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 are the kids from the blog se7en + 1 and we live in Cape town South Africa. Our city lies between the famous Table Mountain and and the Atlantic Ocean. We live a little out of the city closer to Cape Point... we are a two minute walk from a fabulous beach and we have the slopes of a mountain behind our house. Because we live in the Southern Hemisphere we are headed for winter right now. We have a very mild climate. It hardly ever gets cold enough to snow and if it does it is only on the tippy tops of distant mountains. It can be really hot in summer and we have rainy winters.
What are your favorite outdoor activities?
We spend lots of time outdoors, mostly in the garden where we build lots of forts and make stuff with our bark and driftwood collections. Otherwise we love hiking and exploring outdoors and quick runs on the beach at the end of the day. One of our best outings is to the nearby shark center where there are fantastic rock pools teaming with the most amazing animals. We once picked up five different types of starfish in a morning!!!
Do you have any special nature collections?
Just lately we have been collecting lots of feathers, every couple of weeks we visit a local goats cheese farm where we have collected owl, peacock and guinea-fowl feathers. We have a corner of the garden for our nature collections - stones, sea shells, precious stones and we have a fossil collection.
What are your favorite South African creatures?
Even though we live in Africa we don't actually have elephants and lions wandering about, all our Big Wild animals are in game parks. At a beach just down the road we have Jack Ass Penguins and they are really cute. We would all like to see elephants and visit a Game Park someday.
Do you have any pets?
No, we don't have any official pets, but we have lots and lots of animals lurking around. We have a porcupine off the mountain that grubs through our garden and destroys it in minutes - we have never seen it but we know when it has been!!! And whenever we plant root vegetables - potatoes or carrots then we get baboons off the mountain and we do see those. In fact they have very nearly been in our house a few... but they are quite big and they don't smell so good either!!! So those are best outdoors!!! We do get a lot of creepy crawlies: huge spiders and dozens of snakes... especially at this time of year when the weather is starting to cool, then the snakes like to come out of their rocky hide-outs and sun themselves. And there are a lot of wetlands near our home which are great for birdwatching. Every second Saturday we visit a different birdwatching site with our bird club.
Do you celebrate Earth Day in South Africa? If so, how?
Earth Day over here is usually celebrated by beach clean-ups and pollutions pick-ups. Lots of folks plant trees and lots of nursery's have specials and fun days. Usually we go hiking. Or we work on a project in our garden. One year we made a great Keyhole garden and for the last year or two it has provided us with lots of vegetables. This year we want to prepare it for some winter planting.
So what is a keyhole garden?
Knew you wanted to know!!! A Keyhole garden is a small round garden with a "chimney" up the center of it. In the chimney we drop our kitchen scraps and then the nutrients leach out into the surrounding garden and feed the plants. We have packed our garden with vegetables and it does really well and is so easy to maintain. You can read about our Keyhole garden if you follow this link.
And the Se7enth + 1 question...If you could magically fix one problem (pollution, animal extinction, global warming, etc) on Earth, what would it be?
If we could fix one problem... We would like to get rid of poverty. We can help to do this by living more responsibly. We live in a part of the world where poverty is very close at hand and it is unavoidable to see many hungry people battling to survive everyday. We would like to help by donating the things we don't need to the local township shelter. And by taking good care of the earths resources and not using up too much of them ourselves, we can make a small difference to the imbalance of wealth in the world.
Wow! A very big thank you to all eight of you for this fun interview. I loved hearing about your exciting South African adventures and your very unique back yard creatures. But I especially loved learning about your keyhole garden and I can't wait to try building one in our yard. Thank you for teaching us about your part of the world and for sharing your important thoughts on how we can all work to end poverty. You are an amazing bunch of young naturalists!
Today marks the worldwide celebration of Earth Day. By now it’s a cliché, but still, every day is—or should be—Earth Day.
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:
Human beings of all ages learn and retain more from “hands on” projects. Instead of giving lectures when a child asks about something, try asking them questions. See what they already know; let them try their hand at a good guess. Make it a habit to ask, “What do you think?” See if you can find an activity that will give them their own answers.
Human beings fully engage when the subject interests them. Take note of the animals, plants, and natural phenomena that fascinate your children, and then follow their lead.
You may be thoroughly disgusted by bugs, but if your child loves them, try your best to squelch your own distaste. Walking in the rain may be your least favorite, but try to indulge your little one who loves puddle-jumping.
Be open to new experiences. Our children have so much to share and teach us.
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!
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!
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.
Nature— the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful— offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity. —Richard Louv