things of that NATURE

...i love being outdoors. hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, surfing.. what ever it is, i enjoy it. i rather sleep at a beach and camp than stay at a fancy hotel... the only thing is, how do i relate what i love about being outdoors to the classroom so that children will be interested in learning about science and the world around us... this semester, i'll learn how....

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

thunder and lightning?

We just got back from another adventure to the mountain on Sunday. And boy, did we have fun. It was snowing and we went snowboarding, loaded the truck up with snow... The weather conditions were sunny when we arrived, however, after several hours of playing in the snow, conditions changed and I heard thunder. I didn't see any lightning but the thunder was so loud it felt like it was 20 feet away. This got me thinking, what creates thunder and lightning? To know what one is, we first have to know what the other, its a case of opposites attract.

Lightning is an abrupt electric discharge from cloud to cloud or
from cloud to earth accompanied by the emission of light. Lightning is produced to balance the differences between positive and negative charges within a cloud, between two clouds, or between the cloud and the ground. . Thunder is a booming or crashing noise caused by air expanding along the path of a bolt of lightning. Without lightning, there would be no "thunder" in "thunderstorm." Thunder is the noise lightning makes as it travels through the air. Lightning occurs during all thunderstorms (though not every time it rains).Lightning forms when updrafts of air carry water droplets, which have a charge, upward to heights where some freeze into ice and snow particles. They form a cloud. As these particles begin to fall back to Earth, charges within the cloud become mixed. The differences in charge are released as lightning. You'll normally hear the sound of lightning a few moments after you see the sky light up. Light travels faster than sound, so if you are at a distance from the storm, lightning and thunder may seem oddly disconnected.Lightning is five times hotter than the sun. A single bolt can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are essentially four types of thunderstorms: single cell storms which last about 20-30 minutes. Pulse storms can produce severe weather elements such as downbursts, hail, some heavy rainfall and occasionally weak tornadoes. Multicell cluster storms are a group of cells moving as a single unit, with each cell in a different stage of the thunderstorm life cycle. Multicell storms can produce moderate size hail, flash floods and weak tornadoes. Multicell line storms consist of a line of storms with a continuous, well developed gust front at the leading edge of the line. Also known as squall lines, these storms can produce small to moderate size hail, occasional flash floods and weak tornadoes. Supercells are thunderstorm swith a rotating updraft, these storms can produce strong downbursts, large hail, occasional flash floods and weak to violent tornadoes.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

and they took a lichen...

I really enjoyed our excursion and how everything pertained to the culture and the land and science. This week I decided to do a little more research on lichen. I wanted to find out how many different types are there in the world and what classifies something as a lichen?

First things first: what's a lichen? A
composite organism consisting of a fungus and an alga or cyanobacterium living in symbiotic association. Lichens may be crustlike, scaly or leafy, or shrubby in form and are classified on the basis of the fungal partner. Many lichens are extremely sensitive to atmospheric pollution and have been used as pollution indicators. How many different types of lichen are there? There are an estimated 13,500 to 17,000 species of lichens, extending from the tropics to the polar regions. I never really thought about it, but that's a WHOLE lot.

Where are lichen mostly found? Some of them grow on the bark of temperate trees or as epiphytes on the leaves of trees in tropical rain forests. Others occupy some of the most inhospitable environments on earth, growing on cooled lava flows and bare rock surfaces, where they help in the process of soil formation, and on desert sands where they help to stabilise the surface and enrich it with nutrients. Some other types of lichen grow abundantly on tundra soils, providing a vital winter food source for animals (including reindeer and caribou) in arctic and sub-arctic regions. Yet other lichens grow on or in the perennial leaves of some economically important tropical crop plants such as coffee, cacao and rubber, where they are regarded as parasites.
major types of lichen are classified into four broad types which include: Foliose lichens have a flat, leaf-like structure. (to the left) Fruticose lichens have an erect or pendulous, bushy structure. Which I think looks most like the picture above that I took on our excursion. Squamulose lichens have a thallus consisting of minute, scale-like squamules(above to the right). Crustose lichens produce a flat crust on or beneath rock or tree surfaces (the picture with the pink colored lichen).

According to one website, lichens are used for many different things such as parfum, medicinal uses, food (in some cultures), dying of wool, and they are some times used as a air pollution surveyor.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lung Cancer

I read this morning on that Dana Reeve who was the widow of Christopher Reeve (who we remember as Superman) died late Monday from lung cancer at the very young age of 44. She was a non smoker who contracted this disease. For this week's I want to learn more about lung cancer and how it affects our respiratory system. I, myself do not smoke, but I do live with someone who does. And, I always question myself, is second hand smoke really worse than first hand smoke and what is lung cancer? and how do you get lung cancer if you are a non smoker? I even picked up this brochure at Macy's from my favorite makeup counter that asks the question, "can a non smoker get smoker's skin?" So many things were running through my mind.

First, where are your lungs? Sounds funny, huh? But seriously, your lungs are 2 sponge like organs in your chest. You have a right lung, which is has 3 sections called lobes and your left lung has 2 lobes. (The left section has two lobes because the heart takes up most of the room.) There are different parts in the lungs. Which brings me to my next question, Where does lung cancer start? Most lung cancers start in the lining of the bronchi, although they can start in other parts of the lung. Lung cancer can take several years to develop. In precancerous stages lung cancer can't be detected on X-Rays or cause any symptoms. As the precancerous cells are released into the blood system, this is when tumors start to grow and are able to be seen on X-Rays.

There are two types of lung cancers: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). If the cancer has features of both types, it is called mixed small cell/large cell cancer. SCLC cancer cells are small, they can multiply quickly and form large tumors that can spread widely through the body. About 13 % of all lung cancers are SCLC. This kind of cancer is almost always caused by smoking. It is very rare for someone who has never smoked to have small cell lung cancer. NSCLC accounts for about 87 % of lung cancers. There are 3 sub-types within this group. The cells in these sub-types differ in size, shape and chemical make-up.
Squamous cell carcinoma is usually linked to smoking. It tends to be found centrally, near a bronchus. Adenocarcinoma is usually found in the outer region of the lung. Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma can appear in any part of the lung and tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it hard to treat.

What causes lung cancer? SMOKING, by far is the leading risk of lung cancer. The longer a person has been smoking and the more packs per day smoked, the greater the risk. If a person stops smoking before lung cancer develops, the lung tissue slowly returns to normal. Stopping smoking at any age lowers the risk of lung cancer. Cigar and pipe smoking are almost as likely to cause lung cancer as is cigarette smoking. There is no evidence that smoking low tar cigarettes reduces the risk of lung cancer.

The picture above shows a non-smoker's lung compared to a smoker's lung. The website didn't say how old each lung is or how long the smoker had been smoking or how much the smoker had smoked.

PEOPLE WHO DON'T SMOKE: have a higher risk of lung cancer. Non-smoking spouses of smokers, for example, have a 30% greater risk of developing lung cancer than do spouses of nonsmokers. Workers exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace are also more likely to get lung cancer.

I have friends who enjoy smoking Hookah. Although there is less tobacco in the product used for hookahs, it is still dangerous and addictive. The American Cancer Society believes that people should avoid any amount of tobacco.

ASBESTOS is another risk factor for lung cancer. People who work with asbestos have a higher risk of getting lung cancer.RADON is a radioactive gas made by the natural breakdown of uranium, which is found at higher than normal levels in the soil in some parts of the US. Radon can’t be seen, tasted, or smelled. Radon can become concentrated indoors and create a possible risk for cancer. Smokers are especially sensitive to the effects of radon.


For Dana Reeve, she was part of the 10 % of people who are non smokers contract lung cancer. Little research has been done in this area to find out how non smokers and people who don't work in high risk areas contract lung cancer. About 174,000 new cases of lung cancer will be detected this year alone and an estimated 164,000 will die from this disease this year. The numbers are shocking.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Beautiful Kolea

I always see this cute little bird outside in our yard. Such skinny, long legs and such a pretty golden color. I remembered learning something about this bird in my Hawaiian Studies class...the Kolea, more commonly known as the Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva)Order: CHARADRIIFORMES Family: Plovers (Charadriidae). Have you seen it?

Well, this week I decided to do more research on this bird. They are found in Hawaii almost every season except for summer, when the migrate to...Alaska. The kolea is a shorebird and is probably capable of flying 5,000 km nonstop.
But here in Hawaii, kolea's like people's front lawns, parks and sometimes parking lots. There are about 195,00 of the Kolea birds left. Their population is being threatened by many things such as intensive agriculture, urbanization, tourism and ranching. It is listed by the US Shorebird Conservation Plan as a Species of High Concern, due to its low relative abundance, and threats during both breeding and non-breeding seasons.

Ways to idenitfy a Kolea: medium sized plover, the Pacific Golden-Plover’s wings usually reach just to the tip of the tail. The Pacific Golden-Plover has a more long-legged appearance and its upperparts are sprinkled with bright yellow markings. They can weigh up to 180 grams.

In Hawaiian culture, the Kolea bird is important, powerful bird in many
chants. It was thought of as a bad omen in ancient Hawaiian times, giving a warning to families. There are even legends that talk about the kolea, look at the myth of Lonopuha and Milu.

What do they eat? Food items include invertebrates, berries, leaves and seeds. Many are territorial when it comes to looking for food. One thing I found particularly interesting is that the baby Kolea are never fed by their parents, although their parents guard them intensively after hatching. They watch their parents eat food, but after hatching, they soon are able to walk and look for their own food. Pretty cool yeah?

Teachers out there: there is a Kolea watch open to students in grades K-12, look at this
website for more infomation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Volcanoes and Culture

<----------(Kilauea Coast on Big Island) This week I decided to learn more about volcanoes and how hawaiian culture pertains to this type of science. Volcanology: is the study of volcanoes, lava, magma and related geological phenomena.

Right here in Hawaii on the Big Island we have an active volcano, Kilauea. Growing up here, I always remember going on field trips to the
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and learning about how our islands were created from this particular scientific point of view. We learned how volcanoes are created and the different legends on how our islands were created.

Volcanoes are created by heat which is inside, beneath Earth's surface. This heat heats rocks and melts rocks, this is called magma, this stirs up gases and then creates an eruption. This eruption forms build up of ash and lava which creates a volcano.

I also remember learning in the classroom when growing up about Pele, Poliahu, Hi'iaka, Papa and Wakea and how the Hawaiian islands were created through culture. We learned about Pele's tears found in the cinder cones at the park and about Pele's hair that we saw in the pahoehoe lava. I found a website that has Hawaiian Legends on Volcanoes and tells the story on how our lands were created by Pele and different events that happened in Hawaiian history, for example, Keoua's army that was lost near Kilauea... I don't want to give away the story, you have to read it on the website to see what happened.

I really feel that Hawaiian culture and any culture for that matter, is rich and important and that it should be perpetuated in schools. Sometimes there is a clash between science and culture and vice versa. But I really liked how Kealoha talked about Papa Mau, who was Nainoa Thompson's teacher on navigation and how he can tell you where to go and he can navigate you there, without the use of modern-day techonologies and sciences. Techniques like these are important for the next generation to know about. We must expose our children to all different types of learning. . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What is a cactus plant?

<-------I have this cactus growing outside my home and I've had this plant from when I was in intermediate school. People that come over say that it's interesting that a cactus can grow in this climate. But I'm really wondering how does it continue to grow and what exactly gives the plant the capabilities to store all this water?

Well, I found that cactus or cacti plants are part of the Family Cactaceae. Cacti plants also known as succulent plants can survive long periods of time without any water. The leaves of these cacti plants are usually green with flowers that are orange, red, purple, pink or yellow in color.

These plants adapt to dry areas and store water, when it does rain and use very little water by minimizing water usage with evaporation. Cacti are also grouped in the same category as Agave, Aloe, Bird of Paradise, Rosemary, Desert Willows and the list goes on. Cacti have a thick, hard-walled, succulent stem - when it rains, water is stored in the stem. The stems are photosynthetic, green, and fleshy. The inside of the stem is either spongy or hollow (depending on the cactus). A thick, waxy coating keeps the water inside the cactus from evaporating. Most leaves of cacti plants have spines or scales which are considered modified leaves which help store the water so that it doesn't evaporate as quickly. They have flowers that bloom, which is when reproduction takes place, but this isn't a plant that you would pick to put in your house the spines are pokey and very sharp.The flower of a cactus has both male and female reproductive parts.

I couldn't find an exact number on how many different cacti plants there are, but most websites noted that they are literally hundereds of types of cacti that belong to Family Cactaceae and that many have sacred and medicinal uses.

From doing some research it looks as though outside of our home, we might have Beavertail Prickly Pear type of cactus, but I'm not really sure. Our cactus shows the dead looking parts of the plant and the new parts of the leaves that continue to grow. This plant is so interesting. I also found that there are rainforest cacti as well, maybe this might be one of them.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I got to thinking about butterflies... I remember in elementary school we had a caterpillar in our classroom. There was a mulberry bush right outside our class door in the yard. All I remember is that one day, the caterpillar went to sleep (in the chrysalis) and magically there was a butterfly. But how did that process happen?

..What also got my mind going on butterflies was the fact that I saw one at night time several weeks ago. As I was sitting down at a friend's house and here comes this butterfly just passing around where we're talking... I've never seen a butterfly at night time.. and right away, everyone gave their meanings why the butterfly came, 'oh it's an ancestor,' or 'someone wanted to vist you,' or 'its a warning.' Whatever the meaning was (which I still don't know) it was interesting to see one at night.

Anyways.... Do you remember what you learned in science class about butterflies and caterpillars?

Well, I didn't and decided to do some research on the topic of metamorphosis.

The butterfly begins as an egg, which is actually a caterpillar. The caterpillar looks somewhat like a worm and nothing like a real butterfly. During the course of the caterpillar's life it's spends most of the time eating leaves and gaining weight. The caterpillar then goes through several molts of skin until it becomes full grown.

The caterpillar has to accumulate body mass to carry itself through the life cycle, which includes the adult phase. Next, the caterpillar enters the pupal stage, when it neither feeds nor moves. This stage of metamorphosis is super duper crucial. From the outside, there is a chrysalis that is formed and inside this chrysalis, the caterpillar is resting. During this time in the chrysalis, the larval tissues completely break down and reorganize within the pupal skin. When the time is right and every change has taken place with in the chrysalis, (usually it takes anywhere from 2 weeks to several months depending on air temperature) it is time for the butterfly to make an appearance.

The butterfly's wings are initially soft and shriveled, but they expand and harden within a few hours. The butterfly then takes flight to pursue its main adult activities, mating and reproduction. Did you know ??? Most adults butterflies live for only a few weeks. Adult butterflies can see red, yellow and green.

So how does the egg get created? Well, the adult butterflies make the eggs, they lay eggs usually on tree leaves or stems. If it's on tree leaves, it's usually on the underside so that the eggs are protected. But when an egg is laid it's only about the size of a pinhead. Can you believe it?

Another great site that has tons of questions and answers can be found here.
Butterflies are so pretty... what an amazing process or metamorphosis they go through....