Our girls officially had their last days of school last week. Our older daughter wrapped up her first grade year playing virtual bingo with her classmates, while our younger daughter had a chance to visit her preschool classroom, say goodbye to her teacher, and bring home all the goodies that were left from the year. With such a strange end to the school year and a lack of obvious demarcations from school to summer that we’ve always had, I wanted to be sure to welcome in summer break in a fun, celebratory way, so that the first day of summer indeed seemed different from today…
So, inspired by my friend Jennifer from Memory Makin’ Momma, we decided to have squirt gun fight materials waiting when we got back from that last preschool visit! Of course, I couldn’t resist pairing our squirt gun fight with one of the books from my 90 Books for 90 Days of Summer booklist — Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate. Have you read this one yet? Do your kids love squirt guns? Or, do you, like me, have vivid memories of playing with Super Soakers as a child? Either way, read on to hear a bit about this wonderful story of this invention!
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Whoosh! tells the story of Lonnie Johnson, an African-American inventor, and his best-known invention, the Super Soaker water gun. As a child, Lonnie loved to build and to create… especially rockets. Though Lonnie dreamed of becoming an engineer, a test showed he wouldn’t be a good one. But, of course, he didn’t let that stop him, nor did he let trouble with a transmitter on his science fair robot stop him. When he finally completed his robot and entered it into a science fair at the University of Alabama, he won first place — first place in a science fair that he wouldn’t have even been able to enter 5 years prior based on the color of his skin.
Lonnie indeed went on to become an engineer, working with NASA to solve problems with power supplies on their orbiters. But, he continued to tinker and create in his free time… And it was this spare tinkering that led to the accidental inspiration for a terrific water gun! But of course, Lonnie continued to hit bumps in the road, losing investors and support from companies for his water gun invention, along with a few others. Eventually, however, things finally went his way, and the Super Soaker was born!
Be sure to spend time with the Author’s Note in Whoosh!. Rather than focusing on Johnson’s life, Barton spends most of the note addressing the inspiration for this book — an exercise challenging seminar attendees to think more diversely about scientists than people typically do.
While my girls are out of school for breaks, including summer break, I typically slow down on my posting for the summer, and I hope for this summer to be no different, even though my daily routines may not look much different for the next 3 months than they have for the last 3 months. So, please grant me patience if I take longer than usual to respond to you, and please continue to engage with and support my posts when you do see them!
Tell me — do you have any special traditions to celebrate the end of school and welcome in summer break?