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Saturday, November 22, 2014

THANKSGIVING DAY science...........

As Thanksgiving is fast approaching, I thought you would like to do some Thanksgiving science. What do you think? Are you up for it? J   I bet you are………, here goes:



I collect chicken and turkey wishbones. 

Why? Well, because I can break them with someone and we can both make a wish……..

But, as exciting for me, I collect them because there’s a great deal of scientific interest in chicken and turkey wishbones.
Did you know that?

The V shaped bone that we call the wishbone is named the FURCULA bone by the scientists who dig for dinosaur fossils. It turns out that bird-like dinosaurs (called theropods) had the same shape bone, and is, thus, a major link to the modern bird!!

Can you imagine that? Chickens and turkeys - and all birds, in fact - are descendants of dinosaurs? Amazing, isn’t it?

After enjoying the roasted chicken, I remove and clean the wish bone and dip it in a small saucer of  hydrogen peroxide. When it's bleached a shiny white, I take it out of the saucer, dry it and put it into a pocket museum!!

A chicken and a turkey wishbone

Why don’t you do it? 

OK, that’s it, your Thanksgiving science.......:)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Something to do on a really cold day......

WOW!!! It's freezing today..........
JUST the RIGHT day to catch up with this and that and the other - especially making pocket museums for all the bits and bobs I've collected recently. I'm getting a bit short on display space, though, so I'm not sure where I'll display more tins..........oh, well, we'll see.

Good - found a few empty tins.....

How to make a pocket museum
         for your special finds…..

You need a tin, a piece of felt, scissors, glue, and a rock or fossil or shell or........ .

  1. Cut the felt to size.
  2. Glue the felt inside the tin.
  3. Glue rocks/minerals/crystals, and,
  4. hey, you have your pocket museum! Just add the date when and where you found the specimens, and somewhere to display it - forever! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014


As I swept my deck this morning, I noticed something on the floor that made my pulse beat really, really fast! Was it what I thought it was?

I picked it up, and, really was............AN OWL PELLET!!

The Great Horned owl that often sits at the top of out tallest fir tree, left it for me.........


Normally I carefully take out the bones from a pellet, bleach them in hydrogen peroxide,  and mount them in a pocket museum:

But not this time.

This pellet, because it was left FOR me, will be kept intact and put into an OXO tin pocket museum........all on its own...........
'cos it's SO special!!!!!

And I'll show it to all the kids I work with.....they'll LOVE it!!

PLEASE come again, you beautiful bird,  and leave me another!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The 4 * Mousie Hotel

All my bird seed is stacked high in the garage. If I leave the door open, I know the deer and the magpies come and help themselves. Sometimes the little mice that live contentedly in the garage get inside and feast and feast and feast.

Bertie and Fiona, of course,  check out the garage every evening, hoping to catch and play with a mouse eating its dinner. They're so naughty!

Yesterday morning, the sun came out from behind the dark clouds, lighting up the frost on the grass and bushes, a perfect time, I thought, for a drive and a walk in the countryside. I put on my thick cords, my warmest jumper and my woolly hat, then went to the garage to find my winter furry boots.

When I eventually found lying in a corner, I sat down, undid the right boot laces, and put my hand inside the right boot. My fingers touched something furry..........uhu, I thought............someone, some little fella, perhaps, has been inside my boot! I put my fingers around the fur and gently pulled out .........this:

A fabulous little bed for a mousie, made from fur and bird seed.......

Take a look at the silver quarter next to the bedding - gives an idea of the size of the mouse bed.
WOW!! That was exciting! Full of anticipation, I checked my other boot..........and, hey, there was another mousie bed!!

This one hadn't been made so well, though........must have been a little fella mousie, I suppose...

So, I thought, my fur boots are THE ideal hotel for the little guys who live in my garage! That's so GREAT!

Because I want to share this story with my young scientists this week, I put the Mousie Hotel beds in a pocket museum........

BUT, on Friday, after my school/classroom sessions when I'll show the pocket museum and its contents, I'm going to put the beds in a safe and warm Mousie Hotel spot in the garage and hope that the little furry guys find their beds (and a snack) over the is getting colder, after all!!

I'll have a word with Bertie and Fiona, of course, to be kind to our guests............

Bertie, behave yourself!!
Fiona. make sure he does!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The best laid plans of mice, men, retirees and praying mantises!

It was carefully planned. A free Tuesday, no school visits, just a quick trip to have my car tyre pressure corrected, and then off to the library where I'd sit and think and write....

So, I packed my charged laptop in my shoulder bag, pushed a couple of sweets in my pocket, and set out.

Tyre pressure corrected kindly at a nearby tyre store, I parked at the library and went inside. My favorite table, the one that overlooks the base of a big tree, was empty....yeah! I unpacked my laptop, pushed the on button, and unwrapped the two sweets. As I began to chew and enjoy the taste of strawberry, I checked my email.

The first letter I read was from Jeannine..............

Hey---your citizen scientists are very excited this morning.  I love when their sentences begin with....."We are curious...."
So, read below what they discovered this morning.

Dear a scientist Mr.Paul, 
We all love your citizen science group.  We were so excited when we found that egg sack on the rock.  We did some research on it and found out is was a praying mantis egg sack.  We are going to try and hatch it.  Ms.West was telling us that you had a perfect habitat to hatch the eggs in.  We were wondering if you could bring in the gas tank?? 

Last week, when out with a small group of 5th grader Citizen Scientists, looking for spiders, we found a rock with this peculiar shape stuck to its underside:

This morning, the 5th grade Citizen Scientists had carried out some research and discovered it was a praying mantis egg sac! WOW! So much for my plans for a quiet couple of hours in the library......:)

I had to go and see it.

I packed my computer and, stopping first at the nearby Starbucks for a couple of coffees (one for me and a grande non-fat wet cappucino (sp?) for Jeannine), and made my way to her school.

The group of young Citizen Scientists were ecstatic!!
"Mr. Paull, Mr. Paull, that blob on the rock - it's an egg sac, egg sac of a praying mantis!"

I went home to fetch a big glass jar so that the kids could make a home for the praying mantis eggs. The egg sac, one Citizen Scientist said, could hold up to 200 eggs. 200 baby praying mantises!!!!

Can't wait to hear this evening from Jeannine what transpired during the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It was JUST one of THOSE days....

 It was just one of those days, just one of those craaaazy days…..   

It started as JUST one of those JP retiree mornings. I was up early, made myself and my wife Jeannine a cup of steaming hot tea, fed our sibling cats, Bertie and Fiona, made some toast, had another cup of tea, waved Jeannine goodbye as she drove to her school, and then bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t flick through the editorial pages of the New York Times because, for some unknown reason, my paper hadn’t been delivered. 

I knew then that it was going to be one of THOSE days!

Feeling a tad irritated, I caught up with the morning chores – emptied the dishwasher, switched on my desktop, listened to Morning Edition on the radio, put my dressing gown on the bed for Bertie and Fiona and told them to behave themselves.

Around 9, I drove to the nearby Goodwill, unloaded a bag of unwanted clothing, and then drove on to the doctor’s for my 10:00 o’clock appointment.

Not too happy with what I learned from my doctor, I arrived back home around 11, put on the kettle, made some tea, dunked and ate three cream biscuits, and took Bertie and Fiona outside for a VERY closely supervised walk. At noon, I came back in and made myself a light lunch washed down with another cup of tea

Ho, hum…………Just one of those retiree mornings, ruined by the absence of my daily paper.

As it was such a beautiful day, a bright blue sky and the temperature touching 70, I resisted the temptation to have a nap, deciding instead to go for a walk. So, making sure I had my wishing rock in my pocket, I got in my car, drove a mile or so, and parked close to the Cherry Creek trail. As I got out of my car, I was struck by the quietness and the nearby cottonwood trees whose leaves were a flaming yellow

As I began my walk, my head was filled with the conversation I had with the doctor. The prairie dogs saw me before I saw them. One of them who was on guard duty stood on his back legs and, breaking the silence, screeched his warning call to every prairie dog around. All the others took note and disappeared down their holes. 

Prairie dogs, as you know, were mentioned in the 1804 journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They note that they "discovered a Village of an animal the French Call the Prairie Dog.”   Its genus, Cynomys, derives from the Greek for "dog mouse".

Curious, I walked over and looked down one of the prairie dog holes. Nearby, about a foot from the entrance, I saw a tiny skull resting on the earth. I picked it up and blew of the dust, put the skull in my shirt pocket, thinking, ‘Hey, it ain’t such a bad day after all.”

Then, I spotted some petrified wood. I picked it up, turned it over and, wow, it was such a beautiful piece.

And there was another piece! Like a geode, the top was covered with tiny quartz crystals. Looking at it, touching it, gave me such a rush. My eyes widened and my head began to glow. I felt great! Not a worry in the world! WOW!!

I knew then it was really going to be ONE of THOSE days!

Next I came to an ant-hill, the home for thousands of ants and one or more egg-laying queens. Swarms of ants will soon depart the nest in great nuptial flights. After mating, the males die, along with most of the females. A small percentage of the females survive to start the business of making new nests. Watching the ants move back and forth, pushing sand and tiny pebbles out their way, I was amazed at their industry.

Then, THEN, I spotted this beautiful conglomerate, a mix of rocks glued together, lying next to……………………THIS!!

                               A Native American ARROWHEAD!!

I picked it up and stroked its jagged edge. Hey, someone, long ago, made this beautiful shape........and left it for me to find........MAGIC!!

‘Flippin’ ‘eck,’ I shouted………..’What a DAY!’ 

But, it wasn’t finished……...just down the hill I came across a beautiful fox skull, complete with jawbone!

I knew then it was time to go home and clean my wonderful discoveries. As I walked up the path towards my car, a couple of teenagers came rushing past me, laughing and having the best of times on their skateboards. Hey, I thought, I had the best of times, too. It had been JUST one of those great days.
Just wait, I thought to myself, just wait ‘til I show Jeannine, Bertie and Fiona what I found.

The next day, sitting in Laurie’s classroom at Mountain View School, I described my walk and showed my treasures to the wide-eyed audience of second graders……….

The next time I go to the classroom, I'll give the kids this list of things to look for when they next go for a should help them focus non what's around them.

‘I’m a Collector’
 When you go for a walk, don’t disturb the small creatures that live outside. It’s their home.

See if you can find………….

Something green

Something red

Something yellow

Something brown

Something black

Something pointy

A blade of grass longer than your index finger

A piece of petrified wood

An animal track

A piece of bark

A spider web

A feather

A pine cone eaten by a squirrel

A heart-shaped rock

A pebble smaller than a dime

A pebble the same size as a quarter

A wishing rock

A white pebble

A black pebble

A leaf skeleton

Something a bird would eat

A dead branch as long as your thumb

A flower

A flower seed

A tree seed

A twig with pine bark beetle galleries

Some moondust!!

Something really, REALLY cool!