Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Explore Outsoors ~ Golden Leaves


October leaves
turn sunlight into gold ~
This week, go leaf-looking. Some trees may be turning brilliant colors; others may not change colors until later in the fall. 
  • Collect leaves of different colors.
  • Notice their shapes.
  • Look at their edges. Are they smooth? Jagged?
  • Grab a crayon and piece of paper and make a leaf rubbing. 
  • Press some leaves. 
  • Write a haiku or other poem about leaves you see.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Nature is Always Changing

Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature 
by Cynthia Argentine 
32 pages; ages 5-8 
Millbrook Press, 2021

theme: change, nature

Night becomes day / Flower becomes fruit. Nature is always at work, transforming.

Some changes are small. Some are big, like the creation of a canyon from years of river erosion. Some changes take place quickly, while others take weeks, months, or years. Some changes bring about a burst of color; other changes happen deep within the earth, but no matter where they happen or how long they take, they transform our environment.

What I like about this book: I like how Cynthia gently invites readers to think about change, and leads them to notice the changes that are taking place in the world around them. I like how she compares and contrasts change, using opposites and plenty of verbs. Colorful photos highlight the beauty and transformative power of the changes she writes about. And There Is Back Matter! Curious naturalists of all ages can dive deeper into the beaches and canyons, deserts and forests, and even snowflakes that Cynthia introduces in the text.

Cynthia was kind enough to answer One Question about her book:

Me: This book is about how things in nature are transformed over time. Can you tell us how your book transformed over time, from initial draft to final copy?

Cynthia: Right from the beginning, I structured the book around six pairs of opposite changes—small/big, quick/slow, hot/cold, and so on—choosing examples for each pair from the same branch of science. I used a beach as my first example of change, since beaches were a favorite place for me as a child, and a bit magical. I wanted to end the book with something else that seems magical, so I chose the imagery of a delicate, starry snowflake drifting down. Over time, the book transformed and half of the pairs of opposites changed! My editor at Millbrook Press, Carol Hinz, suggested I use “science-y” terms for all the pairs. This would make them more consistent and allow tighter curricular connections. My original “familiar/mysterious” became “above/below,” while still describing the same transformations—clouds and caves. 

The story’s opening also changed. Originally, I had: “Every morning, we wake to a world of change, where nature is the hidden transformer.” As I experimented with different ways into the story, I latched onto the cyclical quality of change. I thought of the rhythm of day and night, and of the life cycles of common plants. I liked that I could describe both of those with very few words: “Night becomes day. Flower becomes fruit. Nature is always at work, transforming.” Once I had that opening, I knew I wanted to reverse the order to close the book, mimicking the cycles themselves. The book ends as fruit becomes flower, and day becomes night. And I nodded to my original lead in my final line: “What wonders will tomorrow bring?”

Beyond the Books:
As we head toward winter (here in the northern hemisphere) there are many changes in nature surrounding us. This week, take time to notice some of those changes. What do you notice about:
  • plants growing in your neighborhood
  • clouds and weather
  • rocks, sidewalks, and roads
  • places where water collects
  • raindrops and snowflakes
  • the kinds of birds and insects you see
Check out Cynthia’s interview with Susanna Leonard Hill to learn more about how she wrote this book. Here’s the link.

Cynthia is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. 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 copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Woolly Bear Behavior

Broly0, Wikimedia Commons
Woolly bears ~ the fuzzy black and brown caterpillars of the Isabella Tiger moth ~ are on the move. As the days grow shorter and cooler, the fuzzy caterpillars are searching for a place to curl up and hibernate.

My friend, Colleen, is passionate about all things lepidoptera. She stops to help woolly bears across roads whenever she comes upon them. She picks them up and carries them to the other side, in the direction they were headed. And over the past few years, she’s noticed something interesting about the woolly bears in our part of upstate New York.

“Normally, when you pick up a woolly bear, it curls up in your hand,” says Colleen. This is its defense: hide the tasty soft parts of its body and look like a prickly hedgehog to potential predators. “But some of them thrash back and forth.”

Curious, she decided to raise some “thrashers”. She put them in a container with food – pilewort and dandelion leaves – and put a screen on top. Later, she noticed some bullet-shaped pupae. Tachinid flies, perhaps?

Tachinid flies parasitize other caterpillars. The female fly lays an egg on the unsuspecting insect and the larvae grow inside - eating their host from the inside out. Then they drop to the earth and pupate in the soil. Colleen wonders whether tachinid fly parasites might cause the thrashing behavior of the woolly bears.

photo by Colleen Wolpert

A Backyard Citizen Science Project:

You can help collect data. Just pick up any woolly  bear caterpillars you come across and make a few notes:

  • do they curl or thrash?
  • when did you observe this (date)?
  • where were you? 
  • Put your observations in the comments below.

Then, if they were crossing the road, put them on the side where they were headed. 

You don't have to raise any of the "thrashers", but if you want to, make sure to give them fresh food every day – they love nibbling on dandelions and pilewort (shown in the photo). Also put some grass and fall leaves in for them to hide under. Clean out the woolly bear home daily, so moisture doesn't build up and cause mold - and keep a tight cover on the bear cage. You don't want them to escape!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Get a Peek at These Beaks!

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use 
by Sara Levine; illus. by Kate Slater
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2021

theme: birds, adaptation, science

Have you ever imagined you were a bird?

Wings would be cool, for sure. But, as Sara shows, beaks are even more cool because they are built-in tools that can help comb your feathers, scoop up food, and even show how you feel. A puzzle or mystery is presented as a question: What kind of bird has a beak that works as a strainer (or a straw or a net or….)? Take a guess, then flip the page to find out whether you are right.

What I like about this book: I like the Q & A format. And when you flip the page and discover the bird that has the beak that serves that particular purpose, Sara has another surprise. An * that highlights a text box with a list of other birds with that sort of beak. So there are more than one answer! I also like that the last question is what kind of bird uses its beak to show some love… And how you can show some love for the birds – and their amazing beaks. And there is Back Matter! A wonderful explanation of how bird beaks change (evolve) over time, plus some extra reading for kids with birds on the brain.

After peeking at all these beaks I knew I had to ask Sara One Question:

Me: If you were a bird, what kind of beaky tool would you want - and how would you use it?

Sara: What a fun question! My first thought is that I’d want the type of beak that could be used to type, as I have a lot of writing to do. But, on second thought, maybe it’s better to stick with a “realistic” response – one covered in the book. And also a response that is more true for me. So, what I’d want is a beak that can be used to show some love. Readers who want to know which birds have this sort of beak will have to read the book to find out.

Beyond the Books:

What kinds of beaks do birds have in your neighborhood or local park? Sit quietly and watch some birds. Do they have thick beaks? Thin beaks? Long, hooked beaks? Flat spoon-shaped beaks? Draw some of the bird beaks you see.

Eat like a bird. Here’s a fun activity to test different beak types and food. You can add a straw and something slurpy.

Sara is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. 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 copy provided by the publisher.