Natural World

Farmyard Animal Friends

This year's Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair runs from July 23 to August 2, 2009. There will be many things to see and do, but the farm animals, homebaked goodies, and homegrown vegetables are always popular.

Beautiful Butterflies

They flutter around the tall, bright flowers in springtime and summer, only stopping to drink sweet nectar or lay their eggs on green leaves. Who would believe a gorgeous butterfly could come from a homely caterpillar?

You can watch this miracle happen at your house. Grab a butterfly book from the library to learn how to find their eggs and raise them from creepy-crawlies into splendid winged beauties. While you wait for them to grow, try a butterfly folktale or two. People around the world have made up stories about butterflies!

Chincoteague Ponies

On the last Thursday in July, the wild ponies on Virginia's Assateague Island will make their annual swim across to Chincoteague Island. Many of the foals will be auctioned off to raise money for the local fire department, just as they have since 1925. The custom of rounding up the ponies is much older, dating back to the 1700s at least, and it has always been held with a lot of celebration. Today, you and your family can visit Chincoteague during Pony Penning, enjoy a carnival and great seafood, and perhaps bring home your very own foal.

Kangaroo Questions & Answers

They have sweet faces and tough guy moves. Kangaroo mothers carry their babies (called joeys) around in their pouches, making them a kind of animal called a marsupial. And, that's only the start of their strangeness. Read on to learn more about these amazing creatures from Australia's outback.

Billy Goats Gruff?

What do nannies, billies, and kids have in common? They're all goats! Nannies are the moms, billies are the dads, and of course, kids are the kids!

There are lots of breeds of goat. Some are good at giving milk. Some are nice and meaty, and make tasty goat burgers. Some have long curly wool, like sheep. There are even goats that faint.

Busy Bees

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

--Isaac Watts, Against Idleness and Mischief

 

 Do you like honey on your toast? Thank a bee! Actually thank about 100,000 bees. That's how many can live in one hive! "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…" (It would take you about 27 hours of non-stop thanking to thank each bee in one hive.) Bees make honey by collecting nectar from flowers and carrying it back to their hive. They put it in a little wax cell. Then bees fan their wings over the nectar to help the water evaporate from it. When most of the water has evaporated, what's left is honey. They cover the cell with wax to save the honey for later. When a beekeeper's hive has more honey than the bees need to eat, the beekeeper harvests it.

Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun

How do you catch a squirrel?
Climb a tree, and act like a nut!

If you've got trees, you've probably got squirrels. Whether gray or black or red or white, all squirrels act pretty much the same. However, there are other animals which are close kin to squirrels which are a little shyer of people. Chipmunks and prairie dogs are cousins.

Inspiration from across the seas

Start your New Year off right by sharing with young readers one of the most inspiring children’s books of 2008. “Planting the Trees of Kenya” by Claire A. Nivola is the true story of 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, a woman who changed her country one tree at a time. 

Here Comes Johnny Appleseed

If you saw a man walking by your house barefoot, wearing old clothes and with a tin pot on his head, you'd likely wonder where on earth he came from. But if you lived in Indiana or Ohio in the early part of the 1800s, you just might recognize your wandering neighbor, Johnny Appleseed.

The Power of Magnetism

What do the Earth, electric motors, and your computer all have in common?
These things are all influenced by magnets.

The Earth has a liquid metal core that acts like a bar magnet. It gets its magnetism from being near electrical currents beneath the surface. Because the Earth is not perfectly shaped, every so often the direction of the field will change. Scientists have found evidence that this has occurred at least 171 times over the past 71 million years. How do they know that? Magnets!