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!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Activities Do You Do With Your Children To Encourage Love & Understanding Of Nature?

Recently a discussion on LinkedIn was started by a group member asking, “What type of activities do you do with your children to encourage love and an understanding of nature?”

Of the activities my son (nearly four years old) and I do together outside, I feel the best is when he leads the way in personal discovery and his excitement of finding flowers, lizards, birds, etc. on his own. It's so tempting for parents to point out every little cool thing we see—in our own excitement—that we don't want our child to miss! I catch myself all the time ;) But it's so important to let your child make their own discoveries and if they pass up the lizard for the rabbit poopies, so be it...the point is to get them excited about nature, and any way they can relate it back to their own world, the better! If this kind of exploration is encourged, they'll want to get back outside!

Here are some activities I shared in the discussion that we do with our preschooler:

1) Rescue bugs spiders in the house and release them outside (although we currently have
a harmless cellar spider living up in a hallway corner that we say hello to each day)

2) Caring for our desert tortoises, requiring a little native plant knowledge on what they like to eat and tortoise behavior like when they’re usually awake, take naps, how they eat cactus.

3) Playing "Pooh Sticks" in streams; also make leaf and stick boats for stream play

4) Puddle jumping, he's great at it—and we encourge it, even on the way out to dinner ;)

5) I made him a set of paint sample color swatches to practice his colors on wildflowers and other plants and rocks, which he LOVED when he was 18 mos. to about 3 years...

6) We keep fresh flowers in the house

7) "Hiking" and bug/bird/reptile watching; tracking; stick play

8) We pick up trash we come across on trails or in nature areas and parks

9) We go outside to jump around in the rain (it hardly rains here!)

10) We pay attention to the moon

11) We like ladybugs crawling on our hands

12) He collects feathers, leaves and flowers that he knows some names of, also sticks and rocks. The feathers, leaves and flowers go in a simple photobook, the rocks in a bucket while collecting, and into container for keeping (unless we're in a protected area*)

*A quick note on being in a protected area: this is an absolute prime teaching opportunity. Please respect the rule of no collecting or removing of natural items in protected or preserved areas!!! It is so important and little ones are not exempt! My son will collect 'til his heart's content, but before we've even started I've let him know that whatever he collects "lives here" and we will have to leave the pinecones and rocks behind, after we go through them and admire his finds and/or take their pictures. His fuss is brief and the lesson is so valuable, especially in the long run.

What are your favorite nature activities you do with your child(ren) or students? Please share with us :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Wild Mommies!

Here’s a fun peek at wild animal mommies from sand to sea...

Desert Cottontail mommies bear young year round (in California) or up to eight months of the year. She may bear twenty to thirty young in four to five litters. A normal litter has two to six young, which are born blind, furless and unable to care for themselves. Not wanting to draw attention to the nest, mommy cottontails return to the den site only about 2 to 3 times a day to feed her young. The young are weaned at two weeks old, and they begin to leave the nest area three weeks after birth when they are ready to live on their own! Mom considers her job over at 4-5 weeks when she leaves, available to raise another litter.

Sea lion mommies give girth to one pup a year, usually on land and usually on the same beach she was born. From the very start, moms start barking right in their baby’s face until it replies. This is so they can learn to recognize and find each other if they ever get separated in the crowded rookery full of fellow pups and single moms! The sea lion mommy plays a kind of “marco/polo” with her pup until they’re reunited. Sea lions are attentive to their pups, fiercly protecting them and carefully teaching them how to swim for their survival. Pups may nurse for up to 6 months, but by 2 months, mommy sea lions have already taught their babies to swim and hunt with them.

Coyote mommies bear one litter of 3 to 9 puppies a year, usually in April or May when food is abundant. Her pups are born blind in a natal den, but their eyes open after about 14 days and they emerge from the den a few days later. She uses a vocalization called “huffing” to call for her pups without making a lot of noise that might attract predators. Pups suckle for 5 to 7 weeks, and start eating semi-solid food after 3 weeks. While the dad helps support the family with regurgitated food, the mother does not allow him to come all the way into the den. When the pups are about 8 to 10 weeks old, the mother starts taking them out hunting as a group. Within a year, they go their own way, staking out their own territory.

Orca mommies give birth to a baby orca (or calf) on average about once very ten years. Orca moms in labor are accompanied by another orca who is there to help. A baby orca is born tail first, and at ~8 feet long it already weighs around 400 lbs. A mommy orca will help her baby swim to the surface for its first breath. Soon after, the baby learns to swim on its own, just as it will need to learn everything else it needs to survive from its mom and other orcas, without instinct to guide it. Young orcas will stay with their moms their whole lives, living in an extended family pod of aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters!

Bighorn mommies are protective of their young for many months. But within a few weeks of birth, lambs form bands of their own, seeking out their mothers only to suckle occasionally. Yearlings, often abandoned while the ewe is giving birth to her next lamb, may be seen again with the ewe and lamb late in the spring. Bighorn find safety in numbers and are ever watchful for predators such as Coyotes and Mountain Lions.

Sea Otter mommies have a strong and tender bond with their furry little pup. After four months of pregnancy, a single pup is born in the water. For the first few months of the pup’s life, it is completely dependent upon mom for survival. A sea otter pup rides on its mommy’s belly like a “little prince on a royal barge.” She gives her pup near constant attention, protecting it from the cold water, grooming the pup’s fur constantly, and nursing it. She’ll leave her pup floating for brief periods sometimes wrapped in kelp to keep it from floating away during which she forages to feed herself and replenish her milk supply. Young sea otters are usually independent by six or eight months.

Human mommies can give birth any time of year, usually to one or two young. Their babies can see at birth, and have some hair.Human mommies use several vocalizations to communicate with their babies.Their young may leave the nest after about 18 years, when they are on their own to stake out their own territory. Lucky for these youngsters, their mommies stay protective and are forever watchful for predators and other dangers throughout their offspring’s entire lives.

Celebrate your mom!

Sealion mommy and pup image: VerySherry_photos

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cactus Are Wildflowers Too!

What is the first plant that comes to mind when you think desert?

The cactus is usually one of the first plants people think of when they think of the desert. It is certainly one of the more conspicuous plants you encounter in the desert landscape. Cacti are well adapted to dry, hot environments with an anatomy and physiology that has evolved to survive such desert extremes. These specialized plants have a photosynthetic process all there own (CAM), effectively splitting the process between night and day—a mighty useful ability for reducing water loss!

Cactus are thought to have evolved in the last 30 to 40 million years and are almost exclusively a New World plant. There are over 2,000 species of cactus. Tehuacán Valley of Mexico has one of the richest occurrences of cacti in the world.

Their thick stems are succulent and full of water (undrinkable by the way), with a waxy coating to reduce water loss. Cactus ribs will expand for water storage, or shrink depending on available water. As cactus ribs and stems shrink, this creates deep valleys on the plant, providing more shade for the stems.

Cactus spines are actually modified leaves that evolved as protection. They are usually light-colored to reflect radiation away from the plant, another adaption for reducing water loss. Spines also create a lattice to shade plant bodies; interestingly for some species there is a higher density of spines on the side that gets the most sun exposure. The arrangement of spines on a cactus also help guide rain directly to the roots.

Cactus flowers are typically big and showy. They're great photographic subjects because of their large size, beautiful array of bright colors, and the fact that they don't sway in the wind like other wildflowers. You will often catch a variety of pollinators busy in these eye-catching blossoms for some fun shots!

Here in the Colorado Desert of southeastern California, many of our wildflowers have already peaked by this time of year. However, beginning on the desert floor we are now treated to the "second act" as many cactus and succulent species are now in full swing, spotting the desert landscape with bright pops of fuschia, orange, red, yellow and creamy white blossoms! This visual treat can last into June as you follow the bloom from our low-elevation desert floor to the upper, high desert blooms.

Release Your Inner Tree-hugger!

The new Side of Nature activity is added and the previous is posted here for comments! Did you give it a try? We’d love to hear your ideas, what did you end up doing with your creations?

What to do with those tree trimmings? Take the small branches (2” to 3” in diameter) and make tree cookies—no baking required! Once you’ve saw-sliced your cookies, use colored Sharpies® to write tree-friendly messages on them, tree-themed haikus, draw or paint tree images, or even write your favorite fun fact about trees. Give them to friends, wear them, hang them, use them in an art project, or get others inspired by secretly leaving your tree cookie for someone else to find :)