Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ sap is rising

Every year our neighbors tap the maples. They collect the sap and boil it down into syrup. The cool thing: sap is sweet, straight out of the tree. Sweet enough to attract all manner of flying insect.

So as you walk out this week, take a peek in the sap buckets. Or drop by a sugarhouse to inhale the sweet steam.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon
by Jason Chin
56 pages; ages 7-12
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

themes: nonfiction, geology, habitats

Grand Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world. It is 277 miles long, as much as 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep, but it's much more than just a big hole in the ground.

When I was a kid I walked down into the Grand Canyon. It was winter at the top, snowy and cold. By the time we reached the bottom we'd hiked through nearly 2 billion years (of rock layers) and it was practically summer.

So I like that Jason Chin begins this book with a family camping at the bottom of the canyon. We follow them up, up, up to the top - and along the way we're introduced to plants and animals living at the different zones. And of course, there are the rocks. Layers and layers of sediment of all different colors.

What I like love about this book: Each page is like a field trip. Margin artwork highlights geology notes, or plants and animals found in the canyon. There are spreads that take us back millions of years to when the area was beneath the sea. Condors sail by; red dust coats our hiking shoes.

I love the pages that open out to reveal a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. And back matter (of course)! There are back notes about early humans in the canyon, as well as notes about the ecological communities (from river level to 8,200+ feet), and lots of notes about geology, fossils, and how canyons are carved. Want to know more? Then check out the books, websites, and other stuff for further exploration.

Beyond the Book:
Check out the Grand Canyon website. You can go on a virtual archeology tour or watch some videos of night sky or other cool canyon stuff.

Enjoy some armchair tourism by viewing these photos from the National Park Service collection.

Go on a (video) river rafting trip.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review ARC from the publisher.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Squirrels

Squirrels are pretty crafty critters. For years they have raided our bird feeders. They can learn to navigate an obstacle course and can figure out the best way to sneak candy bars out of a vending machine. 

They usually remember where they cache their acorns, and some people maintain that they can learn how to unscrew a jar lid. (apparently our squirrels aren't that smart because they just bite through the lid)

Take a few minutes to watch the squirrels in your neighborhood. Ours leap between trees, run up and down trunks, chitter at each other, and - well - squirrel treats away.

Some things to note in your field journal:
  • what kind of squirrel you're watching
  • what sort of environment, and the weather, time of day
  • what the squirrel is doing
  • sounds it makes 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Animals by Day and Night

There are tons of new books about animals! Here are three to get started.
themes: animals, nonfiction, STEM

 Daytime Nighttime, All Through the Year
by Diane Lang; illus. by Andrea Gabriel
32 pages; ages 4-9
Dawn Publications, 2017

All day while you're busy
     The animals, too,
In winter or summer
     Have so much to do.

Whether it's daytime or nighttime, animals are busy going about their lives. Each spread presents a month of the year, with one daytime-active animal and one night-active animal. For example, bald eagles fish during winter days, while during the nights coyotes howl and prowl.

What I like about this book: I love that it goes through the year, featuring animals that are active at those times. I also like the way each spread features an animal active during the day and one during the night. And that the illustrations include animal families. There's also a lot of diversity: mammals, birds, reptiles, mollusks, insects, amphibians. Back matter includes a matching game, more animal details, and some outdoor activities.

Predator Face-Off
by Melissa Stewart
32 pages; ages 4-6
National Geographic Children's Books, 2017

Great white sharks swim in the sea.
Cheetahs run across the land.

What do these animals have in common? They're predators...they all eat meat. Short chapters focus on individual predators - sharks, cheetahs, and snakes. Other chapters illustrate the diversity among predators.

What I like about this book: the "word bite" text boxes that offer definitions. Close-up photos of teeth. Jokes (what do you call the stuff caught between a shark's teeth?). Photos with great informational labels. There's a Word Bank at the back (an illustrated glossary) and a short challenge for kids.

Animal Tails
by Mary Holland
32 pages; ages 4-9
Arbordale, 2017

Some animals have tails and some don't. Do you have one?

Using photographs and text, Mary Holland shows different types of tails and what they're used for. Need to signal danger? If you're a white-tailed deer, just flip your tail up like a flag to alert the herd. Need an extra hand? Then you need a possum tail so you can haul extra nesting materials.

What I like about this book: The photos are gorgeous, and the text is clear and simple to read. Back matter includes a tail-match game and lots of information about tail adaptations.

Beyond the Books:

Go on an animal hike. What sort of animals do you see during the day? What sorts of tails do they have?

What special adaptation would you like to have that would allow you to do a favorite daytime activity at night? Think about adaptations animals have: large eyes, excellent hearing or smelling, sensitive whiskers or paws. Now engineer an adaptation that would allow you to play soccer (or whatever you love to do) at night.

Check out this video of a cheetah hunting gazelles.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from the publishers.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Explorers ~ Shadows!

The groundhog saw his shadow a couple weeks ago. You can see yours, too, if you go outside when the sun is shining. Or even if the moon is bright.

So this week take a five minute field trip. Head outside and look for shadows.

Where will you find them? Pretty much anywhere where an object is blocking light. A tree trunk, a leaf, the stem of a winter weed, a bunch of friends....

Things to jot down in your notebook:
  • do some surfaces create crisper shadow outlines than others?
  • are there certain times of the day that are better for shadow-catching?
  • what's the skinniest thing you can find a shadow of?
  • make a list of all the things that cast shadows in your neighborhood.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Weather and Meteorology

Little Kids First Big Book of Weather
by Karen de Seve
128 pages; ages 4-8
National Geographic Children's Books, 2017

I like this book because it is so browsable. Sure, it's divided into chapters. In fact there are seven of them, including a chapter focusing on hot weather, one focusing on windy weather, one on cold weather, and one on rainy weather. There's a chapter devoted to clouds and one that explains how scientists study the weather (so we know what's headed our way).

But here's the thing: you can just flip through until something catches your eye - like the photo of an ice-encrusted car or the very cool photo that captures a raindrop splattering apart on a flower petal. Reading stuff on that page will make a kid want to dive in deeper, find out more.

There are also plenty of pop-up facts (aka: textboxes) and questions that encourage conversations on the topic... like the last time you chased after a piece of paper blown away by the wind (or maybe it was a hat). There are games and mazes at the end of chapters and a great "parent's" section at the back with more activities for curious kids.

Meteorology, Cool Women who Weather Storms
by Karen B. Gibson; illus. by Lena Chandhok
112 pages; ages 9-12
Nomad Press, 2017

This is another great title in the Girls in Science series. But here's the cool thing: you don't have to be a girl to read it. Sure, it focuses on three women who conduct weather science, and yes, there are lots of short biographies of even more women in meteorology...
But the first two chapters introduce the science of meteorology and why it is important.

Regardless of your gender, weather affects your life. As we've seen over the past year, severe storms have a tremendous impact on towns and cities, destroying homes and encouraging some people to move to a new place. And when you're in the path of a storm, those forecasts are important.

Bianca Hernandez is one of the scientists profiled. She tells about storm-chasing and dropwindsondes, which are released from aircraft and collect data as they parachute towards the ground. You'll also learn about phased-array radar and other technology used by weather scientists. There's also a great discussion on the difference between weather and climate, and the relationship between climate change and weather.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Review copies from the publishers.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesday Explorers ~ Great Backyard Bird Count

Common Redpoll, photo by Missy Mandel (used with permission)
Time to get up, shake the dust off, and head outside (or to the big picture window) for a bird count.

Next week is Great Backyard Bird Count!  From February 16th to the 19th, people all over the world will be heading out to check what birds are hanging out in their backyard or neighborhood park.

All you have to do is tally up the numbers and kinds of birds you see. For 15 minutes. On one day or all three.

Can you count birds longer? Sure!
Can you tally birds you see while hiking? Absolutely!

Why do this? Because the data you collect helps scientists learn more about how changing weather and climate change affects bird populations. The data helps scientists compare timing of migration from one year to the next. It helps us understand how diverse the bird community is in urban, rural, and forested locations. Also it's great fun and you are contributing to science.

So, what do you need to do this? A bird guide or ID app is helpful. A pencil and notebook useful. And you definitely need to create your own GBBC account. Click here to get started.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Geoengineering Earth's Climate

This has been a crazy winter. One day it's in the 50s (Fahrenheit) and the next it's 16. Or 4 degrees which, with windchills, starts feeling like minus 20! In short, this is perfect weather for hunkering down with hot coffee and a book about climate change.

Geoengineering Climate Change
by Jennifer Swanson
96 pages; ages 8-12
Twenty-First Century Books, 2017

Floods! Tornadoes! Super-hurricanes! Blizzards! Wildfires! Mudslides! These weather events and catastrophes have been increasing in the past couple decades and are related to climate change caused by a warming earth. Most scientists agree that human activity - primarily burning fossil fuels - is responsible. And of we don't take action to prevent further warming, we'll see even more drastic changes.

What can we do? The most obvious solution would be to stop burning fossil fuels. But some engineers propose we tackle the problem with ... engineering. The propose constructing large-scale technologies to counteract climate change. Installations that would physically remove carbon from the air, or sequester carbon somehow. Some engineers propose crating artificial clouds to shade the earth, or send mirrors into space to reflect sunlight. Or shooting salt into clouds to make it rain.

Sounds farfetched, right? But scientists and agencies are already studying whether cloud-seeding is an effective way of manipulating where and when rain or snow falls. The problem: seeding clouds in one place can result in rain miles away, where it's not needed. Still, China used cloud-seeding to maintain clear skies for the 2008 Olympics, Swanson writes.

As for carbon sequestration - why not simply plant more trees, and protect forests from clear-cutting? The amount of trees cut every year in tropical rainforests would, if left in place, absorb up to 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Left in place they also protect against erosion and provide habitat. There are other, less technical "engineered" solutions, too. Painting roads and rooftops white would reflect the sun's rays. Planting more trees along roadways would shade and offer flood mitigation.

Swanson notes there are some sustainable things we can do right now to help mitigate climate change. In addition to planting trees we can insulate our homes and schools so they require less energy to heat and cool. We can conserve the energy we use by driving less, sharing rides, walking, and riding bikes. We can promote local renewable energy projects. And a big one: use less plastic. That's because the production of plastic uses fossil fuels.

Back matter includes a great list of books for further reading and websites where you can learn more about projects around the world.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - Review copy from the publisher