Monday, May 31, 2010

Make a Butterfly Sculpture!

Today, Kerm and I worked on his extra credit project for school. He had to create a three dimensional butterfly and label the body parts.

The body of our butterfly is made out of three pieces of green foam core: one dome-shaped piece and two circular disks. The proboscis, legs, antennae, and structural supports are pipe cleaners. Kerm cut the wings from construction paper. Our favorite body part, the compound eyes, consist of beads. We anchored the butterfly on a green piece of heavy cardboard and stuck in a few artificial flowers for good measure.

What I liked about this project is that the body was relatively easy for an eight-year-old to assemble and label, once we had all of the pieces handy. But the wings were another story. They were hard to attach and we had to use extra pipe cleaners to support their weight. Kerm hid our ample glue splotches under the "thorax" label. If you try this at home, I would suggest using something lighter for the wings, like tissue paper.

Photo credit: Mama Joules

Friday, May 28, 2010

Invasive Species Art

When life gives you an abundance of invasive species, don't fret! Follow the lead of Seth Goldstein* and Paula Stone and make art!

Invasive species are non-native plants and animals -- often introduced by humans -- that outcompete their native counterparts and take over an ecosystem with disastrous effects. It's not hard to think of examples in the United States: kudzu in the South (in the photo above), zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, killer bees in Texas. You can learn more about invasive species at the National Invasive Species Information Center.

Organizations like The Nature Conservancy lead groups of volunteer "weed warriors" and animal spotters to locate and help remove invasive species. In a recent TNC publication, I read about Goldstein and Stone, a husband and wife weed warrior team, who bring their volunteer work home with them.

The artistic duo take looping vines of Oriental Bittersweet and turn it into art! I like Vinalope and Dude. You can see additional examples of their work at Gazette.Net and What a wonderful way to utilize this otherwise useless invasive species!

Photo credit of creeping kudzu: Kitten Wants, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

* Goldstein is also "the inventor of Why Knot, the machine that ties a tie in 562 steps", which is just bizarre enough that I felt compelled to include a link to it, even though it has nothing to do with endangered species:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Celebrate Endangered Species Day!

Royal Bengal Tiger

Thanks to the North Carolina Zoological Society, I learned that tomorrow is Endangered Species Day. What are endangered species? Simply put, they are plants and animals that are in danger of dying off forever. Endangered species might be at risk from climate change, illness, habitat destruction, or all three.

You can learn about endangered species at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Endangered Species Program or research endangered species (in the US) by habitat or name at the Endangered Species Coalition. The Educational Materials page from the Coalition's Endangered Species Day website has links to lesson plans and more. After you've read up, you can test your knowledge of endangered species with this FWS quiz.

Check out these fun ways to celebrate or plan to attend an upcoming endangered species event. Print out stickers and learn how to protect wildlife. If you're a Girl Scout, there's even a special badge commemorating Endangered Species Day 2010!

Photo credit: Siddhartha Lammata, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Enter the Kids Count for Earthday Haiku Contest!

What does Earth Day mean to you? Can you write a poem about it? If so, you could win a prize and your writing might be published in Sketchbook, a Journal for Eastern and Western Short Forms.

The international Kids Count for Earthday Haiku Contest 2010 is looking for haiku poetry (17 syllables or less) written by children and young adults ages 7 - 20 years. Poems must be written by individuals; each person can only enter once. There is no fee to enter. The theme of this year's contest is "What Earth Day means to you".

According to the Kids Count for Earthday website,

"The contest is designed to combine the love of earth with the sheer simple fun of writing Japanese haiku in English!"

The deadline for this haiku contest is May 23rd (postmark of May 22nd). For more details about where to send your entry and what information to include, please visit Kids Count for Earthday 5-7-5 Haiku Contest 2010.

Good luck!

[Update 10/9/10: Read the winning entries here!]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Family Fun at the Rock & Mineral Show

A couple of months ago, I took the boys (and Princess, but she was in the stroller and didn't see much) to their first rock and mineral show. Actually, it was my first, as well. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it just be a big room with row after row of rock samples? To my family, as novices, would they all look the same? Would there be other folks in attendance like us, curious newbies, or would the room be filled with seasoned, dusty rockhounds?

I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the show was to children. My boys had a great time. Yes, there were collections of rocks and minerals on display. But there was a wonderful variety. Most displays contained just enough documentation to be informative without overwhelming the viewer. There was even a "please touch" table, which Kerm and Little Brother greatly enjoyed.

One exhibiter collected little bottles of sand. They were all different shades - pink, black, beige, tan - and they were labeled with locations from all over the world. Another person collected "dangerous" rocks, minerals containing substances like lead or arsenic that can be harmful to humans.

In the back, there was a makeshift room covered with tarps. The boys loved seeing the fluorescent rocks displayed there.

Fluorescent rocks appear to glow in the dark, but they actually glow under shortwave or long wave ultraviolet light. The Tozour Family's Fluorescent Rocks shows a similar display of fluorescent minerals, with photos of what the rocks look like under normal (white) light and what they look like under ultraviolet (black) light.

(I am tempted to buy a black light bulb to see if any of our rocks fluoresce under long wave UV. Fun side note: you can also see old dog or cat urine stains using black light.)

There was a special hands-on display where kids could "mine" for minerals. The boys were each given a card with small pictures of different minerals and they dug through the sand until each found a specimen. The boys then compared their samples to the pictures on the card and identified which minerals they had uncovered. I thought this was a clever way to introduce kids to rock collecting and the process of identifying minerals by using a key.

Kerm mines for minerals

Of course, we also went upstairs and visited the vendor room, where you could buy mineral samples on just about every budget. We picked out a few of the cheaper specimens for purchase, and I pointed out to Kerm and Little Brother that I frequently couldn't tell the $6 rocks from the $600 rocks, so they'd better stay close and not touch anything.

All in all, it was great visit, and a nice introduction to mineralogy, geology, and paleontology (did I mention the nice fellow giving away fossilized shark vertebrae?). The rock and mineral show cost less than $10 per person to attend. My greatest expense was running out to buy Kerm and Little Brother display cases to store their new found treasures.

Photo credits: Mama Joules

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cause & effect

Scientific inquiry starts early ...

This week's discoveries? You can float magnets in the dog's water bowl. When you blow into a straw that is sitting in a cup of water, you can make bubbles! And when you pull out one diaper wipe, a new one magically takes its place. (And your mom runs to take a picture before she takes the diaper wipes away!)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gardening Goodness

I thought I'd share what Kerm and I were up to this week-end. We finally planted all of the geraniums, replanted the petunias and marigolds in potting soil instead of garden soil (didn't realize just how dry "garden soil" could get!), and transplanted almost all of the strawberry plants into our new, nifty, clay strawberry planter. It was a productive Saturday.

Photo credits: Mama Joules