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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gee and Haw!!!

It's time for the sled dog olympics to begin! This weekend, teens and dogs will race in the Junior Iditarod. The race takes place in Alaska. It begins Saturday at 10 am. A musher leads a team of seven to ten dogs across 160 miles of wilderness trail.

The race has a wonderful history. In January, 1925, a doctor from Nome, Alaska, sent a telegraph to Anchorage. Children were dying of a disease called diptheria. They needed medicine. But the train only went as far as Nenana. Nome was 647 miles further.

To save the children, dog sled teams took the challenge to relay the medicine from Nenana to Nome. Normally, the 647 mile trip took 25 days. Twenty dog sled teams raced to save the children. These brave teams made the trip in just 5 days.

The teams faced hurricane-force winds. Temperatures fell below -50 degrees. The two most famous dogs to led the sled teams were Tago and Balto. They became heroes in the "Great Serum Run."

In 1978, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race began. It honors the original teams who saved the children. Today's race is 1,049 miles long.

Before the adult race, there is an Iditarod for young people. The Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race covers 150 miles. Mushers between the ages of 14 and 17 lead teams of 7 to 10 dogs. The Junior Iditarod begins today, on February 27, 2010.

For more information about the Junior Iditarod, go to http://www.mushhusky.com/subject-guides/18-The%20Jr.%20Iditarod.pdf

Would you like to read more about the great serum run? Check out these books from your library:
The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller
The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Stanford
Togo by Robert Blake.

PS Gee and haw are musher terms. Gee means that dogs should turn left. Haw means that the team should turn right.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brave Heart

Last night, NBC aired the story of Isobel during the Olympics. Isobel is a sled dog in Canada. She went blind in 2005. Her family wanted to protect her. They tried to make Isobel a house dog. But Isobel needed to run. She missed her pack.

Isobel's story is wonderful. Her family decided to let her try sledding once again. They hooked her back to a sled with her friends. Isobel was happy. She has been running sleds with her pack ever since.

Isobel has the heart of a champion. Like so many of the Olympic athletes, she had one goal. Then something terrible happened. But Isobel did not give up. She was born to run and pull a sled.

Tomorrow is the beginning of another kind of olympics. It is the olympic race for sled dogs. The Junior Iditarod race kicks off on Saturday. I can't wait!

Play Time!

I love play time! Today we walked with three of my best dog friends. Sara and Abbey are Labrador Retrievers. Molly is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Of course, I'm a Golden Retriever. We have been friends for a very long time.

We also have two people in our pack. Mom and Evelyne have been friends for a long time, too.

Sara is the oldest dog in our pack. She is the chocolate brown Lab. Sara is 13 years old. She is the hunter of our pack. She can find golf balls buried in the dirt!

Abbey is a black Lab. She is a funny girl. She can hold four golf balls in her mouth at one time!

Molly is the Chesapeake Bay. Evelyne rescued Molly after Hurricane Ike left Molly homeless. Molly runs faster than all of us!

I am the leader of our pack. It is my job to protect everyone and keep them together. I love running with my pack!

We had a VERY fun day!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mission Complete!

Welcome home, astronauts! Space shuttle Endeavour landed safely Sunday night. The mission was a complete success.

This is a photo of space shuttle Endeavour when crews moved it back to the hanger. While it was moving back to the hanger, space shuttle Discovery rolled out to the launch pad. Discovery will launch in April.

Only four more shuttle missions remain. After the shuttles retire, space station crews will travel on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

We will all miss the shuttles. If you would like to learn more about the shuttles, NASA has a great coloring book that tells all about them. To print it, go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/156665main_Color_and_Learn.pdf

Photo courtesy NASA.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Window on the World

The space shuttle crew is saying goodbye to the space station astronauts tonight. They have completed their mission.

Here's a picture of the new window on the world that they installed on the space station. What a beautiful view they must have of earth!

The space station is special. Many countries have made parts to build it. The United States and Russia have built most of the pieces. Canada added a mobile robotic arm. Italy built the new window on the world.

Would you like to make your own space station? It's fun! Go to http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/SEH/International_Space_Station_Bookmark.pdf

Photo courtesy NASA.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Heart

I love the stories of the Olympic athletes. Each one is special.

I saw the Canadian mogul skier win the gold medal. He dedicated his win to his brother who spends his days in a wheelchair.

There are so many stories of terrible injuries that athletes have had. Yet they gave it their all to come back.

Some athletes lost the gold medal during the last Olympics and have returned to try again.

These stories are about heart. It takes more to win than skill. It takes hard work. It takes focus. It takes courage.

Check out this great coloring page for snowboarding: winter-olympics-coloring-page-speed-skating.pdf

This is a speed skating coloring page: winter-olympics-coloring-page-speed-skating.pdf

Monday, February 15, 2010

Birds, Birds, and More Birds!

Wow! We had so much fun during the Big Backyard Bird Count.

It was cold and rainy on Friday. Most of the birds stayed hunkered down. Very few birds came to our feeders.

On Saturday the skies cleared. We saw 8 kinds of birds.

Sunday was beautiful! The temperatures warmed to 68 degrees.

We saw 15 kinds of birds in our yard! We saw chickadees, robins, and jays. We saw cardinals and doves. We saw woodpeckers and finch.

Then the sun began to set. We heard birds. We heard many, many birds.

A giant flock of Cedar Waxwings landed in our gum tree. They are such elegant birds. Their bodies are the color of cinnamon. The tails and wings are gold. They have a tuft on top of their heads. They have black masks around their eyes lined in white. They come to our yard every year to eat berries from our yaupon and laurel trees.

So many birds landed that we couldn't count them all. Mom took some pictures. In one photo, we counted 91 birds!

I hope that you had lots of fun during the bird count, too. How many birds did you see?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Start Counting!

I'm excited! Today is the start of the Big Backyard Bird Count.

It is the start of the Winter Olympics.

Space Shuttle Endeavour is docked with the space station.

In just a few weeks, the Junior Iditarod will begin.

It is a time when both humans and dogs work to do their best. Whether on earth or in space, each of us is trying to do something to make a difference.

We can each make a difference, both in large and small ways. I will have much to share with you in the coming days.

Until then, enjoy the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics and COUNT THOSE BIRDS!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inviting Birds

This is a picture of a flicker. She belongs to the woodpecker family. She visits our feeder almost every day. She likes to eat suet and peanuts.

The flicker has a nest in a dead tree near our house. She brings her babies to our feeders when they first learn to fly. It is easy to tell the baby from the mother. The baby doesn't have a red spot on the top of his head.

I hope that the flicker comes to our yard this weekend. We want to count her in the Big Backyard Bird Count. Maybe we'll put out more peanuts so that she will feel extra welcome!

Do you have a lot of birds visiting your yard? We found a great coloring book about birds that like to visit bird feeders. You can go to it by clicking here: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/schoolyard/T_Resouces/ColoringBook.pdf

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fly Like a Bird

Wouldn't it be great to fly like a bird?

For thousands of years, people have tried to fly. In 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first plane. By 1969, humans flew to the moon. The shuttle is the first "bird" that flies to space and returns to earth.

This morning the shuttle docked with the space station. To do so, it had to flip upside down. Only a hummingbird can fly upside down... and only for a few seconds. It is like a plane making a loop. Of course, the space shuttle flies upside down because it is outside of the earth's atmosphere!

If you would like to know more about the history humans learning to fly like birds, click here: http://www.ueet.nasa.gov/StudentSite/historyofflight.html

To watch a video of the shuttle flipping upside down, go to http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/on_demand_video.html?param=http://anon.nasa-global.edgesuite.net/wm.nasa-global/STS-130/sts130_rpm.wmv&_id=223408&

This is a picture of the shuttle and space station astronauts greeting after they docked. Photo courtesy NASA.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't Count This Bird!

Astronauts call the space shuttle a bird. But it is not a bird that we can count during the Big Backyard Bird Count.

This is a picture of another "Bird." She is one of our squirrel friends. We named her Bird because she lives in the house we hung for woodpeckers. The woodpeckers had to drill their own house in a dead tree.

Do you know what we like best about the Backyard Bird Count? We get to learn about all kinds of birds.

We have a book that shows pictures of birds. If we don't know what kind of bird is visiting our yard, we look up its picture in our book. The book is written by the Audubon Society. The book tells us all about the bird. It tells us where it comes from and what kind of nest it builds. The book tells us what the bird likes to eat.

I like to learn about other animals, do you? If you want to learn more about birds, you can check out this book from your library: The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds Western Region (or Eastern Region if you're east of Texas!).

NASA Launches STS-130

Space Shuttle Endeavour lifted off very early this morning. It was a beautiful launch!

The space shuttle is loaded with equipment for the international space station. The astronauts will put a new room on the space station. The room will hold exercise equipment and other things.

The astronauts will also put on the new Cupola, a room of windows. From the new windows, astronauts will be able to see all around the space station. It will help with future space walks. The astronauts will also be able to see our beautiful earth, moon, and stars.

Do you like to make paper airplanes? NASA has an easy model of the space shuttle for you to build. Just go to http://www.aiaa.org/kidsplace/kidsplacepdfs/Space_Shuttle_Glider.pdf

To learn more about STS-130, go to http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts130/index.html.

Photo courtesy NASA.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Counting Birds

The Big Backyard Bird Count is a fun way for us to help scientists learn about birds. For example, it has been a very cold winter in Texas this year. Scientists will be able to tell if we have more kinds of birds visiting because of the cold.

We have found three places to count birds next weekend. One place is our backyard. Another spot is at a nearby lake. We saw an eagle flying there last weekend.

The last spot is near our house. We visit this place nearly every day. It is along our favorite walk. This blue heron makes his home here.

Have you picked your favorite spot to count birds?

The Big Backyard Bird Count is really easy and fun. If you would like to learn more, just watch this video at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/gbbc-video10

Monday, February 1, 2010

Countdown to the Big Backyard Bird Count

The countdown has begun for the Big Backyard Bird Count! This year, our family will join the fun.

The Big Backyard Bird Count begins February 12-15. For 15 minutes, we will count the kinds of birds that visit our yard.

We have lots of different birds that visit. It will be fun to try to name them all. Our last post showed a picture of a yellow finch. This is a photo of a red cardinal eating sunflowers at our feeder.

You can join the bird count, too. Even if you live in an apartment, you can be part of the fun. You can go to a park or your school and count the different kinds of birds that you see.

I'll tell you more about the bird count over the next few posts. If you would like to learn more now, visit the Great Backyard Bird Count site at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/gbbc-bro-pos-081204-lr.pdf