Learn all kinds of new and exciting things while having fun! You can also catch up on what we're up to, and get the oppinions of some of our crew.
|Posted on September 20, 2020 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
-It’s prime mushroom season in many places. Take a trip outside and try to find some mushrooms to detail in your journal. Areas with decaying wood, leaves, or other organic matter are usually the best places to start.
-It’s migration season for the Monarch butterflies. Have you seen any in your area? Detail your observations
-Fall migrations are kicking into full gear, with many birds beginning their journey south. Take some time to observe the birds currently in your area and detail your observations.
-As it starts to get chillier, you may notice some reptiles or bugs laying out in the sunlight in the mornings, trying to warm up. Keep an eye out for this and detail any sunbathing creatures you come across.
-As the summer season comes to a close, fall wildflowers start to bloom. Have you noticed any new or interesting flowers blooming recently? Detail your observations
-Bad weather prompt: Take some time to inspect your home for signs of insects or arachnids. Be on the lookout for webs, droppings, or even bodies. Dark, damp, or generally undisturbed areas are the best places to start. Often times, you may find something around windowsills, as well. Detail any discoveries in your journal.
If you're not already keeping a nature journal, why not start now? For more information on nature journals and why you should be keeping one, visit the following link: https://www.childrenofterra.org/apps/blog/show/47382045-what-s-a-nature-journal-and-why-you-should-be-keeping-one.
|Posted on September 10, 2020 at 1:20 PM||comments (0)|
The nature journal prompts are back! You may notice a few changes, though!
After talking with a lot of parents and educators and taking into consideration the new routines many families are adjusting to, we are creating nature journal prompts to better supplement that educational experience. As most school weeks go from Monday-Friday, we started by trimming down the days the prompts cover to coincide with that. This leaves weekends open for adventure or relaxation, which may be more necessary than ever as so many children and families get adjusted to a new educational experience.
Secondly, we’re putting more focus on prompts that require some outside time. We feel this is especially important now given how many students and families are learning from home, presenting less opportunity to get out of the house. The weather isn’t always conducive to spending time with nature, however. For that reason, each week’s prompts will include an extra “Bad Weather” prompt. We hope this will provide that extra little bit of motivation to observe and explore the natural world in a way that doesn’t have to be affected by what the weather is doing.
And finally, we want to try and make all of our material as widely available and accessible as possible. For that reason, we will be cross-posting the prompts as an image across all of our social media pages each weekend. Be sure to follow us if you don’t already! Links can be found towards the bottom of our homepage.
|Posted on July 12, 2020 at 10:25 AM||comments (0)|
I’d like to start this post by apologizing for our lack of activity recently. Our community is small, and our organizers have been remarkably busy as of late. Some of us have are adjusting to new additions in their families, some have been fighting for causes that have called for more immediate attention, some have had changes in their living situations, and a host of other factors have been contributing to this lag.
On COVID-19 and our mission
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has, like many other organizations, put a hamper the plans we had laid out for this year. The educational programs we were putting together would not have allowed a safe level of physical distancing. The cleanup projects we had slated for this year haven’t been viable in regard to the wellbeing of their participants. It’s unfortunate, but crazy stuff happens sometimes. All we can do is find new and innovative ways to work with what we’re given. With that being said and with the health and wellbeing of our organizers and the communities we serve in mind, we are looking at new ways to help out our planet and provide crucial education in science and how it relates to the environment. Citizen science projects, guided self-education, small cleanups, and remote support are some of the ideas we are looking at to move forward with our mission for this year, or until this pandemic has been properly managed.
On Black Lives Matter and the issues relating to the movement
Let me make one thing clear: we are not a political organization. We are dedicated to science, the natural world, and education. It is our policy that these things should be afforded to all people no matter no matter their race, color, creed, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or political preference. We all live on this planet, and we should all be given the chance to better understand it and appreciate it.
That being said, the data supports the notion that minority communities are disproportionately affected by issues relating to systemic racism and failures in the criminal justice system. In order to better our society as a whole, and in order for us to better enact our mission of making quality education more accessible, the issues at the root of this systemic racism and injustice need to be addressed and corrected. As such, we support movements such as Black Lives Matter and their peaceful actions to enact positive social change. We in no way condone the violence that has erupted in some places, but we also recognize that these few extremist outliers are in no way representative of these movements as a whole.
On moving forward
As previously stated, we are looking at new ways to provide education and inspire a love of the natural world. In the coming weeks and months, you may notice some changes to our website that focus on a more home-based and community-based approach to education. We are looking to partner with new experts and educators, both locally and globally, to undertake new programs and to build new networks through which our youth may discover a passion for science. We may be launching pages on social media platforms we’ve not previously used and closing down pages on platforms whose reach has become too narrow to effectively work towards achieving our mission. As changes happen and updates are made, we will be sure to inform you in a timely manner.
We cannot thank you enough for the love you’ve all shown us and the support you’ve provided, even in these troubling and trying times. Together, we can build a better future for our planet and its inhabitants.
-CJ w/ Children of Terra, NEO
|Posted on March 24, 2020 at 2:55 PM||comments (0)|
It’s a force that carves valleys, forms caves, and washes away nutrients in our soil. It also helps distribute crucial minerals and nutrients into the food chain and form majestic streams and rivers. Erosion is a natural force unlike no other, and must be considered for so many areas in our everyday lives. Erosion must be accounted for when building roads, bridges, and buildings. It plays a major role in field planning and daily operations of farms. It destroys while simultaneously creating. Erosions mighty power can kill, but is relied on by organisms on all levels of the food chain to survive and thrive.
There are ways of managing erosion, whether it’s preventing it or directing it, though. The most preferred method is ground cover. Cover in the form of plant life or decaying matter (mulches, leaf litter, etc.) lessens the impact of falling rain on soil. It also helps to spread out and slow down water runoff, making the force of the water less damaging to the soil. These types of materials are often referred to as biomass.
Biomass is any living organism or material generated by those organisms decomposing in the soil. A proper balance of biomass helps create healthy soils that are more resistant to erosion. Not only that, but healthy soils mean healthier waterways. Many types of biomass help filter and clean water as it passes through the soil. It can also help the soil retain more water, making plant growth easier and taking some stress off of our watershed systems.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a really easy way to see the effects of erosion with a tabletop experiment. Let’s check it out!
Tabletop Erosion Model
What you will need:
- 3 1qt cartons, clean
- Scissors or a craft knife
- Potting Soil
- A Stapler
- Grass seed, or some other plant
- Mulch or leaf litter
- 3 clear containers, all the same size
- Craft Paper
First, place all of your cartons side-by-side. Make sure they are all facing the same direction, and that the spout is pointed down. Cut the long side (the one that’s facing up) out on all three cartons, and staple them together. Fill all three with potting soil. Leave the first carton filled with nothing but dirt. In the middle carton, cover the top of the dirt with your mulch or leaf litter. In the last container, plant your grass seed.
Water all three cartons regularly, and allow time for your plants to grow. After a week or two, when the plants have grown a strong root system, it will be time to finish the project. Place your cartons on something tall enough to fit your clear containers under the spout. Take the lids off of each of the spouts, and place your clear containers underneath them to collect the water. Finally, pour the same amount of water into each carton (I used 2 cups for each).
Over the next couple of minutes, the excess water will drain out of the spouts and into the containers. You will likely notice that the carton of bare soil released a lot of dirty water. This is the carton that represents bare, unmanaged soil. The mulch or leaf litter carton likely released less water, and was probably cleaner than the bare soil water. The planted carton should have released the cleanest water in the smallest amount. The difference in the water coming out of these containers should show the effects erosion has on soil, and how a healthy balance of biomass and properly managed soils can help prevent erosion.
Sustainability is key. I’ve seen this project done with 2-litre bottles, but I chose the cartons to help mitigate my usage of plastics. Since most of these cartons are biodegradable, I can just bury the whole thing in the ground and let it provide food to the plants as it breaks down.
If you’d like, glue some craft paper to the cartons to label or decorate them. Neat, organized labels usually make life easier.
I chose to use grass seed as it grows quickly, but you’re free to plant whatever you’d like in your project! Beans, flowers, and lettuce are just a few other options that may grow quickly and be useful for when you’re done with this project.
How’d your project turn out? Did the biomass help prevent the dirt from washing away? Share your projects and results with us in the comments here, or on our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). We love to see how they turn out!
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
Check out parts one and two of this three part soil science series here:
Determining Soil Type:
- Earth Eclipse: Causes, Effects and Types of Erosion
- Queensland Government: Preventing and managing erosion
- Science Direct: Soil Biomass
|Posted on February 6, 2020 at 6:30 PM||comments (0)|
Quite a few of us northerners woke up to a perfect glaze of ice over everything outside this morning. Trees, roads, windows, grass, and just about anything else exposed to the elements was encased in ice overnight. It didn’t snow, it didn’t hail, but everything was iced. This is the result of a weather phenomenon known as freezing rain. It takes just the right combination of conditions for this to happen. But before we get into that, let’s touch on a little basic weather science and refresh on the water cycle.
Let’s start with the water cycle. When it’s warm enough, water will evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. The further the water vapor gets from the ground, the colder it gets. Eventually, water droplets will get cold enough to start attaching to particles in the air and forming clouds, which is called condensation. These condensed droplets will grow larger and larger, freezing more and more water vapor to them. Once they get large enough, the force of gravity pulls them back down to earth. This is called precipitation.
Depending on the conditions, the precipitated water may become rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow. Rain occurs when the frozen water droplets, as precipitation, falls through a thick layer of warm air. As they warm up, they turn back into a liquid form. Freezing rain works basically the same way, but with one major difference. When a thin layer of freezing cold air sits underneath the thick layer of warm air, precipitation will fall through it too quickly to freeze again. However, since the ground is cold enough in this layer, the water will freeze on contact with the ground or other surfaces. Sleet occurs with a thicker layer of cold air, and snow occurs when the layer of warm air is too thin to ever melt the precipitation. You might get a better idea of how it works by looking at the diagram below.
There you have it! Hopefully now you have a better understanding of this beautiful and uncommon weather event.
Have you ever experienced freezing rain? If so, what were your thoughts on it? If not, do you think you’d want to check it out sometime in the future? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget, you can always share your pictures of the effects of freezing rain with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
|Posted on January 27, 2020 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
I had a friend growing up that, like most kids, was fond of collecting things. Unlike the other kids, who were collecting the hottest trading cards or newest video games, he liked to collect bugs. Any time he found a dead bug, he’d take it home and add it to his collection. Of course, some of the other kids in our group would make fun of him. I loved going on a bug hunt with him, though. Every trip we took, I’d learn something new from him. Until I met him, I had no idea of the diversity of invertebrates we had in Ohio. Sometimes it would be mind-boggling!
His collection methods often varied, depending on what he found. Some he would take home and pin on a special board that was kept under glass. Others he would save in a vial full of strong alcohol. His reasons for collecting often varied, as well. Sometimes they were for a display he planned to donate or sell. Sometimes they were for his own private collection. Now, almost twenty years later, he’s an entomologist (a scientist that studies insects). He still has his collection, and some of his childhood specimens have actually helped him in his studies on how climate change is affecting local insect populations. And again, almost twenty years later, he’s still teaching me new things.
Some of the soft-bodied insects he had preserved in alcohol got damaged over the years. Legs or antennae would fall off, body parts would get broken, and specimens would get destroyed simply by moving the vial they were in. They moved around too much in the alcohol solutions and would bump into the glass. Eventually he came across a solution to this issue, and after he shared it with me, I HAD to share it with everyone else. The incredibly simple yet rather genius solution was to use a gel hand sanitizer. The gel is thick enough that it acts as a suspension, locking the specimen into place within it. Keep reading to learn how to do it yourself!
What you’ll need:
- A glass container with a tightly fitting lid (vials or heat/foodsafe jars work well)
- Thick Hand Sanitizer Gel
- A specimen (dead bug)
- A small pot
- A stove or hotplate
A quick word on materials and safety:
When I say thick sanitizer gel, I mean THICK. If there’s bubbles locked into the gel in the bottle it comes in, it should be thick enough. Using the thinner gels seems to result in the specimen degrading within a few weeks. Still, the thicker the gel, the better. Also, keep an eye on alcohol content. Any sanitizer that uses less than 72% alcohol will likely result in your specimen degrading. The higher alcohol percentages seem to work best.
Also in regards to the sanitizer gel, keep in mind that you are using flammable materials and heat. Be sure to exercise extreme caution and to take any necessary precautions ahead of time, such as safety clothing or preparing a fire extinguisher nearby.
What to do:
Fill your jar/vial just over ¾ of the way. Gently submerge your specimen into the gel. Don’t worry about exact placement in the gel yet, as it will be much easier to pose them later on. Next, place your jar in a pot and will with enough water to come about halfway up the jar. Place the pot on medium heat and allow it to come to a simmer. DO NOT close the jar. As the gel starts to boil, pressure will build, which can make the jar explode if it’s sealed.
Let the gel fully simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I’ve found that twelve minutes seems to be the sweet spot. Carefully remove the container from the boiling water and set it aside to cool. As it’s cooling, use the tweezers to position the specimen where and how you’d like it in the container. Once the gel is cool enough-not runny or watery anymore, but still warm-top of the container with more gel. If you do this while it’s too hot, the fresh gel on the top will develop a lot of bubbles. If you do it while it’s too cool, the fresh gel will not lose the bubbles already in it.
Once you’ve filled the container to the brim will gel, seal it as tightly as possible. Some gel will likely run out as you’re doing this, but this method will help prevent an air bubble from developing in the top of the jar that can later work its way into the gel. Clean off the outside of the container, let it finish cooling, and done! If you’re keeping a specimen for a collection, you may want to add a label to the container with the species name, time and place of collection, and any other relevant information you may have on it.
This method, though similar, is actually very different from standard alcohol preservation. Standard alcohol preservation uses weaker alcohol and a water dilution. This method, due to the lack of oxygen, actually works better undiluted and with stronger alcohol.
If your first couple of specimens don’t come out ok, don’t get upset! It will take a little practice to get the method down just right, and things may work a little differently depending on the materials you’re using. It may also take some experimentation to figure out what preserves the best. Hard-shelled beetles? May not work so well. Super-fragile crane flies? Works very well!
One last thing... for my preservations, I only use bugs that have died naturally and dried out on their own. Sometimes I'll find one in a light fixture, or in a windowsill, but I NEVER kill a bug for these preservations. There's a lot of debate over how ethical it is to kill bugs for preservation, whether it's done so humanely or not. These are tough and complex issues, and it's up to you to decide how you feel about them. We aren't here to judge, just to make science more interesting and easier to understand.
How did your gel preservations turn out? Share your results with us in the comments below! Or share your pictures with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. We love seeing how your projects turn out, and your input may help someone else be more successful in their attempts!
CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO
|Posted on December 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
- Dress appropriately for the weather and take a short hike today. Detail your excursion in your journal.
- Have you noticed any winter berries or dormant seeds still hanging onto wild plants? Detail your observations
- Have you seen any cool or interesting ice structures this season? Detail one in your journal.
- Easy day! Take some time to observe nature today. Whether you take a walk or just view the nearest tree from out of a window, be sure to detail your observations.
- We've done this one before, but it's deeper into winter now. Take some time to detail the weather at a few different times throughout the day, as well as any significant changes in it.
- Do you have a pond or lake nearby? If so, see if there are any winter waterfowl living around it. Waterfowl or not, be sure to detail your observations.
- Saturday stargazing! Dress appropriately for the weather, head outside after dark, and observe the night sky. Detail your observations in your journal.
|Posted on December 13, 2019 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
All of the major winter holidays are right around the corner! Preparations for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, and so many more are underway! Don't let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season get in the way of your nature journaling, though! Here's the prompts for this week, to help you stay motivated and inspired to keep journaling through the chaos.
- During the winter, some animals change color. Have you noticed any animals like this in your area? If so, detail your observations. If not, write about what animals you think may change color for the winter and why.
- Winter breeding season begins for many species of owls soon. Have you seen any owls, or heard their calls at night? Detail your experience in your journal.
- Is it snowing by you? Take some time to observe the snow. Use a magnifying glass to examine flakes in closer detail. Write about your observations. If it's not snowing, write about the last time it snowed OR what you think snow is like if you've never experienced it.
- Some animals have ways to naturally handle the winter months. Try to observe a few, and detail what features makes them more suited to the cold and snow.
- Many birds are living in their summer homes down south. Detail what kind of bird you miss the most, and what you miss about it.
- Icicles are a common feature of winter. Find a few that look interesting to you and detail them in your journal.
- What kind of holiday-related environmental issues have you noticed in your town? Is there issues with litter from holiday gifts? Or an higher levels of CO2 emissions from everyone holiday shopping? Detail any issues you notice, as well as ways to help solve them.
|Posted on November 30, 2019 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
It's officially December! Winter weather is starting to set in, plants and animals are starting to go into their hibernation states, days are short, and holiday season is in full swing. With everything going on, in can be difficult to find the motivation or inspiration to write in your nature journal each day. That's why we have these prompts! Use these on days when you can't think of something to write or draw in your nature journal.
- Take some time to observe the weather a few different times throughout the day. Detail your observations, then compare them at the end of the day.
- Many birds have migrated south for the winter. For some, the northern US is south from their summer homes. For others, there's no need to migrate. What birds do you notice more in your area during the winter? Detail them in your journal
- Take a trip to a nearby tree whose species you don't yet know. Make detailed observations of it that may help you ID it later on. Bark texture, bud shape and location, and branch structure are good things to start with. Compare your observations against a field guide (physical book or online guide) and try to ID the tree.
- Just as with the animal world, not all plants go dormant for the winter. Find an wild winter plant, detail your observations, and try to ID it if you don't already know what kind of plant it is.
- December 5th is International Soil Day. Take some time to think about the soil in your town. Why is the soil important to your area? What can be done to improve the quality and health of the soil? What kind of soil do you have in your yard or neighborhood? To learn how to determine soil type, visit this link: https://www.childrenofterra.org/apps/blog/show/44766238-learning-about-soil-part-1-of-3
- Try to locate some animal tracks in the snow or mod in your town. Detail your observations, as well as what you think the tracks tell you about what the animal was doing when the tracks were left. Be sure to try drawing the tracks, as well!
- Saturday stargazing! If not for the cold, studying the stars can actually be easier during the winter for a number of reasons. Take advantage of the season, dress warm, head outside after dark, and spend some time observing the sky and detailing your observations.
|Posted on November 25, 2019 at 11:15 AM||comments (0)|
- Turkey season is in full swing! Have you ever seen a wild turkey? If not, how about a farmed turkey? Detail your observations in your journal. If you have seen both wild and farmed, you may want to detail the differences you noticed between the two.
- It's rutting season for many North American deer. Have you noticed any deer exhibiting courting behaviors? Have you noticed any bark rubbed off of trees at deer height? Detail your experiences and observations in your journal
- Preparations are underway for the coming holiday meal. Is there a dish in your family or group of friends that uses native or local ingredients? See if that person is willing to share the recipe with you. Detail the recipe and what you know about the local ingredients in your journal.
- Today has a lot of fun, stress, chaos, and joy in store. Even if you pick just one thing to observe and detail today, don't forget to spend some time with nature during this hectic holiday.
- Triptophan and melatonin are two natural compounds found in the food from yesterday that made you feel sleepy. Detail what you know about these chemicals. If you don't know much, take this opportunity to research them and detail the most interesting facts about them.
- As you well know by now, 'tis the season for eating! Many animals are bulking up to stay warm during the winter months, or to enter a state of hibernation. What animals have you noticed making preparations in your area? Have you noticed any animals looking heftier than they do in the warmer times of the year?