Be a Rockhound Today

With all the seriousness in the world today, sometimes it’s fun to be silly and escape. So, imagine all the fun you can have with a pet rock. If you are in need of a geology lesson with some craftiness and a bit of creative writing, you have come to the right place.

Collecting and identifying rocks can be lots of fun for kids. In Julie the Rockhound, a young girl finds a shiny rock and her dad teaches her how to find crystals, how they are formed, and the different qualities of quartz. After the story, the “For Creative Minds” section gives readers a guide to becoming a rockhound.

If you want to create a rockhounding experience in your classroom, library or home, but can’t get outside to dig in the dirt, here is a guide to creating an indoor experience.

Create a dig site.

Fill a plastic container or a sandbox with a shallow layer of play sand or dirt. Bury a variety of rocks in the sand for kids to find. You can buy rocks from a craft store or dig some from your own yard. Place a few kid-friendly shovels and digging tools in the container to help kids unbury the rocks.

**Make sure to have at least one rock per child.

Learn about rocks.

Use the guide in the “For Creative Minds” pages to identify if the rock is sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic. You can also discuss the hardness of the rock using Moh’s Hardness Scale.

Make it your pet.

In 1975, Gary Dahl, an advertising copywriter, came up with the idea of a Pet Rock. He designed a box and owner’s manual. The whimsical idea was just what people needed at the time, and he soon began selling pet rocks to stores, and the fad spread for a short time.

Get crafty with your pet rock and set out paints and markers to make colorful rocks with a little personality!

Once kids have found their perfect pet rock, ask them to get creative and write about it. Download the Me and My Pet Rock worksheet. Here kids can name their rock, write a description, and short snippets about life with their rock!

We hope you enjoy these fun projects for Pet Rock Day. Learn more and get your copy of Julie the Rockhound at arbordalepublishing.com!

Let’s Build a Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Who would have thought playing in sand perfects artistic, math, and science skills? Making a sandcastle is one of the quintessential beach activities. To build an impressive structure, you need a little planning and a few tools. Here is a short guide and reading list to help with the construction.

Gather your Supplies

Of course, a bucket and a shovel are the classic tools for sandcastle building, but experts also suggest putty knives, spoons, spatulas, pencils, and brushes. You can use a variety of items to create the perfect details.

Site Selection

Location is key when building a beachfront property. Hard-packed sand is ideal for construction, but the tide can wash away all your hard work in an instant. Take a look around, assess whether the tide is coming in or headed out before mapping out your location.

Beach

Mix the Perfect Construction Sand

The ratio is very important – one part sand to one part water. Dry sand will crumble, and a soupy mixture will never hold its shape. One expert suggests digging a well in the sand to be able to pull water out and mix the perfect sand.

Start the Build

It is helpful to plan your design and make sure that the base structure is sound enough to carry the weight of the castle. Mix up a big pile of sand to create a large mound and begin building your base. Fill your buckets with sand to turn over and create towers. Use your tools to shape the walls, cut out the windows and decorative details, or add a bit of texture.

Now that you are done enjoy your castle. You never know when it will be washed away!

If you can’t get to the beach or a sandbox, here is a reading list that will sharpen your building and critical thinking skills.

The Fort on Fourth Street

The Fort on Fourth Street
When a young child decides to build a fort in the backyard, Grandpa comes forward to help. But they can’t do it alone—they get help from the six simple machines: lever, pulley, inclined plane, wheel and axle, screw, and wedge. Told in cumulative rhyme, similar to The House That Jack Built, readers follow the building process to completion and discover the surprise reason it was built.

Newton and Me

Newton and Me
While at play with his dog, Newton, a young boy discovers the laws of force and motion in his everyday activities. Told in rhyme, Lynne Mayer’s Newton and Me follows these best friends on an adventure as they apply physics to throwing a ball, pulling a wagon, riding a bike, and much more. They will realize that Newton’s Laws of Motion describe experiences they have every day, and they will recognize how forces affect the objects around them. The “For Creative Minds” educational section includes: Force and Motion Fun Facts, Matching Forces, Who Was Newton?, and Newton’s Laws of Motion (2 of 3). Additional teaching activities and interactive quizzes are available on the Arbordale Publishing website.

Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant

Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant
How much does an elephant weigh? How do you know? How would you know if you didn’t have a modern scale? Six-year-old Cao Chong, the most famous child prodigy in Chinese history, faced just this problem! Chong watches as the prime minister’s most trusted and learned advisors debate different methods. The principle of buoyancy and a little bit of creative thinking help this boy come up with a solution.

How to Be a Clean Bird

Believe it or not, no one likes to be dirty, not even animals! So, while we are lathering on the soap, birds may be anting! Author Darcy Pattison captured Anting and other mysterious bathing rituals in her book Desert Baths, illustrated by Kathleen Reitz.

What is Anting?

Anting is a peculiar ritual where birds sit on an anthill, wings spread wide, and either let the bugs crawl through their feathers and skin, or they pick up insects with their beaks and rub them on their body. The excitement of the event causes certain species of ants to release formic acid.

Of the more than 200 types of birds observed anting, some finish the bath by eating the ants while others leave the ants without dining. And while scientists have several theories on why birds “ant”, they can only agree that it is a mysterious behavior.

The theories range from a hypothesis that the acid kills mites and parasites bothering the bird. Others surmised that it has soothing properties and can give relief to irritated skin. One theory suggests that the birds are draining the ants of their acid, making them a less dangerous snack. And one study observed birds hopping while anting suggesting that the ants may be like a “catnip for birds.”

Whatever the reason, if you come upon a crow or a blue jay anting stop to watch, it is a behavior not often witnessed by humans.

Celebrate international bath day with us and read Desert Baths. Check it out!

And for more information on anting here are a few resources we used to write this article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/curious-crow-behavior-known-as-anting-looks-like-violent-dirt-bath-1.6053823?cmp=rss, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/mystery-bird-anting.

What’s So Funny? Animals that Laugh out Loud

Artwork from Moose and Magpie by Sherry Rogers

Why do we laugh?

We laugh when someone tells a joke. We laugh when we are having fun. Or sometimes we laugh when we are uncomfortable. We have a sense of humor and a range of feelings. Humans express emotions to communicate to others how we are feeling through body language and most importantly sound!

Artwork from Sounds of the Savanna by Phyllis Saroff

We know why we laugh but do animals laugh?

Scientists set out to answer this question. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have identified 65 creatures that “laugh” while they play. While researchers can’t know what animals are thinking, they observed animals making unique sounds while playing that are not made at other times. They also noticed a difference in panting and facial expressions.

While most animals that displayed laughing sounds were mammals, a few bird species are also known to make laughing noises. It is not much of a surprise that our closest relatives, the primates, were mammals that showed a range of noises during playful activity. But dogs, rats, foxes, dolphins, killer whales, and Kea parrots also make laughing noises while playing.

Researchers concluded that laughing happens during play because many play activities can also be interpreted as fighting. The playful noises show participants that they are having fun and will not hurt each other.

Because studies have not observed play activity by reptiles or amphibians, they couldn’t conclude if these species make playful noises. This study is far from conclusive, and they will continue to find giggling creatures as more studies are finished.

For the long weekend, we have put together a silly animal reading list to make you laugh! Check out these titles featuring some of the mentioned laughing critters.

If you want to learn more about the study check out these links:
https://www.livescience.com/do-animals-laugh.html, 
https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/31244/20210518/animals-laugh-scientists-tallied-65-different-creatures.htm

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a dinosaur?

Yep, that’s right, scientists have been studying the connection of today’s modern birds to their long-lost relatives, the dinosaurs. For many years, paleontologists believed that all dinosaurs were just giant lizard-like creatures.

I Am Hatzegopteryx
from I Am Hatzegopteryx by Timothy J. Bradley – releasing September 2021

Relatively recent discoveries in China have changed the minds of many scientists. This area of Northeastern China has attracted paleontologists to explore the lake and volcanic ash deposits abundant with ancient fossils. These fossils are bird-like in structure and lead to the newly held belief that many dinosaurs were feathered.

A local farmer dug in the rock and knew he had something special when he found the first fossil of Confuciusornis (sacred bird of Confucius). The fossil, about the size of a modern-day crow, had a beak and feathers with a long plumage tail. Since this discovery, more digging into the rocks in the region has unearthed other ancient flying dinosaurs, protopteryx, Sapeornis, and Yanornis. 

But these are not the only flying dinosaurs. Long before Confuciusornis, Archaeopteryx was dated to have lived 150 million-years-ago, and part of the Avialae clade. These are the closest relatives to modern birds. They had larger braincases, feathers, and pneumatic bones like today’s birds; but also had teeth, three-fingered hands and claws, and a long, stiffened tail like dinosaurs.

from Dino Treasures by Rhonda Lucas Donald, illustrated by Cathy Morrison

But when you ask a child about ancient creatures of the sky, most will answer with the pterodactyl. The pterodactyl is one type of Pterosaur that ranges in size from a fighter jet to a sparrow. With HUGE heads, long necks, heavy bones, and stiff skin-like wings, these flying lizards were terrifying carnivores to the dinosaurs living below.  

The Pterosaurs evolved significantly over time. They lived from 251 million years ago to 66 million years ago, and in that time, some species got larger, while others showed different ways they took off for flight. But the most baffling to many scientists is how they were able to hold up their giant heads. Paleontologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have recently had a breakthrough modeling how the vertebrae were arranged to create a strong structure.

We are excited to introduce a relatively new pterosaur to young readers this fall, the Hatzegopteryx. They were giants of the sky and believed to be a dominant predator in the area now known as Romania. The first fossil was found in 2002 in Transylvania. 

Timothy J. Bradley’s story, I am Hatzegopteryx follows a Hatzegopteryx from egg to extinction as he grows and learns to soar. Written in simple three-word sentences, even the smallest dinosaur enthusiast will be reading this book in no time. Learn more about the book and the author, even download the “For Creative Minds” section on the book’s homepage

You can also dive into paleontology techniques in Arbordale’s free ebook of the month Dino Treasures

An Update on Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant

Author Jennifer Keats Curtis caught up with Michelle Harvey, Maggie’s Keeper, for elephant day. We thank Jennifer for giving us a look at Maggie’s new life on the blog today. 

Toka-Maggie-Lulu What a trio photo by Michelle Harvey 2021

Special thanks to Maggie’s keeper, Michelle Harvey, for providing an update on this precious pachyderm, who turns 39 years young this year!

Michelle continues to be involved with her beloved elephant, now as a volunteer with the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California. During a recent visit, Maggie rumbled hello, and Michelle confessed, “Maggie will always be my favorite, although I love all of the elephants very much!”

Maggie(L) and Lulu (R) by a mudhole. They love mudding! photo by Michelle Harvey 2021

According to Michelle, every day, Maggie and the other elephants still lumber about PAWS’ natural, grassy, rolling hills. “Lulu and Toka are her best friends, and it makes me so happy to see them together. Mara and Thika are part of the group too, but these two go off and explore a different habitat.” At night, all five females return to the heated barn for meals, warm water, Boomer® balls, and togetherness. They “interact, touching each other with their trunks, trading hay and branches and trumpeting and rumbling. Each day, after time apart, they greet each other with excitement. This teaches me that there is always a time to celebrate!”

During her last visit, Michelle offered Maggie, Lulu, and Toka hay and alfalfa for a midday feeding along with something special—a little candy treat—and was treated to one of her favorite sounds, the elephants rumbling. Maggie carried her hay in her trunk and then stood right next to Lulu to eat. Even after working with elephants for many years, Michelle remains awed by the dexterity of their trunks. “They can pick up such tiny objects!”

As always, Michelle is grateful that Maggie resides at PAWS, “a peaceful place and the sun shines even in winter,” so Maggie will never be cold again. And, she reminds us all, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Lulu (L) and Maggie (R) eating hay and alfalfa. Photo by Michelle Harvey 2021

Jennifer and illustrator Phyllis Saroff will host a virtual paint party for families at East Salisbury Elementary on March 30th. If you would like to book Jennifer or Phyllis for an event with your school or community group, email us for contact information at heather @ arbordalepublishing.com.  

To learn more about Maggie and the other elephants at PAWS, visit https://www.pawsweb.org/meet_elephants.html.

For more information about the nonfiction story of Maggie, visit https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=Maggie.

WRITE: A Valentine’s Writing Activity for All Ages

Writing is not always as easy as it seems. Children’s book authors will attest to the difficulties in selecting just the right words to create a perfect rhyme or describe a type of habitat. Authors write, edit, re-write, and edit some more until they have just the right words to make a book.

For Valentine’s Day, we have a writing/editing activity perfect for the classroom. Create a Valentine using some of Arbordale’s coloring pages and a writing worksheet to edit your perfect sayings.

New Year, New Tails: How Alligators Regrow Their Tails

Alligator from Amphibians and Reptiles by Katharine Hall

It is a new year! As the calendar flips, many of us are thinking of a new beginning and achieving new goals. Scientists are always on the path to discovery, and recently a group researching American Alligators discovered they can makeover their bodies in a unique way. They can regrow their tails after injury.

Learn more about lizards losing and regrowing their tails in Little Skink’s Tail by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein.

Tail regrowth is not a new concept for scientists. Until now, they thought this adaptation was limited to small lizards that can detach their tails and escape further injury. It takes some time, but these lizards regenerate their tails almost as if they were never gone.

A team of scientists from Arizona State University took a look at alligator tails that had once sustained an injury and found new growth. Juvenile alligators can regrow up to 18% of their body length. The regrowth tissue is different than the existing tail and contains cartilage, nerves, and blood vessels.

Researchers will continue looking into the details of how alligators regrow its tail in comparison with other lizards and regeneration by other animals. While this conclusion answers some questions, it brings up many others. Researchers will take this information and may begin to look into historic tail regrowth and medical research.

Compare and contrast the differences between Amphibians and Reptiles with Katharine Hall.

The American Alligator can be found in lakes, rivers, and swamps from North Carolina to the Texas Rio Grande. They have long “armored” bodies with four short legs and a long tail with a rounded snout that they can stick out of the water and breathe while they are submerged. They travel in a small area but can go further distances during mating season. Baby alligators generally hatch toward the end of August and make high-pitched noises before hatching. It is a long road to adulthood and stay with their mother for two or three years. Alligators are unique reptiles in this way as well as their ability to lie dormant underwater during cold weather.

Learn more about this scientific discovery and read the full article here!

Find more fun books about reptiles at arbordalepublishing.com.

What are you afraid of?

Original: RushenbDerived: Peter Coxhead / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0
Original: RushenbDerived: Peter Coxhead / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

Are you afraid of spiders? Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias around the world. For those that suffer from this fear, today’s blog will be frightening.

Halloween has us thinking about creepy creatures, and we just stumbled on new research on tarantulas. Did you know that these large spiders come in blue and green? A group of researchers at Yale and Carnegie Mellon are studying why the predominantly nocturnal spiders are so brightly hued and whether that matters to other spiders.

It turns out color does matter to tarantulas! The blue spiders are brightly colored to attract a mate. Which means the hairy spiders see in color. The researchers tested opsins in the spider’s eyes and found they had a wide range of colors.

A Jumping Spider from Mary Holland’s Animal Eyes

While the blue spiders are trying to be seen, the green tarantulas are looking to hide. The spiders are largely tree dwellers, and their color is helpful to conceal them among the leaves.

The research continues as they learn more about the evolution of tarantulas, their colors, and their eyesight.

There are not a lot of spiders lurking in Arbordale books, but here are a few titles with different eight-legged creepy creatures.

You can learn more about these books and more at arbordalepublishing.com!

And the Weather is…

Hurricane winds

Weather is in our lives every day. This fall, we debut a new series that looks at the “What, Why, and Where” of everyday occurrences—which starts with the weather. What’s the Weather asks readers to consider the conditions outside and how it affects their everyday life. 

About the Book

What's the Weather

Weather changes daily. Sometimes it can even change from one moment to another—like a sudden storm. Weather affects our daily lives from what we wear to what outdoor activities (or lack thereof) we can do. Learning about weather and how to dress and prepare for it is an important skill to learn. Maybe even more important is the skill of observation. By asking simple questions, children become engaged and can start to observe and make correlations about the weather around them so they will understand how the weather impacts their lives.

To celebrate the release of this book, we decided to go a little more in-depth and created a fun temperature comparison where kids can learn a little bit more about the numbers we use to tell if it’s hot or cold.


Download the Worksheet! And, you can order copies of What’s the Weather: A What, Why, or Where Book and find more resources on the book homepage.