Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great American Backyard Campout Blends Outdoors, Family Fun and Science

Memorial Day is the kickoff to the summer and where is the best place to spend the summer? Outside, of course, and family camping is one of the most popular summer time actitivites. On Saturday, June 25, 2011, the National Wildlife Federation is asking everyone to go camping! The Great American Backyard Campout is a grassroots initiative to Leave No Child Indoors! The National Wildlife Federation is raising awareness and also trying to raise funds for more outdoor youth programs. They are also encouraging families and communities spending time together outside camping. And while you're spending time outside - in the fresh air - why not explore nature (and science)!

So get your family and neighbors together and go camping - at a local campground, state or national park, or in your backyard. Being outdoors is a perfect time to connect to science. You can explore biology, conservation, ecology, astronomy, geology, geography, environmental science, and more.

I wrote a piece for COPUS - the Coalition of Public Understanding of Science encouraging its readers to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout and use that time to not only connect with family/neighbors but hace fun exploring science, too.  Check out the blog post (link here) and read the whole list of recommended Citizen Science and Arts and Science activities recommended.  Plus here's one I overlooked: Waving at the International Space Station as it orbits over your night time sky! The International Space Station is visible in the sky, assuming the weather agrees, so you could actually keep an eye out for it while you tell campfire stories and eat s'mores. Visit the website http://www.isswave.org/ for details on how to plan your wave. You can also follow them on Twitter @twisst for a tweet when it's visible from your skies.

Or if you're ready to sign up right now, then go for it.  You can register your 'camp site' - your family, church or community event with the National Wildlife Federation Great American Backyard Campout website (link here).  And visit my friend, Rue at Outdoor Afro for camping recommendations.  If camping is still new to you it might prove helpful to get some tips to make the night stress-free adn enjoyable.
In the meantime, let me know if you plan on participating and how.  And be sure to do a little exploration, too.  Can't wait to hear all about your Urban Camping Science Adventures! ©

Friday, May 27, 2011

My summer is off to an amazing start! Happy Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer and I plan on having a grand time. I'm doing what I love to do each summer - working the summer day camps.  I have a seasonal position as the Supervisor of Summer Programs with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources the State Parks Urban Population Outreach Program. Basically, I get paid to take church and community center groups from the city to daily field trips to nearby State Parks. I get paid to play outside!

I also have some very promising longer term opportunities in the hopper, but nothing I can announce just yet. Stay tuned. I'll be making a big announcement by the end of the summer. In the meantime I can share this....

I was named the Young Professional of the Year by the Urban League Of Metropolitan St Louis Young Professionals. It is a great honor bestowed upon me and two other local young professionals. I will receive my award at the 2011 Urban Renaissance Gala on Saturday, June 4, 2011. I would love to see your faces there, if possible. Tickets are $50 and includes a cocktail hour, dinner, awards presentation, and after-party at the Renaissance Hotel Airport location in St. Louis, Missouri.

The other good news is that this blog was named as a finalist for the 2011 Black Weblog Award for Best Science and Technology category. I am humbly asking your support to vote for my blog in this category. I also ask you to vote in the other categories, too.  It's an awesome line-up of finalists in 39 categories, finalist list here.  I'm throwing support behind some of by bloggy friends in the following categories

Best Business Blog
BDPA Foundation
Best Fashion or Beauty Blog

Best Humor Blog
Awesomely Luvvie

Best Podcast Series
Blacking It Up with Elon James White, Bassey World and more.

Best Political or News Blog
The Black Snob

Best Science or Technology Blog
Urban Science Adventures! ©

Best Sports Blog
Black Sports Online

Best Travel Blog
Jay Travels

Best Lifestyle Blog
The Cubicle Chick and Ashy 2 Classy (both of St. Louis)

Best Green/Nature/Outdoor Blog
Outdoor Afro
This blog was nominated in this category, too.

Best Book/ Author/ Literature Blog
Notorious Spinks (of Memphis)  and Reads for Pleasure (of St. Louis)

If you haven't taken to reading blogs, this is a great place to start. if you're a blogger, then I recommend working to get your blog on this list for next year. It's a perfect way to expand your audience (and brand).  The link to vote is here. Voting ends June 17, 2011, and only one chance to vote per email address, so you can't save and comeback to vote for others later. Winners will be announced LIVE in Los Angeles at the very first Black Weblog Awards Ceremony at the Blogging While Brown Conference. I will be attending, with fingers-crossed, hoping to get my trophy. (And if anyone would like to contribute to my travel fund, then I certainly appreciate it.)

If you're flirting with the idea of attending either Blogging While Brown or the Black Weblog Awards, then I highly recommend that you do it. It is a great networking and learning opportunity.  In the meantime, have a great and safe summer; and thank you again for all of your support, encouragement, and prayers.

demystifying nature, letting everyone experience

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When playing outside isn't safe: Gun fire on the playground in St. Louis

It was the middle of the day. A little more than a dozen children from the Peabody Apartments (near downtown St. Louis) were outside playing on the playground and jungle gym. Then shots rang out. Apparently a disagreement between two men who were nearby escalated with at least one of them wildly firing shots at the other. Did the assailant land a shot at his intended? No, instead one of his unaimed bullets hit a young 7-year-old girl in the head. The suspect is now in custody but the little girl is still in critical condition.

image courtesy of KMOV.com
His arrest offers little solace to the parents and neighbors of the little girl. There could have been more victims. This is a prime example of why so many inner-city residents do not spend times out-of-doors: fear of safety. Those of us who promote outdoor education and recreation do go on and on about the beauty and serenity and awesome of the outside; but the reality we often skip over is that the environment right-outside for many people in big cities ain't that beautiful or serene or awesome. It can be a war zone – an ugly place where illegal activities and spontaneous gunfire happens near or on playgrounds. It makes my job – as an urban outdoor educator/recreation promoter – very hard, indeed. How can I ask parents to let their kids come outside and play and exercise and get fresh air when bad stuff like this can and does happen? I completely understand why they would protect them at any cost – keeping them inside, letting them watch TV and play video games and snack on tasty treats. It's a natural reaction to bring those whom you love close to you and possibly soothe them.

Perhaps one solution - that still encourages outdoor time and addresses safety concerns is organized activities at public lands. Local, state, and federal parks sometimes offer planned activities and in those situations, security has been factored into the logistics. Safety is in numbers. When more people gather together, there are more eyes and ears on the scene to identify trouble and report it the proper authorities in time. Here are some upcoming National Outdoor Events going on that present a chance to spend time with family and neighbors in an organized fashion. I hope you're able to find a local participating park or site in your area.
  • National Trails Day - June 4, 2011: It's a volunteer event to help clean up and restore hiking trails at public lands all over the country. It's a great way to get outside and have fun. More info at Outdoor Afro.
  • National Get Outdoors Day - June 11, 2011: It is an initiative that supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign to fight childhood obesity. Lots of state parks and campgrounds have signed on as official location partners for this event.
  • Great American Backyard Campout - June 25, 2011: Many parks and campgrounds have signed up as partners. Check out the registry and events calendar and you could find a group near you.
  • More? Please offer additional recommendations, local, regional or national.
Finally,listen to Young People's Chorus to New York – NYC Playground (Gunshots) and please share your thoughts and suggestions for dealing with spending time out-of-doors and safety. What would you do to change gun shots on the play ground?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer of Science Book Reading Club kicks off May 23, 2011

Hey parents/grandparents/summer camp mentors!
Looking for fun yet academically engaging things to do with your young ones and teens this summer? Want to make sure they don't lose step and let all of that great knowledge slip out of their heads.  Want to keep them on task with reading and literacy? Want to subtly kindle that inner science/engineering/tech spirit in them?

Well check out this super great summer reading program by SCIENTICITY, this amazing online community of people who promote the public understanding and engagement of science.  They host a variety of science engagement programs, but the youth reading program is their summer emphasis.

There are actually two programs, broken down by age group.
1) Kids Read Science - for children ages 8-12 years of age
2) Teens Read Science - for teens 13-18 years of age

The rules for both are the same:
1. Choose a non-fiction book about nature, science, engineering, or math, or about people who work or worked in those fields. The book should help you understand more about what science is and how it works. Textbooks are not acceptable choices. If you need suggestions it's good to ask a science teacher or librarian for ideas.

2. Read your book.

3. Make a video about your book. It's like a video book report. The video must be less than 5 minutes long, and you must give the name of the book, the name of the author, and reasons why you would or would not recommend the book to your friends.

4. Post the video online. They prefer that you post it to your own account on YouTube.com and tag it with "KidsReadScience2011" or "TeensReadScience2011". There are other posting options in the long form of the rules. Visit the website for more details of both reading events.

5.Fill out our official online submission form, for Kids Read Science or Teens Read Science. This allows the judges to locate your video and they will know how to contact you if you win one of the fabulous prizes.  Sorry, so far only US residents are able to win prizes this year.

6. Do all this before the deadline: 11pm (CDT) on 23 September 2011.

When I was a kid I participated in summer reading programs sponsored by our city library. I loved them! It was the highlight of my summer.  At the end of the summer the library branch threw a party for all of us kids and had an award ceremony.  Prizes were awarded to children in different age groups who read the most books.  I was so competitive.  Although children and teens who submit videos are competing nationwide for prizes, there is no reason not to reward students locally for participating in this event, and it doesn't have to be fancy or anything.  Just something to keep them encouraged and let them know they are supported.

And why should the kids and teenagers have all of the fun? SCIENTICITY also hosts a Science Book Challenge for adults.  Read three science related books and drop them a note telling them how you liked each book and they'll post your book reviews for others to see. That's it.

And if you're not sure what to read or where to get started, check out my blog posts about great science literature I've read - for youth, teens, and adults.
Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Horizons of Barbados

I had a chance to visit the very beautiful island nation of Barbados on behalf of Outdoor Afro. While I partook in Barbados food, hosptitality, culture and scenery for my friend and kindred outdoor spirit Rue of Outdoor Afro (and blogged all about it), I also couldn't help myself and took in the beautiful nature. I'll be highlighting my wonderful nature and wildlife encounters of the Caribbean Island.

Today, I feature the beautiful landscapes photos of the islands.  I think the pictures give a good sense of not only the naturl beauty of the country but give you a big picture view of the ecology of the island, too.

Dusk - view from the patio of the hotel. That's the Caribbean sea in the distance with various palm trees all around.

Sailing out on the Caribbean sea. That's the island nation of Barbados in the distance.

Beach view. Crystal blue waters of the Caribbean sea.

Row of tall palm trees along the driveway of a former Sugar Plantation. Barbados was once a colony of the United Kingdom and the entire island was basically a series of big sugar plantations.

Though sugar isn't the main export anymore, the legacy of the sugar plantation is not lost. This was once a sugar plantation, with a small sugar mill towwe in the distance on the left. This land now is being developed for residental propoerties. Notice the wide open flat landscape.

Narrow shot of a gully. The island is only 14 miles long  by 21 miles wide, but there are hundreds of miles of gullies - series of small inland streams, sloughs, and water ways.  Lots of diverse species of plant, birds, amphians, reptiles and insects call these gullies home. There are some species that exist no other place on earth. But no snakes. Barbados has no snakes (they were all removed/extripated by the colonists long, long ago)

View from the hilly region of Barbados called the Scotland district. That's the Altantic Ocean in the far distance.

Scotland district, Atlantic Ocean in the background.

Standing in that spot from the previous picture. Don't let anyone fool you. People become scientists (biologists, ecologists, geologists) so that we can travel to beautiful places like this and do research. Aren't you ready to become a scientist, too now?

Geological formation from when Barbados was 'pushed out of the sea'. Barbados is a sandstone/coral island - connected to the seafloor, not a volcanic island.

Beach view of the East side of the island

Beach view of the East side of island, Atlantic Ocean. Notice the plastic trash deposited on the beach. I walked past hat plastic laundry detergent bottle (and thousands of pieces like it) on my brief visit to that beach. No telling how far that plastic traveled before getting washed up on the beach. Learn more about plastic trash in the ocean at my friend's blog. She's doing her dissertation research on the impact of this very issue, link here.
Stay tuned for more Barbados pictures.
In the meantime, check out my posts, to date about the visit to Barbados for Outdoor Afro.
Barbados Bound: An Outdoor Afro Adventure in the Caribbean
Barbados – An Outdoor Afro Adventure (at Jack & Jill Politics)
Outdoor Fun in Barbados: Fun at Sea!
Games Outdoor Afros Play – Dominoes

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