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, 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:

Monday, February 10, 2014

We Love Ice Cream ANY Time of Year!!!

Missy wears a Blue Bell Creameries Hat.
Today Missy learned about Blue Bell ice cream.  It may be cold outside, but it is NEVER too cold for ice cream!

The Blue Bell Creamery is over 100 years old.  Blue Bell was named after the Texas bluebell wildflower.  The company was started in 1907 in Brenham, Texas.  Brenham is located about an hour's drive north from our house.

Blue Bell ice cream is famous in Texas.  We think that it is the very best ice cream in the whole world.  The people at Blue Bell told us that they know why their ice cream tastes so good.  It is because the cows that make the milk for their ice cream think that Brenham is heaven!

Blue Bell ice cream is only sold in 19 states across America.  I feel sorry for those folks who have never been able to eat Blue Bell!

When you visit the ice cream factory, you can take a tour of the manufacturing plant.  We watched a short movie about Blue Bell Creameries.  Then we visited where they make and pack the ice cream. We watched workers pack ice cream bars.  At the end of the tour, you get a scoop of ice cream.  You can choose from over 32 flavors!  Missy chose chocolate.

Blue Bell makes old-fashioned ice cream.  It tastes GREAT!!!  This afternoon, Missy tried two of our favorite flavors... Homemade Vanilla and Peppermint.

Missy chose the vanilla ice cream.  She covered it in sprinkles and chocolate syrup.  She put a cherry on top.  She said that it was the best ice cream that she has ever tasted!

If you like ice cream, here are two pages for you to color.  Have fun!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Missy Goes on a Nature Hike

Missy and Roxanne go for a hike.
This morning when we woke up, the sun was shining.  It was another beautiful day in Texas!  It was a great day to be outside.  We decided to go for a hike.

We drove to the George Mitchell Nature Preserve, one of my favorite places.  The preserve is deep in a thick forest.  It has a beautiful hike through the pine trees and hardwoods.   Hiking is one of my favorite things to do.

Missy at the George Mitchell Nature Preserve
While Mom took this photo of Missy, I was already on the trail.  I was ready to go hiking!  
Roxanne is ready to hike!
 The hike is about a mile and a half long.  It goes through the woods and to a beautiful little lake.

Bedias Lake at George Mitchell Nature Preserve
While we were hiking, we saw the first sign that spring is on its way... flowers!!!

First signs of spring.
Then Missy saw a new plant that she had never seen before.  It is called a saw palmetto.  Palmettos only grows in southern forests from Texas to Florida.  Here's a photo of Missy and me in front of a palmetto.

Missy and Roxanne in front of saw palmetto.
We had a long hike today.  It was so much fun!