Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Explore Outdoors ~ More Flowering Trees

 Last week I shared a photo of serviceberry. I mentioned it is in the rose family. Here are a couple other flowering trees in my neighborhood that are relatives.

cherry blossoms



flowering crabapple

Monday, May 16, 2022

Writing Begins with a Question ~ by Roberta Gibson

What does it take to write STEAM books for children?

First, it takes curiosity. 
Almost every day, a question pops into my head. Can you grow the seeds inside a kiwi fruit you buy in the grocery store? Do ant larvae make sounds to call to the workers inside the dark nest? What causes iridescent clouds?

Then it takes effort.
Many times other people have had the same question and the answer is a mouse click or trip to the library away. For example, iridescent clouds — which glow with pastel colors like the surface of a soap bubble —show up when clouds are full of small, uniform ice crystals or water drops that diffract light waves. 

eventually one may sprout!
Sometimes the answers aren’t clear, but the questions are too expensive or time consuming to investigate. I recently found a scientific article about Myrmica ant pupae that can make noise by stridulating. At this moment, however, I’m not in the position to test whether the larvae different kinds of ants can stridulate. Perhaps someday I’ll interest an expert in this question. 

The lucky few are questions that beg for an experiment or test. If you are curious about kiwi seeds, save some seeds from a kiwi fruit and try to germinate them. If that doesn’t work out, get some commercial seeds —for a control to show that your method works— and design an experiment. 

I wondered recently what happens when you drop bird feathers one by one from the second floor. Do tail feathers sail differently from wing feathers than soft down feathers? Turns out that wing feathers tend to helicopter. Cool!

I absolutely love this hands-on fiddling aspect of STEAM and youngsters do, too.  

Now here’s the secret sauce:  keep a journal. 
Every time you have an idea, or do an experiment, write it down. Draw illustrations to help you remember what you did and what happened, plus take tons and tons of photographs. 

When the question or idea leads to more and more questions, and if the topic just won’t go away, then the journal entries may grow into a book. 
Nothing is better than that.
Thank you for joining us today, Roberta.  Last year I reviewed Roberta's picture book, How to Build an Insect. We also got together to chat about bugs over on the GROG Blog. You can visit  Roberta's website here and make sure to drop by her wonderful blog, Growing with Science.

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Truth About Frogs ...

by Annette Whipple; illus. by Juanbjuan Oliver      
32 pages; ages 6-9
‎Reycraft Books, 2022

theme: frogs, adaptations, ecology

Who’s hopping?

This is a great introduction to frogs, filled with photos that will make you want to head to the nearest pond to go frog-watching. Annette Whipple answers pressing questions, including: what is the difference between frogs and toads? She shows how frogs eat, where they live, how they make sounds, and their development from eggs to adults.

What I like about this book: I love the close-up photos of legs and eyes and tongues. And the “Leaping Legs” sidebars with cartoony frogs that explain more, from a frog’s point of view. There is great back matter, too: frog-watching tips, a “fact or fiction” quiz, and instructions for a make-it-yourself toad abode.

I caught up with Annette between hops a couple weeks ago, long enough to ask her Two Questions

me: After doing all the research for this book, what’s your favorite froggy fact? 

Annette: When I think about the most amazing thing about frogs I’ve learned, I think about so many froggy facts. Like how scientists have recently been finding more than 100 new species each year. (At the time of this writing, 38 new species of amphibians have been located in 2022. Most of those are frogs!) Or how frogs don’t just eat insects. They eat anything that fits in their mouth – birds, mice, and even other frogs. Or how the Couch’s spadefoot can survive with just one big meal of termites for the entire year but the American toad has been recorded to eat more than 1,000 bugs in a single day. 

There’s such variety in frogs. I think the possible coolest thing I’ve learned is that some frogs like wood frogs and spring peepers are designed to freeze during the winter. The sugar in their blood acts like an antifreeze. When their icicle bodies thaw during the spring--the frog lives to tell about it! 

me: Can you share a memorable frog encounter?

Annette: It happened when I met a group of wood frogs. As I approached a pond with a herpetologist, I heard quacking. When I was about five feet from the pond, the quacking stopped. We stayed motionless at the pond’s edge for several minutes and spoke in hushed tones. Eventually the quacking began again – without a duck in sight. The pond was a preferred breeding ground for wood frogs. Their mating calls sound like duck quacks! I had learned of quacking wood frogs in my research, but it’s always so much better to experience it in person.

Beyond the Books:

Play a game of leap frog. One way is to use carpet squares as lily pads, and leap from lily pad to lily pad. Another way is to line up and have a leaping race. Then there’s the traditional leap frog game. Here’s the rules.

Go on a frog-watch. Ponds are great places to find frogs, but check grassy yards and parks. I’ve even found tree frogs hanging out in shrubs at the edge of a parking lot!

Hold a Jumping Contest with your friends. Can you leap like a frog? Some frogs can jump 20 times the length of their bodies – how far would you have to jump? Draw a chalk starting line, or lay a rope on the ground, and on “GO” have everyone do their best froggy leap. Then measure the distances. Here’s more frog-jumping activities.

Learn to speak like a frog. Listen to some frog recordings (here and here) and pick up some tips on how to sound like a frog.

Annette is a member of #STEAMTeam2022. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review e-galley provided by the author.