Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Seeds in the Garden

 I am one of those "lazy" gardeners who doesn't clean up at the end of the season. I leave the seedheads standing, hoping that birds will drop by and chow down on the seeds over winter. And sure enough, they have.

Not all seeds are gone... many of the milkweed pods are still filled with seeds and their fine, fibrous parachutes. Every time we get a strong wind, I expect these seeds to take flight. But no, even though the wind tugs at their fibers, they continue to cling to their cozy pod. Maybe next storm...

What seeds are you finding in gardens and along roadsides?

Friday, January 26, 2024

Fighting about Fossils...

I grew up in the land of Dinosaur skeletons. I loved to visit the natural history museum at the University of Utah just so I could walk through the dinosaur exhibit and imagine those thunderous creatures stomping across the hillsides. What I didn’t know – and didn’t learn until much later – was how much our exhibits depended on a war… a Bone War! So I was delighted when this book came out just a couple months ago…

The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils 
by Jane Kurtz; illus. by Alexander Vidal 
40 pages; ages 3-8
‎Beach Lane Books, 2023

theme: biography, paleontology, fossils,

In 1863 two smart, bold young men met for the first time. They had a lot in common. O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope were fascinated by science.

They tromped around fossil beds together and even named fossils after each other. Friends forever, right? Until…

Marsh pointed out a mistake Cope had made in describing Elasmosaurus. Cope had attached the skull to the tail end, and Marsh was delighted to point out this error! From now on it was all-out competition to see who would make the next big fossil discovery. No more working together for these two. Instead there was trickery! Espionage! Skullduggery!

What I like about this book: Young paleontologists will love reading about the race to discover new dinosaur fossils and the work it takes to get them out of the rock and into museums. The discoveries Cole and Marsh uncovered inspired other scientist to look for bones as well as eggs, skin, footprints – even fossilized poop (called coprolite, in case you’re wondering). Even now paleontologists are out in the field searching for more bones and fossilized dino-bits.

Then there’s the story of two dedicated scientists who could have been great, but ended up destroying their lives in a bitter rivalry that grew into the Bone Wars. What could they have accomplished had they worked together?

Back matter includes notes from the author and illustrator, who remind readers that scientists are learning more about dinosaurs every day. And there’s a list of resources and suggested reading for curious kids who want to dig deeper.

Beyond the Books:

Think like a paleontologist with the educators at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. This 20-minute video encourages viewers to make close observations, form a hypothesis, and use information from fossils to understand more about extinct creatures. There’s also a visit to the Fossil Prep Lab to learn how fossils are prepared for research and display.

Check out these fun activities from the Los Angeles Natural History Museum – from coloring pages to dying dino-like eggs to making your own fossil. 

Plan how you could tackle a huge project that needs to get done. Maybe it’s cleaning out the garage, or mowing and raking the yard. Would it be better to have someone help you? How would you divide the work? When things don’t go smoothly, how might you solve disagreements? Once you’ve thought things through, gather your team and tackle that project.

Here are reviews of other books about paleontologists:
The Dinosaur Expert, by Margaret McNamara

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Birds playing in the snow

 This week we've had some snow ... which means when squirrels zip over to the feeder, I can see their tell-tale tracks in the snow. Deer and squirrels aren't the only ones leaving tracks. My friend, Trish Engelhard, and I have been enjoying evidence of some bird fun outside our back doors.

photo by Trish Engelhard

Over on Trish's side of the hill, the birds have been making Snow Angels!







Meanwhile, on my hill the juncos are holding square dances.




What kinds of stories do the birds leave in the snow where you live?


Friday, January 19, 2024

How the Sea Came to Be

I’m always on the lookout for good books that show evolution of life on our planet. I can’t believe I missed this one when it came out last spring – but I got a copy last month and I’m glad I did. It’s lovely! Just look at the gorgeous cover art ...

How the Sea Came to Be (And All the Creatures In It)  
by Jennifer Berne; illus. by Amanda Hall 
56 pages; ages 6-10
‎Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2023

theme: ocean, marine animals, evolution

Billions and billions of years long ago,
when the Earth was young and new,
the world was so hot, rock melted and boiled,
and fiery, wild winds blew.

The birth of our planet was hot and sizzly. Volcanoes exploded. Asteroids crashed from the sky. But over time our planet began to cool. Rains washed into low spots, filling oceans and creating habitat ripe for emerging life. Simple organisms paved the way for ribbed and frilled creatures, spongy clusters clinging to rock, worms, trilobites … eventually fish.

What I like love about this book: I love the language in this book! So many verbs. The young Earth sizzles, simmers, bubbles and burbles. As it cools, the crust heaves and puckers, wrinkles and bulges. I love that you have to turn the book, at one point, to get a vertical view of the deep, deep sea. The lyrical language introduces young readers (and listeners) to geology, oceanography, marine biology, and the diversity of life that has inhabited the seas over four and a half billion years.

And there is Back Matter! We are still discovering, still learning, says Jennifer Berne in her author’s note. Gate-folds open to show more about ocean creatures through time. There’s a glossary of key terms and concepts, and lots of resources: books, videos, webpages, museums and aquariums. This book is a tremendous resource for any classroom – and guaranteed to ignite the imagination of any child interested in the ocean.

Beyond the Books:

Visit a museum and look at the displays of fossils of ancient sea life. My favorites are trilobites!

Check out this video of Trilobites (here). Remember when I said trilobites are my faves?

Write or draw a story about exploring the ocean and some ancient creatures you find.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Since this book also appeals to older readers, look for us on Monday over at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Funky Winter Fungi

 Welcome Back to a New Year of nature breaks, seasonal observations, and outdoor exploration. I now have a macro-lens that clips onto my mobile phone! And that allows me to see things "up close and personal"  - it's like having a hand-lens attached to the camera. So of course I took it out for a walk!

I love lichen, so of course I just had to take some photos! Some lichens look crusty and tough, but it's not until you look closer that they look a bit ... scaly, like tiny dragons raising their heads above the field of leafy fronds.

Others look sharp and dangerous - like deer antlers!

There are all kinds of soft fungi growing on old logs. These looked like someone had pushed a bunch of yellow trumpet-shaped tacks into the wood. Hey look! you can even see the mycelium network spreading across the log.

What tiny natural wonders will you discover this week?