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With spring in full throttle, it's the time to get excited about gardening. If you plan on growing plants, you might want to consider adding some butterfly-friendly ones to the list. Even better, put in a butterfly garden. It is a wonderful project to share with kids.

Our featured adult-level book today, Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide by Jane Hurwitz has all the information you'll need to get started.

What's inside? The first part features basic information about common garden butterflies, their life cycles, and their needs. Range maps are included so you can find out which species of butterflies to expect in your area and what some of their common caterpillar food plants are.

Because the recommended species of butterfly garden plants vary depending on where you live, in Part II members of the North American Butterfly Association have written sections to suggest flowering plants and trees specific to regions around the United States, from the state of Florida to Portland, Oregon.

Overall, the book is illustrated with gorgeous, captivating photographs. It is also packed with tried-and-true practical information from experienced butterfly experts.

If you love gardening and/or love butterflies, Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide is a fantastic resource. Be inspired by a copy today.

Butterfly Gardening Activity Suggestions:

1. Create a Certified Butterfly Garden

The North American Butterfly Association encourages butterfly gardening through its certification program. To qualify, all you need in your garden are three different butterfly nectar plants and three different caterpillar food plants. In fact, look around your yard. You may already have some butterfly-friendly plants without realizing it.

Here are some butterfly-friendly plants that we've shown over the years:

Six Sonoran Desert Butterfly Garden Plants

Both queen and monarch butterfly caterpillars regularly use rush milkweeds as food.

Gulf fritillary caterpillars feed on passion vines.

Other insects do, as well.

At times, we've found painted lady butterfly caterpillars on our hollyhocks.

Adult painted lady butterfly (on lantana, a nectar plant)

Texan crescent caterpillars feed on a plant called Arizona foldwing, Dicliptera resupinata.

Citrus trees (orange, lemon grapefruit) attract numerous giant swallowtails. Their larvae are called orange dog caterpillars.

Check our butterflies category for many more posts about butterflies and plants. (We feature many different moths, too.)

2. Participate in a Butterfly Citizen Science Project

Check online for butterfly citizen science projects near you. Currently SciStarter lists 23 projects, such as:

If you decide to participate, we'd love to hear how it goes.

More Information:

Here at Growing with Science blog, we have other posts about butterfly gardening.

butterfly gardening week
Start with Butterfly Gardening with Children - which has links to a week of butterfly gardening posts, including Five great nectar plants for butterflies

Check out our growing list of Moth and Butterfly Books for Kids

Visit our National Moth Week 2017 post for related links and information.

Intrigued by the Butterfly Gardening book? If you visit the Princeton University Press website, they offer a PDF of Chapter 1

Publisher: Princeton University Press; Flexibound edition (April 10, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0691170347
ISBN-13: 978-0691170343

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representative for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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For STEM Friday, we are highlighting the middle grade title Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson.

At first the link between exploring the oceans and exploring space might not seem obvious, but the pioneering men and women who add to our understanding of both regions face similar challenges. Lack of oxygen, cold, darkness, and pressure extremes are just some of the trials they have to overcome.

In addition to loads of information about what exploring space and the deep oceans is all about, the book also explains some of the key science concepts:

  • Gravity and microgravity (in space)
  • Buoyancy and density
  • Pressure and temperature
  • Topography

Chapter 3 compares living inside a space habitat like the International Space Station (ISS) and and underwater habitat. Readers learn the two intersect because astronauts get ready for space by training underwater at Aquarius, an underwater research center off the coast of Florida.

Chapter 4 asks and attempts to answer why do humans explore. Why would someone want to become an astronaut or aquanaut? The final chapter wraps up with what some of the discoveries have been in these two areas, and then mentions that some people have suggested the two areas are similar enough that the government agencies NOAA and NASA should be combined.

Scattered throughout the book are three hands-on activities:

  • Sink or Float
  • Docking the ISS
  • Design Your Own Space Suit

The back matter includes brief bios of ten astronauts and aquanauts, including their training and current positions, which is a great resource for children who might be interested in similar careers.

Astronaut-Aquanaut is a must have for future explorers. It also shows where a career in STEM might lead. Explore a copy today!

Related activities:

1. Investigate Buoyancy and Density with Cartesian Divers

Make a Cartesian diverat Science Bob -- has different materials to try and has more suggestions for making a Cartesian diver demonstration a true experiment.

2. Try some astronaut food to accompany the book

It is relatively easy to find novelty astronaut food online, such as:

Astronaut Ice Cream Neapolitan, Mint, Cookies & Cream, Sandwich and Chocolate Chip Freeze Dried Food PACK OF 5

 

Learn more about the book and author at Nonfiction Monday blog

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (January 9, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426328672
ISBN-13: 978-1426328671

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representative for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

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For STEM Friday we have a 2018 AAAS Subaru Children’s Science Book Prize Finalist, Try This Extreme: 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by Karen Romano Young and photographs by Matthew Rakola.

What is extreme about this book? It explores extreme temperatures (for example, the effect of cold on glow sticks), extreme environments (test survival skills) , and extreme animal abilities (for example, exploring the insulating power of whale blubber). It is also extremely engaging.

As we've come to expect from National Geographic Kids, the book is illustrated with fantastic color photographs. What makes it stand out is that it features real kids performing the experiments, and includes some of their comments, plus readers gets to meet all the kid scientists on pages 10 and 11. Seeing their peers doing the experiments draws kids in and empowers them to try some themselves.

The back matter includes all the science standards for each experiment, plus a very handy index.

For busy parent and educators, Try This! Extreme could be a real life saver. With clear step-by-step instructions and using easy-to-obtain materials, children can take the lead with these projects. Plus, it is super cool!

Age Range: 10 and up
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (September 26, 2017)
ISBN-10: 142632863X
ISBN-13: 978-1426328633

Let's do a hands-on science experiment for older kids inspired by the book:

Soda Floating and Sinking

Imagine you are working in a restaurant. Someone has filled two taps, one with diet soft drink and one with regular soft drink. Unfortunately, no one knows which is which. The store manager doesn’t want to serve the public the wrong soft drink, and the two taste similar enough that there are some questions. Should she throw out the soft drinks, or can you tell which is regular and which is diet using science?

If you know something about the density of different types of soda, you might be able to help.

Density can be calculated using the formula:

density= mass divided by volume

Materials:

  • Large plastic bin, sink, or tub
  • 4 unopened cans of different flavors of regular soft drink
  • 4 unopened cans of different flavors of diet soft drink
  • Water
  • Table top kitchen scale
  • Calculator

Part 1. Observe the density of soft drink cans placed in a large container filled with tap water.

Do you expect the unopened cans of soft drink to float, sink, or stay in the middle when placed in tap water? Given that the cans likely contain an equal amount of aluminum and fluid, do you expect any differences in how the different kinds of soda will behave?

Fill a plastic storage bin, sink, or tub with tap water. Place the unopened cans of regular soft drink and diet soft drink in the water. Observe whether the cans float or sink.

(For a quick peek at the expected results, see this video)

Did what you observed match your predictions?

soft-drink-bottles
Public Domain Photograph by Peter Griffin at PublicDomainPictures.net

Part 2. Determine the density of unopened cans of soda

  1. Turn on the kitchen scale.
  2. Make sure it reads zero (is tared).
  3. Place an unopened can of soda on the scale.
  4. Write down your data in a table like this one:density-table
  5. Record the kind of soda
  6. Read and record the mass of the can in grams.
  7. Locate the volume of the can in milliliters and record it.
  8. Repeat steps 2-6 until you’ve weighed 4 cans of regular soda and 4 cans of diet soda
  9. Using a calculator, calculate the density of each.

What is going on?

Soft drinks are actually complex mixtures containing a variety of substances such as colors, flavors, acids, sweeteners, preservatives, and caffeine. For example, soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which gives them a tangy taste. Phosphoric acid can also acts as a preservative, keeping the contents of the bottle fresh.

Which of these ingredients, if any, might explain the different densities observed? Read the nutrition facts of the regular soda and diet soda. Do you notice any ingredients that are contained in large enough amounts that they might result in the differences in density between diet and regular soda? How much of that substance is in regular soda? How much in diet?

Finally, how might you figure out which soda is which in the example described at the top?

Want more? See our growing list of children's books with hands-on science experiments at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.