Yesterday, in honor of the Spring Equinox, we went to the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan to see the most incredible butterflies from all around the world!
There are over 7,000 tropical butterflies of 50 different species to wonder about there, all within a spectacular tropical conservatory. There are Brush-footed, Longwings and Swallowtails. They have a special space where emerging butterflies ,make their way out of the chrysalis and into the world, completely transformed. We never get tired of watching the process.
We found this great video (also posted below) about butterfly farming in Atlanta. Many of the butterflies they get at FMG are sourced from tropical areas in South America and Africa. What an amazing harvest they have!!
Over Thanksgiving, we journeyed out to the San Fransico area to visit some friends and get out into the field to learn more about marine life at the ocean. We are so close to Lake Michigan that it was fun to see the differences between salt and fresh water and of course the size difference of 2 bodies of water.
Introducing: The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. A place where they rescue, rehabilitate and have a positive affect on conservation of oceans and marine life through research and education.
When we first came through the doors we saw a fun little exhibit full of skins, little skeletons and… garbage. Not because the people that come in are messy, but because that’s what they’ve collected from the animals that they save. We were surprised at how large a full sized elephant seal sculpture was. I hadn’t considered how terrifying it would be to see a live group of these tremendous mammals. They are HUGE!
We quietly walked up some stairs to see the rehabilitation center. There were only about 12 seals there then, but we could only see 2 from the observation platform. April is their (sadly) busy season and they have had up to 300+ seals and other marine animals in their care at one time! It takes a TON of work and loads of fish to feed and rehabilitate these little friends. We saw the kitchen where they prepare all the food, a research lab, and my Mom went to check out the autopsy area, where they research animals after they have died. Thankfully, there was nothing there to see at that time!! WHEW!
After leaving the center, we walked down to Rodeo Beach and spent time looking at the most INCREDIBLE pebble beach and hoards of surfers. We spent much of our time looking for small, red, translucent stones that Native American folklore says if buried along with a wish it will bring you good luck! We did find a few and they are very special. They are HARD to find, but we think we are pretty lucky anyway.
Last week we were invited to tour ESPN’s Tay & J show’s radio station in Champaign, Illinois. It was VERY interesting! We listen to podcasts often and it was cool to see how much work goes into making a show. First, there are the hosts. Then, there are the support people… the people who are answering questions, tweets and getting information for the hosts while they are on the air. Ever wonder how guests on a radio show ‘just happen to be available’ at just the right time? That is the magic of the behind the scenes people! There were several rooms – the main broadcasting room, the support people room (with a connecting window) and an editing room for the segments that are assembled from the live footage. We were surprised that the show was broadcast from a relatively small space. We were also quite surprised that there was a Christmas tree with ornaments in one of the offices – complete with a star on top!
A big thank you to Trevor Vallese and the show’s host, Mike Carpenter for inviting us to come and for showing us around your super cool space!
The Tay and J Show airs weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 93.5 and streams at www.espncu.com
…At the Field Museum! We were so lucky to get the chance to meet with Dr. Corine Vriesendorp who is the director of their Andes-Amazon program. She is a field biologist and a plant ecologist…. and may we say – super FUN! She had just returned from a research trip in Columbia so we were extra excited that the timing worked out for us to go to Chicago (who doesn’t love Chicago!?) and meet with her.
We started our behind the scenes adventure in the Rare Book Room. We saw the Audubon Ottoman, (well, it had a cover on it, but we were able to see one of the 4 Audubon Double Elephant Folio books), a rare, historical piece that was donated to the Museum in 1969.
From there, we went to the bird specimen area. There we learned about the consistent way nature solves problems, how species are collected and how huge the Field Museum’s collection of birds is. We loved seeing all the tiny hummingbirds and the birds of paradise. They are so dramatic!!!
We also revisited the beetle room. The room where hard, detailed, and wildly smelly work gets done by flesh eating beetles, who, for a place to stay, will eat birds and mammals to the bone, ready for organizing and storing by the most patient people on earth! They sort the freshly cleaned bones, some tinier than we could believe existed, tagged them and placed them in boxes to add to their massive collection.
After our tour was complete, we experienced the Specimens exhibit and the rest of the museum, including, meeting another scientist who is an entomologist. We held hissing cockroaches, spiders and a giant millipede.
A SUPER inspiring trip to meet some amazing scientists and hear about their work. A special thank you to Corine for taking us behind the scenes of her workplace!!!
Yesterday, we went to a STEAM exhibit at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. It showcases some of the work by Sarah and Jon Vanderbeek of Sweet Spot Studio. In the room there were many dinosaur toys, cars and airplanes, and many work-in-progress toys. The intent of the exhibit was to show the development process and how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) work together to bring products to life. In the middle of the room, stood a giant word, STEAM and on it was a obstical course for a large orange ball, which once you turned a wheel the ball traveled down a ramp, through a loopy loop, up another ramp, around a large M, down through a large tube and using air under high pressure, rolling across a trigger which made a small foam rocket shoot to the ceiling! Finally, the ball rolled back where it originally started. We did this several times yipping and jumping up and down every single time! It was SO fun!!
Although fun, we only saw gender specific toys, so we would’ve appreciated just a touch of diversity! As you might know from our blog posts, we love science and building and art and math, so this was the perfect exhibition for us!
This week we have been learning more about fungus and mushrooms, how the work and how to find them in your own backyard, or anywhere for that matter! Did you know that the mushroom is actually called the ‘fruit body’? It is like an apple is to the tree it grows from. The mushroom is actually the fruit!
One of the first things we investigated was the anatomy of a mushroom: the stem, the skirt, the cap, the roots and the stuff under the cap, otherwise known as tubes, spines, ridges and gills! You can tell them apart by their names and shapes. Tubes are well…. little tubes that are not attached to the stem, but ridges are actually part of the underside of the cap! Cool! Spines are a type of tube but they aren’t hollow. And finally, the most dangerous and certainly the one you should NEVER harvest in the wild (unless you are a seasoned mushroom hunter) are the ones with gills. Usually, the mushrooms with gills are poisonous so don’t touch one if you happen to find a patch.
After learning about the fruit body anatomy, we went on a hike into the Saugatuck Dunes, through the forest looking all around for mushrooms of any kind. We had recently listened to a podcast by Radio Lab about fungus, mycelium and their inter-connectedness and interdependence on trees so we went looking with the keen awareness of how everything is connected by their proximity in the forest. If you have a chance, you should listen to that podcast – we LOVE Radio Lab!!
Check out some pictures of the mushrooms and fungus we found. It was tougher than we thought it would be! Sneaky little fungi :0)
Just to make things more interesting, we made mushrooms out of paper. We think they came out pretty cool! You can make them too – check out the DIY video here.
If you still want another mushroom craft, check this post on our blog from a few years back.
So! There you have it! We are starting to grow our own mushrooms in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back to see how it went!
NOTE: Featured Image was courtesy of: 4/bp.blogspot.com