Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Astronaut George "Pinky" Nelson shared with me what it was like to view earth from the Space Shuttle 350 miles above the earth's surface. And one thing really struck me. He said when we draw a circle to make a picture of the earth we should take a close look. He said people usually draw a second big circle around the first to show earth's atmosphere--the air we need to live. But from space it's clear that our earth's atmosphere is as thin as the line of the circle we drew to show the earth. Once we realize that, it's clear car fumes, factory smoke, forest fires--anything we add to air--can have a BIG impact on our home planet.

So what can you do to help? Here are some ideas for recycling that can stop pollution both from factories making new things and from trash being thrown away. Besides, you're about to discover RECYCLING IS FUN!

Turn Old Newspapers into A Birdhouse

Just follow these steps and birds will soon be moving in. First, blow up a balloon and tie the neck. In a plastic bowl (or a milk jug with the top half cut off) mix a half cup white glue with a half cup of water.

Use scissors to cut strips of newspaper about 2 inches wide. Start with about 50 strips.

Check with an adult to see where it's okay for you to work because the next step is going to be messy. And definitely wear old clothes. Then, one-by-one dip strips of newspaper into the glue, wipe off any excess by squeezing between your fingers, and press the strip smoothly onto the balloon. You'll need to cover all of the balloon, including the neck so you may need to take time out to wash up and cut more paper strips. Let the balloon dry completely. Then repeat. Do this until you've built up four layers covering the balloon.

Now, find out what small birds commonly live in birdhouses in your area. Check on-line or in bird books to find out what diameter hole you'll need to have in your birdhouse for your local guests to move in. Have your adult partner use a utility knife to cut a door that's just the right diameter about 3 to 4 inches above the bottom. That will pop the balloon. So remove the balloon pieces from the inside. Then have your adult partner do one more thing.

Working outdoors, have your adult partner spray a coating of water-based enamel inside the house. (This paint is available at home supply stores). This will help make the house waterproof. Dr. Mimi Shepherd, an avian veterinarian, reports water-based enamel is safe for birds once it's been allowed to dry for several days).

Also have your partner use pointed scissors to drill three drainage holes in the round bottom of the birdhouse. And they'll need to attach a toggle bolt to the pointed end and twist on a wire loop to hang the birdhouse.

Finally, back indoors you can use a paintbrush and acrylic paint to decorate the outside of the birdhouse. Top that with a coat of varnish to make the house waterproof.

This is my drawing from the very first published book EXPLORING WINTER 
Make A Bottle Diner For Birds

Invite the birds to your house for dinner. To make this bird feeder, you'll need a two liter soft drink bottle with a screw on cap, ball point pen, scissors, string, three wire garbage bag ties (or pipe cleaners), and an aluminum pie plate.

Cut off the bottom of the bottle. Set it on the middle of the pie pan and draw around it.

Cut four large scallops along the cut off edge of the bottle. This will allow a flow of bird seed.

Poke holes in the pan on two opposite sides of the circle you drew.

Poke holes in two opposite sides of the bottle.

Attach the bottle to the pan with the ties. Twist the third tie to each of the other two ties on the bottom of the pan. This will securely anchor the bottle to the pan.

Cut off a piece of string 18 to 36 inches long. Poke two holes in the neck of the bottle. Loop the string through the holes and tie the ends in a knot. That will form a loop you can use to hang the bird feeder.
Pour seed into the bottle through the bottle mouth until the feeder is about half full. Put the cap on the bottle.

Once your bottle bird feeder is ready, ask an adult to hang it in a tree or somewhere you can easily watch from a window. You'll also need your adult partner to help you add seed to the bottle feeder as needed. Once you begin to feed the birds, they will depend on you to keep the food coming. If the weather gets cold and snowy in the winter where you live, your bird feeder may be the best diner in the area.

As you watch your bird feeder, see if you can discover the answers to these questions:

  • What time of day do the birds most often come to eat?
  • Do the birds come more or less often if the weather is stormy?
  • Do the birds usually feed one at a time or in groups?
  • Which birds chase others away? (You may need to search on-line or in bird books to identify the birds that come to your feeder.)

Shoot Water Blasters
You can turn empty plastic bottles with screw-on caps, such as water or soft drink bottles, into a kind of squirt gun--a water blaster.

First, take the cap off the bottle. Have an adult partner help you put a hole in the center of this cap. Using an oven mitt, they'll need to hold the tip of a slim steel nail (a fourpenny nail) in a candle flame for about ten seconds. Then, working over a stack of old magazines, they'll need to immediately press the hot nail tip straight down on the center of the inside of the cap. That will make a small hole in the cap.

Then you can fill the bottle with water and screw on the cap to create your Water Blaster. Take your Water Blaster outdoors and squeeze to fire. Refill as needed. Build up your blasting skills by aiming at plastic cups set on something that is about waist high.

  • How far away can you be and still strike your target? 
  • Does the amount of water in the Water Blaster make a difference to its blast power? 

From The Kids' Earth Handbook by Sandra Markle (Atheneum, 1991)
Play A Game of Jug Ball

This game will turn empty milk jugs into a great game. Collect six milk jugs and rinse them out. Use scissors to cut the body of the jug, transforming it into a scoop (like the one in the picture). Next create a ball. Use an old dishwashing sponge. Dampen it so it's bendable. Bend it in half and anchor this shape with several recycled rubber bands.

Now, to play jug ball, stand in a circle. Stand close together. Then take three steps back. Toss the sponge ball from player to player. Start by going around the cirlce. Then have the player doing the tossing call the name of the player who must catch the ball. Any player who fails to catch the ball collects one letter of the word "Oops." When all four letters are collected by the same person, he or she must drop out of the game. The winner is the person remaining when everyone else has spelled "Oops."

Just remember, for the earth's sake, 
conserve, recycle, and use it up!

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