The tiniest creatures accomplish some of the biggest jobs on the planet.
This beautifully illustrated and cleverly written guide invites us into the microscopic world of microbes.
Zoologist and author Nicola Davies welcomes us into the microscopic world in her book Tiny Creatures The world of Microbes.
Taking us on a journey through a microbe’s minute size, to their multiplying sills turning one microbe into millions, to their diverse shape forms, and the variety roles they play in the world, Tiny Creatures in an invitation to go exploring.
Using wonderful and clear analogies such as an antenna on an ant would need to be as big as a whale to see all the micro-organisms on its antenna. This book is beautifully illustrated by Emily Sutton and brings to life all of the amazing and cool facts about microbes. It supports the text wonderfully.
Davies focuses on the positive things that microbes do such as composting soil, making yogurt and helping to make our air good and clean to breathe.
We really like the part about germs which make us sick, how they multiply and how to prevent illness from happening in the first place.
I really loved this book because it leaves its readers in a state of wonder and has us wanting to know more about the invisible world of microbes.
Something To Do
How to Compost
In her book Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes author Nicola Davies shares with us that one of the ways microbes do their finest work is breaking down dead material into soil. Composting is one of the easiest ways to see this work up close. You, along with those microbes are going to create rich soil called humus to put into your garden.
- Composting creates soil for plants filled with nutrients they need to flourish
- Compost is made from items you usually throw away in your home.
- Composting is Earth friendly as it reduces the garbage we send to the landfill.
Here’s how it works:
When organic scraps ( think green and brown) are put into a compost bin, the combination of nitrogen and carbon invite tiny microbes, insects, and worms to break down the organic matter into soil. This is called decomposition. The rich nutrient filled soil is called humus.
What Can You Put into a Compost Bin
1. Greens (Nitrogen) All vegetable and fruit produce, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and weeds that haven’t gone to seed.
2. Browns (Carbon) Dried leaves, paper towel/toilet paper rolls, newspaper, cardboard, paper egg cartons, and saw dust.
Other: I also throw in egg shells into my compost. It’s not a green or a brown but it breaks down wonderfully.
Keep a 50/50 balance of brown and greens in your compost bin.
3. Water Compost needs water so that the microbes, insects, and worms can do their thing.
4. Air: Compost piles need air. If your compost bin is made our of chicken wire, no problem. If you have a closed container, you’ll need to stir it every few weeks with a compost stir pick.
How to make an easy Compost Bin
Once your compost bin has been built and you’ve started adding scraps and water to it, see how soon it is before you start seeing potato bugs, little flies, worms etc. Mark on a calendar daily what you see and how long it takes for the compost scraps to break down into humus.
Has your family tried composting and putting your own Tiny Microbes to work?
Would you like to discover more fun and nature-filled activities for your family?
How about some month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden? A Year in the Secret Garden is over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Learn more, or grab your copy HERE.
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I began a new Young Writer's workshop this past weekend with some middle schoolers who are pretty sophisticated writers. Excited? You bet I was! These kids were ready for some serious writing work. I passed out composition books and pencils.
"We are going to keep writer's journals," I announced.
Silence. Expressionless faces.
Oops. I recognized my error. In our local school system, journals
are used to strengthen writing skills, and focus the student's attention to the subject at hand. Every single day. By middle school, they are journaling five or six times a day, as they move from classroom to classroom.
I know that teachers have specific testing goals to meet in spelling, grammar and punctuation. Creative writing?
Not so much.
I don't know how our school district fares on standardized writing tests, but I do know one side effect of daily classroom journaling; fear and loathing of "journaling."
Back to my polite little writers, whose enthusiasm I squashed in the first five minutes by using the "j" word. I backpeddled rapidly.
"OK, not really journaling," I said. "More like um...um..."
the writer, and I
can't think of the right word for what I wanted them to do with those composition books.
"Blogging?" my teenage assistant suggested.
"Um...no." For one thing, there are no computers available for the workshop.
I wanted to say "diary," but that's not right either. Diaries show you just how boring your life is. A day-by-day chronicle of my life reads like the old Cheech and Chong comedy routine about "What I Did on My Summer Vacation." To paraphrase, "The first day, I got up, I got dressed, I ate breakfast. Then I went downtown to look for a job. Day two, I got up, I got dressed, I ate breakfast...."
In my childhood diaries, I wrote whatever I was thinking or feeling at the moment. Writing them comforted me. I might also add that I was an only child and didn't have to worry about a sibling digging through my inner musings.
But I digress. My Young Writers were still waiting for me to say the magic word.
"Let's notebook," I said.
Nobody flinched at my use of a noun as a verb. Encouraged, I made up some more "writerspeak." I knew I couldn't use the "p" word, either. (That would be "prompt.") Prompts leave me staring at an empty screen or page, feeling frustrated at my inability to cough up creativity on demand. But I am
good at finishing sentences...both my own and those of other people.
"Finish this sentence," I said. "Just write the first that you think of. No hard thinking allowed. Sometimes I wonder...
Scribble scribble scribble. The writers finished, and looked at me for further wisdom.
"Now keep writing about that until I tell you to stop. If you can't think of anything, just keep writing 'I can't think of anything to write'. Sooner or later you will come up with something."
Yes, this is just another way of re-packaging a "free write." Say "free write" to me and watch me do a Wile E. Coyote, freezing in mid-air, just before i plummet off the creative cliff. Free writes are just a little
too "free" for me, and for most students that I encounter. There should be boundaries. That's boundaries...not walls. Less is more.
Since I do the exercises along with my students, I wrote the first thing that came to mind....I wonder what it would be like to vacation in space? From there I rambled on about a cruise ship-like space vehicle, with room service and a gift shop that sold t-shirts that said "My parents went to Saturn and all I got was this crummy t-shirt."
My workshoppers were considerably more serious. Their "wonderings" were about Big Life Issues. Just as I hoped, by the end of the allotted five minutes, they had moved from personal "wondering", to conjecture, which is the step before diving into fiction.
"Let's do another one," the group chorused. OK, maybe they didn't chorus,
but they were certainly having fun. While I never insist that anyone "share with the group" (or even with me, privately) if they don't want to, this group wanted
to. So we shared,
and did more open ended prom...um...sentences.
I've never had so much fun with a writing workshop. At least not one I
By the end of the afternoon, each writer had several pages of raw writing, compost for future projects, and the bare bones of a short story.
And I will never have to use the "j" word again.
We are "notebooking." Writing Workout
The point of "composting" is not just
to give the writer material for future use; it helps to engage the hand and brain simultaneously. That's trickier than it sounds, since most of us are so used to writing on a computer, mindlessly adding, deleting and Spell-checking. As my students complain "My mind works faster than I can move a pencil." Ah ha! That means you have to slow down, and think while you are writing. (Thinking--that undervalued writing skill!)
Here are some of the open ended prompts I used. The second part of the part of the prompt is always "now keep writing." (Usually for five minutes, depending on the group.)My favorite food is.... Describe without using the sense of sight.If I could invite one person to supper, famous or not, living or dead, I would invite....
.(I know; this is just a variation of the "who do you admire most?' prompt, but this seems to work better, creatively speaking.)When I was five, my favorite toy was....I really wish that... What really makes me laugh is.... The one thing I could really live without is....
(or)The one thing I can't live without is... If could be someone else for a day it would be...
I'd love to hear your
open-end prompts. (Sorry, no prize involved here. I'm just interested in hearing fromyou.)
What I'm Reading.
Adult Non-fiction: Anne Frank: The Diary, the Life, the Afterlife
by Francine Prose.
YA Fiction: Purple Heart
by Patricia McCormack, Comfort
by Joyce Moyer Hostetter,
Yes, I said composting and if you're an organic gardner you know what I'm talking about. So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, both endeavors start out with raw materials, go through a sometimes ugly process of decompisition and the end product can be a beautiful and amazing thing compared to how it started.
I have two large compost bins in my back yard and this past weekend when my neighbors grandson was mowing my lawn that had been covered with leaves, I had him empty the mulched remains into one of the compost bins. He also turns the contents of the bins for me once a week. Mostly, he sees the decaying material mixed with bugs and wonders what the heck I'm up to with this project. He often complains about the smell but won't wear the face mask I gave him.
I had to mix some of the material from one bin that was still breaking down into the other bin where the process was almost complete. I took the time to show him where all his hard work was heading. I scooped the organic soil from the bottom and held it up so he could smell it and he was surprised how clean and fresh it did smell. Explaining the entire process to him, I saw his eyes light up because now he understood.
Well, writing is - in many ways - the same. A lot of hard work that's sometimes 'smelly' but when you see and experience the final product you can't help but be proud of yourself.