It has been a weird spring as far as
weather goes. We had a hot spell resembling summer, then a week full
of frost warnings, and dry, drought-like soil conditions, finally
we've had hot humid weather with some wild thunderstorms. My veggie
starts are grown and ready to go in the ground, and I think they will
finally get there this weekend. Although in some ways I have
procrastinated, with frost warnings, dry weather and downpours it has
been easier to keep the young plants safe and watered inside or in
the cold frame.
You might be experiencing dry conditions this spring too. For a few tips on successful gardening
during drought, check out this recent post from Renee's Garden.
I use a lot of Renee's Garden seeds to grow my flowers and
vegetables, I've included many of my favorites from Renee's in my post
Grow a Themed Flower Garden with Your Children. If you missed it, you might want to check it out!
Last weekend we cleared and loosened
the garden soil and flipped the compost in the compost bin to prep
the garden. We've done the preparation, now we just need to get those
plants in! Do you compost? We are lucky that we have the space and
live in an area where we can compost just about all of our food
waste in an outdoor bin. I am not afraid to admit that I love
composting. There is something magical about how quickly nature
recycles itself. We compost food scraps, mulch yard waste and even
have a worm compost bin in our basement. (Yes, I have worms in my
basement!) Stay tuned for future blog posts where we investigate
Not too many new flowers blooming this
week, but plenty of buds. Look forward to glimpses of the veggie
garden and some new blooms next week! It's your job to hold me
accountable- no more procrastination!
Today we are celebrating my 100th post
on Share it! Science News. This blog has come a long way since that first post
on the discovery of the dinosaur Dreadnoughtus! Thanks for reading and making this possible!
I thought it would be fun to celebrate
100 by taking a look at other "100s" in science!
100 years ago this year, Albert
Einstein published his theory of general relativity.
or just "relativity"
as it has come to be known in the physics world states: "that
all motion must be defined relative to a frame of reference and that
space and time are relative rather than absolute concepts". The
original general theory deals with gravity, and the second part of
the theory, special relativity (that would come later) deals with
uniform motion. Recently, the Hubble telescope took some images that
provide evidence for Einstein's theory, a nice 100th anniversary
present I'd say!
Another anniversary, maybe less famous, yet still
influential to science, takes place this year. Pyrex
glassware is 100 years old! In 1915 Corning Incorporated introduced a
line of borosilicate glassware for use in laboratories. This
glassware was low-thermal-expansion, meaning it could handle
temperature changes without cracking. This glassware also had many
uses in the kitchen and is still used in kitchens and labs today. Now
Pyrex sold in the United States is made of tempered glass, but in other parts
of the world it is still made of the more expensive borosilicate. I use this glassware at school and at home! You can enter to win some kitchenware at their 100th
In fact, 1915 was a significant year
for science in lots of ways. Just to name a few:
Pluto was photographed for the first
Proxima Centauri, our closest star
besides the Sun was discovered.
The theory of Pangea was published.
The term "fight or flight"
was coined to describe animals response to threats.
The National Advisory Committee for
Aeronautics (the precursor to NASA) was established in the United
I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend and that in addition to the unofficial start of summer you've taken a moment to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day!
As the summer has unofficially started, have you given any more thought to what the kids will do over vacation? If you are still looking for ideas, check out my post on how to keep kids busy in fun and educational ways throughout the summer months:"Over 13 Ideas to Keep Kids Engaged in Science All Summer Long".Stay tuned to Share it! Science throughout the summer for activities that can easily be completed at home. Let's beat the summer slide and keep those little brains active!
A couple of weeks ago I was very excited to see the red trillium blooming in the forest along our road. These are beautiful flowers with a fascinating life cycle. In many areas they have protected status because they are rare. You'll recognize them by their pointed petals and leaves in sets of three- the reason for "tri-" in the name trillium.
There are several different types of trillium, but those we have growing along our road are red trillium, Trillium erectum. The reason these flowers are so rare is that they only grow their above-ground parts: leaves, stems and flowers, during the springtime. The remainder of the year only the underground root, in this case a rhizome, remains. This means the plant can only go through photosynthesis, the process in which is makes its food, during this short window of time. If you pick the flower it cannot make food to produce a flower the following year, and therefore will die.
Ants help the trillium flower to spread their seeds. The ants are attracted to the fruit left behind when the beautiful flower wilts. The ants bring the fruit to their colony to eat, but then throw the seed portion "away" in their "trash" pile. The ants are helpful to the flower by planting their seeds for them!
In my opinion, the trillium flower is one that you should enjoy where it is growing, rather than picking. You can check to see the threatened and endangered status of plants in your area through the USDA's Threatened and Endangered Plants Database.
If you interested in learning how to identify wildflowers, you might want to check out the field guides below. (affiliate links)
Each year I buy a bag of onion sets
from our local farmer's co-op. As I am getting ready to get them in
the ground, I got to wondering- why do we call them onion sets? What
is the difference between a set and a seedling?
An onion set is one onion, not the
entire bunch, like a set of dishes. Many onion sets are grown near
Chicago, a place Native Americans named "Shikako", or
"skunk place" after the smell of wild garlic, onions and
Although you can grow onions from seed,
they have long growing seasons, so it is not the easiest way to do it
for a small scale gardener like me. The onion sets are grown from
seed, planted very thickly so that they must compete for resources.
The added competition stunts the growth of the onions and the bulbs
These small onions are harvested late
in the summer and thoroughly dried so that they will not rot in
storage. They are stored until the late winter/early spring when you
can start to buy them in your local gardening store.
The difference between a seedling and a set is a seedling is an onion sprout that is grown directly from seed, and a set is a small onion that has been grown and harvested the season before.
Learn about a fascinating video series from the American Museum of Natural History, then find out how to win some tickets to visit the museum in New York City! Details below.
Do you collect things? I have always
been a collector of natural history- nests, feathers, insect
exoskeletons, rocks, seeds, etc. Each specimen allows for a closer
look at an organism, a deeper understanding. Perhaps my affinity for
natural items is what has encouraged my students to bring me all
sorts of treasures throughout the years from animal skulls to fungus
If it weren't for collectors, science
would come to a screeching halt. Historical collections and modern
data can help us better understand the world. A collection of over 33
million artifacts and specimens is the focus of Shelf Life,an
incredible video series by the American Museum of Natural History
Life is a free, monthly video resource that tells the stories of
different organisms and collections at the AMNH.
Any natural history
museum has many more artifacts than they could ever possibly display,
however, the public rarely gets a peek into these incredible
archives. Shelf Life
provides this opportunity.
Each video is under
7 minutes and is chock full of the stories of scientists from a
diverse array of fields of study. These are brief, yet informative
narratives on how curators and researchers work together to preserve
collections in modern ways and use old specimens to inform current
Shelf Lifeis not only enjoyable for anyone interested in science, but has many
applications in the classroom. Each video is accompanied by
additional information on the AMNH website. The short length allows
these video clips to be a great launching point for an upper middle
school, high school or even a college science lesson.
Here are some
questions or topics that could go hand in hand with the great content
in these videos:
You've collected it- now what? What a great launching point for
discussion on the importance of making sense of the data you've
collected when completing a lab or investigation.
careers in science: How many different fields of science are
represented in these videos? What are the different jobs that each of
these projects requires? Use these incredible researchers and wide
array of topics to spark an interest in science careers in your
organization: Why do we organize and categorize different organisms,
rocks, stars? How do we organize it all? Why is this important in
communicating science with each other and moving research forward?
Precursor to a
field trip: Before you visit your local natural history museum, how
can these videos give your students insight into what is on display,
its importance and the work behind its preservation?
do we preserve specimens? How is new technology helping us to do so?
A launching point:
Each episode of shelf-life is a launching point for hundreds of
different questions. What direction will your students lead you?
I dare you not to
learn something new while watching this episode on Foraminifera!
Right now you might be saying, "foramin-wha?" but I
promise, 7 minutes from now, you'll be in love with them too.
Your Own Natural History Museum! Perhaps after watching Shelf
Life you'll be inspired to build
your own collection. This activity is fun for all ages. Do you have a
shelf in your home or classroom that can turn into a miniature
Preschoolers through adults can enjoy this type of activity,
whether it is collecting acorns or lichen, photos of plants or
hand-written star observations. Be sure to provide field guides or
other resources for students to use to identify and learn about what
they are collecting. Leave a log book where students can catalog
their specimen and write down further questions and wonderings about
The American Museum of Natural
History wants you to come and visit! They have sponsored our May
giveaway- 4 tickets to the AMNH in New York City! One winner will
receive 4 tickets to the museum. There are many easy ways to enter
this giveaway, just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget
below to learn how. This giveaway runs from Friday May 15th, 2015 until
midnight Thursday May 21st, 2015 (EST).
Please note, this post was not
sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. All opinions are
those of the author.
I'm getting ready to plant some
potatoes. I have a mix of an all red variety and some white potatoes.
I cut the bigger seed potatoes into chunks and waited a few days for
the exposed parts to callus over.
We tried growing them in the ground the first year we
had a garden, but found the trash can technique worked better for us,
and with limited sunny space on our property it fit better into my
plans to expand our garden through container gardening.
Joostensz Laerle (attributed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
H.E. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
extinct and endangered species is a great way to integrate history,
social studies and science. When you hear the word extinct, visions
of giant dinosaurs probably pop into your head. But the thunder
lizards are certainly not the only creatures that cease to roam the
Earth. In most cases we are left to wonder and hypothesize about
these plants and animals based on the fossils and remnants left
behind, but for more recent extinctions we sometimes come across
historical accounts that can fill in the gaps in our knowledge.
Mauritius is an island nation off the
southeastern coast of Africa and was the home of the infamous dodo
bird. Not far from Madagascar, Mauritius is also known for its
interesting array of flora and fauna. Throughout history Mauritius
has been visited and settled by a wide array of peoples, its location
making it an important part of trade routes, once known as the "star
and key" to the Indian Ocean.
and later, settlers, came to the island they found the large,
flightless dodo an easy and hearty (sometimes up to 50 lbs!) food
source. European settlers brought other species like rats and pigs
that enjoyed eating dodo eggs. Before long, this descendent of the
pigeon was completely wiped out. Turns out the dodo wasn't the only
strange new species settlers came across on Mauritius Island.
Although we have
many historical accounts of the interesting animals on Mauritius
Island, few of them are very descriptive beyond how easy the creature
was to catch and whether or not it was good to eat. A document has
been discovered in the Netherlands National Archive in The Hague that
sheds more light on the natural history of the creatures settlers
discovered on the island.
In 1666 a Dutch
soldier named Johannes Pretorius was sent to the island to check on a
Dutch East India Company settlement that had not been heard from. He
found the settlement alive and well and for a time took on the role
of "comforter of the sick", historically a highly regarded
position. Several years later Pretorius penned his report on the
wildlife of the island while he was aboard a ship to another
settlement in Cape Peninsula, South Africa. It is unknown why he
wrote this report, but the style of it indicates he was tasked with
reviewing the feasibility of Mauritius being a long-term settlement.
The raven parrot. By Joris
Joostensz Laerle (attributed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
covers all sorts of animals, but the ones that have been most
interesting to scientists piecing together this natural history are
those of several other peculiar birds that are now extinct. One was
the flightless, ill-tempered raven parrot. Pretorius's account
indicates that this particular bird was physiologically able to fly,
but did not exhibit flying behavior. The parrot would not eat in
captivity and in general was a force to be reckoned with. Pretorius's
descriptions of the bird lead us to rethink our previous
understanding of its coloration, rather than just having a dull body
with a blue head and reddish beak, it is now thought that it was a
very colorful, mostly red bird.
other birds described was the red rail, which is often confused with
the dodo in historical accounts. This was another flightless bird
that was noted as being unintelligent, and did not survive long once
humans and other introduced species entered the scene. The extinct
Mauritius blue pigeon has been depicted in modern illustrations as a
bird with a smooth beak, which always puzzled modern scientists.
According to Pretorius, the blue pigeon had a warty face much like
all it's other relatives!
For me, the
most compelling aspect of finding this document from a teaching
standpoint is how writing accurate observations can more easily and
accurately inform other scientists. Teaching communication and
detail-oriented note-taking is so important in science lessons. If
everyone made their discoveries in a bubble without ever sharing the
details we would never get anywhere. So, whether the record-keeping
was happening in 1669 on a ship off the coast of Africa, or a science
classroom in 2015, writing notes and making observations that are
accurately communicated with others is of the utmost importance.
This Friday, May
15th is Endangered Species Day.
little planning and imagination the use of historical documents of
extinct animals could be an interesting science activity. How might
people have done things differently if they could have predicted the
future? How has society and our food system changed in that we no
longer depend on eating wild game? What measures are in place now to
prevent future animal and plant extinctions? There are so many
opportunities for integrating subjects to learn about our history
with the plants and animals that inhabit Earth. Check out the links
below for some ideas on using endangered species or extinct animals
as science topics.
Want to keep the kids busy with quality activities this summer? We've got you covered with these science themed ideas. From summer camps, to at-home activities, toys and more, this summer is sure to be educational and fun for your kids.
As a former teacher I understand 2 things very
well: 1. Students slide back academically over the summer months when
they are not getting consistent practice with fundamental skills in
reading, math and other subjects, including science. 2. Kids need
time to play and be kids. So how do we encourage learning AND play
during the summer months?
The page contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more information.
The Summer Slide
Here are some launching points for
avoiding the summer slide:
There are many options for keeping kids
occupied and educationally engaged over the summer, and they don't
all have to involve screens or electronics. Activities include camps,
at-home projects, classes, workshops, toys and trips. These obviously vary
with the time and budget you have set out for yourself for the summer
Science Summer Camps
There are more and more options for
science related summer programming for kids each year. Many colleges,
independent school campuses and community centers are offering themed
camps that combine academics and fun. Your local school or community
center most likely has a camp fair or other resources for finding
these programs. You can also seek them out online. Try these links to
help you find some science enrichment for your child at various age
levels and costs.
Camps can run into a lot of money, so
if they don't fit into your budget there are certainly ways to
provide enriching experiences right at home with your children. Check out these DIY at-home science camp ideas.
you are creative and have the time you can design your own science
activities for kids fairly inexpensively. Check out the Share it! Science Pinterest boards or our "Saturday Science Experiment" page
for a variety of ideas for at-home projects. If you don't already subscribe to our e-mail service, please do! You'll get an e-mail every time we publish a new post on the blog.
Here are a few other
links with inspiring science project ideas to get you started:
There are many award-winning
subscription services that will send your child an engaging box of
activities each month. Check out the following:
Green Kid Crafts offers award-winning,
earth-friendly activity boxes for ages 3-10. Their STEM (science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics) Science Kits guide kids
through scientific inquiry and experimentation in a fun, hands-on
way. Summer Discovery Series boxes contain 4-6 Creativity and STEM
Science Kits with extension activities, and online extras. Check out
the links below to learn more about Green Kid Crafts.
Groovy Lab in a Box sends
award-winning, hands-on STEM experiments for ages 8+ to your mailbox
monthly. Each box contains experiments and engineering design
challenges. Everything you need is included in the box, so no hunting
for specific supplies! They also offer bonus material online to
support the materials they send in the box.
Kiwi Crate provides boxes of hands-on
fun for a wide variety of ages. Each box includes 2-3 projects with the option to add-on extra supplies for
siblings. Their 4 different brands provide activities for
different ages: Koala Crate- "Play and Learn" for ages 3-4,
Kiwi Crate- "Open-Ended Learning" for ages 4-8, Tinker
Crate- "Science, Engineering and Awesome" for ages 9-14+,
and Doodle Crate- "Art and Design" for ages 9-16+. For more
information click the image below.
Toys that encourage children
to build, engineer and experiment
Practicing reading, writing and math skills are incredibly
important but the process of open ended inquiry helps to strengthen
important science skills.
If you have young builders, I can't
recommend Magna-Tiles enough. I have seen kids age 4-9 play with these
for hours on end in our afterschool program. They are durable and can
create impressive structures in endless designs. Click on the image for more details.
Snap Circuits are easy to use circuitry
building toys. Pieces snap together to build working models of a
photo-sensor, adjustable volume siren and 100 more activities.
Several of my students have used these for science projects and just
for fun. Suggested for ages 8 and up.
Goldieblox and Roominatesare building
toys geared towards young female creators. Both allow for multiple
designs to build and solve engineering challenges.
Check out these Share it! Science posts on how to get involved in great citizen science projects.
How can you incorporate learning into
your trips and summer vacation plans? It doesn't have to be hard.
Build your child's map skills by keeping track of where you are going
on a paper map they can trace. Play word games in the car that keep
kids reading signs as you travel. Keep those math skills sharp by
helping them budget their spending for souvenirs, or calculating
speed or mileage. Explore nature by hiking, biking or canoeing- and bring along a field guide to identify animals and plants. Visit a zoo, aquarium, museum, national park or
historical site and take advantage of the materials they offer for
education (often there are pre-visit materials right on their
website). The best thing you can do is to continue to learn yourself,
kids benefit so much from curious parents!
I hope that you have found some of
these ideas, links or products inspiring and within your budget and
time availability for this summer. Let's fight the summer slump! What
ideas and plans do you have to stimulate learning in your children
this year? Please share in the comments below!
Wouldn't it be really cool to discover
a new species? To heighten the thrill of discovery you also get to
choose its name. Awesome!
Most of you probably saw pictures in
the past two weeks of the newly discovered glass frog, Hyalinobatrachium
dianae, of Costa Rica. This
new discovery got more notice than usual due to the frog's striking
resemblance to one of our favorite Muppets- Kermit the Frog.
frogs were given their name due to the translucent skin of their
underside. This skin allows one to see the internal organs of the
frog from the outside. Several types of glass frogs live in Costa
Rica, however, the last time a new one was discovered there was in
1973. This new glass frog was named after the lead researcher's
sets one species apart from another? How are animals and plants
organized? Using a new discovery, particularly one
with so much kid-appeal, is a great launching point for lessons in
identifying characteristics, biological classification and taxonomy
across all age groups.
Childhood Education: Students can identify the different
characteristics of an animal to begin to sort and classify creatures
into groups. An easy approach would be to provide pictures or cards
with different animals on them. Have students find the animals with
wings or feathers, or have them count how many legs the animal has.
Sort the animals with similar characteristics into groups. Depending
on age and ability you could sort them in any way you choose- color,
size or more specific characteristics. Just be sure to choose images
where the characteristics are clear. For example identifying feathers
on a penguin could be difficult.
School: Given a set of animal characteristics have students create
their own creature. What makes a bird a bird? Feathers, wings, 2
legs, beaks, hollow bones, builds nests, cares for young, lays eggs,
has a backbone, etc. The students can now create a bird that fits these
characteristics. To extend the activity have the students explain
what habitat their bird needs, what it eats, how many eggs it lays,
etc. This activity has always been a big hit in my experience. It is
a good balance of creativity and reinforcement of science content.
Middle School: Have students create a
creature to teach them how to use a dichotomous key. A dichotomous
key is a tool for identification. To identify a plant or animal you
answer a series of 2 choice options until you have limited the
options to one choice.
#1 If the bird is larger than a
pigeon go to #2. If the bird is smaller than a pigeon go to #4.
#2 If the bird is brown and white go to
#5. If the bird is completely white go to #6.
Students can create their own examples
of creatures and their own dichotomous key. I have found that it is
easier if they begin with two similar yet slightly different new
creatures. This way they have something to compare when they are
making their key. Keys can be used as a class later on to identify
what the new mystery creatures are. This can be a great lead in to
using a dichotomous key to identify actual animals or plants.
High School: As a lesson in taxonomy,
or the classification of living things, have students create their
own creature. Give the parameters that it should be new and unique,
but within our realm of possibility. i.e. no unicorns that spit fire.
Students can then work to fit their creature into the existing
taxonomic ranks: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus,
Species. As they have created the animal, they will have the honor of
naming the species. In order to place their new species accurately,
they will have to study the different characteristics of the
groupings within the taxonomic ranks. If all students are creating an
animal, then the Kingdom for everyone will be Animalia. The
University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web is an excellent
resource for this type of activity.
Do you have a great animal classification activity? Comment below with your ideas!