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.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Plastic!

                                          
I read an article this week about how microplastics are killing juvenile fish before they even reach maturity. The implications of this are pretty scary. In case you don't know, microplastics are the tiny particles of plastic that find their way into the ocean from waste such as plastic bags and plastic bottles, as well as from plastic microbeads - these are tiny beads included in some modern cosmetics such as skin cleaners.
My immediate thought on all this is how can we raise children to reject as much plastic as they can?
For sure, there are times when plastic is convenient, but can we try to raise a generation of kids who simply avoid plastic? Learning about ocean life is a good place to start. Few kids want to hurt animals anywhere and when they learn about how plastic is killing marine life, then they are more likely to avoid the root cause of so much destruction. In this video, the Curious Kids learn about marine life in the Gulf of Mexico:
Here are a few more resources to help you plan a fun and engaging class for your students:

Check out more Earth and Rosie programs like the  Little Earth Charter (see top of the page)  - or the Footprint Game (on the right side of this page).

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Alligators

Having lived much of the last fourteen years in Florida I've learned to harbor a healthy respect for alligators. There are the obvious reasons - the danger of being bitten or worse, but then there are the ecological and biological reasons. First, alligators are a keystone species - this means that they are the top predator on the food chain. So, what's the big deal with that? In Florida many species depend on alligators because in the dry season, when there's not enough rain to keep ponds filled, alligators swish their tails around in the mud ensuring what little water there is remains, thereby providing much needed water to all the other species.
One of the coolest things I learned about alligators is that the gender of the offspring is determined by temperature. If the eggs are in a warm environment, perhaps in sunlight, the babies will likely be male - if the eggs are kept cool, then they are more likely to be female. Don't ever get fooled into thinking alligators are slow moving. For short distances they can run up to 20 mph. The most important thing for kids (and adults) to learn is never feed alligators, or any wild life for that matter.
                                                           Learn more about Keystone Species
I never included the Alligator song on any of my CDs. If you would like a copy of the song, send me a message and I will send you an MP3 for FREE.