Label: Earth Day 2013

April 18, 2013

This is an "animals nobody loves" story. After hanging around underground for 17 years, billions of flying bugs known as cicadas (sih-KAY-duhs) are going to arrive in the East Coast of the United states sometime in the next month.

"For entomophobes, this is the season of despair. For the entomophiles, this is the season of joy," says University of Maryland entomologist Michael Raupp. I bet you’ve already guessed that an entomopobe (EN-toe-moe-fobe) means a bug hater, and entomophile (EN-toe-moe-file) is a bug lover. Love them or hate them, we’re going to have to get used to them for about a month.

The 17-year cicadas are expected to arrive in the Carolinas in late April or early May, and will work their way up northward to Washington, Philadelphia and New York by early June. The amazing thing is that these larvae have been living underground since their parents laid their eggs 17 years ago. When the temperature of the ground reaches 64 degrees, the insects will wiggle out of their shells andbegin to dig "escape chimneys," tunneling out into the spring air where they take flight, searching for a mate.

The sound of millions of insects flying is stunningly loud. What I remember from their last appearance is that I heard a sound so loud and persistent that I thought there must be construction happening outside. Experts say the volume can reach 90 decibels - as loud as a rock concert. In some areas, the ground is covered so that you can’t walk without crunching cicadas, the sky seems to be filled with dark clouds, and the walls of some houses are covered, as if they are painted black. You have to shake the insects out of your clothes when you come into the house. It is a remarkable thing to experience.

If the 17-year cicadas come to your neighborhood, there is nothing to be afraid of. They do not sting or bite, and will not hurt you in any way. They will only be around for about a month while they find their mate and lay their eggs, which will then mature for 17 years underground. This is a truly amazing natural cycle. Try to set aside the "ick" factor and appreciate how lucky you are to observe something like this. If you are an 8-year-old third grader today, you will be all grown up - old enough to be a teacher instead of a student! - next time they emerge. Now that is an astounding thing to experience, isn’t it?

 

Photo: Mary Terriberry / Shutterstock 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals Nobody Loves, Insects, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 17, 2013

Seymour Simon is wearing his favorite Earth Day shirt today, as Earth Day approaches!

 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 17, 2013

Today, for the Writing Wednesday before Earth Day, we are thinking about biodiversity (bye-oh-dye-VERSE-it-tee). This means that we are thinking about Earth and how many different, or diverse, kinds of living things are present on our planet. We can help to preserve biodiversity by making sure that our human presence does not destroy crucial habitats that support all the different life forms living here.

Background: 

Experts think that Madidi National Park, in northwest Bolivia, may be the most biologically diverse place on Earth. More than 200 species of mammals, 300 types of fish and more than 12,000 plant species live in this single park. They range from the huge, 660-pound (300 kilograms) lowland tapir down to the tiny Spix’s disk-winged bat (right), which weighs just 0.14 ounces (4 grams) - about the same weight as a kidney bean that you would find in a bowl of chili. Record numbers of leopards live in this park, and so do more than 60 species of hummingbird!

How do human activities threaten the survival of all these fascinating species? Logging and stripping away forests has a huge impact by taking away habitats and reducing air quality, as trees remove harmful CO2 from the air and turn it into oxygen. Building highways, planting farmland and other human development also takes away critical animal habitats. In other locations, warming ocean temperatures are causing the death of whole reefs of coral, which are invertebrate animals living under the sea. Water pollution can also make animals and plants sick, or cause them to be trapped in nets, plastic and other debris. And unfortunately, many animals and plants are hunted by humans for food, trophies, fur, and other "collectibles."

Your Assignment: Write a letter to your fellow humans, helping them to understand why it is important to think about our impact on the environment around us. Make your letter as persuasive as possible by giving concrete reasons why people should change their behavior. And write a powerful conclusion that will help your readers understand the importance of your point of view.

When you are finished writing, you can post your letter for other to read by clicking on the yellow "Comments" link at the end of this article.

Photo: Kelley Miller / National Geographic


Note to Educators: Today’s Writing Wednesday exercise supports Common Core Writing Standard W1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, Conservation, Common Core, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 16, 2013

 

 

Today, 9-year-old Will from Ohio writes a kids’ eye review of Seymour Simon’s upcoming new book, CORAL REEFS. It will be published simultaneously in hardcover, paperback and eBook editions on April 23. 

 


 

Hi my name is Will. I usually spend my days learning about the civil war, but I took this week to read and think about Coral Reefs by Seymour Simon. It was a wonderful book, filled with information about a different part of the planet. A part that I don’t get to be with very much.

My favorite part of the book was the colorful pictures. The book started off with a beautiful picture of the coral reef. It was filled with fish of all sorts, colorful corals and bright blue water.

I was also really interested in all the ways plants and animals protect themselves. One thing I learned that I never knew before was that some living things disguise themselves to hide from their predators. An example of this was the sponge that makes itself look like a animal. I liked the puffer fish the best because it has an interesting form of self-defense - making itself bigger and growing spikes.

This book made me want to learn more about oceans and the different life forms that live in them. I recommend Coral Reefs to people who are interested in fish, the ocean or sea plants. The pictures are beautiful and you will learn a lot!

Loved your book!

-Will

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: New Books, Coral Reefs, eBooks, Oceans, Kids Write, Conservation, Earth Day 2013, Reviews   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 16, 2013

As beautiful as a painting! That’s what I feel when I see this magnificent photograph of a section of our planet Earth, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. Can you tell what we are seeing in this photograph?

If you guessed that these are farmlands, you were correct. We are looking at an agricultural landscape in Minas Gerais state, Brazil. These fields are just outside of the city of Perdizes, which means "partridges" in Portuguese. Farmers are growing sunflowers, wheat, potatoes, coffee, rice, soybeans, and corn in the green fields, while the sections that are violet, reddish and tan are fields that are lying fallow - not planted this year while they restore their minerals and other nutrients. You can even see small streams, extending like silvery fingers through the landscape.

I never tire of looking at all the amazing photographs that are beamed back to Earth from space. How about you? 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Cool Photo, space, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 15, 2013

Fifteen years ago I wrote three books about the amazing travels of animals in the sea, over land, and in the air. These animal migration books were very different from what I usually do because they didn’t use photographs. My editor, Linda Zuckerman, had to work hard to convince me that I should do these stories of awesome animal journeys as illustrated books. I kept resisting, saying that we needed to see photographs of the animals on these extraordinary and in many cases inexplicable travels. Then she showed me the work of a wonderful painter named Elsa Warnick. As soon as I saw Elsa’s luminous watercolor paintings, I knew that I had to work with her on these illustrated books.

 

I’m not sure, but I think these were the first children’s books that Elsa Warnick illustrated, and she went on to do more. Throughout her career as a painter, Elsa was devoted to teaching other artists, and every summer she would make time to serve as a faculty member at the Portland State University Children’s Book Conference. My condolences go out to her sons, Matt and Milan, who wrote last week to let me know that Elsa had died, and to tell me how much our collaboration meant to her.

Elsa lived on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, so we had rarely been in touch in recent years, until I called her two years ago to ask her permission to republish these beautiful books in digital. Her paintings came alive once again, this time in professionally narrated, digital editions. I am so happy that she was able to see how beautiful they are.

Here is a sample from THEY SWIM THE SEAS, one of the books we did together. Click on the "play" button down below to view (be patient - it may take as long as a minute or two to load the first time you view it). You will see what a wonderful artist Elsa Warnick was, and why I am so proud of these books.


Educators: Every eBook in the StarWalk Kids streaming eBook collection for Schools and Libraries comes with a free "Teaching Link" document, which makes Common Core correlations and suggests related activities. Click Here to download the Teaching Link document for THEY SWIM THE SEAS, and if you like what you see, visit www.StarWalkKids.com to learn more about how your institution can subscribe to this affordable, multi-user collection of high quality eBooks which work on whatever kind of computer or tablet your students are using.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, eBooks, Oceans, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 15, 2013

During the entire month of April, we are observing "Meatless Mondays" in our house. And what, you might ask, does going meatless on Monday have to do with Earth Day?

Well, think about the whole process of breeding cattle, pigs, chickens and other sources of meat. The fuel burned transporting feed for the animals, and then transporting the meat from the farm where the animals were bred to your local grocery store creates CO2 emissions - a major source of the greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. And there is another source of greenhouse gases that comes from the process of harvesting meat. Animals burp methane gas, and that also contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Going meatless one day every week is a way that each of us can help reduce our carbon footprints, and it tastes good, too!

Here is a favorite recipe in our house and one that we think most kids will enjoy - crab cakes! Click here if you would like to download this recipe and print it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many more Meatless Monday recipes that you can download from SeymourSimon.com. Click here to find them all!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 15, 2013

         

Today we are compiling links to the many great Earth Day resources for classes and families here on the Seymour Science blog. We have been celebrating Earth Day here since 2010, and we realize that many of you may not have been reading the blog over all that time. And some of you have told us that you would like to have links to some of our classic Earth Day stories and activities from previous years.

Here are resources and articles from previous years on the Seymour Science blog that you may want to use with your friends, family or class this month, while we celebrate Earth Day 2013:

Earth Day: In the Beginning

Earth Day: In the Future

Quiz: Test Your Green IQ

Your Carbon Footprint Calculator

One Girl’s Earth Day Promise: Conserving Water

Seymour’s Earth Day Pledges

If There’s Global Warming, Why is it So Cold?

What Can I Do?

We also have many “Writing Wednesday” exercises on Earth-related themes. It doesn’t need to be Wednesday if you want to try your hand at writing about these topics!

Writing Wednesday: The Coldest Place on Earth

Writing Wednesday: The Hottest Place on Earth

Writing Wednesday: Compare and Contrast Seymour Simon’s Earth Writing

Writing Wednesday: Sandhill Crane Rescue!

Writing Wednesday: A Spectacular Volcano

Writing Wednesday: Polar Bears and Global Warming

Writing Wednesday: Stone and Water

 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 5, 2013

Here’s something to think about as we prepare for Earth Day. The Scandinavian country of Denmark generates 25% of all the power used in the country with these offshore wind turbines. Denmark’s government plans to increase that outpu to 50% of all power by 2020.

There are natural, constantly renewing energy sources all around us, like the sun, the wind, or the constant movement of the tides. What could we do in our country to generate more of our power from these clean energy sources? 

Food for thought as we approach Earth Day, 2013.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(13) Comments  •   Labels: Conservation, Environment, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 4, 2013

Something extraordinary happened on the first spring day up in the country (the Hudson Valley in New York State). Not the first day of spring (that’s March 21st) but the first day that feels like spring, which can be any day from early March to mid April. Well, we had a day like that last week and naturally we went looking for early signs of spring like spring peepers. So we were visiting pond after pond but most of them showed no signs of spring. Many of the ponds were still partly frozen and even those that had no ice still showed no signs of frogs, frog eggs, or tadpoles.

 

All that changed when we drove past a small spring pond with the car windows open and heard a deafening chorus of what sounded like a mixture of peepers and birds honking. We immediately stopped the car and got out to look. In addition to the usual high pitched chirping of the tiny spring peepers, the pond was alive with honking sounds and large, thrashing frogs. The sounds were deafening. The water looked alive with frogs leaping and grasping and showing sudden bursts of speed. I had never seen anything like it before. I had binoculars and a camera but the frogs were too far away from where we stood to really identify them. It was only after I got home and did some research that I found out what kind of frogs they were and what was happening.

I went to my computer, opened up the Google Search, and typed in "Frogs Quacking like Ducks". Sure enough, the answer popped right up.

 

The frogs were wood frogs, a small (1 to 3 inches long) blacked masked frog that lives in the eastern United States from Georgia all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It is the only frog known to live north of the Arctic Circle. Usually they live in wet grasslands or moist woodlands. But they hibernate during the winter and as soon as they thaw out in spring, they head for temporary ponds formed by spring rains and snow melt.

The wood frogs use these ponds to make and lay eggs. The male frogs call to the females with duck-like quacks. The females lay their eggs and the males fertilize them in huge masses that contain 1000-2000 eggs. The females move the floating egg mass into the shallow ends of the pond in a large raft of other egg masses. Then all the frogs leave the pond leaving the eggs to survive on their own. The eggs are even able to withstand freezing weather and ice formations. The eggs hatch in a few weeks as tadpoles and the tadpoles take about six weeks to develop into frogs. Another amazing story of the natural world!

I recorded some of the scene using the video setting on my camera. Click play below to hear (you may have to wait up to one minute for the video to load, depending on the speed of your connection. Be patient - it’s worth it!). The wind is blowing, which makes it a little noisy. But, listen past the gusty wind. The first thing you’ll hear are the high-pitched peepers. Listen more closely, and you’ll hear quacking, as if there was a flock of geese flying by. That is the sound of the wood frogs, and it was even louder in person!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, Video, Frogs, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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