Friday, August 31, 2012

See the World from an Ant's Perspective

The world looks different depending on how you look at it. Today, see how your back yard (or garden or park or...) looks from the perspective of a small critter - an ant, perhaps. Get down on your tummy and look at the world in front of you. If you want, grab a hand lens so you can get a closer view. Who knew that some mosses look like pine trees? And check out the tiny hairs on those leaves!

Then grab your journal and write - or draw - about what you see. 
Check out more cool science over at STEM Friday.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday's View

gray sky, dry grass
even the crickets pray
for rain

looking for Pufflings? Good Luck! They're somewhere... I just saw them...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beach Reading: City Fish, Country Fish

City Fish, Country Fish
by Mary M. Cerullo; photos by Jeffrey L. Rotman
32 pages, for ages 8-12
Tilbury House, 2012

If you're expecting a cautionary tale about a country fish visiting his big city cousin - this isn't it. But, if you want the inside scoop on how "city fish" live, compared to "country fish" then this book is for you.

City fish live in the tropics, in coral reefs that are busy and crowded and home to a thousand different kinds of plants and animals. City fish, like city folk, rely on their "street smarts" to protect their food and home.

Country fish live in cool waters. There aren't so many kinds of fishes in the "country", so some of these country folk travel in schools - a great way to avoid predators, but not fishermen.

Mary Cerullo writes about life in high-rise fish condos and the less crowded life farther from the equator. "Many city fish are not built for long-distance travel," she writes, "because they rarely venture far from the security if their undersea refuge." Instead, they are designed for quick escapes, thin enough to slip through the narrow alleyways (imagine a DVD turned on its side). In contrast, country fish are robust, hardy creatures adapted to a life of swimming, or lying flat against the ocean floor.

Cerullo divulges fishy secrets of survival, gets close-up-and-personal with sharks, and offers insight into swimming with the fishes. She even clears up a question: If you've got a bunch, is it fish or fishes? If they're the same kind, it's "fish"; when talking about several different kinds, it's "fishes."

Jeff Rotman's photos spread across the pages. They're colorful, luscious, and take us right into the homes of a diversity of fish species. There's a glossary at the end and a list of books for readers who want to dive deeper. For teachers who want to dive deeper, Tilbury provides ideas for the classroom.

Check out other books and resources at STEM Friday and more great nonfiction books at Nonfiction Monday. Review copy of this book provided by publisher.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday's View... Anyone lost a Puffling?

On any other Tuesday we'd be looking out my window watching the bees and turkeys.... but not today.

Today we're on a "Puffling Hunt". No pufflings will be hurt because this is a scavenger hunt, and the pufflings are illustrations from The Puffling Patrol by  Ted and Betsy Lewin (Lee & Low, 2012)

What's a puffling? It's a baby puffin. They live on rocky seashores... such as these pufflings from Heunaey, an island off the south coast of Iceland.

By August the young pufflings can fly, and it's time for them to head out to sea. But sometimes they get confused by lights and end up in town. When that happens, it's time to call out the "Puffling Patrol" to help round up the birds and return them to the ocean. This book follows two children who head out to help rescue the pufflings.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Follow a Pollinator

Every third bite you eat is made possible by a pollinator - a bee or moth or butterfly that moved pollen from one flower to another. Who are the pollinators in your neighborhood? Most likely bumblebees and other native bees - some so small that you may not even pay attention to them, and others that look kinda like honeybees.

Bees collect pollen to take back home, tucking it into "pollen baskets" on their legs. But they're a bit messy, and some pollen sticks to their feet and their face and the tiny hairs all over their body. So when they visit the next flower, some of that pollen gets brushed onto a stigma (the female flower part that receives pollen). The bee collects more pollen, visits the next flower and drops some more there, carrying pollen from one flower to the next until she heads home.

How many flowers does a bee visit when she's out on her pollen-collecting journey? You can find out by following a bee (but don't get so close that you bother her). If you want to make a map of bee journeys across your yard carry some flags and poke one in the ground near each flower a bee visits. [You can make flags by tying orange or pink surveyor's tape onto thin wires]

Can you pollinate as well as a bee? Grab a dry watercolor paint brush and try it. One of the easiest flowers to pollinate is cosmos. If you have two different colors of flowers, try moving the pollen from one cosmos (maybe an orange flower) to another (say, pink).  Tie a piece of yarn or ribbon to the flower stalk so later on you can collect the seeds. Then next year, plant the seeds and see what you end up with. [Watermelons, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers are also easy to hand pollinate - make sure you mark the stem of your fruit.]

Check out other STEM Friday resources here. And check out the Great Sunflower Project to see how you can become a citizen scientist studying pollinators.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's View

chicory and queen anne's lace bloom
where mower has yet to venture -
bees thrive on my lack of mowing motivation.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Reading... Butterflies, Weather and More

If you're looking for some books that encourage young children to get out and explore nature, you might want to check out some of these new series from Bearport Publishing. They're all aimed at a second-grade reading level, but preschool nature detectives will love the bright photos and backyard activities. 

How do You Know it's Summer is part of a series about the seasons by Ruth Owen. She encourages children to keep track of the temperature from week to week and make notes about the kinds - and colors - of flowers blooming around the yard. Look at how leaves change over the season, she says, and what sorts of insects hang out. And there's a summer scavenger hunt in the back.  Yes, I could have posted this review last month - but there are still six more weeks of summer - plenty of time to head outside and fill a nature journal with cool (or hot) observations.

Speaking of "cool and hot", there's a new Weatherwise series, with books on climate and weather. They're full of photos and facts, a great introduction to help sort out what is the difference between snow, ice, hail or between weather and climate (something adults have difficulty remembering).

Having devoted an entire week to moths last month, I need to at least mention the new butterfly book, A Butterfly's Life by Ellen Lawrence. It's part of the "Animal Diaries" series. Each spread features a diary entry (written by a kid, not a caterpillar) and great photos of a Monarch butterfly's life cycle, from egg to adult. Lawrence includes lots of activities, from going on a caterpillar hunt to creating a butterfly fruit breakfast club. And she lists a few favorite butterfly plants you can grow in your garden - jot them down on your calendar so you remember to plant them next spring!

For science adventure into  places you normally can't go, check out the "Hole Truth" series. Want to know what a fox den or chipmunk's home is really like? Dee Phillips takes you there with an underground home tour: here's the bedroom, there's the pantry, and yonder are a couple extra doors in case you need to get home in a hurry.
Check out other resources at STEM Friday. Also check out the book reviews at the Nonfiction Monday round-up. Review copies provided by publisher.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Find a Lost Ladybug

Where have our native 9-spotted ladybugs gone? They are the state bug of New York, but you probably won't see one in your garden. Instead, what you'll find are multi-colored, many-dotted introduced species. 

Have the introduced species pushed out the natives? Do they grow faster? Eat more food? Cornell scientist John Losey wants to know, so he's raising 9-spotted ladybugs - and lots of aphids - to learn more about how the native 9-spotted ladybug interacts with imported species.

Ladybugs are important. The eat lots of aphids (and there are great shots in the video of ladybug adults and larvae snacking on those sap-sucking pests).  After watching the video, head out and look for some "lost" ladybugs - and make sure to take photos of the bugs you find. Find out more on the lost ladybug project here.
And remember to check out STEM Friday.