Penguins on the beach? Baboons in the garden? Today we have a very unique young naturalist interview with a group of 8 siblings (ages 13, 11, 10, 7, 6, 4, 3, and 18 mos old) in South Africa. The se7en+1 gang has all sorts of grand adventures to share with us, but it is their positive and all inclusive approach to learning and living that is most inspiring to me. I have been a long time follower of their family blog which is chock full of creative ideas, so today's interview is extra special for me as I got to learn a bit more about this very cool family. And now I am even more anxious to visit South Africa. Please join me in welcoming Se7en+1 to The Magnifying Glass.
Please tell us a little bit about your family and where you live?
We’ve come a long way from the very first Earth Day, when plenty of people still believed that the Earth was so big that its resources were limitless and pollution had no long-term repercussions.
There are some basic steps we can all take to instill in our little ones a deep appreciation for our planet and all its wonders so that they can protect and preserve it for their own children. We talk about these ideas all the time here at TMG, but we can always use a reminder.
1. Get outside.
The more time you spend outdoors, the more in tune you become with the natural world. Getting outside means—within reason—braving different types of weather. It likely means getting dirty or wet—but that just means you dress accordingly. A bit of mud never hurt anyone.
Even very urban settings have arboretums and parks to explore. The living things that manage to thrive there are far more diverse than you might imagine—but you have to go find out for yourself.
We talk a lot about ‘your own backyard’ on TMG and how the appreciation of nature starts there. A very young child can’t fully comprehend a huge canyon or waterfall, but they can examine a spider web, a nest, a flower. Start simple, start small, and build from there.
2. Set an example.
Recently, I attended a children’s educational event on recycling. We discussed how incredibly long it takes for a glass jar to decompose (if ever) and how styrofoam doesn’t biodegrade. Then we proceeded to consume individually-sized juice boxes and snacks packaged in plastic. What lesson did these children learn?
If your town has a landfill or recycling center, consider paying it a visit. The sheer volume of trash is incredibly sobering. Even a young child can understand that the mounds of refuse all started out from a single garbage can.
When we’re out on a hike, we try our best to pick up other people’s trash that we encounter (of course, you want to caution young children to show you litter before picking it up—so much of it is sharp or otherwise hazardous to little ones). Take a bag with you so you can take back any of your own trash and a bit of other people’s as well.
Commit to reusable bags and containers. We know we should use them, but even so it can seem easier to buy prepackaged items and throw the whole lot away (in the recycling bin, of course). Consider the wastefulness of those choices—the energy spent manufacturing and transporting packaging that later clutters the earth, perhaps indefinitely.
3. Expand your own knowledge.
Learn the names of the plants, insects, and animals you see. Learn about their life cycles and seasonal changes. Try your hand at identifying an interesting rock or shell. The more you learn, the more you can share with your children.
If you are lucky enough to have a local nature center, pay them a visit. They can be tremendous sources of knowledge about local flora and fauna.
There are such wonderful resources in books and on the Internet these days, and there are so many that are aimed at the very young. Take full advantage of your local library, but also keep your eye out for used books—there are many wonderful out-of-print publications that would make great additions to your nature library.
“Experts” aren’t always trained naturalists. My grandmother knew the name of nearly every plant she encountered, wild or cultivated. She was such a source of inspiration to me; when I recognize a tree, I think of her.
4. Follow your child’s passions and push your own boundaries.
It can be very easy, as an adult and a parent, to fall into the role of “teacher” to young children. They know so little, and you know so much. But consider:
We hope you’ve been enjoying Earth Week here at TMG. Let us know how you are celebrating via comments and our flickr pool. And Happy Earth Day!
Here are a few of Cassi's favorite earthy crafts....from sun prints to scavenger hunts it is a fun collection of projects that are sure to inspire some fabulous Earth Day creations!
Aren't these great ideas? Be sure to visit The Crafty Crow for even more inspiration. Thank you, Cassi!
I am probably not alone in proclaiming my love for The Crafty Crow, that amazing resource for creative inspiration for all ages. It's one of those spots on the internet that always gets my creative juices flowing. I have been a long time follower of Cassi and her craftiness, but I realized recently that I don't know all that much about her personal interests since she does such a good job of seeking out and highlighting others' creative endeavours. Cassi is the perfect person to highlight during our Earth Week celebration since she does such a spectatular job of inspiring, motivating, and celebrating the beauty of creating with natural or recyled items. I hope you will enjoy getting to know Cassi as much as I have. Please join me in welcoming her to The Magnifying Glass.
Welcome to The Magnifying Glass, Cassi! Have you always been a crafter? If so, what were some of your favorite crafting experiences as a child?
I’ve enjoyed making things for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my sister and I would build tree houses, make little pots from clay we found by the creek, invent our own recipes, sew doll clothes and other stuff like that. I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series and I loved imagining living in those times and having to make do with the resources you had around you. My mother and grandmothers were a big influence as well and very talented in their own rights; that’s how I learned to sew, crochet, and the fine art of flea market treasure hunting!
Did the name for your site come from a love of crows or was it merely an acknowledgment of their reputation for being “crafty” and clever? In addition to crows, what other critters are your favorites?
I do love crows, the whole crow family, so, ravens, and magpies too; they’re clever and have the capacity to talk. I’m always hoping that I’ll meet a crow that actually speaks to me instead of just cawing! Crows were definitely part of the inspiration for The Crafty Crow name. I played with a few other combinations but I kept coming back to The Crafty Crow and my family liked it too so that’s what I went with. My kids and I love all kinds of animals and we have many pets: dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, a horse, and a bunny. I’m lucky to live in an area where we see wild animals all the time. I only live a few blocks from town but one year we had a baby moose walk down our street and peek into windows and another year we had a mountain lion make a winter nest near the river at the end of our street. We regularly see elk and deer and one of my favorites, fox! I also love owls, squirrels, groundhogs and raccoons. I’ve only seen a wolf one time but I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll see one again.
I have always admired and enjoyed the fact that you highlight many crafts on The Crafty Crow that make use of recycled objects or items found in nature. Can you tell us more about that passion? Any suggestions on how to inspire others to collect and re-use in creative ways?
I really enjoy the creative challenge of crafting with natural and recycled materials and also love seeing all the amazing things that other people come up with. As with anything, the more of a challenge something is the more rewarding it is too, so crafting with nature and recycled goods has this extra little bonus to it. There’s a ton of visual inspiration on craft and design blogs and that’s a great way to jump start some ideas. You can also just challenge your kids with a pile of recyclables or natural materials and see what they can make. Before you head out to buy craft supplies take a look at your recycling box or garage or closet. Many times newspaper can be substituted for paper, plastic and glass can be used to hold supplies and water as well as decorate, old clothing can be used for the fabric and buttons, wool sweaters can be felted, boxes can be cut apart and used for cardboard, plastic containers can be cut up and decorated and some of them used for shrink plastic crafts; there are also lots of craft ideas for cardboard tubes, magazines, and egg cartons. Start looking at things differently and ask yourself what you might be able to do with it before you throw it out. I have to add in, too, that thrift shops should definitely be the first stop when buying craft materials. You can always find crayons, scissors, fabric, yarn, paper goods, and wood items and maybe a surprise or two also.
When you take a break from the craft table and your Crafty Crow responsibilities, how do you re-charge?
Drawing, watercolors, embroidery and crochet are very relaxing for me. A favorite outside past time is hunting for rocks by the river, any pretty rocks that catch my eye but especially heart-shaped ones. I love to read and always have more books than I have time for. Right now I’m reading The Six Wives of Henry VIII (Alison Weir) and The Autobiography of King Henry VIII (Margaret George) - enjoying the balance between fact and fiction. Sleeping is not too bad either ;)
Does your family have any special traditions or plans to celebrate Earth Day?
Our town usually plans a massive clean-up day that we participate in - they even have prizes for the most unusual things that are found. We’ll work in our yard if the weather is decent and get the flower beds cleaned out and start some vegetables in pots. We still have snow on the ground and low temperatures, but as soon as it warms up we’ll spend a lot of time going on hikes and hanging out at the rivers and lakes nearby.
And speaking of the Earth…what are some of your favorite wild places on Earth? Or places you hope to explore one day?
Yellowstone is one of the most recent places I’ve been and the hot springs with their colorful mineral deposits are fascinating and beautiful. My best memories are the wide, warm creeks of North Texas, hunting for fossils and crawdads. Some of my other favorite places are Hawaii, the Greek islands, Bali, and Japan. One day I’d love to take the kids to the Grand Canyon because you just can’t put into words how truly awesome it is. But, as much as any place, I enjoy living right where we are having picnics by the river and hunting for rocks.
Cassi, Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your love of nature, especially all of those animals (both pets and wild visitors!). I really loved your thoughts on how to encourage creative re-use of natural and recycled items. You are so right about about that extra boost of excitement and pride that comes with transforming an everyday item into something unique and beautiful. I also want to say that I love your watercolors...so beautiful. Happy Earth Day to you and your family!
Check back here tomorrow because Cassi has generously put together a round-up post with some of her favorite Earthy crafts to share on The Magnifying Glass. And to get a daily dose of creative inspiration be sure to visit The Crafty Crow, The Crafty Crow Italia, The Crafty Crow Flickr group and Bella Dia (Cassi's personal blog).
Every so often we come across a book that is so wonderfully unique and well done that I can't quite get it out of my head until I have a copy of our very own that I can hold in my hands and place on our living room shelves. This was exactly the case when I first encountered Natural History (Smithsonian). It is, in short, one of the most visually rich, interesting and exciting books that I've seen in a very long time.
Natural History is a collection of collections. Each page is filled with clear, colorful photographs of different life forms, accompanied with information such as their names and average size. Animals, insects, bacteria and the like are grouped with their Linnean neighbors and the breadth of life included in the book is truly stunning. Think of it as a curated collection of specimens like you would see in the galleries of a natural history museum, only represented in photographs rather than three dimensions.
The diversity of beautiful, amazing, extraordinary creatures laid out on the pages of Natural History makes it an ideal pick for Earth Week This book is more than just eye-candy and hours of leisurely browsing; it is a reminder of what Earth Day is all about. As citizens of the world, we share our air, our water, our land and our sky with these uncountable other life forms, and knowing something of their multitude, beauty and strangeness is important if we want to be good neighbors.
Obviously, I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is a hefty volume, and not inexpensive, but I'm willing to say that it was worth every penny that we spent. Natural History is an incredibly simple book in its conception, and yet, what it sets out to do, it does very well. The photographs that grace its pages are a portal to the days of childhood wonder when the entire world appears new, beautiful and endless. And indeed, Natural History reminds us that each of these things is just as true as it always was.
Hello there, fellow nature-lovers! This week the world will be celebrating Earth Day, a time to contemplate (even more than usual) the diversity of nature and how we can more fully appreciate it and protect it for future generations.
In celebration, we are hosting Earth Week here at TMG, with family-oriented posts, a special interview, a topical book review, and nature crafts for kids.
We already know that you love getting outdoors, so be sure and spread the news to family and friends to join us here all week. Feel free to post a button on your blog(s). As always, show us your nature photographs on our flickr pool, and keep the comments coming. We’d like nothing better than to hear and see how your family is spending time exploring the wonders, big and small, of this planet that we all call Home.
Happy Earth Week, everybody!
It's that time of year for eggs and hatchlings. We have a wonderful and growing assortment of eggs in the TMG Flickr group right now: silkworm eggs, whelk egg casings,praying mantis egg cases, a mermaid's purse, and these very colorful rock eggs. What's growing or hatching in your neck of the woods?
The other day we spent some wonderful time at one of our favorite playgrounds... the beach.
There is not a beach day that goes by without pockets full of "treasure."
Here is a bit of what came home in our pockets...
We would love to hear about it and see in in the flickr pool!