Geography Quest: Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

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It’s that time of year again! When families everywhere will be counting the birds that come to their yards in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. This year’s count takes place on February 11- 17, 2014.

Observe & Submit Your Bird Checklist

Have you participated in the GBBC before? If not, you can read all about how to get started. It’s a pretty easy gig:

  • Register or log in for the count.
  • Count birds for at least 15 minutes a day on one or more days of the GBBC.
  • You can count for longer than 15 minutes and you can count birds on as many days and in as many places as you’d like during the GBBC.
  • Read the directionsfor submitting the checklists using the checklist page or the new app.
  • Do you regularly use eBird? eBird is another website where you can submit bird sightings year round. If you are already an eBird user, please use your eBird account and your observations during these dates will count toward the GBBC. That is great information because I did not know that.

Use GBBC Data to Map The Results

Did you know you can access historical data on the GBBC? This would be a fun map making adventure.

  • There a few map options available to explore on the website.
  • Toggle between top ten lists for species and the map room to find what to map.
  • Pick a favorite bird species and map its populations in North America- or name any location.
  • Observe the data and see if you can find winter patterns or to see if any migration patterns emerge.
  • Look to see if there are patterns in the activity of a species using the places page.
  • What other types of maps could you make using the data from the GBBC? Tell us about them!

Resources for the GBBC

Need some help to keep things easy? Here are a few resources made available by the folks with the GBBC.

  • Create your own tally sheet.
  • A downloadable pdf data form
  • Birding apps recommended by the GBBC- this makes it easy to keep track of the birds you see and you can use it to log your results when the count is complete.
  • iBird Pro mobile bird guide- It’s got a thorough library of bird species information, calls, pictures, etc. This is one of the few apps I’ve paid for for my phone!
  • Merlin– this is a new app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This looks pretty good although it’s not available for Android until the spring. Bummer! It’s a bird ID guide- I saw the prototype at the lab a couple years ago and it’s fun to use.

Join us this week to count some backyard birds and submit your results to the GBBC. Our feeder needs filling before we get more snow tomorrow. We see a bunch of birds daily out there enjoying our black oil sunflower seeds. I’m looking forward to officially tallying them this weekend.


Geography Quest: Groundhog Day Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Groundhog Day Edition

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It’s that time of year again when Punxutawney Phil comes out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and either sees his shadow or doesn’t. Otherwise known as Groundhog Day, this tradition has been around since 1887 when a group of groundhog hunters named themselves the groundhog club. Let’s go questing and find out more about this weather predicting cultural event!

Find Out More about Punxutawney Phil & Groundhog Day

Geography is more than just places on the map. It’s also about culture and the people in a place. A look at United States culture would not be complete without a mention of Groundhog Day. Elementary students all over have colored and cut at least one Groundhog project in the past week, right? Of course.

  • Find out more about when the tradition of Groundhog Day started. Visit the official Punxutawney Groundhog website.
  • How about some Groundhog Day lessons?
  • A post about studying Groundhog Day from last year- this is a nice one if you need to let go of any guilt of not having made any groundhogs with your primary kids!
  • What celebration did Groundhog Day come from that was a tradition for the early German settlers of Pennsylvania? (see the FAQ on the Groundhog site)
  • Map the location of Punxutawney, PA and Gobbler’s Knob. Where do the 20,000+ people go to see this forecast?

Weather Predicting & Climate Groundhog Style

While it may not be wise to get all of our weather knowledge from our favorite groundhog, Groundhog Day does give us pause to think about when spring will arrive. While weather itself is more earth science oriented, climate is most definitely a discipline of geography.

  • Did you see this year’s prediction? By now you’ve heard that Phil saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. Definitely take a few minutes to watch and hear the 2014 official proclamation.
  • Did you know that February 5th is Weather Forecasters Day? Is that a happy coincidence or are meteorologists keeping good company with critter forecasting?
  • How much more winter? This is a great opportunity to study climate trends at your latitude and to look at averages for when spring weather really arrives. Does Phil’s prediction match the expectations in your area this year?
  • Look at differences in spring’s arrival as you travel north away from the equator. Growing up in Maryland and living about 400 miles north of there in New York state has given me a whole new perspective on spring! I also experience big differences in the amount of daylight just 400 miles north. See if you can choose places on the map and compare their spring arrivals. Eye opening for sure!
  • A set of resources on the effect of latitude on climate– from cK-12 Foundation.

Enjoy a fun look at weather and climate as you explore more about Groundhog Day and look at the bright side… it’s February and for some of you that means spring is on the way soon- how soon? Study the climate and find out!

Geography Quest: The Epiphany Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- The Epiphany Edition

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What better way to connect the Bible and the liturgical year with your studies than with a Geography Quest to match? Tomorrow is the Epiphany and the Three Kings have “arrived” to worship The King. How about some geography?

The Geography of Jesus’ Birth

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- The Epiphany Edition

While we’re at it, let’s back up a bit and record the journey of Mary and Joseph. Where did they set out from? Where was Jesus born?

  • Map their travels from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
  • There were two towns named Bethlehem. Find them on an ancient map.
  • Mark Bethlehem on the map.

The Three Kings

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- The Epiphany Edition

This part of Jesus’ story is filled with intrigue as these wise kings saw a star in the east and knew they needed to bring gifts to a new king. We read and discussed the kings and their star in our Archaeological Bible.

According to the text, these men were astrologers from a religious caste in Persia or southern Arabia called Magi. They studied astrology, divination, and dream interpretation. The star was probably not an ordinary star, planet, or comet. Some interpreters believe it was a large astronomical event.

  • Where did they begin?
  • Where did they stop along the way and who did they see?
  • How did they find The King?

The Journey Home

Joseph was warned in a dream not to return the way they had come. They had to find a new way.

  • Map the new route they took home.
  • Discuss why they needed to avoid the same route they had traveled before.
  • Where did the family seek refuge?

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- The Epiphany Edition

As this Christmas season draws to a close, the beginning of Jesus’ story is complete. Epiphany is a call to worship and a celebration of the Three Kings. Enjoy a discussion on who these men were with your students and why they were compelled to see The King.

Geography Quest: Thanksgiving Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Thanksgiving Edition

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Happy Thanksgiving! Last week’s Geography Quest was a treasure hunt which landed us in the country of England after a worldwide continent hop. This week, we are off to trace the voyage of the Pilgrim’s from their origin in England to the colony of Plymouth in the New World.

Mapping the Route of the Pilgrims to the New World

  • Name the starting point for the Pilgrims who chose to leave their home for a new land.
  • Trace their journey to the first stop they made. Where did the Pilgrims first set up a community outside of England?
  • Map the next stop. They went back to England before going to the New World.
  • Identify the journey to North America. Where did they make landfall?
  • Place the Pilgrims’ landing spot on the map.

Bright Ideas Press Black Friday Sale

Just a reminder that Bright Ideas Press is having a sale this weekend. Take advantage of 20% off of WonderMaps. It’s the only map software you’ll ever need!

WonderMaps Sale 20% off

Geography Quest: November Treasure Hunt Edition

Blog, She Wrote: November Treasure Hunt Edition

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Time for another treasure hunt version of the Geography Quest– this week’s quest will take us on a continental journey. Here we go!

Continental Treasure Hunt Clues

  1. Begin on the continent with the world’s longest river. Can you name the river & the name of the country?
  2. Next stop is the continent with the world’s largest single rock. Hint: this continent also has the world’s largest coral reef. What is the name of the rock? (It’s had two.)
  3. This continent has the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. Name the mountain and where it is located.
  4. Next name the continent with the world’s deepest fresh water lake. Can you name the lake? How deep is it?
  5. The next clue is the continent with fierce wind patterns called katabatic winds– with wind speeds up to 200mph.
  6. Find the continent which includes the world’s largest island. Hint: This continent is also home to the world’s largest fresh water lake. What is the name of the island and the lake?
  7. Our final destination- the continent with the city set on seven hills. Can you name the city?

This continent is also home to an island nation which will be the starting place for next week’s Geography Quest. Name our starting point.

Black Friday Sale at Bright Ideas Press

What would the day after Thanksgiving be without good sales on products you’ve been waiting to buy?  If you’ve been waiting for WonderMaps to go on sale, now is the time! The sale begins at 12:01 EST on Black Friday and ends at 11:59pm EST on Cyber Monday. The sale is on everything but bundles at BIP. Pretty exciting, right?

We’ve been embarking on Geography Quests at least once a week since August 1, 2013. I would love for you all to have a chance at WonderMaps on sale!

Enjoy the treasure hunt edition and stay tuned for a Thanksgiving themed Quest for next week!

WonderMaps Sale 20% off

Geography Quest: Corn Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Corn Edition

As the growing season ends and the harvest is complete, we start to look toward Thanksgiving. What a better way to prepare than taking a look at a common crop, corn. Yesterday R13 and I learned a lot about this crop and I thought it would be a great Thanksgiving themed Geography Quest.

Identify & Map Where Corn is Grown around the World

  • Corn is grown all around the world, can you find out which country is the largest corn producer? (hint: Corn Facts)
  • Color a map to show where the most corn is grown in the United States.
  • Label the corn belt on your map.

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Corn Edition

Types of Corn

Each type of corn is grown and bred for its purpose. Each type has varieties to choose from which give the corn its distinctive taste and texture. If you can get some varieties of dried corn, take a look at a cross section of each kernel to see the differences. Sweet corn, for example, is bred to be very sugary and has little nutrition to offer compared to corn used for flour or feed.

  • Identify the four main types of corn grown in the US.
  • Map the distribution of these types of corn– you can hit the majors here. Most of the time when you pass a field of corn, it’s one particular type of corn used for feeding livestock.

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Corn Edition

How Do We Use Corn?

  • Feed livestock– 99% of the corn we grow is for feeding cows, pigs, chickens.
  • starch sweeteners
  • corn oil
  • industrial alcohol
  • fuel ethanol
  • silage– find out what this is and how it’s made
  • food source for humans

How Was Corn Used in the Past?

Native Americans perfected the use of corn in their culture and taught the Pilgrims how to use it. I’ve been reading Traditional Iroquois Corn: Its History, Cultivation, and Use which is a really thorough look at the history of corn in the Iroquois culture and its influence on NY State agriculture.

  • corn cob pipes
  • beads
  • husks were used to make dolls and flowers (you must soak the husk first)
  • food source- popcorn and veggie
  • Do you know about The Three Sisters? Try and research to find out the importance of corn in Native American agriculture.

Resources for Learning More about Corn

Thanks for joining me for this week’s Geography Quest. Stay tuned for another Thanksgiving themed Geography Quest next week.

Geography Quest: Operation Christmas Child Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Operation Christmas Child Edition

It’s that time of year when Samartin’s Purse is gearing up for Operation Christmas Child collections. Does your family participate? We have for years and with the addition of some simple tracking options, I thought Operation Christmas Child would make a fun Geography Quest.

Map the Locations in the World Where OCC Boxes Are Sent

Pack an OCC Box & Pray over It and the Child Who Will Receive It.

  • Enjoy some Veggie Tales themed OCC materials- fun printouts for the kids and you can find the box labels here.
  • You can print coloring pages to send with your box. Our kids love to put their biographical information and address in hopes that maybe they’ll hear back from the child who receives the box. It hasn’t happened yet, but we keep trying!
  • How about some instructions on what goes into a box and how to pack it and make sure it gets shipped?
  • We pack a box for each of our children in the same age and gender categories as our children.
  • Pray over your boxes and the children who will receive them.

Other Ways to Be Involved

Map the Journey Your Box Took Once You Receive Notification

  • For a few years now, OCC has given everyone the option of paying online and printing labels which have a barcode on them. When those codes are scanned, OCC will track the box for you and you’ll receive an email after delivery on where your boxes were sent.
  • Map a possible journey your box took from your home to the country of destination.

Join me in sending a box of Hope to a child around the world and learn a little culture and geography at the same time. We still have time to fill boxes and make the collection week in mid-November. It’s easy to find a collection point near you. Thanks for another fun Hopscotch series!


Geography Quest: Forest Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Forest Edition

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I adore a good walk in the woods and feel so privileged to live on the edge of parkland so we can enjoy walks in the woods any season just by walking about the door. There are so many things to discover in a forest. I thought it would be an enjoyable quest to learn about “the forest”. There are so many, join me to find out more.

Identify & Map the Types of Forest Around the United States

Do you know how much of the U.S. is forested? What kind of forests are located in the U.S.?

  • This map from the USDA Forestry Service, details the types of trees in the various regions oft the United States along with the history and conversation of forests.
  • Check out this map list which shows where specific species of trees are located.
  • Temperate Deciduous Forests & Temperate Coniferous Forests are the two main categories of forest in the continental US.
  • Identify, using the online maps linked above, the various forests around the United States and make a forest map. Don’t forget to make a key so you know which forest is where.

Map Forest Types Around the World

Information on forest types is available with a simple web search. In addition, you may find that information in a world atlas.

  • Make a color and keyed map displaying the location and type of forests around the world.
  • You might like focusing on forests by continent rather than using a world map so that you can get the details on the map more easily.
  • Note the climate of a region and how it relates to the forests. Does climate affect the types of trees which grow? Are there places without trees?

Resources for Exploring Forests

Thank you for joining me these last ten days for the Autumn 2013 Hopscotch from iHN. I still have one more post in the series on the way. Stay tuned!


Geography Quest: Bird Migration Editon

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Bird Migration Edition

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Today’s Geography Quest is all about bird migration. Choose a well known migrating bird or several species and track their movement south for the winter.

What is Bird Migration?

Most of us are familiar with birds coming and going for the winter. Do you know the specifics? Take some time to learn about which birds migrate and where they go.

  • Why do birds migrate?
  • Which birds migrate? Use your field guide to learn which birds migrate.
  • Where do the birds go?
  • What signals do birds follow that tell them when it’s time to leave and when to return?

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Bird Migration

Map Bird Migration

  • Choose a favorite bird species to follow and find out their migration path.
  • Research typical migration paths for birds.
  • Compare the migration of several species. Make maps for each one and see what is similar and what is different.
  • Calculate the distance that bird species will travel to make sure they have resources.

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Bird Migration Edition

What Are Some Obstacles to Bird Migration?

  • Light pollution– the lights from cities can confuse birds because they rely on natural signals to find their way.
  • Power lines
  • Buildings– particularly tall windowed structures in cities
  • Predators
  • Wind Mills – the large ones made for making electricity

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Bird Migration Edition

Observe Bird Migration

  • Do you keep a list of the birds you see? During the migration times, see if you find new birds at your feeder or in your yard.
  • Notice the behavior of Canada Geese. They stop pairing off when they fly and fly in large groups. At the close of summer, once this starts happening, you know that they are leaving town.
  • Take notice of the birds which hang out once you notice the songbirds are gone- when the migrators are in town, we see less of our winter birds though there are always some around. I always know that common summer birds are on the move when I start seeing our winter friends more often.
  • Research locations where you can observe large scale migration. Here in NY, there is a spot north of here where raptors are known to gather as they migrate. We hope to catch that one year.

If you are paying attention, very often you will see birds while they are on the migration as they are passing through. Do you see birds you don’t normally see? Once spring is on the way, be on the alert for signs that the birds are returning.

Resources for Tracking Birds

  • Field Guides– so you can identify birds that you see. I like Birds of New York and the accompanying CD. The same author has prepared books for other states. See if there is one for your state.
  • Bird Call CDs– great for road trips and calls are a great way to identify birds nearby.
  • iBird Pro– an app for both iPhones/iPads and Android devices. This is a paid app, but I bought it on sale and it’s really comprehensive. Just be careful not to use the call too often outsides as it will distract birds from the business of survival when they respond to your fake call.
  • Winged Migration– a book and program all about birds on the move. They have a junior edition as well with a call CD. I checked one out from the library last night.
  • Planet Earth– a DVD series from the BBC which has information on biomes around the world often referring to large bird migrations. Those of you with Amazon Prime can watch instantly. Nice. We own this one and it’s been a great resource.

Pay attention to the habits of birds which stay year-round as well. Once the migrators leave, they move around. I normally don’t see cedar waxwings during the summer, but once the leaves are all gone, they will swoop down on some berry bushes next to our house. Then they are off…probably stopping by on their way to their winter territory.


Geography Quest: Europe Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Europe Edition

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Today we are making a stop on the continent of Europe. What a rich gathering of cultures we can find here! Enjoy time spent discovering the countries from the “old world”.

Take a Tour of Europe

  • Using Time for Kids Around the World you can visit this continent and see pictures along with common foods, products, and famous places. Check out some destinations from this site in the next several links.
  • England– You can find basic stats along with pictures, history, and maps.
  • France– if you click on the cities within this sightseeing map, you’ll see a picture of an attraction there.
  • Italy– on this page you can take a quiz after you’ve been through the rest of the site on the country.
  • Greece– here you can find a day in the life of a child in the country.
  • Iceland– native lingo allows you to hear the language spoken by a native of the country. What a find!
  • Map Your Favorite Destinations– in and around Europe. If you took the website tour, you will have plenty of thoughts on which ones you liked best. Save it for the future and you’ll know all the places you want to visit given the chance.
  • Map Famous European Landmarks– you might even find pictures of the iconic structures to place them on your map.

There are more European countries left to explore on the Time for Kids website, but those links will show you the various parts of the website available for each country.

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Europe Edition

Play Games to Learn European Geography

  • Ticket to Ride Europe– pictured above and mentioned in the game post, you can never go wrong pulling this one out. We like to play with the 1912 Expansion set because it has longer route tickets and there are number of ways you can play to enjoy the game.
  • 10 Days in Europe– another in the 10 Days series of games, Europe offers travelers the chance to move by foot, air, and ship as they try to set up a sequential itinerary before the other players.

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Europe Edition

Resources to Enjoy European Geography

A rather random list of books both fiction and non-fiction that take place in Europe.

  • DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Great Britain– fabulous photographs in this look at England and the British Isles. I love to have this one out on a table top and open whenever we are studying this country. You can’t help but to be drawn in.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth– Begins in Iceland to go under the ground and what the explorers discover there. The Kindle edition is free. Enjoy this title today!
  • Inkheart– and the sequels. This story takes place in Europe, mainly Italy. It’s sort of in this world with characters from books entering our world and in the sequels the characters here end up in the other world.
  • Swallows & Amazons– the series. Takes place in the Lake District of England and beyond.