It’s Hot! But Nature is Cool!


It’s no coincidence that we are sharing a book about summer on the Summer Solstice. That’s right, June 21 is the longest day of this year and therefore the day with the most sunlight. And what is the sun most known for? Keeping us warm, of course!foxes

It keeps animals warm, too, which is a good thing when it’s cold outside. But what
happens when it’s hot? Animals can’t turn on the air conditioner or drink a cold glass of lemonade. A Cool Summer Tail explores how several animals adapt to hot temperatures. For instance, just like dogs, red foxes pant to dissipate their body heat because their skin doesn’t sweat like ours.

squirrelsDid you know grey squirrels sometimes lick their forearms to cool off? This behavior has a similar cooling effect as sweating because when the saliva evaporates, their body heat is dissipated into the air.

Many birds stay cool by staying under the shade of tree leaves. This is one adaptation human animals can practice, too!chickadees

When the sun goes down at night, the temperature goes down, too. Some animals take advantage of the cooler air to find their food and move about. Imagine how our world would be different if humans slept during the day and were active only at night!

snakesOne way both humans and animals can stay cool is to take advantage of air blowing across our bodies. Whether it’s a lakeside breeze for a white tail deer or a circulating ceiling fan for humans, air helps dissipate body heat. While you are pondering this, make your own personal fan using the directions shared HERE by The Pinterested Parent.

Or make a paper plate mask of an animal featured in A Cool Summer Tail and encourage some pretend play. Directions HERE. While creating, discuss how animals adapt to summer heat and how these behaviors compare and contrast with how humans stay cool.

The next time you see an animal in its environment, take a minute to talk about how it adapts to the heat. Isn’t nature cool?

Pearson_Carrie[1]Carrie Pearson is the author of A Cool Summer Tail. The book is illustrated by Christina Wald. To investigate how animals stay warm when the temperature drops, check out another Arbordale book, A Warm Winter Tail, also written by Carrie and illustrated by Christina.

Let’s Compare and Contrast!

In 2014 Polar Bears and Penguins debuted; this first book in the Compare and Contrast Book series has been named to the NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books of 2015. This year we release three new books in this series and two have just hit bookshelves, Clouds and Trees take a look at often overlooked topics in nature.

Each book in this series uses simple text to lure the youngest readers into loving all that they can learn from non-fiction. Paired with the facts and activities in the back of the book kids will learn about the impacts that clouds have on the water cycle and how roots are important to make trees stand tall.

If you have had fun comparing through these books, now you are ready to compare and contrast anything! Let’s start by using what you have learned about clouds and trees with the activity sheet below. Fill out traits of each that are the same and ones that make these objects different.


Click here for the full size Compare&Contrast worksheet.

Watch for the next Compare and Contrast Book available this fall Amphibians & Reptiles!

AmphbnReptile_187What makes a frog an amphibian but a snake a reptile? Both classes may lay eggs, but they have different skin coverings and breathe in different ways. Pages of fun facts will help kids identify each animal in the class like a pro after reading the fourth book in Arbordale’s Compare and Contrast series. Similar to Polar Bears and Penguins, Clouds and Trees; Amphibians and Reptiles uses stunning photographs and simple non-fiction text to get kids thinking about the similarities and differences between these two animal classes.

Ferdinand Fox’s Scavenger Hunt


In the book Ferdinand Fox’s First Summer, we’re introduced to how young foxes grow up and learn to survive on their own. Although they drink only their mother’s milk when the kits are first born, they eventually have to learn how to hunt and scavenge for food on their own.

Just like us, young kits love to play outside with their siblings and friends in the summer. Gather a few friends together to see if you can complete Ferdinand Fox’s Scavenger Hunt!

Give a bag to each scavenger and see who can collect the most items:

  • An acorn
  • The biggest leaf you can find
  • A long skinny leaf
  • A leaf that has been chewed
  • A smooth rock
  • A rough rock
  • A flower
  • A twig
  • A pine cone
  • A clover
  • A seed
  • A feather
  • Pine straw
  • A blade of grass
  • Something beautiful

Happy scavenging!

Can you name all of the seashells?

If you’ve ever had a chance to go to the beach, you may have noticed the overwhelming number of shells that are scattered all over the sand. Some are big, some are small, and some have a very weird shape. Although the shell is all that’s left now, most of the shells you find have had something living in it at one time or another. Cool, huh?

In Turtle Summer, we are introduced to several different types of seashells. Next time you’re at the beach, see if you can name all of the shells!


monksnailMoon Snail Shell

musselshellMussel Shell 

arkshellArk Shell

clamshellClam Shell 

oliveshellLettered Olive Shell

tulipshellTulip Shell 

whelkshell Knobbed Whelk Shell

oystershellOyster Shell 

jackknifeshellJack Knife Clam Shell

slippershellSlipper Shell 

Cockle Shell

Magic happens in the summer!

It’s finally summertime and everyone is dying to put away their school clothes and bring out the bathing suits. School’s out, it’s beach weather, and we want to spend all of our time out of doors.

But there are so many other things that also happen during the summer right under our noses!

Daisylocks_128Have you noticed all of the flowers that have begun to bloom? How about the daisies? Daisylocks is a story that tells us all about how the wind helps little Daisylocks to get home where she can be planted. There are so many different climates and types of soil around the world, but daisies have to be in just the right place in order to bloom. Next time you see a daisy, take some time to appreciate all that it had to go through in order to become a beautiful flower.


OddDayCOVERIn Turtle Summer, we learn all about how Loggerhead Sea Turtles lay their eggs and how the babies hatch. These sea turtles lay about one hundred eggs four different times each summer–that’s four hundred eggs! The summer is a very busy time for these sea turtles. Mama sea turtle has to make her way onto the shore at night to lay her eggs, and a couple of months later, the baby sea turtles have to find their way from the nest all the way to their home in the ocean. If you ever get a chance to see a Loggerhead Sea Turtle’s nest hatch, stay back and watch as the magic happens.


Turtles are not the only animals that are growing up in the summer. Ferdinand Fox’s First Summer also shows us the story of a baby growing up and learning how to survive on its own over the course of the summer. Foxes have to learn how to protect themselves from other predators and also how to scavenge for their own food so that one day they can also raise their own kits.


It’s amazing how many different plants and animals are born and grow up (or bloom!) during the summer months. Nature is magical and it’s happening all around us! Measure yourself this summer–I bet you’re growing, too!

A Ducky Rescue

Today started out as a typical day in the office, but by mid-morning we were in rescue mode.

On Wednesday mamma mallard and ten baby ducklings were wandering around the grass outside the Sylvan Dell office building. With a small pond nearby and a downpour of rain the day before it is not uncommon to see waterfowl outside our windows on occasion.  Baby ducklings however, were too cute in a line behind their mother that we couldn’t help but watch as they waddled around.

When our editor and Buddy the office dog went outside this morning, she found  that mamma duck was no longer with her babies and there were only four still quacking, six were no longer living. Stuck in the landscaping, and unable to get out of the well around a tree, the staff decided to help.

Mamma duck was quacking away in the nearby pond and so we tried a ramp, but they were afraid and the ramp was steep. Next we worked together to herd the babies into a box so that we could deliver them to safety. After several tries and many strategies the three of us were able to get three of the babies into the box and one baby was actually able to make it out of the well and ran all the way to the pond to quickly jump in. Mom swam over to her ducklings as they all hopped into the water.

It was a successful reuniting, and we were very happy to bring the family back together. We must  thank Jennifer Keats Curtis for writing the books Baby Owl’s Rescue, and Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators, she gave us the inspiration and knowledge to save these babies from harm.


In Awe of Nature: One Mom Reveals Her Family’s Secret Spot

There are approximately 18,000 children under the age of 5 in Howard County, Maryland. And another 50,000 older children in school here. Yet when my family takes advantage of a treasure in the heart of the county, we never see another soul! The Howard County Nature Conservancy is a peaceful and beautiful sanctuary full of rolling nc5hills, safe hiking trails, clear running streams, gorgeous gardens, interesting animals and picnic areas begging to be filled with families looking for a fun, easy, cheap way to spend an evening. Locals say it’s the place to be for bird watching, geocaching or growing your own organic vegetables in the lush community garden.

Part of the reason many don’t know about this area is that from 1692-1992 one family, the Brown’s, was fortunate enough to call The Conservancy their private residence. But in 1992, Howard County schoolteachers Ruth and Frances Brown passed away without an heir. The 232 acre farm has since been held in its natural state and glory. With some additions and improvements, you can come visit and see many buildings that have been a part of the pastoral setting for three centuries.

When I say that we never see another soul on our weekend hikes, that is not to say the spectacular landscape is not put to good use. There are summer camps for the kids, regular nature walks and talks, “Wine in the Garden” for the adults, “School is Out” programs for local students, and too many more exciting events to name. (Check here for a full list:

These programs, and this place, have helped my boys, (Will age 6, Luke age 4 and Sam age 23 months) to be better little men. I take them there as a part of our unofficialHPIM3580 family plan. I want my sons to grow up valuing a day in the dirt with their brothers more than a computer. I want them to seek out places to think and find serenity more than places to blend in with the crowd. I want them to know that it is sometimes better to walk quietly holding my hand than it is to scream in the chaos of an amusement park (although we’ll be heading off to Dutch Wonderland in 10 short days and I can’t wait). I want my boys to have a place to take a date in a decade or two and really get to know her. Somewhere safe where they can walk hand-in-hand (God help me) and find out if they are lucky enough to build what we are lucky enough to have.

I just read the last paragraph aloud my opinionated family. According to my husband and the boys, everything I said is true…but way too girly. They just like to be able to run and play ninjas with sticks. I guess that is a part of our official family plan.

So my real question is this, why aren’t more young families joining us on a beautiful day? No matter what the season?  Right now the tadpoles are changing week-to-week and day-to-day! The goats are climbing onto the roof of their habitat and the chickens are laying eggs. Ranger, the owl, is eating his mice and the crayfish and salamanders 2013-03-10_12-16-52_112are hiding from eager little fingers looking to snatch them up. Log bridges with rope sidebars are waiting to be crossed by young explorers and the trees and logs give our young Luke Skywalker lots of convenient hiding places when bounty hunter Boba Fett (aka daddy) comes searching. Maybe you’ll luck out and see a snake while you skip rocks along the creek. If you’re quiet, you’re sure to see some deer and a fox or two. The children’s log garden allows the kids to jump and climb and play in an unusual and safe environment. The indoor playground at the mall is teaming with kids (and germs) every night of the week. Yet we are the only ones at the Conservancy! After seeing the animals, playing or checking out the simple indoor nature room, go for a hike. There is no need to hold hands! Let the kids run on the safe, grassy paths and lead the way as they leave their energy behind to light a trail for you.

Just this weekend I spoke to a young mom who lives within a half mile of the Conservancy. She had never been! What!?!? Why?!?!? Come on! I’ll meet you there on Friday night! We’ll bring sandwiches, juice boxes and kids ready to squeal with delight and satisfy the natural, scientific curiosity that fills their ever-expanding brains….and play ninjas with sticks. Honestly, what could be better?

For more information about the Howard County Nature Conservancy, check out their website at


Erin Schade is a wife, a mother to three fantastic boys, a teacher in Howard County, Maryland, a freelance writer and an aspiring children’s author. Questions or comments?  Please contact her directly at

nc 2013-03-10_12-40-18_664 2012-09-14_18-28-39_407


Fun in Science

Yesterday I was honored to represent Sylvan Dell as a judge at the James B. Edwards Elementary annual science fair in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. I must admit I was expecting a room full of volcanoes and maybe bugs pinned to a board, but these kids were way too smart for that. I would have never thought to set Jell-O using dry ice and if it affected the taste, or testing storage solutions for vegetables, and even experimenting with the right mix of laundry detergents to get out those tough stains.

Which Fishing line works best?

Which Fishing line works best?

These science experiments were test of life’s real problems from what fishing line works best to does popcorn soaked in liquid pop better than dry kernels? The judging was tough, it is hard to choose a winner when you see so much work and excitement for a project, but an award must be given and here are a few of the favorites.








This fourth grader worked very hard on their egg incubators and recorded daily temperatures and progress in the journal. They even experienced heartbreak when one of the chicks died because it came out too early.

Will My Homemade Incubator Hatch Eggs

Will My Homemade Incubator Hatch Eggseven experienced heartbreak when one of the chicks died because it came out too early.












Which food coloring produces the most vivid carnations? No paint needed to get vivid blue and green carnations just a little food coloring will do! This student did a great job documenting the time it took to move the color from the water to the petals.

Which Food Coloring will bring the brightest flowers?

Which Food Coloring will bring the brightest flowers?











Fish can be trained! This participant put their beta fish through obedience training and it worked. The observations here were really fun to read and I had no idea that a fish would respond to a ringing bell.

Pavlov's Fish? Who Knew!

Pavlov’s Fish? Who Knew!











This experiment taught me the best way to store lettuce, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables. With daily documentation, and a lot of research on wasted food this student put together a very useful and helpful experiment!

How to store fruit best?

How to store fruit best?











I want to thank the teachers for inviting me to judge the contest and congratulations to the winners and all the participants!


Animal Helper: Kathleen Woods

October is flying by, and our Animal Helpers Features are nearing the end. Today we are featuring Kathleen Woods of the Phoenix Wildlife Center. Kathleen shares advice for aspiring animal rehabilitators.

Name: Kathleen Woods

Name of organization/clinic:  Phoenix Wildlife Center

State: Maryland

 Specialty/special areas of experience: Bald eagles, most raptors, songbirds

 Years as rehabilitator/volunteer: 20

 Busiest time of year: March through August

Number of hours you work per week during your busy season:  80+

Number of volunteers in clinic:  10

Why did you become a rehabilitator/volunteer:  I found two baby robins and could not find anyone to take them to.  I also volunteered at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge on the whooping crane project and knew that I was “hooked”.

Most rewarding aspect of rehabilitation: Giving people information over the phone so they can NOT interfere, and having them call back and say it was successful

As a rehabilitator, what is the most common question you are asked?   If I touch it, won’t the mother reject it?

Favorite animal story:  I love all the everyday heroes who go out of their way to rescue an animal and bring it here. 

What advice would you offer to children considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation:  Volunteer, read alot about the field, and consider a degree in biology or animal science, or vet school.  Take animal care classes over the summer at a local Nature Camp. 

Remember meet Kathleen and all the other rehabilitators in Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators, which  is FREE to read unitl October 31st online at

Meet Animal Helper: Kim Johnson

As we continue to feature wildlife rehabilitators this month on the Sylvan Dell blog, this week we meet Kim Johnson from The Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary. She shares with us the trials and tribulations of rescuing wild animals.

Texan Kim Johnson often works with her veterinarian husband and a tiny volunteer group at her Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary in Driftwood to care for a wide variety of mammals, including raccoons, squirrels, deer, fox, skunks, even bobcats. “Every year is different and I never know exactly what to expect” says Kim, one of a small handful of licensed rehabilitators in her state, “During Hurricane Ike, 200 squirrels were delivered to my front door.”

Despite her hectic schedule caring for wild animals, many of them babies, for 14-18 hours a day, seven days a week, Kim never seems to lose her sense of humor. “If it’s native and it lives in Texas, it’s been in my house, and maybe even if it’s not native,” she quips.

In many of the pictures that Kim submitted for possible use in Animal Helpers, she is wearing a big smile and very heavy welder’s gloves. The grin is, of course, because Kim loves her job. The gloves are because she is smart and seasoned. After 33 years as a rehabilitator, Kim is keenly aware that those gloves are mandatory equipment for handling fuzzy babies that have big paws, sharp teeth, and claws.  

Name: Kim Johnson

Name of organization/clinic: The Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary

State: Texas

Specialty/special areas of experience: Mammals, raptors

Years as rehabilitator/volunteer: 33 years

Busiest time of year: May-July

Number of hours you work per week during your busy season: 18+ hours a day 7 days a week

Number of volunteers in clinic: 4

Why did you become a rehabilitator/volunteer: For the love of nature and animals

Most rewarding aspect of rehabilitation: Release days and seeing an animal we thought would not pull through survive and be released!

As a rehabilitator, what is the most common question you are asked? If I touched it, will the mother come back?

Having cared for wildlife for so long, Kim cheerfully tells wonderful stories about the creatures that have come through her clinic, such as: A 7-week-old bobcat came to us on Christmas Day.  He was cute as a button, cute in the “I have claws and teeth and know how to use them” kind of way. For some reason, people still think that all little wild animals drink cow’s milk. (Unless they arecows, they do not do well on cow’s milk.) After getting his weight up, this bobcat soon started to fit right in with the rest of the crew.  He ate mice in nanoseconds, soon was jumping up on everything and getting more mischievous by the day!  Seven weeks later, it was time to move him to a larger facility.  This bobcat had grown four times the size he was when we got him. He was ready to mingle with his own kind.  We transferred him to a much larger facility outside of San Antonio where there are 12 other bobcats. He will be released onto a 1,000 plus acre refuge.  We will miss him; but, as with all of our animals, we feel blessed to have them and to be able to give them the care they need for the time we do. 

Favorite animal story:  We got a call that an adult raccoon had his head stuck for the entire night and half of the day in a bird feeder in a tree.  As I got there sure enough, he had wedged himself to where he could rest on the edge of the feeder as he contemplated his problems.  I told the lady that I could save the coon but not the feeder.  She suggested that they have a warning for purchasers of said bird feeder that it could also capture raccoons.  I got on a ladder and proceeded to unscrew the feeder and remove it from the tree.  So far so good.  I quickly realized that the coon was not coming out of the feeder without a chisel or saw and some serious drugs (for the coon of course).  I decided to put said coon and feeder in the back of the SUV and take him the eight miles down the road to the house where Dr. Johnson (Ray) could tranquilize him and we could then figure out how to release the raccoon from his feeder.  Halfway home, I have visions of the coon releasing himself from the feeder and kicking my tail in the car all the way home.  Luckily, for both of us he was quite stuck and we made it home.  Ray was almost laughing too hard to sedate the bugger but we got it done and although he never completely passed out, he was docile enough to unscrew the rest of the feeder and chisel the wood from around his neck without so much as a scratch on him!  He looked at us and groggily ran off without so much as a thank you.

What advice would you offer to children considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation?

Become a veterinarian who specializes in wildlife.  There are few out there and more are needed!

Remember Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators is FREE for the month of October at, or Read it on your iPad, by downloading the free app Fun eReader in iTunes and entering the code: 2WZ637 in the red box on the App Registration page.