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.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Amazing Honey Bee

Honey bees with pollen on their legs
Honey bees are truly amazing creatures.  They are called the most useful insect in the world.  One third of all the food that we eat is pollinated by honey bees.

Bees gather pollen.  They may visit as many as 50 to 100 flowers each trip.  In the process, they pollinate the flowers and help them to make more fruits and vegetables, like apples, oranges, almonds, and tomatoes. 

They also take nectar from flowers to feed their young.  Bees make honey from nectar.  It takes 5,000 flower visits for bees to make one teaspoon of honey. 

Here is what the inside of our beehive looks like...

Bee keepers raise bees to harvest honey and to pollinate crops.  During the summer, beekeepers take the extra honey that the bees make from the hive.  They cut off the waxy top from the honeycomb and drain the honey into jars.  When we harvest our honey, we'll tell you all about it!

Each beehive colony can have as many as 60,000 bees during the summer.  The colony needs as many bees as possible to gather honey for winter.  They must have at least 70 pounds of honey stored in their hive for the winter months.  Beekeepers must be careful not to take too much honey during harvest so that the bees will have plenty to eat when it is cold.

Bees have been mysteriously dying at an alarming rate over the past few years.  Scientists have become bee detectives to determine why the bees are dying.  If you would like to read more about bee detectives, check out this great book from your library:  The Hive Detectives:  Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns.  

We found some fun activities to help you learn more about bees and honey.  Just click on one of these links:
If you would like to read more about our amazing honey bees, check out this book from your library:  The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fun Bee Facts

Fun Facts about Bees
  • One third of all the food that we eat is pollinated by bees.
  • In a bee’s short lifetime, she flies the equivalent of one and one-half times around the circumference of the earth.
  • Bees can fly as fast as 15 miles per hour.
  • It takes 5,000 flower visits for bees to make one teaspoon of honey.
  • A bee can only sting once. When she stings, her stinger remains in her victim’s flesh. She dies shortly thereafter.
  • A queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day.

Friday, March 21, 2014

We are Bee Keepers!

Missy at the BeeWeaver Apiary
Today we went to an apiary near Navasota, Texas.  An apiary is a bee farm.  We bought a hive of bees for Opa and Omi's farm.  We will take care of the bees together.  When it is harvest time, we will share the extra honey that the bees make.

We loaded the bee hive in the back of our pickup.  When we arrived at the farm, we placed the bees on the platform in their new home.

Opa and David move the bees to their new home.
The next morning, we looked at each frame inside the beehive.  We wanted to make sure that the bees were healthy.  To keep from getting stung by the bees, we wore special hats with veils.  We wore thick clothes and put rubber bands around our wrists and ankles to keep the bees from crawling inside our clothing. 

David lights the bee smoker.
David smokes the bees.
We also lit a smoker.  Then we smoked the bees.  Bees send out an attack alarm from their tentacles.  The smoke keeps the bees from communicating with each other.  

Opa and David check each bee frame.
What a bee frame looks like...
We are happy to report that nobody got stung!

Missy checks out our new bee hive.
In our next post, we will tell you more about our amazing bees!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nature Detective

Missy, the Nature Detective
We wanted to help Missy learn more about Texas animals, so we decided to have an adventure.  We became nature detectives!

We began looking for animal signs.  We took a walk and looked closely at the path.  Near a muddy bank, we saw deer tracks and raccoon tracks.  

We looked high and saw a squirrel’s nest.  We passed a pond and saw turtles sunning themselves. We found a bird feather.  We heard buzzing and discovered bees in the cherry laurel flowers.  

Have you ever become a nature detective?  Missy thought it was great fun!  

If you want to read more about being a nature detective, see our post here:   Roxanne's Nature Detective post

You can also check this great book out from your library: 
  • Animal Tracks and Signs:  Track over 40 Animals from Big Cats to Backyard Birds by Jinny Johnson.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What's Next for NASA?

Atlantis Space Shuttle courtesy NASA
It was a sad day for America when the space shuttles retired.  They were magnificent flying machines.  They were the first flying machines that went into orbit and returned to earth.  We learned so much when the space shuttles flew.

Now our wonderful space shuttles are in museums.  After 30 years of service, in July 2011, the last shuttle flight flew to the International Space Station.  The Atlantis space shuttle astronauts gave a flag to the crew on the International Space Station.  It was an American flag that flew on the first space shuttle.  It will return home on America's next spacecraft.  (To read more about the flag, just click here:  Star Spangled Banner in Space.)

When and what will be America's next spacecraft?  NASA is working on many different ways for America to get back into space, including the Orion spacecraft.

Orion will combine the best of the space shuttle and the Apollo moon mission spacecraft.  It will be able to supply the International Space Station or travel to Mars.  Orion will take astronauts deep into space and bring them safely back to earth.

Orion spacecraft courtesy NASA
Orion's first test mission is scheduled for September 2014.  NASA plans a four-hour test flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida.  One day, Orion flights may fly from Houston's Ellington field near Space Center Houston.  It will be exciting to see America back in space!!!

For more information about Orion, just click here:  Orion vehicle

Here's an Orion activity page for you:  Orion Activity Sheet

Here's a paper model of the Orion spacecraft that you can build:  Orion paper model

Here's a coloring page for the Orion spacecraft:  Orion coloring page

If you would like to build a paper space shuttle, just click here:  Space Shuttle Glider

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Astronaut Training

When we visited Space Center Houston, we saw the Johnson Space Center (JSC) astronaut training center.  Astronauts learn to do many things at JSC.  They learn to space walk, fly, and operate all of the equipment needed to live in space.

At JSC, the astronauts train in the world's largest swimming pool.  It is called the Neutral Buoyancy Lab.  The pool holds 6.2 million gallons of water.  It is more than two football fields long and 40 feet deep.  At the bottom of the pool, there is a true-to-life model of the International Space Station.  When the space shuttle was flying, they use to have a full size space shuttle model under the water.

To train in the pool, astronauts put on their spacesuits and swim underwater.  They learn to use equipment underwater.  They also practice space walks.  Astronauts train about ten hours under water for every one hour that they spend walking in space.

Neutral Buoyancy Lab and Mock-up International Space Station.  Photo courtesy NASA.
There is also a true-to-life model of the International Space Station on the ground.  Astronauts can learn everything about the International Space Station here.

International Space Station full size model.  Photo courtesy NASA. 
Before astronauts go into space, they must train for over 300 hours at JSC.  To learn more about the Johnson Space Center's training facilities, click here:
JSC Space Training

Did you ever want to be an astronaut?  I wanted to be a Space Dog!  The first dog in space was named Laika.  If you would like to learn more about Laika and other animals in space, just click here:  Roxanne the Space Dog

Would you like to train like an astronaut?  We found two NASA videos just for you!

For more fun videos, you can click here to go to NASA's website but first please ask an adult if it's okay! Train Like an Astronaut

You can also check out these great books at your library:
  • Astronauts:  Training for Space (Countdown to Space) by Michael Cole
  • Career As An Astronaut:  What They Do, How to Become One, and What the Future Holds! by Brian Rogers
  • I Want to Be an Astronaut by Stephanie Maze

Monday, February 24, 2014

Johnson Space Center

Entrance to Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Today Missy visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC for short).  JSC is part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  NASA takes care of our nation's science and technology for air and space.

Missy at Rocket Park, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
The Johnson Space Center is home to Mission Control.  Since 1965, Mission Control has been at the center of our space explorations.  Mission control specialists take care of astronauts and their flying machines.  They make sure that the astronauts are safe and healthy.  They also watch over the International Space Station.  They want to know where it is and they want to make sure that it is safe and working as it should.

International Space Station Flight Control Room
International Space Station Map
JSC is also home to Space Center Houston.  Space Center Houston is the JSC Visitor's Center.  It has many attractions to help us learn more about space travel.

Entrance to Space Center Houston
While we were at Space Center Houston, we saw movies, took a tram tour, and learned about astronauts, how they live in space, and all about the rockets and spacecraft that they fly.  We also saw the astronaut training center.  Here are just a few photos that we took:

Astronaut Spacesuit
Apollo Capsule
Pretend Space Shuttle
Over the next few posts, we're going to talk about some of the things that we learned at the Johnson Space Center.  It was OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!

Missy in front of a test Apollo spacecraft
If you would like to read more about the Johnson Space Center, just check out this book from your library:  Bluebonnet at Johnson Space Center by Mary Brooke Casad

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Opa and Omi's Farm

Missy climbs the fence at Opa and Omi's farm.
Today we took Missy to Opa and Omi's Farm.  We wanted Missy to learn all about farming.

Farming is one of the most important jobs in America.  Farmers grow our food, food for our animals, and all kinds of things that make our lives better.  Opa and Omi's farm has a pasture that is planted in a special grass.  Opa cuts the grass and dries it.  When the grass is dry, it is called hay.  Opa uses the hay to feed cattle and horses.

Opa has a big tractor.  He uses the tractor to cut the hay and do many other things on the farm.  He let Missy sit in the tractor.  I was there to help Missy climb up to the seat.

Opa's tractor
Opa also has an ATV.  ATV stands for "all terrain vehicle."  An ATV doesn't need to be driven on roads.  Opa uses his ATV to drive all over the farm.  He and Missy took a ride down to the pond on the ATV.

Missy at Omi and Opa's pond
The pond was so pretty.  We saw thousands and thousands of tadpoles living in the pond.  Soon they will all become frogs!

Opa said that one day he hopes to raise bees on his farm.  He also wants to grow a vegetable garden this spring.

Missy gets wood for the fireplace from the woodpile.
By evening, it was starting to get chilly outside.  While Omi made a delicious pot roast supper, Missy and Opa gathered wood for a fire.

We were tired after such a busy day at the farm.  After supper, Missy and I laid in front of the fireplace and fell asleep.

Have you ever been to a farm?  Here are some great activity books to show you more about farms and what farmers do:
You can also check out these great books about farming at your library:
  • Farming by Gail Gibbons
  • America at Work:  Farming by Ann Love
  • Life in a Farming Community (Learn about Rural Life) by Lizann Flatt
  • Jobs on a Farm (World of Farming) by Nancy Dickmann

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eagle Sighting!

After church on Sunday, Mom told us that there was a special place that she wanted to go for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  When we arrived, Dad was the first the spy the bird.  It was a BALD EAGLE!

We saw the eagle roosting in a pine tree.  It was a beautiful bird.  It had yellow eyes, a yellow beak, and yellow feet.  The bird's head and tail were white.  The body feathers were dark brown.  The eagle was about 3 feet tall from head to tail.

Resident Eagle in Spring, Texas
Before too much longer, we spied the eagle's nest.  The nest was high up in a pine tree, not too far behind the adult eagle.

Eagle's Nest
When we looked closely at the nest, we could see some flapping wings.  It was a baby eagle or eaglet!

Look closely under the large limb to see the outline of the eaglet.
It was an amazing sight to see such beautiful birds.  Mom told Missy and me that this pair of Texas bald eagles have been nesting here since 1999.  They have fledged at least 28 eaglets.

After we went home, we decided to learn all about bald eagles.  Bald eagles are birds of prey.  That means that they hunt and feed on other animals.  Bald eagles like to live near lakes because they eat lots of fish.

A mother eagle begins building her nest in early October in Texas.  By December, she lays one to three eggs.  The eaglets hatch in January.  The babies fledge (learn to fly) in about twelve weeks.  

An eagle's nest is very large.  Since the parent's wing span is about six to eight feet across, they need a very big nest to hold themselves and their babies.  Sometimes the nests can be more than nine feet across!

We also learned that the bald eagle is the national emblem or symbol for the United States of America.  Our leaders chose the bald eagle as our national emblem on June 20, 1782.  

If you would like to read more about bald eagles, just check out my August 10, 2010 post here:   Bald Eagles (it includes bald eagle fact sheets)

Here's a great activity book to learn more about bald eagles:  Bald Eagle Educational Activity Guide

If you would like to color an eagle, just click here:  Eagle Coloring Page

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cedar Waxwings Visit Our House

We had some beautiful visitors during this year's Great Backyard Bird Count.  During our early morning bird count, we saw a large flock of birds roosting in a sweet gum tree in our yard.

Birds roosting in sweet gum tree.
The sun was behind the birds, so we had a hard time trying to figure out what kind of birds they were.
Cedar Waxwing in silhouette
Later that afternoon, we were working on a project in the garage.  We have three yaupon holly trees that hang over our driveway.  This time of year, the trees are filled with red berries.  We heard a rush of wings.  The yaupons were covered in birds!

These were the same flock of birds that we had seen earlier in the day.  They were the beautiful Cedar Waxwing.  They came to eat our yaupon berries!

Cedar Waxwings
We watched them for over an hour.  They gobbled up the berries, eating them whole!

Cedar Waxwing eating a yaupon berry
Dozens of birds would fly in to eat the berries.  Then that flock would fly away and another group would come to eat.  Today, our yaupon holly only have a few berries left on them!

Here's a very short video of a waxwing eating berries:

Cedar waxwings winter in Texas.  They migrate here from northern states and Canada.  These birds love to eat berries.  They come to our yard to eat our yaupon berries and cherry laurel berries.

It is important for those of us with yards to plant native trees, bushes, and plants that help birds and animals survive.  If you would like to learn more about gardening for birds, please click here:  Building a Bird-friendly Yard

Fun Counting Birds!

We have had lots of fun counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

On Saturday morning, we filled our bird feeders.  Then Missy sat on the kitchen counter and waited.  I sat by the dining room window and waited.  Both of us could see the bird feeders from our windows.  Before long, we began seeing birds!

Missy watching for birds during the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Roxanne watching for birds during the Great Backyard Bird Count.
We saw doves and wrens.  We saw finch and blue jays  We saw cardinals and woodpeckers.  A flock of starlings came into the yard.  A group of geese flew overhead.  Here are a few of the birds that we saw...

Mourning doves
Carolina Wren
Common Flicker
Downy Woodpecker 
Female Cardinal
Oops... don't count this bird!
We counted birds four different times during the Great Backyard Bird Count.  We counted 24 different species of birds!

I hope that you tried counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  It's not too late for you to start.  It ends tonight (Monday, February 17, 2014), so if you have some free time this afternoon, go out and count some birds!

In the next two posts, I'm going to tell you about some VERY special birds that we saw!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Time for the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Today is an exciting day.  Not only is it Valentine's Day, but it is also the beginning of the Great Backyard Bird Count!  The Great Backyard Bird Count begins today, Friday, February 14.  It ends on Monday, February 17.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is important because it helps scientists to learn more about birds and where they live.

We have been part of the Great Backyard Bird Count for many years.  It is easy to do.  We simply count the birds that we see in our backyard for fifteen minutes.  We can count for a longer time if we want to.  We count the different birds that we see in our yard.  We count the number of each kind of bird.

Each time we count birds, we go to the GBBC website and tell them how many birds we saw and what kind of birds we saw.

You don't need a backyard to count the birds.  You can go to the park or your school or anywhere in the world.

If you want to be part of the Great Backyard Bird Count, please ask an adult to help you.  For more information, just click here:  Great Backyard Bird Count Instructions

This year Missy will help us count birds.  We hope that you count birds, too!

P.S.  If you don't know the names of the kinds of birds in your yard, here's a great poster to help you:  Guide to Common Birds

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Missy and the Children's Museum

Missy visits The Woodlands Children's Museum
Today Missy visited The Woodlands Children's Museum.  This museum is a special place for children to learn by play.  Missy played a lot!

The aquarium at the Children's Museum
The first thing that Missy saw was the aquarium.  It was filled with lots of beautiful fish. It reminded Missy of her visit to Galveston beach.

Al Robb's mask collection
Along one wall, she saw many beautiful masks.  The masks belong to Al Robb.  He is a world traveler.  He collected the masks from many countries.  Some masks are from Alaska.  Some masks are from Africa.  Some masks are from Europe.  Mr. Robb ran out of room in his house to show his masks.  He loaned his masks to the Children's Museum so that children could enjoy them.  

There were also many places to play at the children's museum.  Missy played in a big playhouse.

She also played with a giant light puzzle.

Then she found a castle!

It had a throne for a king and a queen.  Missy sat in the queen's chair.  A cat played the fiddle for her!

When Missy came home, she told me all about the museum.  She liked the aquarium and the masks best.  She even colored a mask for me to wear.  How do you think I look?

Roxanne wears a Barton Springs salamander mask.
If you would like to make a mask, Mom found two great Texas animal masks for you to color.  Just click here: