Tuesday, September 29, 2009

National Fire Prevention Week 2009

Mark your calendars! October 4-10, 2009, is National Fire Prevention Week. This year's focus is on "burn awareness and prevention". You can read tips & tweets about this year's campaign on Twitter.

According to the National Fire Protection Association website, "home fires account for 83 percent of all civilian fire deaths." That's an interesting statistic. It suggests that even though raging wildlifes make national news, you are more at risk from a fire in your home. Fortunately, there are many simple things that you can do to reduce your risk of having a home fire.

* NFPA recommends that you check your smoke alarms monthly. Do they work properly? Do they need new batteries? Do you have one on every floor? Multiple alarms should be interconnected, so that if one sounds an alarm, they all sound.

* Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, according to NFPA. Don't leave your stove unattended when you are making dinner. Never pour water on a grease fire! (Yikes, there are some very scary videos on YouTube of what happens if you do.) If you can do it safely, turn off the burner and cover the burning pan with a lid or a wet cloth.

* Make sure that your home isn't at risk for a fire. Hunt for Home Fire Hazards and then complete NFPA's Fire Inspection Checklist or, if you have a younger child, color this Five Steps to Fire Safety coloring sheet. (The checklist and coloring page are .pdf files).

* Develop a home escape plan and practice it regularly with your family. NFPA even has this nice grid so that you can draw out your floorplan.

Stay fire safe! Don't be like this guy:

NFPA has lesson plans about fire safety for kids in grades K-6. Scholastic has a nice summary of this material on their website. And be sure to visit Sparky the Fire Dog® for some fun and games!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Learn about local wildlife in Millbury, MA

Photo credit: dawnzy58, through a
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license via Flickr.

My friend Michele asked me to help get the word out about two free sets of classes that she's teaching on local wildlife identification through Massachusetts' Millbury Public Library. The outdoor sessions will likely include visits to the Blackstone Bike Trail, Davidson Bird Sanctuary, and Deering Estate.
The Art of Seeing

Workshop for learning about local wildlife and the signs they leave behind.

Session 1:
Wednesday Sept 30 at 6:30pm and Sunday Oct 4 at 1pm

Session 2:
Wednesday Oct 7 at 6:30pm and Sunday Oct 10 at 1pm

(Wednesdays at the Millbury Public Library; Sundays at a local open space in Millbury)

The indoor session will focus on how to start and keep a nature journal as well as basic information on identification of birds, flowers and trees. Our outdoor session will focus on using our new skills.

Participants will be required to supply their own field journal, pens or colored pencils, water bottles, snacks and transportation to the site. Carpooling will be encouraged.

To reserve your place, contact the Millbury Public Library at (508) 865-1181. For more information, please contact MicheleDecoteau[at]verizon[dot]net.

I wish I lived closer so that I could attend! Happy trails, Michele!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Today is Elephant Appreciation Day!

Happy Elephant Appreciation Day! Some places, like the Phoenix Zoo, are holding special elephant-themed events today. So, get out there and visit an elephant! Or, if you're stuck inside, surf over to the San Diego Zoo's elephant cam or check out the pics of the newest baby elephant at Utah's Hogle Zoo. You can even purchase trunk-painted artwork online by one of the great elephant artists at the Knoxville Zoo!

P.S. My thanks to my friend Vanessa for letting me know!

Photo credit: Brian Snelson, though a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license via Flickr.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Got waste? Check out TerraCycle!

My friends at Celebrate Green! pointed me toward TerraCycle, a unique company that pays non-profits and schools to collect trash. In partnership with corporate sponsors, TerraCycle then develops and market items made from those waste streams. What a great idea!

For example, my older son's school started collecting drink pouches this year. I saw the notice from the school and frankly, I was skeptical. Sure, it was possible that someone might pay us to collect drink pouches as a charitable contribution. But what where they going to do with them?

Now, I know. TerraCycle is using used drink pouches to create and market their drink pouch backpacks, messenger bags, and pencil cases.

Capri Sun is currently the leading sponsor of the "Drink Pouch Brigade." You can see their logo featured prominently in these items. TerraCycle has dubbed this idea -- sponsoring the cleanup and reuse of your own wastestream -- the "Sponsored Waste Movement".

According to their website, over 2 billion (!) people have helped to collect trash and the company has donated over $100,000 to charity. TerraCycle now sells 83 products made from various waste streams, including desk clocks made from vinyl records, pencils made from old newspapers, and silver bows made from used cookie bag wrappers. According to an article in GreenBiz.com, TerraCycle has just started collecting tape dispensers. (Alas, they will be turned back into tape dispensers. I was hoping for another innovative product!)

So, the next time that you eat from a bag of cookies, drink from a juice bag, or eat a power bar, check with your neighborhood school to see if they are collecting these items. And, if they aren't, point them toward TerraCycle!

This dragon sculpture, seen in the Paris Jardin des Plantes near the Menagerie, is made of recycled cans & bags.
My thanks to austinevan for sharing this great photo through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license via Flickr.

Friday, September 18, 2009

OT: Where I've been lately ...

If you're a regular reader of this blog (thank you!), you've probably been wondering what Itinerant Cryptographer and I have been doing these past few months, since we haven't been posting as often. In part, we are still adjusting to life with our newest little scientist-in-training. But the other reason is that I've been drawn back to writing poetry. (You may have noticed, since posts on Fibonacci Sequence poetry, scifaiku, and an ode to Pluto have crept into this blog.)

So, I am happy to share that my poetry was recently published at Scifaikuest and AlienSkin Magazine. I also have a short (140 characters short!) piece up at the Twitterzine Nanoism. For my writing friends, my non-fiction article about Twitter markets appeared in FundsforWriters.

Have a good week-end, everyone!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Help with blog labels

I've decided that it's time to update the blog post labels here at Mama Joules. Frankly, my blog post labels are a mess. I know that there are cool and unusual blog posts here, with topics like walking houses and flying cars, but you probably can't find them. And that's not your fault, it's mine.

I realize that my blog labels are inconsistent. I'd like to go back through my posts and add some useful ones to make things easier to find.

Please take the time to give me your opinion in the blog post labels poll on the right-hand side of your screen. If you'd like to see me organize posts in a different way than what's listed, feel free to drop me a comment.

Thanks in advance for your input! I appreciate the help.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The baby and the toothbrush

Yesterday, I was feeding my seven-month-old daughter, Princess. She likes to grab the spoon away from me (which, as I commented here, isn't such a bad thing), so I usually give her a second spoon to play with to distract her.

Well, I couldn't find another spoon. Our "everything" drawer of kitchen utensils had quite an assortment of items in it, but no extra baby spoons. I wound up handing her a (clean) toddler toothbrush.

Watching my baby meet a toothbrush for the first time was a real treat. First, she waved it up and down, in the "I've got a new thing! See!" way that babies do. Then, she passed it from one hand to the other and started running her fingers down the bristles.

"It's a toothbrush," I told her.

I stopped feeding my little scientist and just watched her play with the toothbrush. She kept passing it from hand to hand, touching it, exploring it. Finally, she shoved the toothbrush in her mouth and began to move it up and down, just like a big kid.

Little Brother was delighted. "Look, Mommy! Look what she can do!"

I never thought that a toothbrush could be a teaching tool. But then, I tend to forget that, for a baby, the whole world is a new thing to explore. You can find science anywhere.

Free Clip Art Picture of a Toothbrush with Paste on the Bristles. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart Guide.com

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sustaining a baby's love of science

Now that baby Princess is seven months old, I've been thinking about babies and science. How do you nurture a love of science in one so young? Based upon my (admittedly small) sample size of three kids, here are some tips to get you and your little one moving on the road toward scientific literacy:

Talk to your baby. Describe the world you see around you. Point at the clouds and the bird in the tree. Show her items and let her touch them. Is this thing hot or cold? Wet or dry? Soft or hard? Observation is a key component of science.

Listen to your baby. One of the hardest things for me, as an impatient person, is to wait for baby to respond. I tend to babble incessantly at babies unless I really think about it; this does not open up a dialogue. Give your child the time and space to reply to your questions. For example, show your son two items and ask him which one is his favorite. Wait until he reaches for one thing or coos at it, and then hand it to him.

Sit back and watch your baby. Again, this is a challenge for me. If Princess shows an interest in something, I tend to want to replace it with something bigger and better. For example, yesterday we were sitting outside and she started craning her neck to stare at the sky. My first thought? What's wrong with her? Second thought: Oh, she's staring at the sky. I'll bet she sees a neat pattern of leaves in that tree. And my third thought, which I had to sit on: Wow, I'll bet she likes patterns. We should go right now & check out some books about patterns from the library and then we could ... Stop. Stop right there. If your little scientist is observing something and enjoying it, let her. Don't try to change a thing. Our society is so intent on bigger, smarter, faster, quicker that we forget to sit quietly and concentrate.

Get messy. Cause and effect is key for a baby to learn about her world, but it's so hard for parents like me. When Princess grabs the spoon from my hands or wants to stick her foot in the baby food while I'm feeding her, my first instinct is to contain the mess. Unfortunately, that prevents her from learning about her world. Sometimes, she needs to grab that baby food jar and just dump it in her lap. Or mine!

And remember to enjoy your little one. They grow up so fast. When Kerm was a baby, I remember just staring at him in his car seat because I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with him. Oh, how I wish I had that much time now!

P.S. Note to self: Pick up The Scientist in the Crib.

P.P.S. How about these I Love Science onesies from Neat0rama?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cicadas are LOUD!

the lone cicada
heralds summer's end
with blaring alarm

Wow! Tonight we saw a cicada up close on a tree trunk and boy, are they ever BIG! And LOUD! I had no idea. I've heard the sound of cicadas since I was a kid, and I have always thought the woods were teeming with them. Now, I realize that a single cicada can have a VERY LOUD song. And yes, this one sounded just like a car alarm. (However, it wasn't quite as big as this lovely sculpture of a cicada in Australia. It just sounded like it.)

Photo credit: Cyron Ray Macey through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Girls in love: Does dating make us stupid?

I was visiting with a friend the other day and we started talking about children and science. She's an educator by training, and I was asking her about pursuing a teaching degree in science education. Our conversation turned toward how to retain a student's enthusiasm for science.

"Girls seem to 'turn off' to science in middle school," I said.

My friend nodded. "Oh, yeah," she replied. "They don't want to appear smarter than the boys."

Oh, boy.

Once we'd unpacked this can of worms, I realized how deeply this idea had affected my own life. In my conversations with others exploring why women lag behind men in engineering , I'd never even thought about it. As an adult, I've overwritten this lousy piece of advice. But as a teen ...

The idea that I had to hide my intelligence to get a date was so ingrained, it never occurred to me to question it. I can remember being one of the "smart girls" in junior high and I just accepted that I would remain dateless for life. This was the assumption that I carried around:
Smart girls don't date. If you want to get a boy to like you, you have to make him feel superior and intelligent. Even if he's stupid.
Did I realize that I had absorbed this little tidbit from popular culture? No. But this idea definitely colored how I presented myself to others and how I thought about school and my studies. If I liked a boy, I would downplay my strengths and try not to show my intelligence.

How pathetic is that? And as my friend pointed out, once a girl stops showing interest in science, she starts to fall behind. Once behind, she often stays behind, and a self-fulfilling prophesy is sadly realized.

What do you think? Did you (or are you) short-changing yourself? Do you downplay your smarts to get dates?

To all of my smart young friends out there, please keep in mind that smart girls (and boys) do date! But sometimes they have to wait until college.