To all of you who emailed and wrote asking for more, I'm happy to give you a peek at what's coming. Click on this photo for a free activity MARKLE'S BOOK SAFARI ADVENTURE on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Okay, some places it's time for school to start again. But there is still going to be summer weather for a while even where winters get icy cold.  So here are ten things you should definitely try while you can enjoy getting outside.

1.  Make something out of mud. Even better do it after it's rained. What is that mud like? How is different from dry dirt? Is there one way it's still the same? Take pictures of what you made and send me one to share here. 

2. Play flashlight tag in the dark. 

3. Go on a shadow hunt to find the following shadows. But take an adult along because grown-ups need to have fun too:
a. Find a shadow with a bright hole in it.
b. Find the biggest shadow you can. Figure out what made it.
c. Find the littlest shadow you can. Figure out what made it.  

4. Fly a kite. But make one first. Here are sites with easy how-to instructions.

5. Make a FOOT painting. Sure, you've probably done fingerprinting. But have you ever painted with your feet? It will really let you STEP UP as an artist. Try mixing your own paints first. Here's some how-to sites to help you. Then send a picture of your art work. I'll share it on my blog. :-)!


6. Look at the world through a magnifying glass. Especially something you never thought to look at closely before. See anything that surprised you?  

7. Put on a puppet show with puppets you make yourself. Here's some sites with ideas to help you do just that.

8. Learn one constellation you didn't know in the night sky. Find out what story people used to tell about it. Then make up a new story yourself.

Here's my favorite constellation ORION. And here's a couple of sites with star stories, including ones about Orion.

Hope you have fun with these activities. I'll share more soon. And, of course, I'm always as close as reading one of my books. Like BUTTERFLY TREE. It's about a special kind of surprise that happened to me once right about this time of year. 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The Long, Long Journey is about the godwits and the amazing journey they take from their summer home in Alaska to their winter home in New Zealand. This bird's story is very special to me. For  fourteen years, I lived near Christchurch, New Zealand.  Along with other New Zealanders, I eagerly awaited the godwits arrival each year in September.

Here I am the day the godwits arrived this year.
Check out the headline--"Godwits Are Back!"

That always signified winter was over and spring had arrived.  So, when scientists tracking the birds reported they were nearing land, bird watchers rushed to the shores.  Then as soon as the first group of godwits were spotted, the news was broadcast on the radio and television.  The big cathedral in Christchurch also rang its bells.  Everywhere banners were raised and crowds rushed to the estuaries to cheer the arriving birds.

Now open the book and enjoy the story. Then have fun digging deeper with these discovery activities.

Check out the aerial view of Cape Avinof, Alaska (the godwits' starting place) by visiting this website.  Next, do a Google search to find out how many miles it is between Alaska and New Zealand, the godwits' destination.  Now, think about how you would travel from Kipnuk Airport, the closet airport to Cape Avinof, Alaska to Christchurch, New Zealand, one of godwits destinations in New Zealand.  Check airline websites to answer the following questions:

Can you fly non-stop, the way the godwits do?  If not, how many stops do you have to make along the way?

How much will it cost you to fly between Alaska and New Zealand?
The trip isn't free for the godwits, either.  However, what it costs the birds isn't money.  Read page 15 of The Long, Long Journey to find out what it costs these birds to make such a long flight.

So you learned what it costs the godwits is energy--what they get from eating and storing body fat.  Adult godwits have to double their weight between June and September.  Chicks have to both grow up and put on weight.

Just for fun, figure out what you would weigh if you doubled your weight to make this long trip.

Look at the godwit's long legs.
Such long legs help it wade in the mud to find food.
Now, try this activity to find out how the godwit uses its long beak to find and pick up food.

First, cut the top off an empty gallon-sized milk jug. Fill it nearly full of wet sand. Next, have an adult partner bury five pennies in the sand and smooth the top flat to hide the coins.  Then use chopsticks or two pencils held like chopsticks to probe the sand for the pennies. Once you find them, use the chopsticks to pluck the pennies out of the sand.

Take a close look at this picture of godwits in flight.  Look at how they hold their wings and head.

How do you think holding their head and wings this way helps them fly?

Check out what the godwits are doing with their long legs while they fly.  Why do you think the birds hold their legs in this position rather than just letting them hang down below their body.

Now, spend some time watching your local birds take off and fly. Draw a picture of one of these birds in flight.  Be sure to show how they stretch out their wings, how they hold their head, and what they do with their legs.

Just for fun, play this game to find out how godwits stay together in a flock even while flying through thick clouds and heavy rain.  Ask six of your friends to stand in a circle around you. Close your eyes and ask them to make noises one at a time.  Try pointing to each person as they sound off.  Have your friends score a point for you each time you point at the person making the sound.  Now you know that being noisy helps birds keep track of each other and fly together.

The godwits take advantage of the fact that earth's northern and southern hemisphere's have summer at opposite times of the year. They always live where it's comfortably summer and there's plenty to eat year round.  To do that, though, means the godwits have to make a Long, Long Journey.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


It's time for BASEBALL season.  So let's play ball!

Do Cold Balls Bounce Less?

In 1965, the Detroit Tigers accused the Chicago White Sox of refrigerating the balls used by their pitchers.  Should a team care if their batters are pitched ice-cold balls?  You can find out.

Slip at least three baseballs  (five is even better) into a plastic grocery sack to keep things clean and chill them in a refrigerator for an hour.  While you're waiting think about how chilling changes other things, like pancake syrup or butter.  Then conduct this test to find out the cold facts.

Work outdoors on a paved area or indoors on a smooth, hard surface (after checking with an adult). Have someone hold a measuring stick straight up with the starting end of the scale on the floor.  Drop the balls one at a time from the top of the stick.  Be sure someone is watching closely to check exactly how high each ball bounces.  Write down each ball's bounce height. Divide by the number of balls tested to find the average bounce height.

Next, spend five minutes warming up the balls using anyway you can think of to do the job safely, such as holding the balls in warm hands or even setting them on a hot water bottle.

Then repeat the bounce test with the warmed balls.

Were the warm balls better bouncers?  They should be.  

How far a baseball travels when a batter strikes it depends on two things: the amount of energy transferred to the ball by the bat and how quickly the elastic material making up the ball snaps back, pushing away from the bat.  When a bat strikes a ball, it compresses the baseball to about one half of its original diameter. Wow! Think about that the next time you watch a batter connect with a ball.

For all those inquiring minds who'd like to know how this historic event effected the game, here's the rest of the story.  Before this event, Major League home teams used to supply game balls to the umpire one at a time throughout the game. So the home team's pitchers could be given chilled balls. Worse, according to the White Sox, the Tigers baked the balls given to their team's pitchers. That meant the Tigers were slugging hot balls.  To end the squabble, today, Major League rules require the home team to supply all the baseballs to be used during the game two hours before game time.

The Balls Have Changed--But Not Much
In the past 100 years, baseballs have only changed in one way. In 1974, cowhide replaced horsehide as the baseball's covering.  Otherwise a baseball is exactly the same, today, as it always was.

There's a cork core inside a rubber ball surrounded by nearly a quarter mile of woolen yarn, a winding of cotton/polyester yarn and a leather jacket sealed with 108 stitches (not one more or one less).

The finished ball must weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces (141 and 148 grams) and be between 9 and 9.25 inches (22 and 24 centimeters) around.
This CT-scan lets you peek inside a real baseball to see its parts.
Don't you love the unique way technology lets us look at things?

Find The Sweet Spot

You'll need a wooden bat and a hammer (either a real hammer or a wooden mallet) for this activity.  Your job is to find the one special spot on the baseball called the sweet spot.  It has that name because striking a baseball with exactly that spot on the bat will make it travel farther than striking it at any other point.  That happens because striking the ball at the sweet spot causes the least amount of vibration within the wooden bat.  And that means the greatest amount of energy will be transferred to the ball.  So where is the sweet spot?

Have a partner grab the end of the bat's handle and let the bat hang straight down. Use the hammer to tap the bat gently near its fat free end.  Then repeat tapping the bat gently at points closer and closer to the handle.  Usually striking the bat at the sweet spot will produce a slightly different sound.  The person holding the bat should also feel less vibrations when the bat is struck at the sweet spot.

To be precise, measure about six inches (15 centimeters) up from the fat end of the bat.  That's where the sweet spot is usually located.

When a Major League player strikes the ball at that
spot, it's not uncommon for the ball to leave the bat
traveling 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour.

In the past, Major League ballplayers tried to make balls travel farther by swinging heavy bats.  Home run hitting king Babe Ruth regularly used a 42 ounce (1,190-gram) bat. Sometimes, he even used one that weighed 52 ounces (1,474 grams).

Today, though, players have decided they can knock balls farther by swinging faster. So they are opting to use lighter bats--ones weighing 32 or even 28 ounces (907 or 793 grams).

Play the Original Game

This is a photograph of a game of rounders being played in 1913.

Before there was baseball, people in England played a game called rounders.  Follow these directions, to play a game of rounders. Then decide how it's similar to today's game of baseball. And how it's different.

To play rounders, first vote on how many players to have on a team--any number will do.  It's not even necessary for the two competing teams to have the same number of players.

Next, vote on whether to have three or five bases.  Once outdoors, space out the bases in a circle. They can be as close together or as far apart as you choose. The pitcher will stand in the center of this circle. The batter from the opposite team will stand at one of the bases. The other players on the pitcher's team will be in the field to try and catch the batted ball and tag the batter before he circles the bases.

Now, play ball.  Each player gets only one chance at bat.  The winning team is the one with the most players to have rounded all the bases.  By the way, in the original game, runners weren't tagged out. They had to actually be struck with a ball tossed at them.

You might be interested in knowing that in the very early days of baseball, players were given four strikes before they struck out.

Check out these websites for even more baseball fun.

The Baseball Hall of Fame   Great information about the Hall of Fame players, trivia about baseball, and Frequently Asked Questions about the game.

Black Baseball League  A place to explore the period of baseball's history when black players had their own league.

Atlanta Braves  A site to find tips from pros, interviews with players and much more. I shared this team's site because I lived in Atlanta for many years and still cheer for the team.  However, you can find information about your own favorite team at

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BUZZ In For Fun!

Once children read this real-life mystery, they’ll be ready to dig deeper.  These activities will really get them buzzing!

What’s The Story?

Part 1

Pretend Dave Hackenberg is your grandfather.  Write a paragraph as if you were visiting him the day he discovered nearly four hundred of his beehives were nearly empty.

Part 2

Now pretend you’re a reporter for your local television station. Write a paragraph telling the breaking news story the U.S. is facing because honeybees are vanishing. Be sure to briefly share the following:
·      How big a problem is this?
·      Where is it happening?
·      What are the reasons scientists believe it’s happening?
·      What is offering hope for the future?

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6 Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Get The Buzz On Bees

Dig into books and search online to learn more about the lifecycle of a honeybee queen.  

Write a short story about one honeybee queen. 

Be sure to include an introduction that explains how a queen is different than the other bees in a hive. Next have a middle where something exciting happens, such as the queen leaves with workers to start a new colony or other bees trying to steal honey attack the hive. Then give your story an ending, including how long the queen lives and how many young she provides the hive every year of her life. Just for fun, draw and color pictures to bring your story to life.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Buzzzz Hunter

Go on an information scavenger hunt using only the book’s photos and captions to answer the following questions.

  • 1.     Why are cornfields not good places for bees?

  • 2.     What requirement does a hive have to meet to be rented for work in the California almond orchards?

  • 3.     Why was a tiny device glued to the back of some honeybees?

  • 4.     Why are varroa mites nicknamed vampire mites?

  • 5.     Is the U.S. President a beekeeper? How do you know?

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.2 Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Be A Bee Friend

What can you do to help honeybees? 

Read “Help Your Local Honeybees” and “Global Rescue Efforts” at the back of the book. 

Next, choose one way to help honeybees. Tell what you chose and why, in your opinion, that will make a difference. 

Make a list, in order, of what you’ll do. And, after checking with an adult to be sure your plan is okay for you to do, go to work. Your local bees need you!  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

BIG HAIRY DEAL--The Perfect Activities to go with WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!?

WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? lets you imagine what it would be like to have a wild animal's hair on your head. 

Wild Hairy You

What if you could have a wild animal's hair on your head for a day? What kind would you like to have? Why?

Write a short story about what happens to you on that day you have wild hair. Does it save the day for you? Get you into trouble? Make you wildly popular? What happens?

Now, jump into these activities to investigate human hair--what's really on your head.

Mane Line

Do blondes have more fun? No, but they definitely have more hair. If you're a natural blonde, you have about 140,000 hairs per square inch on top of your head. Brunettes have about 110,000 hairs per square inch. 

Redheads only have about 90,000 hairs per square inch. One reason for this is probably that blonde hairs tend to be skinnier than brown or red hairs.

Check out one of your hairs by gently tugging it free. Don't worry about losing this hair. Every day, you just naturally lose as many as a hundred hairs. Those are old hairs that are pushed out and replaced by new hairs.

Take a close look at your one hair with a magnifying glass. The shape of the shaft (main body of the hair) makes a big difference. If it's round, the odds are your hair is naturally straight. Wavy hair has an oval shaft. Naturally curly hair has a flat shaft.

Pulling Its Load

This is ancient rope made from human hair

Long ago, the people of Japan made ropes from human hair. They used these to lift heavy loads. 

So how strong is hair. Try this test to find out how much weight a single hair can support before it breaks.

First, check out your single hair's features. 
  • Does it feel like it can bend easily without breaking? 
  • Is it stretchy?

Compare healthy hair to hair that isn't so healthy. How are they different?
What happens to hair as it breaks?
Now, predict how many grams you think a single hair can hold without breaking: 1 gram, 2 grams, 3 grams or more.

Then test your prediction. You'll need one hair that's at least 6 inches long. If you have short hair, you'll need someone with long hair to give you one to test or visit a hair salon to ask for a test sample.

Next, Use tape to attach one end of the hair to one end of a ruler. Set the ruler on a table so the hair hangs over the edge. Anchor the ruler with a stack of books.

Use a second piece of tape to attach a paperclip to the free end of the hair. Then slip other paperclips one at a time onto the first clip so they're dangling down from the hair. Do this until the hair breaks.  Note: If the paper clip becomes full before the hair breaks, add a paper clip spread into a "V". Then add more paperclips to this clip.

Once the hair breaks, add up the number of clips the hair supported. Multiply that by 0.5.  That will tell you the grams of weight the hair supported.  To be sure what you discovered is likely to happen every time, repeat this test with two other hairs, one at a time. Then compare your results.

EXTRA fun!
OK--what if you wanted to lift a 100-gram candy bar out of a hole in the ground and you needed a rope? 

If you were going to make a rope out of hair, how many hairs would you want to use? 

Would you rather use blonde or brunette hair? Describe how you came to your conclusions

Did you notice the ancient Japanese made their hair ropes by braiding together clusters of loose strands of hair. Why do you think braiding hairs together made the rope stronger?

It's Hair Story

Here are some hairstyles that have been popular in the past. Read about them. Then pick one you think could be fun to have. Write why you chose this one.  Be sure to include why you think this would be just right for you.

Big Wigs: People in ancient Egypt who could afford to do so wore wigs. This usually covered a bald head because people shaved their heads to avoid head lice.

Corkscrew Curls: In ancient Greece, both men and women curled their hair using a hot bronze rod, the first curling iron.

Gold Tops: In ancient Rome, men and women colored their hair with gold dust or powders. 

Bowl Cut: During the Middle Ages many European men wore their hair cut short framing their face.

Pageboy: In 14th century Europe, men wore their hair rolled at the base of their neck.

Queue: In 17th century China, men shave the front of their head and twisted the long back hairs into a braid called a queue. Pulling someone's queue was an insult.

Fancy Do: In 18th's century Europe, women combed their hair over wire cages to create big dos. They decorated these with flowers, jewels, feathers and even models of things like boats.

Gibson Girl: During the late 1800s, women in Europe and the U.S. wore a hairstyle so distinct it had a name--the Gibson Girl. To create this look, long hair was combed over a pad, creating a wide frame for the face.

Bobbed: After World War I, women in Europe and the U.S. bobbed their hair by cutting it short. This was a drastic change from wearing long hair.

Beatle Cut: In the 1960s, the Beatles' shaggy hair caused a stir worldwide and created a new styling fad.

 Hair is something we all have. But it's one of those ways you can make yourself uniquely you. 
How would you describe this hair style?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Some animals can't wait for their world to be cold and icy.

Start with a winter scavenger hunt. Go outdoors and try to find one item for each category listed below. No fair using the same item for more than one category. This is great fun for groups to compete.

You might find maple seeds like these.

Try to find:
Something older than you are
Something younger than you are
A seed
Something rough
Something smooth
Something that will change in the spring
A bird feather

How wet is the snow? Find out. In an average snowfall, ten inches (25 cm) of snow melts down to one inch (2.5 cm) of water. How much drier or wetter is your current snowfall.

You'll need a can at least ten inches (25 centimeters) tall with straight sides. Try to collect your snow sample shortly after the snow stops falling. Fill your sampling can, but don't pack the snow.

Next, take the can indoors and let the water melt.

Try keeping a record of each new snowfall for the rest of the winter. Which months had the wettest snow? If you keep your tracking going, find out how one year's snowfalls compare to another.

By the way, I spent one winter at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I'd always heard that, if temperatures were below -60F (-51C) boiling water thrown into the air would freeze before it hit the ground. I had a chance to test it because that winter the temperatures dropped as low as -129F. The boiling water immediately turned into tiny sparkling ice crystals.

This is a great winter time read--don't miss it.
The Winter of the Blue Snow

Have you ever heard of Paul Bunyan? He was a giant of a man--and I mean a real giant, so the stories go. There are tales about the lumber camp he ran in the far North.
One of those is about the winter of the blue snow.

Nobody knew why the snow was blue that winter. Some say it was because it was so terribly cold. How cold was it? It was too cold for thermometers to measure. The men each had sixteen blankets to sleep under, but they still couldn't keep warm. Shot Gunderson, the head woodchopper, slept under forty-two blankets one extra cold night. There were so many blankets he got lost trying to find his way out from under that huge pile. In fact, it took him three whole days to uncover himself. The poor fellow nearly starved to death before he made it to the cook shake.

Not that eating was easy once you got to the table. When Hot Biscuit Slim, the cook, set coffee out to cool, the steaming brew froze so fast that the ice was hot. The men had to eat with their mittens on because the hot biscuits froze solid before they went the distance from plate to mouth.

Conversations around the bunkhouse were slowed down mightily that super-cold winter. Words froze as fast as they were spoken. Piles of icy words had to be heaped behind the stove because nobody could tell what had been said until the words thawed out.

About the time summer was due, the weather got even colder and the blue snow kept on falling. Snowdrifts piled up two hundred feet (60 meters) deep. Elevators were built just to carry the men from the bunkhouse to the surface. To log the trees, Paul had to scoop out holes and lower his men down to the forest.

What you don't believe this wintery tale?
Make up one of your own packed full of all the things that might happen if it was super cold and the snow was super deep.

One of the most famous blizzards ever recorded was during the winter of 1888. Thirty to forty inches (75-100 cm) of snow and ice was dump on the Northeastern United States. That was before snowplows and entire cities were helpless for weeks. Before the blizzard was over four hundred people had died.

Collect Snowflakes

While no two snowflakes are ever exactly alike (as far as anyone knows), they are all hexagone--six-sided crystals. Snowflakes take several main shapes.

If you want to catch some snowflakes, chill a clean glass slide or a small mirror in the refrigerator. Take the cold glass outside and allow a few flakes to collect on it. You may need a magnifying glass to see the snowflakes if they are very small.

To preserve snowflakes so you can even take them inside with you you'll need a can of plastic spray--the kind artists use on chalk drawings.

Chill the spray along with the clean glass slide. Carry the glass slide outside on a piece of cardboard. This keeps your body heat from warming the glass. Spray the glass lightly with the plastic coating. Let snowflakes collect on the glass. Take the preserved snowflakes inside and let the plastic coating completely dry (about fifteen minutes).

Check out this book about Wilson Bentley.
His photos of snowflakes became world famous.

Now you can examine the snowflakes with a magnifying glass or a microscope if you have one. No need to rush. These snowflakes will stay crystal-clear forever.

Go Tracking
Duck Tracks

Rabbit Tracks

When the ground's covered with snow, it's the perfect time to collect animal tracks like these.

Take along an adult partner and a digital camera. Snap photos of any animal tracks you find. Back home, look on-line to match the prints you found to the animal. Google images is one good source to check out.

While you're at it try to decide what the animal might have been doing at the time it left its tracks. Was it running or walking? How do you think you could tell? Try making tracks of your own running and walking and observe the difference. It's even more fun if you find overlapping sets of tracks from different animals. Now, make up a story for what might have happened. Was one animal there first? Was one animal chasing the other? There's a new story in every set of snow tracks you find--even if they're people footprints.

Watch Birds Share A Treat

You can get a good look at birds that spend the winter in your neighborhood, if you invite them to dinner. An easy treat to make is a peanut butter pinecone. Loop a string around the top of a pine cone and tie a knot. Next, smear peanut butter on the cone and roll the cone in birdseed. Then have an adult partner hang the pinecone where birds will be able to perch and eat.

Now, keep watch. Use bird books and search on-line to help you identify the birds visiting your bird diner. Also, answer these questions:
1. What time of day do the birds come to eat?
2. Do the birds come more on stormy or sunny days?
3. Do the birds take turns and feed one at a time? Or do they compete to eat?
4. Which birds usually chase other birds away?

Create a colorful bar graph to share the data you collect about your dinner guests.

Remember, to replace your pinecone with a fresh treat from time-to-time to keep the dinners coming back for more.