Enjoy Your Own Solar Eclipse Compliments of the US Postal Service.

Mark you calendar: On August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast in the US.  It will be the first total SOLAR ECLIPSE visible only in the USA since our nation’s founding in 1776.  It will also be the first one to sweep across the ENTIRE country in 99 years.

The eclipse will start on the west coast in OREGON and trace an eastern path 67 miles wide, exiting in SOUTH CAROLINA.  The eclipse will last 2-3 minutes in each location.

If you aren’t able to get out and observe this phenomenon first hand, you can enjoy your own personal SOLAR ECLIPSE thanks to the US Postal Service “Total Eclipse Forever Stamp”.  The stamp – released on Tuesday 6-20-2017 – is a photo of a total solar eclipse taken in Libya on 3-29-2006 by NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak.  Thanks to the use of THERMOCHROMATIC INK, rubbing the stamp with the heat from your finger or blowing warm air over it, reveals an underlying image of the moon.  The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.       

The eclipse is temporary, but the stamp is forever.  How COOL is that?   http://www.usps.com

Like Bugs? There’s a Museum For That!

As much as we adults lament the “peskiness” of insects, they are endlessly fascinating creatures and worthy of respect.  Without insects, our food supply would be in grave danger. These mysterious creatures are fascinating to children as well.

If you and your children want to learn more about insects, check out some of these INSECT MUSEUMS dedicated to bug fans everywhere.   You can make it a stop on your summer vacation.

  1. Oregon Zoo, Portland: Has an African millipede that’s 9 inches long (HUGE for an insect).  http://www.oregonzoo.org
  2. Los Angeles National History Museum: Insect hynts, puppet walks and cooking demonstrations with bug chefs.  Try BUGABOO BROWNIES made from mealworm flour.  http://www.nhm.org
  3. Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Insect Village: Mechanical Insect displays and walking stick bugs among the highlights.  http://www.pacificsciencecenter.org
  4. Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Zoology Dept: Largest collection of Praying Mantises and Dung Beetles.  http://www.cmnh.org

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  5. Butterfly House and Insectarium,Texas Discovery Garden, Dallas: Huge variety of tropical and near-tropical butterflies.  http://www.texasdiscoverygardens.org
  6. Fossil Beds National Monumnet, CO: Largest collection of insect fossils in the world. http://www.nps.gov/flfo
  7. Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC: Though not an insect, Orb-weaving spiders are the main attraction.  http://www.lifeandscience.org
  8. Insectropis, Toms River, NJ: Interactive exhibits and a place to donate living bugs you don’t want to keep at home.  http://www.insectropolis.com

9. Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ: The largest butterfly pavilion in the US.   http://www.butterflywonderland.com

10. Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, Philadelphia, PA: Touch, eat, and learn about our multi-legged friends.

http://www.phillybutterflypavilion.com

Why not “scratch your itch” and learn more about insects.

 

1…2…3…Butterflies!

Here’s a novel way to encourage children to practice counting and other math skills: try counting butterflies.  All across the US, volunteers are counting butterflies in the name of science. In 1975, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) launched it’s annual butterfly count program. Volunteers from all over North America  join together on designated days to identify and count butterflies – no scientific degree needed. By using only your eyes and enthusiasm, you will contribute to scientists understanding of local butterfly populations and how they have changed over time.

For more information on where and when these counts take place check out the NABA website: http://www.naba.org

You can also learn more about butterfly counting at: http://www.monarchnet.uga.edu,  or at: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org.

Happy Counting!

How to See More Rainbows by Marilyn Ostermiller

Would you like to see more rainbows? You must be in the right place at the right time.

It’s not just a matter of luck when we look into the sky on a rainy day and spot a glorious arc. The sun has to be shining behind you and rain or mist or spray must be in front of you. That’s when you are in the perfect spot to enjoy one.

Rainbows occur when sunlight and rain combine in a very specific way. When a beam of sunlight travels toward Earth, the light is white. But, if the light beam happens to hit raindrops at a certain angle on the way down, the different colors that make up the beam separate so that we can see them as a rainbow.

The angle for each color of a rainbow is different, because the colors slow down at different speeds when they enter the raindrop. The light exits the raindrop in one color, depending on the angle it came in, so we see only one color coming from each raindrop. Light at different angles coming through many raindrops form the rainbow that we see.

The spectrum of colors is always in the same order with red at the top, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (ROY G BIV is an easy way to remember the order)

April, with its famous showers, is a good time to be on the alert for rainbows. But if Mother Nature doesn’t provide one when you are in the mood, you can create a miniature one for yourself with a garden hose. Meteorologist Joe Rao suggests you simply stand with your back to the sun and adjust the hose to a fine spray. Rainbows can also be seen against the spray of a waterfall.

There are even ways to use water, mirrors and windows to form rainbows in the house. For instructions, visit www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Rainbow

Rainbows are the subject of several children’s picture books including nonfiction books that explain the science behind the beauty and fictional story books. 

Among them:

Ready-to-Read Level One Rainbow. Newbery Honor recipient and New York Times bestselling author Marion Dane Bauer teaches beginning readers about rainbows in this one. It is illustrated by John Wallace.

A Rainbow of My Own, by Don Freeman. A small boy imagines what it would be like to have his own rainbow to play with.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Spring Sprouts

If you can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough for planting and digging in the garden, try SPROUTING SEEDS. Seed packets are in grocery stores and it’s easy to try sprouting them with the kids All you need is a package of bean seeds and paper towels.

1. Wet paper towels.  Place 3 or 4 seeds onto the wet towel, fold it to cover the seeds.

2. Place the folded towels in a warm area and keep them moist by sprinkling them with water every few hours.

3. Check the seeds every couple of days.  You should see them sprout before a week is through.  Don’t give up if it takes a little longer.  The warmer the area, and the moister the towels remain, the faster the seed will sprout.

What to do with them once they’ve sprouted?  While it might be tempting to eat your own sprouts, I wouldn’t.  Some seeds are treated with certain chemicals and can cause illness. YOU CAN, however, plant them in dirt and have a “mini” garden on a windowsill.  They can also be put directly into your garden outdoors when the soil is ready.

Try different kinds of beans to see how long each takes and compare their different characteristics.  Take a photo and send it to me. I’ll post some of them here.

For a Limited Time Only: Daylight Saving Time:by Marilyn Ostermiller.

clock-fleur-de-lisTick Tock. Tick Tock.

Time to Turn Back the Clock

On Sunday, November 6, Daylight Saving Time will end at 2 a.m. We’ll roll back our clocks by an hour. As a result daylight will come an hour earlier than we are used to, and so will nightfall.

A simple way to remember which way to reset your timepieces is to tie images to this meme: spring forward and fall back. For the spring time change, think of a bunny hopping across your yard. For the return to Standard Time in the fall, picture someone doing a backward somersault.

Congress initially passed Daylight Saving Time in 1918 to save electricity during World War I, according to The History Channel. It was repealed the next year, but some states and cities continued to shift their clocks back and forth. The problem was that each participating state and city could fix their own start and end dates. This chaotic situation was finally resolved in 1966 when Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act.

http://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-daylight-saving-time

In the United States only two states, Arizona and Hawaii, don’t participate. In about 70 countries around the world, about 25 percent of the world’s population participates.        img_3536

Come to think of it, how did we come to have 24 hours in a day or hours that last 60 minutes? And why do minutes contain 60 seconds? There are a couple of enlightening children’s books on the subject.

“About Time: A First Look at Time and Clocks” is for children in second through fifth grade.  Author Bruce Koscielniak tells the intriguing story of the many years spent tinkering and inventing to perfect the art of telling time. When time itself was undefined, no one knew the difference between a minute, an hour, and a day. Then people started creating tools to measure time. First, they used the sun, the moon, and the water. Soon, people began using their knowledge about the natural world to build clocks and to create calendars made up of months and years. Centuries later, we have clocks and calendars all around us. This book is published by HMH Books for Young Readers.

“A Second, a Minute, a Week with Days in It: A Book about Time,” written by Brian P. Cleary and illustrated by Brian Gable. A collection of zany cats introduce the measurement of time, from seconds, minutes, and hours up to decades. It is suggested for kindergarten through fifth grade.      Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.