How To Identify Different Evergreen Trees

Yesterday it snowed! Not the very first snow of the year but one of the firsts and it was gorgeous.  It frosted the top sides of the tree branches and, even more beautifully, covered the ugly pots left on the back porch after I killed the plants in them.  The white on evergreen combination is one of my favorite natural color pairings and now that the last of the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees (that’s fancy-sciency for trees that lose their leaves in the winter) take a moment to show off the variety of evergreens left to your family (conifers, in case you were wondering).

Use the charts below to help you identify evergreens at a glance (Massachusetts has a lot of Pine, Cedar, and Juniper).  Make a game out of it with your little ones and before you can say I-totally-looked-up-decidouos-just-for-this-post your whole family will be able to identify evergreens for their own friends.



The Usual Suspects. Number 4 is all over my back yard. Number 1 is the murderer, and I’m pretty sure number 5 is Kaiser Soze

Posted in Nature, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Tis the season…for bird migration!


“Hey, Bob! Pull it in a little bit on the bottom, we’ve almost got it looking like Disney’s Pocahontas singing ‘Colors of the Wind’!”

Just about everybody who’s turned an eye to the sky in the past few weeks has had the opportunity to see those familiar V-ish shapes of migrating birds flying south for the winter.  But why do they do it? I mean don’t get me wrong, right about every February I’m wishing I could fly south myself to somewhere nice and warm but birds have even more complex reasons for needing to move on.  Here are just two of them to share with your family the next time you see a migrating flock.


With hearts that beat anywhere from 300-600 times a minute (the smaller the faster) birds need to eat their weight every day just to survive.  Migration allows them to find new food sources and gives depleted plants and insect populations time to recover.


You can have some great fun with the kids and help out our migrating by making birdseed molds. Get: 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, 1 envelope unflavored gelatin, 3 tbsp. corn syrup, and 4 cups birdseed Then you know the drill. Mix it, squish it in the mold, let it set, then pop it out and hang outside!


The warmer, more plentiful areas in the south often prove to be a safer place for birds to have and raise babies.  Birds often abandon their young as soon as they can fly so leaving them in a safer place with more available food is actually smart bird strategy.  (Party birds abandon their young at the University of Miami).

Posted in Nature | Leave a comment

30 Second Follow Up: Orion Launch Video

In case you missed it you can check out information about the Orion here:

NASA’s Orion Page

And see the launch itself here:

Orion Launch

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Mom! The Orion Is Launching At 7:05am Tomorrow Morning!!”

That’s the excited shout that greeted me when I picked up my 7 year old little boy from school today.  It’s what he, bouncing up and down with excitement, proceeded to tell everybody he met with huge optimism  for the remainder of the afternoon as well.  “The Orion is launching at 7:05am tomorrow morning!!  We can watch it on a live stream!  Mr. V told me!!”

Just to clarify a couple of things, the Orion is a spacecraft that NASA hopes will someday take astronauts to Mars. It will be the first launch of a craft designed to carry humans outside of orbit since Project Apollo. Mr. V is our school’s gym teacher and resident space expert.  He’s met with NASA specialists, organized a Train Like An Astronaut physical fitness program at the school, and chatted online with astronauts.  Walt is fairly certain that Mr. V will someday send him POW! To the moon (though I think there may be a Honeymooners reference in that comment that’s going over his head).  In short Mr. V is awesome. He’s that dedicated and passionate teacher that excites kids enough to run up to people and exclaim, “The Orion is launching at 7:05am tomorrow morning!!”

So in honor of Mr. V here’s the link to watch the Orion launch live from Cape Canaveral, Florida. And in case you missed it, the Orion is launching at 7:05am tomorrow morning.


Look at this thing, it’s got CRAZY rocket boosters! That alone makes it one of the coolest things we’ve ever launched into space!

Posted in STEM | Leave a comment

What’s That In The Sky? Let’s Check The Star Chart App!

While I’m not a huge fan of cold winter nights even I have to admit nothing beats a clear winter night sky for seeing the stars.  They just seem clearer and brighter somehow in the crisp evening air.  A lot of times when I’m out with the kids though I’ll say, “Look at those stars!” and get a lackluster reply that goes something like (looking up for half a second), “Yeah, that’s cool mom.”

Then I found this app called Star Chart.  It’s a FREE app (though you can buy upgrades) and once you download it you can do something really cool.  Point your phone at a group of stars or even a cool looking part of the sky and the app will map out constellations and even provide information about their location, history, etc… for you.  In 30 seconds you can turn, “Yeah, that’s cool mom,” into, “Cool, what’s that one!”

starchart1 starchart3starchart2

Posted in STEM | Leave a comment

A Thanksgiving Necklace Idea

Boys Life Magazine had a great craft idea for families to make using the leftover bones from the turkey carcass this Thanksgiving, make a necklace!  Full instructions are at the Boys Life site but here’s the 30-second rundown:

Use Thanksgiving leftovers to make a turkey necklace — Boys’ Life magazine

What You’ll Need

  • Turkey bones
  • Hacksaw or coping saw
  • Stiff wire or wooden skewers
  • Dish detergent
  • Saucepan
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Knife
  • Leather lace
  • Sandpaper
  • Glue
  • Pencil or fine-tip market

What You’ll Do:

First, choose two vertebrae from the back bones and the three largest wing bones.
Add one teaspoon of dish detergent and the bones into a saucepan of water. Boil
for about an hour, rinse and let cool.  While the bones are still wet, saw the ends
off the wing bones and cut the bones as shown in the picture on the left


Next, use the wire or skewers to clean out as much marrow as possible. Scrape the outside of the bones with a knife. Boil again as in Step 2.

You can brighten the bones by soaking them overnight in 3% hydrogen peroxide. (DO NOT use bleach, which will weaken the bones.) Rinse the bones, and let them dry completely.

Sand the two vertebrae flat, glue them together and set aside to dry. Clean and sand all the necklace pieces, and slide them onto a length of string or leather lace. To keep smaller-diameter beads from sliding into larger ones, tie an overhand knot between beads.

Using your knife, carefully scratch your initials or a pattern into the bone beads. Color with pencil or marker and rub off excess, leaving a tint inside the scraping, which will make it look like scrimshaw. Seal with a thin layer of white glue.

Posted in Nature | Leave a comment

Making Textured Paintbrushes

Well I just sent 30+ little boys home with their own catapults and hard candy “ammunition”….

I’m thinking ahead to Thanksgiving week and the inevitable question that many parents ask themselves right before the holiday, “What can I do with the kids when they’re off of school?”  Thanksgiving itself it pretty easy, there are a ton of great ways that kids can help with cooking, but what about Friday?  And that pesky half-day, Wednesday? Enter, a great page chock full of recipes, crafts, and ideas for fun and interesting activities, like making textured paintbrushes.

All you need to do is find some differently textured materials like a bit of sponge, some wadded up plastic wrap, a bunch of leaves from outside, or yarn.  Then clip them together with clothespins and Presto!  Paintbrushes that let kids explore texture and patterns through a variety of materials.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment