Keep a Nature Observation Notebook!

Now that spring is here and the sunny days beckon us outdoors, it’s the perfect time to start a Nature Observation Notebook. All around, plants are sprouting, trees are blooming–there’s a lot to going on! Use your notebook as a guide to noticing this season’s changes and a place to keep track of all your observations.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Observe plants in your neighborhood. Are they blooming now? Draw pictures or describe their changes through the year. Maybe plant your own flowers or herbs and record their progress!
  2. What animals do you see and what are they doing? Are they building nests, feeding young, gathering nuts for the winter, or flying north or south? Can you tell what season it is by animal behavior?
  3. If you live near a lake, pond, or the ocean, what kinds of plants, shells, and other natural objects do you see along the shore? Where did they come from? How did they get there?
  4. If you live near a river or a stream, is it high or low? Is it running fast or slow, muddy or clear? Can you think of why? Does it depend on the weather or the season of the year?
  5. Do you know which ocean your stream eventually enters? Can you track the water route to the ocean?
  6. What are the main weather patterns for each season where you live? Is it hot, cold, windy, etc? Do you know someone who lives where the season is opposite yours?
  7. What is your favorite season? Are there special activities that you do during this season? Do you think other animals enjoy seasonal activities as much as you do?
  8. What types of clothes do you generally wear during this season? Have you seen wildlife change coats season to season?
  9. When does the sun go down and get dark? Is it different depending on the season?
  10. Are there special foods that you eat during each season? (berries in late spring/early summer, fruits and vegetables in the summer, fresh fish, apples, or pumpkins in the fall, etc.)
  11. Are there some foods that grow in your area or that can be hunted, fished, or harvested during certain times of the year? (growing seasons, hunting seasons, or open gathering seasons). Why would those foods be available then and not other times of the year?

Burro’s Tortillas Teaching Activity

Did you enjoy reading Burro’s Tortillas? ( Well now you can enjoy eating them, too!

The word tortilla comes from the Spanish word “torta,” which means “round cake.” When the Spaniards came to Mexico in the sixteenth century, they found the Aztecs making and eating a most unusual food—corn. Sometimes the corn was made into the round cakes the Spaniards named tortillas. Today, some people still make tortillas from scratch, much the way the Mexican Indians once did and a lot like the way the little burro makes his tortillas in this book.

You can make tortillas too! You can buy the special corn flour, called maseca, at a grocery or Mexican store. Maseca is made just as Burro did in the story, by cooking corn with a little lime (not the lime fruit, but a special lime that comes from burning limestone). It is then rinsed, dried and ground into the flour for us to use.

What you will need to make 8 tortillas:

  • 1 cup maseca
  • Wax paper
  • 1 Tbs. corn or vegetable oil (optional)
  • Rolling pin
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • Cast iron skillet or griddle
  • Mixing bowl and spoon or mixer
  • Spatula
  • Slightly damp paper towels


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the maseca, the oil if using (this is not traditional but may help to hold the tortillas together while rolling) and the water. Mix together until the dough is smooth and forms a dough ball—about two or three minutes. The dough should be smooth but not too sticky.
  2. Divide the dough into 8 little balls and cover with the slightly damp paper towels to keep them from drying out.
  3. Cut off two square pieces of wax paper. Place one ball of dough at a time between the two sheets and use the rolling pin to roll into a circle (as best as you can).
  4. With an adult’s help, cook on a very hot, ungreased cast iron skillet or griddle. Use your spatula to flip the tortilla every 15 to 20 seconds until cooked (light brown). Wrap cooked tortillas in a small kitchen towel or cloth to keep warm and to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Enjoy!

Facebook Contest…Enter to Win!

Don’t pass this up guys! It’s easy and fun, and you could win your own personal elibrary. Starting now through December 31, check out our facebook page and post on our wall.  All you have to do is write your favorite thing about reading or the holidays.  And hey, you could “Like” us while you’re at it!

For example my favorite thing about Christmas is the hot Russian tea at my hometown tree farm, and the smell of my favorite Christmas tree candle. 

If you are in the holiday spirit to share your favorite thing about the holidays, or your favorite thing about reading, do it now while you still have a chance to win! We will be giving out 5 free personal elibraries between now and the end of December.

With one click, these eBooks read aloud to the children and page-flip from the beginning of a story to the end. Put a child in front of this eLibrary, and they will “play” for hours on end reading and listening to wonderful, award-winning picture books. We encourage parents to take this excitement and discuss the “For Creative Minds” section at the end of each ebook with their child. Each book homepage also has 40-60 pages of cross-curricular Teaching Activities plus 3 Interactive Reading Comprehension and Math Quizzes.

And since I’m in such a holiday spirit, I can’t help but share the recipe to the best hot winter drink EVER!

  • 1 cup of instant tea
  • 2 cups of tang
  • 1 tsp of cloves
  • 1 package of Wylers lemonade mix
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar (or less depending on taste)

Directions: Mix all of this together and keep it in a tightly sealed jar. Use 2 heaping teaspoons for one cup of tea.

And Wha Lah! There you have it…the best winter drink of all time!

What Do You Make for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is coming up once again for Americans on the fourth Thursday of November.

The traditional Thanksgiving holiday is primarily celebrated in the United States. It honors the initial feast held between the English settlers and the Native American Wampanoag tribe in what it is now known as Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island. In this 1621 feast, the meal probably consisted of deer, shellfish, roast meat, cranberries, and corn. Our tradition of giving thanks stems from the thanks for the harvest and in 1923, the thanks for the rain after a two-month drought.

Today we spend time with family on Thanksgiving, give thanks for our blessings, and indulge in turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and pie – lots and lots of pie.

But some other countries celebrate different types of Thanksgiving, or “harvest” days. Canada celebrates a Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October; at the end of the harvest season. The Canadian Thanksgiving feast is similar to American tradition with a turkey or other roast. They are especially fond of the Cornucopia tradition, made edible with bread.  Countries such as Croatia or Grenada celebrate Thanksgivings on the anniversaries of historical liberations or other independence days.

Let’s go south of the border though and think about Thanksgiving in Mexico. What would they eat if they were to celebrate their harvest? Maybe a roast meat, maybe pumpkins, maybe chilies….but definitely corn tortillas!!! We may eat corn on the cob and corn bread, and hang dried corn cobs for decoration, but what about making corn tortillas for a change?

Corn tortillas were made by the Aztecs thousands and thousands of years ago. They ground corn into cornmeal and made corn dough, or masa, out of it. The dough is shaped into a little ball and flattened into a pancake. The “corn cakes” are then cooked on a hot griddle. Tortillas can be filled with just about anything – including Thanksgiving leftovers!

You can teach your children about tortillas with our book, Burro’s Tortillas by Terri Fields, illustrated by Sherry Rogers. Click here to learn more about Burro’s quest to make tortillas, with or without the help of his friends.

Hurricane Teaching Activities

As the hurricane season keeps blowing, take advantage of the great hurricane resources on the Sylvan Dell website! Play a hurricane crossword puzzle, learn hurricane vocabulary, and all about how to prepare for a hurricane.  Check out the hurricane activities here, or visit the Ready, Set…WAIT! book homepage on our website.

Ready, Set…WAIT!

Hurricane . . . just the word brings to mind the power of these natural disasters. Humans watch the news and know of impending arrival. We board up windows and gather supplies. We might huddle in our homes or go inland. Then we wait for the storm to arrive. But what do wild animals do? Do they know when a storm is coming? If so, how do they prepare? This book explains how nine animals sense, react, and prepare for a hurricane. Based on research or observations, the brief portraits are explained in simple, poetic language for children of all ages.