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.  

The Reason for the Seasons

The long days of summer are over, and the nights are getting longer. This first day of fall is Saturday, September 22nd. This day is called the Autumnal Equinox. The word “equinox” means “equal night.” At the time of the equinox (or within a few days depending on geographic location) day and night are equal in length. In my area of northern California, that day is September 25th.

But why do the seasons change? Many people think that the seasons change because we’re either closer or farther away from the Sun. Nope, that’s not why.

To understand why are seasons change, you need to know a couple of facts. (1) The earth revolves around the sun. A complete revolution takes one year. (2) The earth tilts on its axis. The end points of the axis are the North and South Poles.

The seasons change because sometimes the North Pole axis points away from the sun—the Northern Hemisphere get less direct sunlight and the days are shorter. It’s winter. And sometimes the North Pole axis points toward the sun—the Northern Hemisphere gets more direct sunlight and the days are longer. It’s summer. Just the opposite happens in the Southern Hemisphere.

But twice a year the sun is directly over the equator—both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres get the same amount of sun. One of these times is the Autumnal Equinox (this week) and the other is the Vernal Equinox (around March 20th)). Now is a great time to focus on activities that emphasize day and night, such as the ones listed below.

Inside: Day and Night, Night and Day

Use the book Forest Bright Forest Night by Jennifer Ward to introduce children to daytime and nighttime animals. Someone is always awake in the forest, and someone else is always asleep! As you read you actually flip the book from day to night as a hands-on way to show the same view day and night. After reading, download a pdf of the activity called Classify It! to identify the animals in the book as mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, or insects.


Outside: Owl Eyes

Owls are fascinating nighttime birds. They have excellent sight and hearing. Before doing any observation activities outside, have your students practice seeing with “Owl Eyes.” Owls have excellent peripheral vision, which means that they can see out of the corners of their eyes very well. This ability helps them to find food. To practice Owl Eyes, take your students outside. Have them hold their arms out to their sides and wiggle their fingers. Ask them to relax their eyes and look straight ahead. Without moving your eyes, they’ll be able to see their fingers moving. Looking with relaxed eyes and using peripheral vision is called “Owl Eyes.” Have them put their hands down to notice what they can see all around them on the school yard. Have them use their Owl Eyes for two activities described on the website: Seeing Colors and Nighttime Colors.


More Seasonal Fun and Facts

Fall is harvest time, and The Seasons at Molly’s Organic Farm art activity (lesson plan designed by Trina Hunner the illustrator of Molly’s Organic Farm) connects children to foods found in each season.

Have fun dissecting owl pellets. Follow the pdf of Owl Pellet Directions from my A Teacher’s Guide to Nature’s Food Chains. It corresponds to the book Pass the Energy, Please! by Barbara Shaw McKinney.

Please keep in mind that the earth’s rotation and tilt are easiest to understand with graphic visuals or hands-on models. Check out this visual explanation from National Geographic online.