Monday, January 25, 2010

Interactive Education Classes at The Hort

Making the decision to take control of your children’s education can seem overwhelming. More and more families are making the decision to home school. Today more than three million children are being taught at home. The Hort is offering a curriculum of exciting and thought provoking courses that will exercise your child's critical thinking skills.

By using a mix of colorful and thought provoking power point presentations, class discussion, hands on activities and reading time with our librarian Katherine Powis to capture interest, promote class participation, foster cooperative learning, and encourage exploration of the topics of the day.

Our current course schedule at The Hort...
Interactive Botany - Special Plants for Special Places

Spotlighting the unusual habitat adaptations, pollinators & human uses of desert, tropical, evergreen, deciduous and aquatic plants

Interactive Botany - Plant Propagation

Participants will discover four plant propagation techniques, raise six varieties of plants though both vegetative and reproductive propagation while exercising cooperative learning and critical thinking skills.

For more information on classes and how to register visit us online...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Swamp Things

Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is not really a cabbage at all but a swamp-dwelling member of the Arum family known more for its bad smell than its good looks. This late winter bloomer has a rare property that greatly interests scientists: It is one of the few plants that can generate heat by burning starch in special cells. How does it manage to stay a cozy 60 degrees to 77 degrees F, despite the chilly nights? The answer is not entirely clear, but Kikuatsu Ito and Takanori Ito, of Iwate University in Japan, recorded minute-by-minute temperatures and discovered an order to the variations. They named it the 'skunk cabbage algorithm'. Researchers are now testing a thermostat that makes use of the algorithm. If a plant's brain can be tapped to regulate our air conditioning and heating systems, just imagine what other secrets our swamps and gardens are keeping.

Article by Pam Rich
Facts about Symplocarpus foetidus, skunk cabbage:
  • one of the first plants to bloom in the spring
  • its flowers are often partly or whooly covered by last year's fallen leaves
  • it is fly pollinated, hence its 'skunky' odor
  • leaves emerge after the flowers
  • habitat is wet woods, swamps, streamsides
  • grows 1 to 2 feet high
  • the flower is a spathe, 3 to 5 inches high, purplish-brown and green
  • blooms in February to April
  • native to eastern North America to Nova Scotia

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

There are kids in the Hort library! Yep, we’re reaching out to young audiences. Apple Seed Director Pam Ito offers botany classes for 6 – 8 year olds right here in the library. The current series focuses on biomes (you know, ecosystems). We’re learning about desert, rainforest, evergreen, deciduous and aquatic plants.

At the end of her class, I read a specially selected juvenile book from our collection. And guess what? It’s lots of fun all around. I get to indulge my inner drama queen and the kids are wide-eyed in wonder at the tales we tell. They even get to borrow books from the library to read at home, and by all accounts that’s a thrill for them too since this is their first experience of a specialized library.

I heartily recommend these books to parents, teachers and kids :

Desert Giant: The Story of the Saguaro Cactus by Barbara Bash is a terrific non-fiction story about this fifty foot tall cactus that looks a bit like a person. It shows how local people and wildlife make use of all the parts of the plant.

One girl asked if we have a very similar book called Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guiberson. (Yes, Virginia, we do indeed!). Both books are beautifully illustrated and fact-filled.

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry is also beautifully illustrated and focused on how dependent living beings are on this plant. Importantly, it dramatically highlights the precarious existence of the world’s rain forests. Your little ones will be engrossed by this fictional story and the animals that whisper, growl, chatter and sing.

Toddlers Too! Stay tuned; we’re starting a story hour that will introduce the youngins to the wonderful world of plants.

Katherine Powis, Librarian