Tuesday, July 31, 2012

~Mr. Arachnid's Great Idea~ Part I unedited~

Mr. Arachnid is a friendly, but misunderstood spider who lives in the crook of an old oak tree just outside of NEW YORK CITY.  He was very happy there.  Every day was the same as the day before and the day before that, and the…well, you see what I mean.  The web shakes, you wake up, and you eat a bug.  Ah, yes… life was good for our misunderstood friend.  But, this was all about to change.
Mr. Arachnid woke up one morning to a very loud noise.  His web shook like it never had before, but there was nothing trapped inside.  What is going on, he wondered?
Suddenly another loud crash!!  His web shook even more than the first time.  “What is happening here?”  Mr. Arachnid shouted!  Another CRASH, another THUD, then BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZzzz…and a cRAsH, BaNG, THuD.  “OH MY!  The trees!  The trees are falling down—one by one!  Down, down, down!”  
Mr. Arachnid worried: What if the tree my web is in falls down, too?  Whatever will I do?  Oh, whatever will I do?  I will have no home.  I will have no food!  I will have no place to sleep!  What shall I do?
Then, a strange...but, wonderful thing happened.  Mr. Arachnid had a great idea—a greater than great idea…a SUPER, STUPENDOUS, COLOSSAL, BIGGER than BIG idea.  What if, he thought, I leave this place and travel the world.  Maybe, I’ll meet new friends, and together we can stop this madness.
Our hairy little friend didn’t know for sure how he was going to go about leaving the old oak tree, but he knew he had to try.  “Who can help me?”  Mr. Arachnid wondered.  “Maybe my friend Little Brown will have an idea.” 
Only one tree over, there lived a very unlikely friend of Mr. Arachnid’s—Little Brown—the Little Brown Bat, who just so happened to be on his way over to see if Mr. Arachnid knew what all the noise was that was shaking his roost and keeping him awake.  After all, he was up all night eating bugs, and he needed to get to sleep…And, who could sleep with all this noise?
 “Good morning, Mr. Arachnid.”  “Little Brown!  Little Brown!  Come look and see…the trees…the trees are falling down.  What is happening?” While watching the trees fall, first one, then another, Mr. Arachnid told his friend all about the idea he had.  Little Brown said, “I’ll help, too!”  “Let’s make a plan.  Who do we know who can help us?” 
The words no sooner left Little Brown’s mouth when, “OWWWWW, owwww” from out of the brush, around the bottom of the old oak tree, sprang yet another friend of Mr. Arachnid and Little Brown’s.  It was Edowrd T. Gray Wolf. 
“Edword! Edword!  Come and see!  See  what is happening!”  The three unlikely friends sat and watched as one tree fell, then another, and yet another.  Down.  Down.  Down.  As they watched, Mr. Arachnid and Little Brown filled Edword in on their plans.  Edword shouted, “OWWWWW!  I’m in!” 
Even though the unlikely three had no idea what to do next, they knew they were going to do something.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Painting on Rocks…It’s not Just for Kids

Posted by: Lori Laniewski

      They come in all different shapes and sizes.  They’re free, and fun to find, skip, and collect.  They’re also perfect for painting on! 
      Who would have thought that rocks would make such an excellent canvas for the imagination?  Klutz, that’s who (okay and maybe grandma, too)!  
      Made up of crystals and minerals, each backyard treasure, with its own unique shape and size (and a little imagination) has the potential to become a painted masterpiece.  In their book, Painted Rocks, Klutz provides “tips, techniques, and inspiration” for painting on one of nature’s most abundant resources.  The book comes with paints, a brush, and even a rock as well as a few googlie eye accessories…The rest is up to you!
      I purchased my copy of the Klutz book a few years ago, and found myself completely inspired by all the colorful examples of rock art!  Since then, it has become a family-fun favorite activity.  Over the years, we’ve used this craft as an inexpensive addition to birthday parties and backyard picnics.  Our rock painting booth was an especially popular addition to the Country Fair themed birthday party we threw one year.
Nice Clean Rock: Before

From dinosaurs and monsters to pirates and frogs…the rock painting possibilities are endless.  So gather up the kids, your paints, brushes, some water and rocks (of course), then get out your creativity and begin!  Before you know it, you will have a beautiful collection of painted rocks to share or keep.   

For us, searching for the perfect rocks to paint was as much fun as painting them.  I hope you enjoy it, too!  

Check out these sites to learn about rocks:

Check out these rock themed books:

 Do you know of a good book or website about rocks or rock painting?  Please share it with us!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Owl Talk

A Barn Owl
This blog post is inspired by both Owl Talk (our factual song about owls) and my own somewhat freaky fascination with owl pellets.  

Extraordinary adaptations of vision (similar to the night vision of a cat), hearing (acute enough to pick up a mouse's footstep under the snow), and silent flight, make owls an especially interesting topic for classroom study.

A few summers ago, while doing research for our song, Ted and I spent some time observing and learning about Barn Owls.  A Barn Owl (as shown in the photo to the left) has a scream-like call and often nests in abandoned buildings, church towers, and barns.  

During our time with the owls, we learned how their dish-shaped faces help them to pin-point the direction from which a sound is coming.  We also learned a bit about the legends and myths that surround the owl.  We've all heard of the saying, "Wise old owl, " which comes from the owl's large round eyes that make it look so wise.  Apparently, in addition to looking wise, its mysterious nocturnal habits caused even the ancient Athenians to regard the owl as an astonishing creature.  They chose the owl as a companion for their patron, Athena, the goddess of wisdom. 

From reading stories about owls and their powers to actually observing these amazing creatures, one of my favorite experiences was dissecting an owl pellet and labeling what I found inside.  From this hands-on activity, I learned that owls usually swallow their prey whole, sometimes eating creatures almost as large as themselves.  They digest the edible parts, and the rest—bones, fur, and teeth is compressed by the owl's stomach into a pellet, which the owl then regurgitates.

Although Ted was not quite as excited about dissecting owl barf, I know that most kids are!  This is why I was completely thrilled when I found the Kid Wings website which invites kids (and adults like me) to virtually dissect owl pellets.  How exciting!! The latest version of this site makes pulling apart and sorting the pellet simple, educational, and fun. Interactive instructional pieces along with teacher resources make this site a terrific addition to any lesson on animal adaptations and owls.

Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls: Photo taken at Zoo America in Hershey, PA

According to National Geographic, "These magnificent owls sometimes remain year-round in their northern breeding grounds, but they are frequent migrants to Canada, the northern United States, Europe, and Asia."


Do you know of another good site,  book, or song with interesting information about owls? We'd love to hear from you!  Please, leave a comment below!