Wednesday, July 8, 2020

STEAM Activity: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? A chicken lays an egg, a chick grows inside, hatches, grows to be a chicken--that lays another egg.  And so on, and so on.

There are many ways to illustrate the repeating process of a chicken's life cycle. In one classroom of second graders at a school in California, the children made a mixed media presentation using packing material to represent the chicken’s nest, real feathers on the growing chick, a hand-print to make an adult chicken, markers for drawing, and googly eyes for all. With black arrows indicating the circular process, it is a dramatic and colorful presentation.

To do this project you will need:
White poster board or heavy paper cut into a large egg shape.
White paper for the eggs.
Yellow paper for the chick.
Colored markers.
Googly eyes.
Feathers.
Packing material for nest.
Red poster paint.

Use the picture above as a guide.
Have fun!

Learn about a chicken's life cycle in my book HATCHING CHICKS IN ROOM 6.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

STEAM Project: The Egg is Hatching!

When a chick is ready to hatch, it uses its beak to poke a hole in the shell. In my book, Hatching Chicks in Room 6, you can see photos of real chicks in the process of hatching. In this art project ou can create your own hatching chick.

You will need:
Yellow construction paper, about 12 by 18 inches.
Brown construction paper, about 12 by 18 inches.
A small piece of orange construction paper, about 4 inches square.
Pencil.
Scissors.
Glue.
Black marker.

1. Draw a large egg shape on the yellow paper. Cut it out. Use the pencil to trace around it to make another egg shape on the brown paper. Cut it out. Make a small hole in the middle of the brown paper.
2. Spread glue around the edge of the yellow egg. Put the brown egg on top and press to fasten the two pieces of paper together.
3. Carefully tear the paper around the hole, pulling the pieces back to reveal the yellow paper underneath.
4. Use the marker to draw two black eyes.
5. Fold the orange paper in half to make a triangle. Fold under two corners and glue on to make a beak.

Your chick is ready to hatch!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Writing Exercise: USING THE FIVE SENSES, 2

I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is another version of my writing exercise called “Using the Five Senses.”
 
Most of us have no trouble writing visual descriptions, but we often forget to include our other senses in our writing. This exercise focuses on using all five senses to make your writing come alive.  Choose an object, place, person, or animal, and write five sentences about it, one sentence (or two) for each sense-- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.  The following examples are from my book Fox (Morrow Junior Books) now available as an ebook on Amazon.
  • Sight: When most people think of foxes, they picture the red fox, with its large white-tipped tail and brilliant flame-colored fur.
These large pointed teeth cut against each other like the blades of scissors and are good for ripping and tearing.
  • Sound: These high-pitched sounds, called ultrasounds, are made by many of the rodents that are the foxes’ prey.
Foxes bark or growl as warning to one another or to predators that come too close. If a fox is trapped or cornered, it makes croaking noises.
  • Touch: Each month-old pup weighs about a pound, and its short newborn coat is covered with soft light-colored fur.
  • Smell: One sign of a fox’s readiness to mate is a strong skunk-like odor in its urine.
Like other canids, a fox has a scent gland underneath its tail that produces a strong musky odor.
  • Taste: When the pups are about two weeks old, their first teeth come in. About a week later, they begin to suck and chew at the pieces of meat their parents have brought back to the den.
You can write more complex descriptions if you like.  The important thing is to immerse yourself in the scene and use all your senses to convey the essence of that scene to your reader.  To find out if you are using sensory descriptions in your writing, go through one of your stories with a highlighter, and mark each time you use one of your senses.  Note which sense you use most often!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Writing Exercise: USING THE FIVE SENSES, 1

I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is a writing exercise called “Using the Five Senses, 1.” (Another example of this exercise will post next week.)
 
Most of us have no trouble writing visual descriptions, but we often forget to include our other senses in our descriptions.  This exercise focuses on using all five senses to make your writing come alive.  Choose an object, place, person, or animal, and write five sentences about it, one sentence (or two) for each sense-- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. 

Here are some examples from my book A Walrus’ World.
  •     Sight: The baby walrus’ plump body is covered with short fur.
  •     Smell: The mother walrus sniffs her baby and rubs his back with her whiskers.
  •     Sound: Splash! He tumbles into the water. Splash! His mother dives in too.
  •     Touch: Using her whiskers, she feels a clam.  Then she grabs the shell with her lips and sucks out the meat.
  •     Taste: Their sleek bodies slide through the cool, salty water.  (From A Killer Whale’s World.)
You can write more complex descriptions if you like.  The important thing is to immerse yourself in the scene and use all your senses to convey the essence of that scene to your reader.  To find out if you are using sensory descriptions in your writing, go through one of your stories with a highlighter, and mark each time you use one of your senses.  Note which sense you use most often!

A Walrus’ World and A Killer Whale’s World are in my series Caroline Arnold’s Animals published by Picture Window Books (Capstone.) 
Illustration by Caroline Arnold from A Killer Whale's World

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

THE CRAFT OF WRITING: On Writing Well by William Zinsser

My favorite book on the craft of writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. More than forty years after it was first published, I still think it is the best guide to nonfiction writing I’ve read.  Clear, well-organized, thorough, entertaining, and practical–it embodies the principles it teaches.  As I write and edit my own manuscripts, advice from this book is always at the back of my mind.
Among my favorite quotes is one from the section on punctuation:
  • “There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough.”
After a brief introductory chapter, the first real chapter in the book begins with this sentence:
  • “Clutter is the disease of American writing.”  
De-cluttering is the route to clarity and it is my goal as I edit my own manuscripts,

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

MILKWEED AND MONARCHS

Monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant in northern Wisconsin.
Look along a roadside, in a vacant lot, or in an abandoned country field, and you will probably see milkweed, a tall plant with broad leaves, thick stems and pink, yellow or purple flowers. If you look closely, you might find a monarch butterfly sipping nectar. Many insects make milkweed plants their home. They eat the nectar, sap, leaves, stems, roots, and seeds. You may also have milkweed plants, also called butterfly weed, in your garden.
Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant in my garden.
Milkweed gets its name from the white sap inside its stem. Poisonous chemicals are in the sap. Most plant-eating animals, such as cattle or deer, do not eat milkweed because it tastes bad. But monarch butterfly caterpillars are able to eat milkweed sap and the poison does not hurt them. A little bit of the poison becomes part of their bodies and helps protect them from birds and other predators. Predators learn to recognize monarchs by their distinctive black and orange colors and avoid them because they taste bad.

Female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed leaves and when the eggs hatch, the tiny caterpillars eat the leaves. After a few weeks, when the caterpillars are about two inches long, they stop eating, attach themselves to a leaf and cover themselves with a green shell called a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar, now called a pupa, slowly transforms into a butterfly. After about two weeks, the beautiful butterfly emerges and the cycle of life begins again. (For a previous post with more about metamorphosis and a photo of a monarch chrysalis, click HERE.)
Milkweed pods in the fall. (Illustration by Caroline Arnold)
In the fall, monarch butterflies fly to their winter homes and milkweed flowers turn into seed pods. At first, the crescent shaped pods are soft and green. As the seeds grow inside the pod, the outside becomes hard and brown. When the seeds are ripe, the pod cracks open and the seeds spill out. The wind catches the the fluffy seeds and they are carried away, floating like tiny helicopters. Some of the seeds fall to the ground. In the following spring they will grow into new milkweed plants, providing homes for a new generation of monarchs.

Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed. In recent years, the disappearance of milkweed in many rural areas as a result of development has had a deleterious effect on monarch butterflies and their numbers have plummeted. You can learn about planting milkweed in your area to help monarch butterflies at this NWF website.

In my book, Butterflies in Room 6, about a kindergarten class raising painted lady butterflies, you can learn more about butterfly development.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

THE WRITING PROCESS: Six Questions Exercise

When Mammoths Walked the Earth is available as an e-book on Amazon
I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is a writing exercise called “Six Questions.”

When I started researching my book When Mammoths Walked the Earth (Clarion, 2002) I ended up with a jumble of facts about these huge prehistoric animals that lived in the Ice Age. My job in writing the book was to line up the facts so they made sense. So I asked myself a few questions: Who were the mammoths? What did they look like? Where and when did they live? Why were they unique? How do we know about them?
Asking questions is a technique I use that helps me focus on what my book is about and this helps me figure out how to organize the information. The six basic questions are who, what, where, when, why and how. Try answering the following questions about your subject. Your answers will help you shape your story. (Although my focus is on writing nonfiction, this exercise works for fiction too.)

Who is your book about? Who or what is the main subject or character of your story?
What does your subject look like? What is unique or special about your subject’s appearance?
Where does the main character live? Or, where does the story take place? In other words, what is the setting of your story.
When does the story happen? That is, what is the time frame?
How does the main subject behave? How is it adapted to its particular way of life? Or, what is the main action of the story?
Why should we be interested in your subject? What makes it compelling?

Note: When Mammoths Walked the Earth is out of print but available as a Kindle book on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

LETTERS FROM STUDENTS: Author Visit Follow-Up

I love to do author visits and to feel the excitement that surrounds my appearance at a school. But the real value for the students is in the preparation and follow-up. I love to get letters and thank-you notes from students and teachers after my visit. They tell me what the students remember and what most impacted them about my program.
A few months ago I was pleased to receive a packet of thank-you notes from Mrs. Ritter’s kindergarten class at Jacoby Creek School in Arcata, which I visited in October during the Humboldt County Authors Festival. In the picture above you can see me (without any hair!) and the table with my book display. I love the drawing of the tiny butterfly in the book in my hand!

Note: One of the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic is the suspension of school and cancellation of author visits. I don't expect to do any on site author visits in the near future, although perhaps when school reopens there will be the possibility of Skype or Zoom visits. Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Growing an Avocado Pit

It may take up to six weeks for an avocado pit to sprout.
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Avocados
Did you know that the pits inside peaches and avocados are seeds? Most pits take a long time to sprout. The hard outer covering must split or rot away before the seed inside can grow.
An avocado pit takes two to six weeks to sprout. But when it does grow, it makes a beautiful houseplant.
First wash the pit, and remove any bits of avocado. Then poke three toothpicks into the side of the pit, and place the seed on the top of a glass or jar filled with water. The round end of the pit should be down, and the pointed end should face up. Be sure than there is always some water covering the bottom of the pit.
As the pit begins to grow, it will split. When the stem is about six inches long, cut off the top half. Then, when new leaves have formed and the root is thick, plant it in a large pot (about ten inches across).  Keep it watered, and it should grow into a beautiful plant.

Update July 1, 2020:
Three months after putting my avocado pit in water, it has sprouted its first leaves. (The root began to grow about a month ago.) Soon I will plant it in a pot with dirt.


Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried beans and peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices 4/8/20
Birdseed 4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados 5/13/20

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Growing Pineapple Leaves

New leaves have begun growing from the center of this planted pineapple top
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Pineapple
Next time your family is having fresh pineapple, cut off the top two inches before you serve the rest. Keep the leaves attached. Trim the edges of the pineapple so that the the center of the fruit fits into the top of a glass. Fill the glass with water just to the bottom of the pineapple. Place near a window so the pineapple gets plenty of light. In a few weeks you will see roots growing down into the water.  You can plant your pineapple in a pot with soil and watch it sprout new leaves. 

You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried beans and peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices 4/8/20
Birdseed 4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados 5/13/20

Monday, May 4, 2020

CHILDREN'S BOOK WEEK, May 4-10, 2020. Celebrate #BookWeek2020atHome

Children's Book Week is an annual celebration of children's books, authors, illustrators and publishers. This year's celebration, May 4-10, 2020, is the 101st!  #BookWeek2020atHome 
It is sponsored by the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader.

Here is what they say:

This celebration honors children's books, readers, and book creators. It is all about connecting over books and that can be done anytime, anywhere. Celebrate at home and online all week long!
Read all about our new plans in PW Children's Bookshelf.
Resources and Celebration Ideas!
  • Brand New 2020 Bookmarks with activities are available. Wonderfully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the Fan Brothers, Michaela Goade, John Parra, Sydney Smith, and Duncan Tonatiuh!

  • Find coloring pages, the 2020 Official Poster, and more printable activities on our website.

  • Need some celebration inspiration? Check out all our ideas for how to participate at home and connect with others.

  • Follow #BookWeek2020atHome to find videos, live virtual events from book creators, resources, and celebration ideas from libraries and local bookstores. And use it to let us know how you are celebrating from wherever you are!
Please email Shaina.Birkhead@cbcbook.org with questions.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Carrots

Sprouted Carrot Tops
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Carrots
Cut off the top of the carrot, leaving about an inch of the carrot on it. Place this in a shallow dish of water, and wait for a few days. Soon you will see new leaves growing out of the top. Wait a bit longer and you will see roots growing out of the carrot bottom. You may want to transplant your carrot into a pot full of soil and watch the leaves continue to grow.

You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed  4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Avocados  5/6/20
Pineapple  5/13/20 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Citrus Fruits

Lemon seeds
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Citrus Fruits
The seeds of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit also grow into nice houseplants. Plant them in potting soil, and place on a sunny windowsill. You can start several seeds in one pot, but when they grow, there will be room for only one plant. Then the plants are matchstick size, choose the strongest one and pull out the others. This is called thinning. Gardeners thin so that their plants have plenty of room to grow.
Look for seeds inside an orange

Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas  3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds  4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed  4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados  5/13/20

Monday, April 20, 2020

FIVE NESTS (1980), Fortieth Anniversary of my First Book

Forty years ago on April 1, 1980, my first book, Five Nests, was published by E. P. Dutton. It was illustrated with beautiful art by Ruth Sanderson. For both of us, it was at the beginning of our long careers. (Ruth already had done a few books, but has since illustrated many more.) I was thrilled to become a published author but I never imagined that I would go on to write more than 100 books, and that I would still be writing and publishing books forty years later. (My new books, which will come out in 2022, will bring my total to more than 170.)
Five Nests is a nonfiction easy-read book about five species of birds, each with a different mode of parenting. With robins, both parents take care of the baby birds. With red-wing blackbirds, only the mother cares for the young. With rheas (South American relatives of the ostrich) the father bird cares for the young of multiple females. With Mexican jays, young birds help their parents care for the baby birds hatched in the following season. And, with cowbirds, the mother lays her eggs in the nests of other species and they raise the baby cowbird when it hatches.
Despite being named an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the CBC/NSTA, Five Nests went out of print quickly. It is almost impossible to find today. Two of Ruth’s beautiful black and white illustrations from the interior of the book, in the collection of the Philadelphia Free Library, can be seen on the internet. Mexican jay eggs. Mexican jays.
In 1980, the majority of children’s nonfiction were published with black and white illustrations. That has all changed, and now almost all books have beautiful full color art, like the painting on the cover of Five Nests. I have always hoped that I might one day see Five Nests republished with new full-color illustrations. The final lines of the book, There are many different ways that birds take care of their babies. Each way is a good way., apply to people too, and are just as relevant today as they were forty years ago.
Author photo on back flap of Five Nests

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Birdseed

Bird feeder filled with seeds
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Birdseed
If you have a pet bird or a bird feeder for wild birds, you can try growing birdseed. Plant your birdseed in a pot filled with potting soil. The small, round seeds are millet. Sunflower seeds, if planted outdoors, will grow into plants much taller than you are.
Here is another way you can watch your birdseed sprout. Fill a shallow tray or the top of an egg carton with vermiculite. (You can get this at a garden store.) Sprinkle it with birdseed, and water it. Then cover it with plastic wrap. This keeps the moisture inside so the seeds won’t dry out. In a few days you will see your seeds begin to sprout. Then remove the plastic.
Each seed has food inside it for a new plant to grow. But after a few days the plant uses that up. Then it needs to get nutrients from the soil so it can make its own food with sunlight and the chlorophyll in its leaves. When your birdseed plants are the size of a matchstick, transplant them into a pot with dirt or into your garden outside.

You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds  4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed  4/15/20
Citrus Fruits   4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados  5/13/20

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Herbs and Spices

Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Herbs and Spices
Many herbs and spices are seeds. You might find caraway, cardamom, celery, anise, mustard, sesame, or poppy seeds on your spice shelf. Try planting some of them to see if they will grow. You can fill an egg carton with potting soil and plant a different kind of seed in each cup. Use a craft stick to label each section. Then you will know which plant is which when the seeds grow. When a plant is about two inches tall, it should be transplanted to a larger container.

You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for more kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds  4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed 4/15/20
Avocados  4/22/20
Citrus Fruits  4/29/20
Carrots  5/6/20
Pineapple  5/13/20

Monday, April 6, 2020

STUCK AT HOME SCIENCE from the California Science Center

The California Science Center in Los Angeles is closed until further notice, but their website has all kinds of fun activities that kids can do at home. Every weekday at 10am (PDT) they have a new activity.  Check out their STUCK AT HOME SCIENCE page for more information.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Fresh Vegetable Seeds

Fresh peas can be dried and planted to grow more pea plants.
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Fresh Vegetable Seeds
You can try growing the seeds of some fresh vegetables. The seeds inside fresh beans and peas, cucumbers, and squashes will grow if you dry them out first. These will grow best if planted outside.
Cucumber and pepper seeds are small. Remember to dry them out before planting them.
You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed  4/15/20
Avocados  2/22/20
Citrus Fruits  4/29/20
Carrots  5/6/20
Pineapple  5/13/20

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Dried Beans and Peas

Sprouting a bean seed
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Dried Beans and Peas
There are many kinds of dried beans and peas--navy beans, lima beans, kidney beans and more. Usually, these are cooked and used in soups or hot dishes. But you can also plant them and watch them grow. Only dried beans will grow. Any bean that has been cooked will not grow.
You will need a glass jar or clear plastic cup. Line it with a piece of damp paper towel. Put beans between the towel and the glass. Fill the inside with potting soil.* Keep the dirt and towel moist and warm. In a few days you will see your beans begin to grow. The root will grow down, and the sprout will grow up. Soon leaves will develop from the sprouts. The roots grow longer each day. Measure them each day to see how fast they grow.
*You can omit the soil and still watch your bean sprout as long as you keep the towel moist.
If you plant your sprouted bean seed (paper towel included) in a pot of soil, it will grow into a leafy plant. After the bean sprout has used up the food in the seed, it uses nutrients in the soil to continue growing.
You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried beans and peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices 4/8/20
Birdseed 4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados 5/13/20

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A PILGRIMAGE THROUGH THE CHURCHES OF A SMALL AMERICAN TOWN by Judith Stiehm

My friend Judith Stiehm, a professor at Florida International University in Miami, has written a memoir,  A Pilgrimage through the Churches of a Small American Town, an account of her stay in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for a year and a half in the late 1990s when she was doing academic research at the Army War College. During that time she went to services at all 30 churches in Carlisle. After each service Judith wrote a short essay about her experience. Those essays are this book.

My connection with the book is that I helped Judith publish the book on Amazon. (I have published one of my own books on Amazon and know how to use the program.) After many months working on the book on weekends when Judith was at home in Los Angeles, we finally got it uploaded and officially published. It is now available both as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon. As I worked on the book and read the chapters, I was reminded of my numerous visits to Carlisle to visit my husband’s parents who lived in a retirement community just outside the town and going to church with them at Second Presbyterian (Chapter 24 in Judith’s book.)

This project made me appreciate all the work my publishers do to publish my books. For Judith’s book I was copy editor, designer, type setter, proof reader and tech expert. Along the way, I got a fascinating snapshot of life in the Carlisle community as seen through Judith’s eyes.

As Judith says in her introduction, the book is probably best read just a few chapters at a time. I think you will find it interesting.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

THANK YOU CARDS from Nevada Avenue School

Cards from 2nd Grade students at Nevada Avenue School
I love receiving cards and letters from students after I do an author visit at their school. These wonderful thank you cards came from the second graders in Room 5 at Nevada Avenue Elementary School in Canoga Park, California, after my recent visit. I love that each student chose something different to illustrate. Projects such as these help to reinforce the value of an author visit.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

TIME ZONES OF THE WORLD: Paper Plate Project from The Geography Book

Did you turn your clocks forward one hour last Sunday?
As we change our clocks to Daylight Savings Time, it is a good time to look at the time zones of the world. You can also make your own "World Clock" to see what time it is in other parts of the world in relation to the time where you live.
How to Make a World Clock
You will need:
  • scissors
  • 2 paper plates
  • ruler
  • pen
  • brad
1. Cut the rim off one paper plate to make a flat circle.
2. Use the ruler and pen to divide the circle into 24 equal pie-shaped sections. Start by dividing the circle into quarters and divide these in half to make eighths. Then divide each of these into three smaller sections.
3. Write “London, Greenwich Mean Time” in one of the sections. Then, continuing clockwise find a city in each succeeding time zone and write the name in the following sections.
4. Place the circle with the city names on top of the other paper plate. Fasten them in the center with the brad.
5. On the rim of the plate, above the section that says “London,” write “12:00 Midnight.” Continue in a clockwise fashion writing 1:00 am, 2:00 am, 3:00 am, and so on, above each pie section, until you come back to “12:00 midnight.”
6. Look at the time on the rim above the time zone where you live. That is what the time is when it is 12:00 midnight in London. When you rotate the circle so that the time on the rim is your current time, the other pie sections will tell you what time it is in other cities in the world.

It takes 24 hours, or one day, for Earth to make one complete turn, or revolution, in space. As each hour passes, Earth rotates approximately 15 degrees of longitude. At the 1884 International Meridian Conference, it was agreed to divide the world into 24 time zones of 15 degrees each, measured from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England. All other times around the world are based on the time set in Greenwich, called Greenwich Mean Time (or GMT.) The halfway point around the Earth, centered on the 180th meridian, is called the International Date Line. This is the point at which one day ends and a new day begins. The lines separating the time zones do not always follow the meridians exactly. Some of the divisions have been shifted to keep countries or communities in the same time zone. In some parts of the world, such as India and central Australia, the zones vary on the half hour so that noon occurs when the Sun is at the highest point in the sky.

You can find this project and many other fun activities for exploring, mapping and enjoying your world in THE GEOGRAPHY BOOK by Caroline Arnold.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

AUTHOR VISIT at NEVADA AVENUE SCHOOL for Read Across America Week

On Monday I spent a full and exciting day at Nevada Avenue School in Canoga Park, California, helping to launch a week celebrating reading. As I arrived, I found my parking place, marked by a beautiful sign made by my host, librarian extraordinaire, Najma Hussain, who did a terrific job preparing the students and organizing my day.
Welcome poster in the school hallway
At the start of the school day the students assembled on the playground and recited the pledge to reading in honor of Read Across America week. Then I was introduced and said a few words. After that my day began with three assemblies in the auditorium.
The room was decorated with wonderful artwork made by the students. Each class had focused on a theme inspired by one of my books. Most had chosen to learn about one of the habitats from my Day and Night series.
There were pictures of rain forest toucans and jaguars, bison on the prairie, forest animals peeking through the trees, lions in Africa, polar bears in the arctic and much more.
Butterflies made by ETK students
Several of the younger TK classes learned about butterflies, and one class, Room 10, had real caterpillars and butterflies in their classroom. During a break I made a special visit to see them. (The students told me that they wanted me to rename my book "Butterflies in Room 10"!)
With ETK teacher, Room 10
After the assemblies I spent the rest of the day visiting classrooms, where the students had the chance to ask questions and get a close-up look at my butterfly materials and my fossil mammoth tooth.
Najma Hussain, librarian at Nevada Avenue School
I thank Najma Hussain for making this a special day for me–for organizing the schedule, for providing a big selection of my books in the library, for arranging time for me to chat with teachers and Principal Tanya Nott, and for delicious snacks and lunch to keep me going through the day. My visit was made possible by funds raised from the school book fair, organized by Najma. Nevada Avenue School is lucky to have such a devoted and enthusiastic librarian!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

REBUILDING NATURAL HABITAT: A Visit to Esperanza School, Los Angeles

The garden at Esperanza School is part of the Schoolyard Habitat Program (supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Last week I returned to Esperanza School in Los Angeles (which I visit every year) to talk with the fourth graders in Mrs. Elizabeth Williams’ natural science class. They meet twice a week, both in the library, where I made my presentation, and in the school’s natural habitat garden. The students love to learn about animals and have been reading my books.
With teacher Elizabeth Williams in the school library
As I arrived at the school I was greeted by Principal Brad Rumble, who shared with me some of the many activities going on at the school. He is an enthusiastic bird watcher and passes on his love of birds to the students. In the hallway outside the main office is a bulletin board where students are recording their observations about red-tailed hawks, large birds that they often see soaring over the school playground.
Esperanza Elementary School is located at the edge of downtown Los Angeles
Several years ago Brad Rumble initiated the conversion of part of the school’s asphalt playground to a natural habitat garden area for plants native to southern California. I have visited the garden every year and seen the progress from scattered plants surrounded by dirt to a garden bursting with growth. As students visit the garden throughout the year they are learning to identify plants, insects and other wildlife, and observe the differences in growth during each season.
Lupins
This was my first visit to the garden in spring. Bright blue lupins were blooming everywhere and hundreds of bees were buzzing around the blossoms collecting nectar and pollen. A few orange California poppies brightened one corner and numerous other spring flowers were also in bloom.
Thermometer and Rain Gauge
In one corner, a thermometer showed the temperature to be in the seventies, a warm day for February. Next to it, the rain gauge was empty. Although February is typically the rainiest month of the year, this year there has been almost no rain. A drip system and hose can be used to water the plants during dry periods.
I always enjoy my visits to Esperanza and seeing the evolution of the garden. This year I was delighted to see new garden areas that have been planted in the main courtyard of the school, with trees for shade and other native plants. With each new bit of natural space, the school is becoming a true oasis for wildlife in the heart of the city.