All Fun

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.

Orange You Glad It's January?

Oranges bring a warm sweetness to the dreariest winter day. They are full of good things: vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some oranges are used to make juice while others are eaten just as they are.

Where Do Oranges Come From?

When we think of oranges, we think of sunny places, such as Florida, California, Spain, and Brazil. But oranges were not originally (oranginally?) grown in those places. A long time ago, the first oranges grew wild in China and India. The word orange comes from a Sanskrit word--naranga. The first oranges to travel to Western countries about 1,000 years ago tasted sour. Five hundred years later, sweet oranges made their way to Europe.

Kids Can Cook

Imagine a plate piled high with warm chocolate chip cookies, ooey and gooey with melted chips and crunchy with nuts. Your grownup might have helped a little bit, but these beauties are all yours, to share with friends (or eat yourself!) because YOU made them!

Sidewalk Games

Face it. Cartoons and video games are boring. You can only sit in front of the tee-vee for so long before your eyes glaze over. Between the ads for the latest plastic gizmos and excitingly-shaped wads of sugar (a piece of super sweet hard candy shaped like a pacifier? Puh-leese!), you may realize that the stuff between the ads isn't that interesting either.