Sunday, 25 September 2016

Halloween.... A Teaching Moment!

It's easy to see why bats and spiders hold sway over spooky Halloween events. Included in both species are some pretty scary looking specimens! At the same time, this is what makes Halloween such a teaching moment for those who wish to educate kids about nature. This video was created to illustrate my song Bats, bats, bats. While the creator did not ask my permission, I, like many others, have enjoyed the fun bat images she used.
Photo: Little Brown Bat: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The Little Brown Bat is a good bat to first introduce kids to. They're quite cute as bats go and are  fairly common and easy to see in North America (check out common bats in your country). Sadly, in recent years their populations have been greatly reduced due to the onset of 'white-nose syndrome',  a devastating disease that specifically impacts these small mammals.
Photo: Little Brown Bat: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
My previous blog post was about 'interconnectedness'. Bats are a wonderful species to use an an example of interconnectivity in nature. Bats eat enormous amounts of insects, including many pests that impact farm crops. Without bats, farmers would be forced to pay a lot of money to protect their plants. Bats are part of what we call Natural Capital - they provide a critical service for free!
So this Halloween, invite your kids to write a story, a play or a song to celebrate bats. Teach them how amazing these nocturnal creatures are. Find out what you can do to protect them.
Here are a few links to get you started:

Saturday, 17 September 2016

We're All Interconnected!

It's been a while since I wrote the song "We're All Interconnected". At the time I had just read James Lovelock's book Gaia, which seemed to state the obvious - that the earth is a living system. While such a belief is inherent to most indigenous people, it was not, at the time (in 1979), the prevailing 'scientific' perspective. 
Lovelock's book ignited vigorous curiosity and debate about this sentient planet on which we live. To me, the most exciting part of it all was the invitation to offer humans compelling justification for protecting and cherishing the earth... after all, it gives us life.
Photo by Tessa Emery
How do we introduce the concept of interconnection to kids? 
AIR
Start with a breath.
Air connects us all. Where does the wind come from? Where does it go?
When I breathe in... am I breathing in air molecules that were once in your lungs?
WATER
The water cycle is one of the easiest ways to show kids how life on earth is interconnected.
If you were a drop of rain... what would your story be?
SEEDS & SOIL
The tallest sequoia, the tiniest flower and the sweetest strawberry all begin life as a seed. Plant a seed and watch it grow. Watch how the simple interactions of air, water, sunshine and soil interact to nourish this simplest yet most complex of living structures. 
Teaching kids about the interconnectivity of life doesn't have to be complicated. Awakening this understanding in them, however, is priceless.
Play Rosie's Heart game - click on the Heart to the right of your screen! 
Introduce your class to the Little Earth Charter - click link at the top.
Have fun!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Beaches!

WGCU's Curious Kids TV Beaches
If you don't live close to a beach, then perhaps you'll visit one on a summer vacation. I've been lucky enough to work in Florida for the last fourteen years and I have to say that going to the beach is one of favorite things to do. 
Florida beaches have experienced some murky waters this year after freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee triggered terrible algal blooms along both coasts. The ocean might be vast, but it is easily affected negatively by human actions. I've listed below some things you can do to help protect the ocean.
Did you ever wonder what a closer look at sand might reveal? The Curious Kids interviewed Dr. Gary Greenberg who introduced them to the magical world of sand grains.
Things you can do to help protect your watershed, and subsequently the ocean into which it feeds:
  • Use biodegradable household cleaning products (easy to buy these days), or make your own -  ingredients such as baking soda, essential oils, vinegar, borax  and lemon will do the trick.
  • Dispose of hazardous materials safely - many communities have Hazardous Waste Pick up. Toxic waste that ends up in the landfills can leach into the watershed.
  • Conserve water - even if you live somewhere where it rains a lot, conserving water helps foster an appreciation for this precious resource.
  • Wash your car at a car wash - in addition to using less water the Car wash seems more eco-friendly:  Check out the numbers here. 
                           Have fun at the beach and remember to only leave your footprints!
Hey, have you played the Footprint Game with Earth and Rosie? Try it out - click on the Footprint Icon on the right hand side of this page!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Grandmother Spider

When I was touring schools with my Eco-rock Rainbow Road show (from 1997 - 2003) I opened the performances with a Muskogee (Creek) story called "How Grandmother Spider Stole The Sun. It was my signature story and became synonymous with the "We're All Interconnected" message I sought to impart to children.
Truthfully, I'm not wild about spiders. They freak me out. However, I implicitly understand their importance in the ecological landscape of our world and retain (like many others) an inherent fascination with arachnids of all shapes and sizes.
Tan jumping spider - Photo by Kevin Collins
There's no denying their ability to evoke fear in us! But also amazement at their beauty and ability to spin such phenomenal webs!
Peacock spider Photo by Jurgen Otto
Photo by Fir002/flagstaffotos.com.au
So how do we introduce spiders to children? After all, there is good reason to fear some of the spiders in our neighborhoods. In Florida the brown recluse is a formidable entity, as is the black widow in parts of Canada. But painting all spiders with the same brush stroke can create unnecessary fear and demonization of the species. So when my 5 year old grandson expressed horror and disgust at the thought of spiders in the basement of his home (where I was sleeping), I immediately reassured him that spiders aren't 'bad'; that one should be cautious around them, but gently removing them from the house and putting them outside was my personal preference when confronted by them. We promptly did this with one that I found.
Australian golden silk orb weaver with locust: Photo by Brian W. Schaller
The approach I take with kids is to get them fascinated by the creatures. Look at this spider catching a locust. Think about the strength of the silk spiders spin. How many babies do they have - how do they float in the wind? Below are some ideas for starting the conversation.



Saturday, 2 July 2016

Butterflies

  
I Saw Butterflies Kissing Today!
What child is not captivated the first time it sees a butterfly fluttering by. There is something enchanting about these fragile insects. To watch the metamorphoses of a caterpillar into a butterfly is one of life's most memorable first science lessons.
Butterflies can also provide us with insights into resilience and mimicry; butterfly wings have also inspired a biomimicry project (provided in a link below). Butterflies have evolved to use mimicry to their advantage. Take the Peacock butterfly for example:
                                                              Photo by Charles J. Sharp
Lepidopterists studying Peacock butterflies hypothesize that the 'eyespots' on their wings deter potential predators, such as birds, making the butterflies less susceptible to being eaten. Can your kids find any other examples of how butterflies use mimicry? I can think of one butterfly, that's fairly well known...it's name begins with a 'V' and it imitates a very well know butterfly called the Monarch!
Speaking of Monarch butterflies, they have to be one of the most resilient.
                                                                Photo by William Warby
Many of you reading this Blog probably know all about monarch butterflies, as they tend to be the most popular butterfly species to be studied in classrooms. However, some of you may not know that many of the Canadian, or northern-born, generation of Monarchs make the 3,4000-mile (5,500 kilometer) journey to Mexico each year. A sharp decline in the numbers arriving in Mexico a few years ago prompted fear that the species might be on the brink of extinction. Thankfully, recent conservation efforts between the U.S., Canada and Mexico seem to have had positive results, showing that in 2014 their numbers had increased. One action that will help these butterflies is to plant Milkweed, the wildflower that is essential to their survival. 
                                                                   Photo by Teune
You will need to check which milkweed plant is native to your area. 
There are lots of projects out there to do with kids on butterflies. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Invite the kids to identify one or two butterflies in your neighborhood. Learn about those. Are they connected to a specific plant species, like the Monarch? If so, can you plant some seeds for next year?
2. Make a Butterfly Feeder to attract butterflies to your garden/apartment or school yard.
                                                                             ******
Here is a website that provides more information on Behavioral Ecology
Project Milkweed provides information on the milkweed plant.
Biomimicry and Butterflies is an interesting introduction to biomimicry by the Smithsonian.
                                                                                Have fun!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Awakening AWE! Trees & Plants

                                   
                                    The Major Oak Tree, Sherwood Forrest, Nottinghamshire, UK.
We live on an AWESOME planet. So, I want to explore some ways in which we can awaken awe for the natural world in children. As I've probably said before, getting them outside is for me the number one most effective way. However, I know that's not always possible. Still, we can be a guide. We can take a hand, open a door, lead the way to something extraordinary. Something that might be the catalyst, the moment that ignites a lifelong passion for the natural world. I was privileged; I grew up in the magical Sherwood Forest in England. The Major Oak Tree was my playground, my mentor, my sacred space in which to imagine and dream. The hollow interior of the tree was rumored to have been the favorite hiding place for Robin Hood. I spent hours inside that tree. Needless to say, I have never forgotten it, and wherever I am, I look to the trees for comfort and inspiration.  
            Whether it is the song of the White Pine, the shimmer of the Trembling Aspen leaves, the shade of a mighty Maple or the glorious greenness of new Ferns unfolding, trees and plants are a constant reminder of the beauty and grace residing on this planet. Not only that, they truly are phenomenal. On a recent trip to Archbold Biological Station in Florida, the Curious Kids discovered that some plants have been around for ten thousand years. Ten thousand years!
I challenge you to find some awesome examples of plant magnificence to share with your kids. Here are a few ideas to get your started:

        2. The story of the Fig Tree and the Fig wasp
What would the world be without trees, plants and flowers! Well we know... there would be no life!
Let me know what you find to inspire AWE in your kids!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Kids & Careers!

Marine Biology
Planting seeds to help young people choose a career, can be done at an early age. The world is changing fast and opportunities and modes of employment along with it. Fostering curiosity in children in regard to future career opportunities can help instill in them an ability to think outside of the box, encourage them to become innovators and visionaries. Something we will need as our planet faces extraordinary changes. Yes, there are the time-honored career paths such as doctor, teacher, dentist etc.; they will always be there, and also open to innovative ways of thinking. Within this new age lies the potential for exciting possibilities. I have a feeling that jobs in science, ecology and the environment will be in great demand. In addition, our approaches to all forms and methods of 'work' will increasingly incorporate lessons learned from the earth. Take biomimicry for example - this short video demonstrates how nature can guide us in creating for the future.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." 
Albert Einstein
Seeking to present kids with some interesting ideas for career choices spurred me to produce an entire Curious Kids Show on just that!
Let's ignite our children's imaginations; plant the seeds of curiosity in their fertile minds that will generate enthusiasm for the immense possibilities that lie ahead! 
Here are some interesting examples you can share, to begin the conversation:
Want to be an architect? How about constructing Homes with plastic bottles.
Become a Sustainable Chef
Maybe you'd like to be become part of the new wave of Chic Sustainable Clothing Designers
Have fun.