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.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rolling in the Grass

I had a great day today! Mom and I walked with our pack.

Abbey, Molly, and our old friend Sara were in the gang. Another one of my friends joined our play. Her name is Greta. She is a German Shepherd.

Sara feels a little stiff some days and has a little trouble getting up now and then. But that doesn't stop her from her favorite past time. She loves to roll in the grass! In fact, Sara made it look so fun that we had a "rolling in the grass" party!

Don't you just love spending a beautiful spring day with friends?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's Next?

The Hubble telescope changed the way we look at our universe. So what's next?

NASA is working on an even more powerful telescope. The James Webb telescope will launch in 2014. The Webb will be able to see the fartherest and earliest galaxies in our universe.

The new telescope weighs six tons. It is the size of a tennis court. Scientists from 18 countries are working together to build the Webb. After years of design, they began building parts for the telescope in 2002.

NASA will launch the Webb telescope on an Ariane 5 rocket. The Ariane 5 rocket is about the size of the space shuttle. The Webb will fold up inside the rocket's cargo area.

Once the Webb reaches into space, it will separate from the rocket. The telescope will travel a month before it reaches its new home. As it travels, it will open up like a butterfly when it nears its orbit.

For more information about the Webb telescope, visit http://webbtelescope.org/webb_telescope/

To build a model of the James Webb Telescope, go to http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/model/assembly_parts_pages_final.pdf

Model instructions can be found at http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/model/jwst_model_instructions_final.pdf

Photo of Webb telescope model courtesy NASA.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hubble, the Time Machine

In many ways, the Hubble telescope is a time machine. Amazingly, because light travels at a constant speed, Hubble has bee able to look back in time.

Because of the Hubble telescope, scientists have learned that special stars die at a certain rate of speed. Scientists programmed Hubble to take photos of these special stars in 18 different galaxies. Using the information, scientists now believe that our universe began 13.7 billion years ago.

The Hubble has helped us to see how the universe looked millions of years ago. Hubble's discoveries have allowed us to see how stars are born. We have also learned how stars die.

To learn more about Hubble's deep space images, go to http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/resources/print/lithos/hudf_litho.pdf

See Hubble images here http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/
This photo of a star being born is courtesy NASA.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Congratulations, NASA!

Photo of God's Eye Helix Nebula courtesy NASA.
Twenty years ago, NASA launched the Hubble telescope into orbit. It rode aboard space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. This space observatory has given us some fabulous images. In the process, the Hubble telescope has changed how we understand our universe.

Astronauts have serviced the Hubble five times. In dramatic space walks, astronauts replaced lenses and upgraded systems. After the last servicing space walk in May 2009, Hubbel is 100 times more powerful than when it was originally launched.

In 20 years of discovery, Hubble has taken images of 30,000 objects in space. Hubble has snapped over 570,000 photos. It has reached over 12 billion light years into our enormous universe. Congratulations, NASA!

For Hubble's top scientific findings, go to http://hubblesite.org/hubble_20/downloads/hubble_topscience_lo-res.pdf

To build a paper model of the Hubble telescope, go to http://hubblesite.org/the_telescope/hand-held_hubble/pdf/pattern-intermediate.pdf. Directions to build the model are at http://hubblesite.org/the_telescope/hand-held_hubble/pdf/directions-intermediate.pdf

For more interesting facts about the Hubble telescope, visit http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/hubble_20

You can visit Hubble's award-winning website at http://hubblesite.org/

You can also check out this great book from the library:  Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time:  What the Hubble Telescope Saw, by Elaine Scott

Friday, April 23, 2010

Playing Possum

One of the most wacky wild creatures in the United States is the possum. The possum is related to the kangaroo. Like the kangaroo, a mother possum raises her babies in a pouch on her tummy. The possum is the only marsupial (pouched) mammal in the United States.

Possums are not the most beautiful animals. Their ears and tail are hairless. They have coarse grey over the rest of their body. They have pink noses. Their head looks a little like a fox. Their body is shaped more like a raccoon. They are about the size of a house cat.

Possum babies are no bigger than a dime when they are born. As soon as they are born, the babies crawl into their mother's pouch and live there for seven to ten weeks.

Possums like the night. They eat almost anything, including rats, frogs, pet food, fruit, grass, and nuts.

Possums are really very harmless creatures. The most interesting thing about possums is what happens when they are afraid. When a possum is afraid, he first hisses and bares his teeth. If that doesn't scare his predator away, the possum goes limp and pretends to be dead. A possum plays dead so that his predator will leave him alone. As soon as the threat is gone, the possum makes its escape.

When I was young, I retrieved a baby possum that I found in our yard. I took him to Mom. I thought that he was dead. Mom put the possum under some bushes. We watched him from inside the house. In about 15 minutes, the baby possum got up and walked away.

Another interesting fact about possums is that they do not get rabies. Their body temperature is too low to become infected with the disease.

The possum in this photo was found injured. Some wildlife rehabilitator friends of ours helped the possum to get healthy again. Mom took this picture the day that the possum was released back into the wild.

For more information about possums, go to http://www.volunteersforwildlife.org/downloads/fact_sheets/opos.pdf

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wonderful Earth

Today is earth day. Earth is our home in our universe. Earth must be the most wonderful home of all.

Earth is an exceptional planet. It has just the right atmosphere and temperature to support life. It has water. It has a moon that stabalizes earth's rotation. Earth has many special features. All of these things together make earth the only place we know where people, plants, and animals can live and grow.

All of these things make earth the most wild, wacky, and wonderful planet of all! We must work to protect earth to keep it clean and vibrant.

For information about earth, go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/62209main_Earth_Lithograph.pdf

For a great earth day activity, go to http://eospso.gsfc.nasa.gov/ftp_docs/2009Earth_Day_Booklet.pdf

Photo courtesy NASA.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wild about Wildflowers!

Every spring, Texas wildflowers blanket our state. Fields, meadows, and highway medians sport a rainbow of colors. My favorite wildflower is the Texas bluebonnet. (See photo.)

About 40 years ago, wildflowers began to disappear. One of America's first ladies helped to bring wildflowers back. She started a project in Texas to plant wildflower seeds along the highways. Her name was Lady Bird Johnson.

People asked Mrs. Johnson why she wanted to bring more wildflowers to Texas.

She said, "Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man."

Wildflowers aren't just beautiful. They also help our environment. They help to conserve water and protect the soil. They offer birds, butterflies, and wildlife habitat and food. If you would like to learn more about wildflowers and Lady Bird Johnson, go to http://www.wildflower.org/

Now many other states have begun their own wildflower projects.

I'm wild about wildflowers! Are you?

Go here for wildflower coloring pages: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/kids/coloring/colorwildflowers.shtml

You can find another great wildflower coloring page at http://www.nps.gov/plants/color/txhill/index.htm

Here's a fun activity! Make your own wildflower bookmark. For instructions, go to http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/kids/activities/bookmark.shtml

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our Wacky and Wonderful Sun

The space shuttle Discovery landed today. What a ride it must be to travel in space!

When the shuttle flies, its bottom points towards the sun. The shuttle's heat-resistant tiles keep the spacecraft safer and cool from the sun's radiant heat.

Why? Because the sun is SUPER HOT!

Our sun gives us heat and light. It powers earth's atmosphere to give us winds and rain. We are safe from the sun because of the distance between us and it.

The weather on earth is calm next to weather on the sun. As an example, the sun has hurricanes like earth. But the sun's hurricanes are made of wind and fire rather than wind and rain. The sun's hurricanes are called coronal mass ejections (CMEs), To learn more about CMEs, go to http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/classroom/Explore_print.pdf bn

We have a wacky and wonderful sun! It is a 4.5 billion-year-old star. It is 333,400 times bigger than earth. For more information about the sun, go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/62227main_Sun_Lithograph.pdf

How big is the sun in comparison to the earth? Click here:

This photo of the shuttle flying in front of our sun is courtesy NASA.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is It a Pig Or Not?

When I was very young, Mom, Dad, and I were hiking along a creek in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. As we hiked, we saw shallow trenches dug by animals. There were many digs in this forest grove. Mom and Dad were curious. What would cause these indentations in the ground?

Suddenly, Mom whispered loudly to Dad. She remembered these signs from her childhood. "We've got to get out of here! These are javelina digs!"

Dad yanked my lead, and the three of us headed back towards the meadow... fast! As soon as we crossed out of the woods, we heard the snorts and chomps from a mama javelina. We backed away from the sound and headed back down the trail. We didn't stop until we reached the creek.

Javelinas are normally not aggressive to humans. But they do not like dogs. Their razor sharp tusks can rip a dog to shreds. Mom and Dad knew that we had to leave immediately! I learned a lot that day. To be in nature, you must respect the creatures that live there.

Javelinas certainly look like pigs but they are not. Their real name is Collared Peccary. The Spanish named them javelinas because of their sharp, tusk-like canine teeth.

Built low and close to the ground, javelinas weigh about 40 to 60 pounds. They have four toes on their front hooves and three on the back. They have an excellent sense of smell but poor eyesight. Their pink, pig-like noses help them to locate roots and catch a whiff of predators.

Javelinas are mostly vegetarian. Their favorite food is prickly pear cactus. They eat the cactus, spine and all! Javelinas are wild and wacky!

Check out these sites for more information about javelinas:

For a great read about javelinas, check out this book from your library: Don't Call Me Pig! A Javelina Story by Conrad J. Storad.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wild and Wonderful

It has been a great week. We have watched the space shuttle launch and dock with the international space station. Our astronauts made three space walks while hovering high above planet earth.

We looked to the night sky and watched Mercury disappear as it travels its orbit around the sun.

Here on earth, we have watched spring come out in all its beauty. We have tracked skunks and checked on baby doves.

Our universe is filled with so many amazing things... planets and suns and galaxies. To see some spectacular images, go to http://hubblesite.org/gallery/

Our earth is filled with amazing things, too. Each creature is wonderfully made. Each plant hides the mystery of what pushes it from a seed into a plant into a flower. (Just check out this photo of the bloom on our Amaryllis bulb!)

Isn't it wonderful that we have the chance to observe and discover? Do you ever wonder why? Check out this great DVD from your library: The Privileged Planet by Illustra Media.

Next week we will look closely at some of these amazing things. Would you like to get a head start? To learn more about wacky and wild animals (not including me!), go to this fun activity at

Goodbye, Planet Mercury!

Goodbye to planet Mercury! In the next few evenings, Mercury will fade from the night sky. It is heading back towards the sun.

Mercury's egg-shaped orbit takes it around the Sun every 88 days. It will not be visible in the evening sky again until next July.

If you can watch the sky tonight, you will see Venus, Mercury, and earth's moon close together. You can see all three about a half hour to an hour after sunset.

Look toward the west, near the horizon. Venus will be very bright tonight. Our moon will be just a sliver of light. You can see it below Venus and to the lower right.

Mercury will rest below the moon. (You may need to use binoculars to see it.)

This beautiful photo of Mercury was taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft on its January 14 flyby.

NASA scientists believe that the orange splotches may be volcanic vents.

The large crater that you see is called an impact basin. It was made when an asteroid slammed into Mercury's surface.

The sun superheats the face of Mercury. At night temperatures drop hundreds of degrees below freezing.

Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system. It is only a little bigger than earth's moon.

For more information about Mercury, go to

Photo courtesy NASA.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tracker Dog

Our skunk friend has returned. This morning I tracked her path. I discovered some small holes that she left in our yard.

What was she looking for? She used her snout to dig for grubs. The holes are cone-shaped. They are about two inches deep. We know it is a skunk because there are several holes close together.

Skunks are interesting creatures. Many people are afraid of them. They are not dangerous if you respect them.

I certainly respect them! When I was very young, I was sprayed twice in ten days becaused I chased a skunk.

Mom was not happy with me. She gave me a bath both times with a terrible smelling soap. Of course, the soap smelled better than the skunk spray!

Skunks are very smart. Our skunk friend likes to come into our yard at night. She knows us well. Mom always flips on the porch light before she takes me outside at night. As soon as the light comes on, the skunk runs under the deck. I learned a long time ago not to chase her again!

For more information about skunks, go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_mammals/skunks/

Would you like to know more about tracking? Go to this fun activity page at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_k0700_0001.pdf

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Today the shuttle astronauts completed their third space walk of the STS-131 mission. It must be exciting to float in space!

The astronauts bolted the new ammonia tank to the space station. NASA reported that this was the final STS-131 spacewalk.

Over the years, U.S. astronauts have completed 236 spacewalks. They have taken 143 spacewalks to build and maintain the International Space Station. These spacewalks have totaled 893 hours and 33 minutes in space!

When astronauts walk in space, they wear special suits. These suits are called extravehicular mobility units (EVAs). We usually just call them spacesuits.

The spacesuits are made of many layers to protect the astronauts from extreme temperatures. The layers also provide pressure and oxygen. Each suit comes with a backpack that supplies oxygen, cooling water, electrical power, and radio communications.

To learn more about spacewalking and spacesuits, go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/143351main_Build.It.With.Spacewalks.pdf

Photo courtesy NASA.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Want To Hold Your Hand!

Our shuttle astronauts will make three space walks during this mission. They will have help from the robotic arms and hands on the shuttle and the space station.

Robots are important helpers for astronauts. Robots are used to inspect the shuttle's heat shield for damage from lift off. Robots help move cargo from the shuttle to the space station. Robots help the astronauts move from one side of the space station to the other.

For more information about the space station's robotic arms, go to http://virtualastronaut.tietronix.com/teacherportal/pdfs/Humans.and.Robots.pdf

Would you like to build a robotic hand? Just go to http://www.visitroboworld.com/visitroboworld/lessons/LP_7to9/Hold_Your_Hand_NASA.pdf

You can also check out these great books from your library:
Robots (Technology All Around Us) by Clive Gifford
Robot Inventor's Workshop: An Explorer's Kit by Greg Vogt
Robot (DK Eyewitness Book) by Roger Bridgman

Have fun!

Photo courtesy NASA.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lovey Dovey

We visited some friends today. Do you remember the doves that we found building their nest? (See "Nesting Time," March 10 post.)

Momma dove introduced us to her two new babies. We took a photo of the family as she fed her chicks.

In the photo, one of the babies is poking its beak in his mother's throat. His mother is feeding him partly digested food. This food is called "pigeon's milk." Both mother and father doves feed their young.

The baby doves stay in their nest for two weeks after hatching. Their parents will feed them for two weeks more. Then the baby doves will be on their own.

Their parents will hatch as many as six broods of chicks during a season. Good luck to you and your babies, Momma Dove!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Space Pup & Spin Offs

When you look at the sky, do you ever want to travel in space? I sure do!

I've heard some people ask why we travel into space. It's not just for fun. We have already learned many things. And many of the things that we have learned have helped us to live better on earth.

While trying to make life better and safer for astronauts, NASA scientists have made life better for all of us. When something good is discovered for space that can be used on earth, it is called a spin off.

For example, NASA scientists discovered how to make fabric that won't burn. They used it in space suits to keep astronauts safer. Now race car drivers and fire fighters use that same fabric for protection.

NASA discovered how to use remote controlled space craft to gather information about other planets. Now we use remote control to gather information about fires, hurricanes, and volcanoes without putting someone in danger.

NASA scientists have developed freeze dried foods. They made satellite television possible. They developed cordless tools and smoke detectors.

Would you like to know more about how NASA scientists have made a difference in life on earth? Go to one of my most favorite activity books! Just visit Space Pup at http://ipp.gsfc.nasa.gov/downloads/GSFC_coloring_book.pdf

Photo courtesy NASA.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Discovery Launches into Space!

Early this morning, space shuttle Discovery launched into space. The shuttle is flying to the international space station. The mission will last 13 days.

Discovery will deliver a new module for the space station. The module has many science racks for the space station laboratories.

The shuttle astronauts will also have three space walks. They will replace an ammonia tank assembly. They will retrieve a Japanese experiment. They will also switch out a gyro assembly.

If you would like to know more about STS-131 and its mission, go to http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts131/

Here's a neat space walk bookmark from NASA for you. Just go to http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/295051main_Spacesuits_Bookmark.pdf

The link printed on the bookmark will help you learn more about NASA space suits. I wonder what a dog space suit would look like?

Photo courtesy NASA.

Bunny Buddies

At Easter time, many children receive bunnies as gifts. Bunnies make great pets. They are smart and fun. They live about 10 years. They can even learn to use a cat litter box to go to the bathroom!

Bunnies also take a lot of work, just like cats and dogs. You must learn to care for your bunny properly. They need special food and fresh water every day. They also need a special cage for sleeping.

Sometimes people who have bunnies decide they don't want them any more. Please find a new home for your bunny. Do not release him or her into the wild! Bunnies that are bought at the store are not the same as wild rabbits. If you release your bunny into the wild, he will not survive. Please give your bunny to someone who will take care of him.

If you cannot find someone to take care of your bunny, there are other places that will help you. An organization called Bunny Buddies rescues unwanted rabbits. Your local shelter may also take your bunny and find a good home for him.

Bunny Buddies is also a great place to adopt a bunny if you want one for a pet. They have lots of rabbits that need adoption or foster care. Talk to your folks to see if they would be willing to help you care for a bunny.

Would you like to know more about caring for bunnies? Just go to this great activity book: http://www.sandiegorabbits.org/adoption/colorbook.pdf

Another great article on caring for bunnies can be found at http://www.bunnybuddies.org/docs/rabbitcareguide.pdf

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

Easter is the best celebration. I do hope that you have a wonderful day!

Know that I'm thinking of you!

Christ has risen... He has risen indeed!

For a fun Easter activity page, go to http://www.higherpraise.com/pdf/pdf/New/Curr238.pdf

Thursday, April 1, 2010

So What's the Difference?

What is the difference between an amphibian and a reptile? Frogs, toads, and salamanders are amphibians. Turtles, snakes, and lizards are reptiles.

Both are cold blooded. Amphibians must live part of their life in the water. Reptiles don't need to. A frog lays its eggs in the water. Turtles lay their eggs on land.

Reptiles are covered with scales or plates. Their skin is waterproof. They also have claws. Amphibian skin is permeable. They do not have claws.

Here's a fun activity sheet from Arizona to help understand the difference! Just go to http://www.azgfd.gov/i_e/ee/resources/wild_kids/herps46.pdf