Like so many of you, our family is thinking more and more about the impact we make on our planet. While there are many great resources to teach children about conservation, nothing beats hands on experience! I’ve always wanted to compost, so this year we finally did the research and got started! Here is a look at what you need, plus tips from other composting families!
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Composting: Tips to Get Started
What to Buy
If you have a big enough space in your backyard, there is no need to purchase a bin; however, if you have a smaller yard, as we do, or simply don’t want to use your yard space for a compost pile, there are great options for composting bins you can purchase!
After a lot of research, we purchased a FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter. It is perfect for us because it doesn’t take up much room and is super easy to use. The kids love helping turn the bin!
The guide put out by our city recommends the Compost Bin by GEOBIN. It is easy to set up and very economical.
An easy way to collect your kitchen scraps before taking them out to compost is an indoor bin like the Utopia Kitchen Stainless Steel Compost Bin for Kitchen Countertop. It is small enough to sit on the kitchen counter and comes with a lid and charcoal filter so you don’t have to worry about a smell! Just to be clear, this isn’t actually for composting, just to collect the scraps until you can take them outdoors.
I’m not a scientist and have no real expertise in the how of conservation, but what I can teach my sons is the why. Having a global worldview is a passion of mine and was the driving force behind the creation of Multicultural Kid Blogs. What has always fascinated me about conservation is what it teaches us about the interconnectedness of our small planet, so I came up with this simple STEM activity that is perfect for an Earth Day science experiment or for use with a unit on waterways.
I was a child when acid rain became a threat, and I remember clearly the point that the experts kept repeating: The environment knows no national boundaries. The pollution in one country creates the acid rain in a neighboring country. What we do to our environment matters, not just to us but to everyone else on the planet.
I wanted a way to drive this point home to my then preschooler, so I created this simple science experiment using materials we already had around the house. He had a blast and (hopefully) got something of the message behind the activity.
Earth Day Science Experiment: Our Interconnected Waterways
You will need:
Egg carton (cardboard is best)
Flax seed meal or other powdery material
Tray or cookie sheet
Lots of water!
First off, I recommend setting your egg carton on a napkin, laid inside a tray, for reasons that we become clear later. You’ll notice that I did not start this way, but soon learned my lesson!
To start we poured water into the egg carton. We had to fill it enough that the water poured from one cup to another. I talked to my son about how the waterways were all connected to each other – creeks run into rivers, which run into lakes and oceans.
Next we talked about how if we throw trash into a creek, it doesn’t just get that creek dirty. The water carries the trash to other places, like lakes and rivers. To demonstrate this principle, we took the flax seed meal and poured it into one of the egg cups. You actually have to dump quite a bit before you see an effect, but my son didn’t mind helping with this 🙂
Then we added drops of food coloring to another cup and watched as the color slowly spread throughout the egg carton.
And then the experiment jumped out of the neat boundaries I had set up, which, of course, was really the whole point. It turns out that if you let water sit in a cardboard egg carton for a long time, it will leak! And not just water, of course, but the food coloring that was just added to it.
Luckily I was able to roll this potential mishap into our Earth Day science experiment, talking to my son about how even when the connections aren’t obvious, they are still there. Water in a lake doesn’t just stay in the lake, of course, and neither do the chemicals and dyes we dump into it. All that junk seeps into the ground and spreads, just like the dye from our egg carton, which quickly stained the napkin I had hurriedly put under it.
My little mess-maker really enjoyed this Earth Day science experiment, and it was a great visual to talk about how interconnected our environment is. My son’s response? That we need to get a trash boat so we can go clean up all that trash out there! Alright, kid, I’ll put it on my list! Right along with the submarine he wants to get to scout out underwater volcanoes 😉
To continue our theme of learning about endangered animals, we turned our attention to Senegal (our next country in Around the World in 12 Dishes) and began to study the African manatee. There are three species of manatees, but the African (or West African) manatee is perhaps the least known of the three and the most endangered.
Disclosure: This post contains a sponsored link for your convenience.
These animals are known locally as “Mamiwata”, an African name (unfortunately I wasn’t able to discover which African language) for the spirit believed to be embodied by the manatee. The gentle manatees are marine mammals, which means they must surface periodically to breathe. Most manatees are primarily herbivores, but now there is evidence that the African manatee actually eats fish, mollusks, and clams.
The African manatee can be found in the shallow coastal waters, rivers, and estuaries of West Africa and is under threat from poaching, fishing (because of getting caught in fishing nets), and habitat loss from construction of dams. While firm numbers are difficult to come by, it is clear that the African manatee is under grave threat and its population is in danger of disappearing from several of the countries – including Senegal – where it has traditionally lived.
To learn more about the African manatee, I created a word search and word puzzle, which you can download and print here:
Disclosure:This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
Earth Day Books and Music Giveaway
To inspire earth-friendly practices with your family, I’m so excited to be taking part in an awesome Earth Day giveaway with several other kid bloggers. Several publishers have offered earth-themed books and music prizes for your Earth Day celebrations. Hopefully, these wonderful resources will inspire a love of nature in your children and motivate them to make a difference in the world. Amazon affiliate links are below for your convenience.
As part of our study of Bolivia and the “Around the World in 12 Dishes” series, we looked more closely at one of the great symbols of the Andes – the condor. A really great online resource about the Andean condor (cousin to the also endangered California condor) is, of course, National Geographic.
Many Americans are familiar with the famous song “El Condor Pasa,” written by a Peruvian composer last century and based on Andean folk melodies. It was later popularized by none other than Paul Simon, who added his own lyrics. He can be seen here singing on Sesame Street:
The condor had been respected by the native Andeans as a mystical bird, but the newly arrived Spanish saw it as a nuisance. Ironically, the Spanish hunted it to near extinction out of a mistaken belief that it was killing their cattle. Yet this was not the case, as the condor is a scavenger, meaning it feeds off of carrion (dead meat), just like a vulture.
My Monkey was quite indignant over this devastating mistake: “They should have killed the eagles instead!” he told me many times. Well, not quite the “living in harmony with the natural world” sentiment I was aiming for, but at least he does have an emotional attachment to the condor!
The Andean condor is one of the largest flying birds on the planet – in fact, it is the largest if you go by wingspan, as they measure an enormous 10 feet (3 meters) from tip to tip. They need that wing power, as they are also some of the heaviest flying birds around!
To help Monkey get a sense of just how large these birds were, we did an activity based on a display I saw at our local zoo. The idea is to have children measure their own “wingspan” and compare it to the wingspans of various birds, including the condor.
First we researched the wingspans of various birds, from the Andean and California condors to the hummingbird. Then, of course, we measured his!
Here are the measurements we used:
Hummingbird: 4 inches
Mandarin duck: 28 inches
My Monkey: 46 inches
Bald Eagle: 7 feet
California Condor: 9.5 feet
Andean Condor: 10 feet
Then we marked the measurements all on our floor with masking tape. (We had planned to do more birds, but Little Monkey thought the game was to pull up all of the tape markings as soon as we had put them down, so we decided to keep our list relatively brief).
We first marked a spot that would serve as our center then marked each wingspan on either side of this, so that when you look down at the floor, the wingspans line up on top of each other and you can really see how they size up.
Beyond learning about the Andean condor and other birds, this is a great exercise in measuring and counting. Older kids could also help halve the wingspan measurements, since half (one wing) is on either side of the middle mark.
Our conclusion: Andean condors are big! But don’t worry – they’ll only eat you if you’re already dead 😉
Earth Day is almost here, though it’s always a good time to share with your kids the importance of caring for our planet! Here is a list of some great books that we have enjoyed reading that help kids understand the interconnectedness of our lives with the natural world and how to live in harmony with it.
Earth Day Books for Kids
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. I received complimentary copies of several of the books below; however, all opinions are my own.
A new title from Wisdom Tales Press is When the Animals Saved Earth, retold by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Demi. It is the fable about humanity’s arrival on a blue and green island and the disastrous consequences of their greedy, short-sighted treatment of the land and animals. To answer for their crimes they are brought before the powerful Spirit King. Now, lest you think this a very modern, hippy-dippy tale, the author’s note details its long pedigree, beginning in 10th century Iraq, through medieval Europe until recent times. It is sure to spark great discussions with your children about how to treat the earth, whether humanity should be punished for how it has abused nature, and if so, what should that punishment be?
I love the concept of Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree: Exploring Trees Around the World. The book works well on so many levels: The simple but lyrical text invites children to imagine themselves climbing in trees, hanging like monkeys or watching caterpillars, just as the diverse children in the book are doing. The twist is that each child in the book sits in a different tree, native to their country – from Cambodia to California. The trees are illustrated in beautiful detail, and it is easy to imagine oneself perched atop each one of them, looking down on the lively scenes below. Young readers can easily see the strong thread connecting all of us as we enjoy our natural world.
The beautiful book On the Day You Were Born, along with its companion On the Night You Were Born were given to us when we were expecting Monkey. Both books are beautiful imaginings of the joy a child’s birth brings to the natural world. Animals carry the news from one species to the other until they all are celebrating, including polar bears that stay up all night dancing (this is why they always seem so sleepy at the zoo!) The earth also pledges to hold the child in place with gravity, and the sun promises to bring a cheerful face to it each day. These are wonderful stories to help your little one see himself as a vital part of a loving universe, which watches over him with great joy and care.
We really enjoyed reading City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. I love that this book shows about how you can appreciate nature wherever you live, even in a big city. It is also about the power of coming together as a community and the importance of beauty to the life of the spirit. Through one girl’s passion and confidence, neighbors work together to transform an abandoned lot into a beautiful garden, and in the process re-awaken kindness in even the most unlikely people.
Giselle Shardlow of Kids Yoga Stories has a number of wonderful children’s books that gently teach about the importance of caring for the natural world. Sophia’s Jungle Adventure, for example, is the story of a young girl who travels to Costa Rica and in the process learns about how the natural habitat there is being threatened by humans. (Read my full review). In Luke’s Beach Day, a boy and his classmates visit an Australian beach only to discover signs of destruction by other people. In both books, young readers are empowered to follow in the footsteps of the protagonists as they pick up litter and vow to raise awareness about the importance of protecting wildlife. Plus, they learn really cool yoga moves in the process!
Interestingly, many children’s books about environmentalism (including Sophia’s Jungle Adventure above) are set in Costa Rica, which has a well-deserved reputation for environmentalism. Morpha: A Rain Forest Story by Michael Tennyson is a gorgeously illustrated book that follows the life of a young Blue Morpho butterfly as it learns to navigate the perils of the rain forest, including humans. See my list of children’s books about Costa Rica for more great books about caring for the natural world.
Set in Vietnam just after the war, Grandfather’s Dream by Holly Keller is a beautiful tale of faith in the power of the natural world to heal itself and the importance of our role in giving it space to do so. Nam’s grandfather believes that the cranes, who left their village when the wetlands were destroyed, will return with the season’s floods now that the fighting has ending. But if they do not, the land that he has set aside for them will be turned into farmland. It is Nam who discovers the birds’ long-awaited return, bringing joy to his grandfather and beginning the process of healing the wounds of war in their village.
Finally, the charming book from Lee & Low, I Know the River Knows My Name by Maya Christina Gonzalez, shows a young girl’s relationship with the river through the changing seasons of the year. Whenever she arrives, the river greets her, and the two friends always take care of each other. (Read my full review).
Below is the next installment in the popular series on Random Acts of Kindness. Each month, a blogger shares the random acts of kindness they have committed with their little ones. You can visit the Random Acts of Kindness page to see previous installments of this series. You can also follow the Random Acts of Kindness Pinterest Board. Today’s post comes to us from Jennifer of The Good Long Road, one of my favorite bloggers and a truly kind person who is making the world a better place.
Being Kind to the Environment and Each Other
I’m honored to be a part of this fabulous Random Acts of Kindness Series. I wanted to focus on Acts of Kindness inspired by Earth Day — acts that are kind to the Earth. Of course, there are the obvious things like picking up trash and recycling, but I also wanted to think creatively about being kind to nature/living things and connect that kindness to helping those around us. Here’s my Top 10 Creative Acts of Kindness for Earth Day!
Help Someone De-Clutter – Offer to help an elderly neighbor sort through paper clutter and shred and recycle their excess paper for them. (Every time I would visit my grandmother, I inevitably ended up doing this — piles of old magazines, catalogs, newspapers and junk mail were everywhere!)
Organize a Recycling Project and Donate Funds from Bottles and Cans to Charity – Perhaps your school, community center, gym or a neighborhood gathering place lacks adequate or clear options for recycling bottles and cans. Set up proper containers to collect those items. Let kids make fun and colorful posters that make it clear that all funds raised from recycled items will go to charity. The Corner on Character shared a great book to encourage recycling and repurposing as well as activities to go with the book that would be great for a family or school.
Commit to a Birthday or Holiday limited to Thrift Sale/Yard Sale/Reused Gift Items Only – Our family began doing this at Christmas time when I was in High School, we could only give each other gifts that were purchased at resale or yard sales. I suspect much of the reason my parents did this was to save money and to remove pressure from a high school and college student who had little money of our own to get gifts for each other and our parents. It became a tradition that we loved – often keeping an eye out many months before for that “perfect” item. Shopping in this way reduces packaging waste and limits resources and pollution that are incurred when new goods are shipped around the world.
Walk, Bike or Bus to Work and School – On Earth Day, walk or bike or take a bus to school, work, the gym or the store instead of driving. See if you can commit to doing this once a week – swapping out driving with a more ecological mode of transportation. Perhaps one day will turn into two! If you’re a two-car family, you might discover you can manage with just one car – saving resources and money. (We’ve been a one car family in Southern California for years).
RAK someone by giving them a reusable water bottle or coffee mug – Pick a coffee loving friend or teacher and have your children pick out a reusable coffee mug or iced coffee drink container to give them as a surprise RAK Gift! Or, if you know someone who often has a plastic bottle of water with them, RAK them with a reusable water bottle.
Visit your Local Farmer’s Market – Buying produce or other items (like goat cheese or honey) from a farmer at a local farmer’s market is a wonderful act of kindness for that farmer and for the Earth. Typically, items at farmer’s markets are often grown in much more sustainable ways than conventional produce. Plus, less resources are spent getting those items from Point A to Point B as almost every item sold at a Farmer’s Market will be locally grown. Farmer’s Markets also offer amazing opportunities for children to learn about fruits and vegetables. ALLterNATIVE Learning recently shared a great post about taking kids to the Farmer’s Market.
Host a Local Food Party – Invite friends over for a unique dinner party – local food only. Ask each guest to bring one local food item. Again, buying locally is kind to the Earth because of the pollutants and resources that are saved because of minimal transport needs. Plus, breaking bread with friends is one of my favorite acts of kindness.
Share Garden Goodies with Others – If you have a garden, put together a basket of locally grown food or a bouquet of flowers or herbs from your garden and share those goodies with a neighbor, perhaps someone who is housebound or on a limited income. By sharing your own locally grown items, you’ll brighten their day and are doing Mother Earth a favor too! (If you’re like me and you don’t have a garden, then pick up some extra items at the Farmer’s Market to give to a friend or neighbor).
Jennifer is a mom of two, as well as an independent filmmaker who has taught filmmaking to youth, most notably with her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp, a free film camp for Pediatric Cancer patients. She writes about her experiences with Wild Thing and Caterpillar at The Good Long Road with an emphasis on mindfulness, imagination, and creative activities related to her toddler and preschooler’s favorite children’s books. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.