Posts tagged: environment

Book Recommendation: “An Environmental Guide from A to Z” (Tim Magner)

By , November 16, 2010 3:08 pm

There are a lot of junky books out there, but every now and then, an unknown gem comes my way and makes me very thankful that I get to review books on occasion!  An Environmental Guide from A to Z is just such a book.

Typical A-B-C- books are usually geared towards babies and toddlers and often leave older readers and adults cold.  This book is a happy exception.

Picture an A-B-C book for older children with each letter representing an environmental or nature-related concept or important person.  Each word is fully explained in easy to understand terms and is beautifully illustrated by Aubri Vincent-Barwood.  “D is for Darwin,” “F is for Fossil Fuels, ”  “I is for the Inuit Eskimos,”  “R is for Reduce and Reuse.”

Each letter also has a “Did you know?” section with an interesting fact or two related to the topic.  For example, in the “B is for Bees and Insects” section:  “A bee’s buzz comes from their wings flapping 200 times per second!”

I even learned a few things:  “Q is for Vo Quy,” “L is for Paolo Lugari” (read the book for more information) or “the average ‘piece of food’ travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your mouth….”  How about:  “with solar panels, Germany has nearly cut their use of coal in half” and “Denmark gets more than 20% of its electrical power from wind farms.”  I love it when I find a well-written childrens’ book that actually also teaches me a thing or two.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that it doesn’t just limit itself to teaching facts, ideas and concepts, but it also asks questions encouraging children to think about their own lives.  Each letter has at least one little oak leaf with questions on it, or sometimes activity ideas.  “What’s the biggest tree in your neighborhood?  How old is it?”  Many of these questions will encourage kids to get outside:  “Watching the animals in your neighborhood, can you see how they are built to survive?”

If you are looking for an informative and interesting book that teaches about the environment and “green living”  without being preachy, then I encourage you to take a look at An Environmental Guide from A to Z Many thanks to Tim for sending me a copy.  This is a review copy that will remain on our shelf to be enjoyed for a long time to come.

Flip a Rock on September 20th

By , September 8, 2009 1:18 pm

As I am sure you all know, September 20th, 2009 is the 3rd Annual International Rock Flipping Day.

Oh, you didn’t know that?  Well, on September 20th take your kids outside, choose a rock to flip, then:

1)  Record what you find. “Any and all forms of documentation are welcome: still photos, video, sketches, prose, or poetry.”

2)  Replace the rock as you found it; it’s someone’s home. But if there are critters underneath, move them to the side before you replace the rock and let them scurry back.  You don’t want to squash anyone.

3)  Post on your blog, or load your photos to the International Rock Flipping Day Flickr group.

4)  Send a link to Susannah at Wanderin’ Weeta. Her e-mail address is in her profile.

5)  Susannah will collect the links, e-mail participants the list, and post it for any and all to copy to their own blogs.

6)  She also says: “Maybe we can Tweet it, too, this year. Use the hashtag #rockflip.” (NOTE FROM ME:  This information is totally beyond my comprehension, but if you understand Tweeting, then give it a go that way and I will be impressed.)

(All instructions are from Wanderin’ Weeta’s blog – edited slightly by me)

I love this idea because it reminds me of something I did in very early elementary school (Kindergarten? 1st Grade?).  We went out and measured a one foot by one foot square of dirt behind the school, and then we had to look closely and draw what we saw in that square.  Obviously it made an impression since I remember that lesson VERY many years later!

So go ahead, take the badge, the link, and the instructions, and pass it on.

It’ll be fun and interesting, so please join in! We’ll be there! (…and September 20th is even my sister’s birthday…)

NOTE:  More on the history of Rock Flipping Day at Wanderin’ Weeta’s.

Worm Bin Update – NO VACANCY

By , June 24, 2009 10:12 pm

(WARNING:  If you don’t like worms, then skip this post!)


It was a very thrilling day today – our 2 lb. bag of Red Wigglers finally arrived!!

The Fedex driver had probably never had a more excited welcome than he got this afternoon.  As my 8 year-old daughter put it:  “Now we have millions and millions of pets!!!”  Hmmm….not exactly what we need with 9 cats, a dog, 2 birds, 2 fish and a bunch of happily reproducing sea monkeys.

Here is the box of our very well traveled worms.  Did Fedex know what they had in here?

The worms arrived nicely packed in a brown paper bag.

We opened the bag…

… and this is what we saw:

After holding a few worm friends:

And discovering an egg:

We gently tipped them into our “Worm Hotel” and tossed some of the damp newspaper on top of them.

Next came food.  We were certain that they were hungry after their very long trip, the sort of trip that most worms never have to make.

The menu consisted of a medley of carrot peels, followed by leftover bok choi greens and brown rice, with some tea leaves for dessert:

We hope that our new pets will be very happy and produce a great deal of lovely, rich poop castings to transform our nasty clay soil into gorgeous, moist, nutrient-filled humus.

NOTE:   To see how we made our worm bin, please visit our “Slippery” Unplugged Project post.

UPDATE:  Harvesting the worm bin (it took only 8 weeks to make a gallon of lovely compost).

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Slippery – Worm Bin (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , June 17, 2009 10:09 pm

wormbin

We have just added a new weapon to our arsenal against the heavy clay soil of Northern Arizona: our very own worm bin! In case you wonder what I am talking about, worm poop (more politically correctly known as “worm castings”) makes wonderful compost for the garden.

I didn’t pick the theme slippery with the worm bin in mind, but it occurred to me later that since worms are a bit slippery, this project fit the theme!

One option is to buy a commercially constructed worm bin such as this one, but I opted to go homemade (I guess this could have fit last week’s homemade theme too).  Worm bins can be made out of wood or plastic containers.  They can be one simple box or multilevel.   I followed these online instructions for a two story, Cheap and Easy Worm Bin.

You’ll need two 8 to 10 gallon plastic storage boxes with lids (dark plastic, not transparent), a drill with a 1/4″ and a 1/16″ drill bit, some newspaper and a piece of cardboard.

First drill about 20 large (1/4″) holes in the bottoms of both boxes.  Space them approximately evenly to allow for even airflow and easy worm travel.

Next drill small (1/16″) holes all around the top edge of the boxes, about 1 to 1.5″ apart.  I did two rows for maximum ventilation.

Also drill small holes (about 30) in ONE lid.  The other lid will be the base to collect any draining liquid, so don’t put holes in that one.

Fill a bucket or other plastic container with water.  Tear the newspaper into long strips, approximately 1″ wide and toss them into the water to soak.  This will be your worm bedding and you’ll want about 3 to 4″ of it in the bottom of the box.  For us, it took one whole newspaper.



Take the newspaper strips out one handful at a time and squeeze them out well.  They need to be nicely damp, not sopping (don’t forget that worms breathe through their skin so don’t drown them!).

Toss them in one of the boxes and fluff them up.

Once you have your 3 to 4″ of fluffed up bedding, you’ll need to mix in a bit of dirt.  Since we still have a giant sand pile in the back yard, we put in a bit of sand too.  Worms have gizzards and need to eat some of this rough material (dirt/sand) in order to digest their food (by grinding it in their gizzards – no teeth!).

Finally, soak a piece of cardboard just big enough to cover your bedding and place it on top of the bedding.  The worms will be put underneath this cardboard and it will also become a tasty treat for them.

Now it’s time to set up your worm hotel.  Place the solid lid upside down on the ground as a tray to catch any draining liquid from the decomposition process (known as “worm tea,” your garden will love this!).  Place some bricks or blocks on the upside down lid as a base for the boxes (this allows for drainage).  Next goes the empty box on top of the blocks, with the full box nested inside it.  The lid with the air holes goes on top.  Keep in a cool dark place.

When the worms move in, place their food in a corner and bury it under the newspaper to avoid odors and fruit flies.  Bury new food in a different part of the bin each time you feed them.  They will follow it around the bin.

Voilà!  The finished worm bin!  Now all we need are the residents.  I ordered a 2 lb bag of Red Wigglers online and they should be arriving soon.  At least their new home will be ready for them.

NOTE: Worms like:  vegetables, fruit, tea bags, coffee filters and grounds, eggshells, bread, cereal, grains.  Do NOT feed:  meat, dairy, oil, fat, feces.

For more complete feeding information, as well as how to harvest your worm castings, please be sure to read the Cheap and Easy Worm Bin article!

LINKS:

Cheap and Easy Worm Bin

Worm Anatomy

Worm Composting (Vermicomposting) How-To

Vermicomposting

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FOLLOW-UP: Be sure to check out the arrival of the resident worms in this post: Worm Bin Update – NO VACANCY

ALSO: Read about our first harvest (only 8 weeks later)

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Albatross Studies

By , January 30, 2009 8:38 pm

Perhaps my favorite place in the whole world is the South Island of New Zealand.  If you live there, I SO envy you!  What a beautiful place filled with nice people…I can’t say enough wonderful things about it.  The only drawback is that, for most of us in the world, it is a little out of the way.  No, make that VERY MUCH out of the way!  Upon further thought however, perhaps that is what keeps it so lovely and friendly?

Anyhow, I was once fortunate enough to be able to visit New Zealand’s South Island.  I believe it was in May and the leaves were turning color.  There was a fall chill in the air…strange, since we had just left tree buds exploding with flowers and greenery emerging from the sun’s warmth – a promise of lazy summer days was near.

We had many remarkable adventures in southern New Zealand as we explored the glacial and fjord-laden, yet lush, west coast; viewed spectacular snowy mountainscapes of the central region; and enjoyed sheep (many, many, MANY sheep) grazing on peaceful green hills in the eastern portion.

One of the most interesting places that we visited was the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin. Before the visit, I really new very little about these amazing birds, except that according to old sailing lore, it was considered bad luck to see one. Wasn’t an albatross involved in Edgar Allan Poe‘s novel,  The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym?

  • WEBCAM – I was quite excited to discover a live webcam from Dunedin’s Royal Albatross Center.  I found this quite some time ago and have been meaning to write about it.  At the moment, it seems to be showing just a general view of the colony since eggs are still incubating.  However when there are chicks, it is a nest cam!  Remember, that since it is live, you might find it is dark when you go to check it out due to the time difference.  Keep going back, it is worth it.
  • TRACKING – There are quite a few sites out there that show tracking results for albatross that have been fitted with satellite trackers:

Seaturtle.org (2004 data)

2008 Black-Footed Albatross “race”: Check out these amazing results for “the 2008 winner” named Oski.  In the 64 days (s)he was tracked, (s)he traveled a curved path totaling 19,571 km (a straight line distance of 4,943 km) at an average rate of 305 km/day!

The Hawaii Study:  Has a good teaching/classroom component.

  • ADOPTION – If your family or class has the means (or wants to do a few fundraisers), you can even adopt your own albatross.  The cost ($2,500 in 2008) covers the tracking tag and three months of data.  You can choose the name of your bird and follow him/her in real time through online maps.  Cool!  The non-profit sponsor, Oikonos, will also send you a framed photo of your actual bird as well as a map of the completed three month journey.
  • TEACHING – Good classroom tools here.

Oikonos also offers free, downloadable classroom tools about the effects of trash and debris on marine birds.

The Albatross Project

If you do nothing else, watch (and show your kids) this gorgeous video of albatrosses soaring over the ocean, and “playing” in the wind. It is such a beautiful sight that it actually made me cry! Please watch it!

OK, now that you have been moved to tears by these beautiful birds, how about trying to save them? Here are some organizations that would like some help (fundraiser anyone?):

  • GIVING – Organizations that aim to protect the albatross from long-line fishing and ocean trash:

Oikonos

Save the Albatross

Birds Australia

I don’t homeschool, but if I did, I would somehow work in an albatross unit despite the fact that I live in Arizona!  I hope that these resources will inspire somebody somewhere.

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PHOTO CREDITS:  Thank you Wikimedia Commons!  For photo credits and licensing information, click on these links:  Squabbling Albatrosses and Soaring Albatross.

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