Become a Naturalist

Ah Spring! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone.

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

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Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come.

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Almost Spring Banana Muffins.

After the dog days of winter, I am anxious to get outside and participate in the rebirth that is SPRING. Despite the calendar saying it is officially spring on 3-21, we all know it usually comes of its own accord. There are signs already, here in NJ.

spring

But, we all know March is a month where anything can happen. So, while you and your kids await the days when we can go outside with just a jacket on, why not gather them together for an easy baking session? Instead of throwing out those over-ripe bananas, make up a batch of BANANA MUFFINS or BANANA BREAD.Just mash three bananas with a fork as shown below:

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The follow my well-worn and foolproof recipe. I used chopped walnuts, but you can try almonds also. You can even throw in some mini chocolate morsels.

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The recipe makes 2 loaves or 18 muffins. Serve them up with your favorite beverage and the wait for spring will be a delicious one.

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PB Author Katey Howes Presents: BE A MAKER, a New Picture Book.

I’m so pleased to be back here on Darlene’s blog to talk a bit about my new book, BE A MAKER, and to share a fun craft that pairs well with the book.

BE A MAKER is a picture book about all the things a child can make in a day – like a tower, a mess, a friend, and a difference.  It’s published by Carolrhoda, an imprint of Lerner books, and is illustrated by Elizabet Vuković.

Right now, the Maker movement and Makerspaces get a lot of buzz. And that’s a great thing – I love that we are encouraging kids and adults to tinker, explore and build. But sometimes, I think people get the (mistaken) idea that being a “maker” means you have to be good at coding, or robotics, or welding a gigantic fire-breathing mechanical dragon from spare parts. Now, that’s some awesome making, for sure, but I want kids to understand that there are countless ways to create and that it’s not size or complexity  – or even electricity – that makes your creation valuable. What matters is that you feel proud of what you made. BE A MAKER was born of that idea.

BE A MAKER is told in 2nd person and contains 2 questions that I hope will lead the readers – young and old – to reflection and discussion. It opens with:

Ask yourself this question in the morning when you wake: In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?

and later closes with: Ask yourself this question as the sun begins to fade:

In a day of making choices, are you proud of what you made?

Be A Maker by Katey Howes, copyright 2019

In between, readers follow the main character as she makes music, plans, a snack, a friend, and a pledge to make her neighborhood a better place.

Before I read the book to a class of kids, I ask “How many of you think of yourselves as makers?” Results vary, but it is never unanimous.

After reading BE A MAKER to a class, I ask the same question.

And every hand goes up.

When I then ask them what they are proud of making, the answers come fast and furious.  I make cake! Legos! Songs! Stories! I make people smile! I make my mom laugh! I make boats. I make pompoms.

 There’s no hesitation and no judgement. Each thing made is valued – not weighed or compared. The kids feel proud of themselves and eager to try making new things.

With this in mind, I created a simple craft that can be adapted for an individual or a whole classroom. I call it the Maker Mobile.

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You’ll need:

-A dowel, stick, embroidery hoop, clothes hanger or other item to use as the base.

-string -card stock -scissors -glue

  1. Cut card stock into matching shapes. For this example, I made 2×2 squares and then cut each on the diagonal to make triangles.
  2. Have kids think of something they like to make. Count the number of letters in that word. They will need twice that number of cardstock shapes.
  3. Write each letter of the word on 2 matching shapes.
  4. Line up one set of shapes spelling out the word, vertically (spelled top to bottom.) Like this:

 

F

R

I

E

N

D

S

 

  1. Flip the shapes over. Glue the string to the backs of those shapes.
  2. Glue the other copy of the word on top of the string, facing up.
  3. When the glue is dry, hang the string from your dowel or other base.
  4. Repeat with other words on different lengths of string until you like the look and balance of your mobile.
  5. Glue or tape a long strip of cardstock with the words “MAKERS MAKE…” to your dowel.
  6. Tie string to the ends of your dowel and hang!

Variations:

For large groups, consider making a bigger mobile with a hula hoop as the base and one string from each student.

  • Challenge kids to think of two words with an equal number of letters to put on opposite sides of the string.
  • For less cutting and gluing, purchase adhesive-backed foam shapes to use in place of cardstock.
  • For more variety, encourage kids to make their strings from any materials available in your maker space/craft area.

 

Katey Howes Headshot

Katey Howes is thrilled to be making books for children. She also makes bad jokes, great apple crisp, and messy mistakes. Katey lives in Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania (really!) with her husband and three adventurous daughters makers. Katey is the author of picture books Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe and Grandmother Thorn. In addition to her own blog about raising readers, Katey contributes to websites including All the Wonders, The Nerdy Bookclub, STEAM Powered Family and Imagination Soup. Katey is a member of SCBWI and is very active in the kidlit community. Find her online at kateyhowes.com, on Twitter @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Birds by Shiela Fuller.

Although spring is around the corner, I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to share a post from my wildlife expert and children’s book author friend Shiela Fuller. Here is her post on the wonderful winter bird the junco.

Nothing marks the onset of winter bird feeding for bird watchers in the northeastern US like the arrival of the dark eyed junco or “snow bird”.  In late October or early November, these tiny ground feeding birds flock to their northern homes. There are many variations of juncos found throughout the United States but in the eastern part of the U.S., dark eyed juncos are common.  The snow birds have a grey body and a white belly with tips of white on the edge of their tail feathers— visible during flight and sometimes as they’re feeding.

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If you took down your bird feeders last summer, it’s time to put them back up.  Dark eyed juncos are especially noticeable foraging on the ground under the feeders looking for fallen seeds.    After a freshly fallen snow, you may notice that there are more hungry juncos than usual.  Sweep some snow away from under the feeder, and perhaps toss a few extra seeds there, just for the ground feeders.

Watch the feeders all winter long and take note to when the juncos leave.  Mark it down on a calendar.   Do the same with their arrival in autumn.   You will be amazed at the precision in timing of arrivals and departures when comparing year to year.  Compiling and comparing data is the nurturing of a future birdwatcher, scientist, or bird biologist.

Cornell University’s program, Project Feeder Watch is a great way to learn the birds at your feeder. For a nominal fee they send you all the paperwork and instructions to begin your citizen scientist adventure.  https://feederwatch.org/    Winter fun for everyone.

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/dark-eyed-juncohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/dark-eyed-junco

shiela and jonas little fig 

Shiela Fuller is author of All Night Singing published by Schoolwide (2015).

 

Kindness: How Can You Make a Difference?

In a world where we are bombarded by mean words, negative news, and depressing events, it sometimes feels like kindness is hard to find.

Sunday, 2-17-19 is RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY. This is a day set aside to reflect on how we might be kind to our fellow man. Buy the person standing in line behind you  a cup of coffee. Pay the toll of the person behind you. Give a piece of chocolate to the woman who greets you so warmly at the gym. Let the “other” person have the parking spot closer to the store. You get the idea.

There are so many ways we can show kindness to others. Many of us do kind things every day. But, why not make an effort to really ramp up the kind quotient on Sunday and see how good it makes you feel. When we pass on acts of kindness, it changes the giver as well as the receiver.

For those who want to take kindness to another level, read below.

If you had $1,000.00 to spend, how would you use it to benefit your neighborhood or community?  Entrepreneur Ari Nessel of THE POLLINATION PROJECT, will grant  awards of $1,000.00 each to individuals who want to make a difference. You can apply for one of these awards at: http://www.thepollinationproject.org.

Here is a perfect opportunity to do something lasting for your neighbors, friends or town.  Pass it on. May kindness follow you wherever you go.

Make Valentine Treat Bags For Your Favorite Valentine.

This is one of those easy craft projects I saw in a magazine and instantly did a forehead slap – why hadn’t I thought of this? If you and your kiddos want a clever way to say “I Love You” for Valentine’s Day, make some of these HEART ENVELOPES to put a sweet treat into.  All you need are construction paper or doilies, scissors and glue. Just follow the photo instructions and you’re all set!

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Glue the seams together like in the photo below.

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Don’t be limited using just one color or paper style. Try lining the envelopes with tissue paper or doilies for a fancier, Victorian effect:

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If you’re looking for some perfect picture books with a Velantine’s Day tie-in, here are two of my favorites:

LOVE IS KIND by Laura Sassi  Love Is Kind by [Sassi, Laura]

 

SEALED WITH A KISS by Beth Ferry  Sealed with a Kiss

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

“Oink, Oink”…Celebrate the Year of the Pig.

Tomorrow is the Chinese New Year of the Pig. You and your family can join in the celebration by learning a few fun facts about this amazing animal.

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  • Pigs are intelligent animals. Don’t believe me? Watch some episodes of that sit-com from the 1960’s GREEN ACRES where Arnold the pig turns on and watches the TV.
  • Like humans, pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.
  • A pig’s snout is an important tool for finding food in the ground and sensing the world around them.
  • Pigs have an excellent sense of smell.
  • There are around 2 billion pigs in the world.
  • Pigs can run at speeds of up to 11mph, the equivalent of a seven-minute mile.
  • Pigs communicate constantly with more than 20 different vocalizations.
  • Studies have found that, just like humans, PIGS DREAM!
  • Pigs can squeal louder than a super-sonic jet!

pig  “WHO, ME?”

To learn more about these delightful creatures, visit the following websites:

http://thepigsite.com/articles/10-surprising-facts-about-pigs

https://www.reference.com/pets-animals/fun-pigs-kids-910864b9a2dc152d

You can also make some PIG PUPPETS with paper bags and some scrap construction paper. Just follow the pattern below.

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So, why not “get your squeal on” and enjoy a DAY MADE FOR PIGS!