Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 21 - John Muir's Birthday

As we are working on trimming trees and weeding around flowers up in the mountains, this seemed like a fitting birthday to celebrate! John Muir, also known as "John of the Mountains", devoted his life to conservation of wilderness areas, particularly in the mountains of the western US.


100 years ago, most Americans looked at the vast expanses of wilderness and thought it couldn't possibly all disappear some day. Some, perhaps, even wanted it to, in the name of progress. Two men, fortunately, one with a great deal of power, were a little more far-sighted.


Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein captures the majestic redwoods of Yosemite in this little-known but important story from our nation's history. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.

A classic children's book about the interdependence of animals in a different type of wilderness:


Exhausted from his labors, a man chopping down a great kapok tree in the Brazilian rain forest puts down his ax, and, as he sleeps, the animals who live in the tree plead with him not to destroy their world.

And, one a bit newer:


Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. Enchanting die-cuts illustrate the vital connections between the layers of an ecosystem in this magical book. Wander down the forest path to learn how every tree, flower, plant, and animal connect to one another in spiraling circles of life. An acorn is just the beginning.


Let's graph it! In 1760, the US had approximately 1 billion acres of forest land. In 1860 it was down to 900 million, and in 1960 it was 750 million. What would that look like in a bar graph? 

The US has 2.3 billion acres of land in all. Use a pie chart to show how much of that is made up of forest land (currently holding steady around 745 million).

Check out this web site for more interesting stats and charts related to forest land in the US.


Web it! Look at the ecosystem in your area, and find out how the different plants and animals depend on each other. Create a poster showing the web of life. Illustrate with pictures you drew or cut out of magazines.

Social Studies

Loss of forest lands has slowed down considerably in the last few decades. Why is that? Research laws that have helped slow that number, and find out which laws may be changed in the near future.

Language Arts

Discuss some of the pending legislation with your kids. Are there bills or laws you especially support or oppose? It is never too soon for kids to make their voices heard. Talk about the format of a formal letter, and help them draft one (or more) to their local politicians. Let them use their own words!


Create your own nature journal! There are ideas for book making all over Pinterest, or check out these at Green Kid Crafts. Then go on a hike, in your own neighborhood or elsewhere, and see what plants and animals you may not have noticed before. Bring a camera so you can take pictures, but try not to disturb things otherwise! Remind your kids that for every flower they pick, that's a dozen or more seeds that can't fall to grow into more flowers next year.


On the other hand, there may be more than enough of something for you to harvest a bit for food. Here is a long list of edible plants - just be very, very sure of their identity, please! My kids love finding the wild asparagus that grows near their grandmother's house. Steamed with some butter and salt...mmm! I once came upon a very sheepish woman who was picking something (I forget what) in the creek near my house, and had just fallen in. Oops! Who knows, you may find a new (to you) delicacy, and acquire a useful skill for the zombie apocalypse.

Other Web Sites to Explore

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