Thank you for visiting the home blog of Caliso Learning, a natural science-based business celebrating the beauty and ecology of our natural environments. Our goal is to connect you and your family with nature--actually, we want you to fall in LOVE with nature!

Here you will find nature-inspired articles and posts, family activities, personal stories, resources, and more--all with the goal to connect you with the benefits of nature for family fun and inspiration! Please enjoy and let us know what you like :) Follow us on Facebook for even more resources, more frequently!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's Big, It's Bright, It's Close...It's Super Moon!

Tonight's Cinco de Mayo moon is at its closest to earth this year. The image above compares the size of last year's "super moon" to an average full moon. And as the caption above mentions, even though we might not be able to see with a naked eye that the moon will indeed be bigger and brighter (even compared to last year's "super moon"), we're sure to step outside and enjoy it's magic. 

6 Fun things to do during a full moon:

  • Take a hike. Head to a natural area, away from city lights. You'll be able to walk around easily with only the bright luminescence of the moon, offering a whole new perspective on a nature walk. Imagine a moonlit walk along a lake, out in the desert, on a beach, through a meadow, or around your neighborhood.
  • Kayak or canoe. Many outdoor companies are now offering moonlight bike rides, canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking, etc. during the full moon. Check your local area for these special monthly outings, or head out with a friend! Even  in our desert we can go kayaking in nearby Salton Sea http://seaanddesert.org/  
  • Sleep. Why take some blankets outside and fall asleep under the light of the moon. Moon nap in a hammock, or on a warm sandy beach or desert dune and connect with something greater.
  • Sketch or journal. Once a month a group of us head out to a place in the desert, surrounded by mountains and we sketch by the light of the full moon. Sometimes we write poetry, sculpt with clay, or journal. But it is always something designed to engage our creative self, and always with the inspiration of the full moon to guide us. 
  • Howl. Howl, bark, or hoot at the moon. This may feel strange, but you might be surprised at what answers you back! This is a fun one to do as a family or with a group of kids and other willing participants. Best if done in a natural area, with plenty or wild habitat around. Add it to your full moon hike. While out in the desert at night, we decided to start howling and were pretty excited to hear coyotes howling back in the distance!
  • Moon gazing and sky watching. Despite the bright light of a full moon, there are still some good sights to look for in the night sky. Practicing your start mapping, constellation finding & planet naming. Look for satellites. Best of all, use binoculars or a telescope to explore the surface of the moon, identifying geographical features from a moon guide book 
Enjoy the moon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Earth Day: Over 1 Billion Making A Difference!

Earth Day is April 22. This will be the 42nd anniversary marking the beginning of an historical push in promoting awareness and education regarding the health of our planet. Today it is estimated more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities around the world. (www.earthday.org)

The exciting thing about the first Earth Day in 1970 is in its grassroots beginnings. With seemingly no political value at the time, no money, no resources, no education, our environments were being degraded without regard to future environmental health and natural resources. It took the dedication and resourcefulness of some steadfast individuals to find a way to put environmentalism on the political map by tapping into a dedicated student energy who believed our planet to be a worthy cause. The time finally came when people became fed up with the environmental destruction and death around them and communities of concern sprouted up to became active in the name of our planet. And a movement years in the making emerged, initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson and his staff, who gave voice to those who cared enough about our planet to fight for it in a new arena. Nelson’s fight for the environment and related health hazards encouraged the public to bring the concerns of our planet’s health into mainstream politics. Later that same year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established.

“Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”

Read more of this article about how the first Earth Day came about by by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day. http://earthday.envirolink.org/history.html

Although we have a very long road ahead of us, imagine where we would be without our current standards and sanctions put in place to better protect our environment and our health. What would we be facing without environmental conscience, or the science and education which have since guided our decisions and permeated our lifestyles today? Our air quality is regulated and many pollutants have been removed, we have lead-free gas, and our waste has been more properly managed. We are moving more toward alternative energy sources. Our oceans are being protected, once endangered species are protected, some are even making a recovery--just to name a few.

But, there is still much to be done, as our population grows our planet tries to keep up. Our climate is still in peril, new species are threatened, world waste is suffocating our oceans, big business and some countries refuse to adhere to environmental laws and agreements put in place for the greater good of the planet and the health of their people.

In its beginnings, a day devoted to bringing awareness to the environment had no political value, now it is mainstream the environment has its rightful place on the political agenda. Yet there is still a vital need, an urgency for the world community to more strongly unite, to step up and take stewardship of our planet as a whole.

Much has been established and is working since the first Earth Day, and now we have to maintain that momentum and work to keep the environment front and center, for our future generations. We can do that by:

Vote for candidates you trust and have a track record for putting the environment first. Check their environmental scorecard here:  http://www.lcv.org/scorecard/ and interest group ratings via Project VoteSmart http://www.votesmart.org/issues/NA/30

STAYING EDUCATED & AWARE about the science (including how information is spun and by whom), the money players and political agendas. There are TWO sides to every study. Know who is reporting the study, be aware of sound bites/quotes out of context, who is paying for the research, ultimate agendas.

For example, if excess packaging is your beef, let the company know you will not be buying their product until they change the packaging...and then stick to that promise of action. Or know what super-company owns your favorite stores or restaurants, are they environmentally responsible?

PRACTICING THE THREE R's (reduce, reuse, recycle)
Probably one of the easiest ways to do your part in living green! Most waste services offer curbside recycling. Or choose to recycle on your own, reuse items to keep them out of landfills, reduce you waste by buying package free on the shelf or little to no packaging for shipping.

Buy from companies who do not test on animals, there are many sites that list cruelty free companies like In Defense of Animals http://www.idausa.org/facts/crueltyfree.html, Peta and Peta2 http://shopcrueltyfree.peta2.com/  

In the age of environmental friendly shopping, some companies are falsely claiming to be safe and/or green, taking advantage of green business and “earth friendly” loopholes in their labeling.

Many ways to do this including your commute to work using electric vs. gas vs. cycling, solar energy, home gardening, turning off lights, saving water, etc.

Organic food  labels  in the US are  either 100% organic, 95% organic, or “made with organic ingredients,” a minimum of 70% organic ingredients (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_certification). Know what fruits and vegetables are the most and least contaminated with pesticides, get the list here: http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214.  The best fight against this is simply buying local, go the your farmers market and see your growers face to face, ask questions about pest control. Supporting local farms reduces our overall impact on the environment and is good for your local economy!

You love our planet? Protect it. You want your children’s children to run free in nature’s playground like you did when you were a child? Protect it. Do you find refuge next to a stream or gazing up at the stars? Keep the waters and the sky clear and clean by protecting them. You want to be able to find new places where nature takes your breath away, or experience the excitement of witnessing a magnificent species in wildlands that your generation helped to protect? Keep protecting it, be a LOUD voice for the land and the animals!

These aren’t the only things we can do, but in a nutshell, we can at least live our daily lives in a way that shows we care for the earth and its species (including humans!) who depend on the balanced dynamic of a living planet.

Has Earth Day made a difference for our environment? YES! Even today? YES! But we need to be vigilant in our individual responsibilities to continue our progress. Be an environmental role model for your children. Go out in nature, let it inspire you, experience its awe, spend the night with it and let it motivate you to keep it pristine and wild.

Start with steps that are practical and easy for you and your family to ensure you will continue to do your part. Once it’s second nature, move on to bigger steps!

Make every day Earth Day now more than ever.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bike Safari

Spring is around the corner and the weather has been warming up (at least here in the southern California desert). Family bike rides are a great way to spend time outdoors together. Now is the time to plan a bike safari with your child(ren) as an afternoon activity.

Here’s how:
  • Before you go, you must plan your route. Make sure all members of your family can finish the route comfortably.
  • Do a practice run, writing down clues for things to find along the route.
  • Print out the clue list for each family member to take with them during the ride.
  • During the ride, help the little ones by telling them one clue at a time so they can concentrate on riding safely while searching for their clue (not carrying a list).
Clues can be ambiguous to encourage individual interpretations and might include things like, “something that can spray water” (interpretations might include a hose, fire hydrant, sprinklers, etc.), or something specific, “a blue gate.”

Include things that guide thinking beyond just the human presence in the neighborhood like, “material for a bird’s nest,” “food for a bee,” “purple blossoms,” or “something just beginning to grow.”

Take pictures of your finds or simply point them out to each other as you go. Below is a list of ideas for clues.

Clue ideas:

  • A plant you can eat
  • A found face
  • A pollinator
  • Dripping water
  • Something sparkly
  • Something you can hear but can’t see
  • A bird’s nest
  • Food for a hummingbird
  • A (color) door
  • A flag
  • The silliest mailbox
  • A fragrant flower
  • Something you can see through
  • A rainbow bouquet (a red flower, orange flower, yellow flower, green, blue, (indigo), purple flowers—found throughout the ride)
  • The smallest tree
Enjoy your adventure!

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Buggy Valentine

We fell in L-O-V-E with this easy and very cute Valentine’s idea found over at the Nature For Kids blog. Procrastinators unite and check out Shawna’s wonderful post along with her FREE jar graphic for you to use for your own catch of buggy Valentine’s!

Pictured in this post are my son’s Valentine’s we made this afternoon for his kindergarten classmates, using Shawna’s printable template provided in her post. We found a great Insect Tube at Joann's Fabrics. I printed the bug jar templates out—two per page—on cardstock paper. My son signed his name on each card and he helped glue a few of the bugs. I embellished each "Love Bug" with a black or silver heart, using a Sharpie. We think they turned out pretty neat :)

*Bee mine*

Happy Buggy Valentine's!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Natural Playscapes: Rock Hopper Garden

Last summer we visited the amazing Hamilton Children’s Garden. The garden is filled with playful and enticing elements throughout, with plenty of creatively designed natural playscapes and gardens perfect for spontaneous, unstrunctured play and discovery—the best kind!

One feature my son particularly loved was the “Rock Hopper Garden,” large boulders spaced just far enough for children to jump from one to another, landscaped with native, “fall” friendly plants.

Our backyard was a fairly blank canvas in need of some play-friendly and exciting space for my son to enjoy. We LOVE natural playscape designs and the rock-hopper garden was a great opportunity to create a natural area where he could have a little adventurous fun. So with some leftover large rocks in our yard (not quite the boulders at the Hamilton Children’s Garden, but worked just the same), we set out to create this nature-inspired playscape for our 5-year old.

We found this to be an easy concept to put in place, the hard part of course was rolling/moving/carrying the very heavy rocks into place. Aside from positioning the rocks and getting the rocks to place, little ones can be a great help—my son helped with ideas on placement, digging, filling and of course stamping the rocks and soil down.

As more plants get added, they will soon fill the spaces between the rocks, adding a little more to the challenge. Meanwhile, my son is happily hopping his way around an outdoor play area he helped build!

We’d love to hear what natural playscape designs you’ve added to your yard (or plan/wish to add!). Once you get the rocks, this is an easy one to put in place. If you’d like to add this element to your backyard, here are a few tips that might help :)

  • Make sure you have help moving the rocks (no sense in throwing your back out). I was able to roll a few, but my hubby helped with the rest! (Depends on what rock you have access to.)
  • I recommend digging out a shallow hole to accommodate the pointier side of the rock, backfill with the soil and stamp down. This will allow it to sit nice and stable.
  • Let your youngest test the first two rocks (for spacing) before you place all of your rocks. You don’t want them to be too far apart, but not too close either—create a little challenge that will grow with them for one or two years at least!
  • If you decide to combine with a garden (and why not?!), make sure the plants you choose are child-friendly, no poisonous plants or spines/thorns!
Let us know about your natural playscape, share your ideas and pictures!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dynamic Duos: Partner Mandalas!

Inspired by a cooperative time-filler found in Family Fun magazine, I have found partner mandalas to be a great exercise for building creative confidence no matter what your artistic ability. Something you can do with the little ones, this was a fun artistic activity to do with my kindergartner.

Each artist gets one color marker and a square sheet of paper. 

Partners begin by drawing a circle in the center of their paper, then they swap sheets and add an element to the design (a ring of dots, dashes, zigzag lines, or a more detailed element). Continue swapping and adding elements until your mandala is finished.
The photos (bottom of the post) are the two mandalas created with my 5 year old son. We both liked seeing what each of us would add and how quickly the madalas grew.

Try these alternatives! 
  • Find a area with plenty of natural materials (rocks, leaves, twigs, petals, sand, etc.) and have each partner alternate turns adding a ring using these materials only.
  • Use brown, grey, and/or black markers to create mandala designs you can transform yet again by coloring.
  • Create a family mandala during the holidays or a vacation. Leave a jar of colored pens or pencils along with the ongoing design out where family members can add their own ring related to their experience(s). You can assign each family member a color or let them choose as they go. *Try to keep colors alternating
  • Make a journal madala. During your next vacation, retreat, or as a personal journaling exercise, add a daily ring to your madala design to represent the emotion or experience(s) from each day.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Amazing Cephalopods!

Take a nature break with David Gallo, an enthusiastic ambassador for the sea and pioneer in ocean exploration, as he leads you through a deep sea and shallow water dive highlighting our favorite cephalopods like the octopus, squid, and cuttlefish!

Length 5:25 (minutes/seconds) Thank you to Caliso friend Laura H. for forwarding this clip! If video does not appear, click here to watch.

Source: www.ted.com/talks