Questions and Answers: Summer Science Journal

kittyA scientist is always at work posing questions and finding out why? Most recently an archaeozoologist, Wim Van Neer set out to find the origins of domesticating cats.

From artifacts, they knew that Egyptians valued cats and even shared their homes with the animals, but were they the first to domesticate the feline? A much older cat was found in a tomb in Cyprus. Is this the ancestor of our modern housecat?

The genetic tests show our housecats can be traced back to the Near Eastern Wildcat. The Egyptian cat mummies have a different subtype and so the research continues for this team. Even with some questions answered, there is always more to discover.

BigCat_187Author Scotti Cohn shares her home with a kitty or two. Before writing her book, Big Cat, Little Kitty, Scotti’s questions lead her down a different path. She researched the behavioral similarities of domestic and wild cats.

“Animal behavior is fascinating to me, whether we’re talking about pet cats and dogs or wild animals around the globe,” says Scotti. “I think my interest in animal behavior comes across in all of my Arbordale picture books. Why do wolves howl? How does a domestic cat’s behavior mimic that of a lion or tiger? What prompts animals to migrate? Why do animals form “partnerships”? I like being able to respond to those questions in a way that makes children eager to learn more.”

We know sometimes science seems overwhelming to kids and parents, but really asking questions and finding answers is fun! Summer is a great time to hone research skills, and test theories without the pressure that sometimes comes with school assignments.

cheetahHere are some tips:

Write it down: Start a science journal filled with questions just waiting to be answered

Research: Head to the library or a museum and find tools that help to fine tune your questions

Experiment: Set up simple experiments or observations to help come to a conclusion

Begin Again: What did you find out? Are there new questions waiting to be answered?

Read Big Cat, Little Kitty, as part of the Arbordale Summer Reading Program. Learn more about domestic and wild cats in the For Creative Minds section too!

Want to read about the origins of your kitty, learn more about the domestic cat study here.

 

Votes are in and Elephants Win!

elephantArbordale is honored to announce that Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek and Shennen Bersani has won the Children’s Choice Book Award sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader.

Last night at the ABFE Children’s Art Auction, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang announced the winners of the Children’s Choice Book Awards in the four categories. Stanek’s book came out on top in the 3rd and 4th grade. This is the tenth year that kids across the country have voted for their favorite books in the only national awards selected entirely by readers.

OnceElephantThrough Once Upon an Elephant, readers learn why the large creatures are so important to other animals on the African Savanna, and what a keystone species means to the human residents as well. Author Linda Stanek worked with the Columbus Zoo to write a different elephant book and after learning so much about the animal; she knew that she had to write a nonfiction story about what would be if elephants were only “Once Upon a Time.” Bersani completes this picture book with highly realistic and bright illustrations. Following the story, a “For Creative Minds” section includes activities and fun facts where kids can learn more about elephants and keystone species.

Once Upon an Elephant is available in hardcover (9781628557312, $17.95), paperback (9781628557381, $9.95), ebook (9781628557664, $6.95), and interactive ebook (9781628557664, prices vary). A Spanish-language edition is available in (paperback, $9.95), ebook (9781628557732, $6.95), and interactive ebook (9781628557732, prices vary) through Arbordale and all major booksellers. Arbordale has extensive teaching activities, quizzes and related resources free for educators to download from the book’s homepage.

This fall the duo will release Night Creepers a nonfiction look at the animals that roam in the dark.

Science News: How Plates Shape the Earth

volcanoIf you have read the “For Creative Minds” section in A True Princess of Hawai‘i or Gopher to the Rescue, you have learned the basics of how volcanoes form. Scientists at The Australian National University have just concluded a study to find out when the Hawaiian hot spot was formed.

Although this group of researchers began with the knowledge of the twin tracks that sit underneath the young islands, they used computer simulation to date the occurrence of a change in the movement of the Pacific plate to 3 million years ago. A mantle plume, or columns of rock caused by heat from the Earth’s core, was out of alignment creating the volcanic activity and forming the beautiful islands we know today.

Learning about the past is important to predicting the future of the Earth’s landscape. Future scientists may be looking to this research just as this team used the knowledge from the scientists that discovered the twin tracks in 1849.

Dive into Earth science with these books:

TruePrincessA True Princess of Hawai‘i
Nani has always dreamed of being a princess. When a real Hawaiian princess comes to her hometown of Hilo, Nani dresses in her best clothes. But as she watches Princess Luka, who has come to save the town from a volcanic lava flow, Nani learns that there is more to being a princess than fine clothes. This incredible story of kindness and generosity is based on the historical events of the 1880-1881 eruption of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawai‘i and the real-life Princess Luka.

GopherRescueGopher to the Rescue: A Volcano Recovery Story

The forest animals are surprised when a volcano suddenly explodes, covering the land in gritty, warm ash and rocks that make it unlivable for many plants and animals. Gopher survives in his underground burrow with food to eat. How does Gopher help bring life back to the mountain? Scientists spent years observing life returning to the mountain following the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. This fictionalized story is based on their surprising observations of how life returns to an area that has been totally changed or destroyed.

ThisLandThis Land is Your Land
Take a trip around the world to discover a wide variety of Earth’s landforms and geological features through the rhythmic verse in This Land is Your Land. On the journey encounter plains, plateaus, and rolling hills. Find out how a stream can make a canyon or lava creates an archipelago. Read aloud and discover new terrain with the flip of each page.

Read more about the study here!

Spring reading! A Booklist for your blooming backyard

The grass is greening, animals are popping out of their winter dens, it’s a great time to pick up a book and learn about what happens in the world when spring has sprung. Here are a few titles that feature animal babies, budding flowers, and pollen.

DaisylocksDaisylocks
by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Daisylocks needs a home that is just right. She asks Wind to help her find the perfect habitat to spread her roots, and he accepts the challenge. Wind blows Daisylocks to the plain, the mountain and the wetland. She objects to each place one by one—too cold, too hard, too wet. Daisylocks is not ready to give up! They try the humid rainforest and then the warm beach; those are not just right either. Will Wind find the perfect climate and soil for Daisylocks to place her roots and grow into a beautiful flower?

AchooAchoo!
by Shennen Bersani

Spring has arrived and pollen is in the air. Baby Bear does not like the pollen—it sticks to his fur and makes him itchy and sneezy. He’s allergic! Achoo! He just wishes the pollen were gone. When his friends gather to tell him why they need pollen, Baby Bear learns that pollen is good for the forest and provides food for many animals, including him! Pollen might be something we all love to hate, but can we really live without it? This story explains why we need it.

BackyardIn My Backyard
by Valarie Giogas, illustrated by Katherine Zecca

Baby dogs are puppies and they belong to a litter, but what is a baby skunk called and what is the name of its family group? This clever, rhythmic story tells us just that! Counting from one to 10, familiar backyard animals are introduced by baby and family group name. Each stanza also tells a bit more about each animal by providing clues as to what they eat, how they sound or where they live. The “For Creative Minds” section includes more animal fun facts, information on keeping a nature journal and how to watch for wildlife in your own backyard.

HeronHenry the Impatient Heron
by Donna Love, illustrated by Christina Wald

Henry the Heron couldn’t stand still! He was always moving, and it drove everyone crazy! His brother and sister yelled at him for stepping on their heads, and Mom and Dad could barely get food into his little baby mouth. But herons have to stand still to catch their food, so how would Henry ever be able to eat on his own? In Henry the Impatient Heron, Donna Love takes readers along with Henry as he learns a valuable lesson from the King of Camouflage! Hilarious and lighthearted illustrations by Christina Wald complement the important lesson in the text. It is a meaningful lesson for both herons and kids alike, which teaches the importance of just being still!

OtisOwlOtis the Owl
by Mary Holland

In beautifully detailed photographs, Mary Holland captures the first few months of a baby barred owl’s life. The huge eyes and fluffy feathers will steal the hearts of readers as they learn how barred owl parents ready their young owlets for the big world outside the nest. Follow along as Otis learns to eat, fights with his sister, and prepares for flight.

Get to know these books and more at arbordalepublishing.com. Happy spring reading!

New Science Discoveries: Animal Instincts

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One thing scientists just know is that many types of animals rely on their instincts to make their way in the big world. You might remember our picture book, They Just Know by Robin Yardi and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein that comically compares how different animal moms are from our human moms.

Amphibians are one of these creatures that leave their young tadpoles giving them very little care, but two scientists from Boston University have discovered that one frog mom may be around for longer than once thought.

The duo observed glass frogs in several countries and found that these frog moms lingered over their eggs for a few hours pressing their bellies into them hydrating the eggs and creating a slime of protection. Then dad takes on the job of shooing away spiders and rehydrating the eggs.

This is the first time this type of behavior has been observed, and researcher Jessie Delia noted, “The pattern we found is completely bizarre.”

Glass frogs are small frogs, and mostly green but have transparent skin on their bellies. Giving them the appearance of glass skin. They lay their eggs on leaves near streams and as they hatch the tadpoles drop right into the stream.

If you want to learn more about the study, read more about it here.

Also, check out these great books about frogs and animal instincts.

Counting Crabs, One Author’s Citizen Science Project

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Spring has sprung, and for horseshoe crabs, that means making the journey to beaches along the Eastern U.S. for spawning season. Citizen Scientists like Leena in Moonlight Crab Count will be combing the beaches at night counting the ancient creatures hoping that it is a successful season for the crabs and shorebirds.

Author Jennifer Keats Curtis worked with ecology expert Dr. Neeti Bathala to write Moonlight Crab Count, and while doing research, she and her daughter Max became a Citizen Scientist for a day and here is her story!

JenniferCurtisAs a lifelong Marylander, I’d seen horseshoe crabs but didn’t really know enough about them so I jumped at the chance to work with environmental ecologist Dr. Neeti Bathala so I could learn more! As part of my research, my daughter, Max, and I went to Ocean City, Maryland, to be part of a citizen science project—counting horseshoe crabs. During spring and summer, horseshoe crabs, who have migrated from Mexico to our East Coast, somehow know it’s time to lay to lay their eggs. They come ashore at night during lunar tides, when the moon is full and new. Horseshoe crabs are an important part of the ecosystem and scientists want to know how many there are. People, like Max and me, get to be part of the projects to figure that out.

One warm July evening, we met biologist Steve Doctor and two other scientists at the DNR boathouse and hopped aboard an old workboat. We literally hopped—we used a bucket as a stepladder.

DSC_6246Aboard the boat, we put out to the north side of Assateague Island, which was just a couple hundred yards from the boathouse and just shy of the famed Ocean City boardwalk. Max helped us record some data: 23.2 degrees Celsius, winds at 6 mph. On this island, we saw just five horseshoe crabs, all males. We picked one up and one of the scientists showed Max the “boxers” that make the horseshoe crab a boy. He had slipper shells stuck all over his shell. The little snails were apparently just along for the ride.

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As the sun set, we powered over to Skimmer Island, a coastal island that is home to endangered black skimmers. I was a little distracted by all of the incredible birds here, as well as the full-fledged heron rookery.  We walked around the bend, and there they were—hundreds of living fossils, all coming onto the beach to mate and lay eggs. Max and I excitedly helped the scientists count as many horseshoe crabs as we could. We were thrilled to see so many until Steve told us that typically there are far more. In fact, the beach is usually totally full of horseshoe crabs and that just weeks before, he’d counted 36,000. Well, he didn’t count all of them; he did the math calculating footage and numbers.

When we returned home, once Max had eaten her weight in snacks from CandyDSC_6209 Kitchen, I excitedly talked to Neeti about what we’d seen and we discussed ways to use this research in our story. She also told me about her wonderful dog, a boxer named Bobie, and we decided we’d make her a big part of the story. Woof!

I am over-the-moon excited about the beautiful illustrations by Veronica Jones and the chance for Neeti, Veronica, and I to share Moonlight Crab Count with children everywhere.  Horseshoe crabs are fascinating, and they offer a chance for families to take part in a cool citizen science project.

The counting and tagging season is upon us, and there are opportunities for families to get involved and help researchers with their count. Visit horseshoecrabtagging.org and scistarter.com to learn more about counting projects in your area. If you are still not completely convinced to join the citizen science effort learn more on PBS The World’s newest documentary The Crowd & The Cloud. Each week they will highlight different projects and topics. In episode 4 watch for a mention of Moonlight Crab Count!

You can also learn about Jenifer’s book Moonlight Crab Count at arbordalepublishing.com or request a copy at your local bookseller.

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Ele – gami

OnceElephant

Earlier this month we announced that our book Once Upon and Elephant made the finalists list for the Children’s Choice Book Awards, well today we having fun with some elephant crafts and came across some folding fun!

In fact, in addition to all the teaching activities that are available on our website, we have gone elephant mad and made a Pinterest board with all sorts of fun activities. We tried a few out in the office including this elephant you can make with only a dollar.

Check out the activities, and an elephant would never forget to vote!!