Monday, November 30, 2009

Slip, Slitheree Dee!

Photo: Andei9174

Yep, you got it, snakes!  This blog is all about snakes and how we can teach kids about them in a responsible way!  If a snake crosses my path when I am in the garden, I jump – I think it‘s just a normal human reaction!  Snakes can be dangerous and our survival response is flight

But snakes can also be fascinating, and there are so many different species of snake in the world to learn about!  Snakes are important inhabitants of natural ecosystems, helping to maintain balance and health within habitats.  All snakes are predators and, depending on the size and species, they feed on a variety of invertebrates from insects, worms and slugs to lizards, birds, fish and even some small mammals.

Since I am currently in Montreal, I’ll begin with a snake that is found here in Quebec and then go to one found in Florida!  Quebec is home to a couple of species of Garter snakes, the Eastern Ribbon snake (pictured above) and the Common Garter   snake (pictured below).

The Eastern Ribbon snake is similar in appearance to the Garter snake, but it has a slightly longer tail.   Their preferred habitat is wetlands, or the edges of lakes, ponds and streams especially since frogs are their favorite meal!  They are good swimmers and are quite at home in or out of the water.  
 Photo:NPS US Gov

The Common Garter snake is found right across Canada and in many of States of the USA including Florida.  The eastern Ribbon snake is only found in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec and is Threatened in Nova Scotia.

Garter snakes are the most common of snakes and are completely harmless, though they might give you a nip if you pick them up and they are likely to secrete a foul-smelling fluid from anal glands if they are frightened!  When hunting for prey they primarily use sight, however they combine their taste and smell by using Jacobson's Organ which is located in the roof of their mouth.  They feed mostly on earthworms and amphibians and their saliva appears to be toxic to these species, though not to humans. 
Garter snakes hibernate through the winter and generally mate after emerging from hibernation in the spring.  Females give birth to live young in the late spring/early summer and may birth up to 40 in a litter.

The Florida Cottonmouth snake is a poisonous snake; it lives in the swamps, rivers and wetlands of the southeastern United States.  Often called simply cottonmouth or water moccasin, these reptiles range from Virginia west to Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and around the Gulf States to Texas.  This is a fairly large, thick-bodied snake, which can grow up to four or five feet long.  They live along streams, rivers, edges of lakes and ponds and roadside ditches.  If you come across one, leave it alone because they can be aggressive.  Cottonmouth’s are sometimes confused with other snakes such as the Banded Water snake; the body of the Cottonmouth is dark brown though young snakes are more brightly colored with reddish-brown bands on a brown base.

Like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths have two facial pits on either side of the head, which enable them to detect their prey by detecting the heat of the body.  All snakes that have these sensory pits are in the pit-viper family.  Cottonmouths feed mostly on frogs, amphibians, fish, turtles and small mammals like rats.  They are more active at night and their heat detection system helps them to seek out prey.
Cottonmouth females also give birth to live babies and usually births about 15 baby snakes that measure about 7 inches at birth.

Lesson Plans:
1.  Ask your students to draw a Food Web that includes a snake.  Remind them that all food webs begin with green plants.

2.  Snakes live in almost every region of the world.  Your students are going to become amateur herpetologists .  Invite each student to choose s particular species of snake to study.  They can use the library or the internet, and their final report should include: physical characteristics; behavior; biology; prey; country and range where they are commonly found.  When all the students have completed the project, collect the reports and include them in a binder that can be shared with the whole class.

Interesting fact: snakes cannot crawl backwards – they can only go forwards!

Interconnections:  Snakes are an important component in ecosystems and also in Food webs.  An example food chain might look like this:  a green plant >an insect>a frog>a snake>a hawk.  Snakes prey on a variety of species thereby helping to maintain a balance in ecosystems.

Song:  I have uploaded two songs to my MySpace page about snakes – Wanda the Anaconda and Slip, Slitheree Dee!

Here is a short Video of Garter snakes swarming together in a backyard.
Remember, snakes are not slimy, they have dry skin!  I hope your journey of discovering snakes will be an interesting learning experience!  Snakes play such an important role in habitats and I think it's important for people to understand it so that snakes are not just killed for sport, or needlessly vilified.

With gratitude for life!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mighty Monarch of the Ocean!

                 Photo of Humpback whale from Wikipedia by Zorankovacevic

It is the eve of American Thanksgiving, and I am thinking about being thankful, giving thanks for all that we have.  For some reason the Whale song, popped into my head.  First Nations people often refer to whales as the Record Keepers, the ones who have been here since time began.

I was lucky enough to visit  Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec a few years ago.  The Inuit people who live there were very gracious to me, and during my stay, some of the Elder women took me with them to visit nearby islands which are a special place to them.  Whales are sacred to the Inuit, and their livelihood in times gone by was totally dependent on these majestic animals.  When I left, the women gifted me with an ulu necklace made from whale bone.  An ulu is a kind of knife, shaped like the tail of a whale; it is usually made from bone.  I felt deeply honored to have been given this gift.

A few years later, I decided to write a song about whales.  I was having a hard time finding the melody and just couldn’t find the song!  I suddenly remembered the ulu necklace and thought it might help me find the inspiration I needed!!  I went looking for it, but couldn't find it anywhere.  Finally I gave up and went to bed.  The next morning when I awoke, the necklace was lying on the floor.  I kid you not!  I put on the necklace, went into the living room, picked up my guitar and Mighty Monarch of the Ocean just flowed right out! That is the magic of whales; they are ancient creatures that have watched this world unfold from the depths of their watery kingdom.

Whales are Cetaceans, aquatic mammals that include whales, dolphins and porpoises.  There are two types of cetaceans, those that have teeth and those that have baleen.  The order Cetacea is again divided into three subgroups:
Ondontoceti: Otherwise known as toothed whales this group includes over 65 different species of dolphins, porpoises and whales such as the belugas, narwhals and sperm whales.  All of these have teeth and toothed whales feed mostly on squid and fish.
Mysticeti: otherwise known as moustached whales, this group includes ten living species of baleen whales including the blue whale, which is the largest animal on earth – 100 ft!  Also included are the minke, humpback and grey whales. 
 The Archaeoceti: these were the ancient whales that are now extinct.

There is so much to learn about whales and there are some great websites from which to learn.   Whales, like all ocean creatures are impacted by the health of the ocean and whales and dolphins are particularly impacted by sonar.

We all have an effect on the ocean, even if we live inland, because everyone lives on a  watershed - this is the area of land from which the rivers, canals, streams and underground aquifers feed into the estuaries and then the ocean.  When it rains, all that water runs into one or other of these aquatic systems.  Harmful pollutants such as pesticides, herbicides, oil, paint, car oil and pet waste all mingle with that water and eventually end up in the ocean.  Minimal, if any, use of such products, coupled with responsible disposal of hazardous and pet waste can help to minimize pollutants reaching the ocean.
Lessons Plans:
1.  The Blue Whale  is the largest mammal on earth and they have been seen in every ocean.  What are the names of the different oceans?  Explore on a globe, the possible routes that Blue Whales might travel.

2.  Whales sing to each other and their songs echo through the water for hundreds of miles.  Find a CD of whale songs and invite the children to sit quietly with their eyes closed and listen.  Look at some pictures of different whale species, then invite the children to write a story about a whale; or paint a picture.  I heard a biologist tell of two whales communicating to each other over a thousand-mile distance!
3.  Watch the film The Whale Ride ; it is quite beautiful and very inspiring.
4.  Whales are sometimes found beached, meaning that they are washed up on the shore.  It is still a mystery as to why this happens, but when it does people come together to do everything they can to help.  This Video shows a group of people in Australia doing this.

Story: The story of  Finbo the Blue Whale:

Interconnections: Because many of them travel such large distances, whales have some interesting interconnections.  They interact with very different habitats, for example grey whales travel from Alaska to Baha, California.  The relationship between whales and krill is remarkable; blue whales and humpbacks are dependent on these tiny, shrimp-like marine invertebrates.  Such large creatures feed on such a tiny organism!

Song:  I have up-loaded my song, The Mighty Monarch of the Ocean to MySpace along with the lyrics – this is the song that was inspired by my ulu necklace!  The song begins with whales singing.

Other ideas:
David’s Book The Thousand Mile Song is quite fascinating!
David Rothenberg plays music with belugas in Russia on this YouTube Video

I hope you have enjoyed this short exploration of whales.  I am so grateful that I have actually seen them in the ocean and been close enough to hear the sound of the water spouting from their blowholes.  It is an awesome sound, evocative of ancient times!
With thanks to the Earth and all life!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hitching a Ride!

This is an exciting Blog-day for me since the subject matter is closely connected to the source that ignited my passion for teaching through songs! 

My lessons in interconnectivity likely began (unbeknownst to me) as a child; I was fortunate enough to be able to roam the mystical Sherwood Forest on my pony for hours on end.  In those days of innocence, I wandered freely through the countryside with no worries or fears, only a thirst to explore, to discover new things, and a fierce curiosity for a landscape that beckoned with exciting possibilities. 

I could gaze timelessly into a pond, watching the water spiders and tadpoles skimming and swimming about; lie under the horse chestnut trees pondering the rays of light illuminating the green of the leaves and imagine myself the heroine of the Pony Express as I zipped across fields and glades.  I realize now how much those unconstructed ramblings were the curriculum that fuelled my life, grounding in me a core understanding of my own interdependence to the earth and a cosmology that fostered an inherent sense of belonging.

It was in 1989, after attending a workshop called A Council of All Beings , given by John Seed, that I decided to devote this life to teaching children how all of life is interconnected.  We’re All Interconnected was my first song for kids about nature, and the rest is history!

Not long after those moments, I discovered a little book called The Medusa and the snail by  Lewis Thomas  This fascinating tale follows the life cycles of a particular jellyfish (the medusa) and a snail (the nudibranch).  The two creatures, living in the Bay of Naples, are thrown together in a bizarre symbiotic relationship that results in them both ingesting each other with the survival of their species literally depending upon this act!

Biologists studying the medusa had observed that it swallowed the spawn of the nudibranch, as it would other marine creatures.  However, they saw that the nudibranch spawn was not digested by the medusa but rather lodged itself inside the body and began to eat it from the inside out until the medusa ended up as a tiny appendage near the mouth of the enlarged nudibranch!

Under controlled observation it was established that neither the medusa nor the nudibranch would spawn if they did not undergo this process of ingestion and growing; in fact they seem to actually seek each other out in order to play out this bizarre life cycle!

I was quite captivated by this relationship and it sparked in me a voracious appetite to discover more about symbiosis and interrelationships in nature!  I thought that by introducing children to such incredible adventures of life, I could perhaps spark their curiosity and thirst for learning!

Therefore, in this Blog I would like to share with you some examples of species that hitch a ride and hopefully ignite your curiosity, so that you too might be moved to explore the subject with your students or children!

 I wrote the song Hitching a Ride about the Giant Harlequin beetle, (pictured above) which lives in the Panamanian rainforest.  Tiny creatures called Pseudoscorpions, also live in these forests and they feed on the wood of decaying fig trees. In order to travel to new trees in search of fresh food sources, they have developed a clever strategy; they hitch a ride under the wings of the Giant Harlequin beetle!  But wait, the story gets even better!  As the beetle flies off with the pseudoscorpions on board, an intricate mating game begins, with the males competing in a sexual dance for the most females!  The song describes it all in a fun way and I am sure older students will get a kick out of it!

Of course there are many other examples of species hitching rides that are not quite so colorful and which in fact have rather dire consequences for other species.  Some familiar ones would be ticks and chiggers both of which might have ended up on any of us as we trail out in the woods of many States and provinces in North America.

Then of course there are the invasive species, which wreak havoc on ecosystems in which they are introduced.  In Florida, for example, the introduction of giant boa constrictors is causing devastation to many native species.  Often these snakes are bought as pets and then released after owners find them to be too much to handle.  Here is some more information on Invasive Species in America.

Hawaii  provides plenty of opportunity to study species that have hitched a ride;  aside from the monk seal and the Hawaiian hoary bat, there are no mammals that are actually native to the island.  All living species that live in Hawaii arrived there by boat, wind or water.  Unfortunately, species like the feral pig, the rat and the mongoose hitched a ride in the boats of the first human inhabitants.  Today the fear is that the brown Guam tree snake will hitch a ride on a boat; if it does then many bird species would be at risk from predation by this snake. 

There are plenty of examples in the ocean of species hitching a ride on another species.  This photo shows remoras that are attached to a giant manta ray.  (Photo by Mila Zinkora/Wikipedia Commons)
It is commonly thought that the their relationship is one of Commensalism since the remoras feed on the scraps of food left by their host, and there does not seem to be a benefit to the ray.

Another story I discovered this week is one about a  sea horse– it seems that this one hitched a LONG ride on some floating weeds!
Lesson Plans:
1.     I have mentioned several species in this article that hitch a ride; ask the students to discover some others. Can they list the advantages for to these species of seeking rides on others species; for example the pseudoscorpions are freely transported to new food sources by riding on the harlequin beetles.
2.     Tell younger children the story of the sea horse or the Legend of the Hermit Thrush (below).  Invite them to draw some pictures of these animals that hitchhike on another! 
3.     Here are a bunch of Lesson Plans that I found, so rather than repeat them I am going to share the links: Invasive Species - Growing Native Plants  – Invasive Species Gamel – More Lesson Plans
4.     Planting native plant species is a good way to protect the ecosystems and habitats of your region.  Invite the kids to find out which plant species are native to your area and then have a fundraiser to raise funds to allow you to purchase some, and then plant them!

Interconnections! The subject matter for this particular blog is really all about interconnections!  The study of Mutualism is quite appropriate here;  Clown Fish provide an excellent example of mutualism.

Interconnections between plants and the species that pollinate offers more insight into interdependence.  On a trip to Kauai I had the good fortune to meet an incredible man, called Steve Perlman, a botanist who works with the  National Tropical Botanical Gardens.  Steve literally hung out from a helicopter to pollinate the alula plant (Brighamia) which was endangered due to the demise of a particular species of moth which had co-evolved with the plant and was, I believe, it's sole pollinator.  I have posted a video on my MySpace page Blog of Steve climbing the cliff face to reach the plant!  The views of Hawaii are quite spectacular and what he does is just incredible!  He is a truly Hero of our Planet!  Steve once shared with me that he spent the night camped out beside a loulu tree on the island of Molokai because it was the last of its kind and he wanted to keep it company!  I was really touched by that, and it made me think deeply about what it is to be endangered!  But that is for another Blog!

Story: The Legend of the Hermit Thrush – When I walked in the forest near my home in the Laurentian Mountains, I would hear the most beautiful song early in the morning and at dusk.  I could never see the bird singing this exquisite melody even though I tried my hardest to find out who it was!  Then one day I discovered this story and therein lay the answer.  The song of the Hermit thrush is beautiful; I am sure if you have heard it, you know what I mean!

And finally, the song!  I have uploaded Hitching a Ride to my MySpace page along with the lyrics.  It is a free download for as long as it is up there, otherwise it is available for purchase on iTunes. (Rosie Emery/We’re All Interconnected)

I hope you have fun with this subject – please let me know if I can be of any help and also if you have any feedback I would welcome it.  How can I make this Blog more interesting for you – suggestions etc.  I invite you to become a Fan of my Facebook page - I have just started it and intend to use it to explore further ways of incorporating songs and music into education.

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat
Match the beat of the universe,
To match your nature with nature.” Joseph Campbell

In joy and gratitude to the earth, and all life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Ants Go Up, The Ants Go Down, The Ants Go Round and Round!

I have always been fascinated with ants.  As a child, I could happily spend hours watching the activities going on around an anthill.  I was always amazed at just how organized they were!  Those bits of leaves in the photo are being carried by leaf cutter ants!
There are between 12,000 and 14,000 known species of ants living on earth!  They live everywhere on land except for in the arctic regions.  And can lift up to 50 times their own weight which is comparable to me lifting up a couple of cars!

Ants give real meaning to the word cooperation!  They communicate by using smell and their bodies contain many different chemicals, called pheromones, which they secrete from special glands in their bodies.  Each chemical secretion has its own smell and meaning.  When an ant is attacked or killed by something, the secretion that is released warns other ants nearby, and ant soldiers quickly appear, ready to fight and carry the body home!

There are all kinds of fascinating ants; I find weaver antsleaf-cutter ants and army ants all to be quite fascinating! Some leaf cutter ants actually make compost heaps under the ground piling up pieces of the leaves that they cut and cultivating mushrooms (fungi) for food!
Ants and acacia trees have a symbiotic relationship  – the ants protect the tree from intruders and the tree feeds the ants by providing them with small protein filled capsules called beltian bodies.
Ants are a mostly female society; at certain times of year the queen will produce male and female eggs that birth as ants with wings.  These winged ants fly off to mate and begin new colonies elsewhere.  The males die shortly after mating.

Lesson Plans!
1.  Take the kids outside and watch a colony of ants! (Don’t get too close if they’re fire ants!)  Encourage the students to make observations like – do they follow the same pathways; can they tell what role they are playing – are they soldiers, guardians, egg carriers, food gatherers?
2.  Make an ant farm so that your students can actually watch how the ants make their tunnels and live as a society.  
3.  What other species collaborate like ants?  Some examples would be bees, termites. 
4.  How do pheromones work?  They are used for different reasons – sometimes as an alarm, sometimes to attract a mate.  Do humans use pheromones?

Story:  Here is the legend of Ant Woman and Bear

Interconnections: There are lots of ways in which ants interconnect with other species; some of the examples I have already given show this such as the ants and the acacia tree.

The photo here shows honeypot ants collecting nectar and storing it;  These ants live on the edges of deserts.  Ants play an important role in the breaking down of leaf matter into soil and they also turn over and aerate the soil. While ants are beneficial in many ways, they can be considered pests in some regions.  If you've ever stepped on a fire ant nest you certainly know how painful that can be!

Songs: I have uploaded the Ant Song and also the Cooperation Song to my MySpace page – creatures like ants and bees can teach us a lot about cooperation! We have many challenges to face on this earth and we will need all the cooperaton we can find!

Enjoy exploring ants!
In gratitude to life and the earth,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moose with Nowhere to Go!

OK,  since we’re getting closer to the December UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, issues around global warming are buzzing in my mind.  Therefore this Blog is as much about greenhouse gases and energy consumption as it is about moose!  So, you are probably asking:  how does a moose relate to climate change?

Well, actually displaced creatures, including humans, relate to climate change; in the case of wildlife species such as moose the connections are mostly to do with the building of hydroelectric dams. 

The green image of hydro-power is often touted by governments eager to appease demands for clean alternatives.  However, damming large swaths of land results in the production of more greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.  Submerged plant matter rots and gradually releases carbon dioxide and methane bubbles which rise into the upper atmosphere.  One molecule of methane traps approximately 30 times as much heat as does carbon dioxide!

Of course there is the possibility that some of the methane could be sequestered and used for electricity.

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China caused a lot of controversy, displaced about two million people and disrupted endangered wildlife.  However, the dam provides 10% of China’s electricity needs so of course many people view it as a success story. 

There is of course, the option that we continue to seek more sustainable sources of energy and reduce our wasteful consumption of electricity instead of just seeing it as an endless resource for the taking.   When you consider the disparities in subsidy funding in the US and other countries, one might ask what would happen if the coin was turned and renewable energy received the larger subsidies!

Wild moose are large herbivores that inhabit mixed  deciduous forests in the temperate or subarctic parts of the northern hemisphere.   Moose can be found right across North America and they were introduced to Newfoundland in 1904.  The same moose species, Alces alces  can be found across Europe and parts of Russia and China, but is called Elk there.
Here is a website that has a lot of good information about moose!

Lesson Plans!
1.     Conserving energy means turning off electrical appliances when they are not in use.  Invite students to do an Energy Audit to see how much they can change their energy consumption habits.
2.     Learning about wetlands is a good way for students to discover sustainability because wetland systems work in a sustainable way.  This EPA guide is a good place to start.  Are there any wetlands close to where you live?
3.     Moose are ruminants.  What does this mean and what other species are ruminants?
4.     What do the students think about the Yangtze River dam project?  Discuss what happened there and ask if they have any alternatives ideas of what could have been done.
5.     Use all this information and create a geography lesson!  Russia, China, Newfoundland – explore all the places that moose live!
6.     If you are teaching younger children, invite them to play the : Footprint Game

Story:  I couldn’t find a Moose Legend that I thought would really be appropriate for the kids, however, I found an interesting set of real life moose stories

Interconnections:  In the Wolf Blog, I mentioned the effects of the wolf population on the quaking aspen trees – the absence of wolves led to larger populations of elk grazing young saplings thereby inhibiting their growth along riverbanks resulting in a myriad of consequences.  So too, wolves keep moose populations healthy and prevent large areas of saplings from being destroyed.  Nature evolves in an intricate balance; the minute there is an imbalance there can be serious consequences.

The Moose Song!  I have uploaded it to my MySpace page with the lyrics – it is a free download as long as it is up there!  The lyrics of this song really do describe what happened to me!  I did see a moose sitting in a field and since the region, north of Montreal, had had so many new logging roads carved into the forest, I just saw this little cartoon balloon over his head that said, “I’m just a moose with nowhere to go!”.
 When I was on my cross Canada Rainbow Road Tour, my assistant Andrea Ralph and I created some fun actions for the moose song; basically we made it into a line dance!  I am sure you and the kids you teach can come up with some creative ideas!

Have fun!
In gratitude to the Earth and all of life!

PS: Those of you visiting this Blog page  – you will see that I am added as my own friend!  This happened as I tried to send a message to my first follower, and I am unable to take it off!  Any ideas? :D

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Wolf Story!

In Native American lore, wolf is often referred to as Teacher, or Pathfinder, “the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine.  If you were to keep company with wolves, you would find an enormous sense of family within the pack..” Jamie Sams & David Carson
I was saddened this week to read of the death of Wolf #527, one of Yellowstone’s most beloved wolves, who was one of the first to be killed in Montana’s first wolf hunt in modern times.  So this Blog is dedicated to Wolf #527.

Humans have long had a fearful relationship with wolves; we read our children Little Red Riding Hood, associate wolves with horror movies and all things dark and dangerous.  But here in North America wolf attacks are rare and I have not heard of anyone being killed by a healthy, wild wolf.
As with all wild creatures, wolves must be respected; they are wild and should remain so.  There is a story that I love to tell before I sing the Wolf Song, that’s called The Boy and the Rattlesnake – It illustrates the point well.

The gray, or timber wolf is the best-known and most widespread species; they live in open and wooded areas.  Once common throughout North America and Eurasia, these wolf populations are now limited to parts of Asia and North America.  Their numbers continue to diminish in many of these regions however there have been some successful re-introduction programs such as the one in Yellowstone.

Wolves are intelligent, social animals that usually live in packs numbering up to two-dozen animals.  Their diet can include mice, rabbits and birds but their main prey are larger animals such as deer, moose, caribou and elk which they catch by stalking and chasing.

Interconnections! Wolves are a Keystone species meaning that they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of an eco-system.  By controlling the populations of large herbivores in a given habitat it has been observed that they directly impact the overall health of the forests and watershed in which they live.

Forest researchers in Yellowstone National Park noticed that the quaking aspen tree had begun to grow back after the wolves had been re-introduced to the park.  The quaking aspen is one of the most ecologically important riverside trees in the Yellowstone ecosystem.   Biologists determined a direct link between the wolves and the tree because elk forage differently when predators are present.  Without the wolves, the elk decimated the quaking aspen resulting in shoreline erosion and a multitude of consequences that touched everything from fish to beavers.  You can read the whole story Here; it is worth the read as it is quite amazing!

Lesson Plans: 
1.     Tell the story, the Boy and the Rattlesnake, invite students to write about an experience they have had with a wild animal. 
2.      Play the Wolf Song (I have uploaded it to my MySpace page).  In the song, the protagonist tries to help the wolf.  While this is a romantic possibility, in real life it should be played out differently.  What do the children think should have happened? What do they think happened to the wolf?
3.     What is another Keystone species?

I used to live in the country, north of Montreal, and sometimes in the cold winter months I would hear the wolves calling.  It was a mysterious, primal sound; one that I think is deeply ingrained in our cellular memory!  Wolves are mysterious, just as is life; to me that is the wonder of the wild and as long as there are wild places we will have the opportunity to be inspired.

Have a wonderful experience!
In gratitude to the earth for life!

By the way - the songs are available as a Free download on MySpace for a week or so after they are first posted.  Otherwise all my songs can be bought on iTunes, Amazon and other internet sites.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Little Earth Charter!

A few years ago I had the good fortune to meet JC Little, an incredibly talented animator and President of Little Animation Inc.  I was searching for someone who could help me create a little character called Rosie who would carry my songs into the future with flair!  And voila, there was JC!  She had already created a Planet Earth a character for her series Kids Stories International! and was looking to expand her ideas!
So, one thing led to another and Shazam! JC created little Rosie and we decided to merge the two characters into Earth to Rosie! who would host of a series of  value-rich, fun, animation content for children 4-8.
I shared with JC some of the work I had been doing with the International Earth Charter Initiative and she suggested creating a little Earth Charter, that would introduce children to the concepts outlined in the grownup Earth Charter document in a language kids could relate to, animation and music!  We wanted to create a product for teachers and parents that would integrate universal and environmental values and act as a springboard to introduce students to a wide variety of subjects within the curriculum.
In consultation with the Earth Charter Initiative and Manitoba’s Ministry of Education Citizenship and Youth, Little Animation Inc. and the Sustainable Development Innovations Fund with Manitoba Conservation provided funding for the project, which is now completed and available on DVD in English and French! The DVD comes with a teaching Guide and its content relates directly to learning standards for Grades Pre K-3: earth science, physical science, life science, ecology, environmental studies, geography, history, social studies, citizenship education, and moral education. 
Since I cannot post a video on this Blog page, I have posted the video for Principle Number One – Life - on my MySpace page Blog . 
You can view Principle Number Two, Interconnected on our  Website  We have a Little Earth Charter Facebook Group and invite you to join us there and to share this amazing program with other teachers.  If you like what you find, you can buy the DVD  which comes with a Teaching Guide, at our website.
JC and I continue to develop and produce programs in the Earth To Rosie! brand and you can find some great interactive games for kids on our website  such as The Footprint Game, Rosie’s Heart, Passion Fashion as well as Rosie playing some of my songs!
Have fun and let us know what you create!  On our website you can see what teachers around the world have created using the Little Earth Charter!
In gratitude for life!

The Little Earth Charter is directed by JC Little, the eight shorts have been animated by 1996 Oscar nominee Alexei Kharitidi, with music performed and arranged by children’s entertainer Rosie Emery.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Black-capped Chickadee!


As the winter approaches in Canada and the northern United States, there is a sweet little bird that finds itself with a lot fewer neighbors than during the summertime!  As other birds fly south, the black-capped chickadee sticks out the cold and is fun to watch at bird-feeders or flitting from branch to branch in the forest.

These friendly little birds are a delight to all, including children. Curious and friendly, they have been known to alight on an outstretched hand offering some food! They are a good bird to watch in urban settings, and if you put up a bird feeder close to your classroom window, the black-capped chickadees will be sure to come by!  

During the summer months, chickadees feed mostly on insects, grubs, fruit and seeds and they often hang upside down from the twigs as they feed.   In order to survive the harsh winter months, when food is scarce, chickadees have evolved their beaks to enable them to crack the seeds of coniferous trees, which are high in fat and oil and available year round.  Chickadees also use thermoregulation to lower their body temperature at night, enabling them to conserve energy.

Biologists studying the alarm calls of the black-capped chickadee discovered that the sound of the bird’s songs signal not only the presence but also the size of nearby predators.!

So, here are a few ideas for Lesson Plans:
1.  First off, how about building a bird feeder, so that you can watch the chickadees! You can build one with a  Plastic Milk Container or with a Milk Carton As for food, you can learn How to attract chickadees to your bird feeder?

2.  What does the chickadee song sound like - you can listen to the video posted below - have a chickadee song contest and see who sounds the most like the bird itself!

3. Chickadees, like other creatures, have to watch out for predators such as owls and hawks.  This is the web of life.  Invite the children to draw a web of life.  A good example  for them to watch is the video of the Interconnected Principle of the Little Earth Charte
which can be viewed at:
Interconnections: Many species have evolved their anatomies in some way for survival or a better quality of life.  In an earlier Blog about the toucan, I mentioned how toucan’s beaks actually cool them down.  Hummingbirds have evolved their long beaks to enable them to reach deep into flowers to drink the nectar and in some cases plants are believed to have evolved their flowers to attract more hummingbirds!

Song! I have up-loaded the Chickadee Blues song and lyrics to my MySpace page, so the kids can sing along!

Story! There is a story that I know, which you can share with the children, but it is a little sad, so obviously it is at your discretion.  It is a Cree story called
Book! A fabulous book about chickadees is Get That Chickadee Feeling! By Frank Glew
Information: More information on chickadees can be found at:

And finally I found this video of a black-capped chickadee singing! I have up-loaded it to my Myspace page, but it is also on Youtube at:
Black-capped chickadee sings!

Have fun!
In joy and gratitude for this life!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Punk the Skunk!

Nobody relishes the idea of being sprayed by a skunk, and if you own a dog punks are certainly on your list of things to be avoided, alongside porcupines!  (I used to live in the country with two dogs!)

Skunks often inhabit urban centers and are therefore one of the species that is cool for kids to study, since they might actually get to see one! When it comes to teaching young kids, K-5, I am a huge proponent of learning about our backyards, about what lives close to us, or what is happening in our neighborhood.  I learned a lot from David Sobel’s book Beyond Ecophobia.  Sobel cautions us to not overwhelm children with environmental facts from around the globe, but rather to focus on that which is nearby.

When I wrote the song Punk the Skunk, I had just seen a skunk wandering up the road near my house.  I quietly watch him as he shuffled away, and I thought about what it must be like to be avoided by everyone!  Skunk offers an opportunity to discuss a few things with kids:
1.     Why do creatures have protective mechanisms?
2.     What other species have similar types of protective mechanisms?
3.     What it would feel like, as a human, if no one wanted to talk to you, or if you are being bullied?
Striped skunks are omnivores, and their diet really depends on where they are living.  In the summer they eat mostly insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, wasps and beetles; they also eat spiders, toads, frogs, lizards, snakes, mice and even chipmunks!

A skunk’s spray comes from a pair of large scent glands, with small ducts, located on either side of the rectum.  They discharge their musky spray with a strong contraction from their hips!  They can shoot that spray for up to twelve feet, so don’t get too close to a skunk!!  However they would rather avoid using their spray and only use it at a last resort!
Interconnections! Skunks eat all kinds of grubs and small rodents that can be harmful to crops, so they are often welcomed by farmers into their fields!
There is some good information on skunks at Project Wild:
Here is a legend about skunk from the Indian Reading Series.

I have up-loaded the Punk the Skunk song to my Myspace page.
By the way, please let me know if there is a particular song from a Blog Post that you want to hear – I can only put ten songs up on Myspace at a time, so I have to take some down in order to make room for others, as I Blog about different things!

I would also welcome any news of projects that you might do inspired by this Blog or the songs and stories!

Be well,
Have fun,
With gratitude for this life,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tropical Forests!

It’s a beautiful autumn day here in Montreal and the carpets of yellow leaves make a golden backdrop for the blackness of the tree trunks; the air is damp and smoky as people light up fires to warm themselves from the Saturday evening chill.  It seems a long way from the tropical forests!
I was lucky enough to visit the rainforest in Costa Rica, a magical place filled with bird and monkey cries, exotic fragrances and some not so cuddly critters… tarantulas! 

When I began this journey of writing songs for kids about nature I read everything I could about what was happening on earth, to the earth!  That was back in 1989 and the prospects for the Amazon rainforest seemed pretty bleak; seven footballs fields per day were being destroyed, according to most accounts.  Sadly the destruction continues and a report earlier this year from Greenpeace and the Guardian highlights some of the on-going problems.

With kids, I choose to focus on the beauty and marvel of these forests; illustrating how they are the lungs of the earth; that they are home to at least five million species (including humans), which is between 50-80% of all living things!
Rainforests play a major role in the local and global climate; they contribute a wealth of ingredients to much of the medicine that we use; over seven thousand compounds used in western medicine today are derived from rainforest plants.  Many products that are familiar to us come from the rainforest or contain an ingredient from there.
Fascinating people continue to live in these forests, like the Yanomani of Brazil and the Penan in Borneo; their knowledge of rainforest plants and animals is precious and can be extremely beneficial to us all.
Lynne Cherry’s book The Great Kapok tree, is a wonderful story to introduce children to the wonders of these tropical forests.  My song, the Tropical Forest can be used to make Lynne’s book into a musical!  I have uploaded the song to my Myspace page: ( for those interested.  I have also uploaded the Slothful Sloth song and the Ant song, Bat song and Mosquito song are all still up there.  You can download the Slothful Sloth song for free while it is up!

Animals of the Rainforest is a good video and can be found Online at Video Library:
Schools I visited sometimes had classrooms that were turned into rainforests!  They decorated with pictures, played a rainforest tape with sounds of the birds and monkeys, sprayed everyone with a fine mist to imitate the constant moisture and had a rainforest feast with Brazil nuts and rainforest crunch ice cream, from Ben & Jerry’s!

Interconnections! The example I gave in my previous blog about toucans is good – toucans eat berries and then poop out the seeds far and wide in the forest, helping the trees ensure their chances of survival.  Fruit bats do this too.  Harlequin beetles transport pseudo scorpions around helping them to reach new habitat – they feed on decaying fig trees; cutter ants chew up leaves and make compost piles under the ground where they grow mushrooms!  Rainforests act as carbon sinks, meaning that they ingest huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replenish it with oxygen.  There are so many connections to discover in tropical rainforests not the least of which is the fact that they impact the entire earth through their cycles of moisture and release.

Have fun learning!
For the earth,
In gratitude,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am a toucan and a toucan can be.....

Well, for absolutely no reason other than it popped into my head, today’s Blog is about toucans!  My Toucan song is one of my favorites, and I discovered a while back that someone had used it for their video on Youtube and that tickled me no end!

The Toucan song was one of the first songs that I wrote, back in the early 90’s, when I set out to teach kids about ecology and sustainability.  I’d heard a horrific story from a friend who was a pet store-owner, about toucans being smuggled into Canada in tennis ball containers.  I know, hard to imagine, right, but apparently true.

There are many different kinds of toucans - the biggest and most recognized being the toco toucan from Brazil.  Male toucans have the largest beak of any toucan and one of their favorite pastimes is “beak wrestling”! It’s true they have been seen actually doing this!  Another game they play is a form of catch; they toss berries to one another!

Toucans live in the canopy layer of the rainforest, where they hang out eating fruits and seeds that grow there.  These colorful birds do not have the greatest parenting reputation, as they are known to leave their nests for long periods of time!  Nests are usually made in holes that they find in the trees.
Connections!  Toucans and other fruit eating birds (or bats) help to disperse seeds throughout the forest, as the seeds are not digested and remain in the bird’s poop as it falls to the ground.   With trees having to compete for space in the dense vegetation of the rainforest, it is extremely beneficial for a species to have their seeds spread out.

Here is a great article about how toucan’s beaks actually cool the birds down!
I also use the song to teach kids about pets - the responsibility of owning a pet that is - and it is useful as an example of consumerism.  In the story, I buy the toucan; in reality, if we purchase a bird like that, it is likely to cause more birds to be captured from the forest.  As consumers we have the power to make choices that can ultimately force companies, or people, to stop cruel or unreasonable practices.
I have posted the Toucan Song to my MySpace page with the lyrics. 

By the way, I change the songs all the time because I am only allowed ten songs, so if you happen to read a blog and the song is not there just let me know and I will put it back up again!

For the earth,
In gratitude!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Recycling and Climate Change!

All those green boxes are out on my street today and pretty much every household seems to have one, which is a great sign!  Recycling is one of the success stories when it comes to reducing our ecological footprint. 
However, there’s always room for improvement and awareness of the reasons for recycling can inspire kids to continue the habit as they march through tweendom and beyond! 
Comprehending the causes of climate change can be quite exhausting!  It is complex!  But there are some basic scientific facts that can help kids understand the intricate balance of this beautiful planet upon which we live! 
·      The natural greenhouse effect is crucial for maintaining an optimum temperature for life on earth and is created by the accumulation of gases way up in the atmosphere.  These gases trap the sun’s heat from totally escaping back out into space – kind of like a greenhouse!
·      Some of the naturally occurring greenhouse gases are: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorinated fluorocarbons!
·      Human-generated gas emissions are mostly of carbon dioxide, but human practices, such as large hydro-electric dam projects and landfills, also increase methane emissions – not to mention the large herds of cows and sheep passing wind!
NOAA’s website has a complete guide to global warming:

What does recycling have to do with the climate?  Recycling and waste reduction are related to climate change because the energy that is used to process new materials, such as glass, paper and plastic, involves burning fossil fuels such as gasoline and coal which are both major sources of carbon dioxide.  Landfills also produce methane as waste material compounds, generating heat; in some countries this waste is collected and used as a bio-fuel.  This article from the EPA shows how we can efficiently capture waste and reuse it efficiently.

OK, how about some fun!  The Recycling Boogie song and lyrics is up on my MySpace page at:

I was looking for some stories about recycling and then I thought, wait a minute, how about asking the kids to imagine their own journey as a plastic bottle?  How is plastic made?  And for a really good geography lesson, ask the kids to find out where bauxite comes from – that is the main ingredient in aluminum soda pop cans.

If you haven’t already seen it, the Story of Stuff is definitely worth sharing with older kids – 7+
Recycling toys, clothes and other household items is really important too, its not just the plastic, paper and glass.  Most cities have hazardous waste collections for household paints, batteries and other toxic substances.

For younger children 4-8, try out the Earth to Rosie! Footprint Game at

Have fun!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turn it Off!

With the countdown to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, some teachers might be looking for materials to use in class, so I thought I would make today’s Blog about conserving energy and water.
I spend half of my time working in Florida, where I develop educational programs for elementary school children. Last year, I developed a program called Turn it Off!
As usual, I wrote a song to go with the program, since I find that a fun concert always kicks things off on a high note! (Excuse the pun!) So I have up-loaded the song and lyrics to my Myspace page in case you want to use it with your class – it is a free download, so please do make use of it! I have also put up the Recycling Boogie song.
In Canada, I co-create, with my partner JC Little, a couple of fun animation projects for kids under the collective banner Earth to Rosie! One of the games is called the Footprint Game – and while it is still in its infancy, it is a good resource to introduce kids to the concept of their ecological footprint. We are going to be further developing this as funding allows. The Little Earth Charter is also a very useful resource:
One of the main objectives in the Turn it Off! Program is simply helping children (and adults) to understand how our lifestyle choices impact the environment and ultimately ourselves, since there is no separation between us, and the environment! I would use the examples mentioned in both the song and the Footprint game: turning off lights, computers not in use, taps, water sprinklers, unplugging cell-phones once charged – simple things that we often just don’t think about.
There are so many consequences to climatic changes; here are some examples:
· Coral reefs: warming oceans contribute to what is called bleaching in 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. (See my previous Blog Oh the ocean is wide.)
· Mosquitoes: a warming climate means that some insects and bacteria will survive in areas where previously they were not able to do so, resulting in an increase in diseases associated with these species. (I have up-loaded the Mosquito song too.)
· Displacement of people and species: rising sea levels mean that millions of people and species living in low lying areas will have to move. This is already happening in some areas, particularly islands in the Indian ocean such as the Maldives. I have up-loaded my song, Moose with Nowhere to Go! can be used to illustrate this – the moose in the song is simply confused because his habitat has been completely intersected by roads.
I always emphasize that while we cannot stop climate change, since it has already begun, we can do our best to impact the duration. How? By reducing the amount of carbon that we put into the atmosphere; by using public transportation if available, by conserving energy; reduce garbage (landfills contribute to the methane in the atmosphere) and recycle; buy local food when possible thereby reducing the energy expended to transport food from far away; changing our light bulbs to more energy efficient ones; taking shorter showers and becoming more educated about what climate change really means to all of us.

Here is a video made by a school using my Recycling Boogie Song to get the kids engaged! 

The David Suzuki Foundation has useful information about many environmental topics including climate change.
People around the world are coming together to seek solutions to the challenges that we all face due to climate changes. To me, this is amazing and wonderful! Cooperation between nations will help us all and is a fabulous example for kids!
Yes we Can!
For the Earth!
In gratitude,