Brazil for Kids: Explore Gems and Minerals, Rivers and Wildlife

Welcome to the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. In this Go With Nugget for Kids podcast episode, we’re headed to a city called Belo Horizonte to visit 12-year-old Theo, who will take us on an exciting tour of the unique wildlife of his home country. We’ll learn about adorable monkeys, scary piranhas, tropical birds and the largest rodent in the world as we explore Brazil for kids. We’ll also learn about the impact humans have on some of these animals and what we can do to help protect them. Theo’s home state, Minas Gerais, is also known for its minerals and gems. So, if you love rocks, you’ll love this episode!

22 min
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BRAZIL GEOGRAPHY: WHERE IN THE WORLD IS BELO HORIZONTE?

Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world and the largest country in South America and is made up of 27 states. Belo Horizonte, the city where Theo lives, is the capital city of the state of Minas Gerais. With over 2.5 million people, Belo Horizonte is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of lush green mountains called the Curral Del Rey, which form the “beautiful horizon” (after which the city was named). Belo Horizonte is a modern city with wide, tree-lined streets and with beautiful architecture, including the Capela São Francisco de Assis by architect Oscar Niemyer. It is also a cultural center with several museums and the world-famous Mercado Central, where you can find everything from Brazil’s famous pão de queijo to crystals and gems from the local mines.

BRAZIL FOR KIDS: ROCKS AND GEMSTONES

There are lots of mines in Theo’s home state of Minas Gerais. Many of the mines are used to dig up gems and precious stones. Brazil produces the greatest variety of gems and semi-precious stones in the world, and mining is a part of Brazilian culture. Prospecting (which means the search for minerals) is a way of life for many people in this region. 

Some of the most spectacular gems come from mines near Belo Horizonte! Theo has a huge collection of rocks and gems that he has found or bought in his travels and has a special rock (which has a fish fossil in it) that his grandmother gave him. In his collection, Theo has dozens of different kinds of rocks including: onyx, amethyst, pyrite, sphalerite, citrine, lepidolite, fluorite,  green tourmaline, quartz and amazonite.

Brazil for Kids_Theo's Rock Collection

Theo’s vast rock collection.
Photo: Theo’s family.

One of Theo’s favorite places to visit in his hometown is the Museum of Minerals and Metals, called the Museu das Minas e do Metal. The museum tells the story of the discovery of precious metals in the state of Minas Gerais and helps explain the importance of mining and minerals in Brazilian culture, economy and society.

Brazil for Kids: Museum of Mines and Metal

Museu das Minas e do Metal in Belo Horizonte.
Photo: Jomar Braganca.

Brazil for Kids: Gems at the Museum of Mines and Metal

A display in the Museu das Minas e do Metal, Gerdau.
Photo: Jomar Braganca.

Theo loves exploring all the exhibits and learning about its history. You can even be scanned to see how much metal is in your body! There is also a virtual elevator ride deep down into the Morro Velho Mine in Nova Lima, where you can learn about the lifecycle of a mine. And if you’re really curious about mines, you can even do what Theo did a few years ago and visit Minas da Passagem, the largest abandoned gold mine in the world!

The famous Central Market (Mercado Central) in Belo Horizonte is another great place to see and buy rocks and gems. Theo loves to add to his collection whenever he can. 

Brazil for Kids: Precious gems and minerals store at Mercato Central

JK Pedras do Brazil store in Mercato Central.
Photo: JK Pedras.

Brazil for Kids: A collection of rough diamonds and a gold nugget

Theo showing a piece of gold and a brute diamond in Diamantina.
Photo: Theo’s family.

With over 400 shops, the Mercado Central is also a wonderful place to get fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, candy, clothing, regional crafts, and Brazil’s famous pão de queijo (cheesy bread) and feijoada (rice and beans). It’s delicious! 

BRAZIL FOR KIDS: FISHING IN THE SAO FRANCISCO RIVER

One of Theo’s favorite things to do is to go fishing with his father on the Sāo Francisco River. Starting in the Canastra Mountains of Minas Gerais, it is the longest river that is only in Brazil and is over 1,811 miles (2,914 km) long. It is vast and wide in some parts, and narrow with waterfalls and dams in other parts. Theo loves going on fishing trips and has caught a big dourado that he grilled for dinner with his family after this successful catch!

Brazil for Kids: Aerial view of the Sao Francisco River

A view of the Sāo Francisco River, Brazil.
Photo:  Cleferson Comarela.

Brazil for Kids: Fishing on the Sao Francisco River

Fishing on the Sāo Francisco River with his brother.
Photo: Theo’s famliy.

Brazil for Kids: Big Catch Dourado

What a catch! A huge dourado.
Photo: Theo’s family.

One of the other types of fish that Theo sometimes catches in the Sāo Francisco River are piranhas. Theo has caught many piranhas since he started fishing. His father helps him to very carefully take them off the hook, because they have extremely sharp teeth. They are very dangerous and swim in big groups, called a shoal. Caution: You don’t want to go swimming where there are piranhas!

Brazil for Kids: Red-bellied piranhas

A school of red-bellied piranhas. Photo:  AllNikArt from Pixabay.

BRAZIL FOR KIDS: WATERFALLS AND SWIMMING HOLES

The state of Minas Gerais is also home to one of Theo’s favorite swimming spots — Serra da Canastra National Park in the Canastra Mountains. There are beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim on a hot day, which makes this part of Brazil really fun for kids. The Sāo Francisco River starts in this national park where you can also see the famous 600-foot (182 m) waterfall called Casca d’Anta.

Brazil for Kids: Serra da Canastra

A view from the top of a waterfall Serra da Canastra National Park.
Photo:  EstherCastro from Pixabay.

Brazil for Kids: Casca d'Anta waterfall

Casca d’Anta waterfall in Serra da Canastra National Park.
Photo: Gustavo Couto.

Brazil for kids: Swimming in a waterfall

Theo enjoying a swim in the waterfalls of Serra da Canastra National Park.
Photo: Theo’s family.

BRAZIL FOR KIDS: BRAZIL’S WILDLIFE

Brazil is home to many incredible animals, and Theo loves them all. He hopes to be a biologist when he’s older. In this episode, he tells us about some of the encounters he’s had with animals, including the capybara, toucan, monkeys and many more.

The capybara is the largest rodent in the world, and it can be found all over South America. It loves to live near water and stay in large family groups. There are many predators of the capybara. The capybara let each other know when there is danger with their unique calls. 

Check out this video of a capybara family from Nat Geo Wild.

There are also many exotic birds in Brazil, including the toucan. Theo has seen one in his grandmother’s backyard. They usually live in the forest, but sometimes come into the city for food. Theo suggests that you shouldn’t feed these animals, because they should be living in the forests, not in the city, and they could become dependent on humans, which isn’t safe for the animals.

Even though all these animals are really adorable, especially the black-tufted marmoset (also known as Mico-estrela in Portuguese), they can also be dangerous if they get too used to interacting with humans. Marmosets typically live below the canopy in the rainforests and feed on tree sap that they get by nibbling the bark. Unfortunately, as their habitats continue to be destroyed by humans for logging, agriculture and industry, the black-tufted marmoset are seen more and more in cities, in search of trees and food.

Brazil’s wildlife is being looked after by many organizations, such as the Falcon Park, where Theo recently visited. Falcon Park cares for sick or injured falcons, owls, hawks and many other birds of prey.

Brazil for Kids: Black-tufted marmoset

A black-tufted marmoset. Photo:  Robson Melo Bob from Pixabay.

A toucan flying in Theo’s grandmother’s backyard.
Photo: Theo’s famliy.

Brazil for Kids: Parque dos Falcões

Theo with an owl at Falcon Park (Parque dos Falcões).
Photo: Theo’s famliy.

BRAZIL FOR KIDS: CARING FOR OCEANS AND SEA LIFE

Another organization that helps care for sick or injured animals is Projeto Tamar (Project Tamar). Recently, on a family trip to the beach in Bahia, Brazil, Theo and his younger brother, Luca, learned about the work that Project Tamar is doing to help save and rehabilitate turtles. They also learned how to help prevent ocean pollution. Theo suggests that people take care with their plastic so that it doesn’t end up in the ocean. People can recycle, reuse it, or find other things to use instead of plastic.

Brazil for Kids: Sculptures of turtles at Projeto Tamar

Sculptures on the beach near Projeto Tamar. Photo: Anke Metzen.

Brazil for Kids: Green sea turtle at Projeto Tamar

A green sea turtle at Projeto Tamar.
Photo: Anke Metzen.

Brazil for Kids: Learning about turtles at Projeto Tamar

Theo and his brother at Projeto Tamar in Bahia.
Photo: Theo’s famliy.

Brazil for Kids: Turtle art installation on the beach at Projeto Tamar

Art installation on the beach at Projeto Tamar.
Photo: Anke Metzen.

BRAZIL FOR KIDS: THE PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. Here are a few important words that you can practice at home or in school. There is even a word that can’t be translated to English!

THANK YOU:

Obrigado

HELLO:

Oi

GOOD MORNING

Bom dia

GOOD AFTERNOON

Boa tarde

GOOD NIGHT

Boa noite

AN IMPORTANT MISSING FEELING

Saudade

SPECIAL THANKS

This episode would not have been possible without the help of Daniela Lacerda, Theo’s mother, for her time and for the great photos of Theo, their hometown and the places they love to visit.

A special thanks to Capybara World for the capybara audio and Museu das Minas e do Metal, Gerdau for sharing their images.

The theme song for Go With Nugget for Kids was written and composed by Andrew & Polly from the musical kids podcast Ear Snacks.

Go With Nugget for Kids is a proud member of Kids Listen, an international organization of advocates for high quality audio content for children. If you love kids podcast, go check them out!

Go With Nugget for Kids is part of Nugget, a global community for parents to share and discover unique travel itineraries for memorable family vacations.

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