April 22, 2016
Happy Earth Day to all my readers. I’ve just come back from a long walk outdoors, and I hope you will get out and enjoy nature today, too.
I have written many entries in this blog about Earth Day over the years. There are activities, reader input, suggestions for reducing your carbon footprint, and even recipes to help you contribute to improving our environment. You can read all of these earlier articles by typing "Earth Day" into the search box at the top of this page. Enjoy!
January 28, 2016
Did you see the recent announcement from NASA (America’s space agency) about finding evidence of water on Mars? Scientists have long thought that there may have been water on this desert planet in the past, but these latest images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are extraordinary because they show evidence of water flowing today.
Do you see the dark streaks in this image? These streaks are from the minerals left behind when briny (salty) water flows down the slopes in the Martian "summer."
Why is this important for us? If there is liquid water on Mars, then it makes it much more possible that we can travel there to explore Mars ourselves. The rocket needed to carry astronauts on the year-long trip to Mars will be much lighter if it doesn’t have to carry water. There is currently no Mars mission planned…but I bet there will be soon.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
January 27, 2016
Did you see the video that the Smithsonian’s National Zoo captured after last weekend’s blizzard? When male giant panda Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) woke up to a lot of snow, he was pretty excited about it.
Unlike you and me, Tian Tian did not need to bundle up to be comfortable in the snow. Giant pandas have thick woolly coats that keep them warm in the snowy mountains of China.
Since it is Writing Wednesday, let’s take this opportunity to do some descriptive writing. Watch this video of Tian Tian in the snow, and imagine all the sensations he is feeling. Describe what he was smelling, seeing, feeling, tasting…..all the things that made him want to roll over and over in the big white stuff!
Be patient while the video loads below. If you are using a tablet you may not be able to see this video. Try viewing it on a desktop computer.
When you are finished writing, click on the yellow "Comments" button at the bottom of this post to share your work with others. Happy Writing!
"Tian Tian in the Snow," from Smithsonian's National Zoo
January 5, 2016
As anyone who has read my PAPER AIRPLANE BOOK knows, I love folding and flying paper airplanes. I’ve been doing it since the days when I was teaching middle school science and teaching about the properties of air.
This video captures one of the best paper airplane flights I have ever seen. Look how the plane rides the air currents, slowly, slowly down to the ground.
Enjoy the video, but remember, you should never try this at home (nor should you ever go near an open window).
Be patient while the video loads below. If you are using a tablet you may not be able to see this video. Try it on a desktop computer.
"New York Paper Airplane Flight," by Sam Fuller
October 30, 2015
I know that I have many cat lovers among the readers of my blog, so I’ve been saving this adorable photograph to share today!
If you and your friends are planning to trick or treat tomorrow, please remember these simple rules:
1. Wear bright costumes and put reflective tape on your costume or trick or treat bag, so that it is easy for drivers to see you if you are out at dusk or after dark.
2. Only trick or treat at houses that have their porch lights on, signalling that they are welcoming trick or treaters.
3. Never go into a stranger’s house - stay on the front porch.
4. Travel in a group - there is safety in numbers.
5. Don’t eat any candy or treats that are not wrapped and sealed.
6. Be a helper for younger children who might be scared of the dark or the scary costumes. Little kids might be feeling shy or nervous and you can help them make their way up to the door and let them know that you are kind, not scary, no matter what your big kid’s costume looks like!
That’s it - simple rules that make the evening fun for everyone. Happy Halloween to all my readers!
October 29, 2015
Are you as fascinated by bats as I am? I love to watch them come out just after the sun sets and begin to feed on insects on summer nights. I have not seen as many in recent years because we have a fungus called "white nose syndrome" endangering the Brown Bat here in North America. Scientists are still trying to find a way to protect our native bats.
A different species, a large fruit bat known as the Spectacled Flying Fox, is facing its own challenges in Queensland, Australia.
It turns out that the problem for these bats is ticks, which dig into the bats’ skin and inject a paralyzing poison. Once their feet are paralyzed, they can no longer hang upside down from tree branches to sleep, and they die.
The time of year when the ticks are most plentiful is also the time when most baby flying foxes are born, so rescuers realized a number of years ago that they needed to come up with a plan to save these orphaned baby bats.
Veterinarians in Queensland set up the Tolga Bat Hospital, and hundreds of orphaned baby fruit bats are being rescued each year and raised at the hospital until they can be released into the wild.
Isn’t is good to see these magnificent wild animals being cared for by humans?
Photo: Jurgen Freund / naturepl.com
October 28, 2015
Good morning and welcome to a special Halloween Writing Wednesday (which includes a ghostly Halloween treat at the end of this post)!
Today, we would like you to read a part of Seymour Simon’s book GHOSTS. As you read the page below, notice shades of meaning in the vocabulary. How does Seymour’s use of the adjectives "cold" and "damp" instead of just writing "castle" affect the mental image you create? As you read, look for other examples of vivid words that Seymour Simon uses, and tell us about how it enhances the selection. Write two or three sentences and tell us about which adjectives and word choices he makes to create a spooky feeling as he tells this story.
When you have finished writing, click on the yellow "Comments" link below to post your writing for others to read.
Calvados Castle is a gloomy-looking castle in France. It was built hundreds of years ago in the Middle Ages. Cold and damp, the castle hardly looks like a place in which anybody would want to live. If you saw it, you might think it was a perfect place for a ghost. And you would be right. Calvados Castle is haunted.
The first record of ghostly happenings came in 1875. The family and the servants that lived in the castle were disturbed night after night by mysterious sounds. They decided to place threads across the open doors. They hoped that the threads would be broken so that they could learn where the intruders came in. The sounds continued, but the threads were never broken.
The owner began keeping a diary of the strange events. The diary tells that on the night of October 13, 1875, a teacher employed by the family was alone in his room.
Halloween Treat! Seymour Simon had this book recorded by a narrator who has a famous "haunted" voice (he used to be a narrator for The Twilight Zone television series). Click below if you would like to hear a selection of the book read aloud. But we warn you, if you are someone who is easily scared, you might not want to press play!
Posted by: Liz Nealon
October 27, 2015
This ghostly sight is known as the dB 141 Nebula. It is composed of the gassy remains of a supernova - the gigantic explosion that occurred when a huge star blew up. And since it kind of looks like a bunch of ghosts, it reminds me to wish all my readers a Happy, Out of This World, Halloween!
Photo: Credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF
October 26, 2015
Getting ready for Halloween? I have two books, both narrated, that can help get you in the mood. The first is called SILLY VAMPIRE, WEREWOLF AND ZOMBIE JOKES & RIDDLES. It is just that—- very silly Halloween jokes to share with your friends. Here is a video trailer so you can sample the book.
The second is a book that I wrote a number of years ago, and is still very popular. Simply called GHOSTS, it is a collection of supposedly true, very scary stories. Whether you are a believer in these kinds of stories or not, they are fun to read and/or listen to with friends. Just don’t do it before bedtime!
October 14, 2015
A baby seal who adopted a wildlife cameraman is the subject of today’s Writing Wednesday.
The Story:Cameraman Raymond Besant’s job on a nature documentary was to spend three weeks filming a colony of grey seals. He built a “blind”—a hiding place that looks like it belongs in nature, with a peek hole for the camera to shoot through—so that he could work without disturbing the animals.
One morning he showed up for work and found the blind had been damaged. At first he thought it was because of a storm the night before, but when he looked inside, he found a sleeping seal pup (baby).
"I gently shook the blind and eventually he shuffled out. He had wrecked the place and he was molting so there was fur everywhere. It smelled pretty bad, like a wet dog."
He tried building all kinds of barriers with driftwood across the entrance to stop the seal pup from getting in, but every morning he would come back to work and find a little head poking out of the blind.
Eventually, he decided to stop trying to block the seal, and started sharing the space. "He was just a clever seal that had found somewhere warm and dry to stay," said the cameraman.
Tell the story of the baby seal pup in your own words. Use details from what you read and from the photographs to make your story come alive for your readers.
When you are finished writing, click on the yellow "Comments" button at the bottom of this post to share your work. Happy Writing!