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Given all that is going on in the world these days, you might not have noticed an article about insect populations undergoing "death by a thousand cuts." (Scientific article in PNASAP article carried by various outlets). Essentially, the authors have gathered 12 studies written by 56 scientists around the world showing that insect numbers are in decline.

What to do? Go out and see some insects, of course.

Even though it has been relatively cold, plus dry to the extreme, we still have bees in the desert marigold flowers.

The pollen baskets on her back legs are packed with pollen, which she is carrying from flower to flower. What bits of pollen that dribble off will pollinate the next flower she visits.

This week the honey bees prefer the fairy dusters and the rosemary plants, both of which are flowering as well. The fairy duster flower is unusual -- a puffy cluster of anthers.

The bottom line is that one way to help pollinators is to plant a diversity of flowers, especially native ones.

Do you plan to plant flowers this year?

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Today we are featuring a lovely STEM picture book that has made many of the best of 2020 lists, The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter.

This gently rhyming book about Carolina wrens building a nest follows the style of “The House That Jack Built.”

This is the bark, snippets of twine,
spidery rootlets, and needles of pine
that shape the nest that Wren built.

The text goes into detail about how the wrens gather materials to make the nest. Some of the ingredients are expected, like soft moss for a lining the inside. Others are very surprising, like draping a snakeskin on the outside (to ward off predators). After the nest is built, the story follows the eggs and baby birds through development.

Anne Hunter's illustrations are a fascinating combination of whimsical and realistic. Young readers will have fun looking for little things hidden in each page.

The back matter includes a glossary and additional interesting facts about wrens.

The Nest That Wren Built will enchant nature lovers, especially budding ornithologists. Surprise yourself with a copy today.

Related STEM activities:

1. Child-sized Bird's Nest

Let your young makers assemble their own child-sized bird nest. (This is best as an outdoor activity, although some of the materials could be used inside.)

Gather materials to create nests, using items you can recycle or compost. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cardboard strips
  • Hay or straw (pet supply or craft stores)
  • Grapevines (craft stores)
  • Shredded paper
  • Fallen leaves
  • Branches

Show the children some photographs of nests or the real thing if there are some nearby. Always leave the nests where you found them. Even if they are empty, birds can reuse the nesting materials.

This one fell out of a tree after a wind storm:

bird nest

Talk about some of the reasons birds build nests.

  • Place to raise young
  • Shelter from adverse weather
  • Place to rest

Now have the children build their own human-sized nest. They can work in groups. Young children may need some adult assistance. Be prepared for messy fun.

Note:  If you are working with a number of children, they may remove materials from the nests of others. Decide how you want to deal with this in advance. I told them that birds in nature really do take materials from other birds’ nests. Eventually they decided to leave one member of a group in the nest while the others went to gather supplies, just how birds sometimes handle the problem.

Make sure you have your camera ready. You will find there are many creative ways to make nests. Take pictures of your “birds” sitting in their nests.

 

2. See our previous post with several nest-related STEM activities

3. Consider joining the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb 12-15, 2021. Share It Science has a free bird counting printable.

4. Want to find out more? Over at Science Books for Kids, we are building a list of children's books about Animal Architects.

Reading age : 4 - 8 years
Publisher : Candlewick; Illustrated edition (March 10, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 1536201537
ISBN-13 : 978-1536201536

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. 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.

How did you do with the photo matching quiz from last week?

A. Cicada

matches the cicada nymph exoskeleton on the tree, G.

Cicada nymphs spend one or more years underground before they emerge as adults.

This queen butterfly, B, matches it's caterpillar, H.

They both resemble monarchs, which also feed on milkweeds. Monarchs and viceroys are also close mimics.

 

The insect above, C, Is a honeybee, which build honeycomb below, L.

The ladybug D, emerges from a ladybug pupa like the one below, I.

 

Finally, F, is a genista moth, which was probably the hardest to identify. It's caterpillar is K, below. They feed on a very specific host plant, Texas mountain laurel.

Hope you had fun with this challenging game.