Friday, February 29, 2008

Those Incredible Animals

The next time you're tempted to call someone a birdbrain, realize it may not be an insult! The March 2008 National Geographic has a fascinating feature on animal cognition.

Western Scrub Jays, often maligned where I live, can recall the past and plan for the future. They move their food caches if they realize another jay has seen them, and they store more food than they need in case of scarcity later.

The African gray parrot featured knew colors, shapes, and size. It was able to point out which of several items was different. It even invented its own word for "apple"--"ban-erry"--as the apple tasted like a combination of apples and cherries to the bird.

Other animals also display amazing intelligence, such as the border collie with a toddler's vocabulary, sheep that can recognize and remember faces (human and animal), and octopus that may show emotion by changing color.

And we think we're so smart!

See the photo gallery, video, and feature article at:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Word Puzzler

See if you can figure out what these words have in common.


Are you peeking or have you already given up? Give it another try . You will kick yourself when you discover the answer. Go back and look at them again; think hard.

OK . . . Here You Go . . .

Answer: No, it is not that they all have at least 2 double letters. In all of the words listed, if you take the first letter, place it at the end of the word, and then spell the word backwards, it will be the same word. Did you figure it out?

I didn't get this until I read the answer, but I enjoy such puzzles and rarely miss the Sunday Puzzle on NPR: . Sometimes I even get the answers!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cloudy CO

Cloudy Colorado did not allow me to see the lunar eclipse. I went outside several times between 8 and 9 and saw only clouds. However, coworkers told me that they could see the last segment of it when the clouds parted at 9.

Luckily, Nebraska had a clear night for the entire thing, and the Travelin' Librarian, Michael Sauers, posted his photos on flickr. Take a look if you missed it like I did:
Thanks, Michael!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Heads Up on Wednesday Evening!

An astronomy professor friend stopped by today to tell me to watch for the lunar eclipse on Wednesday. He said that the moon will rise in eclipse at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. The eclipse will last about an hour. Hope for no clouds and keep your heads up!

Here's a report from NASA:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Power of Shhhhh!

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science's health section includes an interactive exhibit demonstrating the correlation between noise and stress. You put 2 fingers in metal slots, which connects you somehow to something that triggers electric current. (I'm a writer, not a scientist!) That is connected to 4 columns containing lights. The more lights lit, the more stressed you are.

I put on headphones and listened to directions. The first column of lights went 3/4 of the way to the top. Next, the voice told me to close my eyes and breathe deeply, tuning out the sounds around. The lights in the next column went only 1/4 of the way to the top. Then the voice asked me to choose 1 of 4 scenarios and close my eyes. I chose the Saturday morning scenario, thinking that would be least stressful. Wrong! Dogs barked, kids screamed and cried, the phone and doorbell rang simultaneously. Guess where the lights were? Right! At the top of the column! Last, the voice told me to close my eyes and imagine an oceanside scene. I heard waves lapping at the shore. Breathe deeply. When I opened my eyes, the lights on the 4th column barely registered.

This exercise dramatically demonstrated the power of quiet and offers suggestions for calming ourselves when we are stressed. Take a deep breath and a shhh break. Aaaaaah!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Passionate about Reading

Last weekend I was one of thousands attending the Colorado Chapter of the International Reading Association (CCIRA Conference in Denver and one of many presenters. It's an inspiring time for people passionate about reading to convene for professional development. Many big name educators, authors, and vendors, as well as practitioners in the fields of literacy, reading, language arts, and library media gather to learn from each other. Gay Su Pinnell, Janet Stevens Susan Stevens Crummel, Marc Brown, and Ralph Fletcher just a few of the featured speakers this year.

We hear a lot about how schools are failing. It's a given, right? Not necessarily. Schools employ professionals who are experts at what they do and who care deeply about the students they teach. These people do not shun research but are informed and affirmed by it to develop creative, effective lessons. These professionals prepare their students for standardized tests, but they also do what they can to prepare them for life. These professionals know that being able to read is the key to unlocking a successful future and opening the door to possibilities in the present. You may have seen the bumper sticker "If you can read this, thank a teacher."

To learn more about reading instruction, see the CCIRA web site and the IRA website:

If your work has anything to do with reading, consider attending next year's CCIRA. I heard that two of next year's keynoters are Jane Yolen and Patricia Polacco

And thank a teacher.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Groundhog Day

Will Phil the Groundhog see his shadow? Will spring come sooner or later? In the movie "Groundhog Day," the main character lives the same day over and over and over. If you could choose a day to relive, which one would it be?

Emily, the main character in Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town," asks to come back from death for just one more day. The narrator tells her it has to be an ordinary day, so she chooses her twelfth birthday. She sees the day unfold and is overwhelmed by how very unordinary it all is. She is distressed that no one at the birthday party understands the beauty of life, the importance of love, the courage of daily living. "It's all too wonderful," Emily says.

Today will pass all too quickly. Go out and make it extraordinary.

BTW, Phil says," Six more weeks of winter."