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In case you haven't "heard," National Geographic Channel has a seven-part series coming in November called Great Migrations (see trailer below). Affiliated with the television event are a number of educational opportunities you might want to investigate.

For example, there will virtual assembly on Wednesday, October 27 with cinematographer Andy Casagrande.  Your children can submit questions about his work and/or great white sharks. You need to hurry though, because question submissions are only open through October 14. Then sign up for the assembly. You might want to check the educator's page for photos, videos and worksheets, as well.

Accompanying the series is a children's book, Great Migrations:  Whales, Wildebeests, Butterflies, Elephants, and Other Amazing Animals on the Move by Elizabeth Carney.

Great Migrations contains the dramatic, stunning photographs you have come to expect from National Geographic. Each animal is given a four page spread. The first two pages are amazing scenes in vibrant color. The second two pages are facts about the migrations those animals take that includes a map of the region where the animals occur (geography lesson).

I do have one caveat. The font on these informational pages jumps around drastically in color and size, even within a paragraph. While this is eye-catching from a design point of view, on the other hand it is a real challenge for beginning and struggling readers to follow.

If you are going to watch the series and want to have a reference on hand to emphasize points or delve a bit further into details, then this book could be a useful tool. It will be sure to get children interested in learning more.

There is also an adult book, Great Migrations by K. M. Kostyal, which I haven't seen yet.

This trailer to give you an idea what the series is like:

Isn't that stunning?

Note: Like in this trailer, I'm sure there will be some scenes of predators capturing prey, so it may not be suitable for young or highly-sensitive children.

More information:

Great Migrations: Whales, Wildebeests, Butterflies, Elephants, and Other Amazing Animals on the Move

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (October 12, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426307004
ISBN-13: 978-1426307003

and

Great Migrations by K. M. Kostyal

Any idea what this alien-looking creature is?

cicada

Cicadas are large insects with bulging eyes. This one is whitish because it has a fungal disease.

cicada mouthpart

Father’s Day marks the beginning of the cicada season here in the Sonoran Desert. The emergence of these noisy insects predicts the beginning of a change in the weather, with higher humidity and the onset of the violent rains called monsoons. Unlike the spectacular periodical cicadas, our cicadas emerge every year. They sing on and off for a month or so.

Ever wondered how the cicadas produce their loud buzz? On the sides of the male cicadas (although some females have them, too) are two thin areas called tymbals. When muscles inside pull on the tymbals, they collapse causing a click. When the muscles release, the tymbal clicks again as it snaps back.

The video of the tymbal moving in slow motion at Discovery Channel's Time Warp: Cicada Sounds is very cool.  The tymbal is the white area that is moving in and out. Too bad there isn't any sound to go with it.  Note: the short advertisement at the beginning of this video may not be appropriate for young children.

According to the schedule, the entire Time Warp episode with the cicada footage (it is called Stuntmen) is being aired on the Discovery Channel on Monday June 21 at 9:00 am. It is rated TV-PG. It might be a fun way to start summer.

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For those of you introducing young children to science, have you caught an episode of "Peep and the Big Wide World" yet? Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the premise of this television show is that three animated bird friends ask questions and explore the world as budding scientists. After the humorous cartoon segment, there is live-action video of preschoolers performing age-appropriate science activities.

I have to admit I wasn't that impressed the first time I saw this show. The simple round figures seemed a bit ridiculous. But it has really grown on me after watching a few episodes, and my tween son is definitely hooked. The characters are surprising complex for being circles with stick legs. From what I’ve seen, the television show seems to attract viewers on both sides of its target audience, both younger and older.

I am not a big fan of young children spending a large part of their day sitting around and watching television. There are times, however, when a little educational television comes in handy, like when your child is under the weather, or when you can’t get outside. You may want to use it as a jumping off point to inspire new discoveries, or kick start explorations.

The creators of this series have a great attitude about how to introduce kids to science. When asked, "What is the best way to introduce science to young children?" Peep Science Adviser, Karen Worth, responded "For young children, science is about active, focused exploration of objects, materials, and events around them. We introduce them to science by offering an environment where there are interesting materials to explore.” Read more here at the "About Peep" section of the “Peep in the Big Wide World” website.

Even if you aren’t interested in the television program, you might find the “recommended books” section useful. For each episode, they have picked two wonderful science-related books for further exploration of that topic. You may also follow the resources link from the website.

If you want to take a look at an example cartoon episode, here is a clip from YouTube.

Overall, I would say that "Peep in the Big Wide World" is one of those rare television shows for children that is able to teach science in a humorous and entertaining way.

More Resources:

"Peep in the Big Wide World" is available on DVD.

You might want to pick up some of the books for preschoolers based on the series. These books are not word-for-word rehashes to the television programs, but stand on their own. Two-year-old children seem to find them particularly fascinating.

PEEP Who’s Hiding? By Laura Gates Galvin.

Quack’s Masterpiece by Laura Gates Galvin.

Discovery Travel Pack by Laura Gates Galvin.

What’s That Sound? By Laura Gates Galvin.

A Very Good Smell By Laura Gates Galvin.

Animals and Nature Activity Book By Laura Gates Galvin.

Chirp’s Colors By Laura Gates Galvin. This one comes with a magnetic Chirp character to move around.

Please let me know if you find this information useful.