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Every Day is Turtle Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Did you see my post post for Turtle Day? WORLD Turtle Day is May 23rd,  but in my house, every day is Turtle Day.

A box turtle on a patio table in a backyard
Trevor, the Box Turtle

That’s because I share my home with box turtles, Trevor And Ela. I’ve had Trevor (Terrapene carolina) for a long time.  He was given to me by a co-worker when I lived on the East Coast.  He had been passed from family to family to family.  She gave him to me to stop the passing.  She knew I’d keep him. But I did contact the state about what I should do with him, since he could be a native.  Because it could not be determined where he was from, I was told to keep him in captivity.  I tried to donate him to a breeding program for his happiness, but he was from the wrong state as far as we could tell.  So when I made the cross-country move, Trevor came with me.

 

Sonoran Desert box turtle in the grass
Ela, a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle

I’d been in Tucson for several years, when I was asked to take in a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola). She had been kept in captivity and needed a new home.  Fortunately, I have a secure back yard, so Ela joined my Sonoran Desert Tortoise in the backyard. They even brumated together.

Even though Trevor and Ela are both box turtles, they are very different. Trevor’s favorite food is snails, while Ela wants nothing to do with them. They do both enjoy a juicy strawberry.

A box turtle closed up inside his box
See why he’s called a Box Turtle?

Have you ever wondered why they are called box turtles? Unlike most turtles which have a sleek shell, streamlined for swimming, the box turtle has a high dome, more like a tortoise. This reflects their more terrestrial lifestyle. With no water to escape into, box turtles have developed a different defense against predators. Box turtles have a hinge on the bottom shell, the plastron. Not only can they pull their head, limbs and tail inside but they close up the shell to form a “box.” It’s much harder to find a bit to eat when your meal is hidden inside a hard shell.

Looking at a closed up box turtle from the front
The box (his shell on a hinge) protects Trevor from predators

 

Excerpt from my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!

“Not all turtles swim–like my friend they call a Box.

His shell closes with hinges, so he won’t be eaten by a fox.”

When I wrote Don’t Call Me Turtle! for Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise, I used Trevor as the example for the turtle.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

Please join me in making every day Turtle Day!

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Do Iguana’s Have Teeth? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

Close up of teeth of Rhinoceros Iguana
Reginald, the Rhinoceros Iguana, smiles for Elaine

 

I’m often asked if iguanas have teeth.  Even more interesting are the people who tell me that iguanas don’t have teeth because they are vegetarians.  Since iguanas do have to bite through fibrous plant material, they actually have razor-sharp, serrated teeth. Sharks have nothing on iguanas when it comes to teeth! My rhinoceros iguana, Reginald, offered to show me his teeth for a photo. It’s often hard to see their teeth because they are nearly transparent. This may be why some people think they don’t have teeth – they’re hard to see.

Teeth are just one part of the iguanas’ eating procedure.  Iguanas taste the world with their tongue, their slightly forked tongue.  Yes, just like the forked tongue of a snake.  The tongue collects molecules which are transferred to the Jacobson’s organ located in the iguana’s mouth. Once the iguana determines the leaf is food, he reaches out with his tongue which is covered in really sticky saliva.  This allows the leaf to be pulled to the waiting mouth.  That’s when those razor sharp teeth are used to slice off a mouth-sized piece of leaf.

The iguana must make its food bite-size because he doesn’t have any grinding teeth like molars. If the iguana selects a bigger food item, such as a fruit, he will move it around his mouth, slicing it until it is able to slide down his throat.

Baby iguanas are born with teeth, so they can eat immediately after hatching. Iguanas regularly grow new teeth. For those of you into anatomy, iguanas are pleurodonts since their teeth are attached to the inside of the jawbone.

Although iguanas have impressive teeth, this doesn’t mean you should fear them–just respect them.  An iguana’s first response is to run. If running isn’t possible, they will whack with their tails and spin their bodies. Only as a last resort will they bite.  But if you do get yourself bitten, you will have an impressive wound showing each and every tooth!

My advice is let the iguana use his or her teeth for eating. 🙂

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook for Grades 2-4,  My Unit Study on Iguanas.  The  workbook includes the pages Cyclura or Rock Iguana?, Iguana Facts, Iguana Puzzle, Iguana Lifecycle, Reptile Facts, Name the Reptile, Label the Parts, Compare Traits, Ecology Word Problems, Printing Letters,  Short i Sound, Counting, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, True or False; Mean, Median, Mode, Range; Using a Histogram, and Converting Grams to Pounds.

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's head

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World Turtle Day is May 23, 2019 by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A red-foot tortoise, showing top of shell and head looking back at photographer
Myrtle, the red-foot tortoise, doesn’t actually mind World Turtle Day.  After all, she is officially a member of the turtle family–well, as long as we all remember her book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! If we call her a turtle, there may be a wee bit of a problem…

 

World Turtle Day was started in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue. You see, all hard-shelled reptiles, even if they are soft-shelled, are called turtles. Even if they are tortoises.  I don’t think that is fair personally. Neither does my red-foot tortoise, Myrtle, who insisted I write the book, Don’t Call Me Turtle after she got tired of being called a turtle–especially because her name is Myrtle!

The purpose of World Turtle Day is to educate people about their role in protecting the habitats of turtles and tortoises. Their shell protects them from the hazards of their natural world, but turtles and tortoises fare badly in interactions with people. From loss of habitat, being crushed crossing roads, caught in fishing nets and drowning, and being eaten, it’s a dangerous world for these gentle creatures.  Okay, maybe snapping turtles can fight back, but the others are pretty helpless. They need our assistance.

Help celebrate the joy that turtles and tortoises bring to people every day. Enrich your life with one of these amazing animals.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle
Yup, that’s Myrtle posing on the cover of Don’t Call Me Turtle! Every once in a while, Myrtle asks the author to read the story to her. Again.

 

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It’s Flower Day! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A closeup of the head of an older Spiny-Tail iguana
“Got any flowers for me?” Krinkle would always ask.  (A great loss for the author, he passed of old age May 16, 2019.)

 

What do you think of when you see that it is Flower Day?

I may look at it a bit differently than you.  I judge flowers on whether they would be a good food source for my animals!  The day lilies that bloom in the morning are served for breakfast. Krinkle Spiny-tail iguana always opened his gaping maw to crush the whole daylily flower. The yellow ones were preferred. Rose petals (no pesticides) are sprinkled like croutons. Homegrown carnations and pansies are also enjoyed.

One particular favorite is dandelion flowers. I can throw them to the iguanas and they will leap up and snag them! My neighbors are always willing to allow me to pick their dandelions. “Take as many as you like,” they say. I plant squash that never produce fruit because I harvest the flowers. No need to find good homes for all those extra zucchini.

As you enjoy flowers, remember to ask yourself: “Can I eat this?”

Elaine A. Powers was a biologist before she retired to write children’s books. A magical combination of storytelling and science is the wonderfully illustrated, Grow Home, Little Seeds. A bundle of seeds have grown up together and want to remain close as they head out into the world. But Nature carries them to their own perfect environments to establish roots and grow into the magnificent trees they are each meant to be. They are not far from each other, however, and remain fast forest friends.

Learn about the following trees while sharing their seed-adventures with your favorite little one: the Black Mangrove, the Bromeliad, the Christmas Orchid, the Gumbo Limbo tree, the Lignum Vitae, the Mahogany, the Poisonwood, the Red Mangrove, the Sea Grape, the Shell Orchid, and the Silver Thatch Palm.

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters

 

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How to Make a Picture File and Why it’s an Important Teaching Tool by Marilyn Buehrer, Teacher

A picture file is a file box filled with beautiful photos that represent anything you are teaching about. These beautifully mounted photos are ideal visual aids to accompany and enhance the supplemental workbooks offered on this website. Whether it’s turtles, tortoises, snakes, tropical birds, tropical trees and foliage, flowers, or people, colorful visual aids will give children an authentic look at what they are studying. Instead of relying on drawings and cartoons, it’s important that students see realistic photos of what they are learning about.

colorful cover of children's educational workbook all about the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, turquoise color with polka dots, with image of rattlesnake and a list of the 46 workbook pages

In my teaching experience with elementary, middle, and high school students, every time I had a lesson to teach, I was able to pull out several pictures related to that subject for my students to see what I was talking about. Propping them up on the chalk tray of your white board works well, or create a bulletin board with them.

A person will remember 10% of what s/he has heard, 60% of what s/he’s heard and written down, and  90% of what s/he’s heard, written down, seen, and done.

This means that adding visual aids and practice (students taking notes) to what I verbally taught, enhanced my teaching and the students’ learning. My students remembered the information. Every age group benefits from visual aids.

It took me about two months to cut out and mount 200 pictures. Once I got started, it was hard not to get carried away! Two hundred pictures sounds like a lot, but it’s very easy to surpass that number.

Materials needed:

  1. Tagboard. 200 sheets of 9” x 12” white tagboard are available at school supply stores and art stores.
  2. Rubber cement. A large can of rubber cement. NOTE: Elmer’s glue, homemade paste, staples, and tape will not do for this project. Rubber cement doesn’t ripple and warp the pictures as it dries. It’s also neat to work with since it rolls right off your hands. Spray adhesive works also, but it makes cloudy fumes. When using rubber cement, always work in a well-ventilated area. Leave the doors and windows open in the room you’re working in, or take your work out to a sun-sheltered porch.
  3. Donated magazines, outdated calendars, posters, and travel brochures. I got grocery bags full of magazines from neighbors willing to part with them for a good cause. Other good sources are thrift stores and used book stores. Photos of animals and plants can be found in science magazines, National Geographic, and Smithsonian. Photos of household items can be found in home and architectural magazines. Photos of plants, flowers, and trees are in garden and landscape magazines.

What to look for:

Look for large, clean, clear, colorful photographs in the following categories. These are just suggestions. You might choose to limit your search to just one subject matter such as birds or reptiles.

  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Insects
  • People
  • Everyday personal and household items
  • Modes of transportation
  • Furniture
  • Landscapes
  • Bodies of water
  • National symbols of the U.S. and other countries
  • Sports
  • Flowers and trees
  • Wild animals
  • Domestic animals
  • Art such as the Old Masters
  • Mosaics
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture
  • Perspective/line
  • Color

Directions:

  1. Carefully tear the photos out of the magazines.
  2. Using a pair of paper scissors, neatly trim the edges of the pictures, leaving a sixteenth-inch white border whenever possible.
  3. Use a paper cutter if necessary to get the straightest edge possible.
  4. Clear off a wide, flat space in your house such as the kitchen or dining room table.
  5. Cover the entire table top with a thick layer of newspapers. This is so the top layers can be rolled up and removed to continually reveal a clean working surface throughout the mounting process.
  6. Turn the trimmed photos over and brush rubber cement over the entire backside of the picture. Rubber cement dries quickly, so work quickly.
  7. Turn the picture over and carefully lay it on the sheet of tagboard. Leave a wider margin of white tagboard at the bottom edge than at the top, just as if you were framing the photograph. Not all photos will have a white margin because they will fill the entire tagboard space, and that’s okay.
  8. Use one hand to hold the photo in place and the outside edge of your other hand to spread the picture down and force any excess rubber cement out from under the photo. The great thing about rubber cement is that as it dries, it rolls up into gummy balls that easily come off the tagboard and leave no residue or marks.
  9. Work all the bubbles out from under the photo. Use a straight pin to prick any bubbles that refuse to be worked out.
  10. If rubber cement gets on the photo itself, leave it there until it completely dries, then use your clean, dry finger and a light touch to carefully roll the dried, rubbery adhesive off the photo.
  11. Lay the finished pictures on a flat surface to dry. Leave them there for a couple of days. If you stack the finished pictures right away, they’ll bond to one another, and you’ll never be able to pull them apart without ruining them.
  12. Finally, store the finished photos in a plastic, portable storage box with a lid that has a handle (available at office supply stores). This will keep your pictures portable, dust free, and looking like new for many years.

You can also use these pictures to decorate your classroom, create bulletin boards, and as creative writing prompts.

LYRIC POWER PUBLISHING offers 23  affordable, comprehensive, supplemental Workbooks for Teachers, Tutors and Home-Schooling Parents. Each WORKBOOK has a theme and can include pages for reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary and math, along with Venn-Diagrams, life-cycles, fact sheets, coloring pages, puzzles, connect-the-dots, word searches, mazes, label-the-parts, cut-and-paste, true or false, fill-in-the-blanks, match the pictures, greater than/less than, count-and-classify and graphing.

A light blue and white book cover with an image of multi-colored river rocks
The Rock Cycle cut and paste project in this lesson comes from this workbook. It also includes work pages on rock collecting.
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The Hardest Part About Writing by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A brown embroidered cloth, with the words "Leave your ego at the door."I have discovered the hardest part of writing.  It’s not putting those first words on the blank page. Any drivel will do for that.  It’s not even the rewriting, as painful as that tends to be.  (Did I really think that nonsense I wrote was good? Unbelievable.) It’s not even when you give your writing to another person to read.  Yes, there’s a bit of trepidation about putting yourself out there, but pride is also involved.  After all, this is YOUR baby and worthy of being read, right? Nope, that’s still not it.

The hardest part is listening to other people’s opinions and edits.

I was fortunate enough to have good training in listening to critiquing. I was writing audio/readers’ theater scripts. The scripts are dialog and sound effects. While writing, the authors can hear the dialog in their mind and later when they read it to themselves.  However, the authors are not going to be performing the dialog–other actors will be doing that.  So to help the authors, the radio theater held sessions where actors would read the script-draft aloud. Believe me, words sound very different when spoken by someone else.  Problems in the writing become very apparent.

However, in these sessions, the authors are not allowed to express their opinions; they must sit there quietly and take notes.  The directive “Leave your ego at the door” is enforced. Listening to others and not being defensive is very important in the development of a finished product.  I hate to admit it, but the critiquers are usually right–not always, but quite often.

Now that I write books, I try to continue to embrace the philosophy of “Leaving my ego at the door.” Listening to the opinions and suggestions of others has served me well. I value that people took the time to read my work and give me their honest opinions.  I tell them to “be brutal” in saying what doesn’t work, and I mean it.  I cannot work in a vacuum, and together a much better result is achieved.  As they sa,y “No author is an island.”

My advice to fellow authors is to listen with gratitude when someone criticizes your work.  To those who have given me their time and input, I say, “THANK YOU!”

My website is at: http://elaineapowers.com/.

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Rhyming is Required for Picture Books, In My Humble Opinion by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle
“Rattlers have tongues that we flick out and back. We’re not smelling your scent so we can attack. We’re “tasting” the molecules that float in the air, Our Jacobson’s organs determine what is there.”

 

I write children’s books, both adventure tales and picture books. My personal opinion is that picture books should rhyme.  It doesn’t need to be overt rhyming, it can be subtle rhyming, but the text does need to rhyme. However, rhyming alone isn’t enough for a book.  The rhyming text must have a point, purpose, or reason, meaning some lesson must be taught.

The lines and rhyming can be any way you want them to be: a few beats per line, or complete sentences. However, they must be consistent.  You can also arrange the words in a visual pattern for more fun (but no changing patterns within the book).

Even though the text rhymes, the story-line must still have an arc, which builds to a climax.

Please use correct punctuation.  Some poems today are free-form with their punctuation, but when teaching children to read, correct usage is important.

Write a book that children and adults will enjoy reading over and over – that is the ultimate goal. Repetition allows children to learn the language, ideas, and the story-line of the book.

Many people have told me they wanted to write a children’s book. I encourage them all. However, if you’re thinking of writing a “mere” children’s book, know that writing a rhyming picture book is as tedious and as difficult as writing a novel!

“With vibrant illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe, this picture book is jam-packed with scientific facts about roadrunners, delivered in verse form to keep the narrative lively. Roadrunners “…grab their victim/behind its head/And bash it on/the ground until it is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star
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For My Iguanas, Every Day is Eat What You Want Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

May 11 has been designated Eat Want You Want Day as a respite from restricting our food choices, dieting, and general self-deprivation.  So, on this one day, feel free to eat want you want: Give in to that sweet tooth, eat those carbs, have cereal for supper. No one can tell you what you can’t eat on May 11! My iguanas embrace this philosophy, but not just one day a year.

One of my most outgoing iguanas was named Loa. He had had a rough time as a young iguana, but thrived once he reached my home.  He was interested in everything, especially food.  He had to try everything I ate.  If he didn’t like it, he would never bother me about it again. However, if he found a food he liked, he would harass me to get some for himself.  Fortunately, I didn’t mind sharing (unless it was cherry pie).

Green Iguana, Loa, on a tabletop
My Green Iguana, Loa, loved human foods.

Green iguanas are tree dwellers, so they are very good at climbing and jumping. If I was eating something Loa felt was tasty, soon he would leap onto the middle of the dining room table and join me. Often I would make a separate plate of my food for him to enjoy.  But when it came to cherry pie, neither of us wanted to share. It was all his! So, I’d take to the kitchen to eat my piece and leave him to eat his on the table!

My iguana, Algae, almost got me in trouble during a dinner party. She was enjoying a romp around the house before I had to confine her when my guests arrived (they weren’t as enthusiastic about iguanas as I am). I had made a lemon cake topped with mandarin oranges, a very refreshing dessert. I went to take a shower, only to return to Algae with her head buried in the cake, happily eating.  She turned to me with a look of innocence on her cake-covered face! Fortunately, my friends had a sense of humor and we enjoyed the part of the cake Algae hadn’t eaten.

Green Iguana, Algae, on an enclosure.
My Green Iguana, Algae, who loved lemon/mandarin orange cake.

And yes, I gave Algae and the other iguanas the remaining cake!

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook for Grades 2-4,  My Unit Study on Iguanas.  The  workbook includes Cyclura or Rock Iguana?, Iguana Facts, Iguana Puzzle, Iguana Lifecycle, Reptile Facts, Name the Reptile, Label the Parts, Compare Traits, Ecology Word Problems, Printing Letters,  Short i Sound, Counting, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, True or False; Mean, Median, Mode, Range; Using a Histogram, and Converting Grams to Pounds.

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's head

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The Land Building Tree by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A botanical Illustration of a Red Mangrove Tree SeedIf you’ve ever visited the ocean’s edge, you may have seen one of my favorite trees, the Red Mangrove, Rhizophora mangle. Red Mangroves are remarkable plants, able to live in salt water, thriving along the edge of the ocean. A Red Mangrove has prop-roots that extend down from its trunk to anchor the tree in the shifting sediment; the roots also are used to breathe air.

Fallen leaves and the prop-root structure encourage the buildup of sediment. Red Mangrove wood is unusually dense, so when a tree dies, the trunk sinks in water. The green leaves are darker on top than on the underside. Pink flowers appear in the spring. The trees have both sexes and are capable of self- or wind-pollination. A Red Mangrove produces a propagule, an elongated seed pod that lodges in sediment, sprouts roots, and grows into a new tree. The propagule can float in brackish water for over a year before rooting.

Red Mangrove seed sprouting its first green leaves in the water

So what does this process look like?

A mangrove seed came to rest offshore on a beach in Fort Myers, FL.  The seed sprouted out in the water in the sediment which is still being moved by the waves.

Red Mangrove leaves from a new tree break the surface of the water

The tree continues to grow, adding more branches and leaves that rise above the surface of the water.

A body of water with a large bird perched on a Red Mangrove tree barely showing above the surface of the water

Eventually, this one seed may grow into a dense group of red mangroves which will then provide habitat for other plants.

a book cover of a nature preserve, where seeds are cultivated. Seeds are drawn as cute characters

A botanical illustration of a Red Mangrove seed, a character named Cerise in a children's book, Grow Home, Little SeedsIf you want to read an adventure story featuring a Red Mangrove, check out Cerise in my story called Grow Home, Little Seeds. A bundle of seeds have grown up together and want to remain close as they head out into the world. But Nature carries them to their own perfect environments to establish roots and grow into the magnificent trees they are each meant to be. They are not far from each other, however, and remain fast forest friends.

Learn about the following trees while sharing their seed-adventures with your favorite little one: the Black Mangrove, the Bromeliad, the Christmas Orchid, the Gumbo Limbo tree, the Lignum Vitae, the Mahogany, the Poisonwood, the Red Mangrove, the Sea Grape, the Shell Orchid, and the Silver Thatch Palm.

 

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Why Poetry is Important to Children by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A green and blue book cover, with a castle, title: A Child's Garden of VersesI was asked once, What was the first book I remembered reading as a child? It was Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. All through the years, I have enjoyed revisiting my favorite poems. The wonderful thing about poetry is that it is not age dependent. Sharing rhymes creates a special bond between children and adults. Both can learn and enjoy together.

Poetry has been shown to support cognitive development in children. Poetry improves language skills. Interestingly, children learn new words even if they don’t fully understand their meaning at that time. This helps prepare them for academic success, not only through language development, but also by increasing information and confidence. Poetry also improves imagination and creativity, and encourages an interest in reading and, in some people, writing poetry.

The rhythms in poetry are exciting to small children who love to dance and move to the beats and sing rhymes. This continues into adulthood. After all, song lyrics do usually rhyme.

That is why I have written three science-based children’s books in rhyme. It makes learning all about the creatures fun and interesting. Plus, I love vivid, colorful illustrations, which is a trait of my books. I get a lot of oohs and aahs from others, too. You’ll find the rhyming “Don’t” series here.

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle