Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wild Outdoor Wednesday

Watch things that hop: crickets, toads, grasshoppers… Where are they going? How far do they hop? Capture their colors and movement on the page in images and words.

Remember to take your sketchbook or journal with unlined pages, something to draw and write with, and something to add color ~ watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, or markers.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Crow Smarts & author interview

Crow Smarts: inside the brain of the world's brightest bird (Scientists in the Field series)
by Pamela S. Turner; photos by Andy Comins
80 pages; ages 10 - 12
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

"Is a crow smarter than a second grader?" That's the question this book opens with - and the answer is a resounding "yes". But you might not recognize crow intelligence unless you know what you're looking for. They don't write essays or take multiple choice tests. What they do is solve problems.

In this book, author Pamela Turner spends time with scientists studying New Caledonian crows. In the wild, these birds fashion tools to spear their food. One chapter focuses on how a juvenile crow learns tool-making from his parents and by trial-and-error. She devotes an entire chapter to tool-making and another to the challenges that scientists presented to the birds including problems that required multiple steps to solve. You can see New Caledonian crows solving problems here, and at Turner's website.

What I love about this book - about Turner's nonfiction in general - is that it is fun to read! She takes you into the jungle with the scientists, and shares the logic crows use to puzzle out solutions. There are maps and sidebars and an "ask the author" section at the end.

I just had to "ask the author" Three Questions, which Pamela graciously answered.

Archimedes: What inspired you to write about crow intelligence?

Pamela: For the past 12 years I've been a volunteer at Lindsay Wildlife Hospital in Walnut Creek, California. The first time I saw a baby crow, someone was syringe-feeding into its gaping mouth. Crow babies make a funny high-pitched sound when you feed them. Also, they are very interactive and play with their food and other things. Eventually I became a crow and raven specialist and even brought baby crows home to raise in my own house. When I was writing the book about tool-using dolphins, I'd collected lots of information about crows... so I thought I'd do a book focusing on the crows.

Archimedes: What sort of research did you do?

Pamela: I read articles and books, and then went into the field with the scientists. I spent five days in a blind! Part of the research was in the forest and part was in the aviary, One of the reasons I got excited about this project is the connection between tool use and language. When scientists look at brain scans, the parts of the brain that light up when making stone tools are the same as language centers.

Archimedes: What do you love best about writing for kids?

Pamela: Delving into a subject I'm excited about and sharing it. With science it's all about going out with the scientists into the field. With biographies, it's interesting to see how someone's early childhood experiences got them started or helped to mold their lives. For example, Tyrone Hayes loved frogs as a kid. He didn't know you could study frogs for a living, yet he followed his passion and became "the frog scientist".

Find out more about Pamela and her books over at her website. Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wild Outdoor Wednesday

Collect the colors of the sunset on your page. What do you hear? See? Feel?

Remember to take your sketchbook or journal with unlined pages, something to draw and write with, and something to add color ~ watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, or markers.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Seeds Can't Sit Still!

 Last week I featured the book, Plants Can't Sit Still, about the different ways that plants move. This week the focus is on one way plants move: with their seeds. Some plants produce seeds that look like parachutes; some have seedpods that explode; some have sticky seeds that hitch a ride on your clothes - or animal fur.

Save Seeds
You might find flowers going to seed. If they're flowers you like, try collecting their seeds. Calendula has curved seeds that form in heads. Sunflowers have tight heads of seeds. Lupine seeds come in pods, like peas.

Once you've collected your seeds, make a seed packet for them. Here's directions for folding an envelope out of paper. Or you can use a small envelope and decorate it.

How far do seeds Fly?
Some plants, like milkweeds, dandelions, and thistles, produce seeds that look like tiny parachutes. What kinds of parachute seeds can you find in your neighborhood?

Collect some different kinds. Take a good look at them - note their differences. Some might have long, silky threads while others are shorter and stiffer.

Make a starting line with chalk, or using a stick. Release your seeds and try to follow them. How far do they travel?

Find Hitchikers
Find some old wool socks - and put them on over your shoes. Then go for a walk in a weedy field. When you come back, look at all the seeds that attached to the socks. Use a handlens to see details  of hooks and stickers. Draw pictures of how the seeds hook onto the socks.

Check out more seed activities over at Roberta's blog,  Growing With Science.