Explore: Heat Absorption

January 23, 2015

While investigating heat absorption seems like something one would do in summer, when explaining those hot seats in the car or why one would be better off wearing a light colored shirt on a hot day, there are opportunities to explore the concept in winter as well.

Heat absorption text

The other day while out on our very icy walk we noticed lots of leaves under the ice and a few that had seemingly “broken though” and were sitting on top of the icy trail. With further investigation the kids noticed that the ice under the leaves had melted and when they pulled up the leaves a leaf outline remained. It was naturally a great time to revisit the concept of heat absorption. We talked about darker objects absorbing the heat of the sun while lighter objects reflect the heat and light (the fact that the sun was out, and was almost blinding when it reflected off the icy on trail, helped demonstrate that very point).


We have talked about this concept in the past and what we learned in our previous experiment with heat absorption quickly came back them.

That, of course, did nothing to diminish the fun of pulling up leaves to check out the variety of outlines they left behind.

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Heat Aborption 2-1

The kids thought this one looked like a dinosaur track.

You can explore heat absorption even if you don’t live in a place covered in icy trails. We did a very simple heat absorption experiment last winter that will work in any environment.

Have you seen any examples of heat absorption at work in your winter world?




animal book

As some of you might already have noticed, the “all creatures, great and small” way of looking at things is popular around these parts. The general enthusiasm for animals of all varieties is a formidable force among our collective crew of kiddos, and as such, books on the subject tend to pile up on our dining room tables and bookshelves pretty regularly.

A new favorite is The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins. Lovers of children’s literature are likely to be acquainted with Jenkins already. Those who don’t think they are, might be surprised to find that actually, they instantly recognize his unique style of illustration upon seeing it. Jenkins’ illustrations are well known for being colorful and detailed; realistic, but still very clearly illustrations that have no desire to pretend to be photographs.

Fans of Jenkins will be delighted to know that The Animal Book is a larger and more comprehensive study of animal life than many of his shorter and more narrowly focused books. It reads almost like an animal encyclopedia, with animals grouped and classified according to their most unusual and interesting features. The book also boasts a super fun fact section at the back, as well as a feature on how Jenkins undergoes the process of researching, writing, and illustrating a book.

One of the things that is especially great about The Animal Book is that it is such a good browsing book. Jenkins’ pictures lend themselves so well to being appreciated as works of art, and having the option to flip around looking at his renderings of different animals and insects, picking up a few facts along the way, is perfect. Knowing how much I like Jenkins’ illustrative style, as well as a good animal encyclopedia, I literally gasped out loud when I saw this book on the shelf at the store.

It hasn’t disappointed.


Geode text

Like many kids, our kids are big rock hounds. They love to collect them and we often find pockets full of them on laundry day. Geodes are some of the most fascinating and mysterious rocks out there. They are always greeted with curious anticipation, and the kids can hardly wait to get home to crack them open and reveal the treasure within.

Read on to find out a bit more about geodes 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, interactive notebook, or lap book.

geodes 1-1 Geode 12-1 Geode 12 inside-1 Geode 15 Split 1-1 Geode 17 2-1 Geode 18 Crystals-1

 Some Things to Know about Geodes: 

- Geodes are round hollow formations with minerals inside.

- They can occur in both igneous and sedimentary rocks.

- In volcanic rock they can be formed when hydrothermal fluids slowly leave minerals in gas bubbles.

- When they form in sedimentary rock, round formations within the rock are essentially replaced and filled with minerals from water and other fluids.

- Clear quartz is the most common crystal in geodes.

- Color variations within geodes are due to the type of minerals and impurities present.

Crystal Cave in Ohio is the largest known geode.

Creating your own egg-shell geodes is a super fun way to explore the world of geodes (and a great activity for winter days!)

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

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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). 


If you follow Dawn on Instagram you know she has been captivated with ice lately. When these stunning images were shared by Corrie in the Flickr group we knew you needed to see them! They are otherworldly but show the amazing beauty of winter right here on Earth, in the beautiful province of Ontario.

Ice Sculpture 4

Ice Sculpture 2

There are a few more of Corrie’s icy images over on the Flickr group. Click here and scroll down through some of the other wonderful contributions to check them out.


A Note About Contributing to Nature In Your Neighborhood:

Did you find a bug on the sidewalk and look it up in a guide book? Have you seen a mama or papa bird feeding babies? Are you seeing the seasons begin to change in your neighbourhood? Did you see some neat clouds and call out shapes? Did you make a habitat to observe insects? What questions did your kids ask when you found something out on your nature walk?

We would love to hear more about your experience!

If you would like to contribute please either add a photo or two with a short description to the Flickr group, post it to the Facebook Group, or shoot us an email with your photo(s) and a few sentences about your experience at: kidsandnature (at) gmail (dot) com. (Please also include your location (your state or country is fine).

We would also love to highlight photos and descriptions from young naturalist out there. If your child would like to contribute a photo of what they found, and tell us a little about it, please encourage them to do so and we will spotlight them in a “Young Naturalist” post. (Don’t worry so much about photo quality. We would love to share their work!)

We are looking forward to sharing your nature finds and continuing to encourage families to look high and low for nature all around.


Nature Around the Net

January 10, 2015


Hey, There! We took a bit of a break to recharge ourselves for the new year and take care of things like holidays, family vacations, and jumping back into the routines of daily life. We also took care of some exciting book details while we were away from this space. It is thrilling to see it start to take shape and get things like “author questionnaires” from our editor as we move closer and closer to publication! So exciting!

Lets get started again with a bit of sharing.

We had plenty of time to find some super neat nature inspiration over the last few weeks. Here are a few links we thought you might like.

- Five Reasons Why I Let My Kids Play Outside in (Almost) Any Weather. Love this!

- Frogs That Freeze Solid.

This is a great piece about animal adaptations to cold weather. (Check out the “For Listening” section at the bottom. There are some great talks for cozy winter days inside.)

- 2015: Year of the Nature-Rich City?

- For those of you in need of a little nature color in the dark days of winter, check out the Project Noah gallery.


Have you found any fun nature inspired links lately? Please share in the comments! We would love to check them out.


P.S. We are putting together a fun winter inspired mid-January newsletter that will go out this week. Be sure to sign up using the box in the sidebar so you won’t miss it!



On the Shelf: The Night Tree

December 19, 2014

carrot feeder 4

Around the world, many families will be celebrating the holidays of the season this week and next. In light of all the festivities, we thought that we would bring you a post about a favorite book of ours, one that is perfect for encouraging everyone to get into the spirit of giving and sharing during this special time of year.  Read on to find a short review of The Night Tree by Eve Bunting. And, since the review originally appeared in an issue of Alphabet Glue, it is (of course!) also accompanied by a fun project to take the story off the page and bring it to life in your backyard or local woods.



I am not always the most vocal enthusiast when it comes to holiday-themed literature. Indeed, although we have a few holiday specific titles occupying space on our shelves, it doesn’t tend to be a genre that our family seeks out. It is hard to say exactly why this is, but I suspect that it has something to do with the desire to read and enjoy a book on a year-round basis, something that feels a little bit odd when a book fits too neatly into a holiday package. That being said, The Night Tree by author Eve Bunting, with illustrations by Ted Rand, is one of my favorite books for children. Although the argument for it being a holiday specific book is strong, I think that it is equally well-enjoyed as a more general purpose winter book and quite a good one at that. The Night Tree is the story of a family making their annual trip into the woods, and from the beginning of the book the natural assumption of the reader is that the family is going to choose a Christmas tree there. But there is more to the story than that, and the reader is soon privy to the fact that the family hasn’t gone into the woods to cut a tree down: they’ve gone into the woods to decorate a tree with food as a gift for the forest animals in winter.

Although The Night Tree is about the celebration of Christmas for the family in the book, I think that even families who do not celebrate Christmas will appreciate the fact that at the heart of this narrative is a story about building traditions around generosity, thoughtfulness and the care of others. It is a story about creating unique family traditions that become a part of who you are together. Our own family background includes a remarkable mish-mash of cultural and religious traditions and as a result, The Night Trees emphasis on the joy and feeling of togetherness that comes from the creation of family traditions that are all your own truly speaks to my heart.

This simple project was inspired by our reading of The Night Tree, as well as by another winter favorite, The Stranger in the Woods. In both books, people leave surprises for their forest friends to discover and enjoy. And although it is true that the events in The Night Tree take place during December, I don’t think that any backyard bird would object to being offered one of these tasty treats just because the calendar page has been turned to January or beyond.

The project:


- medium to large carrot

- peanut butter

- birdseed

- needle and string

- tool for making a hole in the carrot

carrot feeder 1

Begin by making a hole all the way through the carrot about a half inch from the top.


carrot feeder 2

Using a strong, large needle (like an embroidery or darning needle), pull a piece of string through the carrot and tie a knot with the two ends of the string, making a large loop for hanging.


carrot feeder 3

Roll the carrot in peanut butter (or smear it on using a spoon) and once it is well coated, roll the carrot in birdseed until the entire surface is completely covered with seed.

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Now the feeder is ready to hang. You can either hike out into the woods and find a tree there to decorated with your surprise for the animals, or you can find a spot to hang it in your own yard where you can watch it get eaten up through your very own windows.  Make a whole batch and hang them in different locations for the birds to find.

Our backyard birds made their discovery of the surprise treat we made them within about five minutes of us hanging it up!


Feather-1 Text

Finding a feather in the yard or on the grassy lawn of a local park always feels a little bit like discovering a treasure left behind especially for you. This is particularly true if you are lucky enough to find a feather in good condition, or one that is very colorful or unique. Feathers are one of a birds most remarkable features, and taking a closer look at feathers is a great way to get young naturalists thinking about animal adaptations and just why it is that birds have feathers of the sorts that they do.

Read on to find out a bit more about feathers 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, interactive notebook, or lap book.

Feather Drops-1 copy Feather White 1 copyfeathers copy Hike 22 Feather Kill-1 copy

Some Things to Know About Feathers

- Birds are the only animals with feathers.

- Feathers help birds in many ways. They help them stay warm, fly, and make themselves colorful or camouflaged so that they can blend in with their habitat.

- Birds have thousands of feathers.

- There are many types of feathers and each type has its own job:

Down feathers are small and fluffy. They help to keep the bird warm.

Contour feathers are longer than down feathers. They cover the bird’s body and keep the bird warm and waterproof.

Flight feathers are found on the wings and tail. Flight feathers are long and ridged. They help the bird fly.

- Flight feathers are flexible and have the ability to twist in response to wind currents.

- Birds can change the color of their feathers (often this is done during mating season) by either molting and growing new ones, or by rubbing the feathers in such as way that the pigment in them begins to wear and lighten.

Look at the photos above and see if you can guess which type of feather each one is.

Feathers make amazing solar prints and the project is a great way to learn more about feathers and how they are designed. Click on over to our feather solar print project to learn more.

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


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Today we are welcoming Paul, an Environmental Biologist who currently works in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the blog. Paul was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about what he does and how he came to be an Environmental Biologist. He has had the chance to work in some amazingly diverse habitats, doing a wide variety of studies. Read on to learn more about his work and some of his fantastic experiences out in the field.


Could you give us a brief description of your job and the type of work you preform most often?

I am an Environmental Biologist and Project Manager focusing on environmental impact assessments related to new development and construction projects. Much of this work entails fish and wildlife surveys, wetland delineation and characterization, restoration of ecosystems, natural heritage and resource management planning, and species at risk studies. I provide advice to clients on how to develop their projects in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive manner, following all required government regulations.

What inspired you to work in an environmental field?

 My love of nature, along with my desire to have career that helped protect the environment, make a positive difference, and allow me to work outdoors at times.

1233402_10151540853276364_924330983_nBird nest identification and protection work for pipeline project in southwestern Quebec

 What type of educational background is necessary to work in your field?

Wide range of educational paths, but the most important skill sets and training include: biology, chemistry, natural sciences, and public policy. There are in increasing number of college and university programs being offered today that aim to combine these skills sets and apply them to environment-related issues.

Can you tell us about the most amazing, or crazy, nature moment you have had on the job?

In 2012, I spent a week in rural Newfoundland conducting owl and nocturnal species studies at a remote satellite and radar station owned by the federal government. Guided only by flashlight, a GPS unit, and our hearing (which was significantly compromised by frog calls), we traversed the study area and identified animal species in huge open bogs, wetlands and dense forests in rubber boots and rain suits. At dawn one morning, while silently sitting down and taking a break at the edge of a forest, a large female moose appeared within 6-7 metres of us, stared at us for approximately 10 seconds (although it seemed like several minutes), and turned and disappeared into the thick forest.


Red Fox – 250 km north of Yellowknife, NWT during water quality monitoring study

When we return from a hike we often come home with pockets full of treasures. Have you found anything in particular while out in the field that you would consider a prize nature find?

I love classic cars, and have found many old hub caps that I’ve taken home. The best treasure I found was a rotted out late 1940’s Ford Sportsman car that I was able to salvage the steering wheel from. I am always amazed by how often I find old cars buried under vegetation, deep in the forest, as if they had fallen out of the sky.

What do you like best about your work?

 The natural world is dynamic and ever changing, with incredible beauty and variety, making almost every work day different and challenging. Ultimately, I love knowing that my day to day efforts at work are, at the very least, making a small and positive difference in the world.

1185353_10151540853066364_1135743168_nFrog population study during wildlife surveys in northeastern Alberta

If a young person were thinking of going into your field what advice would you have for them?

As mentioned previously, there are a wide range of opportunities and options in the environmental field, and many career paths to take. I would recommend taking a generalist approach to your studies initially, and as your knowledge and experience base develops, and individual strengths and interests begin to refine themselves, narrow down and specialize in at least one area. Given the dynamic, complex and broad scope of environmental work, the generalist background compliments a specialist or expert skill area very well.

Do you have any childhood experiences in nature that made a lasting impression?

Growing up in a rural setting with much of my time spent with friends and family fishing, hiking, and playing in the woods. At a very young age, I was also exposed to outdoor farm work, primarily on fruit farms, and understood the enjoyment and value of working outside and in all types of weather and conditions. Family camping trips every summer throughout the Maritimes and northeastern United States were also very formative experiences.

1655073_10151823516566364_1947816875_oMt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania trek in 2013

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Paul.

It sounds like you have had some amazing experiences out in the field. We really appreciate your sharing and giving insight to others interested in your work and learning more about it as a possible career path.


If you or someone you know works in a nature related field and would like to be interviewed please send us an email at kidsandnature (at) gmail (dot) com.


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!


Quoddy Head State Park (Maine)

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Some Things to Know

Location: Quoddy Head State Park in Maine

Habitat: Rugged coastline and forest

Favorite Plant and Animal Life: Our visit in late fall did not offer many glimpses of wildlife but we were buzzed by a bald eagle while standing on the cliffside by the lighthouse. That was a thrill for all.

Special Features: The lighthouse greets you as you walk down the drive from the parking area. It is a classic white and red beacon with all of the storybook wonder you can imagine.

Best Time of Year to Visit: We visited on a somewhat warm late fall day and instantly made plans to come back in the summer. With camping, exploring at low tide and many trails to trek summer and early fall seem like an ideal times to visit.


Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Text

All the best to you and yours this holiday!