Friday, December 23, 2011

This Tree is for the Birds

from the shepherds house
 Decorating a tree for the birds is an old tradition dating back to sixteenth century Europe. Not only does it liven up your yard, but decorating a tree with snacks for birds helps them make it through the cold winter days. You don’t need to go buy fancy birdseed ornaments – just gather some things around the house and create your own.

Think about things you can string onto garlands: old raisins, cranberries, dried apples, dates and figs, popcorn and peanuts in the shell. Even cheerios and fruit loops make good garlands.

Hang colored Indian corn, donuts, rice cakes, or bagels smeared with peanut butter and coated with birdseed.

Pack peanut butter into a pinecone (birds prefer chunky, I’m told) and roll that in cornmeal and birdseed.
From Chickens in the Road

Make “bread cookies”. Use a cookie cutter to cut a shape from a slice of bread. Poke a hole in the top for a string and then let the bread dry out overnight. Mix cornmeal, shortening, and peanut butter and spread the mix on both sides of the bread. Then decorate with sunflower seeds and other birdseed.

Use natural brown string, wool yarn, or raffia to hang the decorations. The birds can use the fibers in their spring nest-building.

What ideas can you think up?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's View

A few days before Solstice - 
this year  it's Thursday, December 22. 
Longer days ahead ...
but it will take a few weeks to notice the difference.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Night Walking

last week's full moon made star-watching difficult

In the winter it seems like the stars are closer to the earth; brighter; easier to see. The waning moon makes this week (and next) a good time for a night walk. Not only that – you might even see some falling stars!

According to the folks at EarthSky there should be a meteor shower peaking near Solstice. The Ursid meteor shower radiates from the bowl of the Little Dipper and should peak next Thursday and Friday, December 22 and 23. It’s a pretty sparse “peak” as meteor showers go – you might see only 10 stars streaking across the sky in an hour. Or you might luck out and see a couple a minute.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's View

now that it's cold the birds are visiting the feeders:
red-bellied woodpeckers, downy and hairy
blue jays, chickadees and nuthatches...
the regular crew.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Storm Tracking

This week we got our first snow. It started off as rain, then rain mixed with snow. When the temperature dropped it turned to real snow and by the next morning the world looked different. 

Because of the ice that accompanied the storm, and the tricky driving conditions early in the morning, the storm made our local news. Nearly every TV station has a “storm tracker” weather segment where they follow snow and ice, hurricanes, blizzards and other weather events.

But you don’t have to be a weatherman to follow storms. You can keep track of the storms right where you live. All you need is your journal, a pencil, and a bunch of curiosity.
In addition to noting the date and kind of storm, here’s some other things you might want to keep track of:
  • What kind of precipitation is falling out of the sky? Does it change over time? How can you tell?
  • How does the temperature change over the storm event?
  • What kind of clouds came before the storm and after?
  • If there is precipitation, how much? And how can you measure it?
  • If it’s snow or ice, what does it look like? Feel like?
  • What does the storm sound like?
  • What did you notice about birds or other wildlife that hang around your yard?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Celebrating Picture Books: Red Sled

Red Sled
By Lita Judge
Ages 2-5 (and older!)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2011)

OK – I realize Picture Book Month is over, but I can’t resist one more book. Kinda like when the baker tucks an extra cookie in the bag…

Red Sled captured me from the cover. It may be a “wordless” book, but with illustrations this expressive, who needs words? A kid leaves his sled outside at night – a clear invitation to a passing bear. With a few onomatopoeic words and her delightful pencil-and-watercolor animals, Judge captures a winter’s night fantasy.  I especially love the way she portrays each animal’s personality as they pile on the sled for one last ride. Fortunately, the sled survives.

Grab this book, snuggle up with a kid and enjoy a really fun read- aloud.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

STEM Friday - Prairie Storms

Prairie Storms
Written by Darcy Pattison; illus. by Kathleen Rietz
32 pages, for ages 4-8
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2011

December on the prairie can be tough. “A blizzard rages, a sudden whiteout. The bison herd turns, facing into the teeth of the wind,” writes Darcy Pattison in her newest book, Prairie Storms.

Storms may not bother the bison, but when I hear the wind howling and the sleet rattling at my windows, I make a hot cup of cocoa and snuggle up with a good book.

Pattison raises an interesting question: what do animals do when the snow flies? How do they deal with rain and hail? Month-by-month she takes us into the secret lives of prairie animals: into the burrows of prairie dogs; into the den of a cougar. Who knew that skunks roll up balls of straw to close their doorway? At the end of the book she's included some activities for curious and creative minds.
Pattison lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, a town right on the edge of the prairie, she says. And while it’s not the “Great Prairie” of the Midwest, it served as inspiration and an outdoor lab for her as she worked on the book.

“I wanted to write about animals,” she said. She wanted to explore the relationship between animals and their habitats, but in a different way. “And when you live on the prairie, the sky is the biggest thing around,” she said. So Pattison began investigating how different creatures deal with weather. And that meant a lot of research. And a lot of field trips to the Baker PrairieNatural Area, just outside of Harrison.

Then she started thinking about how to pull all the nifty stuff she learned into a book. Picture books have 14 spreads (the double-page illustrations), she pointed out. “So doing something that focused on the 12 months seemed natural.” Pattison then made two lists: one of the mammals and birds and reptiles she’d seen; the other about the kinds of storms her prairie areas experience over the span of a year.

How did she get the prose so lyrical? “I wrote it as poetry, first,” Pattison admitted.

What was the neat new thing she learned? “Earless lizards!” she said. Despite their name, they hear well enough.
This is part of STEM Friday. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Check out what great books other people are reviewing below. To add a link to your blog, just leave a comment or send an email to sueheaven [at] gmail [dot] com. I'll check periodically throughout the day.

Jeff Barger reviews How Does Medicine Know Where you Hurt? over at NC Teacher Stuff.

Shirley reviews The Life of Rice at Simply Science. She always includes some activities with her reviews.

Anastasia Suen introduces a pop-up physics book, Feel the Force over at Chapter Book of the Day.

Not a review, but worth checking out: an interesting post on the importance of integrating art with STEM at INK.