Label: Summer Vacation Science

June 13, 2011

Welcome to week one of SUMMER VACATION SCIENCE!

Frogs live all over the world. About twenty different kinds are in the United States including bullfrogs, including bullfrogs (Rana cateseiana), leopard frogs (R. pipiens) and green frogs (R. clamitans). Frogs can live almost anywhere if there is enough water.

Summer time is too late in the year to collect frogs’ eggs, but you can certainly collect tadpoles. Tadpoles will grow into frogs in a home aquarium or in a large wide-mouthed jar. But keep in mind that it’s important for you to be able to return the baby frogs to their natural environment after you’ve kept them.

Click here to download today’s unit: FROM TADPOLES TO FROGS, to learn not only how to do this yourself, but also how to help protect frogs and their habitats. 

This summer, our goal is to get kids outdoors, exploring and enjoying the world around them. Check back here throughout the summer for new installments of Summer Vacation Science.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Summer Vacation Science, Conservation, Frogs   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 8, 2011

When I saw a wild turkey crossing over the dirt road leading up to my house in the country the other day, I thought of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. Why? Because when it came to choosing a symbol of the United States, Ben Franklin thought the wild turkey was a more dignified bird than the bald eagle.  I’m not sure if I agree; the bald eagle is magnificent soaring in the sky and I think the turkey looked a bit pompous and stuck-up strutting across my road. But the turkey is a pretty interesting bird. It would rather walk than fly (though it can fly, at least for a minute or two). Seeing a single turkey is rare around here; I usually seem them in flocks of a dozen or more birds.


Not to be outdone by a wild turkey, a large snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) came walking across the same dirt road. I stopped the car to take a picture of the snapper. When I came close, the turtle turned around to face me, snapped and hissed. "OK," I thought. "I’m just looking. Let’s part friends!" And I got back in my car and watched the snapper disappear into the undergrowth. There’s a stream just nearby the road and I guess that’s where the turtle was headed.

A snapping turtle has a large head with strong jaws. This one was quite large - I would estimate about 14 inches from its head to the tip of its armored tail. That’s about the distance from your fingertips to your elbow. Unlike many other kinds of turtles, the snapper can’t withdraw its head into its shell. It relies on its jaws for defense and can bite hard enough to take your finger off. I wouldn’t try to pet a snapping turtle, and neither should you! Thinking it over, petting a wild animal is a "no, no" in every case, no matter what. Wild animals are not pets and should not be touched, for your own safety as well as theirs. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Summer Vacation Science, Seymour Photographs   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 4, 2011

Well, not exactly a REAL tiger! This beautiful moth that Liz spotted is a member of a large group of moths called TIGER MOTHS. Tiger moths (their common name) belong to a group of moths named Grammia, which have dark wings with white stripes and beautiful geometric patterns. Most of these moths have thick furry bodes. When these moths are not flying around, their wings are folded roof-like over their bodies, just as in this photo, which Liz took of a tiger moth on the deck of our country place. The larva (caterpillars) of these moths are called Wooly Bears.  

Any of my readers have photos of butterflies or moths that YOU took? Send them to me in an email and I’ll publish them on my blog for all your friends to see! And the best photos I get may receive a surprise in your mail this summer (I’ll notify you about that if you’re gonna get one).


Be sure to watch for my new book about BUTTERFLIES! It is being published at the end of August.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Butterflies, Summer Vacation Science   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 31, 2011

Seymour was out at the pond this weekend, collecting tadpoles in a jar for our first SUMMER VACATION SCIENCE 2011 project! Watch this space for more on how you can also collect these "pets in a jar." It is fascinating to watch these little swimmers, who will soon grow legs and turn into frogs!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Cool Photo. Pets in a Jar   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer here in the U.S. The days are getting longer, school is almost over, and we’re all looking forward to swimming, fishing, playing ball, reading for fun and picnics!

You can’t avoid insects at a Memorial Day picnic, so we’ve found a Silly Animal Insect Joke just for today. Can you guess the answer? Click here to find out!

Have a Silly Summer, everybody! 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Jokes, Jokes, Summer Vacation Science   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 17, 2010

I don’t know about you, but many of us here on the East Coast of the U.S. never caught a glimpse of last week’s Perseid meteor shower. After all the excitement about what a great year it was going to be for viewing because of the new moon keeping the sky very dark, the weather here was cloudy, and we didn’t see a thing.

Do not despair! Henry Jun Wah Lee shot this incredible time lapse video from California’s Joshua Tree National Park, editing several segments together into a montaged view of not only the meteor shower, but also of the Milky Way galaxy as it rotates in the night sky (well, actually, WE are rotating, but it looks like the stars are moving overhead).

Check this out. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Joshua Tree Under the Milky Way from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Summer Vacation Science, Video, Meteor   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 11, 2010



We keep talking about this week’s Perseid meteor shower because this is a particularly good year to see it. There is only a sliver of a moon, so the meteors will really pop against the dark sky. The best time for viewing the show will be the darkest hours before dawn on Friday morning (or very late Thursday night, depending on how you think about it). If the skies are clear where you live, you will be able to see dozens of meteors per hour. 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!



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,...

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Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Summer Vacation Science, Meteor, Recipes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 28, 2010















It’s late July and gardens are bursting with tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and chard. Tall sunflowers lean against garden fences, berries are plentiful and pots of thyme have a profusion of tiny blossoms. It is a gardener’s happiest season, the bountiful payoff for weeks of hard work in the garden earlier in the spring.

Gardening with your children is a wonderful way to teach them about food sources and the global benefits of “eating locally”…..very locally, if you are growing your own produce!

Kids enjoy the process of planting, they rejoice as everything grows, and they will love the “treats” that they pick themselves. Even a child who thinks she doesn’t like vegetables will love eating a sweet cherry tomato picked right off the vine, still warm from the sun. And kids feel like proud helpers when you send them out to get handfuls of aromatic herbs to chop for a dressing or marinade.

Even if you didn’t plant a full garden this year, it’s not too late to have some of these kinds of experiences with your family. If you have a sunny windowsill or deck close to the kitchen, plant some herbs for cooking. You can still get basil, oregano, parsley, and mint starter plants at your local gardening store.

Of course, very few of us are in a place where we can realistically grow all our own food. But, we can choose to buy our vegetables and fruits from a local organic farmer, rather than from the supermarket. A recent study from the University of Texas/Austin’s Biochemical Institute reported that the average vegetable found in today’s supermarket is lower in healthy minerals (the range was from 5% to 40% lower) than those harvested just 50 years ago.

As an added benefit, when you buy produce that has been grown locally you reduce your carbon footprint. Think about all the greenhouse gases generated in producing food that has been chemically fertilized, stored in refrigerated compartments, flown to your area and then delivered by truck to your local supermarket. Contributing to the creation of those CO2 emissions can be avoided simply by eating sparklingly fresh, locally grown produce. And, they taste better simply by virtue of having just been picked!


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Global Warming, Summer Vacation Science, Gardening, Carbon Footprint   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 27, 2010

Here’s a fun summer ecology project to do with kids.

Ecology is the study of living things (plants and animals) and their relationships with their environment. The word "ecology" comes from the Greek and means a house or home, so you can think of ecology as the science that deals with the home conditions of living things.

This is a project in which you can observe how an animal’s physical structure contains a wealth of information about where it lives.

Materials you will need:

o   A small amphibian such as a water-living salamander.

o   A small lizard such as an anole (often sold as a chameleon in pet stores)

o   Research materials about each kind of animal (book or Internet)

o    Notebook for recording your observations


The Project:

A salamander and an anole look very much alike at first glance, but one spends its life on land and the other spends much of its life in water. Are there differences in their body structures that allow these animals to adapt to their different environments? How do these differences relate to the life of the animals?


1. Observe the way each animal breathes. Look at the feather gills just behind the head of the salamander (gills are not present at all ages in all kinds of salamanders). Do these move in a regular way? How do they assist the animal in breathing?

Now, look at the head and neck region of the anole. Can you see any regular breathing movements? How much the anole breathe?

Why do you think these two animals breathe differently?


2. Now, gently touch the salamander with the end of a pencil so that it swims across its container of water. In the same gentle way, stimulate the anole to move across its container.  What differences or similarities can you see in the way the animals move? How is each animal’s method of moving fitted to its particular environment? How do the differences in their body structures help them move?

3. Gently touch the skin of the salamander. Describe how it feels in your notebook. Touch the skin of the anole and describe how it feels. Do they feel the same? Which of the two animals is more likely to be able to live in only one kind of environment? Don’t try this because it might result in an animal’s death, but what do you think would happen if you put the land-dwelling lizard in a water environment and the water-dwelling salamander in a land environment?

4. Look at any other differences in body structure (such as in the tails). Do these structures fit the animals to their environments in any way? List the differences and the similarities in body structure of the two animals and compare them.

5. Place a small earthworm or mealworm in front of the head of each of the animals. Record the way each gets the food into its mouth. Now place the food about 1 foot away from each animal and see what happens. What are the differences in the feeding behavior? Are these differences related to the differences in the kinds of food available in a water and a land...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, ecology   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 25, 2010

Depending on where you live in North America, you’ve been experiencing some variation of unstable summer weather - extreme heat, heavy rains and flooding, violent summer thunderstorms or tornadoes, tropical storms and potential hurricanes. Children are fascinated by weather, and full of questions about why these things happen.

Just in time to help you explain all these various phenomena we’ve published three new Teacher Guides for Seymour’s WEATHER, LIGHTNING, and HURRICANES books. These are free downloads from Try them out today with a kid that you love!


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Weather, Hurricanes, lightning   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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