Let’s Help a (Former) Preschooler Stay Curious


I’ve long said that NowI Know is an exercise in the joys of curiosity, which I’m going to haphazardly define here as the result when you go on a path to learn more about the world and, not intending to seek out specific information, discover something you didn’t know about and would have never guessed was true. It’s kind of like being a preschooler in a sense. As adults, we (incorrectly) tend to think we know more than we don’t, so we often meet surprising new information with skepticism and doubt, not joy. Preschoolers, though, are still learning about even the most basic parts of the world, and while they may approach new situations with apprehension, they also tend to take pride in discovering something new to them and want to share it with everyone they know. (Here’s one of my favorite cartoons; it really captures this “joy of discovery” part of life well, and it’s hysterical, too, although I guess the main character isn’t quite preschool-age yet.)

I share this because last week, I received an email from a former preschooler, which I guess isn’t saying a whole lot because almost all of us are former preschoolers (and certainly, all of us are former three-year-olds). This former preschooler, though, is a high school student who is not only a Now I Know reader, but also someone I knew when she was in preschool — she was a classmate of one of my kids. Her name is Brynn, and I’m thrilled to tell you that she’s apparently remained curious in the ten or so years since I last saw her.

She wrote to ask me to as you to help her out. Brynn’s a lifelong New Yorker and fan of ocean life, who until relatively recently, didn’t know about a weird little part of the oceans surrounding New York City. Here’s a map, below, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showing the location of this weird feature of our ocean floor. 

That little inlet is called the “Hudson Canyon.” It’s under a lot of water so, unlike the Grand Canyon, you can’t see it without a lot of scuba gear. And also unlike the Grand Canyon, there’s lots of sea life living there — according to Brynn, “largest commercial fishery in New York by weight is the squid fishery, and squid are caught at the edge of the canyon.”

In fact, let’s let Brynn tell you all about the Hudson Canyon. She’d do a better job than I would anyway. But before I get there, let me explain why Brynn wanted me to tell you about the Hudson Canyon.

Brynn is a Girl Scout and a past recipient of the organization’s Bronze Award, given to fourth- and fifth-grade girls for “teaming up with other girls to make a difference in their towns,” and the Silver Award, given to middle schoolers for “researching an issue, making a plan to address it, and then taking action to improve their communities.” Now, a high schooler, Brynn is working toward earning her Gold Award, “the highest award in Girl Scouting—by developing and carrying out lasting solutions to issues in their neighborhoods and beyond.” The solution she’s hoping to bring to bear? She wants the NOAA to designate the Hudson Canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary. Here’s a short video she created explaining why it is important. (If I screwed up embedding the video below, which actually happens a lot, click here to watch it.)

Right now, the NOAA is in the middle of its public comment period, in which people like Brynn (and you!) can tell the agency why you support these efforts (or why you don’t, if for some reason you’d want to do that). Instructions to do so are on the NOAA’s website, here. To make it even easier to help, Brynn put together a petition asking for your support, which you can sign here

So please, support Brynn’s efforts to protect the Hudson Canyon, and encourage her on her journey to learn more about the world we all inhabit. Again, the key links you need:

And to Brynn, thanks for writing to me! I learned a lot about the Hudson Canyon, Girl Scout Awards, and more while writing this — things I wouldn’t have even known to learn about had you not reached out, and I’m glad to get to share it with everyone on this email list.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: How to Feed Your Penguin: A very cute story because it involves a penguin with a backpack.

Tuesday: Why You Should Put on Sunscreen Before You Go On Vacation: “Before” being the important word. 

Wednesday: How to Mint Extra Tips?: I really liked the title of this one even though the story isn’t technically about mints.

Thursday: How a Ouija Board Can Protect You from a Lawsuit: My favorite story, probably, from my most recent book.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Unpicking the link between smell and memories” (Nature, 12 minutes, June 2022). “Unpicking” is an interesting choice of words for a story that is nose-related, but that aside, this is a good read. When we think of memories, we generally tend to focus on images and sounds, but smells are part of it too. 

2) “The nurse imposter” (Macleans, 18 minutes, April 2022). The subhead: “Brigitte Cleroux faked her credentials and treated hundreds of patients across Canada. Why did no one stop her?”

3) “The Bizarre Bird That’s Breaking the Tree of Life” (The New Yorker, 18 minutes, July 2022). If that title doesn’t earn your click, nothing will.

Also, last week, I shared a story about imaginary numbers but gave you all a broken link. The story can be found here. Sorry about that!

Have a great weekend!