mystery The answer to the clues may be found at the bottom of this column.    Teachers and Parents: Enter to win an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for your home or classroom. It's fun and easy!
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I'm a member of the "dog family."
glass1 Clue 2:  I live throughout North America in deserts, prairies, forests, and even in towns and cities.
glass1 Clue 3:  You might hear me howling at night to communicate with my pack.
glass1 Clue 4:  Don't let me trick you—I am NOT a wolf.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the monthly drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced at the end of September.
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: SEASHELLS Although Inside Outside Nature blog is changing it's focus, this weekly "Who Am I?" will remain the same! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.  

Monthly Archives: June 2012

Open the Door…Go Outside

Thanks for visiting Inside Outside Nature! Summertime is vacation time, and this blog is taking a short vacation. I’ll be back again on August 27th with weekly nature activities and new Mystery Contest clues. In the meantime enjoy these ideas for summer fun in nature. All you have to do is just open your door and go outside.

And although reading is usually an inside activity, it doesn’t have to be. As a child, I remember curling up with a book under the branches of a leafy birch tree after a morning of swimming and playing.


Inside: Book Buddies

Ages 1-4

My First Hike by Catherine Maria Woolf. A reluctant child goes with Grandpa on his first hike – and to his surprise, discovers the vibrant world of nature. Birds! Frogs! A waterfall! Trees to swing on! “Can we come back tomorrow?”



Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver and Christopher Canyon. Sunshine This book celebrates friendship, sunshine and the simple joy of being together. Canyon’s illustrations abound with light, color and lots of humorous detail.



Ages 5-10

Discover the Seasons by Diane Iverson. This book is a wonderful tool, with exquisite illustrations, charming poems, simple text that will stimulate discussion, plus hands-on activities and seasonally-appropriate recipes.




Eliza and the Dragonfly by Suzie Caldwell Rinehart and and Anisa Claire Hovemann. The science about dragonflies is perfectly integrated into a story in which the dragonfly’s remarkable metamorphosis from a mucky nymph (“Eeeewww,” says Eliza) to a beautiful winged creature (“Magnificent!” is Aunt Doris’ refrain) is a metaphor for the magic of Eliza’s growing up.



Ages 10-14

Girls Who Looked Under Rocks by Jeannine Atkins and Paula Conner. This book portrays the youths and careers of six remarkable women whose curiosity about nature fueled a passion to steadfastly overcome obstacles to careers in traditionally men-only occupations. An excellent chapter book for preteen girls.



John Muir: My Life with Nature by Joseph Cornell. Written as an “autobiography” taken from Muir’s own words, it brims with his spirit and adventures. The book includes numerous “explore more” activities that help the reader to understand and appreciate Muir’s many wonderful qualities.



Outside:  Cricket Thermometer

Let a cricket help you estimate the temperature. The warmer the temperature, the faster a cricket will chirp; the cooler, the slower the chirps. Count cricket chirps for 15 seconds. Add 40 to get the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit degrees.



Lots More Summer Fun

Choose from any of the following activities from nature authors: Joseph Cornell (Sharing Nature with Children), Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods), and David T. Sobel (Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators). I’ve also included related books.


  • Explore your neighborhood for special spots.
  • Take a day hike.
  • Take a night hike with a flashlight
  • Sleep outside.
  • Learn to rock climb.

Animal Allies

  • Watch birds. Put up a feeder and birdbath.
  • Build a bat house.
  • Collect lightning bugs at dusk. Release them at dawn.
  • Raise butterflies from caterpillar to chrysalis to emerging butterfly to egg back to caterpillar.
  • Discover animal signs. Look for footprints, mole holes, and other signs that an animal has passed by or lives nearby.

Special Places

  • Build a tree house, fort, or hut.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Set up a backyard weather station. Watch the clouds.
  • Find a favorite tree and visit it again and again throughout the year.

Small Wonders

  • Keep a terrarium or aquarium.
  • Find a hidden universe. Place a piece of scrap wood on bare dirt. Wait two days and lift the board. Find how many creatures have found shelter there. Identify them with the help of a field guide. Return once a month to discover who’s new.
  • Use a hand lens to observe bugs, leaves, and bark. Crawl under bushes to find what’s hiding there.

Search and Find

  • Make a leaf collection.
  • Play “Ten Treasures.” Go on a walk to find ten different “critters.” (mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, snails, other creatures)
  • Collect stones, rocks, shells, and fossils.

Family Fun

  • Find an adult nature companion. All of the Earth Heroes had an adult—their father, mother, or grandparent—who encouraged them to explore nature at an early age.
  • Establish a “green hour” as a new family tradition. Everyone does an activity outside. It may be just watching the stars come out.
  • Play “I Am Aware Of” with a partner. Go for a walk and take turns pointing out interesting sights and sounds.

Over in the Ocean

Marianne Berkes is June’s Guest Blogger, and all of the clues for this month’s Who Am I contest came from her book Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef. Marianne has spent much of her life with children as a teacher, children’s theater director and children’s librarian. Read more about Marianne at the end of the  blog.

By Marianne Berkus

I love the ocean—it’s an amazing place! I wrote Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef to open children’s eyes to some of fascinating sea creatures that live in a coral reef.

My idea for this book came to me when I was working as children’s librarian. I was reading and singing the classic Over in the Meadow to youngsters at a story time, and there was a “save ocean reefs” poster on the library wall. Aha! Putting a fresh twist on the old song, I used the same rhythm and rhyme but situated my story in an ocean habitat. I’ve used that same pattern to write five “Over in the . . .” habitat books, including my latest book Over in the Forest: Come Take a Peek.

Young children are naturally “wired” for sound and rhythm. And repetition and rhyme are a great way for kids to share in a story, especially if they are just beginning to read. Rhyme also gives the book a forward motion that you don’t always get with prose. I like to think I’m making music with my words!

I find ideas for my books all around me, especially in nature. My books are creative non-fiction, a combination of fact and fiction, that educate, as well as entertain—touching the head and the heart.

One of my favorite aspects of writing is doing the research.  It’s like a treasure hunt, because often I discover something new and exciting!  All of my books are carefully checked by experts in their fields; Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef  was vetted by the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center.

Listen to the words and melody to “Over in the Ocean.” You might also enjoy a YouTube video that tells you more about how I use this book at story times.


Inside: Salt Water vs. Fresh Water

In this demonstration young children use their tongues and their eyes to notice the difference between salt water and fresh water. You will need the following items: two containers, one filled with fresh water and the other with salt water. Salt. Small paper cups. Plastic cups. Balance scale.

  • Make the seawater ahead of time by adding 1⁄4 cup of salt to every cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve the salt. When it has cooled, pour it into the container marked “seawater.” Prepare another container filled with tap water and mark it “fresh water.”
  • Explain to the children that although ocean water covers almost 3⁄4 of the earth, and many creatures live in the ocean, we can’t drink it. Let them discover why by pouring a tiny amount for each child into a small paper cup and let them taste it on their tongues.
  • Ask the children to predict which is heavier, salt water or fresh water. Have them observe as you pour some of the salt water into a plastic cup. Then pour from the freshwater container the same amount into another plastic cup. Take the two cups and put them on a balance scale. Children will see that the salt makes water heavier.


Outside: Clownfish Tag

Play a game to learn about the relationship between a sea anemone and a clownfish.

Before you begin, explain the relationship between anemones, clownfish, and other fish. Anemones are not flowers, but predatory animals that sting fish with their tentacles and then eat them. However, clownfish have special defenses on their bodies that prevent them from being stung, and they help the anemone catch other fish.

  • Designate boundaries for a “coral reef,” the playing area.
  • Choose groups of three children as “anemones.” They should stand specific spots with their feet planted on the floor. They can’t move, but they can reach out with their arms which are the tentacles of the anemones to wave back and forth.
  • Choose two or three other children to be clownfish that dart in and out of the anemones. Pin a piece of orange fabric or construction paper on the back of the clownfish so the players know who they are.
  • Choose two of three other children to be fish who will try tag the clownfish.
  • If a clownfish is tagged, it becomes a fish (removes the orange fabric) and tries to catch other clownfish. The clownfish can dart into the anemones for protection; but if a fish is tagged by an anemone, it becomes part of the anemone and can tag other fish.
  • The game ends when all of the fish are tagged and become part of the anemones.


More Ocean Fun and Facts


More about Marianne Berkes . . . She knows how much children enjoy brilliantly illustrated, interactive picture books with predictable text about real animals. She retired to write full time and visit schools, libraries and literary conferences. Marianne is the author of eleven (and counting!) published picture books for children.

Marianne especially enjoys writing books about animals and nature. She hopes to open kid’s eyes to the magic found in our natural world. Her verse is lyrical, reflecting the fact that music and theater have always been part of her life. To find out more about her school visits click here. She uses music and puppets in her interactive presentations with younger children. Marianne also presents workshops for older students and adults about the writing process and her publishing adventures. Marianne lives with her husband, Roger, near the ocean where she still picks up beautiful shells to add to her collection.

The eight books Marianne has published with Dawn Publications each have won awards and garnered exceptional reviews. She is also the author of Marsh Morning, about bird songs in the marsh, and Marsh Music, about the night songs of frogs in the marsh. Marsh Morning won a Florida Reading Association Award in 2004. Her eleventh book, Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek was released in January 2012, with another book scheduled for release later this year, and two in 2013.

To learn more about Marianne Berkes and her books please visit her website at


Aquarium Antics

“Sooo cute!” the little girl next to me cooed. “Look at that!” someone behind me laughed. The antics of the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium transformed a group of strangers into instant friends as we pressed close to the viewing window. When one of the otters cruised by just in front us, we all gasped in unison. A similar scene played out in front of the sea horses, puffins, and turtle exhibits. Watching all the colorful sea creatures swimming around in larger-than-life tanks can seem pretty magical, especially to young kids.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is designed to keep a child’s attention from start to finish. There are interactive displays, live feeding shows, and lots of touchable displays. But there’s more to a great exhibit than just fish. “Research shows that hands-on features — like opportunities to touch marine life — sustain interest, spark learning, and create a fun visit for the whole family,” says Angela V. Graziano, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Giving kids an experience at an aquarium or zoo can go a long way in sparking an interest in the animal world, AND it doesn’t replace a real experience in nature. That lesson was brought home to me when we left the aquarium and went to nearby Elkhorn Slough. There we saw over two dozen otters floating together in the calm waters of the marina. We zipped up our jackets against the salty breeze as pelicans soared in formation. Seals barked across the lagoon. I wished that every child who I just saw in the aquarium could have this experience too!

Inside: Jello Aquarium

After a visit to an aquarium, kids can create their own aquarium inside a clear plastic cup or glass using jello and small pieces of candy.

Materials: Clear Plastic Cup or glass, Blue Raspberry Jello, Skewers, Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, Gummy Lifesavers, Sour Sghetti’s, Colorful Nerds, Any other ocean candy or crackers you can fin


  1. Make the jello following the instructions on the box. Put it in the refrigerator, but do not let it set all the way. Check the consistency every 15 minutes. It should be a little thick and not watery, but still slightly mushy and moveable.
  2. Sprinkle some colorful nerds into the bottom of the empty cup to become the gravel.
  3. Slowly spoon in some jello, being careful not to mess up the gravel. How much jello you put in will depend on how high you want the water to come up.
  4. Use Sour Sghetti’s to look like eels, stickfish, or the seaweed that comes up from the gravel. The teddy grahams can swim or dive. Put a teddy graham in the middle of a gummy lifesaver and pretend it’s a floatie. Let your kids imaginations run wild.
  5. Put the finished “aquariums” back  into the refrigerator to fully set the jello for about an hour, and then enjoy a cool treat.

Source: HubPages blogger TKLMommy

Outside: Tidepool Aquascope

Visiting the rocky shore offers an exciting look at ocean plants and animals in the place they call home. Though tide pool creatures survive harsh conditions, they’re easily hurt or disturbed by human visitors. Using a homemade aquascope, you can watch tide pool life right where it is and leave the animals in their tide pool homes.
Materials: Large “No. 10” can or large coffee can with both ends removed; waterproof plastic tape; heavy rubber bands, clear plastic bag or food wrap. Optional: Black paint


  1. Paint the inside of the can with black paint (optional but helps viewing).
  2. Cover the top and bottom rim of the can with plastic tape to cover the sharp edges.
  3. Stretch the plastic bag or food wrap TIGHTLY over the bottom of the can.
  4. Secure the plastic bag or wrap against the can with one or more heavy rubber bands.
  5. Seal the edges of the plastic against the can with waterproof tape if available.
  6. Enjoy a close-up view of the critters beneath the water’s surface.

Source: Monterey Bay Aquarium


More Aquarium Fun and Facts