Backyard Camping, Kite Flying and Other Summer Pleasures.

While places are beginning to reopen and we are staring to venture beyond our own backyards, many of us are still worried about summer travel and vacations. Until we are back to a world where we can come and go without worry, why not tap into some of the fun things you may have enjoyed as kids and make some family memories?

CAMPING in the backyard can be as simple as setting up a pup tent and sleeping bags for a night out in nature. But make it a bit more exciting for the kids by packing snacks, roasting hotdogs on a grill or campfire, and bringing flashlights. You can make shadow creatures inside the tent, tell scary stories, capture lightening bugs in a jar, and be the first to wake up and greet the sunrise.

KITE FLYING never gets old. There is a real sense of fun being able to get a kite up into the air and watch it soar. You can buy kites in all prices and from all materials. But, wouldn’t it be fun to try making your own kite?  Here are TWO videos that show you how.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&qpvt=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&view=detail&mid=E165F33EF575A90EE1EAE165F33EF575A90EE1EA&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26qpvt%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26FORM%3DVDVVXX

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&qpvt=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&view=detail&mid=2C48F22FA01A847BAD612C48F22FA01A847BAD61&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26qpvt%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26FORM%3DVDRE

Here are two poems from my MG novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston) where 11 year-old Jack and his 5 year-old sister Katy get ready for a camp out in their grandparents backyard.

HUGE
Katy makes a huge deal
out of the camp out with Jill.
For me, getting ready is
putting a sleeping bag and pillow in
the tent with a flashlight, canteen of water.

Katy packs like she might be gone for a week,
stuffed animals
every sock she owns
her favorite books
Bouncy, the beachball
All stuffed into the tent that seemed big enough,
but now looks like it might explode!

It’s one night, I say.
This is what I need for one night, Jack.
Where will Jill put her sleeping bag? I ask.
Katy pats a skinny spot next to
the wall of the tent.
Right here, next to me, she beams
like her face is made up of
lightening bug butts.

The idea of a sister,
even a borrowed one,
is too much for a
little kid to hold inside.

PINK

Katy vibrates with excitement,
all three of us in the tent.
There is so much pink,
I feel like I’m stuck
inside a cotton candy machine.

We catch lightning bugs
and take Bouncy for a hop in the dark.
Jill ties fancy knots like sailors do
and has a pocket knife like the one Dad gave me.
She shows us how to blow a whistle,
a blade of grass pressed between our thumbs.

I teach her how to finger snap.
We don’t stop until our fingers get sore.
We take turns reading Katy’s favorite books,
making goofy voices for the characters,
until Katy yawns and closes her eyes.kites

Enjoy some simple summer fun camping, or kite flying, right from your own neighborhood and backyard.

 

 

Author Theanne Griffith Presents: Boom! Snap! Whiz! Zap! Getting Kids Excited About Science Through Reading.

Today it is my pleasure to feature fellow children’s book author THEANNE GRIFFITH who is here to talk about her exciting and kid-friendly series of science-themed books called THE MAGNIFICENT MAKERS. The first three books in the series are debuting this year.

The Magnificent Makers #1: How to Test a Friendship and The Magnificent Makers #2: Brain Trouble, May 19th, 2020.

makers 1

 

makers 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnificent Makers #3: Riding Sound Waves, September 8th, 2020. 

MM#3 Cover 11320

What led you to the field of writing science-themed books?

I’ve always had two passions: science and storytelling. I’ve spent the majority of my life pursuing my passion for science. I graduated from Smith College in 2008 with a dual degree in Neuroscience and Spanish. I then went on to get my PhD in Neuroscience at Northwestern University. But it was in 2017, during my time working as a postdoctoral scientist at Columbia University that I decided to officially pursue my passion for storytelling as a children’s book author. I’ve always been an avid reader and loved writing. I’m also a staunch advocate for science education and increasing accessibility to science for young learners. Needless to say, it was a natural progression for me to finally combine my two passions by writing science-themed books for kids, like The Magnificent Makers.


Were you a science kid in school? 

 Definitely! Science has always intrigued me. And I always had a knack for it. I loved playing outside and investigating the world around me, whether it be watching tadpoles and crayfish swim in a creek or collecting bugs in jars. I was a naturally curious kid (and I’m still a naturally curious adult!) and science was a way for me to turn my curiosities into testable questions.

What three things do you want readers to know about the books?

The first thing I want readers to know about The Magnificent Makers is that they should get ready for out-of-these world adventures. Literally! Each book follows best friends Pablo and Violet as they make their way through an alternate reality makerspace called the Maker Maze. Every time they visit the maze, they complete a science challenge that is made up of three different levels. And the eccentric maze scientist, Dr. Crisp, guides them on their journey. It’s a lot of fun…but there’s a catch. They need to complete the challenge in one hundred twenty Maker Minutes. If they don’t, they won’t be able to come back for more fun science adventures. Needless to say, it’s always a race against time! Second, they should get ready to learn some cool science! Each book covers a different science topic and is filled with fun and entertaining facts. Finally, readers should know that the fun doesn’t stop when the book is over. Each book includes instructions for two “do it yourself” maker activities in the back matter!


What surprising thing/s did you discover in researching the topics/content?

The Magnificent Makers series is geared towards kids ages 7-10; therefore, given my background I didn’t really learn any new science facts. I’m quite familiar with the science topics covered in the first three books (food chains, the brain, and our senses). But I definitely learned a lot about writing science that is accessible for children. It is quite difficult to write about complex topics such that they are understandable (and exciting) for young, recently independent readers. I went through several drafts of the first book in the series before I finally found the right formula. Additionally, I learned that despite the fact that these are science-themed books, the story and characters must come first. Science isn’t what is moving the plot forward. Instead, the science serves as a backdrop for the adventure that the characters embark upon.

What’s next?

I hope to continue writing The Magnificent Makers series for years to come. Additionally, I have a Caribbean/STEM mashup draft of a picture book that I’m polishing, which should be ready soon. It’s also a dream of mine to write a novel. I have an idea for a contemporary middle grade story that incorporates science themes, as well as an exciting outline for a speculative fiction young adult novel that would involve a dash of neuroscience. The challenge is making time to write! My job as a full-time researcher and mother of a 3-year old and 1.5-year old doesn’t make it easy. Nevertheless, I’m very excited to see where my author journey takes me! 

Theanne Griffith 39

 THEANNE GRIFFITH is a neuroscientist and the author of the STEM-themed chapter book series, The Magnificent Makers. Since she was a little girl, she’s loved both storytelling and science. Her books blend these two passions, taking young readers on out of this world adventures they’ll never forget. Theanne received her BA in neuroscience and Spanish from Smith College, and earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Northwestern University. She currently works as a researcher at Rutgers University and resides in New Jersey with her partner, two beautiful daughters, and three cats. Theanne is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.

You can buy these books at any of the following:

IndieBound Target Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million Hudson Booksellers

 

Can’t Go To The Zoo? Let The Zoo Come to You!

With all of us sheltering in place and most outdoor venues closed to the public, we might not think of zoos or aquariums. But, If you want to give your kids an extra boost to their online learning, many zoos and aquariums are providing online curriculum and classes for kids of all ages to learn more about animals.

Here are some you might want to check out:

ADVENTURE AQUARIUM, Camden, NJ is providing printable word searches, coloring pages, and home craft ideas.   http://www.adventureaquarium.com/kids-activities

hippo

CAPE MAY COUNTY ZOO AND PARK, Cape May Courthouse, NJ is hosting “Zoo School”. Monday through Friday at 11:30AM  they feature a short clip on a different animal and teach about it. They will also answer questions at noon on their FB page.  facebook.com/capemaycountyparkzoo/

sleeping leopard

Like watching penguins? JENKINSON’S AQUARIUM in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, has a webcam on it’s website for you to observe their antics:

https://jenkinsons.com/aquarium/penguin-cam/

MYSTIC AQUARIUM, Mystic Connecticut also does a live Facebook program at 11AM each day featuring a different animal.   facebook.com/mysticaquarium/  jellyfish

 

 

PHILADELPHIA ZOO, Philadelphia, PA has a new series “Philly Zoo at 2” where you can get an insider look at the zoo and virtually meet and interact with the animals and staff.

facebook.com/philadelphiazoo/

You can also check out the local zoos and aquariums in your state to see what programs they are offering during this stay-at-home learning.

 

 

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran three years ago, but I find it so important I am running it again.  I will continue to run it as long as these beautiful creatures continue to decline. 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%.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world. 90% of the milkweed they depend on is gone from roadsides and fields. 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. 

monarch caterpillar

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

IF YOU WOULD LIKE SOME MILKWEED SEEDS TO START YOUR OWN BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION AND I WILL MAIL YOU SOME WHEN THEY ARE AVAILABLE IN THE FALL.

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.

On July 20, 2019, it will be 50 years since man first stepped onto the lunar surface of the moon. I was in high school back then and, like everyone else, watched the event unfold on television. There are all kinds of celebrations taking place to commemorate the occasion. You and your kids can be part of it by learning some interesting facts about the APOLLO 11  mission and sharing some moon-themed books.

Astronauts NEIL ARMSTRONG, BUZZ ALDRIN, and MICHAEL COLLINS were the team that launched from earth in Apollo 11 on July 16, and landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.  Apollo 11 traveled at 24,000 miles per hour. Their suits were made of white, nonflammable Teflon fiberglass. Collins stayed in the Command Module Columbia while Aldrin and Armstrong rode the Lunar Module Eagle onto the moon’s surface. From here, they stepped out to make their historic moon walk. They spent 21 hours and 36 minutes exploring the moon’s surface.

moon

It was the first time anyone had ever seen the EARTH from the moon and the photos taken of  the Big Blue Marble are now a common image.

The distance traveled? 953,054 miles.

500 to 600 million people (one fifth of the world’s population) watched the moonwalk on TV or listened via live radio.

TOY STORY character  BUZZ LIGHTYEAR is named after Buzz Aldrin. 

The Apollo space program was responsible  for the introduction of freeze-dried food, Velcro, memory foam, water filters, scratch-resistant coating for eyeglasses.

Want to know what the Apollo 11 astronauts ate on their 8 day trip? They had 70 different dehydrated foods to choose from including spaghetti and meatballs. The first meal eaten on the moon included bacon squares, peaches, sugar-cookie cubes, pineapple grapefruit juice, and coffee.

Here are some picture books that feature the Moon:

Owl Moon       The Moon Might Be Milk    Goodnight Moon  Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me    If You Decide To Go To The Moon

I Love You, Michael Collins by [Baratz-Logsted, Lauren]

Barn Swallows: On the Fly by Shiela Fuller

Every May, the barn swallows return to my farm.  While I do have a barn, I have about ten nests attached to my house.  These mud constructed homes for baby birds are found on top of ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, built in to the corners where walls meet, and in one location, attached to the siding. These active, cheerful birds call my house, home.

Chattering and darting every which way through the summer air, barn swallows are identified by their blue metallic back feathers, their cream to reddish underbelly, and their most striking field mark is their forked tail.  Barn swallows catch and eat insects on the fly. They also drink on the fly while skimming low over a marsh or pond.  They typically eat moths, flies, dragonflies, and other flying insects. Swallows are found throughout the world, but barn swallows are most common.  They are usually found in open habitats, farm fields, beaches, and over water.

Barn swallows are migratory birds leaving my property in late September and returning in April. To me, they indicate that spring weather is close to follow.

It is the male barn swallow that typically arrives at the previous year’s breeding location. The swallows build cup shaped nests using mud as the glue while attaching feathers, horsehair, grass, and other found materials.  Reusing nests year after year, the swallows apply a new mud covering. Both male and females are stern defenders of their nest and will “mob” intruders like cats, hawks, or people.

In North America, it has been observed that barn swallows will sometimes build nests on structures underneath an osprey nest.  The swallows receive protection from the fish-eating osprey (they don’t eat swallows) and the swallows protect the osprey nest from intruders with their warning chirps.

Barn swallows are very often found in backyards but do not eat at backyard bird feeders.  It may be possible to attract them by putting up manmade nest cups long before the birds’ migration north.  A supply of mud is also helpful.  It is nice to have a healthy colony of swallows living nearby as they help in keeping the insect population down.  Anything that eats mosquitoes is a win on my farm.

Photo 1: This is the barn swallow collecting nest building or rebuilding supplies

barnswallow 1

Photo 2: you can see the mud constructed nest with babies and the nest placement on a fan blade.

barnswallow 2

Photo 3: In this photo, you can see the babies being fed by a parent thanks to the clearly identifiable forked tail.

swallow 3

“All of the photos were taken from a respectable distance, some from inside my home, with a high zoom lens.”

To learn more about these fascinating birds visit:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/lifehistory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_swallow

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barn-swallow

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Hirundo_rustica/

 

 

 

 


 

 

Want to Be An Archeologist? Get Digging at This Camp!

If you and your family are looking for something different and hands-on, why not try a trip to CROW CANYON ARCHEOLOGICAL CENTER. This 170 acre campus is located in Cortez, Colorado, near the Mesa Verde National Park.  https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm  Travel with Crow Canyon in the Southwest and beyond.

For FREE, you can take a one hour tour to explore an archeology lad and curation room.  Or, for a fee, you can SPEND A DAY visiting an active excavation site that was once the home of the ancient PUEBLO people.

http://www.crowcanyon.org    Archaeology for Teens

Looking For A Unique Family Adventure? Try Space Camp.

Family Space Camp, at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama has a program the allows wanna-be astronauts of ALL AGES to simulate missions to the International Space Station. Families can construct and launch model rockets, explore the night sky with telescopes, and much more   file000347090881

For more information and where to sign up visit:  http://www.spacecamp.com

Laurie Wallmark Presents: STEM books with Curriculum Guides for Teachers.

Looking for great STEM books to use in the classroom?  Check out these gems from Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine are picture book biographies of computer science pioneers. These book and the associated teacher guide activities are appropriate for grades K-5.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017) by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu

 

 

http://www.lauriewallmark.com/resources/Grace%20Hopper%20guide.pdf

 

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu

http://www.lauriewallmark.com/resources/Ada%20Lovelace%20guide.pdf

 

www.lauriewallmark.com

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards including Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book. Her latest picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and is on several public library’s best of lists. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.  

 

EVOLUTION REVOLUTION SERIES by Charlotte Bennardo: Curriculum Guides for the Classroom

The Evolution Revolution Series: by Charlotte Bennardo

Book three in the series

Based on the third-grade science curriculum and the introduction of simple machines, the award- winning Evolution Revolution trilogy employs numerous scientific and literary concepts. Simple Machines, book one in the series, shows Jack, an adventurous common gray squirrel, trying to outwit Fox, learning how to use a simple machine like the wheel from a boy, and then applying that basic knowledge to stop the construction machines that have come to cut down his woods. In Simple Plans, the sequel, Jack and Rat, now friends, spy on the humans who hide in their woods, studying them- until Rat gets caught. Jack, learning more simple machines like the axle from Collin, the boy who teaches him, frees Rat, but now must go on the run from the scientists who want to capture him. In the final book, Simple Lessons, Jack is taken to an animal sanctuary so he’s protected from the scientists. There, he teaches other squirrels what he’s learned, and bands together with various rescued animals to fight the humans one last time. While he wins the battle, Jack must choose whether to leave behind the woods he fought to protect. These books work well with grades 3-6 to learn, explore, discuss and understand concepts like simple machines, evolution, loss of habitat and environmental destruction, using literary devices like animals, adventure, allegory, and humor.

Resource links: Educator Resource Guides (with vocabulary lists, discussion questions, school/home projects and demonstrations, suggested further reading lists).

 

Until Hollywood calls, Charlotte lives in NJ with her husband, three children, two needy cats and sometimes a deranged squirrel. The Evolution Revolution trilogy: Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons are her first solo novels. She is co-author of Blonde Ops (St. Martin’s/Dunne) and the Sirenz series: Sirenz, Sirenz Back In Fashion, (Flux), and one of 13 authors in the anthology, Beware the Little White Rabbit (Leap). To put books in the hands of kids, she contributed to the fundraising ebook anthology of horror, Scare Me To Sleep. She’s written for magazines and newspapers, and has given presentations and workshops at NJ SCBWI conferences, schools, libraries, and other venues. Currently she’s working on sci fi, historical, fantasy, and time travel novels for middle grade, young and new adult readers. Connect with her on Twitter (charbennardo), Author Charlotte Bennardo on FB, on Pinterest and Instagram as Charlotte Bennardo, and through her blog, http://charlotteebennardo.blogspot.com/