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Signs of Spring: May 22, 2000

Today's Update Includes:

Babies & Birthdays
Happy Birthday!
Photo Larry Gates,
It's BIRTHDAY TIME across the northern hemisphere! Billions of babies are born or hatched--some of them in your backyard--as spring unfolds! We've seen that animals migrate as their plant and/or animal prey becomes available along the migration trail. We've also seen that the arrival of young is similarly tied to the availability of food. For example, think about how much food a mom and dad bird need every day just to keep themselves alive. Now imagine how much more work they have when suddenly there's another whole batch of mouths to feed. A pair of loons need to find food for themselves and help their two chicks learn to catch fish. A pair of chickadees must find insects for themselves and their six or even eight helpless nestlings. Foxes, squirrels, and manatees must eat enough to support their own bodies plus calories enough to spare for producing milk to feed their young.

Why not celebrate spring's new life with a birthday cake? Not all birthday cakes need to be baked in the oven. Here's a fitting Journey North celebration recipe called "dirt cake," made with ground Oreo cookies and chocolate pudding!

A Good Time to be Born
It isn't just a coincidence that so many baby animals are born or hatched right when there is an abundance of food. Reproductive cycles are timed to maximize the chances of the babies' survival. Baby owls and hawks hatch out when receding snows are exposing mice just the right size for their little mouths. And by the time the babies are learning to hunt on their own a few weeks after hatching, there are lots of other inexperienced baby animals around to practice on. Hummingbirds hatch when there is an abundance of flowers to provide nectar and tiny insects. Goldfinches don't hatch until their favorite plants, like thistle and milkweed, are producing lots of seeds. They use the downy seeds for building their nests as well as for eating. Wolf pups are born in the arctic when caribou are calving for two good reasons. Their mothers will have nutritious diets to help them produce milk for the pups, and the babies will have easy prey for hunting as they learn that skill.

Try This! Seasonal Births?
Are humans born in specific seasons? Collect a data sample to help you find out. Ask everyone in the room what month they were born. Interview as many people as you can. Record all answers and graph the data by months. Look at the graph to see whether more humans are born in specific seasons. Discuss whether the birth season is as important in the life cycle of humans as it is in the life cycle of animals. Explain your thinking.

Final Note from Journey North
As we celebrate the renewal of plant and animal life now taking place all around us, let's dedicate ourselves to protecting these things we love so much. Then, with our help, future generations can continue to enjoy them.

Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, was asked his vision of the environmental challenges facing the nation and the world. Without pause, he replied: "Achieving stability in population growth in the U.S. and elsewhere is the most important of the hundreds of challenges facing us."
  • In 1900, Earth was home to about 1.6 billion people. At the beginning of 1992, Earth supported about 5.4 billion people. In October 1999, the world population passed the SIX BILLION mark.

  • Every second five people are born and two people die, a net gain of three people.

  • According to current (2000) projections, the world's total population will more than double, and may triple in a single generation.

These facts and figures are daunting. And because the solutions to overpopulation are so controversial, people are afraid to discuss the topic.

Throughout this spring season, we've focused on the fascinating workings of nature. We have been careful not to overwhelm students with stories that arouse fear or gloom, even when we mention threats to the survival of these magnificent creatures and habitats. But we would be remiss without ending the season--and going forward--with these thoughts in our minds.

Thank you for traveling along with us this migration season. We hope you've enjoyed this celebration of spring--and that you'll join us again next year!

Your Friends @ Journey North

Elizabeth Howard Julie Brophy  
Jane Duden Mary Hosier Laura Erickson
Beth Allen Wei-Hsin Fu Joel Halvorson

Try This! How Many People?
Find out how many people were on Earth when YOU were born. Watch the population clock change before your eyes, and play an interactive game. Understand why the world's population has exploded in recent years, and why it might stabilize during the next century. Do it all when you visit this friendly Website:
  • 6 Billion Human Beings: An exhibit (in English) from the Musée de l'Homme Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle Paris, France

Resources about Human Population:

  • National Geographic (October, 1998). Population Articles.

  • National Geographic (February, 1999). Biodiversity articles.

  • U.S. Census Bureau POPClocks
  • Brouse, D. E. (1990a). Population education. Awareness activities. Science Teacher, 57(9), 31-33.

  • Brouse, D. E. (1990b). Population growth: Stretching the limits. Science and Children, 27(5), 23-25.

  • The Population Reference Bureau (see link to their excellent Educational Materials for all ages)


  • THE POPULATION EXPLOSION by Paul and Anne Ehrlich (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990)

  • Biodiversity and Conservation: A Hypertext Book by Peter J. Bryant

Journey North Year-End Evaluation

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Year End Evaluation
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This is the FINAL Signs of Spring Update. Have a Great Summer!

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