As Earth Day approaches, our attention is focused on tangible ways to help protect our environment. One easy and virtually free way for kids to go green is to start a backyard compost bin. Composting is a natural way for organic (previously living) materials to break down, into a nutrient-rich soil that we can use in our garden. Did you know that in the US we make about 4.43 pounds of waste per person each day? (see epa.gov) That is 250 million TONS of trash per day! We make too much garbage and 13.4% of the waste produced in the US in 2010 was yard trimmings, 13.9% was food scraps. We could be composting this waste, recycling it, and returning it to the ground!
Here are reasons why it’s important to compost, instructions on how to do so with kitchen scraps, and resources (books, clips, and games!) to learn about composting at home. Continue reading
Visiting Chicago this winter, we took advantage of the cold snow to talk about Arctic Animals, and how they are protected from the cold weather. We decided to do the classic “blubber” experiment, using the scientific method (which they have been learning recently!). Continue reading
Do your kids love to learn about penguins as much as mine do!? There are 17 different kinds of penguins, and although they look different, there are some similarities. All live in the southern hemisphere, normally on the coasts of: Antarctica, South Africa, parts of South America, parts of Australia and New Zealand, and many different islands including the Galapagos (where I swam with some!)! All penguins have blackish backs and white bellies, and are flightless birds who are excellent swimmers. They feed underwater on krill and other creatures, and their predators are orcas, sharks, sea lions, and fur and leopard seals. Groups of penguins are called rookeries. Today penguins are threatened because of reduced food supply (due to over-fishing and global warming), pollution (such as oil spills), and reduced habitat (due to melting ice from global warming). Learn more about penguins with these phenomenal resources:
Penguin Resources: Web Sites
Download a free, high-quality poster of the Emperor Penguin’s life cycle from the US government’s Antarctic Program. Continue reading
Posted in Animals, Australia, Australia and Oceania, Games and Toys, Literature, New Zealand, Polar Regions
Tagged education, non-fiction children's books, on-line activities, penguins, science
Migration of Monarch Butterflies, image credit: Harald Süpfle, creative commons use
It’s the migration season for 100 million monarch butterflies, as they fly from Canada and the northern US, south to Mexico for the winter. In February, they’ll star their journey back up north. Kids: can you follow their migration path on a map? Why would butterflies (and some birds!) go south for the winter? In Texas this October, we’ve seen the travelers pass through our garden to sip on some of our butterfly weed and lantana. Here are some great resources for teachers and parents to use to teach their kids about the amazing monarch butterflies. Continue reading
My children really enjoy learning about animals. They like to catch and release critters, visit animals at the zoo, do animal science projects like dissecting owl pellets, watch movies like Whale Rider and The Story of the Weeiping Camel, do craft projects like this blue morpho butterfly craft, and read books like these about Australian animals. We are animal lovers! So on a recent visit to the zoo, we learned about ratites: large flightless birds. They share several characteristics, even though they are spread widely among different continents. Many scientists believe that their similarities and distance from each other suggest that the earth’s land masses were once much closer together than they are now. Scientists also believe that flightless birds on islands like Australia and New Zealand evolved because they had little reasons to escape flying because there were few predators. These birds developed short wings, great running or swimming skills, and special defenses like large toe claws. Let’s discover some special characteristics of these unique birds! Continue reading
Do your kids come to you, holding little surprises in their clenched fists? Or shriek that they caught something and want to show you? Though I am not too squeamish, I catch my breath for a second as they uncurl their muddy little fingers, in case their surprise decides to jump or fly away as I lean in. My kids really like to play outside, whether it be in our backyard, nearby parks, or visits to nature preserves. Inevitably, their play will somehow be interrupted by the discovery of “the coolest bug ever,” a frog, a gecko, a baby snake, ants eating a worm, or any other critter. We generally employ a “catch and release” policy, observing the creatures for a bit and then letting them go back into our garden (my daughter says “so they can lay more eggs and we can have even more!”). Here are 4 ways we encourage our budding naturalists to learn about the animals and insects in our environment.
Warning: you are about to read (and see graphic pictures!) about a messy and possibly stomach-churning science project that is typical in our house:). If indigestible fur and bones in the form of owl pellets is too much for your morning coffee, stop reading now!
Nothing thrills a parent or teacher more, than hearing your kids get really excited about a project. We recently invited a bunch of friends over to learn about owls, and dissect owl pellets, which my kids said was both gross and cool at the same time. The buzz in the room, that grew exponentially louder the deeper we got, turned into shrieks of excitement as kids made more discoveries. Here’s how we had fun learning about owls. Continue reading
A trip to the Rio Napo, Ecuador in 1996.
Last year, my kids and I studied a different biome each month. When looking at biomes, the world is generally divided into 5 major types: aquatic, deserts, forests, grasslands, and tundra. The plants and animals in each biome have adapted to their environment with special features that help them survive. Under the forests category, it is sub-divided into different types of forests, such as tropical rainforests, temperate forests, and boreal forests. Because I have visited parts of the Amazon as well as Costa Rica, I was excited to share what I had learned and they were really excited to take a closer look. We took a month to read books, watch films, and do some art projects related to tropical rain forests. Here are the resources we used. Continue reading
Posted in Africa, Animals, Around the World, Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Games and Toys, Geography, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Panama, The Americas
Tagged biomes, education, educational technology, on-line activities, rainforest, science
A morpho blue butterfly at a nature preserve in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Becky Morales
The blue morpho butterfly- named for its resplendent turquoise wings- lives in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.
Morpho Butterfly Craft
Kids love crafts, love glitter, and love butterflies! Making a blue morpho butterfly is an easy afternoon activity that helps kids learn about an amazing creature from the rainforests of the Americas. Continue reading
Candy Corn, a typical Halloween candy
This year we are hosting an exchange student. Understandably, she is excited about Halloween tonight and asked us some questions “Do you have to dress up to get candy?” “Can I come with you guys?” and “How much candy can we get?” She had seen Halloween in movies based in the US, but wanted to know what it was really like. My kids were happy to explain the part about trick-or-treating: candy and dressing up sum up the Halloween experience. But where on earth did these traditions start? How did it evolve from a religious holiday into a secular, child-friendly event, that brings communities out into the evening? Before I present some fantastic pumpkin ideas to do with your kids, let’s look a little at the history of Halloween. Continue reading
Posted in Arts and Crafts, Canada, Celebrations, The Americas, United States
Tagged education, ESL, famous people, Halloween, math, pumpkin, science