Saturday, April 28, 2012

                                                           The Buttercup

        “Show me a man, who when a boy, did not hold a Buttercup under his own or another’s chin that he, by reflection of its brilliant yellow cup, determine to what degree his subject, “liked butter,” and I will show you a man who has not experienced a full share of the joyous thrills of a genuine, glorious childhood. This custom is an old and popular one, and comes from a
          “Knowledge never learned in schools
                Of the wild bee’s morning chase
                Of the wild flower’s time and place.”
---Wild Flowers Every Child Should Know by Frederic William Stack,
May 1909

            Stack, a field collector for Museums of Scientific Section of Vassar Brothers Institute and of Natural History at Vassar college, penned these word 103 years ago. Yet, they are just as true in our out-of-control 21st century. Who thinks of taking the time to pick a buttercup and hold it under a child’s chin?

Such a simple thing. A moment in time that takes place in an instant but lasts through generations. This is the joy of the simple buttercup. This is the joy of sharing nature with children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

F Is For Foraging, Fiddleheads And Fun Outside

Kids like funny, disgusting things. What could be funnier than a fiddlehead fern. Sure, it got its name from looking like the end of a fiddle. But after they are cooked, they could double as green worms. Forget the fact they taste somewhat between asparagus, broccoli, and that  dreaded other green, spinach. They look disgusting! Besides the joy of eating disgusting things, collecting anything is one of kids' happiest pastimes. How many stones, shells, sticks and have you stuffed into your pockets on an "expedition," as my granddaughter calls a walk on the beach or through the woods?
Connecting kids and nature with foraging is certainly not a unique idea, but one that some consider too risky. The only edible fiddlehead is the ostrich fern. Gathering information with your child before you forage is just as important as enjoying the end dish. Link to this You Tube video to find out more about the ostrich fern.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rocks! Rocks! Rocks!

Once again Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, the author of Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! has proved my theory. That is, if you really, I mean, really, want to understand something, read a children's book. Nancy who I have never met but whose bio says she is a Connecticut resident in a town next to  me, has taken the wonderful world of rocks we often climb on, dig up, move, and collect in Connecticut and explains to young children, probably about 8 years old, the facts.
However, even younger children can enjoy and grasp some information about rocks.  Focusing on one rock stop at a time or sharing an activity at the end of the book, or looking a the pictures of the rocks with detailed surfaces and searching for them on a rock walk will interest the younger crowd. After all, if you have ever taken a walk with a child, you know  by the time you reach home, YOUR pockets are filled with rocks, because your young friend is carrying the sticks.

  She takes the reader on a rock walk with Buddy and his mother who visit a nature center and follow the Blue Diamond Rock Trail.  Along the way, they meet Roxie, a Rock Ridge Ranger, who shares lots of interesting facts about rocks. He tells Buddy how, "rock, clay, mud and clay...are pressed and hardened" until this sediment becomes, "over time,"  (and Buddy finishes for  Ranger Roxie"s) "rock!" Buddy is also surprised to hear the ranger use words like, "change, melt, and float" to describe some rocks.

After Rock Stop 5, Buddy and MaMa head home. But before Wallace leaves the reader, she shares a simple rock gift children can make, ways to display rocks, and a way to catalogue, or sort, the different and similar rocks.

 To lighten up the facts, (sorry, I could not help myself) Buddy tells some simple jokes. Buddy asks, "What kind of rock did the pebble like to eat for dessert?" Wallace does not shy away from the three or four syllable rock jargon, but Buddy repeats each work as Wallace writes it phonetically. I learned that a person who likes to learn about rocks is a "pet-trol-o-gist."

Taking a phrase from Wallace, you might say, Rocks, Rocks, Rocks, rocks!

Go on a Rock Hunt. Use Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! to help you identify them.

A Wetlands Story

The Shape of Betts Meadow by Meghan Nuttall Sayres with pictures by Joanne Friar is as much a gem as the story it tells. It is a children's picture book, but the story is ageless.  In this true story Dr. Gunnar Holmquist and his mother, Lavinia, buy a  dry, lifeless valley in eastern Washington state. Dr. Gunnar discovers that his land  was once a rich wetland habitat for plants and animals. But through the years the land's purpose changed. Streams and rivers were diverted to create crazing land for livestock.

  The Shape of Betts Meadow shows how one person can make a difference.  Sayres' poem, along  with Friar's beautifully illustrated landscapes-each one with more details as  plants and animals return to the meadow-takes the reader from barren to fruitful, not only in mind and spirit, but in physical changes that we and, especially, children, can understand through concrete examples.

 Since many of her readers might not be familiar with the "sedges, cheat grass, microbes, or kingfishers." the author also provides a mini key with explanations and pictures of these wetland features.

Finally, Sayres answers,"What is a wetland?" and lists places to gather more information, including an internet source, additional reading, and references.
So much from one picture book!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Skunk Cabbage & Wetlands & Global Warming

Just when you think you've exhausted your search of a particular subject, you come across a term like this, "environmental treasure." This is the description a writer from the Kalamazoo Gazzette gave to skunk cabbage. Now, if you have smelled skunk cabbage, you might have trouble agreeing with this description. But think about it. First, it harbors all the uniques characteristics I have talked about in former blogs. But also, it signals a vital part of earth's well-being,the wetland. Any experienced hiker knows that getting you feet wet when you see skunk cabbage can quickly lead to a pant leg covered in mud. That is because the skunk cabbage constantly draws water from its roots to survive. The connection between global warming and healthy skumk cabbage is an obvious one that we might overlook just because it is right "under our noses" so to speak. Possibly it is this relationship to a healthy earth that gives the skunk cabbage the right to accept the honor as  an "environmental treasure."

Dandelion & Global Warming

With this post I would like to add another line of thinking to the curiosities of nature. How does Global Warming affect  a plant or animal or insect species.  Talking about the role global warming with something as ubiquitous as the dandelion underscores  the pervasiveness of this phenomenon  in our lives.

So, how does more CO2 affect the dandelion? For those who classify the dandelion as a weed, I guess this will only increase their efforts to eliminate this flower.  It grows taller. In fact this has been happening since the 1950's.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dandelion Fritters

Here's what you need to make... Isn't that how most 'how to' articles start? One word of caution. This is a perfectly free project but what you need is invaluable.
Your Task: To make dandelion fritters.
1. A bright sunny day (optional)
1. A friend-hopefully a young one, to help gather the dandelion tops.
2. 4 cups of dandelion flowers plucked from the stems
3. one egg
4. one cup of milk
5. one cup of flour
Stir the egg into the milk, and the combine the milk and flour.
Hold the dandelion top by the base, dip and swirl in the batter.
Carefully drop each dandelion  (flower side down) into some gently warmed oil.
When the first flowers are brown, remove them and let them drain on some paper towels.
Confectionionary sugar, or maple syrup drippings turn these fritter into a sweet treat.