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  • I picked up this wonderfully entertaining and delightfully illustrated book at a Scholastic Book Fair a number of years ago and devoured it with my kids. The subtitle, “Green Thumb Magic for the Great Indoors,” says it all. It is chock full of fun gardening related craft projects and science experiments that easily answer the question, “How do things grow?” But that’s not all. There’s legend and lore about a magic turkey that planted the first corn and a mythical dragon that dropped the first peas on the ground. It is sure to inspire your child’s imagination and fascination with nature.

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  • naturally dyes Easter eggs

    Instead of using the store bought variety of Easter Egg dyes, which are usually just food coloring mixed with vinegar, here are some suggestions for all natural ingredients that work just as well.

    • Brown–outer layers of an onion, coffee or tea
    • Green– spinach or dandelion leaves
    • Orange– ground turmeric, celery seed and or orange peels
    • Blue– crushed blueberries
    • Red– crushed cranberries or raspberries
    • Pink– chopped rhubarb or beet juice

    Place eggs in sauce pan with enough water to cover them, add your “dye” and 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cook your eggs and color them at the same time. How efficient!

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  • One of the best ways to help wildlife flourish is to plant a special garden with nectar-rich flowers that will attract bees, butterflies and insects. If you don’t have a lot of room, a window garden or pot garden will do.

    The following is a list of flower suggestions.

    • Lace-cap hydrangea has lots of tiny flowers that attract bees and butterflies.
    • Lavender  has a strong scent that butterflies love.
    • Hawthorn is a shrub that attracts insects and birds.
    • Pyracantha is another shrub with berries that birds like to eat.
    • Fuchsia with its sweet nectar attracts hummingbirds.
    • Buddleia often called the butterfly bush has scented flowers that attract both bees and butterflies.

    For more suggestions ask the salespeople at your local gardening shop

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  • To see what things biodegrade, try burying the following objects in separate holes in your garden.

    Materials:

    • Leafy twig
    • Styrofoam cup or container
    • An empty tin or aluminum can
    • Newspaper
    • A piece of cotton or wool fabric
    • An empty glass bottle
    • An apple core

    Make sure you mark where the holes are so you can dig them up a month later. Make a note of what objects rot and those that do not. Discuss which objects can be recycled and how  waste can be avoided.

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  • Because most of our water supply comes from rivers, reservoirs and under the ground, it often starts off dirty. To make it safe to drink, the water we use in our homes has to be cleaned at a water purification plant. Try making a water filter to demonstrate how this is done.

    Materials:

    • Two pitchers or large glass measuring cups
    • Pen
    • Large spoon
    • Scissors
    • Grass and leaves
    • Soil
    • Coarse sand
    • Gravel or small pebbles
    • Coffee filter
    • A clean flower pot
    • Water

    Spoon some small amounts of soil, sand, gravel, grass and leaves into the pitcher of water.  Stir everything together. Stand the flowerpot on the coffee filter and trace around it. Cut it out. Put the circle of coffee filter at the bottom of  the flowerpot. Fill the flowerpot halfway with sand and then add a layer of gravel. Stand the flowerpot on top of the empty pitcher. Slowly pour the muddy water into the filter. You will see that the water that runs out of the filter is cleaner than the water poured in because the filter traps a lot of dirt.

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  • This simple experiment shows you what happens when pollutants get into the water system.

    Materials:

    • Celery stalk
    • Two white flowers
    • Food coloring
    • Three glass jars
    • Knife
    • Water

    Pour about two inches of water into each jar and add several drops of food coloring. Trim the flower and celery stems and stand them in the colored water. Let them stand for several hours or overnight. You will see that as the plant drinks the water it also drinks the pollution (i.e. the food coloring) that is in it.

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  • Poisonous gases are constantly being released into the atmosphere from factories, power stations and car exhausts. When some of these gases mix with water, they make the water acidic. When these gases mix with rain clouds, they dissolve in the moisture of the clouds and form acid rain. Here is an experiment to show you how acid rain affects plants.

    Materials:

    • Three  big glass jars
    • Three  spray bottles (One will do if you mix thoroughly between waterings.)
    • Measuring cup
    • Pen
    • Labels
    • Vinegar
    • Water
    • Three small potted plants, ones you can allow to die.

    Fill one jar with one cup of water and label “water”. Fill one jar 1/4 cup full with vinegar and 3/4 cup full of water and label “slightly acid”. Fill one jar with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vinegar and label “stronger acid.” Label each of the potted plants “water”, “slightly acid” and “stronger acid”. Stand the plants in a row. Every day water and spray each one with the mixture from the jar that matches its label.

    Wait a week and see what happens. What happens to the plant that receives only water? And what happens to the plants that get the acidic water? Make a record to see how long it takes the plants watered with the stronger acid to die.

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  • In anticipation of Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, I will be featuring Earth Awareness Activities every day until then. These are great projects to do with children at home or at school that help raise awareness about our most prescious resources– the air, the water, the land and our children.

    How Dirty is Your Air?

    Materials:

    • Seven glass- jar lids or bottle caps
    • Large piece of white cardboard
    • Marking pen
    • Labels

    Write numbers one to seven on the cardboard. Leave enough space to be able to cover each number with a lid. Stick labels onto the jar lids and number them from one to seven. Lay the jar lids on the cardboard, matching the numbers. Put the cardboard and lids outside in a sheltered spot. At the end of the first day, take away lid number one. Each day take away one more lid. At the end of a week, take away the last lid. You can see how dirty the air is if the patches where the first lids were are darker than the others.

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