Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Photo, Before We Take a Break!

City Science Kids will be taking a little break from video-making for summer. But be sure to check in with us once in a while! Because we'll be posting photos of the science we run into while we're having our school-break adventures. Like this one:

This is a special red-eyed cicada—the kind that hatches only once every 17 years! In Brooklyn, we waited and waited for the ground to get warm enough (about 64 degrees) for them to emerge onto our streets. We read reports of them swarming in droves all over Staten Island. And we even heard about a woman who had to travel to her mother's house in the South to help her clean up after the enormous cicada eruption in her town. But we never did see them in Brooklyn. 

However, last weekend, when we got to the city of Poughkeepsie, about and hour and a half north of Brooklyn, what should we find? This beautiful and weird specimen. It flew onto the porch of our house and sat around for a few minutes. Only the one cicada, and it didn't make a sound.

Happy trails to all of you science lovers this summer! Make sure to write in and tell us about any cool things you see out there on your travels!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Presenting Episode #5! Mushrooms in the City!!

Mushrooms and fungi aren’t plants. They belong to the Kingdom Fungi. Plants have their own kingdom (Kingdom Plantae). And so do animals (Kingdom Animalia). And so do three different kinds of tiny life forms: Bacteria, Protozoa, and Chromista. Kingdoms are a way that scientists organize the different kinds of things that are alive on the Earth. Think about all your toys. How would you organize them into categories? One way might be: Board Games, Puzzles, Things You Can Stack, Things With Wheels, Dolls, and so on. These categories are like Kingdoms.

Fungi are so important to life on Earth. As we learn in this video, they break down (decompose) dead things like plant matter and wood. But there are also fungi that specialize in eating a dead tree’s twigs, others that specialize in eating its leaves, and others that specialize in its seeds, bark, and dense heartwood. Fungi also eat hooves and feathers and skin and other parts of once-living animals. They turn nature’s garbage into nutrients that can be used by other things in order to thrive.

Some kinds of fungi aren’t decomposers at all; they are plant partners. They attach themselves to the roots of certain trees, to help them reach water and nutrients in the soil. In return, they feed on sugars produced in the tree’s roots. The fungi and the trees have a symbiotic relationship—they help each other.

The main part of a fungus lives under the dirt, or inside a tree, or in a pile of leaves. It’s called the mycelium, and it's made up of tiny hairs called hyphae. Mushrooms are the part of a fungus that reproduces. They contain spores, which are like seeds. When the fungus is ready to expand, it sends up mushrooms to the surface of the dirt or the tree. The mushrooms release their spores then die, but the mycelium lives on and continue to grow.

There are many more fascinating things to learn about mushrooms. Here are a couple of websites to get you started, with lots of pictures to look at:

If there’s a mycological society in your area, ask your parents to take you on a mushroom walk, with experts! Here is the website for the New York Mycological Society.

Most importantly, NEVER EAT a mushroom that you find. Some of them are deadly poison and even the experts can have a hard time telling the difference between those that are safe and those that are not. Look only, and take pictures, and if your parents say it’s OK, pick a few to make spore prints.

Don’t forget to write in to this website to tell us about any mushrooms you find! And send us your pictures!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

First There Was (lots of) Rain...

...Now there's this:
What in the world is going on here? Stay tuned for the next episode of City Science Kids to find out!