Last year, I wrote about a new book from Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer that offered awesome ways for kids to get excited about nature, The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things To Do In Nature Before You Grow Up. After also putting out We Love Nature!: A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors, they have teamed up for a third book: The Truth About Nature: A Family’s Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors (Helena, MT: FalconGuides, 2014, 232 pp.).
One does not need to know all the details about nature to get outside and enjoy the world. But, knowing some things sure does help, and folks – kids and adults alike – will be curious about things they see, touch, smell, or hear. A lot of what we know about nature – about plants, animals, the physical environment – we learn in school, in visits to museums and zoos, and programming on TV or the internet. And some of what we learn we hear from other people, and in turn might share that information with others. It’s gauranteed that something you learned about nature just simply is not true. This is where The Truth About Nature comes in. Tornio and Keffer, while wanting to get kids and families excited about nature, are dispellers of myths and misconceptions that many people have always held about how things in nature were.
For folks in the Pacific Northwest, here’s one nature myth from the book that might dispel your previous thoughts:
Myth 113: Moss only grows on the north side of trees
About the myth: Go out for a hike in the woods and find moss growing on a tree. Chances are it’s on the north side of the tree. The proof is right there!
The truth: Yes, moss does often grow on the north side of trees, but it can grow anywhere it’s shady. So look a little harder to see if you can find it growing on other sides as well. The reason it likes growing on the north side the most is because of the way Earth is tilted toward the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere the north gets less sun than the south. But if you were to go to the Southern Hemisphere, where the south gets less sun, you’d see that moss grows more on the south side of trees!
The takeaway: If it’s a shady enough area, moss will grow on any side of a tree. Do your own little experiment: Go for a hike and see where you can find moss growing.
Additional facts: Moss is kind of a weird plant. It’s considered a non-vascular plant, and it doesn’t have any roots. It needs a lot of water since it doesn’t have toots to drink up water like most plants. So in addition to looking for moss in shady spots, look in damp areas, too.
Interestingly, the nature park in Beaverton where I previously worked has an interpretive sign along the main trail about this. It states: “Are you lost? Forget the folk tale about moss growing on the north side of trees. In truth, mosses flourish on the wet side of trees.”
The Truth About Nature is chock full of entries like this (143 more to be exact!); the authors state what the nature myth is, share the truth about it, give suggestions for further learning, and wrap it up with additional information. They are organized by season (from Spring to Winter), and each myth is rated on a Myth Scale (1 through 3) depending on how true or false the claim is. Also, dispersed throughout the book are other entries covering things in nature that are indeed true, “luck legends,” weather legends, and how to be a scientist. My son is excited to flip through and read entries, and I look forward to perusing more. The illustrations are enjoyable, too – very colorful and bold renderings of animals, plants, and landscapes by Rachel Riordan.
Tornio and Keffer are doing a giveaway:
Be a hero at your school! Award-winning authors, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, are giving away a free school visit along with free copies of their new book, THE TRUTH ABOUT NATURE! All you have to do is enter a video or photo between September 22, 2014 and November 23, 2014.
What’s the video or photo supposed to be about? It’s simple—just make a video or create a photo that features a common outdoor myth. You can look for ideas from Stacy and Ken’s recent Falcon Guides book, THE TRUTH ABOUT NATURE.
We are looking for fun, creative videos and photos that help us get the truth out about nature! So gather your family, classmates or friends, and get started. All you have to do is pick a myth to tackle. Then it’s up to you to come up with a clever video or photo to show why it’s a myth. Good luck! You just might win an author visit for your entire school!