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.  

Cosmic Current Events

imagesTwo monumental cosmic events happened last Friday, February 15th.

One event was the fly-by of an asteroid close to the earth. How close? 17,100 miles above our heads, so there was never any danger of a collision. Nevertheless, this was closer to the Earth than many artificial satellites.

The asteroid, named 2012 DA14, was relatively large (about half the length of a football field). When images of it were shown live online, viewers around the world eagerly watched a tiny blip of light passing through the starry sky.

Scientists are eager to study asteroids because they reveal so much information about the early formation of our solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.

images-1The second cosmic event, a meteorite coming into the Earth’s atmosphere, was much closer to home. It was about 19-31 miles overhead as it exploded over central Russia 950 miles east of Moscow. The explosion caused a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings, and injured over 1000 people. The fireball, traveling at a speed of 40,000 miles per hour left a long white trail that could be seen as far as 125 miles away. This was the largest meteorite to affect Earth since 1908.meteors+nasa

According to NASA, “the trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object.” Information and graphics of both events are available at the Telegraph online newspaper website.

People all around the world have been captivated by these cosmic events, and news reports continue to reveal more details about the meteorite.  You can use these events to capture the interest of your students too!


Inside: Asteroid or Meteorite—What’s the Difference?

Asteroid or meteorite—how are they the same? How are they different? Have your students graph the similarities and differences using a Venn diagram.

  1. Explain how a Venn diagram works and pass out blank copies.  Note that shared characteristics are listed in the overlapping section, allowing for easy identification of which characteristics are similar and which are different.
  2. Have students read descriptions of both an asteroid and a meteorite and then create their own Venn diagrams. (You may need to adjust the vocabulary for your age group.)

GOING_COVER2For younger students, create a Venn Diagram of the planets:

  1. Read aloud Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes. Review the glossary after you have read the story, noting that the illustrations give you an idea of the sizes of the planets. Then have students choose one of four “inner” planets that they would like to compare with one of the four “outer” planets. Use the information in the back of the book as a resource


Outside: Night Sky Wonders

Looking up at the night sky is a pastime that can provide unlimited entertainment for all ages. Consider making the experience even richer by working storytelling into your night sky plans. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and people from other cultures around the world made up tales to explain many night sky phenomena. You can discover their mythology and lore in the Dot to Dot in the Sky series published by Whitecap Books. A blend of sky science and stories, these books introduce the characters associated with the constellations, planets, and Moon.

Zodiac+book+cover+compressedDot to Dot: Stories in the Stars and Stories of the Zodiac show how to find constellations by leading readers from one constellation to another. (Note: these are not “connect-the-dots” drawing/coloring books.) Young children can look for different colors of stars, make up their own constellations, or look for pictures on the surface of the Moon. Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Moon explores the stories people from around the world have told when gazing up at the Moon. Older children and adults will enjoy using binoculars to observe Moon craters. The details you can see are quite incredible and may just spark an interest in all things celestial. Remember to pick a night when the Moon is not full so the light through the lens is not too bright.


You can also watch the night sky for movement. Look for satellites and meteors—commonly called shooting stars. These bright streaks of light are caused by bits or rock and dust in space, often as small as a grain of rice. A meteor the size of a pebble can make a streak of light brighter than the Full Moon. Light from a large meteor is called a fireball, while a rock from space that actually strikes the Earth is a meteorite. Meteors are best spotted after midnight, facing east. Showers occur at the same time every year.

[Thanks to author Joan Marie Galat at Sci/Why for these night sky ideas.]


More Fun and Facts about the Universe

UNIV1_CoverRead the Born with a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story, by Jennifer Morgan, and the two sequels From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story, and Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story.




TREX_StoreChildren are fascinated by the idea that an asteroid hitting the Earth may have caused dinosaurs to become extinct. Read If You Give T-rex a Bone by Tim Meyers to introduce kids to all types of dinosaurs in a quirky sort of way.




images-4Compare the relative sizes of the planets using common fruits and vegetables. First, draw a circle (60 inches in diameter) on the board to represent the sun. Place the fruits and vegetables on a table or series of desks coming out from the sun in the following order.

  • Mercury–one pea
  • Venus–small grape
  • Earth–small radish
  • Mars–blueberry
  • Jupiter–cantaloupe
  • Saturn–grapefruit
  • Uranus–orange
  • Neptune–small peach or plum.

For more ideas go to the Teacher/Librarians downloadable activities for Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun on Dawn’s website.