beauty more available, they will do it.

Almost everything we touch and see has been designed to be beautiful as well as useful. Look at our stamps and coins. Look at the portable dishwashers with genuine wooden tops and the plain but durable tables and chairs as well as at the fancy wallpapers and flowered bed sheets.

Design is everywhere. Enjoy it!

"Design Is Where You Find It" - Comprehension Check

1. Many people think that natural things are _______ .
a. made with concrete.
b. littering roads.
c. artificial and of little value.
d. more beautiful than man-made.

2. Some people who wish to make the world a more pleasant place in which to live _______ .
a. plan man-made things.
b. seek out gracious old homes.
c. prefer old designs.
d. spread trash.

3. Of all the people who deal with design, the first one mentioned in this story is _______ .
a. the highway engineer.
b. the small item designer.
c. the architect.
d. the packaging designer.

4. Good designers _______ .
a. resent the use of land for roads.
b. try to fool people with fancy packaging.
c. charge very high fees.
d. take nature into account.

5. Good package designs _______ .
a. help sell more products.
b. always fool people.
c. are planned for people who cannot read.
d. are planned by architects.

6. A person interested in becoming a designer might find it most helpful to study _______ .
a. music.
b. art.
c. another language.
d. cooking.

7. Beauty and grace are found _______ .
a. only in old building designs.
b. in both old and new building designs.
c. only in modern building designs.
d. only in the building designs of Greece and Rome.

8. Almost everything we touch and see has been designed to be beautiful and _______ .
a. natural.
b. graceful.
c. useful.
d. durable.

9. Another name for this story could be _______ .
a. "Graceful Homes and Towering Buildings."
b. "Design Is Everywhere."
c. "Buildings of the Past."
d. "Planned Towns of the Future."

10. This story is mainly about _______ .
a. designers who work with small items.
b. fancy packaging.
c. noticing design.
d. destroying natural beauty.


This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright's Works

Rudolph Schindler
Some Photos of Schindler's Work

Richard Neutra
Some Examples of Neutra's Works



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Matt Henson at the North Pole, from Edcon Publishing.




That flag was made by Robert Peary's wife, and Matt Henson is proud to raise it at the North Pole.

Something you will read about: trailblazer: someone who guides or prepares the way for others

Most people believe that Robert Peary was the first person to reach the North Pole. Everybody agrees that it was Peary's idea to search for the North Pole, and that he was the leader of the group that did find it. In fact, Robert Peary was made an admiral in the United States Navy for his work. However, a man named Matt Henson arrived at the North Pole shortly before Peary. Henson, a black man born in Maryland, explored the polar lands with Peary for sixteen years. They made seven trips together, and they shared every peril.

While a boy, Matt lived near the sea, and he loved to watch the sailing ships. Men told him that the ships sailed all around the world. Matt decided to become a sailor, and, at thirteen, he signed on a ship as a cabin boy. Matt never had time for school as a boy, and the captain of the ship decided to teach him to read and write. Matt stayed with the sailing ship for five years. He visited many civilized countries and some that were not so civilized. He learned to get along with all kinds of people. After the long voyage, Matt worked at different jobs on land. He was working in a clothing store when a man came in to buy a hat. The man was Robert Peary, an officer in the United States Navy.

Peary and Matt Henson became friends immediately. Peary was going on an exploring trip, and he offered Matt a job as his servant. Although Matt didn't want to be a servant to anyone, he did want to go on the trip. He thought it would be a great adventure, and he looked forward to times of peril in unusual lands. Matt decided to accept the job of being Peary's servant. He was never sorry that he did. Peary soon recognized Matt's courage and imagination and construction skills. Matt was made a part of the regular crew. For twenty-three years, Peary and Henson traveled together. Their last sixteen years together were spent searching for the North Pole. They used all kinds of transportation - sailing ships and Eskimo kayaks, wagons pulled by horses, and sleds drawn by dogs.

The North Pole
Seven years after their first trip together, they went to explore the frozen country of the Far North. There was no money to pay Matt, but he wanted to go so badly that he was willing to go without pay. With a sailing ship for transportation, they left the civilized world behind.

When they had landed in the bitter cold of the North, Peary broke his leg. This did not stop him. He insisted on staying and exploring. The ship was sent home and the men spent a year near the North Pole. They faced many perils without any hope of outside help. At the end of the year, Peary and Henson returned to the United States. Peary told Henson that he wanted to return to the North and find the North Pole. He needed Henson's skill in the construction of shelters. He also needed his strength and courage.

Nobody knew exactly where the North Pole was. There was no way of finding it except by using dog sleds for transportation across the empty miles of ice and snow. Robert Peary and Matt Henson made their last trip to the North in 1908. They had suffered bitterly on all their trips. On one voyage, Peary's feet were frozen and most of his toes had to be removed. Another time, Matt Henson fell into the sea. He would have frozen in the icy water, but an Eskimo rescued him.

Four Eskimos who accompanied
Peary and Henson to the North Pole
The last voyage was the most difficult. The men struggled through the winter and into the spring. Spring near the North Pole was worse than winter anywhere else. Only six men remained for the last part of the trip. Four of the men were Eskimos who didn't care anything about the North Pole. To them, it was just another icy spot in a frozen world. The fifth man was Robert Peary, who had spent much of his life looking for the North Pole. The sixth man was Matt Henson, the black American, and the first one to reach the Pole.

Matt was the trailblazer, and he led the way every day, driving his dog sled across the snow. He wore fur clothes as the Eskimos did, but the bitter northern winds cut his face. At every stopping place, Matt was responsible for the construction of a house built from blocks of ice so the men would have a place to sleep. On a cold day in April 1909, Matt Henson and one Eskimo reached the North Pole. Matt started cutting blocks of ice for the shelter house. Almost an hour later, Admiral Peary arrived with the other three Eskimos. Peary was very excited, and he gave the American flag to Matt. He told him to place it in the snow at the North Pole. And Matt did it.

That was how Matt Henson became the first person known to stand at the North Pole.

COMPREHENSION CHECK:

1. This story is about ________
a. an Indian.
b. an Eskimo.
c. an explorer.
d. a soldier.

2. The hero of the story is _____
a. Admiral Peary.
b. an Eskimo.
c. a polar bear.
d. Matt Henson.

3. When Matt was thirteen, _____
a. he got a job on a sailing ship.
b. he got a job in a clothing store.
c. he became Robert Peary's servant.
d. he placed a flag at the North Pole.

4. Matt learned to read and write __
a. in school.
b. at home.
c. on a ship.
d. with Admiral Peary.

5. Matt Henson and Robert Peary were looking for __
a. a civilized place.
b. the North Pole.
c. Matt's mother and father.
d. a buried treasure.

6. One kind of transportation used by Peary and Henson in the frozen North, was _____
a. automobiles.
b. trucks.
c. snow plows.
d. dog sleds.

7. In the snow at the North Pole, Matt Henson placed __
a. an American flag.
b. a book by Admiral Peary.
c. a message he wrote himself.
d. some supplies.

8. The most important thing that Matt Henson did was __
a. to spend five years on a sailing ship.
b. to work in a clothing store.
c. to build ice shelters in the Far North.
d. to place a flag at the North Pole.

9. Another name for this story could be ______
a. "A famous black explorer."
b. "How to Travel by Dog Sled."
c. "Matt Henson and the Sailing Ships."
d. "An Adventure at Sea."

10. This story is mainly about _______
a. kinds of transportation.
b. exploring.
c. construction of ice shelters.
d. helping a friend.

Read the following short article from Wikipedia:

Matt Henson Bio

The following is a longer article:

Matt Henson, Arctic Explorer

Here is a video about Matt Henson as part of a Black History Month celebration:



This video explains more details of the expedition and Matt Henson's role:






Monday, January 11, 2010

"Trapped in Death Valley" from Edcon Publishing


This is the story of the Sand Walking Company and their
treacherous journey through Death Valley in an effort to reach
California.



Something you will read about: borax: a white powdery substance used to destroy germs.

The road west was treacherous and untamed~ yet these brave men and women were determined to reach the territory called California.

The Sand Walking Company, consisting of a hundred wagons full of settlers heading for California and the newly discovered gold fields, halted in southwestern Utah. An argument had been going on for some time. Part of the group wanted to take a shortcut through the desert. But the leader, Captain Hunt, was very much opposed to it.

Donner Party
He squatted with the impatient young men, William Manly and John Rogers, critically examining a crude map outlined on the already cold ground. It was nearly December, in 1849, and this evidently worried Manly.

"We'll travel south," urged Manly. "These mountains are very treacherous in the winter. Remember what happened to the Donner party?"

A shudder swept over the three of them as they recalled the ordeal of the Donner party stranded by blizzards in the Sierras. Captain Hunt still argued.

"At least we know the way through the mountains. It would be suicide to endeavor to travel through that unknown desert."

Manly gazed carefully at the jagged line he had drawn due south, through the mysterious southeast desert region where Nevada meets California. It looked so easy, so direct.

"I want to attempt it," he insisted.

"Suit yourself," replied Captain Hunt, "but I'm taking all those who will accompany me over the mountains, the safe and sure way."

The following morning, most of the wagons in the train rumbled off to the mountains. A small party of adventurous souls, including the Bennett and Arcane families and Reverend James Brier and his family, gathered their belongings together, loaded up their wagons and headed south into the mysterious, unknown basin of sand, shimmering under a torrid sun. Around them towered rock formations of weird shapes, eroded by the sun and wind. Coyotes howled at night and bighorn sheep appeared in ghostly herds on distant hills. Day after day, the constantly turbulent wind whipped the grey sand against the slow-moving wagons.

The temperature rose as the wagons creaked forward and a large pond became visible. The children scampered to the welcome water, but a white, salty substance lay upon the surface.

"Don't drink it," Juliette Brier warned her three children, "it may be contaminated. "

"But we're thirsty," whined the children, "and we're tired."

"I know," soothed their mother, concealing her growing anxiety.

The fresh water supply was becoming scant and so were the provisions. It was difficult traveling through the sand, not nearly as swift as Manly had imagined. The shortcut had turned into a nightmare but Juliette maintained her fortitude and good spirits and constantly encouraged her companions. When the children got tired, she played a game with them, letting them ride on empty leather saddlebags. Manly and Rogers scanned the horizon, peering at the distant peaks of the Panamint Mountains, which separated them from California's wealth.

"The path to the mountains goes through those hills," Manly observed, and he directed the group toward a ravine. Wearily, the gaunt, starving oxen dragged the wagons down into a narrow depression through two cliffs, seeking a path between the rough stone walls. Oxen stumbled and perished and since the survivors couldn't pull all of the wagons, precious possessions had to be abandoned along with stranded vehicles. As food and water began to give out, the settlers wandered in the endless maze of grey rocks, thinking they were nearing the end of their journey but never getting closer to the mountains.

They followed a stream which they named Furnace Creek because the rocks seemed to have been bleached by the torrid sun. Most of the water was undrinkable. The white powdery mineral served to contaminate all but a few springs. In later years, this substance, borax, would make men rich as they hauled the "white gold" from the desert with twenty-mule teams, but to these travelers the salty powder just added to their ordeal.

Furnace Creek Valley
The children became sick, oxen died and more wagons were abandoned. Vultures soared overhead as the travelers persisted in their endeavor to reach the mountains. At last they came to a dead end, trapped in the hills.

"We'll surely die now," said Juliette in despair, turning her face so the children could not see her weep.

The men listened to Juliette's sobs in desperation. Her fortitude had inspired them and now even she felt that their situation was hopeless.

"Look," exclaimed William Manly, "John and I got you into this, so we'll have to go and get help. Meanwhile, the rest of you must stay here."

He glanced at the Reverend Brier and his brave wife.

"And pray. Pray like you've never prayed before."

As the two men disappeared into the wilderness, their friends watched in despair. The two men had taken few supplies. Who could survive in this torrid desert? One by one, most of the oxen were killed for their meat. It seemed as if the waiting people would die of thirst when a sudden winter storm, bringing the rare rain of the desert, nearly drowned them in a flash flood but left pure water in hastily set out containers. Then a miracle seemed to happen. Flowers of purple, gold, red and yellow appeared, springing up where the moisture had reached them. Juliette hugged her starving children and gazed hopefully at the flowers, assuring the children that help would come soon.

Meanwhile, John and William had crossed the desert and reached the Panamint Mountains. Powered by sheer fortitude, they crossed the mountains and wandered through a smaller desert, the Mojave. They stumbled into a ranch, looking more like skeletons than living men. At the nearby settlement of San Fernando, they purchased whatever provisions they could carry, plus three horses and a small mule.

The return journey was an ordeal. The horses died. The men utilized few of the provisions, saving them for their friends. As they approached the ravine where the wagons ground to a halt, they were filled with dread. The only sound was the wind whistling around the wagons. Manly raised his revolver and fired, the shot echoing from the forbidding stone cliffs. There was a scratching sound as a man crawled painfully from under a wagon. He blinked, then in a hoarse voice he shouted.

"The boys have come! The boys have come!"

Immediately, the atmosphere was alive with jubilant exclamations and cries as the survivors staggered from the wagons where they had sought shelter from the torrid sun.

"Thank the Lord!" exclaimed Reverend Brier.

"Good bye, Death Valley."
The Bennetts and Arcanes embraced the men in wordless emotion and Juliette fell to her knees, tears streaming down her weather-beaten cheeks. Strengthened by the provisions Manly and Rogers had secured, the survivors trudged on foot out of the desert toward the mountains. The trail was desolate but now their leaders knew the way. Halfway up the mountain trail, Juliette Brier surveyed the forty miles of rocks twisted by erosion, endless sand and salt ponds.

"Goodbye, Death Valley," she whispered.

Death Valley, as it has been known since, is a place of terror, mystery, and for some, the source of great fortunes. But no one who travels through Death Valley, even on modern roads, can forget the little group who first crossed it in the winter of 1849.

COMPREHENSION CHECK














1. The leader of the Sand Walking Company was ___________ .
a. Reed Donner.
b. William Manly.
c. John Rogers.
d. Captain Hunt.

2. This leader was strongly against taking a short cut __________ .
a. through the mountains.
b. through the gold mines.
c. through the desert.
d.through the Sierras.

3. In all probability, the group that followed Manly would have had less trouble if they followed ____________.
a. the Sierra family.
b. Captain Hunt.
c. Juliette Brier.
d. John Rogers.

4. The group followed a stream called ___________ .
a. Furnace Creek.
b. San Fernando.
c. White Gold Creek.
d. Panamint Creek.

5. The powdery mineral which contaminated most of the springs was _________ .
a. sand.
b. borax.
c. gold.
d. table salt.

6. A sudden winter storm caused flowers to spring up __________ .
a. just before the two men left to get help.
b. long after the two men returned.
c. before any of the oxen were killed for
their meat.
d. after the two men had gone for help.

7. Juliette thought of the flowers as a _____________ .
a. sign of hope.
b. sign of winter.
c. dream.
d. sign to pray.

8. A more detailed account of this story might be found in a book on ________ .
a. deserts of the world.
b. western expansion.
c. rocks and minerals.
d. the gold rush.

9. Another name for this selection could be _________ .
a. "Vacationing in Death Valley."
b. "Beware: Death Valley."
c. "Searching for Borax."
d. "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to California."

10. This selection is mainly about _________ .
a. a wagon party stranded by blizzards.
b. the Donner party's mistake.
c. the Sand Walking Company.
d. the little band who were the first to cross Death Valley.

This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. It is under Copyright, and included here with permission from the company. Edcon has all the rights to the audio files of their articles and stories. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher

Here are some links for more information and
visuals about Death Valley.

Death Valley: Photos
Death Valley:Wikipedia
Borax:Wikipedia

Death Valley Music Video from Youtube:



Death Valley National Park

"Trapped in Death Valley", Comprehension Check.













1. The leader of the Sand Walking Company was ___________ .

a. Reed Donner.
b. William Manly.
c. John Rogers.
d. Captain Hunt.



2. This leader was strongly against taking a short cut __________ .

a. through the mountains.
b. through the gold mines.
c. through the desert.
d.through the Sierras.



3. In all probability, the group that followed Manly would have had less trouble if they followed ____________.

a. the Sierra family.
b. Captain Hunt.
c. Juliette Brier.
d. John Rogers.



4. The group followed a stream called ___________ .

a. Furnace Creek.
b. San Fernando.
c. White Gold Creek.
d. Panamint Creek.



5. The powdery mineral which contaminated most of the springs was _________ .
a. sand.
b. borax.
c. gold.
d. table salt.



6. A sudden winter storm caused flowers to spring up __________ .

a. just before the two men left to get help.
b. long after the two men returned.
c. before any of the oxen were killed for
their meat.
d. after the two men had gone for help.



7. Juliette thought of the flowers as a _____________ .

a. sign of hope.
b. sign of winter.
c. dream.
d. sign to pray.



8. A more detailed account of this story might be found in a book on ________ .
a. deserts of the world.
b. western expansion.
c. rocks and minerals.
d. the gold rush.



9. Another name for this selection could be _________ .

a. "Vacationing in Death Valley."
b. "Beware: Death Valley."
c. "Searching for Borax."
d. "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to California."



10. This selection is mainly about _________ .

a. a wagon party stranded by blizzards.
b. the Donner party's mistake.
c. the Sand Walking Company.
d. the little band who were the first to cross Death Valley.


"Trapped in Death Valley"