BEST BOOKS

BEST BOOKS
I'm THRILLED to share that THE GREAT LEOPARD RESCUE (Millbrook/Lerner) has been named to the Children’s Book Committee at the Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature's Best Children’s Books of the Year list. And it earned a STAR. SMILES!Click on this photo to find out about my school visits on SANDRA MARKLE SPEAKS!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

HAVE FUN With THE LONG LONG JOURNEY

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

GAME ON!!


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 MLB.com