A Note To Parents: We make every effort for Roxanne's blog to be a SAFE site for children. Whenever possible, activities are in pdf format or link to safe sites for children. Please feel free to use the information in these posts for homeschool studies! All rights reserved by author and nature photographer, Virginia Parker Staat.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Space Station Butterflies

I'm excited to tell you that the space station has two new crew members! Two Painted Lady butterflies came out of their cocoons today. I wonder if they will fly?

To learn how the butterflies are doing, go to http://www.k8science.org/space/STS_Mission_129.cfm.

Photos courtesy NASA.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Picture Perfect

Atlantis made a perfect landing today. It was exciting to see her touch the ground. To me, it was also a little sad. Atlantis will fly into space only one more time. There are only five shuttle missions left. Then the shuttles will be retired. It is sad to see them go.

The shuttles have flown since 1979. They have allowed humans to do many things. More than 600 astronauts have flown on the shuttles. They have completed hundreds of science experiments in space. They have fixed satellites and docked with space stations. The shuttles have carried more than three million pounds of cargo.

After 2010, a new rocket will launch humans into space. It is called the Ares rocket. The new rocket will help humans go back to the moon. If you would like to learn more about the Ares rocket, go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/354470main_aresIX_fs_may09.pdf

Do you like to build models? After Thanksgiving, your recycle bin is a good place to find parts to build your own Ares rocket! Go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/385179main_AresI_Can_Model.pdf. Have fun and fly high!

Photo courtesy NASA.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful Heart

It's Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for so many things.

Unlike most dogs, I have a nice home and loving family. I have more to eat than many people. My folks take me for walks almost every day. I get to chase golf balls, play with my friends, and help people.

I'm a working dog, so I get to go lots of places. I visit people who don't feel well. I like to make them smile. I also get to help Mom in her work.

I hope that you have many things to be thankful for, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Beautiful Earth

Our earth has been called a lot of things. Some people have called it the center of the universe. Others say it just a pale blue dot. I call it beautiful.

Look at these photos of earth! Both of them are from NASA’s website. The space shuttle crew took the first picture yesterday. The photo shows the shuttle with the earth behind it. (For more NASA photos from STS-129, go to http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/.

Planet earth is very rare. It is located just the right distance from our sun. It sits in just the right place in our galaxy. It has just the right atmosphere. And our place and atmosphere are just right for us to study our universe. It also makes it a perfect home for humans and dogs!

Would like to learn more about our special earth? Check out The Privileged Planet DVD from your library!

Photos courtesy of NASA.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Space Dog

Are you keeping track of the Atlantis mission? I wish that I could be an astronaut!

I always wanted to be the first dog on the space station. There have already been many dogs in space.

The old Soviet Union used dogs in their race for space. In 1957, Laika was the first animal to orbit earth. It was a great day for dogs.

Sadly, Laika was also the first animal to die in space. Because of her gift, scientists learned a lot. They learned what they needed to do so that animals and people could live in space.

Many animals have flown into space. If you would like to learn more about animals in space, click on one of these sites:

You can also check out these great books from your library:

  • Space Dogs: Pioneers of Space Travel by Chris Dubbs
  • Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle by Colin Burgess.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Back Home Again!

The best part about coming home is sleeping in my own bed. I love vacations, but there's no place like home.

Here's a picture of how I sleep!

P.S. As promised, we added a photo of me in my dog booties on the 11/4 post.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Butterflies in Space

Right now, caterpillars are circling the earth! Yesterday NASA launched space shuttle Atlantis. The astronauts took many experiments with them. One of their experiments will use caterpillars.

Tomorrow, the shuttle will dock with the international space station. The astronauts will leave the caterpillars on the space station.

The caterpillars will live in space. They will live in a special home. It will have air, food, and water. It will have all the things they need. The only thing missing will be gravity.

Scientists want to learn how butterflies grow in space. They want to learn if the caterpillars will make cocoons. They want to learn if they will hatch into butterflies. They want to learn if the butterflies will fly.

NASA wants you to be part of this experiment. You can watch the butterflies on the computer. Just go to http://www.k8science.org/space/STS_Mission_129.cfm. NASA also has projects that you can use for school. Have fun with NASA’s “butterflynauts!”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Watch Out for Texas Horny Toads!

When my mom was a little girl, she captured a horny toad for a pet. She made a home for it in a shoe box. Then she hid the shoe box in her closet until she could ask her mother if she could keep it.

Unfortunately, the horny toad escaped the box. Mom’s big sister opened the closet door. When it saw sister, the horny toad shot blood from its eye at her. Mom got in big trouble that day. She had to let the horny toad go.

Horny toads are strange creatures. They are lizards instead of toads. Their bodies look fat and are the same color as toads. They puff up when they are upset. Horny toads have horns on their heads that make them look mean. They also spit blood from their eyelid when alarmed.

Horny toads are about six inches long. They like to eat ants. Horny toads once lived throughout most of Texas. They also lived in New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Oklahoma and Kansas.

People use to think that horny toads would make good pets. They do not. Now horny toads are disappearing. The Texas horny toad is on the threatened species list. Scientists think that they are disappearing because too many people collected them. The spread of fire ants may be another reason.

Texas is looking for a few good horny toad trackers to help them. If you would like to join the Texas Horned Lizard Watch you can learn more at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/texas_nature_trackers/horned_lizard/.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


When we go camping, I love to hear the coyotes howl and yip. Coyotes are some of my wild cousins. Many coyotes live in West Texas.

Coyotes are much smaller than I am. I weigh about 100 pounds while a coyote weighs only 25 to 40 pounds. Coyotes have yellow eyes and gray or a yellowish gray fur. They have pointed ears and bushy tails. Like most in my species, they are very smart. Like me, coyotes are also good swimmers.

Do you know an easy way to tell the difference between a dog, coyote, or wolf? Look at our tails! Dogs run with their tails up. Coyotes run with their tails down. Wolves run with their tails out straight.

Coyotes talk to each other a lot. In fact, their name says a lot about who they are. Coyote comes from the word cóyotl. Cóyotl means "barking dog" in the Nahuatl Indians’ language. Coyotes like to bark, whine, howl, and yap. They do most of their talking at night because that’s when they like to hunt.

If you would like to learn more about coyotes, go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/coyote/.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Texas Camel Brigade

The Chihuahuan desert stretches across the western edge of Texas. From our car, we see roadrunner, tumbleweeds, and mountains. I think that the desert is beautiful. Lots of animals live here. I like to learn how animals live in the desert.

Fort Davis was once home to some of the strangest animals in Texas. In 1857, Lieutenant Edward Beal brought 25 camels to the desert fort. He wanted to try an experiment to see if camels worked better than mules, horses, donkeys, or oxen.

Camels can carry four times more weight than mules. They can go four or five days without water.

Camels are very interesting creatures. They are well suited for the desert. They have one or two fatty humps on their back to store energy. Their long eyelashes keep sand out of their eyes. Their wide feet keep them from sinking in the sand. Camels live about 40 years.

Like dogs, camels help people. They have helped humans for over 3,000 years. Unlike dogs, however, camels stink! In fact, the soldiers at Fort Davis didn't like the camels. The camels scared their horses. Some camels also had bad tempers.

The Texas Camel Brigade was not a successful experiment. The soldiers liked their horses better. Soon railroads were built across the American desert to transport supplies. If you would like to know more about the Texas Camel Brigade, just click on one of these sites:

Monday, November 9, 2009

How BIG Is Texas?

My mom is a true-blue Texan. Every time we drive across Texas, she reminds us how BIG Texas is. Here are some of her favorite facts about Texas:

Texas stretches 800 miles from north to south and east to west.

It is farther to drive from El Paso, Texas, to Texarkana, Texas, than it is to drive from Texarkana to Chicago, Illinois.

It is 150 miles further to drive from El Paso to Texarkana than it is from New York City to Chicago.

The King Ranch in Texas is bigger than Rhode Island.

You could fit 220 Rhode Islands in Texas.

Austin, Texas, is the largest state capitol.

Texas starts at sea level on the coast and reaches its highest elevation on Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet.

I love Texas, too. It’s a great place to live!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

White Sands

Before we leave New Mexico, I want to show you a photo of me at White Sands National Monument. White Sands is a park surrounded by the San Andres Mountains. It looks like a huge beach with no water.

I have played at beaches my entire life. I love the water. White Sands is different. It has no water. It is a beach in the middle of the desert.

The sand here is different than ocean sand. The sand is called gypsum. The gypsum blows in from a dry lake bed. It also also washes down from the mountains. Over millions of years, the sand collected in this area.

When the wind blows, it makes different patterns in the sand. You can also see animal tracks. (See the second photo!)

If you want to learn more about White Sands, just go to the Kid's Fact Sheet at http://www.nps.gov/whsa/forkids/fun-facts.htm.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beautiful Moon

The moon looked like a giant snowball last night. It made me happy just to look at it.

Did you know that you can take a photo of the moon? NASA's Educational Resource Center works with a group called the Micro Observatory. Their "Observe with NASA" (OWN) program connects you with an online telescope. We have taken many pictures with OWN.

After you check with an adult to make sure it is okay, you can take a picture, too. Just go to http://mo-www.harvard.edu/OWN/. You will need to type in your email address and a little personal information, so please ask your mom, dad, or teacher to help you.

The program is free. The website has great information about telescopes. It even has a section for projects and activities.

Once you're on the site, click "Control Telescope." Then you can choose the object you would like to "observe" or photograph. You can choose the moon, or galaxies, or stars. Just follow the online instructions. The next day, Micro Observatory will email your picture to you. This photo is the one that we took last night.

Hope that you have as much fun as we do!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dog Booties

My feet are feeling better today. Mom is still worried about me. We all want to hike, so Dad chose a soft forest trail. It will be a short hike, but I’m glad that we’re going!

I thought that I should write a little more about dog booties. I’m not talking about those silly things that pampered pets wear. Dog booties are for function, not high fashion.

Lots of working dogs wear booties. Sled dogs wear them to protect their paws from the snow. Rescue dogs wear them to protect their paws from hot temperatures and cuts. Police dogs wear booties at explosion sites to protect them from sharp objects. Active dogs like me wear them to protect our paws from sharp rocks, snow, or hot pavement.

My booties are made of leather. I like them because they are cool. Dogs who work in snow usually have booties that cover their whole paw. Once I get home, I’ll post a photo of me in my booties.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hot Feet

I hate to admit it, but I must be more of a city dog than I thought. The pads on my paws are swollen and hot today. They hurt when I walk on them.

After a week of hiking, my paws are stone bruised. It all started with the snow. When I walked in the snow, it balled up in the webbing of my pads. (See the picture!) My paws aren't use to being so cold and wet for so long.

Then we took the Whitewater trail hike through the rocky canyon. We walked over metal grating on the stairs and catwalks. The next day, we hiked up a rocky mesa.

We always try to walk a lot on rough ground before vacation. It helps to condition my paws. I guess we didn't do enough this year. Mom checked my paws when we got home from the trail. Now she thinks that I should spend the rest of the day on my bed. I'd rather be hiking!

We didn't bring my leather booties this year. Guess that we should have! Once we get home, I'll show you a picture of my hiking booties.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cliff Dwellings

Have you ever visited a cliff dwelling? You can see one at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

The ancient people who built these homes were called Tularosa Mogollans. They lived along the Gila River over 700 years ago.

About 1287 AD, a small tribe found a natural cave. It was high in the canyon wall. They decided to build their home there.

They stacked rocks and mud to make walls inside the cave. They used timber to support the walls.

To reach their new home, the people climbed up the canyon wall. They also used ladders to reach their cliff dwelling. They hauled water up from the Gila River, which ran below the cliff dwelling. They hunted animals, gathered foods, and grew corn.

They built over 40 different rooms. About ten families lived in the cave. They stayed for about 20 years. No one knows why they left.

Today, you can walk the one-mile loop trail to see the cliff dwellings. (Unfortunately, dogs can’t go!) When you visit, you can walk into many of the rooms. You can even still see soot on the ceiling from their fires.

For more information about the cliff dwellings, visit the National Parks System site at http://www.nps.gov/GICL/index.htm.