Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunflowers and Food!

I was lucky today, I got to go to the farm, and not just any farm, Worden Farm. This 55-acre, organic farm is owned and operated by Chris and Eva Worden, two amazing human beings who are knowledgeable and passionate about what they do!

I’ve been lucky enough to take kids out to spend time at the farm for WGCU’s Curious Kids!programs in the past, and now I’m dreaming up a new project called From Seeds to Me! which will connect kids to organic farming at the Worden's! Stay tuned!

Worden Farm is a community-oriented, certified organic farm, situated close to Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida. They are a member-supported farm and they feed about 2,000 families a week during growing season!! That is AMAZING!! They so have food stands at several local Farmers Markets, so if you live in Southwest Florida check their website for locations and times:

That's Eva picking Mizuna, a Japanese green that's kind of peppery! Tasted really good actually! They have apprenticeship programs at the farm if you are interested in learning about organic farming.

OK, so back to sunflowers. Eva took me around the fields today, despite 90-degree heat, phew! Because this is southwest Florida, the growing season is just beginning, but she told me that they planted sunflowers early because they attract beneficial insects and also small birds like warblers and wrens that pick off the grubs and caterpillars that are harmful to the plants.

Getting to know how the Soil Food Web works is really eye opening and quite amazing. My friend Carolyn Herriot’s Blog is very helpful and her book, A Year on the Garden Path is quite brilliant.

So back to kids, how does today’s Blog Sunflowers and Food? Well, I happen to think that a good way to begin environmental education is to connect kids to food and a good place to start is the soil, the water and the air.

Sunflowers are fairly easy to grow, there’s even a National Sunflower Association!!

Sunflower seeds are great to eat, and if you leave them in the garden they'll attract all kinds of birds in the fall, as the seeds form.

I have posted a song called This is Me! on my Myspace page; this song is for younger kids – maybe 4-6 and it’s goal is to teach them how our bodies are nourished by all the elements. I’ll leave it up for a few days, it will be on my next CD. It’s just a demo at the moment, and will be part of a package for early childhood education that I am developing in Montreal with the Women’s Y. The other song that’s up there related to food is No Sugar, No Fries!

Out at Worden Farm they grow so many different kinds of vegetables and they already had tomatoes, squash, collard greens, arugula, tastoi (Asian spinach) and a host of other things growing! Hey, today I got to eat Mizuna and Tatsoi – I have never eaten them before and I eat a lot of greens, so that was my new discovery of the day! Maybe there’s a song there…Mizuna luna!

For the earth, with lots of gratitude.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Grandmother Spider

OK I have to admit it right away spiders freak me out! I mean, if a huge spider lands on me, or even appears close by, I am not a happy camper. However, having said that, I think spiders can be beautiful and I certainly recognize how important they are to eco-systems.

So, since I am in the business of educating kids about the environment, I make a point of bringing up some of the critters that aren’t necessarily on everyone’s A-list! I tell the story of how Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun!

For which there is a great lesson plan here:

Kids who heard this story from me twenty years ago still remember it!

Spiders are phenomenal creatures and here are some quick facts:

· Spiders are not insects, they are Arachnids – they have two body parts – the abdomen and the thorax; they have eight legs.

· Spiders lay eggs

· Spiders spin silk from a glands called spinnerets located at the tip of their abdomen;

· Spiders eat many kinds of insects so it is good to have them in your garden!

· Male spiders are usually smaller than female spiders and some females eat the males after mating!

· There are more than 30,000 species of spider!

You don’t have to love spiders, but it is good to teach kids why they are important and the role that they play in ecosystems. I always say, imagine a workd without spiders – there would be SO MANY flies!! There would!

I have posted my song: Grandmother Spider on my Myspace page with the lyrics, so try it out, it’s fun!

Here is a cool website about spiders:

If you want to see a really big spider, check out these photos of Camel Spiders!

Remember, We’re All Interconnected, and spiders along with every other species, have a part to play in the incredible web of life!

Have fun discovering spiders!

For the earth!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bats, Bats, Bats!

OK, so it’s a week to Halloween and all those little munchkins will be out seeking candy galore…(guess my No sugar, no Fries song won’t work that weekend!)

Bats are the only true flying mammal! They fly through the sky, use echolocation to find their food and avoid bumping into anything if possible!

Different bats eat different food! Some bats eat insects, thousands of them in one night! Some bats eat fruit, some drink nectar from flowers and others eat fish, birds and beetles. And then of course there are vampire bats that actually do drink blood, but mostly from sheep and cows, not humans!

Bats live all over the world, except where it’s very, very cold, or very, very hot! They’re not usually found on islands or far out at sea, although the Hoary Bat is found in Hawaii.

Bats are mammals, and females give birth to live young. Many species of bats are believed to mate for life. Bats often gather together in large colonies in caves or abandoned mine shafts.

There are almost 1,000 species of bats worldwide and many of them are endangered or threatened. Educating people about bats, and dispelling many of the common myths, is important. Bats are incredible creatures that play an important role in ecosystems! They don’t get tangled in people’s hair!

Interconnections! Many species of insect eating bats such as the Big brown bat, help to keep insect populations down. Less insects, less poisonous pesticides being used - that is good for all of us! Fruit eating bats help to spread seeds throughout tropical forests, thus making sure new fruit trees and plants can grow. Without certain bats to pollinate them many important trees would disappear. Scientists studying vampire bat’s saliva, hope to learn how they could develop a medicine that would help people with heart problems.

Bats have a thumb and four fingers just like we do! The formation of the bones in bats wings are almost the same as those in our hands and arms! A mother bat returning from hunting, can find her baby in a cave filled with thousands of bats, because each bat has its own unique voice and smell.

Pick one kind of bat that lives in your region and learn all that you can about it. Where do the bats that live in your region roost? If they roost in trees, is there enough protected habitat locally where they can live? Would it be helpful to build some bat houses to put up around your house or school? You can learn how to make bat houses at a wonderful bat conservation organization. What are some other animals that use echolocation?

So…for Halloween, if you are hanging bats out on the porch and you need some accompanying music – try the bat song. It is uploaded on my MySpace page, with the lyrics.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dolphin Teach Us To Play!

Since I am in Florida at the moment, close to the Gulf of Mexico, it seems appropriate that I would Blog about dolphins. I, like so many others, love these beautiful creatures of the ocean and one of my favorite songs, Dolphin Teach Us to Play was inspired by a Native American story recounted by Jamie Sams and David Carson in their book Medicine Cards, that teaches the power of dolphins to teach us to be playful and joyful.  I found the entire story written in a Royce Addington’s Blog - Kids love this story.

Dolphins are in the Order Cetacea which includes all whales, dolphins and porpoises. There are approximately 32 species in the family Delphinidae to which the Atlantic Bottlenos dolphin belongs; this is the largest family of cetaceans.
The Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin is the one most commonly found off the coast of North America, and it lives in all the oceans of the world. These smart, fast, animals travel in large groups called "pods" and tend to stay fairly close to the shore. Most of their lives are spent chasing after food and playing games with each other.

Dolphins use echolocation to seek out their food sources, particularly in dark waters; by producing clicking sounds they are able to interpret the information received from the resulting echoes thus determining the location of schools of fish and squid. They do have a good sense of hearing and their ears are small openings located just behind the eyes. Dolphins are mammals and breathe oxygen through their blowhole which is located on the top of their head. They can hold their breath for long periods as they dive into deep water.
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are not known to be endangered, however others within the species are certainly in trouble. The Chinese river dolphin was pronounced extinct in 2006.

Invite children to illustrate the song, Dolphin teach Us To Play – you can hear it on my MySpace Page or watch a short video on YouTube
According to the legend, the children of planet earth were sad and in despair; it was dolphin who was called upon to re-ignite their joy of life. How do dolphins inspire the children? Have any of them ever seen one?

Interconnections! Dolphins are intricately connected to schools of tuna fish, which sadly has caused many of them to be killed. Dolphins swim close to the tuna fish as they are hunting them; often the dolphins will be caught in long, illegal purse-seine nets that are cast by some fishing boats. In order to help protect the nets from being torn, the fishermen kill the dolphins and then discard their bodies into the ocean. You can help to stop these practices by purchasing "dolphin friendly" tuna; the tuna fish cans have a logo on the side that identifies this. Play Rosie's Heart!  to teach kids about dolphins and tuna fish.  Unfortunately sharks are also being targeted by unsustainable practices, but that is something for another blog!

For the earth..

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Finally the end of the week, and a chance to walk on the beach – first time this visit back in Florida. It is a cool day here and Gulf waters were steely gray with white surf. As always I was amazed by the tiny mangrove propagules poking up through the sand here and there.

Mangroves are thought to have floated here from Malaysia hundreds of thousands of years ago. Mangrove propagules, or seeds, look like long twigs; the propagules of the red mangrove are believed to be able to survive as long as two years in the water!

The mangrove trees, which grow along the estuaries in a mix of salt and fresh water, drop their propagules into the water at high tide to optimize their chances of floating out into the ocean and landing somewhere different.

I wrote a whole lengthy piece on mangroves for the Curious Kids Nature Club and you can see it here: Just click on Curious Kids Nature Club! and then on Mangroves – there is a short video and lots of photos, connections, a quiz and other information.

A fun book that clearly teaches kids about mangroves is Lynne Cherry’s book The Sea, the Storm and the Mangrove Tangle

A fun idea is to invite kids to make illustrations of all the species in the book, then enact it as a play. Have a narrator, who reads the story and invites each species to come forward when their name is read out. By the end all the species are on stage and the kids clearly learn how many species are reliant on mangrove habitats!

Use mangroves in a geography lesson; mangrove forests grow in Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Africa, North and South America!

And if you need a song to go along with you play, I have up-loaded the Mangrove song to my MySpace Music list – the lyrics are there too!

Have fun discovering mangroves!


Wriggly, Wiggly, Worms!

Most people don’t get too excited about worms, they’re not exactly the poster critter for major environmental organizations! However, without those wriggly, wiggly, worms, we probably wouldn’t have a whole lot of food to eat since they and all the other minute organisms and bacteria….not to mention all the fungi ….break down the soil and contribute to its health!

Here’s an interesting explanation of soil for young children.

I think that one of our biggest disconnects begins in school when we are taught that soil is “dirt”!! I mean, hello? Implying that the very substance that nourishes our food, therefore our life, is “dirty” might just be setting us up to have a sub-conscious aversion to it.

So by introducing your kids to the benefits of soil, it’s true name and some of the funky creatures that are constantly chowing down on it to turn it into a healthy eco-system, you are doing them a HUGE favor!!

I don’t have a worm song yet, though I am working on a fungi song!! But I do have an Ant song – which I shall put up today on my MySpace page in case any of you would like to incorporate it into your class or just play it for your kids!

Here’s how ants help to break down the soil:

I’ll keep you posted on the worm song – in the meantime, enjoy sharing with your kids the wonders of wormdom!

Have a great day!

For the earth…Rosie

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day! Oh the ocean is wide, the ocean is deep!

Today is Blog Action Day for Climate Change and I have chosen to focus on the oceans. I was down by the Gulf of Mexico the day before yesterday and it was blue, calm and exquisitely beautiful.

Hard to imagine there are huge areas in the Gulf of Mexico, called dead zones, where nothing can live. This website is helpful in explaining this phenomenon:

So how does climate change affect the oceans? Well, there are several things that can change due to the rise in the temperature of the water. According to the Scientific American:

This past June, the world’s oceans reached 17 degrees Celsius, their highest average temperature since record keeping began and marine biologists are concerned that this will cause big changes in the marine food chain.”

Coral reefs suffer from what is called “bleaching” and although this process is caused by a variety of factors still being researched, instability in water temperature are know to contribute.

Corals are living creatures, called polyps, that receive their nutrients in a couple of ways. One, they use their tentacles to capture tiny planktonic organisms; and two, they have a symbiotic relationship with a single cell algae called zooxanthellae. These algae use photosynthesis to procure their nutrient energy and share this with the coral polyps.

It is widely believed that coral bleaching is caused by stress factors, and since corals live in relatively shallow waters, sudden temperature drops or increases will usually induce bleaching.

Coral reefs are incredibly complex ecosystems that support a huge variety of species – I always think of them as the rainforests of the oceans! To help children understand some of these relationships you can teach them the Coral Reef song, which I have added to the song list on this Myspace page.

There is an informative five minute video on the Curious Kids Club website about oceans - just click of the Curious Kids link here on my Myspace

So what can kids do to help minimize the duration of climate change? Turn it Off!

Turn off lights, TV’s and computers when not in use; walk more if you can asking your parents to drive you; stop using plastic bags; plant trees; eat less meat and write letters to your local officials asking them to support climate change bills in government. All these small steps help.

Sometimes things can seem a little overwhelming, so I want to finish with a quote from the visionary environmental activist Paul Hawken:

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse!

Let’s do our part! As President Obama so famously said: Yes! We Can!