Exploring Nature

Some environment related activities for kids
Compiled by

Dr. Rakesh Mohan Hallen

Exploring Trees

Have you ever taken a ride in a car on a hot day? Then did you notice that it feels cooler when you go down a shady street than when you are out in the sun? Is the temperature there really lower? On a hot day, you can measure the temperature under a tree and out in a sunny area (make sure you keep sunlight from shining right on the thermometer because this gives a false reading). Imagine a world without trees! Apples and coconut and mangoes all grow on trees! Trees are the homes of many birds and they produce tons of oxygen too.

Would you like to explore about trees? Yes? carry on! As a first step, look at a tree. Really look at it. Feel its bark. Lie on the ground underneath it and look up into its branches. Stand leaning against it and wrap your arms around it. Put you chin against the bark, look up and imagine you are an ant walking up the tree. Watch the branches on a windy day. Isn't a tree amazing? While traveling from one city to another you must have seen many trees on the way. In fact the number of kinds of trees found on the Earth is very large. Do you know this number? How about trying to get familiar with them? Trees, like human beings, can be of different kinds. Each kind has a name, just like an Indian can be a Malyalee, Tamilian, Bihari or Mizo. To see what different kinds of tree and look like, visit this Website, it contains images of about a hundred kinds.

But identifying all the trees is a Herculean task, one can at best get familiar with a few one comes across often. How to identify a tree? A tree can be identified by its fruits, its flowers, its leaves or its height. Thus, you can identify a fruit bearing tree if it is loaded with a fruit that you can recognize. Similar is the case with flowers. Then some trees are very conspicuous because of their height or shape, for example, you cannot forget the shape of a banana tree or the height of an Eucalyptus tree. For some photos of trees common in India visit the following websites:
http://www.astro.caltech.edu/~vam/abadtrees.html http://www.holani.com/Hawaiitreesphotos.htm http://zoneten.com/FloweringTrees.htm http://www.comfsm.fm/~dleeling/botany/labs/botgard/agtrip2000.html

But, how do you identify a tree when it is not its fruit bearing or flowering season.

The best strategy would be through the shape and smell of its leaves. So, every time you come across a tree you like and would like to know its name, try to collect a leaf or two from it, then you may ask people around you (your parents, teachers, relatives, siblings, friends) if they know the name of the tree whose leaves are like that. Thus shape of the leaf can help you find its name. (CAUTION: there may not be a unique name for every tree, its name can vary from one region to another, from one state to another, from one country to another.) For more information, try this website What Tree is That? A visit to this website can help you identify a tree by the shape of its leaves. It asks questions about the tree's leaf or fruit. You can also look up trees by name and see pictures and information about them. Unfortunately this website does not show all trees found in India, but some are also found in India. Perhaps you can contribute your efforts by collecting pictures of the leaves and finding the names of the tree on which they are found and submit the information to us. (we may include it on this website). To learn the intricacies involved in identifying a tree from the shape of its leaves visit forestry.about.com. Once you get interested in trees you would like to know more about them keep a record of your activity. You may also be interested in some books. Here are the names of two very resonably priced books about trees in India:
Title Common Trees Flowering Trees Author: H Santapau M.S. Randhawa Publisher National Book Trust New Delhi National Book Trust New Delhi

Keeping a record:

Make an album of the trees that you get familiar with. In this album, do the following activities: 1. Under its name draw a picture of the tree and note down where did you find it. 2. Try to find out record its approximate height, the span of its crown and age. 3. Paste in it a leaf or draw a picture of it, if the leaf is too large, do it for a part of it and mention the average size. Draw a picture of the its fruit or flower and how its products are useful for us. Finding Answers: Try to find answers to the following questions about trees 1. How far do the roots of a tree spread underground?

2. How can you determine the age of a tree? 3. Which is the oldest tree in India, what is its age? 4. Which is the oldest tree in the world? 5. Which is the tallest tree, what is its height? 6. Can you plant a tree in a pot? .......

Yes? How?

Exploring water

Looking at water, you think that it's the simplest thing around. Pure water is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. But is it at all that simple and plain? In its very deceptive ORDINARINESS, water is exceptionally extraordinary. It is almost everywhere – in air; clouds; oceans; lakes; rivers; springs or glaciers. In the five kilometer layer below the sea level on Earth, water is nearly six times as abundant as all other substances put together. Not only has it been the cause of rise and fall of great civilizations, it has also been one of the agents responsible for shaping and reshaping the face of Earth. Falling as rain or flowing in rivers, it levels mighty mountains, creates broad valleys or steep canyons by weathering the hardest rocks. Availability of water determines our economy. As steam or hydroelectric power, it drives the wheels of modern technology; it’s an indispensable ingredient in nearly all manufacturing processes, from the baking of breads to cutting steel for automobiles. Last but not the least it is the elixir of life. Life has evolved in water, and is designed around it; many organisms can live without air, but none without water. Where there is water there is life, and where water is scarce, life has to struggle or just "throw in the towel."

So what is it about water that makes it so important to us? And what is it about water that makes it water? Why do people often talk about water? Here are a few questions that can set you ON for this activity. Did you ever wonder wherefrom does the water that you drink comes, from a river; a watershed, or from a tube well? What does one mean, when one talks of water quality? What is water pollution? What causes water pollution? Do you know answers to all these questions? No? Then let's get active to learn about it all.

You must have learnt a lot about water. But, aren't you interested to know more? Visit the following websites, you will definitely find very interesting information there.
http://www.webhealthcentre.com/general/hh_water.asp http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/mwater.html http://witcombe.sbc.edu/water/waterfacts.html

Now, let's get ready to do get active. Here is a list of things you can do. 1. Find out the source of water of your city/town. No, by the source of water we do not mean the tap or the hand pump, or the water tank in the neighborhood. Go beyond.

2. Is the water that is supplied to your home treated somewhere? If yes how. In case you face some difficulty in finding this out visit the following website.

4. Do you use a water purifier, filter etc. at home? Find out what happens inside it. You may visit the following website to get some information.

In case you do not use a water purifier at home, is it necessary? 4. Is the water supplied to your home hard or soft? How can you find it out? How can hard water be made soft.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_softener http://www.pwgazette.com/howsoftenerswork.htm

5. Do you often face water shortage at home? How do you cope with it? Think, how can you help yourself. Is water conservation a viable solution? 6. Where does the water that is used in your home for washing etc. go? 7. If the water supply in your city/down is dependent on a river, find out how is the water quality affected by other cities/towns that river pass through before it reaches your city/town.
8. Find out what are the major sources of water pollution in your city/town. You may get some help by visiting the following websites. http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/Students/Water/pollutants.asp http://www.care4nature.org/ecoinfo/planet/archivewaterpollution4.htm

9. Note down the results of your investigations and share them with your parents, teachers, siblings and friends.
10. Visit the following website to discover many other activities that you can easily do with water.


Exploring Soils

Most of us, most often, tend to ignore soil – either it’s something dirty or maybe it’s something we just take for granted. Plants grow in soil, but there’s plenty of food, why then bother about soil? But, when, things go wrong with our crops, we blame the weather or an inefficient farmer. But, do you know, what is soil? Why is it important? What can go wrong? What can we do about it anyway? Don't you want to know answers to all these questions? Visit the following websites and you will be definitely wiser.
http://www.epa.gov/gmpo/edresources/soil.html http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/gpe/case2/c2m2.html http://www.fernlea.com/misc/soil.htm

Soil varies enormously from place to place and this variation is the basis of biodiversity. There are many different properties which contribute to the usefulness of soil, so different types of land use, be it farming, forests, sport fields or conservation areas, tend to be located where

soils are best-suited to that purpose. If the local soil doesn’t suit our purpose, then it can be changed. Let's then explore soils around us. When you are out on a nature walk, or even riding a car or a bus, you can see that some areas have an abundance of plants, and other areas are barren. The colors of the many soils are different, aren't they? Do you know why is it so? 1. Collect samples of the different kinds of soil in plastic bags, disposable plastic bags often used by various vegetable vendors etc. are ideal for this purpose. Label them and note down the place from where you collected it. Also note it down whether that place is fertile or barren. 2. Look up the sample using a magnifying glass, record its colour and texture. 3. Feel the soil between your fingers. Is it sticky, sharp, gritty, damp or smooth? Record your observation. 4. Are there any stones in the soil? 5. Does the soil hold water? To find that out, weigh a small sample, dry it in the Sun for a day or two and then reweigh it. If the weight after drying is significantly different from its original weight, then you can conclude that it retains water. Measure its magnitude. 6. Does the soil drain well? To find this get a funnel. If you cannot find one around you, cut a disposable bottle (cold drink bottle, mineral water or edible oil) and cut it with a knife a few inches from the top. Place a small piece of cotton in the neck of the bottle; invert it so that its mouth faces down. Put a mark on its body. Fill up your funnel till the mark with a soil sample. Pour the same volume of water through each soil sample and collect the water coming out through the soil and cotton in five minutes. The soil that drains the highest volume of water drains best. Is this soil fertile or barren?

7. Look for small insects, bits of plants in the soil. The soil that has them in large numbers has humus. Is the soil with humus fertile or barren? 8. Make a barren soil by mixing compost with it. You can learn how to make compost from the following Web Page: http://sustainable.tamu.edu/slidesets/kidscompost/kid1.html http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/328371/getting_your_chil dren_to_compost.html After you have mixed a barren soil with compost test its fertility. This activity will help you to manage the garden in your backyard better. It may also help you in case you decide to become an agricultural scientist.

Exploring the Clouds
Clouds can bring relief or misery. At peak summer time one longs to see clouds and when they arrive it is a great time to lie back and look at the sky. But did you ever wonder: How many different kinds of clouds are there? When do clouds mean that there is rain coming? Exploring clouds can be indeed wonderful. All you need is some help and guidance. To begin with let us first refresh all that we know about clouds. Clouds are nature's "sky" signs. It is possible to read clouds like a road map and know what to expect in the weather conditions. Clouds are formed when air is cooled to a temperature so that water in the air becomes visible. This temperature is called the dew point. But water vapors is not all that is needed for the formation of clouds. Dust is also needed to form clouds.

The water vapors condense on the tiny specs to make up clouds. Now let us get to know the different kinds of clouds and learn to differentiate and identify them. Clouds are classified into four main types: 1. Cumulus 2. Stratus 3. Cirrus 4. Nimbus Now, there are ten basic cloud types with names based on combinations of these words. Big fluffy clouds are called cumulus and they can be in any part of the atmosphere. Cumulus clouds look like a heap.

Special cumulus clouds which bring thunderstorms are called cumulonimbus. Cumulonimbus clouds are dark because their bases are low, but their tops can reach high up into the atmosphere. Rain can form in any part of a cumulonimbus cloud.

Clouds that are flat and look like blankets in the sky are called stratus. Rain can also fall from stratus clouds. If rain is a steady drizzle which lasts for a while, it most likely comes from stratus clouds.

Thin, wispy clouds are called Cirrus, they are usually high up in the atmosphere. Thus they are the highest of all the normal clouds we see in the sky. Their altitudes range from near ground level (in very high latitudes) to 10,000 meters in more temperate regions. They are composed of ice crystal that form directly from the vapor state at very low temperatures, since the higher air is colder. There is not enough moisture in cirrus clouds to cause rain. Cirrus clouds appear hairy.

Nimbus means rain. Any kind clouds that bring rain have the word nimbus in their name. These clouds are the same color of gray all over and bring rain wherever they go. The dark clouds we see during Monsoon season are therefore all Nimbus clouds. So let's see what we can do? Whenever, you see clouds in the sky, try to identify it by name. Keep a small diary in which you note down the date on which you see a particular type of cloud. Also note down if it rained on that day. Try your skills after some time to predict rains. However you must remember that rains can be localized to a small region, thus while you may be able to see clouds, it may not rain from where you see the clouds.

Interesting hyperlinks http://pals.agron.iastate.edu/carlson/main.html http://www.aws.com/aws_2001/schools/wx_mania/WNCWeatherManiaApr15.html http://www.ils.unc.edu/parkproject/kids/skilz/clouds/clouds.html http://www.metoffice.com/education/curriculum/leaflets/clouds.html

Make a Rain Gauge

Is it raining outside? Yes! Can you tell, how much it has rained compared to yesterday, or any other day when it rained? One can tell it qualitatively provided it the rainfall on a particular day is clearly more intense, but can it be expressed quantitatively, by a certain number. Yes rainfall can be measured and expressed quantitatively in the units of length. The instrument used to measure rainfall is known as a rain gauge. What is a rain gauge? A rain gauge is a prismatic vessel, that is graduated and that can be placed securely at a place so that it does not tumble under strong winds. Isn't the kind of cross section cross section or its area important? Why not find it yourself.

It is very very easy and simple. Collect some prismatic containers; say talc containers, glass tumblers, or some disposable plastic drinking water or soft drinks bottles.

Cut out a section that is almost cylindrical from the disposable plastic bottles with the help of a scissors (as shown in the picture at the right.

Place all these containers out side while it is raining. The plastic bottles are prone to tumble down so try to secure them against any possibility of tumbling. Bring all these containers inside your house after it has stopped raining. Measure the length of the water column in each one of them with the help of a scale. If the vessel is not transparent you can dip the scale inside. What do you find. Does the length of the column depend on the cross sectional area of the container? Can you guess why in some containers it is slightly different from that of others. From the above excercise you would be able to make an intelligent guess about the design of a rain guage and a stratergy to make one yourself. If you still want some guidance you may look up at any of the following websites.
http://www.miamisci.org/hurricane/rainmeasure.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/wear/weather/rain_gauge.shtml http://education.usace.army.mil/clubhouse/science/weather/makeagraingauge.html http://sln.fi.edu/weather/todo/r-gauge.html http://hobbyscience.com/weather.html http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/firstgarden/basics/thirsty_02.html http://www.eduplace.com/activity/rain.html

Once you have found a design that is practical and can be made easily, persuade your friends who live in different localities to make one using that design . Decide a time period and let everyone measure rainfall during that period. Compare your results. Are they exactly alike, if no, why not?

Exploring Weather

We often talk about weather and climate. Newspapers and TV channels often give weather reports. But what is weather? Weather is the heat we feel on a summer day. It’s the rain that can jam the traffic on roads or whose deficiency can lead to a drought. It’s the wind that blows leaves off trees. It's all these things and more. Weather is the condition of the air outside at any given time or place. Weather, good and bad, affects the lives of everybody—including you, your family and friends. Weather changes due to four different elements of the air. Moisture — It is the amount of water in the air. Temperature — It is how hot or cold the air is. Pressure — It is the weight of the air above a spot on the surface of Earth. 4. Wind — Wind is moving air.
1. 2. 3.

It is caused mainly by radiation from the sun. Because the Earth is round this radiation affects different areas on the Earth in different ways. Weather is the response of the Earth's atmosphere to this unequal distribution of solar energy. For example, air masses and storms help to carry heat from the tropics towards the poles. Here is a list of links to some very interesting WebPages about weather.
http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/P/planetstorm/weather.html http://library.thinkquest.org/26804/weather.html

http://www.karinya.com/wethr.htm http://www.mcwdn.org/WEATHER/WeatherMain.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/whatisweather/aboutweather/index.shtml http://www.learner.org/exhibits/weather/

There is a related term "climate". Do you know the difference between weather and climate? No? Follow the following links and you would know.
http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming/kids/climateweather.html http://www.rcn27.dial.pipex.com/cloudsrus/whatis.html http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/climate/cli_define.html&edu=elem

Talking and exploring about weather, the most important topic is of course, MONSSONS. An annual feature in our country on which our lives depend. Do you know, what is this monsoon? Monsoon is a term from early Arabs called the "Mausin," or "the season of winds." This was in reference to the seasonally shifting winds in the Indian Ocean and surrounding regions, including the Arabian Sea. These winds blow from the southwest during one half of the year and from the northeast during the other. There are seasonal changes which are particularly noticed as northeast winds prevailing in the winter in the Southeast Asia and southwest winds in the summer. They bring rain bearing clouds so important for the production of food in our country. Do you wish to know more about monsoons. Here are a few links
http://snrs.unl.edu/amet351/ogren/monsoons.html http://www.stayfinder.com/travelguide/india/monsoon/default.asp http://www.indianchild.com/climate_india.htm http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/features/weatherbasics/monsoon.shtml

Here is something that you can do to explore the monsoons. When it is about to rain, find out what direction the winds blow. Is it towards north, west, south or east. Can you now guess from where do the clouds that bring that rain originate? To find the direction of the wind you may need a wind wane. You can easily make one. The method is described on the following websites.
http://www.pbs.org/weta/roughscience/discover/weather.html#windvane http://www.kgwn.tv/weather/headlines/336216.html http://www.k12science.org/curriculum/weatherproj2/en/docs/windvane.shtml http://www.kfvs12.com/Global/story.asp?S=156627 http://sln.fi.edu/tfi/units/energy/vane.html

Weather forecasting is important because so much depends on weather at a particular time at a particular place. Can you forecast the weather in your region? How do scientists forecast weather? Want to know the answers to these questions? Yes? Follow the following links:
http://mi.essortment.com/weatherforecast_nnm.htm http://www.usatoday.com/weather/wforcst0.htm http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/forecast/forecasting.html http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Edu/RSE/RSEred/WeatherLesson5.html http://www.weathermichigan.com/u_do_it.htm http://www.asinah.net/indiaweather.html

There are many websites that report weather at major places in any country. Often they list all the four parameters of weather at a place. Below is a list of links to such sites. Visit each one of the to find out about the weather in your city. Compare their reports. Do all of them appear correct?
http://www.wunderground.com/global/ http://www.imd.ernet.in/main_new.htm http://www.cnn.com/WEATHER/ http://www.msn.com.sg/weather/southasia/default.asp http://weather.yahoo.com/regional/INXX.html http://www.andybell.ch/index_content.php? main=http://www.andybell.ch/weather_asia.htm

Exploring Stones

Guess! What is it that you see everyday...no matter where you go or where you look? It might be little or big. You might even see them around someone's neck. You guessed right! STONES! We seldom care about them. But, they can be fascinating. Exploring about them is rather easy and can be very exciting. Would you like to explore about stones around you? Yes? Here are a few tips how you may proceed. To begin with you need to know what is a stone and where does it come from. A stone is a small rock and rocks or their fragments are all around us. You can see rocks inside your house, in your yard, on your street, on a country road, everywhere you look. Statues, chalk, marble, pencil lead, sandpaper, glass, tombstones, bricks in the walls of your room, mountains, pebbles, soil, a volcano are all rocks!! Rocks are used to build homes, roads, machines, video games, airplanes, cars, and jewelry! Rocks aren't always solid. Sand and Mud are rocks. No

matter where you are you are always close to rocks and minerals. They have been on Earth for almost 4 billion years. Most rocks are made of minerals. However, all rocks are not the same. That is why rock collecting can be so interesting and fun. Every rock has its own story. A stone that you find around you can be from any of three basic rock types: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Which group it belongs to depends on how it was formed. To know, from what kind of rock is your stone from, click on its name and you will view a web page that tells you about that particular kind of rocks. Hopefully with this information you would be able to guess the kind of rock your stone is from. Now, what can you do further? 1. Whenever, you find a stone that seems interesting, collect it. 2. Find out what kind of a rock it may be from. 3. Take a cardboard sheet and fix the stone on it with a cello tape. 4. Write the name of the rock and its kind on the cardboard just above where you have placed the stone. 5. Find out where are such rocks found in India and how and where are they used. 6. Make a collection of such boards in a box. 7. Find out other interesting facts about rocks, write them on a sheet of paper and paste the sheet on the box. You may explore through internet for more information.

So, you are now interested in stones. Here are some interesting websites about stones and rocks. http://www.canadianrockhound.com/junior/minerals.html http://library.thinkquest.org/J002289/fact.html http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/expert/index.html http://www.lethsd.ab.ca/mmh/grade3c/Gr3Web/rocks_miner/indentify_rocks/identify_rocks1.htm http://library.thinkquest.org/J002289/jokes.html http://www.indian-sandstone.com/ http://www.promarble.com/html/stone_defenition.html

Exploring Flowers

Flowers are enchanting. They often pep-up our mood whether in a garden, in a flower pot or a bouquet. How many flowers do you know by name? Four, five, six or ten. Don't you feel you should know more about these enchanting friends. Why not explore them for awhile, it can be a very interesting activity? Here are a few hints for you to begin. Step 1. Find out how many kinds of flowers are there in your neighborhood. Try to find their names. Take the assistance of people around you whenever necessary. Step 2. Collect a sample of each kind. Step 3 Draw or paint a picture of each in a notebook (your flower album). In case you are not very enthusiastic about drawing take a photograph instead and paste it in your album.

Step 4. Under each picture, write down the name of the flower. In case you get to know more then one name, write them all. Step.5. Find out whether the flower in the picture blooms on a shrub, a vine or a tree. Step 6. Find out in which season and at what places flowers of that particular kind are found most often. Step 7. Observe and note down the distinctive features of the flower, that is how does that flower differs from the other flowers. Step 8. If possible find out if flowers of that kind mature into some fruit.

Step 9. Find out more information about flowers. You may visit the following websites to get some interesting facts. Can you find some other websites on your own?
http://www.cnps.org/kidstuff/pollin.htm http://www.flowers.org.uk/flowers/facts/flower-facts-home.htm http://www.holani.com/HawaiiFlowers.htm

Step 9. Try preserving some flowers by drying them. You can find some interesting ways to do so on the following webpage

Enjoy doing this activity!

Exploring Ants

Ants can be anywhere. Exploring about them can be very very interesting? You too can do it! Here are a few observations to make and a questions to answer : 1. Watch a single ant for as long as you can. Write down what it does.

2. Turn over some stones or boards in a garden, you may find an ant colony. The rice shaped white objects in the colony are pupae. What does the colony do with these when you disturb the colony by lifting the stone or board up? Can you find smaller white eggs? What does the colony do with these? Make sure you put back all rocks and boards the way they were. 3. How many different sizes and colors of ants can you find? Each one of these is a different species. Try to identify the various kinds of ants

that you find, to get pictures of various kinds of ants visit this website. 4. Are there any animals that live in your area and eat ants?

5. Look at the flowers and flower buds. Do you find any ants? 6. If there is some sandy soil around, look for small pits in the sand shaped a little like the inside of a funnel. These are made by ant lions. Look up antlions and find out what they eat and how they get their food. 7. How do ants manage to move in a que?

8. Bend a wire coat hanger into a ring. Toss it out onto a lawn. Can you find any ants inside the circle of the coat hanger? Try it again. How often do you "lasso an ant?" 9. Can you make up some jokes about ants like: Why do you find so many ants and so few uncles? Find or make up some ant jokes.

10. By now you would have answers for many questions about ants? To find answers to these questions, visit the following websites.
http://www.infowest.com/life/aants.htm http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/explore/animals/ant.html http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/explore/ants.htm

Once you have done all this try to do the following: Make an album of ants: In this album under the name of each kind of ant paste a sample. Write down where you found it and how many? Find an answer the following questions: What is the age span of an ant?

Where do ants live? When and where did ants originated? Are ants of any use to us? If you would like to have a book, here's the name and source of a book that you will find useful for this activity. Name of the Book: Ant (Nature file series) Publisher: Centre for Environment Education Ahemdabad Price: Rs 10.00 only Available from: Paryavaran Edutech, CEE, Thaltej Tekra, Ahemdabad. Here are the URLs of a few websites that can help you in this activity
http://www.antsalive.com/antfaqs.htm http://www.antcam.com/info/faq/AntsFAQ.txt http://www.antcolony.org/FAQ2.htm http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/termites/faq.htm

Exploring Birds
In a leisu rely moo d, birds are inva riabl y inter estin g, whet her you

spot them in your back yard or in a fores t retre at; whet her you see them or just hear their song s. But, most often we tend to igno re them , as a resul t they are inva riabl y

stran gers for us. We do not kno w their nam es, their habit s or habit at. Getti ng to kno w some of them can be very very excit ing. Do you want to try it? Yes? Follow on. Exploring birds is often not easy. First of all finding someone who knows names of many birds is often very difficult. Secondly, they don't stay in one place for too long for you to observe them closely and finally, while watching birds on a picnic, many times the birds refuse to come out onto a branch where they can be seen. You can hear a bird but no matter how diligently you search for it, you can't quite see it.

How, then, can one go about exploring birds? For the first difficulty mentioned above one can take the help of books. There are many books with lots of illustrations that can help you in this regard. Have you heard the name of famous Indian ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali He possessed the rare ability, among scientists, to communicate his interest to layman. His books and research papers made him an internationally recognized authority on Indian birds. One of his books entitled "Common Birds" has been published by National Book Trust. It is a nice affordable book. You can take this book as a companion while exploring birds. There is another very interesting book Published by a non profit company named Paryavaran Edutech. Its details are as follows Name of the Book: Birds, Birds, Birds (NatureScope India series) Publisher: Centre for Environment Education Ahemdabad Price: Rs 130.00 only Available from: Paryavaran Edutech, CEE, Thaltej Tekra, Ahemdabad. In addition there are a couple of very interesting websites where you can find many colour photographs of birds. For example:
http://www.geocities.com/rs_suresh/photo.html http://www.birding.com/Bird_Identification.asp http://birding.about.com/cs/identifythatbird/

As regards the second difficulty, often it is sufficient to note the character istic features of the bird to be able to identify it. For

example if a bird has long legs, its most likely an Egret (Bagla in Hindi) or a stork. But, remembe r there are many kinds of storks and egrets. Similarly, many types of birds can be identified by the size of their body, their tails, their wings, the length of their beaks; color of their body,

their feeding or drinking style and so on. Take a note any of these character istics of birds that you see a bird, it can help you to find its identity. You may visit the following WebPages to get additional help.
http://www.birding.com/Beginning_Birding.asp http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/ http://birding.about.com/library/weekly/aa020100a.htm

For the third difficulty, when you cannot sight the bird but can only hear its call, being able to identify a bird by its song is invaluable. Sometimes just knowing the species will give you clues of where to focus your binoculars to see the elusive feathered creature. You can get recordings of bird songs, or you may visit the following WebPages:
http://www.bcpl.net/~tross/songs.html http://www.enature.com/audio/audio_home.asp http://www.pbs.org/lifeofbirds/songs/ http://www.1000plus.com/BirdSong/ http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/4074/5sound2.htm http://birding.about.com/library/weekly/aa021800a.htm http://www.naturesongs.com/whatsthat.html

Here are the URL's of some websites that can help you get in touch with some organizations that promote bird watching in India.
http://www.delhibird.org/ http://www.bnhs.org/services/books_birds.htm http://www.optics4birding.com/ http://www.vedamsbooks.com/no11629.htm http://www.geocities.com/rs_suresh/

Here are a few tips. 1. Try to do this activity along with your friend/s. 2. If you decide to explore birds around your home, try spreading some grain and keeping a pot of water somewhere in the open. Birds will be automatically attracted. Stand quitely in a corner to observe them. 3. In case you are very enthusiastic about this activity, persuade your parents or teachers to organize a trip to a bird sanctuary. For this you will have to explore and find out the closest and best bird sanctuary, you cn explore that on the Internet. 4. Having a pair of binoculars often helps a lot. Try it! You will really enjoy doing this activity.

Exploring Wood

Wood is around us all the time. We get it from trees and use it for making furniture, doors, windows, tables, chairs etc. Did you ever wonder whether the wood used for making your cricket bat is the same as that was used to make doors of your house? What is the difference between the wood used for fuel and the wood used for furniture? Do you know how many kinds of woods are used for making furniture and how are they different from one another? To know answers to all such questions one needs to explore about woods. Interested? Follow on! Wood can be categorized into two groups: hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood comes from a kind of trees known as deciduous. These trees have broad leaves that they shed during a certain season of the year. Common examples of trees that are source of hardwood are Poplar and Teak. Teak wood as you would know is often used for furniture in India. Softwood comes from coniferous, or cone-bearing, trees with narrow leaves or needles that remain on the tree year-round. A common source of softwood is Pine and Yew. Softwood is mainly used as a secondary wood for the inside of cabinets, drawer sides, backs or bottoms. It is also used for making matchsticks.
Teak tree Pine Trees

But, there are many other varieties of wood besides these. To know about the various other sources of wood you may explore the following WebPages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood http://www.ran.org/kids_action/fhap/fs_wood.pdf http://www.kleanstrip.com/whatwood.htm http://encarta.msn.com/media_461518317/Types_of_Wood.htmll http://www.furniturebuying.com/pages/construction/kinds-wood.shtml http://il.essortment.com/wherecanfindi_rqep.htm http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/biodiversity/resource/good_wood_guide /wood_timber_types_o_to_t.html

Here is a small list of what you can do to explore about wood:
1. Make a list of the wooden objects that you can find around you. 2. Try to spot the differences in the wood used in making them. 3. Ask people around you to find the name of the wood used for 4. 5. 6. 7.

making each one of these objects. Collect pieces of wood of different kinds. Try to tell whether it is hardwood or softwood. Make a list of the various uses of different kinds of wood that you can find around you. Find out the places in India from where particular kinds of wood are generally available.

Here are a few questions for you to ponder about and explore for answers. What is the source of plywood? Can wood be made artificially? How?

Exploring the Night Sky

The night skies have inspired the imagination of our ancestors for eons. It told us something about our place in the universe. Have you ever been under truly dark skies? It can be an amazing experience. Can you spot the Big Dipper? Under dark skies, it can be difficult to identify even the most common constellations due to the sheer number of stars in the sky. Won't you like to explore the night sky and find out interesting facts about the stars? Yes? Here are the three steps that you need to take to explore the night sky. Step One Just Look Up Gaze straight up toward the zenith. Do you know, you are looking through about fifteen kilometers of Earth's atmosphere? Toward the horizon, you look through several kilometers of atmosphere -through turbulent gases that filter light and cause stars to twinkle. Step two Sensitize Your Eyes When you step from a bright room to the dark outdoors, your pupils widen immediately. But cells in the retina may take 15 minutes to a half an hour to become dark adapted. Be patient, and try not to look at any bright white lights. Red light does not affect this adaptation. (Think of the red taillights of a car.) So, if you need a flashlight, try using a red bulb or cellophane filter. Step three Know what to find The night sky is not exactly the same everywhere all the time! What you see depends on your location on earth, the time of day or night, and the time of year. If you know the latitude and longitude of the place

(or the name of a neighboring city) from where you are observing, you can try the following website to get an idea of what you can see.

Now, we are ready for our exploration On a clear evening in an open area away from bright stars, pick out a star, and walk around while observing that star until the star appears to touch the tip of a tree, pole, TV antenna, or some other prominent landmark. Place a marker at the spot where you are standing. Repeat, at ten-minute intervals, using the same star and sighting point. Compare marks for different stars. You will realize that there is an overall pattern to the apparent movement of stars. What do you observe? Do the stars all move together, all in the same order, or do they jump around and trade places with one another? How can we find out about that? Label a yardstick A, and drill a hole (or ask an adult to drill the hole) near one end of the stick. Label a second yardstick B, and drill a hole in the center. Fasten the two sticks together with a bolt and a wing nut. Looks like you will be making a large lower-case "T". Make a grid of 1 inch squares on a transparent plastic sheet, and attach it to one end of stick B. Fasten stick A to the back of a chair or other support. Sight along the upper edge of stick B, and adjust the support so that the moon appears to be sitting right on the end of stick B. Do not move the stick for five minutes, then sight along it again. You will find that the moon appears to change its position. ( it is visible through different squares in the grid). This instrument can also be used to observe various stars to find out if they also appear to move. I, your brilliant writer, do not know how this all works. I am trying to learn this stuff about five minutes before you learn it. I know it is really neat to look up in the sky on some mornings and see the moon on one side and the sun on the other. I don't know why that is, but we'll probably learn.

Look up the following website for some help.

Exploring the Moon

The moon is both fascinating and mysterious. We can see it almost every night, it is the biggest object in the sky. But, its shape changes every night, the shape of the Moon today will not be shape tomorrow night. Since time immemorial, people have been deeply fascinated by the everchanging presence of the silvery moon in the night sky. Temples have been erected and dedicated to her. The first calendar humankind ever knew was based on a year of thirteen months, the number of times the moon waxed and waned. Early civilizations credited the moon with profound influence on the land's harvest and the sea's tides. And perhaps no other natural object has starred in so much poetry and literature and music, and in the myths and legends of so many cultures. Aren't you interested in it? Want to explore about it? (It is not as difficult as going to the Moon) Yes? Follow the instructions below.

Do you think that the Moon can be seen everyday on the same spot every night? If your answer is yes, or you are not sure, then you must observe the Moon on a particular day and find out the answer yourself. 1. On a clear night, choose a window at home from which you can see the moon. Line up the edge of the window frame with an object outdoors, such as a telephone pole, a tree, or the edge of a building. Mark the moon's position and your position. You can do this if you get seated on a chair such that the position of the chair and your posture can be marked. 2. Note the time. After fifteen minutes, mark the position again keeping all the other factors the same. 3. If you repeat this procedure of observations every fifteen minutes, you will realize that the moon apparently changes its position. (Note: Be sure to hold your head in exactly the same position for every observation.) Now let's explore the shapes of the Moon on different days. 1. Keep a diary for this activity. It should have sufficient space for each day. Alternatively get a new notebook and mark its pages with the days of the year. 2. Observe the moon in the daytime and draw its apparent shape in your diary. When the moon cannot be seen, mark the page in the diary, along with an explanation (e.g., rain, cloudy sky) about why it cannot be seen. 3. Observe the orientation of the image, that is, in which direction is it facing. For example, in the following pictures it is facing in different directions, figure out in which direction is it facing: east, west, southeast, north-east etc.

4. Find out which direction does the Moon face in your locality. Does it always face in the same direction. From this direction figure out the location of the Sun at that time. 5. Now take a tennis or Styrofoam ball outdoors and hold it at arm's length directly in front of the moon. The sunlit portion of the ball will be similar in shape to the sunlit portion of the moon. The changes in the sunlit portion of the moon from day to day are called phases. 6. Now move the ball slowly to the right or left and note the changes. You can realize the relative position of the sun to the moon phases by extending one arm toward the sun and the other toward the moon and determining the angle on successive days. Here is question regarding the moon for you to ponder and explore "What does the phrase 'once in a blue moon' convey, how has it originated?"

Exploring Food

We all have to take food in order to remain healthy and alive. But, we seldom wonder about the food we eat. Did you ever wonder what is it in

the food that makes people fat. Why is it necessary that we must include some fruits, vegetables, pulses in our diet to remain healthy. We are taught a lot about nutrition in our schools, but how much of it do we really digest. Let us explore it all in this activity. The food that can eat can contain one or more of the following kinds of substances: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Do you know, what are they. Follow the following links to know it all.
http://www.netfit.co.uk/ffmen.htm http://home.howstuffworks.com/food1.htm http://www.daawat.com/resources/feature/nutrition/proteins.htm

Now that you know the elementary terms about food, you must also find out what kind of food contains which of these elementary substance and in what proportion. A visit to any of the following webPages can definitely help you in this venture. http://www.webhealthcentre.com/general/dn_types. asp http://www.tarladalal.com/nutritionguide.asp Let's apply a bit of our knowledge that we have recently acquired. It is very likely that the above webPages didnot include some of the food items that you eat often. But you can still work out their composition. That is how much of protein, fat or carbohydrate does a particular food item have. Can you? Why not try it? Many amongst us who dwell in big cities often eat a kind of food often known as "fast food". Do you know what is fast food, and how does it affect our health? Try searching the Net to find some WebPages and you will surely be wiser if you read through the information they provide. For example:

To explore many other aspects about food you may visit the following website


To find out what other people eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, a good begining could be the following webPage.
http://www.prof-dev.okcps.k12.ok.us/coreunits/kinderbread.htm http://www.cuisinenet.com/digest/breakfast/map_world.shtml http://gumbopages.com/world-food.html

Exploring Vegetables

Choose one food group, that is best for nutrition. Most likely, it is vegetables. Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals and have been shown to provide protection against a variety of illnesses. Do you like to eat vegetables? Or you are one of those who often wonder "Why do we eat vegetables?" Either way vegetables are interesting. Why not spend some time exploring them? But first of all let us ask "What are vegetables?" Simply put, a vegetable is basically any part of a plant that can be eaten. By any part we mean that it can be a flower, fruit, leaf, stem or root of a plant. If you eat vegetables daily do you know which vegetable is what part of a plant. No? why not explore!

First Step. Visit several vegetable vendors in your neighborhood and try to identify each vegetable that you can see there. If you do not know the name of any vegetable ask the vendor its name. Better still buy a piece of that vegetable, carry it to your home and ask your mother or grandmother its name. Ask your friends from other states of India, if they eat that vegetable and what do they call it in their language. Step Two. Make a Vegetable album. In this album on each page draw, paint or paste a photograph of a different kind of vegetable. If your family gets vegetables regularly, it is not very difficult. Just pick one piece of vegetable a day for your activity. Collect the following information about each kind of vegetable and write it down in your album underneath the name and picture of each vegetable.

1. Is it a fruit, flower, stem or tuber? 2. What vitamins are found in it predominantly? 3. Where does it come from? (some vegetables are cultivated in some neighborhood locations while others are transported from far flung areas.) 4. On what kind of plant does it grow: a vine; underwater, a

tree, a shrub? 5. What is its smallest size and largest size?

How many dishes do you know in which this vegetable is used?

Some web hyperlinks for more information and fun:
http://www.ext.nodak.edu/food/bushel.htm http://www.funtrivia.com/dir/1273.html http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetarian-diet/HQ01596 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarian_food

Rakesh Mohan Hallen

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