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: October 2012

A Look at Lifetimes

All of the answers for October’s Who Am I? contest came from the book Lifetimes by David Rice. When David was seven years old, he observed a small dog trying to wake its mother, which had been killed by a passing car. As he watched the grieving puppy’s vain attempts, he was struck by the depth of sadness and pain. The study of time, animal characteristics, and death as a natural process of life can offer powerful lessons in the classroom.

How long is a lifetime? If you’ve been participating in this month’s contest, you’ve learned that the lifetime for a dragonfly is only a single day. An elephant’s lifetime is 65 years, and a Saguaro Cactus lives for about 100 years. Twenty organisms—plants, animals, and even the earth itself—are featured in Lifetimes.

The book ends with the average lifetime of a boy or girl, which is about 85 years. David tells readers, “You are important because you are “one of the most creative living things on the earth. You have the ability to take information and ideas and use them to imagine new ideas. You also have the ability to be one of the most loving and caring creatures on Earth. By combining your ability to create and your ability to care, you can help make this ‘Spaceship Earth’ a better place for all us passengers.”


Inside: Lifetime Line Up

Click here for a pdf of a lesson plan that you can use to introduce your students to the concept of varying life spans. In this lesson you’ll make copies of line drawings of the plants and animals in the book using the Copy Master. Giving one drawing to each student, you’ll ask them to color their plant or animal. (Depending on the size of your class, some students will have the same drawing.) Then you’ll play a game called “Four Corners” to have students guess the life span of their plant or animal. Afterwards, students will line up in order as you identify the number of years each plant or animal lives. You may want to follow-up with an extension activity that gives students time to do one or more of the challenge activities about their plant or animal.

Source:  A Teacher’s Guide to Lifetimes: Lessons Plans for the book Lifetimes by Bruce and Carol Malnor (that’s me!)


Outside: Citizen Science Looks at Life Cycles

Life cycle changes are all around us. Children see a flower blossom and then scatter its seeds on the ground, a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis and spread its wings, or a bird hatch and grow feathers before leaving the nest. Journey North, a free internet citizen science program, explores the interrelated aspects of seasonal change and life cycles of plants and animals. When participating in a Journey North project, students share their own observations of migrations and other signs of the seasons with others. Their compiled data is used by scientists. Find out how your class can participate in Journey North.

Journey North’s Citizen Science projects include:

  • Hummingbirds
  • Monarch Butterflies
  • Sunlight & Seasons
  • Symbolic Migration
  • Tulip Test Gardens
  •  Whooping Cranes


More Fun and Facts with Animal Lifetimes

Do Animals Have Feelings Too? is another book by David Rice. It includes a collection of true stories of animal behavior. For example, a young antelope was being dragged into a river by a crocodile. A nearby hippopotamus saw what was happening and charged the croc, which released the antelope. The hippo gently pulled the antelope up the riverbank, comforting and protecting it until it died. Was this compassion? Not only are the stories in this book captivating and thought provoking, they’re also a terrific way for teachers and parents to help children consider feelings—whether animal or human.

Dawn Publications is exploring eco-literacy through a series of articles on its Homepage. Last week’s tip for developing eco-literacy was to “Ask Questions.” That’s just what David Rice does for each animal in Lifetimes. In fact, each plant or animal he presents is practically a lesson plan in itself, with “tell about it,” “think about it,” and “look it up” challenges presented on every page. Look at some sample pages.

Understanding the concept of a lifetime naturally brings up the topic of death and dying. Because various cultures and traditions deal with death differently, students may have conflicting views about what happens when something or someone dies. One of the messages in Lifetimes is that death is a part of the natural process of living. Students may want to talk about their own experiences of a pet, relative, or friend dying. For this reason, it is important for teachers to be prepared to the address the topic of death and the emotions that go along with it. Some excellent children’s books about death include: Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Grandpa’s Garden by Shea Darian, and On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier.


Mountain Stream Surprise!

I got a wonderful surprise while hiking in the Sierra Nevadas last week. I had gone to the mountains to catch the last glimpse of the yellow aspen trees before a windstorm stripped their branches bare. I wasn’t disappointed. The aspens glowed in the sun along Sagehen Creek. (I’ll be writing more about the biology of these magnificent trees in a couple of weeks.)

My surprise came as I walked across a plank that spanned the creek. There below me were dozens of bright red fish with green heads—male salmon! Looking around, I saw the females hovering over the gravel along the bank. They were spawning—laying their eggs that the males would fertilize.  Within a few months a new generation of salmon would hatch.

This annual ritual was not only a beginning, it was also an ending. Soon after spawning, both male and female salmon die. In fact, I watched a tired male make his final exhausted splash.  Many more fish carcasses floated nearby.

The salmon I observed were freshwater Sockeye Salmon known as Kokanee. However, most salmon live both in fresh and salt water and their life cycle is truly amazing. They overcome huge obstacles as they journey from the fresh water where they are born, to salt water where they grow, and then back to the fresh water where they will spawn and die. Salmon require healthy rivers, streams, and oceans for each stage of their development, so their story of survival is also the story of the environment. I hope you enjoy learning about salmon, their life cycle, and their habitat in the following activities.


Inside: Salmon Story Bracelet

In this activity, students will do a craft activity (make a beaded bracelet) as a way to remember and re-tell the story of the salmon’s life cycle.

Materials: various colored pony beads, 8-12/student (suggestions for bead colors); elastic cord, 12 inches/student.

Prep:Make a sample bracelet to show as an example.


  1. Read the book, Salmon Stream, by Carol Reed-Jones. It  follows the life cycle of the Pacific salmon. After the story, have students discuss each stage of the salmon’s life.
  2. Show the students the sample salmon life cycle bracelet. Explain that the bracelet forms a circle like the life cycle. The bracelet, which is a form of art, can be used to tell a story about the salmon. Throughout time people of all cultures have used art to tell stories and to teach.
  3. Have students create a salmon life cycle bracelet using eight to twelve different colored beads. Each bead represents a part of the cycle in a story they construct.
  4. When their bracelets are completed, have students practice telling the salmon’s story to a partner.


Outside: Salmon Life Cycle Relay

Play a relay game based on the salmon’s life cycle.

Prep: Print copies of the Salmon Life Cycle Cards, 1 set per team (source: from Rivers to Sea and Back again: A Salmon’s Life Story)


  1. Before playing the game, read the information in the back of Salmon Stream.
  2. Designate a “life cycle” area with a rope spread out along the grass. Divide the class into teams of 6 and have team members line up behind one another about 25 feet from the rope. Place a set of life cycle cards for each team face down in the life cycle area on the other side of the rope.
  3. At the signal, the first person in line runs to the life cycle area and finds the first phase of the salmon’s life cycle—the egg card. The student runs back to the team, who must agree that the card is the first stage. If the runner has chosen the correct card is correct, he/she keeps the card and goes to the end of the line, while the next student in line runs to the pool and finds the second stage card.
  4. Play continues until teams have collected all 6 stages of a salmon’s life cycle (egg, alevin, fry, smolt, adult fish, spawning adult). The first team to collect all of the cards has the privilege of reading their cards in order to the rest of the teams.

More Fun and Facts About Salmon

Find out fun facts about salmon at the Dialogue for Kids web site.

Get directions for having your students create a Salmon Pantomime to music from the Dawn Publications website.

Get Salmon Life Cycle Lesson Plans, including a Salmon Life Cycle Game, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


View from the Window Seat

I flew home to California from Michigan last week. I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve got to say it: “The ground below looked like a patchwork quilt.” Squares and rectangles of various shades of browns and greens spread out below me—the farms and fields of the Midwest in autumn.

As we flew over the Great Plains the patchwork continued, but the squares contained circles—fields watered by circular irrigation systems.

When I got home I learned that it was Thomas Jefferson who established a survey technique that created a grid pattern across most of the U.S. But no man-made survey can dictate rules to Mother Nature, and I delighted in seeing rivers, lakes, and mountains interrupt the regularity of the pattern. From my vantage point of 31,000 feet, I could see how erosion sculpted the land, how glaciers scraped and gouged the Midwest, and where trees gave way to rocky peaks.

What I couldn’t see from my window seat were the individual plants and animals that made up the habitats below. However, it was easy for me to imagine them because I had just read Nature’s Patchwork Quilt by Mary Miche. The activities below explore the pieces and patterns of the world’s habitats.


Inside: Where’s the Wilderness Kid?

Consie Powell, the illustrator for Nature’s Patchwork Quilt, has hidden images of kids interacting with nature in some of the patchwork quilt pieces of the book. Follow the directions in Where’s the Wilderness Kid? to have students find the hidden kids and discuss human activities that can be done in each habitat.


Outside: Wild Wonderful Words

Nature’s Patchwork Quilt introduces students to key environmental vocabulary words, such as interdependence and biodiversity. A complete list of words and definitions is found in Wonderful Wild Words.

Walk around your school grounds to find concrete examples of the terms, such as camouflage, adaptation, or survival mechanism. Back in the classroom, identify the vocabulary terms that you couldn’t find around the school, such as zooplankton or phytoplankton.


More Fun with Habitats, Heroes, & Quilts

One of the quilt designs in Nature’s Pathwork Quilt illustrates 18 environmentalists, including Rachel Carson examining ocean vegetation, John Muir exploring the forest, and Jane Goodall observing a chimpanzee. All of the environmentalists are chosen from the Earth Heroes series which contain short, highly-interesting biographies.


Getting kids involved in quilting is easier than you may think. Find out how at The Craft Studio.