All Fun

Red, White, and Blue Music

On July 4th, burgers sizzle on the grill, and cold drinks are passed around. Happy dogs play with frisbees, and sunburned kids finally climb out of the pool. In the growing darkness, fireworks begin to crackle and zoom overhead. At last a special song starts playing, and all the people get quiet as they remember the reason for the celebration.

When the American colonists declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, they were doing a very brave thing. They knew that there would be no easy way to make the words they put on paper real. The Continental Army would have to fight for the country's right to exist.

People made up new songs, often using old tunes, and sung them in the streets of America. These were full of pride and jokes about the British. There were lots of them! Some, like Yankee Doodle, are classics we still remember, and many songs told the war news, such as An American Frigate,* that tells the tale of one of John Paul Jones' battles on the sea.

May Baskets: An Old Tradition Makes New Friends

Officially, May Day is the 1st of May, but really anytime during this splendid spring month is a perfect opportunity to share small gifts of the season with everyone: teachers, friends, neighbors, and family. You can do that with May baskets—a wonderful, old-fashioned tradition.

Kites for a Blustery Day

Outside the wind is lifting just so, ruffling the new leaves on the trees and chasing the old ones away. It's spring, a time to celebrate the rebirth of the flowers and the greening of the trees. It's time to go fly a kite and watch it buck and soar in the breeze.

You can make a simple kite all by yourself, paint it or color it with markers, and let it fly up in the air. 

Spider Power

"Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider
to the fly;
"'Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did
spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show when you
are there."

--Mary Howitt's classic poem, The Spider and the Fly

From this spider's dread invitation to the silly fly to J.R.R. Tolkien's mammoth spider-being Shelob, these eight-legged wonders have developed a nasty reputation. But spiders are a part of nature and have many fine qualities.

Cherries Jubilee!

Tart or sweet, cherries are the berries! Well, they're not really berries. Cherries actually belong to the rose family. Cherry's rosy relatives include other stone fruits such as almonds, apricots, plums, peaches, and nectarines.

February is a terrific month to dig into cherries. For years, people have made cherry pies to celebrate George Washington's birthday. Why do we think of cherries when we think of our first president?

Plant a Tree for You and Me

Have you ever been in a place where there were lots of buildings but no trees? New housing developments or parts of a city that have been neglected for a long time may not have the shady spots and fresh air that trees give. As trees breathe, they let out oxygen that humans and animals need to survive. Their roots hold the ground together, making sure the soil doesn't blow away in the wind. When a tree dies naturally in the forest, its wood becomes a home for insects and a cafeteria for the hungry birds who eat those insects. Trees provide so many good things for the Earth.

Shells: Treasures from under the Sea

"Look, Mom, a shell! A beautiful shell!"

If you go to the beach this summer, you may find dozens of seashells, each uniquely wonderful. Plan on filling a whole jar with your favorites: scallops and angel wings, whelks and sand dollars.

Your Own Little World: Create a Terrarium

Whether it's filled with mossy rocks and ferns or sands and cactus, a terrarium is an amazingly fun way to learn more about nature. With a terrarium in your room, something of the outdoors can always be inside.

Terrariums that feature plants (not animals!) lock water inside to keep the soil moist. When the plants transpire, they let out water vapor. When the soil gets warm, it lets out water vapor. All this vapor collects against the top and falls back as rain.

Take a Hike

Sometimes, it seems like everybody goes hiking and camping in the great outdoors in the sticky, sweltering summertime. Those are the days when the bugs are at their worst, and the heat alone can leave you panting on the side of the trail before an hour is done. For an easier time of it, grab your gear in the spring or fall. Cooler days and mostly bug-free trails make for great hiking adventures, whether by the ocean or in the mountains. November 17 is Take a Hike Day, but any day is a good day to hike.

Naturally Crafty

The best craft store may be right outside your door. This summer, take time in the cool mornings to gather together pieces of nature to work into craft projects in the afternoons. That way you’ll have a remembrance of summer to keep all year long. Rocks can become patterned pictures. Leaves can make delicate prints. Everything in nature can inspire your arts and crafts.