Book Break

July 21, 2014

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Many of you know we are writing and photographing a book for Roost Books and we could not be more thrilled about the project. We have been very busy working on finishing up projects, writing up introductions, and throwing lots of cool nature science into the mix to inspire families to not only get outdoors, but to understand a bit more about what’s happening out there. And now here we are on the homestretch, with the manuscript deadline right around the corner.

We have decided to take a blog break this week to focus on book work. (It is insanely fun work, but work none-the-less.)

Next week we will be back with lots of great nature to share.

In the meantime, get out there and have a wonderful, nature-filled week of summer!

~ Dawn & Annie

 

P.S. You will still be able to find Dawn on Instagram (She is a bit addicted. Shhhh!)

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Nature Around the Net

July 19, 2014

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There are so many fun and informative things out there around the net. We curated a few to share with you here today.

- Summer bird migration. Oh, yes.

- Is our solar system weird? (The video in this post reads through the article.)

- Have a young herpetologist at your house? They should check out this site.

- “Salamanders Matter” video contest! (entries due July 31st!)

If you have found anything nature related you would like to share please leave a link in the comments.

You can even share link to your own blog. We would love to see what you have been learning and where you have been exploring.

Wishing you all a great weekend!

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There has been some chat in the Facebook group lately about the idea of getting a little more personal with the geological sciences. We couldn’t agree more (especially Dawn) and thought that as a bit of a beginning, we’d post this activity from the Alphabet Glue Summer Science Special that we collaborated on last summer. Read on to get instructions for making a great backyard volcano, made even more fantastic by the fact that it is built out of one of the ingredients that makes for an awesome explosion- baking soda!

Here goes:

There are entire generations of people out there who were introduced to the wonders of basic chemical reactions through the reliable science experiment/party trick that is the
baking soda and vinegar volcano. And, with good reason. From the planning stages to the final eruption, the process of constructing a volcano out of clay and then simulating lava flow with ingredients commonly found in the kitchen cupboard is a compelling one. Plus, it pretty much never fails to produce superbly entertaining results.

In an attempt to take this old favorite one step further, the volcano itself is getting a bit of a makeover here. The baking soda and vinegar combination already works so well when poured into the volcano that we thought it might be good fun to see what happens when the
volcano itself is made of some of the same stuff. So, the first part of this activity is
composed of mixing up a batch of baking soda based modeling clay which then becomes the building material for molding your mountain. The resulting eruption is made all that much better by the fact that you can add vinegar again and again, and still get a bit more action out of the volcano before declaring it dormant and moving on to your next project. 

what you will need:

- 2 cups + 3 Tbs. baking soda
- 1 cup cornstarch
- water
- white vinegar (at least 1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
- pot
- spoon
- a few drop of cooking oil
- a piece of cardboard (optional)
- a plate or pie tin
- paint (optional)
- food coloring (optional)

what you will do:

clay

Start by making the clay. Begin by pouring the water into a saucepan set over
medium heat on the stove. Whisk in the baking soda, and once it is smoothly
incorporated into the water, add the
cornstarch, continuing to whisk to avoid lumps. Using a spoon, continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens and resembles a soft clay.

Turn the clay out onto a lightly oiled plate, and allow it to cool.

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Once the clay is cool enough to touch, use it to form your volcano! The volcano can be any shape or height that you like. Just make sure to leave a deep well in the middle of the volcano for holding the ingredients for your chemical reaction later on.

Once you have shaped your volcano, allow the clay to dry overnight. At this point, you can move it to the piece of cardboard and paint or otherwise decorate it however you like.

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Now for the really exciting bit- it’s time to erupt the volcano!

To get this portion of the program going, pour about 1/4 cup water into a bowl or glass measuring cup. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of baking soda, the 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, and add any food coloring that you want to use. Place your volcano inside a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet.

Now, pour the baking soda solution into the well in the center of your volcano.

Measure out 1/4 of vinegar to begin with, and pour it into the well of the volcano as well. The result should be immediate “lava” flow in all directions!

As the lava begins to slow down, you should be able to get it going again by simply pouring additional vinegar into the well.

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What’s at work: When the baking soda and the vinegar are mixed together, a chemical reaction takes place. This reaction produces carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles that become the “lava” in the erupting volcano. The dish soap helps to provide extra foam and to strengthen the bubbles, making for an extra exciting volcano eruption experience!

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Spittlebug text

Although they are tiny, spittlebugs are easy to locate because of the trail of spittle they leave foaming up on plants in the garden and along meadow trails. Recently, we were out on a rainy day and found some of the spittle had washed away to reveal the tiny little nymphs hiding underneath. Quite a fun find!

Read on to find out a bit more about spittlebugs as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about them. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

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Some Interesting Things to Know About Spittlebugs:

- Spittlebugs are immature froghoppers.

- There are approximately 850 species worldwide and 23 species known in North America.

- The meadow froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) is one of the most common.

- Adults lay eggs on a host plant. These eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring.

- Nymphs create a frothy “spittle” that looks like spit by secreting water and air to make bubbles.

- The spittle protects the nymphs from predators.

- More than one nymph may be found in a batch of spittle.

- They go though incomplete metamorphosis, molting approximately 5 times before reaching adulthood.

Other Resources: 

- This is a neat video showing a nymph creating spittle.

Click here to download the spittlebug nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

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Hitting the Trail is a weekly feature here at Mud Puddles to Meteors. In each post we will share trails, parks, beaches, and museums from around the country (and sometimes even beyond). If you would like to join in and share a special nature location please send us an email at kidsandnature@gmail.com with the details listed at the bottom of the post and links to the photos. We would love to share your nature adventure!

……….

Rhossili Beach and South Gower Coast (Wales)

This week we are welcoming Lisa, who is sharing wonderful spot in Wales. Not only did Lisa and her family have the chance to take in some amazing views, but they also had some great close encounters with wonderful nature finds!

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Some interesting things to know:
Location: Rhossili Beach and South Gower Coast, Gower Peninsula, near Swansea, Wales
Habitat: Beach and lowland heath
Favorite Plant and Animal Life: We were delighted to find Six-Spot Burnet Moths and their pupal cases, crab moults, sea urchin tests and cuttle fish bones. Gulls and gannets circle overhead. The downs are home to the rare black bog ant, yellow whitlow grass and one of my favorite endangered birds, the chough.
Special Features: Although you might want to head straight for the unspoilt 3 mile beach, it’s work delaying the beach in favour of a hike. After a short but stiff climb, walk along the Rhossili Downs, the highest point on the Gower Peninsula rewards hikers with views of Welsh mountain ponies, the Devon coastline, Lundy Island and West Wales. Towards the end of the hike, experience a bit of World War II history by taking in the remains of a hill-side radar station. Once at the beach, at low tide you might see the remains of the Helvetia, shipwrecked in 1887. You can take a walk toward the tidal island of Worm’s Head and see if you can spot the local colony of grey seals and finish off with a locally-made scoop of ice cream in one of the small local shops.
Best time to visit: Rhossili can be very busy in the summer with busloads of tourists disembarking in the large car park. Escape the crowds by walking along the downs, visiting early in the morning or later in the evening or bringing your kite for a springtime or autumn adventure on the beach.

Thank you for sharing your amazing time along the shore, Lisa!

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Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

………

Another week of amazing photos that show summer in full swing! Enjoy!

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along the rails to trails by Siri

Montana

Planet Universe.

Planet Universe by Tom

Oregon

Polly's Cove

Polly’s Cove by Dawn

Nova Scotia, Canada

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resurrection pass by Joni

Alaska 

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other colors from above by ktLaurel

Quebec, Canada

 

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down by Meryl

Kansas 

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peaceful by Leanne

Saskatchewan, Canada 

Monarch

Monarch by Kim

California

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe by Ship Rock

British Columbia, Canada

Walking Up To  Meall Garbh - Glen Lyon

Walking Up To Meall Garbh by Katie

Scotland

 Thank you to our generous contributors.

Please head over to the group to see more amazing photos from this week.

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Nature Around the Net

July 12, 2014

Morning Calm

From buzzing bees to fun fungi, here are some links to kick off the weekend!

- The first of three summer supermoons will rise tonight!

- This is a neat look at how honey is made, and harvested at the industrial level.

- Have a young botanist in the house? They might like the information found in Smithsonian Educations: Botany & Art and Their Roles in Conservation.

- Lisa’s “mushrooms are cool” board is a fantastic feast of fungi!

If you have come across something interesting that you would like to share please leave a link in the comments. Thank you!

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Nature Defined.

July 11, 2014

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While our regular cameras still come along on hikes and for days at the beach, when it comes to recording nature finds the cameras found on our phones are quickly becoming the go-to way to capture and share the excitement. When we saw Debi’s post about the lens she purchased for her phone we knew that she was on to something. We asked around and found this amazing little rubber band with a macro lens for those close up shots we love.  A major drawback with the iPhone is the ability to focus up close. This little lens not only solves the problem but takes “up close” to a whole new level. It really is like carrying a  microscope right along with us as we head out to explore on our hikes and nature walks. And the ability to record those close encounters with the camera built right into the phone is amazing.

Here are a few examples with the standard iPhone photo on the left and the macro photo on the right:

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It has been fun to play around and get detailed shots of everyday things.

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Even the common clover becomes an intricate bouquet of mini flowers.

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Which has led to a whole new batch of questions about the way things work and how they are put together. Along with lots of calls to, “take a picture of this!”

A Few Tips:

- It takes a little practice and some patience, but the great thing about digital photos is that you can take as many as you like and simply delete the ones that don’t turn out.

- Start out as close to the subject as possible, then back away until it comes into focus.

- Keep your hand as steady as possible, leaning against something if possible.

- Use the phone like a microscope to look around at plants searching for bugs, galls, and other things you may not see with the naked eye.

- Taking video with the macro lens on is a great way to observe the behavior of creatures such as ants, that are difficult to see (and with their quick movements, hard to capture in a still shot).

- It is best to shoot on a calm day (it can be nearly impossible to get a good clear shot when it is windy).

 Ants

Other Resources:

- The Kids’ Guide to Digital Photography is a great beginning book that shares just enough information to inspire junior photographers.

- Click Click Click!: Photography for Children is a wonderful walk through the history of photography, with a section dedicated to master photographers (and lots of wonderful ideas to inspire the artistic side of even the youngest photographer.)

- Grumbles & Grunts best tips, tricks, and apps for taking better pictures with your phone.

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We are excited to add this new element of photography to our nature study and our ability to share what we have been seeing on our treks. There has been a lot of sharing going on over on the Mud Puddles to Meteors Facebook group and we would be so happy if you would join in and share what you have been spotting out there in the wild woods, or right in your own backyard. You can also tag Instagram and Twitter photos with the #mudtometeors tag so we can find your nature spots there.

 

For some inspiration to get some of your photos into your nature journal we made up a fun printable to help focus in on what you are seeing out there.

- Click here to download a printable sheet with space for pasting printed photos of both regular and macro observations. A great addition to any nature journal!

 

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 crab molt sequence Text 2

Creatures with exoskeletons must molt, or crawl out of their own skeleton, to grow and develop certain features as they develop. Other creatures molt, or shed, skin, hair or feathers as part of a cycle. The molted skeletons, skins, and other bits these creatures leave behind provide a great opportunity to learn more about them and they way their bodies work. From crustaceans at the beach to arachnids in the backyard, molts can be found all around.

Read on to find out a bit more about molting as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about them. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

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Some Interesting Things to Know About Molting

-Many different creatures molt, a term used to describe shedding of the skin, hair, feathers, or an entire exoskeleton.

- Creatures such as crabs, dragonflies, and spiders shed their entire exoskeleton, an action called ecdysis.

- As part of the process of ecdysis, secretions help to separate the exoskeleton from the creature itself while a new layer is formed.

- The creature, after a period of inactivity, extracts itself from the old exoskeleton.  They are soft and vulnerable for a period of time while their new exoskeleton hardens.

- While widely seen as a mechanism for growth, molting also helps creatures develop new advanced features, such as eyes, as well.

- The number of molts between birth and full adulthood can vary anywhere between 3 – 15 (or more depending on the creature!).

- In insects the stages between molts are known either as instars (as with caterpillars) or nymphs (as with dragonflies).

- Birds molt to replace old feathers. They do this one to three times a year, usually after breeding season is over.

Click here to download the molting nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

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