August 30

They’re Everywhere!

I’ve posted about joro spiders before. Click here to go to that post. These arachnids are spreading all over Georgia and other neighboring states. I began seeing small spiders in early summer, but they are quickly growing to their three-inch size. Joro spiders, an invasive species originating from tropical parts of Asia, are “cousins” of the golden silk spider (banana spider) which is common in the southeastern United States.

Joro spiders are easy to identify. Their long legs and abdomens have yellow and black stripes, and a red mark is located on the underside of the female’s abdomen.

These spiders weave giant golden 3-D orb webs that can span 10 feet. The precision and design of an orb web is one of the most beautiful sights in nature!

Grateful that their bite cannot harm people or pets. After females lay their egg sacs in late summer, they will die at the first frost. Four to five hundred spiderlings will hatch next spring. Joro spiders travel via ballooning, meaning they use their silk to ride air currents. Could this explain how the Joro spider population has spread so quickly?

I’m starting to spot male spiders, smaller and less colorful than the females, in the webs.

Just added this book to my library.

Joro Spiders Don't Scare Me (Hardcover)

The construction of orb webs fascinates me, and I’ve posted about them several times. Click here to see orb webs one foggy morning and click here to see a web in a window. You can spray orb webs with a fine mist to see the details of the webs. Gently throw a leaf into the web and watch how the spider interacts with it.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is a fun story to dramatize with your young scientists. Give the actor who is the spider a ball of yarn to weave among items in your classroom or purchase a large orb web to use as the background. (Click here for an example.)

Click here to view full screen.

Students can make orb webs in a variety of ways. Create an orb web on waxed paper with glue. Let it dry and then peel it off. My students have also created webs with glue and while the glue was wet, they sprinkled glitter over them. (They look like webs glistening with water droplets.) We added a spider after the glue dried. Drawing webs is always an engaging task! Click here.

I’ve used the study of spiders to teach students to differentiate between facts and opinions in reading. Lots of people have opinions about spiders! Ideas from former students:

Spiders are invertebrates. Most spiders spin webs. Spiders have eight legs and two body parts. Most spiders have eight eyes. There are different kinds of webs.

Everyone should study spiders. Spiders are the coolest! Spiders are scary. Spiders are fun to study. Orb webs are the best kind of webs.

August 29


Surely everyone has experienced a mosquito bite. Did you know that mosquitoes are considered the deadliest animal in the world?  Click here to watch an informative video about mosquitoes.

A mosquito is an insect and therefore has three body parts and six legs. During their life span, mosquitoes move through metamorphosis – egg. larva, pupa, and adult. I like to walk in a wetland, but I’ve limited my walks there this summer because of the stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

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Although mosquitoes are certainly not a favorite of mine, they are an important link in many food chains. Predators that eat mosquitoes include fish, birds, bats and frogs. Some species of mosquitoes are pollinators.

Click here to watch this humorous story full screen.

Add the West African tale, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, to your study of mosquitoes.

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August 25

Patterns in Nature

I’ve noticed many patterns as I’ve studied the natural world. Click here to see a previous post about spirals. I’ve focused on the following pattern recently. Do you see radial symmetry or fractals? Where have you found this pattern? Be sure to share a photo in the comments.

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August 23

Bumblebees vs Honeybees

I recently posted about honeybees, but how do they differ from bumblebees? Although they are both insects with six legs and three body parts, there are many differences between the two species.

Honeybees are domesticated and produce honey, while bumblebees are always wild and produce a minimal amount of honey. The bumblebee body is large, round and furry while the honeybee is much thinner, and its four wings are distinct. Most bumblebee species prefer to make hives underground and the colony is smaller than the above ground hives of the honeybee. A bumblebee can sting multiple times, unlike a honeybee that can only sting once. Only the queen bumblebee will survive the winter, but the honeybee colony will remain intact through the winter months.

Look at those compound eyes! See previous post about insect eyes.

There are more species of bumblebees than honeybees, and of the two groups, they are the better pollinators. Using your knowledge of their bodies, why do you think this is true? Observe bumblebees at work.

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In a past lab, we pretended to be pollinators. Sugar water (nectar) was in the cup and “pollen” rubbed off the Cheetos (stamens) onto our hands, like it does on a bee’s legs. The straw was our long tongue that we inserted inside the flower.

An informative book to add to your collection:

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What an ideal time to listen to the Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov. Click here to watch full screen. Use this as a movement activity and dramatize pollinating flowers with your young scientists.

August 22


Cicadas are part of the summer symphony in Georgia. It’s common to find their exoskeleton shells on trees. An exoskeleton is an external covering that supports and protects the body of some invertebrate animals, especially arthropods.

In biology, the prefix (ex- or exo-) means outer, away from, or out of something, such as extinguish, external and exothermic. What other science words have this root?

Why do they leave their exoskeleton shells behind? Notice the slit down the back.

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What other animals have an exoskeleton? Click here for full screen viewing.

Incorporate this beautifully illustrated book when you learn about cicadas.

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August 18

New Phenomenon

I like beginning a science lesson or class with a phenomenon. Use them when you have a few extra minutes too. Click here for a list of phenomena to use with your scientists from NCSS. A reminder that a phenomenon is an observable event that fosters inquiry.

On my walk today, I spied a fawn. Why does she have a spotted coat, while her parents do not? Brainstorm answers. Encourage students to use their background knowledge on ecosystems and food chains. Look below the last photo for the answer.

Spots mimic patches of sunlight that shine through trees and other plants and thereby camouflage the fawn from predators. Click here for a previous post about camouflage.

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August 16

Honeybees and Hexagons

Why is there such a fuss about honeybees by environmentalists? What is their role in the ecosystem?

Honeybees are social insects. They are invertebrates and further classified as arthropods. In the colony, the queen, drones (males) and workers (females) each have a role. Click here to learn more.

Honeybees, like other insects, move through metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) during their life cycle.

Love this series!

Click here for full screen.

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Watch the video below to learn how bees make honey and then have a honey tasting party with your students. Create a graph of favorites.

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Visit a garden and watch honeybees at work. Ask a beekeeper to visit your classroom.

This is an ideal opportunity to connect math and science and learn about hexagons with equal sides (a regular polygon). A hexagon is a polygon which is a two-dimensional, closed shaped with three or more straight sides. Both the words six and hexagon have an “x” as their third letter. Hexagons have six sides, vertices, and angles.

Which shape is made when a hexagon is cut in half? (trapezoid) Which shape do you see when a hexagon is divided into sixths? (triangle) Three rhombuses (rhombi) also form a hexagon. Pull out your pattern blocks and explore these shapes. This activity is a hands-on introduction to fractions.

How many different ways can you cover a hexagon with these shapes? Use this activity to move into a discussion of equivalent fractions.

Use popsicle sticks or toothpicks to form the hexagonal cells in a honeycomb (tessellation). Little fingers will find this challenging.

Where else in nature do you find hexagons? Click here for full screen.

Check out these books too:

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August 15


I am beginning to see some signs of fall. This little leaf fell onto my windshield.

Many students study trees during Autumn, so in preparation, I am going to begin posting a series about leaves. Let’s begin with petioles which is the stalk that attaches a leaf to the stem (branch) of a plant. A leaf without a petiole is called a sessile leaf.  Petioles can twist the leaf to face the sun. There is diversity in petioles, as you will find a variety of lengths and colors. Let’s look at some petioles I found on trees near my home.

Before you go on a nature walk and observe the petioles on trees, consider the following:  Are all petioles the same length on a tree? Do all species of maples or oaks have similar petioles? Do leaves on plants other than trees have petioles too? Is there any correlation between the size of a leaf and the length of the petiole?

Collect leaves and compare the petioles. Measure them.

Send students on a scavenger hunt. Find the longest and shortest petiole. Find a tree leaf with no petioles. Find a red and a green petiole.

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August 11

Butterfly or Moth?

Do you know how to distinguish between a butterfly and a moth? Although there are similarities, there are also striking differences.

Moths are nocturnal while butterflies are active during the day (diurnal). Moths usually have plain wings, and butterfly wings tend to be more colorful. When a moth is resting, its wings are at its sides, but a butterfly rests with its wings together and upright. There are differences in antennae too. A butterfly has clubbed antennae, but a moth has straight or feathery ones. Finally, a butterfly’s body is thin, but a moth’s body is often thicker. During metamorphosis, a butterfly caterpillar makes a chrysalis, but a moth caterpillar forms a cocoon during the pupal stage. Now when you find a lepidoptera on a walk with your child or students, determine whether it is a moth or butterfly.

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Click here to learn how to watch caterpillars move through metamorphosis. Click here for a previous cocoon post. I have made other posts about butterflies and moths. Go to the search bar on the right top corner of the home page to find them.

Observe butterflies in a garden or nursery. Turn on a light outside at night and watch for moths.

August 9

What is Science?

Many teachers and parents are back to school. Use some of the following books to begin your science class! Before you read the picture book below, ask your children to brainstorm answers to the question on the cover. Do you have a scientist in your family? These books will make thoughtful gifts.

Click here for the Safeshare link.

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Who is a scientist? What do they do? Can children be scientists?

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“Science is a tool to discover the wonders and glory of God!”