Thursday, March 24, 2011

Super Bug!

Little Brother finished his bug project for school today. Can you tell which insect this is?

Like all insects, it has a segmented body (3 styrofoam balls), six legs (3 McDonald's straws, rinsed and cut in half), two antennae (black pipe cleaners), and two compound eyes (pink foam circles with a checkerboard pattern drawn on them). This particular insect also has two wooden chopsticks holding its body together.

Little Brother painted it red because it's a red ant. Did you guess correctly?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recipe for an Insect

Not to be outdone by big brother Kerm's butterfly sculpture last year, Little Brother is taking his recent assignment seriously. He has to create a three-dimensional insect for a kindergarten class project. I told him to write up a "bug plan" with a shopping list for us to take to Michael's craft store.

Here's his list:

In case you have trouble reading the printing of a 5-year-old, let me translate:

Insect Materials
Balls of [styro]foam (3 x)
Pipe cleaners (8 x)
Googly eyes (5 x)

I can't wait to see the finished product!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Take the Hexapod Haiku Challenge!

Do you like writing poems about insects? The North Carolina State University Insect Museum wants to hear them!

The Hexapod Haiku Challenge runs through March 20. The contest judges are looking for short poems that celebrate insect life:

"We would love to have haiku, senryƫ, haiga, and pseudohaiku that feature any familiar arthropod associated with the field of entomology ..."

Visit the contest website for more details. There's a special category for poets under the age of 13. I especially enjoyed looking at this poem about a bee from an eight-year-old runner-up in last year's contest.

Good luck!

Photo credit: carol2chat, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Plant a Flower Day

Today was Plant a Flower Day. Did you get outside to work in your garden? Or maybe it's still too cold where you live and, like my mom, you are germinating your seeds inside. I'm sorry to say that I didn't make it outside today despite the lovely weather.

But though I've been too busy lately to tend to my yard, I can tell that winter is ending. New leaves are pushing through the soft earth in my front garden bed. I wonder what is growing there? I don't remember the names of the different bulbs that my older son and I planted these past two years. Maybe some daffodils or crocuses. We'll have to wait and see. And now that the snow has turned to rain, the trees are starting to bud and grasses are coming to life, my children are tracking mud all over my house. Whether I am ready or not, spring is here!

If, like me, you are too busy right now to start your spring gardening, maybe you'd like to stop to smell the virtual roses. Do you know your state flower? How about your national flower? The National Gardening Association has a nice selection of resources online, including a section for children and teachers.

Even when things are crazy hectic, don't forget to enjoy the natural beauty around you.

Photo credit: EvelynGiggles, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's Time to Adopt-a-Physicist!

I received this information yesterday from Kendra Redmond, Program Coordinator of the Society of Physics Students at the American Institute of Physics:

"Registration is open for spring Adopt-a-Physicist!

Spring 2011 Schedule
*Teacher Registration: Now - March 8 (or until full)
*Physicist Registration: March 9 - March 14 (or until full)
*Teachers adopt physicists: March 15 - March 25
*Discussion forums open: March 29 - April 18

Adopt-a-Physicist connects high school physics students to real physics graduates who are eager to share their stories. Working in areas ranging from particle physics research to freelance writing, the participating physicists embody a huge range of careers, backgrounds, interests, and educational levels. Adopt-a-Physicist connects classes with the physicists of their choice through online discussion forums that are active for a set three-week period. Each physicist can only be "adopted" by up to three classes, making lively, in-depth discussions possible. Learn more at Adopt-a-Physicist."

Image credit: Image Editor, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles

Photo credit: USFWS Endangered Species Program, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

I am currently taking a nature literature course. As part of my class, I'm reading The Windward Road by Archie Carr. Originally published in 1956, this engaging, scientific travelogue follows Dr. Carr as he wanders through the Caribbean islands studying sea turtles. This book drew attention to the plight of the sea turtles and their need for conservation. Today's Sea Turtle Conservancy has its origins in this book.

At the time of the book's publication, no one knew where the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nested. People speculated that babies were born in the sea or even that it was a cross between a loggerhead and a green. Carr was puzzled by this turtle.

Reading his words, I could relate to Carr's confusion. I've always heard that the Kemp's Ridley is the rarest of all sea turtles, but I never knew why.

After publication of the book, the primary Kemp's Ridley nesting ground was finally identified by scientists - on a ten mile stretch of Mexican beach. Even today, 95% of females still nest on this beach. Imagine! No wonder they are so rare.

According to NOAA, the population of Kemp's Ridley has fluctuated but it is generally in decline. In 1947, a video recording showed 40,000 nesting females. By the mid-1980's, this number was down to 700. Thanks to conservation efforts, things were looking up for the Kemp's Ridley in the early 2000's, with almost 7,000 nests in 2003. Unfortunately, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has further decimated the numbers of this critically endangered species. If you look at the range of where they live, you can see why. I hope and pray for their recovery.

Unlike in Carr's day, when turtles were banded with metal tags, today's turtles are monitored using satellite tracking. You can even "adopt" sea turtles! And care of injured and wounded sea turtles has greatly improved. So there is hope! Maybe I will have to take a trip over to the National Aquarium and see if I can meet some Kemp's Ridleys ...