Children of Terra

A new generation, for a better world.


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.

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Nature Journal Prompts: Nov 10-16

Posted on November 9, 2019 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Another week of prompts are here! These might be especially helpful given the harsh winter weather that's been moving in. These are here for those of you keeping nature journals, but sometimes have trouble finding something to journal about. Use these prompts to help you get inspired, or to give you an idea for something to write about. For more information on nature journals and why you should be keeping one, visit the following link:

Nature Journal Prompts: Nov 10-16

  • If you carved pumpkins for halloween, they are likely starting to rot by now. Have you noticed any particular bugs or animals making use of or feeding on your pumpkins? If so, detail them in your journal. 
  • Is there an area in your neighborhood that could be cleaned up? What kind of wildlife do you hope cleaning that area up would help? Detail these items in your journal, and take this opportunity to plan a cleanup. 
  • Try drawing a map of your surrounding area. Make note of any natural features or greenspace. 
  • Is there an environmental issue in your town that can be improved or resolved? Use your journal to write a rough draft of a letter to the mayor and/or city council of your town about it. Be sure to detail the issue, why it's important, and what could be done to resolve it.
  • Have you ever seen the egg(s) of a wild animal or insect? Detail the eggs, what they looked like, and where you found them in your journal.
  • Have you seen any wild mushrooms growing so far this fall? If so, detail the most interesting one.
  • Have you visited a local park or other natural place this week? Detail your experience in your journal. If not, use this opportunity to try making plans to do so. 
If you took on the prompt about writing a letter to your city leaders about an environmental issue facing your town, why stop at just the rough draft? Take some time to refine your letter into a final copy and send it to your mayor and/or city council. Citizen activism is a major piece of enacting real change, so be sure to make your voice heard!

A few simple solutions to over development

Posted on November 8, 2019 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Overdevelopment is a major issue. It effects our air, soil, and water quality. It can cause issues with our infrastructure. Most of all, overdevelopment displaces wildlife and removes greenspace. That’s not all, but if we started listing all the reasons it’s an issue, we’d be here for quite some time. Really, it’s hard to think of any part of our everyday lives that aren’t in some way effected by overdevelopment. There are some solutions, though. Solutions that can be good for the wildlife, the environment, and us! I’ll outline just a few key solutions here. Hopefully you can see ways for these, or other, solutions to these issues to be applied in your town.


This, in my mind, is one of the easiest and most cost-effective solutions. A 2018 report from ATTOM Solutions showed that there were around 1.5 million vacant single-family homes. Let that sink in a second. ONE AND A HALF MILLION VACANT HOMES! This number doesn’t even factor in how many vacant industrial, retail, or other business spaces are vacant. There’s a lot of reasons behind this extreme number, but at the end of the day it comes down to developers constantly seeking new prime real estate in more profitable places. The question I always ask is... why not redevelop these existing structures? Doing so could cut back and base development costs, such as clearing and preparing land. Redeveloping in more poverty-stricken areas could help reinvigorate the neighborhood, increasing property values and giving their economies a boost. Most of all, it utilizes land that’s already been developed, rather than clearing crucial habitat and greenspace to make way for new development.

Redevelopment isn’t just about remaking homes or businesses, though. Some structures may in such a state of disrepair that it wouldn’t make any sense to try fixing them. Some lots or structures were built for a specific purpose, and couldn’t be easily redeveloped into something different. Basically, some places are abandoned for a reason. Rather than leaving these structures decaying, posing all manner of hazards to the local community, wouldn’t it make more sense to remove the structures and redevelop the area into greenspace?


-If there must be new development, let’s find ways to work with the wildlife.


I get it, sometimes new development is unavoidable. Our population keeps growing and we need space to accommodate that. I believe, though, that it should be our responsibility to design new structures to work with the wildlife rather than against it. Rather than laying out netting and spikes to deter birds from nesting, why not provide places for beneficial birds (or bats, even) to nest. Rooftop or vertical gardens not only provide livable space for wildlife, but can become also become a unique design element to set your building apart from the rest. Beekeeping structures as part of new development can also be a unique design element, while also providing additional income to the residents of those homes or businesses.


-Green Bridges


We have TONS of footbridges for pedestrian use, but the idea of green bridges for the wildlife is a relatively new idea. Green bridges in key migration points have already started helping reducing animal deaths. The more we build, the lower those death tallies can drop! These bridges can be economically beneficial, as well. Over time, they can help reduce costs associated with infrastructure maintenance and wildlife management. Beyond that, they can provide tourist attractions, further bolstering local economies.


-Designate Green Space


This is so important! Green space is beneficial for such a wide range of reasons. These areas provide crucial habitat for local wildlife, allow for new cultivation of native plant species, provide more area to act as a carbon sink, and provide space for excess rainwater to run off and be properly absorbed and added to the water cycle. In heavily developed areas, those last two solutions provided by green space are especially important. The more developed a given area is, the more likely the residents there are to experience greater air pollution. And as more developed areas tend to have much more concrete sealing away the soil, they tend to experience far greater issues with water and flooding.


It’s not just a matter of being good to the environment, though. Being tactical about green space placement is important. In highly developed, lower income communities, greenspace can provide a psychological and educational boost. These are places that often have little to no natural space, where kids rarely even see a tree, and where that disconnect from nature can have a profound negative impact on the mental well-being of the residents. While giving low-income neighborhoods a boost psychologically, green spacing can provide an economic boost as well. By potentially increasing property values and providing a place for local tourism, green spacing can actually help lift some of these neighborhoods back above the poverty line.


Look.... this is all just my opinion, based on my personal education and experience. That being said, I’ve seen some incredible things happen when even just a few of these solutions are applied on a small scale. Imagine how much better we could make things for us and for the natural world just by shifting our thinking and making some small changes to how we operate as a society. By using what’s already in place, working with the wildlife, and focusing our efforts on the places that could benefit the most from it, we can make the world a much better place.


What kinds of problems do you think could be addressed in your town? What solutions would benefit both the natural world and the human-made world? Share your thoughts in the comments. Who knows? You may have the inspiration or knowledge someone needs!


CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Nature Journal Prompts: Nov 3-9

Posted on November 2, 2019 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This is the second week of prompts! These are here for those of you keeping nature journals, but sometimes have trouble finding something to journal about. Use these prompts to help you get inspired, or to give you an idea for something to write about. For more information on nature journals and why you should be keeping one, visit the following link:

Nature Journal Prompts: Nov 3rd-Nov 9th

  • Lazy Sunday! Take a few minutes to try challenging your creative writing skills. Write a Haiku about your favorite animal! If you don't know how to write a haiku, it's really simple. A standard haiku is a 3 line poem consisting of five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables again in the last line. Haikus typically use sensory language (what do you hear, feel, see, smell, taste?), and don't normally rhyme. Have fun with it, though! 
  • If you could live on/in any type of landscape in the world, what type would you choose and why? This is a good opportunity to compare what you know about these types of landscapes with what you would like to know.
  • Is there an abandoned place in your town that could be redeveloped into green space? What types of wildlife would you hope it could support? What are some ways you could garner support for such a project from the community?
  • Today is a day to think about protecting the environment from the effects of war. What are some rules different countries could agree on to protect nature and wildlife from the destruction and pollution of war?
  • Have you ever experienced nature fighting back? Think back on bee stings, animal/bug bites, plant prickers, and other things of that nature. Detail your experience in your journal. 
  • If you could grow three plants in a special garden-a garden that requires no watering or care, where your plants simply thrive-what would they be and why?
  • Do you have a bird feeder? If so, what kinds of birds visit it most often? If not, take this opportunity to design one to build or to detail plans to purchase one. 

That's it for this week! Check back towards the end of the week for the prompts for next week. You can also follow us on Facebook to see the prompts daily.

Build your own simple DIY plant press

Posted on October 25, 2019 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Have you ever been taking a walk and noticed a plant you didn’t recognize? There’s an app for that! In fact, there are quite a few apps to help identify plants. Sometimes, though, they don’t work right. The photo recognition technology these apps use isn’t perfect, and can get confused. Sometimes you don’t have service, or your battery is too low to take a picture. When technology fails, it’s usually best to know the “old-school” method of doing things. When it comes to IDing plants, the old school method is to compare it to the plants in a field guide until you find the most logical match. But field guides can be bulky and heavy, take up too much room in your bag (if you’re even carrying a bag), and you may need a lot of them to be able to identify all of the flora in a given area. What do you do, then? Luckily, there is still a solution. It’s a VERY old school solution, going back hundreds of years, if not more. The solution? Leaf pressing! With leaf pressing you can collect leaves to take home or back to camp and study more in depth later.

Leaf pressing is a method of preserving leaves in which you place them in between flat layers of absorbent material, such as paper, to remove the moisture as quickly as possible. People have been using leaf pressing as a means to document, study, and even decorate with leaves for quite some time! Scientific collections of dry preserved leaves are often referred to as “herbariums”, and have helped us further our scientific understanding of plant biology and evolution for hundreds of years. Preserving leaves may go back even further, though! Decoration or preservation for the use of medicine are just a couple of other uses of pressed leaves that have been documented for centuries.

I’m sure, at this point, you’re probably looking at leaf presses online and thinking “The writer is nuts. These are way bulkier than some field guides.” Yea, some of them are. In this post, however, you’ll learn how to make your own field press that’s small, lightweight, and easy to use! The best part is that you only need a few things to make it, and some of it you might already have in your home!


What you’ll need:


  • 2 small wood boards of the same size
  • Twine, yarn, or cord
  • Paper
  • A drill
  • A saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain and/or sealant (optional)


What to do:


First, the boards need to be prepared. Choose a thin, but strong piece of wood without any cracks or weak knots in it. For ours, we used a thin piece of pallet wood. Next, cut the board so that you have 2 boards of the same size. We cut ours to about the size of a small notebook. If you don’t have access to a saw, don’t fret! Many hobby shops carry pre-cut wood boards that should suit your needs. You can also get wood cut at most home improvement stores that sell lumber for a nominal fee.


Next, the board needs to be sanded to remove the rough surface and reduce the risk of splinters. For this, we used 220 grit sandpaper for a smooth finish, but you can use whatever is available to you as long as you’re comfortable regularly handling the wood when you’re done. Once you’re done sanding, you’ll need to drill a couple of holes. These holes will have the cord run through them to help keep everything tight and together later on, so make sure you choose a drill bit slightly larger than the cord you’re going to be using. You may want to clamp or tie the boards together to make sure the holes are perfectly lined up. Drill one hole along the short edge of the board, and another along the long edge. If you are going to, this would be the perfect point to stain and/or seal the wood. Tie the cord to a hole in the bottom board, and run it through the corresponding hole in the top board. Do the same for the other hole.


Finally, to finish the press you’ll just need some paper. This part is where a little experimentation can go a long way. The idea is to draw as much moisture away from the leaf as quickly as possible, so the more absorbent the better. That being said, avoid using paper towels or tissue paper, as the texture can imprint onto your leaf or flower. We used printer paper, construction paper, and blotting paper. In a pinch, newspaper or circular ads work pretty well, too! Just fold and trim the paper to fit in your leaf press in a way that is easy for you to use. The single fold, book page style seems to be the easiest for most people. Once you’ve added the paper, you’re done!


How to use:


Choose a good leaf or flower to be pressed. Something relatively flat or that will hold its shape when flattened will work best. Try to avoid really fleshy or juicy specimens as they may wilt rather than properly dry in the press. Place your chosen leaf or flower between layers of paper and close the leaf press. Holding as much force as you can on the press, tightly wrap the cord around it to hold the compression. That’s it!


You can use the leaf press as is, or stack something heavy on top of it (such as books) when you get it back to home or basecamp to give it a little extra pressing power. Let the leaves stay pressed for about a week before checking on them. If they still look good and aren’t wilting or rotting, press them again and let them sit for a few more days. Once your leaf or flower is completely dry, it’s ready to be used to decorate with or to archive into your own personal herbarium!

Bugs, bats, and birds: Building a DIY Bughouse

Posted on October 24, 2019 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Finish this sentence: Bugs are…


I’m really hoping your answers were something along the lines of “awesome" or “extremely beneficial", because they are! Bugs are (at least partially) responsible for pollination, maintaining the health of our soil, recycling nutrients, and even breaking down our waste! Some species are beneficial in that they prey on bugs that may harm our crops or carry disease. Not only are they beneficial, but they can be pretty darn adorable when you get to see them up close.


With how important bugs actually are, a lot of people are starting to see them in a different light, so much so that things like bug hotels and feeders are becoming extremely popular. In fact, it’s gotten kind of difficult to walk through a store or browse social media without coming across something bug related. You can easily go out and buy a bug hotel, but they often don’t use materials that would actually be found in your area. Some even hurt the idea of sustainability with plastic fittings that can’t be properly maintained. In this post, we'll show you how to build a basic DIY bug house, as well as where to install it and how to provide basic maintenance. If done right, this project should provide you at least a couple of years of up-close insect study.

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What you'll need:


-A wood plank


-Clean steel cans


-A drill




-A screwdriver


-Nesting materials




If you are using untreated wood, you’re already ahead of the game! If not, you may need to sand a finish or varnish off of the wood. These types of treatments can be harmful to your potential insect residents later on. You need to prepare the cans to be attached to the wood. To do so, simply drill a hole in the bottom of each can, just large enough for your screw to fit in. If you don’t have a drill, don’t fret! Fill your cans with water and freeze them. Once frozen, use a hammer and nail to drive a hole through from the outside. The ice inside should prevent the can from bending or denting as you do. Melt the ice out and make sure the cans are completely dry before moving any further.


Next, attach the cans to the wood board by screwing them in from the inside. This is where your screwdriver comes in handy, since most drill bits aren’t long enough to reach inside the can. Make sure that they are tight enough that the cans don’t spin or wobble on the board. Next, you’ll need to prepare some nesting materials.


For our bughouse, we collected some natural materials from our yard. For one can, we cut sticks down to the length of the can and drilled holes into them of various sizes. For another can, we used hollow pieces of grass reeds. For the last can, we used a mixture of small pinecones, grass ribbons, and wood bark. It’s important to do some research on the bugs on your area and what you hope to attract when deciding on your nesting materials. Certain bees prefer holes of a particular size, certain beetles prefer a specific type of wood, etc. Many guides will tell you to avoid pinecones or that they serve no purpose, but we’ve found that they can provide great habitat for some local species of beetles which, in turn, attracted small spiders. Once you’ve selected and prepared your nesting materials, it's time to install them! Use compression to hold the materials, meaning just pack them in tight enough not to move. Avoid using any adhesives as they can be harmful to your potential residents, and make maintenance more difficult later on.


You’re almost done! At this point, you may want to apply a layer or two of waterproofing to help protect the cans and keep them from rusting. We found a brand that is nontoxic and environmentally friendly, which is important for this project. After you’ve applied the waterproofing, go ahead and drill a few holes in the board to create a little more habitable space. And that's it, you’re done with the build! Now you just have to choose the right place to install it.


Choosing your spot:


This part is just as important as how the bughouse is built! Without the right location, all of your efforts may be for nothing. Predators, temperature, and even the weather can affect whether or not you’ll find residents in your bughouse. You’ll need to choose a spot that meets the following criteria:


-At least a meter off of the ground.


-In full, or at least mostly full, sun.


-Facing the direction that gets the most sunlight. Usually south or southeast.


-Protected from the rain


If your spot isn’t quite protected from the rain, you may want to add a roof to your bughouse. Too much moisture can cause issues with mold and parasites. Make sure that when you install it, you do it in such a way that you’ll be able to easily remove the bughouse at the end of the season. We’ll get into why a little further down.




A few of the biggest concerns when it comes to the longevity of your bughouse and the health of the residents in it are disease, parasites (such as mites), molds, and weather. There are a few basic actions you can take to help prevent these issues, starting with the nesting materials. Most recommendations call for replacing or sterilizing the nesting materials every two years, at most. Remember when we said to try and avoid using adhesives? This is why. I prefer to change a tube or section once I see that it has been abandoned, though this may take some time and observation to figure out the best times to do so. The same goes for mold. If you see a section or a tube starting to be overtaken with a mold or fungus, you may need to replace it.


We already kind of addressed the weather when we were figuring out where to place the bughouse. Too much moisture or direct rain can harm the residents, and provide better conditions for some species of mites and fungus. Moisture isn’t the only issue, though! Winter weather can be brutal on residents that develop slowly through the seasons, such as mason bees. To help address this issue, it may be best to move the whole bughouse somewhere that’s a bit more protected for the season, such as a shed or garden bin. Some extremely experienced bughouse owners will actually remove, wash, and store developing pupa in their homes for the winter to ensure a better chance of success.


That’s (mostly) it! Make sure you do your research, though! This is only a basic rundown of keeping a bughouse. Depending on the species you see take residence in it, where you live, and the materials you’ve used, you may need more information to keep your bughouse clean and productive.


How did your bughouse turn out? What kinds of critters are you hoping to see or have seen in it? Let us know in the comments below, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Nature Journal Prompts for Oct 27-Nov2

Posted on October 23, 2019 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Having some trouble figruing out what to write about or detail in your nature journal? Here's some prompts to help give you a jump-start! Come back for fresh prompts next week!

  1. Find five different colored leaves. Detail them in your journal.
  2. What kind of wild edible plants do you know of in your region, if any? Detail what you know about one in your journal.
  3. Be sure to try and spend 15 minutes somewhere outside with nature. What did you notice the most? Was it a particular sound, or smell? Was it a specific bug or animal? Choose the thing that stands out most to you and detail it in your journal.
  4. Find the nearest window and spend some time watching the outdoors through it. What did you notice? Detail it in your journal
  5. Happy Halloween! What kind of bug, plant, or animal do you think of most during the spooky season? Detail your choice and what you know about it in your journal.
  6. Take some time to observe the clouds today, even if it is completely overcast or rainy. What did you notice about the clouds? Perhaps they have a unique shape, or an interesting movement pattern? Detail your observations in your journal. 
  7. Think back on something you observed or encountered this week, but didn't detail in your journal. Take the time to do so today.

That's it for this week, but more prompts are coming! We plan on posting a weekly list of prompts to help you get a jump start on days you just can't find the inspiration to keep up on your nature journaling. For daily posts, check out our" target="_blank">Facebook page. While you're at it, be sure to find us on twitter and Instagram for more unique content! 

For a free printable nature journal template, check out our Download Links page and look for "Free Nature Journal Printout (PDF)". This download includes both a styled version and a plain black and white version. Enjoy!

What's a Nature Journal and Why You Should Be Keeping One

Posted on October 23, 2019 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post when you’re done. There’s a free printable to help you kick off your nature journal!

A lot of us have kept some sort of journal at one point or another. Some people keep dream journals, so they can remember on reflect on their unconscious mind. Others keep personal diaries as a place to vent their frustrations and keep fond memories. But how many people keep nature journals? I’m willing to bet that number is quite a bit higher than you would expect.

So what’s a nature journal? To put it simply, a nature journal is just a place for you to write about and draw the flora and fauna you encounter throughout your journeys. It can be any blank book, notebook, collection of papers, or even something on your phone or tablet. You can keep track of basic information relating to your encounters, such as time of day and weather conditions. You can write about whatever interests you about your encounter, such as the incredible colors of a flower or the calls of a particular bird. You can practice your artistic skills by drawing or painting what it is you’re observing, and gain a better understanding of the natural world in the process.

Now that we’ve learned a bit more about what a nature journal is, you may be asking “Why should I keep one?” The real question should be why wouldn’t you want to? By detailing the natural world, you can learn to become more observant of your surroundings, from the clouds in the sky all the way down to the tiny creatures living under rocks and in tufts of grass. You can start to learn more about the wildlife in your own neighborhood and recognize certain plants or animals much more quickly and effectively. You get a chance to challenge your artistic skills by drawing the different things you will see and encounter, and maybe even improve those skills or work with new materials or methods that you may not have thought about trying before. You can develop a better sense of understanding, respect, and appreciation for the natural world as you more closely observe the complex lives of the non-human citizens of our planet. Over time, you will create a beautiful keepsake; a reminder of the places you’ve gone and the things you’ve seen and experienced.

From a more scientific perspective, nature journals are sources of raw observatory data. With the information you collect in your journal, you can learn more about the patterns of cycles of the world around us and the creatures that inhabit it. You can look back on your observations and learn when or where may be the best time or place to encounter a specific type of toad, or to see a certain type of cloud, or to hear a certain birdsong. Who knows? Your nature journal may contain information crucial to solving a scientific dilemma or environmental issue.

I can keep listing reasons why you should keep a nature journal, but why should we waste time on the why’s when you can be journaling! There’s just a few basic guidelines to keep in mind when keeping a nature journal:

-Information is key! Keep track of the date, time, temperature, and weather conditions during your encounter. This information can help you with a lot of the things mentioned above.

-Keep it portable. A nature journal is really only useful if it’s not too big or heavy to take out with you. There’s plenty of smaller notebooks on the market. If you can’t find one you like, you can always try making your own custom one.

-Don’t overlook the art! Drawing or painting your observations not only make it easier to remember what you saw, but it can provide visual details you may need to look back on later.

-IN-FOR-MA-TION! Anything and anything you can think to write or draw about can be important later, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. What did it feel like? Sound like? What color was it? What was it hiding under? Just keep reminding yourself to ask these types of questions while journaling.

Now that you have a better understanding of nature journaling, go start one yourself! Whether you’re out on a hike or watching the ant on your windowsill, every encounter is an opportunity to learn! Don’t be afraid to share your journal, either. We love to see your projects, but it’s not just us! There’s a ton of local organizations and groups on social media dedicated to nature journaling and sharing their knowledge and information, so be sure to check some of them out. You might even make a few new friends along the way.

Want to keep a hold of some of the flora you’ve observed in your journal? Check out this portable DIY leaf press project:

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

Visit our" target="_blank">Download Links section and look for the "Free Nature Journal Printout (PDF)" for a free printable template!

STEAM Challenge! Build a Fanboat

Posted on March 18, 2019 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Airboats are pretty cool, even though they don’t actually sail through the air. Traditional boats push themselves through the water by exerting force on the water itself. Airboats push themselves over the water by exerting force on the air behind the boat. Thanks to the lack of a motor or propellers in the water, combined with their flat bottoms, these types of boats are perfect for navigating places we wouldn’t normally be able to reach with a traditional boat.

While many hunters or anglers use airboats (a.k.a. fanboats) in their expeditions, they’ve also become a great tool for conservationists, researchers, and eco-tourists! Fanboats are used to access swamps and marshlands containing a vast number of species to be studied and provide a way to quickly get from one site to another without risking serious harm to aquatic creatures, such as manatees or alligators. But before you go out looking for an airboat to pilot, it’s important to understand how they work. For that, we can build our own simple airboat while challenging our STEAM skills!

Fanboat STEAM Challenge!

What you will need:

-Small hobby motor (3-6v will work, but up to 12v will do just fine)

-A clean, empty beverage can

-A boat body

-A motor mount



-Small rubber bands

-Insulated wire

-A battery

-Something to waterproff/protect the battery

-Electrical tape

The boat body:

Here’s the first part of this STEAM challenge! Find or create a small boat body! For our fanboat, we actually still had an unfinished tea tray, which happened to work out pretty well. Be creative, though! You can make the body of your boat out of tin foil, popsicle sticks, an old shoe sole, or whatever! Just make sure it has a flat bottom, can float, is watersafe/watertight, and that you’ll have places to mount the motor on the back and store the battery on board. Once you have the body of the boat made or figured out, it’s time to mount the propeller and battery case!

The motor mount:

Again, this is a challenge, which means you’ll have to come up with something yourself. For our tea tray boat, we glued a couple of pieces of wood shim together to act as the motor mount. You just need something to hold the motor level and in place. If you’re using tin foil, it might be best to add double-sided tape or something else to insulate between the motor and the foil. Once you have your mount figured out, install the mount into your boat. For ours, we simply glued the mount into the boat. Once the mount has been installed, attach the motor to the mount. If you’re gluing the motor on, be sure not to get any adhesives inside the motor or on any of the moving parts outside of the motor.

The battery case:

The next part of this challenge is figuring out how to waterproof and protect the source of power for your boat. For ours, we used an empty breath-mint container. The container actually helped provide a nice counterbalance to the motor, so our boat wasn’t sinking too far down on the back end. If you can’t find or make anything in your home to do the job, you should be able to find waterproof battery cases at your local craft or hobby store.

Glue or attach your battery case, and (carefully) wire the battery to your motor to make sure everything works. If you have the know-how and materials, you can add some power regulation and on on/off switch the your circuit, but for our project we just stuck with a simple direct current circuit (power source directly tied to motor). Just keep in mind that without power regulation, your battery may fry out your motor or vice versa, so pay attention to the power requirements and limits of both.

Finally, use some electrical tape to insulate and protect any exposed wiring. If too much moisture gets on any exposed wires while the circuit is hot, it can cause a short out potentially damage your motor or battery. As you can see in the pictures, we didn’t protect exposed wires on our motor, and ended up ultimately frying out the motor as a result.

The propeller:

Next, we need to make and attach a propeller to the motor. To do so, draw and (carefully) cut your propeller out of an empty, clean beverage can. Below is the simple shape we used, but experimentation is always encouraged! Some cans may be thinner than others, so you may have to cut multiple copies of your propeller out and glue them together. Wrap a rubber band around the output shaft (the part that spins) on the motor. This will help hold the propeller in place. Next, punch or drill a hole out of the center of your newly made propeller unit. Be sure the hole is just big enough to fit the shaft into.

To finish installing your propeller, slide the propeller onto the shaft, and tightly wrap the other rubber band around the shaft. Push both rubber bands tightly against the shaft, so they hold it from both sides. You may need to add a little glue to the rubber bands to make sure the blade doesn’t come loose.

Flat propeller blades aren’t good for moving things so much as they are for cutting things up, so you’re going to have to bend the blades. Doing so will change the “pitch” of the blades. You’ll have to experiment a bit with what angle the blades should be at to push your fanboat rather than pull it. Just remember that different parts of the blade move at different speeds while rotating, so the pitch shouldn’t be the same all the way down the blade. Likely, the pitch will be steeper (more angled) at the base of the blade, and shallower (more flat) at the end of the blade. If you need a little visual inspiration, check out the fans most people use to cool their homes during the warmer seasons.

At this point, it’s important to test everything out and ask yourself a few questions before taking your craft to water.

-Is the boat able to float and water tight?

-Is the battery water-safe?

-Is the propeller pitch pushing or pulling?

-Are wired connections insulated and/or protected?

-Is the motor system functioning?

After a final test to make sure everything works as expected, your boat is ready to take to the water! Just be sure not to send it onto a body of water that you won’t be able to recover it from, such as a lake or pond. Just to be safe, it may be worth attaching a light string or fishing line to it. If it gets too far out of reach, you could just reel it back in!

What’s happening?

The reason this simple little fan is moving your boat has a lot to do with Newton’s Third Law, which states that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. As the fan pushes the air backwards behind the boat, the air propels the boat forward. If you only consider Newton’s Third Law, though, you may be left wondering why the boat doesn’t seem to move as quickly as it should. A seemingly simple problem may have some very complex answers, though!

The first thing to consider is Newton’s Second Law, which states that the greater the mass of an object, the greater the force needed to move it is. Already, your propeller must be strong enough to overcome the mass of your boat.

The next thing to consider is that the force moving the boat forward IS the same as the force of the air being pushed behind the boat, but the forces of gravity and friction play a role, as well. Air friction is acting on the boat, producing more sets of equal and opposite reactions (known as “drag”). Friction from the water is also acting on the boat, creating even more sets of equal and opposite reactions. Gravity is ALSO acting on the boat, creating EVEN MORE sets of opposite and equal reactions. These types of reactions play into Newton’s First Law, which states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. Friction and gravity hold the boat in place, “at rest.”

Project Notes:

This is the first in a new series of blog posts with challenges in STEAM skills. A lot of the instruction was left somewhat vague and open because we want you to use those wonderful brains of yours to design and create your own versions of this project, using materials and resources you have locally available. Not only does this help you practice your critical thinking skills, but it helps you learn and practice skills used in almost every field of STEM and STEAM research!

Not only we love to see your designs and how they turned out, but sharing your knowledge may help others build on it and create a better version for everyone to benefit from! Share your results with us on our Facebook Page, Instagram, or post it on Twitter with the hashtag #COTairboatchallenge

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO


Explain That Stuff: How Propellers Work

Physics Classroom: Newton's Laws

Black Hammock Airboats: How airboats work


No Earth Week Bash, but plenty of fun to come this year!

Posted on March 4, 2019 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Hey everyone! I just wanted to drop a quick update on what's happening with some of our programs and initiatives!

-Earth Week Bash

After reviewing some things a bit more thoroughly (including available funding, conflicting events/festivals, availability of educators/vendors), we've decided to hold off on doing a big Earth Week Bash this year, instead putting our focus towards planning an event for next year. This will allow us ample time to plan the incredible event you deserve. In the meantime, we are breaking down some of the ideas from the Earth Week Bash into smaller programs throughout the year. Read on to find out more!

-Build your own bughouse

Just because we aren't doing the earth week bash doesn't mean we aren't still doing something for Earth Week. On April 28, we will be holding a workshop where you can learn how to make your very own upcycled bughouse, as well as get to know more about the bugs in your backyard and how important they are to the local ecosystems. Check out our programs and initiatives page for more!

-Plant a Butterfly Fairy Garden

While we are still in the process of working out the details on this one, I figured I'd at least give you guys a heads up. During this workshop, you will have a chance to learn about the importance of pollinators such as butterflies and bees while planting your very own fairy garden! You might just discover the beauty of our native flora in the process!

-Buckeye Bees short film

Throughout the spring and summer we will be working on a short documentary about the bees of Ohio. We will explore their importance not only to the local ecosystems, but to the economy or Northeast Ohio and beyond. Though it will be available for viewing free of charge on our channels, we will be holding a premiere party to celebrate those that are helping make this film happen!

-Cleanup events

Keep an eye on our events page or social media pages to find out when these will be happening!

Thanks for reading and for your support as we continue to grow and develop!

-CJ w/ Children of Terra NEO

10 Tips for Winter Hiking

Posted on November 19, 2018 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I know a lot of us Ohioans aren’t super thrilled about the weather lately. It’s been cold, rainy, snowy, and all around messy. While it may still be fall, we’ve had some pretty rough winter weather already, with plenty more on its way. Just because it might not look great outside your window doesn’t mean the snow hasn’t added an element of beauty to the natural world, though! Winter hiking, while challenging, can give way to some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful scenes you may experience in your lifetime. I’ve spent around a decade or so doing winter hikes for my photography, and have learned a lot both from experience and from talking to seasoned pros. Here, I’d like to share some tips for winter hiking to make the experience much more enjoyable!

-Layered up!

Dressing in layers is crucial to a comfortable winter hike. While you should generally stick to the theme of the inside layers for warmth, and to outside layers for waterproofing, you should also make sure that the inside layer can help control or wick away sweat. I usually dress for weather a bit colder than what I’m anticipating for two reasons, the first of which is simply that it’s better to be safe than sorry. The second reason is that you may encounter areas colder than expected on your hike. Being down in a gorge, along the shores of a pond or lake, or even just in an open field can influence the temperature and wind chill you’ll experience. The best part about dressing in layers, though? If you get too warm, you can just strip a layer or two off! Just be sure to keep the outside layer water-proofed!

-Don’t go off the beaten path

Ok, look….. I know we encourage exploration quite a bit, but it needs to be safe exploration. During the summer, even the popular off-trail sites can be hazardous. Just look at the near-yearly rescues required around popular off-trail swimming holes and hangouts. Now think about how dangerous those hazards can become when they are covered in ice, hidden by a blanket of snow, or both! A snowy surface that appears flat can have dips and holes hiding under the snow. A shallow-looking frozen stream may be hiding a raging river under the ice sheets. Unless you’re with an expert or guide, it’s best to just stay on the paths. Besides, it’s probably better for the fragile ecosystems surrounding most trails.

-Go big or go home isn’t the best idea during the winter.

A lot of us enjoy long summer hikes, completing 15-mile long loops or trails in a few hours with relative ease (excluding periods of extreme heat). During winter, however, things tend to take a bit longer. The snow covering the trails tends to slow us down. Beyond that, it takes a lot more physical effort to traverse trails covered in snow, rather than the clear paths we enjoy during the warmer months. Sometimes you may need to find somewhere to stop to warm up for a few minutes, or need to find an alternate route due to snow or ice blockages. Basically, start on easier and shorter trails and work your way up as you become more comfortable with winter hiking.

-Get an early start

We’ve already mentioned a few things about winter hiking that can slow you down or cause you to have to take a longer route, but the biggest thing to keep in mind is the shortness of the day. During the summer, you’ll have anywhere from 12-14 hours of daylight to hike in, depending on your location. During the winter, that window shrinks to about 8-10 hours. This window could be even smaller depending on whether conditions. As it gets darker, it becomes more difficult to see where you’re going and to be able to see hazards in your path. It’s not just the visibility issues, though! Temperatures usually drop at night without the warmth of the sun, and you may find yourself out in the dark and out in the cold! I like to start my winter hikes within an hour of the sun coming up. Not only will this give you plenty of time to adventure, but the early morning sun usually provides a beautiful glow along the snowy landscapes that just takes your breath away.

-Pack for “in case of emergency” situations.

Whether you are hiking in winter or summer, fair weather or bad, long trail or short, you should always be carrying some basics with you in case of an emergency. My bag always has at least a basic first aid kit, sharp pocket knife, trail maps specific to where I’m hiking as well as some surrounding areas, waterproof fire-starting supplies, a hand-crank light, and an emergency radio. In all honesty, the last few years and emergency cell phone charger (solar or mini-turbine) has also been a mainstay in my hiking pack. During the winter, there are a few more items that should be added to your pack. Make sure you have something to keep warm (emergency blankets, parkas, sleeping bags, etc.) should you end up in a situation where you must stay in the area overnight. I also recommend keeping emergency handwarmers and (if possible) a self-warming beverage in your pack, as they can both provide a good mental boost and bit of physical respite in a bad situation.

-Plan ahead

This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often people don’t plan their hikes before going off all willy-nilly and ending up in a bad situation. I know, because I’ve done it more times than I’d like to admit. Be sure to check the weather often before the trip, and one last time just before departing. And don’t just check the temperature or whether it’s going to snow or not. Wind chill and wind speed, precipitation amount and speed, avalanche risk, and visibility should all be taken seriously into account. Make sure you’re going to be properly dressed, equipped, and geared up ahead of time. If need be, make a checklist to go over while packing and again just before departing to be certain that you don’t leave anything important behind. Establish who in your group (if anyone) will be carrying what pieces of gear or equipment to avoid confusion later. While some unexpected situations may come up during your hike, planning as much as possible ahead can help you avoid bad or potentially dangerous situations.

-Be ready for the ice

While a lot of hiking shoes and boots are amazing for wet rocks, muddy trails, and slick paths, they may not be the best thing to cross a sheet of ice in. Make sure you have footwear designed for the ice and snow to help avoid injuring yourself slipping. If you decide to try crampons instead of specialized winter footwear, be sure you learn how to use them and take it slow. The ranger that first taught me how to use crampons told me treat them like they were ice skates once on. One misstep, and a serious injury could occur. Another accessory that might be worth looking into are hiking sticks. They will not only help distribute the effort of trudging through the snow more evenly on your body, but they are great to help stabilize you in slippery situations as well as to test potential hazards in your path.

-More fun with friends!

We really shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we will. Hiking with friends can not only make it more fun and help reduce some of the mental stress of the journey, but it helps provide more bodies to carry all of the gear, potentially lightening the load for everyone. Even better, there can be safety in numbers. If something goes wrong and you’re alone, who will help you or go get help? If you have any friends with more experience hiking in the winter, bring them along, too! Their knowledge may be a key part of a successful hike.

-Stay hydrated and bring some snacks!

This seems like a basic tip for any hike, but they are especially important in the winter. While a colder environment in and of itself doesn’t necessarily make you burn more calories and moisture, there are a few factors during the winter that will. Shivering will cause your body to use more energy, as will the weight of the extra clothing needed to keep warm. It’s important to keep a drink that is insulated against the cold, so it doesn’t freeze. It’s also important to keep at least a few snacks with you, such as protein or energy bars.

-Be aware of cold-related illness or injury

It’s extremely important to understand the extra risks involved with winter hiking. The two most prominent dangers are frost-bite and hypothermia. Be sure to study and develop a comprehensive understanding of these and other cold-related conditions and their symptoms before undertaking a winter hike. Knowing the difference between being cold and the beginning stages of hypothermia or frost bite can save your life and your limbs!

I could probably write a book about the many, many things I’ve learned from hiking in the winter, but these are really what I view as the ten most important, so long as you’re not taking on a massive journey or high-skilled trail. What tips do you have for winter hiking? What kinds of hazards have you encountered during your snowy adventures? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! The more knowledge we all have, the more we can all safely enjoy our winter hikes!

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO


Time and Date-Solstice

Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory-Daylight/Darkness Calculator

Active-Fueling for Cold Weather Excersize

Backpacker-Layering For Winter

Walking and Hiking-The Environmental Impact of Hiking

Mayo Clinic-Frostbite

Mayo Clinic-Hypothermia