Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Birds, Nests, and Eggs

Birds, Nests, and Eggs by Mel Boring is a good introductory field guide for young children. I have reviewed another book, Feathers For Lunch by Lois Elhert, that I love.

This one I like a lot. The illustrations are clear and the text is easy to understand. It does go that extra step to show what bird eggs and nests look like for the different species of bird. That being said, it is really hard to see most bird nest and eggs. Birds are naturally secretive about their nests so the best time to see them is in the fall when they are abandoned and the leaves have fallen.

I would start with Feathers for Lunch and if you child is super interested in birds, then this is a good next step.

3/5 stars.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Animal of the Week: American Robin

We have visitors for the next few weeks. An American Robin has put her nest in one of the hanging flower pots on our porch. It is quite exciting to see her sitting on the nest from inside our front door.

Robins like to make nests normally no more than about six feet off the ground. While you cannot see the side of the nest, I can tell you it is made from straw and mud as is quite typical of Robins.

I feel like an auntie!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Friday Fact

Chipmunks can store up to 8 lbs of food in their burrows.

Not bad for a critter that weights between 1 and 2 oz.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: Roll, Slope and Slide

Roll, Slope and Slide - A book about ramps by Michael Dahl is great. I LOVE his books. He has a whole series of books on simple machines and they are all beautiful and clear in their language and illustrations (which he did not do - that was Denis Shea).

The book clearly explains ramps and how they make work easier - and that is job of any simple machine.

4.5/5 stars.

Oh, and Dahl lives in a haunted house.

Simple Machines

I was perusing the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for science (yeah, I am like that!) and I was surprised at how little they asked of kids to know and understand about simple machines. Most of what preschool to grade 2 students are asked to recognize what tools and technology look like.

Me, I expect way more from my kids and the kids I teach. I fully expect that they understand simple machines and can demonstrate how they work. We explored this at the library and used three simple machines. Check out what we did last year here.

Simple Machines help us move things more easily. There are six classic simple machines:
1. Lever
2. Inclined Plane
3. Wedge
4. Wheel and Axle
5. Screw
6. Pulley

These machines are called simple because they only have one or fewer moving parts. We explored the wheel and axle and how it moves farther and straighter than other shapes.

We looked at the inclined plane and found that it really helps move things up and down more easily.

Finally we played with levers. I think that was the most fun ever. How you position your fulcrum really made a difference in how far you can move objects.

This is a good time of year to begin exploring simple machines at home. How many can you find? Check out some other ways to play with these machines.

Playground Physics: The playground is a great place to explore simple machines. You can figure out which slide is faster, or easier to walk up by testing them. You can also measure how long they are and how high they are. These dimensions will allow you to compare slides.

A see saw is a classic example of a lever. If you can find one that has free movement, you can play with the ideas of balance, weight and placement. Where you place the heaviest weight can make it easier, or harder, to get the lever to balance the weight.

Sand scoops are great examples of levers. You can try and pick up toys with them too. Can you pick up more with a scoop than you can lift yourself?

Screws: To play with these machines the best thing to try is the real thing: a screw. Screws can hold together two objects forever. Some unexpected screws in the house are desk chairs and jars.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Animal of the Week: Chipmunks

Photo from

Chipmunks are fun mammals to watch in your yard. They are all over right now in New England. Generally these guys are crepuscular - that is a fancy science word for active at dawn and dusk.

Chipmunks usually eat seeds and other plant materials but may eat the occasional snail or larvae. They do store food in the fall and hibernate in the winter.

They generally make their burrows in open woodland areas or on the edges of wooded areas, but will live in suburbia as well. The entrances to their burrows are little round, two-inch holes in the ground.

If you put out bird seed on the ground, you might get a good look at a chipmunk in the morning or evening before dark.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fun Friday Fact

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Really! They have taste receptors on their feet so when they land on a flower, they can tell if will be delicious.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Review: Air is All Around You

Air is All Around You by Franklyn Branley is another addition in the Let's Read and Find Out Science series.

The book explores all the ways we know air is around us and why we need air. In addition to the lovely text, Branley includes some activities and observations about air that you can do with your kids.

The illustrations are cute but I prefer photographs for non fiction books.

4/5 stars.

How to: Make a spinning helicopter

At Messy Fingers at the Millbury Library this week, we played with all kinds of things that fly through the air.

Here is the helicopter we made. We added a single paper clip to the bottom, but the addition of a second or a larger paper clip might affect the flight pattern. Hmm, now doesn't that sounds like an interesting experiment!

We also played with spinning blimp toys. Here is the video from which I learned to make the blimp. How you let go of it makes all the difference in how it flies. It is a quick and easy toy to make. Ours were much thicker and made from card stock.

~Let me know how your experiments turn out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Animal of the Week - butterflies

I saw my first Spring Azure this past weekend. So butterfly season is upon us!

Butterflies are insects - that means they have three body parts, six legs and wings as adults. They have an exoskeleton and that means their skeleton is on the outside.

Butterflies have a complete metamorphosis (remember that is the science word for change) going from an egg to a larvae (caterpillar) to a chrysalis and finally to an adult butterfly.

Butterflies eat nectar as adults. They have a long proboscis (tongue) that is hollow. They slurp up the nectar from plants. As larvae they also eat plants but as babies they eat the leaves of plants.

Butterflies can fly as fast as 12 miles per hour. While that may be faster than I can run, the fastest human being can run about 22 miles per hour.