Saturday, December 17, 2011

When Pets Experiment: Adorable!

Meet Oscar and Felix! Fancy rats, domesticated brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), who we adopted from Heartland Small Animal Rescue in September. We've observed dozens of their experiments as they adjusted to their new home and while earning their trust. By far, their most adorable experiment involves the new bubble! 
I believe they are experimenting because they're adorably committed to methodically testing the nature of reality. Their goal, while they won't articulate it, is to verify the validity of their hypothesis: if they move forward, continuously, then they will be able to adventure around the apartment. They are, with out really knowing it, replicating their evolving hypothesizes. Above are Oscar and Felix testing their first hypothesis: if they lay very, still, then they will adventure. This hypothesis was falsified. Later they tried to adventure while each moved in an opposite direction (falsified) and then by rocking back and forth (also, falsified). 

Today, Oscar was the first to figure out how to rock the ball just enough to gain momentum. Adorable, butt waddling momentum...until he hit the wall. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sandhill Cranes Soar High Over Chicago

What do you mean it's December? It seems like just yesterday I was buying pencils for the new school year, and today I looked up into the sky to see the greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) migrating south from their northern breeding ranges to their wintering area in Florida.

As my friend Leah and I were walking into Foreman High School, on Chicago's northwest side, we heard the sounds of trumpets overhead. We saw about 150 sandhill cranes soaring higher than I've ever seen birds fly. Their height drew attention to their large size (4.5-5 feet tall and 10-14 pounds). Majestic.

My friend Jill reported that the cranes flew over Aurora, IL earlier in the week. As they fly to their stopover at Indiana's Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area through mid-December, you might hear trumpets high above you!

Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation

Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation

Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation

Aldo Leopold's classic A Sand County Almanac which included the essay "Marshland Elegy" was published in 1948, decades ahead of its time. His sobering essay asks us if humanity's progress is progressive if it's short-sighted, wasteful, and results in the displacement of other species, like the cranes. In the 1930s, Aldo didn't hear many cranes soaring over Baraboo, WI despite the abundant wetlands. "For (the cranes), the song of the power shovel came near being an elegy. The high priests of progress knew nothing of cranes, and cared less. Some day, perhaps in the very process of our benefactions, perhaps in the fullness of geologic time, the last crane will trumpet his farewell and spiral skyward from the great marsh." Due to conservation and restoration efforts, the greater sandhill crane's numbers have made a remarkable recovery, but the biggest threats to the sandhill cranes are the loss and degradation of riverine and wetland ecosystems. Below is the ~13 minute trailer for the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time that is, in a word: indispensable.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Maggie Daley

Former Chicago First Lady and After School Matters Founder and Chair Maggie Daley died today at the age of 68, after a battle with breast cancer diagnosed in 2002.
I am grateful for Maggie's efforts to engage and inspire teenagers. I am grateful that after school mattered to her; for her commitment to Chicago's youth. And I am grateful for the opportunities her dedication afforded: to work with some amazing teenagers via informal science education.

Photo of a visit from First Lady Maggie Daley and Mayor Elect Rahm Emanuel to our After School Matters' Science Squad on March 31, 2011.

My sincere condolences go out to her family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Pine Cone Turkeys!

It's Thanksgiving!

In the midst of cooking turkeys and tofu, smashing potatoes, opening cans of cranberry sauce with the ridges on the jellied-cylinder, drizzling honey on cornbread, baking pumpkins into pie, and opening the wine might be thinking "with all the thanks for all this food grown from the Earth, how could I possibly connect to nature any more?!?"

How could you possibly not find more ways to connect to nature!?! Tis the season when plants sprinkle the landscape with their seeds, and evergreen trees (conifers) drop cones (their reproductive organs). I think pine cones are one of the perfect natural treasures to collect while out and about.

With a pine cone, pipe-cleaners, small objects for eyes, some glue, your imagination, and the inspiration pictured (and the kids in your life) can connect a little more to nature with a teeny-tiny turkey!

Turkeys pictured were made today by some of the creative and inspiring teen Ambassadors of Urban Wilderness that I work with in an After School Matters' science program in Chicago.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Learn to love science. Or at the very least, learn to appreciate it.

So many of us, even I, struggle with science (and math). This can leave us disliking, even hating, science. Science is hard. But luckily for us: we all think like scientists to manage life's challenges, we're all inherently curious, & this sets all of us up to master scientific concepts. If you, or someone you know is struggling to master science, you might feel like your inherent curiosity can't help you. Maybe you feel like you couldn't tap into this resource if you knew where to find it.

Maybe you're a parent who'd like to foster positive interactions between your child & the natural world but you feel overwhelmed by all the other nurturing you do. You may even feel you're not equipped to effectively connect your children to nature in our built-up world.

This is where I come in.

I am enthusiastic about connecting students of all types to science & nature; to foster their intrinsic curiosity; to inspire them to overcome obstacles in their learning process; and to creatively link concepts to their collected knowledge. I'm dedicated to strengthening scientific literacy and fostering positive connections with science & nature. I developed “Learn To Love Science; Biology Tutoring & Science Camps" for biology students of all ages in need of tutoring as well as science camps (and birthday parties) for junior scientists from age four to eleven.

I truly believe that every student is a scientist & in strengthening scientific literacy & fostering positive connections with nature! Welcome to my new blog, come back to read about teaching science; life in & after graduate school; volunteering in a play zoo; science camp updates; and inspiring ways to connect to the natural world for you & your family!