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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Make a Wormie Hotel

ALL about Earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris)


Worms become very upset if you handle them, so, please, 
 wear plastic gloves or use a soft paint brush  when you touch them!!

Earthworm facts
  • Earthworms live everywhere where there is damp soil and rotting vegetation.
  • They dig large burrows that let water and air into the earth.
  • These burrows keep out soil healthy.
  • They drag dead leaves into the earth and eat them.
  • The soil and the leaves pass through the worm's body and is left in little pieces call CASTINGS on top of the ground.
  • Earthworm castings help plants grow.
  • AFTER a heavy rainfall, worms crawl to the top of their burrows and sometimes drown in water puddles. SO, when it rains, see how many worms you can save!


  • There are over 2000 species of earthworms around the world.
  • The smallest worms are about 1/2 inch long.
  • The largest worm lives in Australia and can be 6 feet long!

   The Earthworm's body:

  • Earthworms are INVERTEBRATES which means they don't have bones.
  • Their soft bodies can be brown or red.
  • They have a small brain, 5 hearts, and they breathe through their skin.
  • Earthworms are blind.
  • They use their tiny sensory organs to feeel things around them.
  • They lay very small eggs.

YOU can build your own WORMIE HOTEL - I DID!!

  •    A plastic container with a lid.
  •    Make a few air holes in the bottom so that liquid can drain out.
  •    Support your hotel on bricks placed inside a tray so that you collect any water that drains off.

  • Fill the bottom of the Hotel with about an inch of wet, 

shredded paper.

  • Put your plastic gloves on and add a few worms.
  • Cut up dinner left-overs into very small pieces.
  • Put a layer of straw or damp newspaper over the top.
  • Finally, put on the tight fitting lid so that flies don't get 

into the Hotel.

**  Check each week and make sure the soil is damp and 
there's plenty of food for the worms.

  • Coffee grounds and wet tea bags.
  • Fruit and vegetable peelings.
  • Cereal, bread, and crushed egg shells.

  • Meat and fish.
  • Fat or greasy foods.
  • Milk, cheese, cream, rice, pasta and cooked potatoes!!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Today's (May 14) Senior Science class

       Another full Senior Scientist class this morning...

I began by showing my senior scientist class a pocket museum containing a piece of leg bone I found over the weekend, shaped into a tool, then telling them about the two ants I saw working together to drag a dead bluebottle home for dinner..................and, having got their interest, I showed  some of Jeannine's books, created when she was a teacher.

Before I handed them out, I told the 2002 story in the New York Times of Pluto's demise as a planet, and Jeannine's subsequent class communication with Venetia Phair, who, in 1930, when a young girl, named the newly discovered planet, Pluto.

They were mesmorized, and so taken by the quality of the children's illustrations in the hand-made books...................especially the one they sent to Venetia in England - which began a period of correspondence between Venetia and Jeannine's children.

Twnrty minutes later, when I'd answered most of the questions and the chatter eased a bit, I handed each senior scientist a small treasure jar containing earth I collected some time ago when out on a walk..................a pair of tweezers, an empty tin and a magnifying glass.

Each jar was loaded with small fossils and crystals.............the senior scientists teased out their finds and set them aside from the earth. Then, when the time was right,  I handed each of them a small magnet........and showed them how to gently move it close to the soil.............they were thrilled when the magnet attracted the magnetite crystals buried in the earth, all deposits from overhead meteor showers........................

My senior scientists were absolutely enthralled!!

***** This is an activity I've used loads of times in classrooms - with kids, teachers - at workshops for children and their parents. It always engages my group. 

Here's the handout I use when working with teachers...............

Collecting moondust!!

A couple of years ago, when listening to Morning Edition on NPR, my attention was caught when an interview focused on the previous night’s meteor shower over Colorado.

Apparently, after such a shower, one can find magnetic meteorite dust by sweeping the ground with a magnet.

That gave me an idea…………..

A meteor shower, incidentally, is the result of an interaction between Earth and streams of debris from a comet. Each time a comet swings by the sun in its orbit, some of its ice vaporizes and a certain amount of meteoroids (iron based, so magnetic) are shed. The meteoroids  spread out along the entire orbit of the comet to form a meteoroid stream also known as a dust trail, and eventually fall to the earth below, waiting to be collected by young scientists.

So, soil collected on a walk might contain some iron particles which I call ‘moondust’ and can be discovered by using a magnet.


What you need:  

  • A soil sample, ideally from the banks of a nearby stream
  • A magnet
  • A small container (I get mine from fast food shops !!) to hold the magnet
  • A small Altoids, or similar, tin to make a pocket museum
  • A magnifying glass

What you do:

Spread out the soil on a small tray. Then, slowly move the magnet in the container over the soil.
If there’s any meteoroids in the earth, they will stick to the bottom of the container.

Hold the container over the empty tin and remove the magnet.

The moon dust will fall inside the bottom of the tin.

******* Don’t forget to label the tin and date it - and, hey, you have a Pocket Museum filled with MOONDUST!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When I became a scientist

                     When I became a Scientist

A memoir

                          A Scientist
                                             drawn by 5th grader, Paige

OK, so…….what is a scientist?

I opened my dictionary, looked up the word scientist, and read the following:

A scientist: a person having expert knowledge of one or more sciences,
especially a natural or physical science.’

Mmmmm………not terribly helpful, I thought. That’s not how I would describe
what a scientist is to a young child. So, let me make a stab at it. I know,
for a start, that:

  • Scientists are very curious about what they see around them.
  • Scientists are collectors – they collect things and they collect ideas.
  • Scientists read books to find out more about what they collected.
  • Scientists carry out experiments.
  • Scientists write notes and draw pictures to explain what’s in their heads.
  • Scientists talk with other scientists and learn from each other.
I do ALL these things, don’t I? SO, I’m a SCIENTIST! Hey, hey!

I remembered how and when I became a scientist, someone who throughout
his life has enjoyed exploring and asking and finding answers to the endless
questions about the world of nature.

It was my parents and one teacher in particular who fanned my science fire
and got me going as a young child, in Cornwall, England. In fact, I can remember
it as if it were yesterday.

WHEN I became a scientist

I lived near the sea when I was young.

The stony beaches of Mount’s Bay were a few hundred yards from my front door.

On the day of my 5th birthday, Monday, July 14th, 1947,
my Dad met me at the end of the school day.

Hey,” he said, “Birthday walk for you, my son!! C’mon – we’re going pebbling – c’mon, let’s go… the beach!!”

Smiling, Dad took my hand and we walked together to Lariggan Beach….

The tide was out and the smooth, black and grey and white pebbles were wet and shiny.

‘This’ll do,” said Dad. He reached in his pocket and brought out two tins. “Here,” he said, giving me one, “take this treasure tin and fill it. Just wishing rocks, mind you.” With a broad smile and a knowing twinkle in his eye, he said, “Bet I fill mine first.”

We walked along the seashore, stepping over the brown sticky seaweed, and we looked and we touched and we talked - and we collected. There were thousands – all small, round, and smooth.

Soon my tin was full of wishing rocks that I wanted to take home to show Mum and my brother.

“OK,” said Dad, “you win. Keep the tin, you hear? Don’t lose it. C’mon, send your ma a wish ‘fore we go. Go and find one more real good wishing rock.”

In just a minute I spotted the best, the most beautiful black and white wishing rock. Sure was my lucky day!

I picked it up and rested it comfortably in the palm of my hand.
I slowly wrapped my fingers around it and squeezed really tight.  When my fingers warmed the pebble, I closed my eyes and, concentrating really hard, sent a special loving wish to my mum and dad.

Hey,” said Dad, when I opened my eyes, “did you just send me a wish? I felt it, you know, like a warm tickle right down my back. Thank you!!”

Wow! I thought. It really works! Wishing rocks are brill!
Hope Mum got her wish.

And, knowing just that really lit a fire

in my head. I was so excited.

Just as we were leaving, I spotted a bright yellow object. It didn’t look like any of the other pebbles.

Whatever was it? I showed my dad.

Because I knew he knew everything, I asked: “What’s this, Dad?”  He looked down at it, smiled, and then, half-closing his eyes, frowned. Dad had no idea what I’d found.
“Dunno. Never seen that before.”

I couldn’t believe that Dad had never ever seen anything like the
yellow stone before. But Dad did know it was different and,
therefore, very, very special.

Take it home, “ he said,  “and show your ma. She might know.”

So, not wanting to scratch it, I wrapped it up in my white hanky
and put it in the other pocket – it didn’t seem right to put such a
special rock in the treasure tin with the other pebbles I’d found.

Dad took my hand and we made our way back home. I KNEW it
was a special day. I was excited! My discovery made my head glow.

When we reached #17, Trevarveneth Crescent, I skipped up the
back garden path, past the three gooseberry bushes (one for brother
Jimmie, one for brother Charles, and one for me), pushed opened
the glass door, and ran straight into the kitchen. Mum and Grandma
were standing by the white enameled cooker, waiting for the kettle
to boil.

Charles was sleeping in Mum’s arms. Jimmie was tucking into a
jam sandwich. Beside myself with excitement, I shouted,
“Mum, Mum, Grandma, Jicky, I beat Dad. Filled my tin first.
See what I found. It’s brilliant.”

I took out my OLD HOLBORN treasure tin and showed them
what I’d collected on the beach. “And, now, look at this,” I said,
with a beaming smile as I unwrapped my hanky. I knew then by
the look on Jimmie’s, Mum’s and Grandma’s faces that the
yellow rock I had found was special. And I found it on my birthday,

“Where’d you find THAT? Dad, where’d he find that? You give it to
him?” Jimmie asked. Dad shook his head. “Nope. ’E found it.
Just as we were leaving the beach.”

What a birthday surprise,” said Grandma, with a twinkle in her eye.
“Good for you, Johnny Paull. Good for you.”

Mum looked at it again, sitting snug in the palm of my hand.
“THAT beautiful yellow rock was waiting for you, Johnny,”
she said, “just for you. It’s a treasure. A real treasure. Put it in one
of your OXO treasure tins, Johnny, and keep it there, forever.
Forever. You hear me? Forever and a day.”

I squeezed my treasure tightly in my hand and took it into the kitchen. I had never held such treasure before. I turned on the hot water tap and washed off the grainy sand with hand soap, then dried my special rock with newspaper, stroked it, and looked at it again.

I put it on the dinner table, next to my birthday tea treats - the big blue and white plate of bread splits, a jar of jam, Cornish cream, treacle, and yellow saffron buns.  “What IS that, Dad?” asked my brother, Jimmie, again, looking at Mum and Dad.

Jimmie picked it up and stroked the yellow pebble. Mum and Dad shook their heads and said they didn’t know, but, as Mum explained, the yellow discovery was something very, very special.

Dad told a story, when we settled down after my birthday tea, a story about his Dad working in the Botallack tin mine, near St. Just, digging in tunnels deep down under the blue sea. “Bet he never found a yellow rock like yours, Johnny,” he said. “Found good stuff, though.”

When I went upstairs to bed, I put the treasure into one of my small OXO tins, slipped it under my pillow, curled my fingers around it, and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

What a birthday it had been.

As I dressed in the morning, I put the OXO tin inside my left-hand trouser pocket, next to my favorite small seashell, to take to school to show my teacher, Miss Harvey.

I scoffed down my bacon sandwich and headed out the door with
Grandma. Mum shouted from the kitchen,
Got your yellow rock for your teacher, Johnny? Don’t forget it.
Got your dinner, them OXO cubes, too?”

“Got everyfink Mum.” I replied.

I couldn’t wait to get to school to show Miss Harvey.

Even before all the boys sat in their seats, I was standing by her
tall desk, the OXO treasure tin in my hand, spluttering,
Miss Harvey, Miss Harvey, see what I found! I found it on the beach,
after school, yesterday. You know, next to the harbor wall.
I found it on Lariggan. Went there with my dad. You know,
when the tide was out, when you can see what the tide brought in.”  

Every word came out in a rush.

As Miss Harvey looked inside my scratched OXO tin, her eyes
widened! It wasn’t, apparently a rock at all. It was, she said,
ancient fossilized tree resin, and, it was called amber.
Miss Harvey – who knew everything - knew that amber was
millions of years old and came from the inside of trees.

Resin? Fossilized? Amber? Ancient? What beautiful sounding
words, I thought. I rolled the words around in my head. Resin.
Fossilized. Amber, amber.

Miss Harvey held my precious amber in her hand, smiled, looked
down at me through her glasses that balanced on the end of her
sharp nose, and said loudly, so everyone in class could hear,
THIS is AMBER…’s fossil tree sap………it’s been washed
ashore after a long, long trip in the sea. Johnny Paull was the
lucky one who found it. And, Johnny Paull, you’re a real scientist!”
What’s a scientist, I wondered as I passed my OXO tin around the
classroom? Is that something dead good?

My head glowed. It was on fire. When I met Grandma outside at
the end of school, I told her I was a scientist – and asked her what
that meant!

“Yep,” said Grandma, “you sure are! You’re a scientist –
cos you’re always looking for things!! That’s what scientists do.”

That was it. I was hooked. I’ve been a scientist - thanks to my
amber, my mum, my dad, my grandma, and my teacher  - ever since.


              A Wishing Rock

‘Finding your own wishing rock makes you feel really good.

You spot it, you pick it up, and you let it rest it comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Then, you slowly wrap your fingers around it and squeeze really tight.

When your fingers warm the pebble, close your eyes.

Squeeze your wishing rock as tight as you can - then send a wish to someone very special in your life.

Relax, open your fingers and let your wish go.

Someone, somewhere, then feels a warm shiver down the spine,
just as that lucky person gets your wish.

When the wish had been sent, put your wishing rock into a wishing rock tin and keep it safe.