Label: Summer Vacation Science

July 24, 2010

A reader named Mary Ludwick wrote today to introduce us to a fabulous resource for anyone interested in birds and birdwatching -

According to the information on the website, is a real-time, online checklist program… (that) has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

Although it is designed specifically as a place for birdwatchers to report their sightings, this is also a rich source for educators and families to use with kids because it enables you to find out which birds to look for in which months of the year. If you combine this resource with the bird identification aids at, you will soon be seeing and identifying birds that you never even knew were residents of your neighborhood! Kids who are excited by birdwatching can report their observations and help build scientific knowledge about the bird population in their communities. Check out this story about eBird’s June "Birder of the Month," a young father who juggles home, work and time with his three-year-old son, and integrates all these activities with his passion for bird watching.

In the Gulf Coastal area, bird watchers are using the site to help NOAA track sightings of birds injured by the oil spill. They are building this body of information in order to help to steer beach protection and clean-up efforts to the sites with the greatest concentrations of birds and most important habitats. So many citizens wonder what they can do in the face of the massive environmental crisis - here is a valuable way to contribute if you live in that area of the country.

Thanks, Mary Ludwick, for building our bird knowledge on!




Posted by: Liz Nealon

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

July 23, 2010

We visited Cape May, New Jersey for a couple of days this week. I love to get out on the beach first thing in the morning, when it’s uncrowded and the marine life is feeding. We spotted a large pod of dolphins swimming less than 200 yards off shore both mornings.


Cape May - the southernmost tip of New Jersey - is a favorite destination not only for human tourists, but also for a pod of an estimated 2500 dolphins who summer there each year! You don’t need to book a "whale watch" tour. If you are vacationing at the ocean, just get out on the beach at dawn or dusk and watch the surf. You’ll be amazed at all the animal life  - birds, fish, mollusks, dolphins, seals - that you can see if you just take the time to look.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Oceans, Dolphins, Summer Vacation Science, Seymour Photographs, whale watch   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 17, 2010

Hello fellow Shipmates,

I am very happy to report that our crusade to help save our planet Earth has been going great! How is it going on your end? You wouldn’t believe it…I was so flattered and excited. I was asked by Nick Federoff from Sustainable Environmental Education and to go and speak to a group of teenage foreign exchange students from Italy and Germany (Thank you Nick.) grin They wanted me to tell them about our crusade and about "KTFBT." I also told them all about how I became Seymour’s environmental reporter. They were very surprised to hear about everything we have been doing. They will be here for three weeks. It is really cool because they had told us that there is a lot of pollution where they live and one of the reasons they came to America is because they are here on a green initiative. Their group is called the "Center for Cultural Interchange "and they are partnered with a foundation called "GREEN HEART." Green Heart in part, helps to sponsor the teens so they can come out to volunteer and learn about environmental projects. Green Heart officials say that in order to become a Green Heart exchange volunteer, "No experience or special skills are required-just enthusiasm, an open mind, and a genuine desire to help."  Isn’t that awesome? There are teens from all around the world who are going out and traveling all over the globe in order to volunteer.

We had a wonderful time hanging out and talking. We also got to go the Things Green Learning Center in the Greater Los Angeles, California area where we were learned about the benefits of gardening and planting flowers and vegetables, especially trees and about the importance of sustainability. We also got to plant a California poppy flower.  It is actually the state flower of California. I hadn’t ever planted these types of seeds before. I was really surprised because the seeds were super tiny. Who would think that something so tiny can grow into something so beautiful?  I even got to help Nick teach them how to plant and water the seeds. grin I felt so important. 

You might think that hanging out with the teens was cool, but it gets even better. During this entire time Nick’s camera crew was there filming so I might even get included in a documentary that Nick is recording.  : ) Whew hew!

Okay…Okay…so back to my story. I would like to share a lesson with you that I learnt that day from my new friends. My new friends taught me how to say Recycling and Recycle in Italian. : ) Recycle is Riciclare and Recycling is Riciclaggio in Italiano. Of course…you all know how I am. That inspired me to want to learn how to say these words in as many other languages as possible. grin Wouldn’t that be so great… since my ultimate goal is to spread our message all around the world? 

This whole experience has been amazing and we are only half way through summer. I still can’t believe that I have new friends from Europe that are going to help spread the KTFBT message and are also going to start to follow my blog and Seymour’s website. I am so happy!!! 

Well my fellow shipmates…I must be going now…so remember to spread the word. This is "OUR PLANET.OUR FUTURE!" Also "ricordatevi di riciclare," which means remember to please recycle. As always thank you. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. grin Until next time…



Alana G grin

"Science Rules!"


Posted by: Alana G

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Environment, Recycling   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 11, 2010

If your family lives (or is planning a summer vacation) anywhere near a desert, we recommend taking a drive with an excellent book called DISCOVER THE DESERT: THE DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH in hand.

Part narrative, part workbook, this volume is chock full of interesting information designed to capture the interest of all different types of kids, through whatever lens they like to view the natural world. Every two-page spread includes multiple illustrations and diagrams, at least one "Fascinating Fact" box, and a sidebar called "Words to Know," which defines vocabulary words used on the page.

And the facts are indeed fascinating. Did you know that paleontologists have found remains of ancient whales in Egypt and penguins as big as a man in Peru….excavated from what is now desert?! Chapter 5 deals with how people dress to live in the desert, and the reader learns that Mongolians wear boots with upturned toes - a Tibetan Buddhist custom designed to avoid hurting the earth. I just tried making Labneh (a yogurt cheese spread often served with olive oil on pita bread) from a recipe that I found in the chapter on What Native Desert Peoples Eat and Drink. Delicious!

There is also an invaluable chapter called Desert Dangers and How to Avoid Them. This section includes navigation techniques from the ancient "shadow tip method" to the modern GPS, cautions about dangerous weather, plants and poisonous animals, and is designed to help explorers show respect for the desert, as well as keep them safe.

Page after page of this practical book is chock full of science, cultural and vocabulary information that will turn a desert trip into a rich learning experience, as well as a fascinating family adventure.

DISCOVER THE DESERT: THE DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH. Written by Kathy Ceceri, Illustrated by Samuel Carbaugh, published by Nomad Press, 2009 (ISBN978-1-9346704-6-0, $16,95, ages 8 and up). The author has also created a Crafts for Learning website, which features many activities and topis for kids who like History, Math, Art, Science. Check it out - there are a lot of rich resources here.


Posted by: Liz Nealon

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

July 9, 2010

Today we’re adding another entry to our "Summer Vacation Science" series. This one is adapted from an early book of Seymour’s called SCIENCE PROJECTS IN ECOLOGY. It is long out of print, but it is full of exciting opportunities that you can do with your kids during the summer, when you want to keep them engaged in learning and exploration.



A rotting log is far from being dead. Even after a tree dies and falls to the ground, it is host to a large community of living things. What kinds of things you’ll find depends upon what kind of tree it was, how long the log has been rotting, its location, and the time of year.



Materials You Will Need:

-       A pencil and notebook

-       A small shovel or trowel

-       Small plastic bags

-       Several wide-mouthed jars or an aquarium tank

-       Fine screening to cover the jars or tank

-       Vaseline petroleum jelly


What to Do:

Find a rotting log and look it over carefully. If it is hollow, look inside. Poke a stick and see if anything comes out. Small mammals often make homes inside these logs. You may find some larger animals such as mice, chipmunks, a rabbit, or perhaps a snake. Snakes like to hunt for food in logs because of all the living things there. Most snakes are very shy - they’ll hurry away as soon as you see them. But be careful. Even though the vast majority of snakes are not poisonous, many kinds will bite if cornered or handled.

Look on the outside of the log for plants growing there. You’ll often find different kinds of fungi and mosses. You may also find small seedlings of trees and wild flowers growing in decaying spots along the log.

Do you see any insects on the outside of the log? If you strip away a piece of loose bark, you’ll see that most insects live inside. Look for dusky salamanders, small frogs, or toads. You’ll probably see ants, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, land snails, spiders, sow bugs, and beetles of all kinds.

Use your shovel to dig into the rotting wood of the log. You’ll probably find passageways and tunnels of all kinds, some still in use, some left over from previous tenants. Examine the different degrees of rotting. Some parts may crumble away at a touch, while other parts will still be firm. As you dig down, you’ll come to the part of the log that is changing into soil. Here you’ll surely find earthworms, mites and springtails.

Look around you. Do different kinds of trees provide habitats for different creatures? Do logs that receive sunlight seem different from those that do not? Can you tell which ones have been dead for a long time and which ones recently fell? Be sure that you don’t take apart all the logs in one area - remember that these are homes for living things.

Take notes on all that you find and what you observe.

Questions to ask and things to try:

You can observe a rotting log community (and the living things that make their homes in this habitat) in your own home. Break off two or three chunks of the log with your...

read more

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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

July 7, 2010


We have a new post today from our 10-year-old environmental reporter, Alana G, who took advantage of the July 4th holiday celebration to bring her message to her community. What an inspiration she is!

—- Seymour

Hello fellow Shipmates,

            I hope that everyone had a wonderful 4th of July holiday. I definitely did. My friends and I from my "KIDS TODAY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW" group attended an old fashioned 4th of July picnic in the Southern California city that we live in. There was all kinds of really cool stuff for us to do there. We got to play all day long, but the coolest thing we did was to create an environmental theme for the decorated wagon parade.

           My friends and I had a great time decorating our little wagon on Saturday.  We were very proud of our finished wagon. We tried to use as many recycled materials as possible, even the wagon we bought had been made from recycled materials. Anything that we used that was not made from recycled materials will not be wasted. We are going to do the next best thing….Re-use! And we are saving the decorations so we can use them next year. grin Anytime that you recycle or reuse products you help to reduce your carbon footprint, which is an awesome thing to do.

            My friends even decorated their scooters and bicycles to follow alongside our wagon. We received many very nice compliments and smiles as we walked by and even got a thumbs up. That made my day.  grin While we were there we ran into our city councilwoman, Gwenn Norton-Perry, who was so happy about all of the wonderful things we have been doing to help save our planet (that’s her in the photo on the right). She was amazed by how much our group has already accomplished in such a short amount of time. As she congratulated us on a job well done…I felt my cheeks turn red. Well…I guess it was more like a rosy pink. LOL. My friends were so excited and very proud to have met a city councilperson. We kept walking around with our wagon and passed out flyers for KT4BT. We have even teamed up with a local Cub Scout troop that has asked if they join us on our next...

read more

Posted by: Alana G

Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Environment   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 26, 2010

I used Google’s Sky Map app on my Droid last night for the first time. Wow! They describe this app as "the universe in your pocket," and they’re not kidding. All you do is point your phone at the sky, and it shows you what you are looking at (this is how I proved to Seymour that I was indeed looking at Mars throught the binoculars, he he). You can choose different layers (see only planets, see only constellations, etc), or you can just see them all at once.

I haven’t had much experience with Astronomy - just an amateur love of the night sky. Last night, with Google Sky Map I was able to easily find Polaris (the North Star) and for the first time I learned about 1st magnitude stars like Vega and Arkturis (the fourth brightest star in the night sky), and knew what they were.

It is a wonderful app, intuitive and easy to use (I didn’t read any instructions, just turned it on and started using it). I can’t even describe how exciting it is to be looking at a disk that you are pretty sure is a planet, turning the Google Sky Map on it and having Saturn with its rings pop up on the screen. What fun!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, Summer Vacation Science, Saturn, Sky Watching, Google Sky Map   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 24, 2010

After a recent visit to the world-renowned St. Louis Zoo (one of the top conservation and research zoological facilities in this country), I chatted with my friend, Dr. E. Wendy Saul, an expert science educator, about how parents can help their kids get the most out of a visit to the zoo.

Her answer surprised me. I thought that she was going to suggest that parents take the time to read all the information that is posted near the animal habitats, discuss aloud what they are reading, etc.

In fact, Wendy enthusiastically said, "Oh, one of my favorite things to do is have a ‘theme day’ at the zoo. One day, just go and look at ears. Talk about all the different ears you see, why you think the animal has those ears, how well you think they hear, etc."

What a great idea! Enjoy not only the animals but also the game, and get kids thinking, talking and speculating aloud.

I must say for the record that I still love taking my time and reading all the information that is posted. 

 Do you know why hippopotamuses have ears and eyes that sit high on their heads? That is so they can be mostly underwater and still hear what is going on above water. And this wonderful creature’s jawbone also conducts soundwaves, so a hippo with his jaw submerged can hear sounds above and below the water at the same time!

Visit a zoo with your family this summer, and take advantage of all the different ways to talk about animals, conservation, protecting habitats, and even EARS!


Posted by: Liz Nealon

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

June 23, 2010

What a day! I had an amazing time on the farm today and man am I tired. Today we studied all about Botany, which is the science of plants. We even got to dissect a flower today so that we can study its inside parts. You’re probably thinking "Dissect a plant?? Why, if there is nothing to see?" Some of you are thinking that it’s weird but a plant actually has many interesting parts inside that form the plant’s structure. Do you know why plants turn green? If not, I’ll tell you. Plants turn green because they are filled with Chlorophyll which makes them green.[1] Cool huh? We also got to harvest vegetables from the farm’s garden. We picked a ton of green beans for a B.B.Q. dinner that they are having for us tomorrow. Yummy!!! I am getting hungry just thinking about it. We also got to plant Black-Eyed Peas, not to be confused with the group. LOL…although we did sing a few of their tunes as we worked. : ) It was fun getting dirty.



Well, tomorrow is the big day and I am sad to say our last day of the Science of Farming Camp. We get to dissect the cow eyeball and the sheep heart that I was telling you about yesterday ...Yukkk!! But I am sure it will be a lot of fun. Like I said, I will fill you in more when I write my report for you. Yep, I am writing a report just for you grin so I can share all the wonderful stories and information I have learnt at camp with you. If you want to hear more about it, please make sure to check back in and read my blog. smile Oh and one more thing…don’t believe the hype…Farming IS COOL!!! Thanks for reading my blog, Fellow Shipmates!

Alana G

"Science Rules"

[1] Note from Seymour: Alana is right; chlorophyll does make plants look green. Not only does it make plants green, but chlorophyll is important for life on Earth, even for us non-green types, like you and me. Chlorophyll is a substance that plants use to make carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight. That’s called photosynthesis. Plants use photosynthesis to make the food they need and animals eat plants (or eat other animals that eat plants). So that stuff that turns plants green is the same stuff upon which life on Earth depends.




Posted by: Alana G

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

June 22, 2010

Hey fellow Shipmates!

    We just got home from our first day on the farm. It was Day 1 of 3 for the Science of Farming camp and we were farm scientists today! I wish you could have been there. We got to learn about the physics of farming and about simple machines. It was really cool. I also got to milk a cow and play with the animals. Tomorrow we will learn about Organic & Sustainable farming. Yay!! We are sooo tired. My mom says she is way out of shape. LOL. Plus, tomorrow we are going to get really dirty. I can’t wait. Oh and guess what… on Wednesday we are going to dissect a cow eye and a sheep’s heart. Yukkk! I am only going to do it for the love of science.

     I will write a full report when we finish our farming camp. I just couldn’t wait to tell you all about our exciting first day. Thanks for reading my blog.


Alana G

"Science Rules"


Posted by: Alana G

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

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