July 25, 2014
Plan a Perseid Midnight Picnic!
We are re-running this blog post, which was originally published in August 2010.
Every summer we are treated to the Perseid Meteor Shower in the Northern Hemisphere. This year the peak viewing nights are late July and early August, since the full moon on August 10 will make it very hard to see the meteors. If the skies are clear where you live, you will be able to see dozens of meteors per hour——and you’ll see more after midnight than before. It’s about the most satisfying amateur astronomy experience you can have.
One August when my daughter was in elementary school, we planned a middle of the night Perseid party for her friends and their families. Everyone was invited to come at 3:30 am, with pajamas being acceptable attire! We asked them to bring a pillow for everyone and quilts that they didn’t mind laying in the dewey grass. I guided everyone via flashlight to the pitch dark meadow behind our house, and we laid together in the dark, ooh-ing and ah-ing as if it were a fireworks show. Then at 5am, as the rosy-fingered dawn started to illuminate the horizon, we brought everyone up to the house for a middle-of-the-night brunch. It was a memorable evening.
Of course, the trick to serving brunch in the middle of the night is to prepare everything in advance, so that you can sleep until the very last minute before guests arrive. I have a favorite quiche recipe which can be made in advance and quickly heated up in the oven or microwave. Cut up a fruit salad, set up the coffeemaker before you go to bed and you’re ready to go. For anyone who would like to try it this week, here’s my recipe. Enjoy it under the meteor shower!
PERSEID BREAKFAST QUICHE
1 box pie crust mix 1 cup (1/2 pt.) Light Cream
8oz. Gruyere or Swiss Cheese (.5 lb) Nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten Salt & pepper to taste
½ c. bacon, mushrooms or other fillings as you wish 1 TBL butter
½ c. nonfat Milk
Preheat oven to 450º. Cut the cheese into small cubes. Pre-cook any meat that you plan to put in the quiche and crumble into small pieces. If you are using vegetables (scallions, mushrooms, etc), cut them up and sauté in butter until they are nice and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
Make a single piecrust, put it into a pie dish and prick all over with a fork (so it doesn’t blow up into a big balloon!). I usually put some tin foil over the top edges to hold it up against the sides. Cook the piecrust alone for 5 minutes at 450 degrees.
After the piecrust is pre-cooked, sprinkle your fillings (bacon, scallions, etc) on the bottom and cover them with the cubed cheese.
In a bowl, beat three eggs. Add cream, milk, dash of nutmeg, sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pour over the cheese.
Bake 15 minutes at 450º. Then, turn oven down to 350º and bake 10-15 minutes more, til knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let it cool...read more
May 22, 2014
Talking with Students about Cichlids
I received many notes from students in New Jersey several days ago. They asked about the Rift Lake cichlids that I keep in an aquarium in my bedroom. The questions were great and I enjoyed reading them. You can read all of them in their entirety in the comments section of the original story, My Cichlid Tank.
Here are some things they asked and said:
Francesca wrote: "Wow!!! Those cichlid fish are the coolest fish that I have seen!!! They are so many colors and are really cool different patterns. I think that it is awesome that they react to their surroundings. I also agree to the fact that they are beautiful! I would also love to have a cichlid fish as a pet."
Kevin wrote: "I like that they swim with purpose unlike schooling fish, could you also tell how big they get and what they eat in the wild?"
Nehal asked, "how many eggs?"
Liam asked, "how many do you have?"
Here is my answer to their many questions:Cichlids swim individually and with purpose. They don’t school with each other and each seems to react to its surroundings. That’s why I like looking at them; each is an individual. I just went upstairs to take a new photograph for this story, and this fish swam right over to see what I was doing!
These cichlids are all from the African Rift Lakes in the middle of the continent. They are hundreds of different Rift Lake species and they are found nowhere else in the world. Cichlids are egg layers and lay anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of eggs. Many species of Rift Lake cichlids are very colorful and they come in a variety of colors and patterns. In their native lakes cichlids eat a variety of smaller aquatic animals and insects.
Cichlids are often belligerent and you wouldn’t want to keep them in a normal community aquarium, so I keep them in a separate cichlid tank. They sort of pick on each other but not so terribly. I purchased these six cychlids at Eddie’s Tropical Aquarium near Albany, NY when they were about an inch or so long and now some of them are three to four inches long. If they grow too large for my aquarium I will have to bring them back to the aquarium store in which they were purchased and they will place them in much bigger tanks. They are not the easiest fish to keep in a home aquarium, but for me at least, they are definitely worth it!
April 10, 2014
A New Book about The Moon
Seymour Simon’s new book, EARTH’S MOON: A SHIPMATE’S GUIDE to OUR SOLAR SYSTEM, has just been published by StarWalk Kids Media. It is available as an eBook right now, and we hope to publish it as a print book in the next year.
The Moon is our closest shipmate in space, and as Seymour Simon writes in the book, we travel together on our journey through the Milky Way galaxy. This fascinating book answers questions like: Why does the Moon change shape in the night sky? Why does it look as though there is a face on the Moon’s surface? And will we ever visit there again?
This is the second installment in Seymour Simon’s important new space series, A Shipmate’s Guide to Our Solar System. The first book, EARTH: A SHIPMATE’S GUIDE came out last year, and received an excellent review from Kirkus.
You can view a video trailer of Seymour Simon’s newest book and find out how the Moon was formed - it was a dramatic event!
April 10, 2014
I noticed that a whole group of students from Buffalo, Illinois commented on various stories yesterday. Thanks for stopping by - I’m glad you are enjoying my blog! Would someone like to comment on this post, tell me about your school, what grade you are in, and what you are studying in science? I’d love to hear from you.
April 2, 2014
A First Research Project
Yesterday I Skyped with kindergarteners at Van Meter Elementary School in Iowa. They are researching and writing their first reports, about animals. We had a good talk about how to begin a writing project. I asked them each which animal they were researching and to tell me one thing about that animal.
Their teachers, Lynne Caltrider, Christa McClintock, and district librarian/technology specialist Shannon McClintock Miller, are taking advantage of the many Internet resources available not only to teach these young learners how to research a topic, but also how to use EasyBib.com to create accurate citations in their work.
It was fun to share my process with these students. Whether you are five years old or an experienced writer like me, every writing project starts the same way - researching your topic and making an outline. And it finishes up with rewriting…and rewriting….and rewriting again!
We will be back online together in a few weeks, as the students share their finished projects. I look forward to seeing their work.
Photos courtesy of Shannon McClintock Miller
March 28, 2014
My Cichlid Tank
This is a photo of my cichlid tank. All the fish in here are African cichlids (pronounced SICK-lids), which means they originate from 3 very deep rift lakes that run from north to south along the Eastern coast of Africa.
I love cichlids - in fact, I studied them when I was doing my Masters Work in Animal Behavior at the City University of New York. They are intelligent fish who actually react to what is going on around their tank (like when you walk over to look at them). And they swim with purpose, rather than moving aimlessly around the tank like schools of tropical fish do.
I think they’re beautiful, too, don’t you?
March 10, 2014
And the Winners Are….
Congratulations to all the students who entered the "My Favorite Seymour Simon Book" contest. We asked you to read my books, decide which one was your favorite, and give examples from the text to support your opinion. We received entries from 145 individual students and 11 first and second grade classes. That is really a LOT of participation from a single school! Good work, Franklin Elementary. We read every one of your entries, and enjoyed the writing very much.
According to the rules of the contest we randomly choose one individual winner in grades 3-5 and one classroom winner from grades 1-2.
The individual winner is Izzy from Mrs. Feeley’s class (5-FE). Izzy wrote:
My favorite Seymour Simon book is OCEANS.
I like the book Oceans because it tells lots of facts about ocean. For example, on page 2 it says "Echo soundings of the ocean floor show mountains more than twice as tall as Mt. Everest and 6 times deep as the grand canyon."
The classroom winner was Mrs. Shaughnessy’s 1st grade class, whose favorite Seymour Simon book is CORAL REEFS. They wrote:
Why we like it? We think it is a great book because it taught us many facts we didn’t already know. We liked Seymour Simon’s book because he talked about animals we had never heard of before.
Example: We didn’t know that Sea Stars eat by turning their stomachs inside out through their mouths! First we said, "eww!" and then we said, "cool!" Also, we found out that some fish can turn into a darker color for camouflage at night.
Izzy and Mrs. Shaughnessy’s class will each receive a copy of their favorite book, which I will autograph for them.
Thanks again for all your great writing and very kind words about my books. It meant a great deal to me to read what you all had to say about my writing.
February 25, 2014
CONTEST! My Favorite Seymour Simon Book
Seymour Simon is preparing to visit Franklin Elementary School in Westfield, NJ next week. Their library media specialist, Mrs. Kennedy, asked if we would run a contest for their students. Seymour loves it when you use his blog in school, so students at Franklin Elementary - this contest is for you!
Do you have a favorite Seymour Simon book? Is there one that you have taken out of the library many times, or that you go back to when you have free time in the media center? For this contest Seymour Simon invites you to browse through his books in your school library or at a bookstore, or you can look under the "Books" heading on his website, and think about which one of his books you like the best.
Once you have decided which Seymour Simon book is your favorite, you have to do three things:
1. Tell us the name of the book.
2. Tell us why you think it is Seymour Simon’s best book.
3. Give at least one example from the text in the book that illustrates your point.
Here is an example. Let’s say that I pick NEPTUNE as my favorite Seymour Simon book. I might write:
Favorite Book: Neptune.
Why it is my favorite: I think it is very interesting to learn how we are exploring the very end of the Solar System. It is amazing to me that humans can learn about a world that is so far away.
Evidence from the Text: I like the way Seymour Simon describes the information we receive from the Voyager 2 probe, which we sent to explore Neptune. He writes: "By 2015, Voyager will reach the heliopause, the true end of the Solar System. Then Voyager will drift silenty through time and space, a testament to the human search for knowledge." I always feel a little sad when I read that. I want to wave and say, ‘Bye, bye and thank you, Voyager!’ I think that is very good writing by Seymour Simon.
Here is how to enter once you have selected your Favorite Seymour Simon Book:
A. Click on the yellow "Comments" link at the bottom of the blog to enter the contest by sharing your favorite book, why it is your favorite, and giving an example from Seymour Simon’s writing in the book to illustrate your point.
B. When you write your information, be sure to also tell us your name (first name only), your grade, and your teacher’s name. That way we can find you if you are the winner!
C. Be sure to post your entry by midnight on Friday, March 7th. The contest ends then.
- Two winners will be chosen randomly from all the correct entries.
- Students in grades 3-5 may enter individually, and we will pick one winner.
- Students in grades 1-2 may enter as a class and work with their teacher or with Ms. Kennedy to enter the contest; there will be one classroom winner.
- Both winners will receive a copy of their favorite Seymour Simon book, personally autographed by Seymour Simon.
- Students who do not attend Franklin Elementary may also enter this contest. If we have at least 10 entries from other schools, we will randomly choose a third prizewinner from the non-Franklin entries.
So, get to work and send us your entries today. Good luck!
February 21, 2014
What’s Up with the Smiley Face?
Earlier this week I posted a photograph of a blade of grass as seen under an electron microscope. The structure of the cells looks like smiley faces. This prompted a number of my readers to wonder how this could be. Or as Josephine from Shanghai put it:
I wanted to ask you that why are there smiley faces on the blade of grass and how?
It’s simple, Josephine. I told a joke to the blade of grass just before it went under the microscope.
They really aren’t smiley faces, of course. This is just how a the cellular structure of a blade of grass looks under a microscope. But when we humans see it, based on our own experiences and what we know, we see a smiley face.
I wrote a book called OUT OF SIGHT that is all about amazing things that are too small to be seen by the human eye. The photographs are quite extraordinary and you can see them because the eBook is a free sample book on StarWalk Kids Media - that’s the website for my eBook company. You can try out the book and see lots of these kinds of fascinating microscopic photographs at this link: Out of Sight. I think you’ll be amazed by what you see!
February 20, 2014
Rising Sea Levels
I had multiple comments from Shanghai students today asking me about rising sea levels. It appears that you have been assigned a report on this topic and are asking me to explain it for you. Unfortunately, I can’t do your homework for you, and if every student wrote to me every night about a topic they needed to learn about, I would spend all my time answering their questions and would not have any time to write books! However, you can use my website to help with your research on future assignments. One way is to look at the yellow bar called "Labels" (on the left hand side of every blog page). If you click on any of those topics, it will take you to a list of previous articles that I have written about the topic. You can also type a key word (for example: "sea level") in the Search box which is at the top of every page on my website, and you may find useful articles that way.
Since you are all asking about a topic that many students wonder about, I am going to make an exception to my rule and write about this important topic today. As the temperature of the Earth warms and the polar ice melts, our sea level is rising worldwide. Over the past 20 years our oceans have been rising by about 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, which is about twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.
The reason this is increasing so much more quickly is that for the past 100 years our use of fossil fuels and other human activities have released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth’s surface temperature to rise, and the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat.
This is causing previously unknown levels of flooding in coastal cities. From the many monsoons which flood Chittagong in Bangladesh, to the effects of cyclone Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, to the millions of people affected by flooding from Hurricane Sandy in New York City, people in coastal cities and villages worldwide are experiencing the real effect of global warming on rising sea levels.
I have written quite a bit about global warming on this blog. Check the label "global warming" to learn more about this important topic.