The Scout Report
March 20, 2015 -- Volume 21, Number 11
Spring is a time of new beginnings, of green shoots in wet soil, of budding trees, and kids let out to play. It's also a perfect time for a special edition of the Scout Report. On this, the vernal equinox, the following annotations will welcome readers into the heart of spring, with an emphasis on the science, the art, and the culture of the season. Through this collection of resources, we hope readers will find their own joy at the end of winter and the beginning of a new season of light. For, as Pablo Neruda once said, "You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring."
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A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
National Geographic Education: The Reason for the Seasons
United States Botanic Garden
Solstice and Equinox ("Suntrack") Model (PDF)
Caroline Dean Wildflower Collection
Smithsonian Libraries: Butterflies and Moths
Poetry Foundation: Spring Poems
Wu Han Plays Tchaikovsky, Month by Month
The Walt Whitman Archive: Published Works
William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience
Celebrating Nowruz: A Resource for Educators (PDF)
Spring Cleaning: Surprising Strategies for Finally Organizing Your Space
Cherry Blossom Festival
Holi Festival 2015
May Day Celebrations
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How does the sun determine the Earth's seasons? This is the question that the National Geographic Education site seeks to answer with a lively 35-minute activity designed for students between the ages of seven and eleven (second through fifth grade). In the activity, students use polystyrene foam balls and light bulbs to simulate the intensity of the sun's energy on the earth's surface. The site is divided into four basic sections so that educators can easily absorb the various aspects of the lesson. Readers may like to start with Directions, which provides a run-through of the activity and step-by-step instructions for how to bring in interesting resources and breathe life into these important concepts. [CNH]
This website from the United States Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C. inspires and delights in any season - but it's especially uplifting in spring. Readers may like to browse the upcoming programs, which cover topics such as the health benefits of chocolate and a celebration of spring cooking. There are also listings on the site for What's in Bloom, and exhibits on orchids and the secret life of roots. In addition, the Learn tab links to educational resources such as the Landscape for Life website, where educators may find lesson plans for sustainable home gardening. A Virtual Tour offers gorgeous 360 degree interactive views of several sections of the Gardens, including the Jungle Room, the Orchid Room, and the National Garden - Rose Garden. An autorotate option makes for easy meandering through the tour and information blurbs provide specific details about each section. Readers inspired to start their own gardens will also enjoy the Gardening Fact Sheets with tips on subjects such as Soils and Insects & Other Organisms. [CNH]
These instructions for building a "suntrack" model were originally designed by Philip and Deborah Scherrer of the Stanford Solar Center in 2005; a decade later, they still stand as an excellent, hands-on instructional aid. The manual is available as a free PDF and guides teachers and students through the process of building a diorama designed to simulate the Sun's arc across the sky at the summer solstice, winter solstice, and spring and fall equinoxes. The finished product provides educators with a physical model that brings to life these essential cycles of earth and sun. The diorama is designed to be useful for students age eight and up. It takes about two hours to build and the material can be purchased at any hardware store. The PDF also includes links to more complete explanations of the interactions between Sun and Earth along with complete assembly instructions. [CNH]
The Caroline Dean Wildflower Collection at the Auburn University Digital Library offers a peak into the wonders of wildflowers native to the Southeastern United States. Here readers may find beautiful photographs of the Bearded Grass-Pink, the Black-Eyed Susan, and the Blackberry Lily, among many others. Most of the images are accompanied by both the common and scientific names, and many of the descriptions include information about seeds, habitats, and other information. For readers who draw inspiration from the beauty of flowers, and especially wildflowers of the South, this digital library collection will not disappoint. [CNH]
In many regions around the United States and Europe, one of the sure signs that spring has finally come is the appearance of butterflies. These 446 images of butterflies and moths, presented by the Smithsonian Libraries, offer an uplifting glimpse into the variegated world of these winged creatures. Each image can enlarged. Most images are partnered with a short description, and often a link to more detailed analysis. For instance, a drawing by Georg Wolfgang Franz Panzer features two gorgeous butterflies, composed between 1796 and 1813. Readers may even link to Full Details from the Smithsonian Libraries' Catalog to find information about the book from which the image was scanned, including the publisher and other details. The simple beauty of these images will surely enthrall all readers. [CNH]
This page on the Poetry Foundation website provides readers with 31 poems about spring. Divided into sections (Flowers, Spring in Love, Joy in Spring, Spiritual, Melancholy, Youth in Spring), the poets run the historical timeline from Shakespeare and Dryden to Delmore Schwartz and Tony Hoagland. The poems remind us that "gardens are also good places to sulk" (Amy Gerstler), that spring days can be so perfect that "you want to throw/open all the windows in the house" (Billy Collins), and that it is possible to "mourn with ever-returning spring" (Walt Whitman). Each poem is accompanied by Related Content, featuring a Biography of the poet along with some select other poems, audio, and articles. For readers who are looking for celebrations, condemnations, contemplations, and all the thoughts, feelings, and intuitions of spring, this page will be a welcome find. [CNH]
Tchaikovsky composed his 12-part piano cycle, The Seasons, between December 1875 and May 1876. In the hands of master pianist Wu Han, these classic pieces stand as extraordinarily vivid and elegant compositions, performed with tenderness and bravado. While the pieces and accompanying article were first posted to NPR's website in early 2008, they are no less extraordinary today. Here readers may listen to Wu Han's maestro performance of "March: Song of the Lark," "April: Snowdrop," and "May: May Nights," one at a time, or they may choose to hear the entire 12-month cycle played straight through for 45 minutes. The lovingly composed accompanying article by Fred Child introduces readers to the composer, the performer, and the synergy that come alive when the composer and performer come together. [CNH]
Walt Whitman - poet, essayist, journalist, and lover of spring - created a true Victorian scandal when he self-published Leaves of Grass, with its wildly free verse and its sometimes erotic sentiments. While the public swooned and scorned, Whitman dutifully revised the collection over the next three decades, only stopping when a stroke made it impossible for him to work. This site from the excellent Walt Whitman Archive provides a window into that epic editing process. Readers may begin with the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, featuring an about section, the complete text, and page images. Subsequent editions (1856, 1860, 1867,1871, 1881, and 1891) are also available, making analysis of the development of this classic American epic available to anyone. [CNH]
These days no one trades tulips on the stockmarket. But when the tulip was first introduced to Europe in the early 17th century, speculation by Dutch commodities traders led to wildly inflated prices for this most beautiful of spring flowers. In fact, at the peak of the mania, some historians claim that a single tulip bulb could have sold for 10 times the annual salary of a skilled craftsman. The bubble subsequently popped, contributing in part to the decline of the Dutch Republic's Golden Age. Holland's Rijks Museum presents this site as one facet of its Timeline of Dutch History. The site features a number of beautiful illustrations, including a 1639 floral still life by Hans Bollongier, descriptions of the Dutch love for tulips, and images and annotations of the pamphlets that ridiculed the tulip craze. While some of the detailed information accompanying each item in the collection is in Dutch, the majority of the site is navigable in English. [CNH]
William Blake completed the Songs of Innocence, a collection of 19 poems with accompanying woodblock prints, in 1789. Five years later, he completed Songs of Experience, and subsequently published the two collections in a single volume. Themes of the work echo with springtime and renewal, discussing the natural innocence of childhood and the fall from grace that accompanies life in an adult world with its concerns of money, status, and power. This digital collection from the British Library includes a brief overview of the poet and his poems. However, the beautifully photographed wood prints themselves are what make this site a must see. The collection, digitized from an edition originally published in Liverpool in 1923, immerses readers in the poetry and artwork of this Romantic visionary through such poems as "The Ecchoing Green," "The Lamb," and "The Tyger." [CNH]
Nowruz, the Persian celebration of the new year, is celebrated in a number of countries, including Iran, Turkey, and Tajikistan. The spring ritual goes back at least to the 2nd century AD, though many historians agree it probably took root earlier. This free PDF, composed by the Outreach Center at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, is designed as a resource for educators. However, anyone with even a passing interest in the cultures of the Middle East will find much to ponder in the 19 well-written pages of this colorful pamphlet. The Table of Contents includes an introduction to educators and suggestions on how to use the resource, as well as a six-section curriculum that covers the history, Persian roots, rituals, and special foods of Nowruz. Educators may also be interested in the Activities for the Classroom section, which includes creating a Nowruz greeting card and painting eggs among other possibilities. [CNH]
Psych Central, which was founded as a web-based mental health social network two decades ago, now functions as a one-stop-shop for information about all things psychology - from the travails of bullying to tips on how to recognize a psychopath. This blog post by Margarita Tartakovsky presents four surprising strategies for your spring cleaning resolutions. Drawn from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo's new book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, tips range from understanding why you're tidying up to tidying up by category to having a place for everything. For readers who are looking for inspiration in their spring cleaning projects, this post is a welcome find. And, of course, there are hundreds of blog posts on Psych Central to explore. [CNH]
The National Park Service has assembled a useful overview of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., including ways to plan a visit to the festival, maps and brochures, programs, and other resources. Their section on the history of the cherry trees themselves, however, really stands out. Before the trees were successfully planted in 1912, several blossom lovers had already spent 20 years attempting to plant cherry trees in the District of Columbia. Readers may find the story of Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore and Dr. David Fairchild’s efforts noteworthy, as they led to the donation of 2,000 cherry trees by Japan in 1910. However, those trees were found to be diseased, and so all but a handful of them had to be burned. The timeline then moves through a new Japanese gift of 3,020 new trees, their successful planting, and explains the development of the Cherry Blossom Festival as it slowly took shape over the following decades. Readers may also enjoy the Photos and Multimedia tab, which showcases the trees in videos, photographs, and a web cam. [CNH]
The Hindu spring festival of Holi is often referred to as “the festival of colors” and “the festival of love.” Celebrations begin with a bonfire celebrating the death of Holika, the devil. The next morning, men, women, and children, young and old, strangers and friends, color one another with dried powder from head to toe, and share food, song, and dance in the streets. While the website is a a bit dated in appearance and ads are visible throughout, it explains Holi in all its marvelous guises, with tabs dedicated to the history, rituals, significance, tradition, and other aspects of the festival. In fact, there is an entire section dedicated to the Legends of Holi, where readers may peruse the stories that form the backbone of this magnificent festival. Other tabs include Holi Greetings, Holi Songs, and Holi Recipes. [CNH]
The earliest May Day celebrations predate Christianity's introduction to Europe. What is left of them now are the unbridled celebration of the end of winter, dancing around a Maypole, and crowning the Queen of May. This collection from Western Oregon University's Hamersly Library & Archives consists of a selection of photographs and postcards related to May Day events between 1916 and 1947. The site provides a short explanation of how the May Day Celebration began at what was then the Oregon State Normal School. It then follows the development of the celebration and how it eventually transformed into the fall Homecoming celebration, one of the school's most popular social events. The dozens of vintage black and white photographs chronicle long-ago celebrations of spring and can be viewed as a slideshow or individually with associated information such as Date, Location, and Description. [CNH]
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