September 27

Forest Fires

Our original vacation plans were to travel from Livingston to Missoula and then onto Whitefish, Montana and Glacier National Park. However, the smoke from forest fires burning in several states prevented us from accomplishing our plans. The air quality was just too poor.

The debate on whether to extinguish forest fires, often caused by lightning strikes in Yellowstone National Park, was an interesting one. In the past, attempts were always made to put out fires in the park, but thoughts have changed on whether that is the healthiest choice for a thriving ecosystem. The National Park System permits lightning-ignited fires to burn in Yellowstone if they are not a threat to human life or property. Yellowstone’s fire season usually lasts from July through late September.

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Lodgepole pines fill the forests of Yellowstone. The cones of these pines are tightly sealed with resin. As a result, the cones can’t open unless they’re exposed to very high temperatures, like that of a forest fire. The cones may be on the trees for years before there is enough heat to open them. Can you see the saplings in the photo below? Dead and burned trees are not removed because they provide food and shelter for animals and nutrients for the soil. These tall, straight pines were used to construct tipis by native people, hence the name lodgepole pine.

We were told by rangers that many large animals, like elk and moose, benefit from the open spaces created by the fires. By removing the forest overstory, fire also promotes habitat diversity.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) 

February 24

Would You Rather?

Learning how to debate and share your position and opinions respectfully, knowledgeably, and convincingly are important skills for children, as well as for adults. Play the game, Would you Rather…?, at home or in the classroom using opposing science statements. For a successful discussion, students will need background information about the topics which could be gained through a science unit, past experiences, or research.
In the classroom:
Present two contrasting ideas. Direct your students to divide into two groups based upon which of the choices they select. Each group is then tasked with discussing reasons that support their choice and then sharing those supporting statements with the opposing group. After each group presents, ask students if there is anyone who wants to switch groups based upon the presentations.
At Home:
Use these as conversation starters with your child.
Would You Rather…
Swim like a fish or fly like a bird?
Hibernate during winter months or migrate south for the winter?
Be a domestic animal or a wild animal?
Be a predator that kills and eats its food or prey that eats plants?
Be an animal that burrows underground or nests in a tree?
Be a deciduous or an evergreen tree?
Be an animal who lives in a beach habitat or a forest habitat?
Be a nocturnal or diurnal animal?
This activity could be used as an introduction to a persuasive writing unit.
Lettering is a new interest. I’m always looking for ways to practice, so I made the title above.
December 22

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

My favorite Christmas traditions revolve around photos. When I decorate my home each year, I look forward to these decorations most of all! On my mantle, I hang a banner with clips, so I can attach past Christmas cards. As I clip on each card, the memories attached to each photo come to mind and bring me such joy.

On a side table in my dining room, I have family photos displayed. Behind each photo is another photo of my daughter with Santa. Each December, I just switch the photos, and I can easily switch them back after Christmas.

My friend, Debora, shared the next idea with me. She takes all the photo holiday cards she receives and places them on a ring after Christmas. Then she prays for friends and family throughout the year as she turns the photos on the ring.

November 30

Christmas Tree for Animal Lovers

Three years ago, I gave my almost 91 year old mother a Christmas tree. She had not had a tree for years. Because she was a fan of Animal Planet, I decided on an animal theme and purchased stuffed animal ornaments to adorn her tree. I have added to it each year since then. It brings her so much joy that it stays up all year! Wouldn’t it also be a perfect tree for a child’s room or a science lab?

My mom is in a wheelchair, so I was excited about this addition.

October 5

Interesting Plants

In my garden, I try to have a few unusual specimens each year. These are my favorites:

Shrimp Plant- Click here to find out more. My shrimp plant died back last winter, but regrew this spring.

ChenilleClick here to learn more. It’s the perfect hanging plant!

Turks Cap-“This is one shrub that grows really fast and grows about 6-7 ft. tall and about 4-5 ft wide.  It is a hardy shrub that can tolerate the hot southwest sun or the cold 20-18° degree cold weather.”

August 31

Whimsical Garden Pieces

It’s fun to add a little whimsy to your garden! As I did in my science classroom, I look for ways to add surprises in unexpected places. Still searching for a turtle, a sundial, and rain gauge. The hummingbirds have brought me such joy this summer, I might just add one of those too! The poem below was in my grandparents’ garden.

August 8

Cottonwood Tree

My husband and I drove through Wisconsin this summer, and we found the variety of trees differed from the trees native to Atlanta. I especially enjoyed learning about the cottonwood tree. This massive shade tree grows along rivers and lakes. They belong to the poplar family and are among the fastest growing trees in America. They are easily recognized by their wide trunks. The name “cottonwood” comes from the fluffy white material that surrounds the seeds each spring.

May 29

Good-Bye Science Lab

When I was chosen to be the science coordinator seven years ago and tasked with creating a science lab, I began with an empty room. Creating an inviting, engaging, learning environment has been such a labor of love.

Moving In

As I looked around the room one last time before I closed the door and took the first step in my new chapter, I thought of the classic story, Good Night Moon, in which the character says good night to all the items in his bedroom before going to sleep. I laughed at myself, as I said good-night to all my favorite spaces and materials in the lab, and thought of all the young scientists who have shared this room with me. I already miss them!