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.

 

 

 

Author Terry Jennings Has Magnetism + A Free Book!

My author friend Terry Jennings has a new book out about magnetism that she wants to share with you.  Here’s Terry.

Who wants another book on magnetism? Like poles repel and opposites attract and that’s the way it is, right? Kids already know all about it.

            So why did I write another book on magnetism? It’s so much more than the dance between the poles! And that’s what I love about writing non-fiction and creative non-fiction. You find out so much cool stuff.

When I wrote Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story, I never planned to have a gopher as the main character. But those little diggers (8-12” long) helped Mount St. Helens (9600 feet tall before the eruption) recover. They dug up the ash and softened it so that seeds could sprout. They brought up nutritious bacteria from below. What could be cooler than that?

With Sounds of the Savanna, I learned all about prey and predator interactions. I learned that everybody’s gotta eat ‘cause everybody wants to live! That does mean that sometimes another animal has to die, but it’s surprising how unsuccessful predators are. I also heard that predators cooperate. That makes sense, right? Hyenas and lionesses, they cooperate. But what about prey? Zebras, wildebeest and antelopes all eat the same plant. Zebras eat the old, tough stuff—their teeth are made for it. Wildebeest like the next part. Antelopes love the tender new growth but they can’t get to it until the zebras and the wildebeest have grazed. Wildebeest hide within zebra herds because zebra stripes confuse predators. Cool too, right?

So what was cool about Magnetic Magic? We all do know that like poles repel and unlike attract. But did you know that inside a totally unmagnetic copper pipe a magnet can create both a current and a magnetic field? You can also try it with a totally unmagnetic aluminum pipe. Check it out in my website: http://www.terrycjennings.com/Teacher-Guides-and-Activities-Magic.html give it a bit of time to load and click on the You Tube “Is aluminum magnetic?”      magneticmagic_120

But the coolest thing of all, is that the earth’s magnetic pole shifts. It wonders, from the north geographic pole to the south geographic pole and to places in between. Magnetic North changes from year to year and from place to place. So if a treasure map from a hundred years ago gives coordinate directions from a fixed geographic point and we try to find the treasure this year, we won’t be able to, unless we know the magic number. The magnetic declination. It’s a number we add or subtract from the coordinates (depending on whether the declination is east or west that year). With that number, we can find the treasure. Check out the book and activities at http://www.terrycjennings.com/Teacher-Guides-and-Activities-Magic.html        

author-pic-snow-canyonWant to win a copy of Magnetic Magic? Here’s how:

Tell us your favorite recent Non-fiction picture book and why you like it.  I’ll put your name in a hat and draw a winner who will receive a signed copy of Terry’s new book MAGNETIC MAGIC.   WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON THIS BLOG ON WEDNESDAY, 10-26-2016.

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran last year, but I find it so important I am running it again.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world.  Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.       monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed.  Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit: http://www.monarchwatch.org Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.: http://www.kcswildfacts.com/KCs-Blog.html?entry=monarch-butterflies-amazing-travelers