For a complete introduction and to get to know each Fuddlebrook story/concept, work your way across the main menu bar above. Have fun exploring, and please contact us with any questions you may have!
But that's not all. Check out the introductory video that explains why we created the Fuddlebrook School Science Series.
In the book, A Bad Case of the Spots, Freddie learns that too much sun can be damaging to your skin.
Did you know jelly beans can help us learn about the scientific concept of adaptation? Please don’t eat the experiment!
When you think of life saving breakthroughs, maybe vaccines, antibiotics, or other medical technologies come to mind. What’s often missing from the list is one of the most common tools for cancer prevention: sunscreen, that amazing lotion that can stop harmful radiation from damaging your skin.
You've probably got a dozen half-empty bottles laying around, but have you ever stopped to really appreciate this product or the science behind it? We’ll take a minute to ponder this oft taken-for-granted and misunderstood innovation.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a sunburn? In the medical world, a sunburn is known as erythema. How do ultraviolet sunrays cause erythema and the pain that comes with it? UV-B wavelengths don't penetrate very deeply, but they cause reactions in your epidermis (the outer layer of your skin) and damages DNA. The body's natural response is to trigger several reactions by your immune system. The result is increased blood-flow to your capillary beds and swelling which help in bringing certain cells that repair the damage. This also triggers the body to produce more melanin (skin pigment) to help in future exposures. The result of all this is the reddening of your skin.
Another protein molecule, known as CXCL5, also triggers specific immune cells in response to UV-B radiation. It's thought that this molecule is what causes the pain and tenderness associated with your burn by stimulating the nerve endings in your skin.
All of these reactions don't happen right away. They usually begin around four hours after exposure and peak between 8-24 hours. This is why you might feel fine right after you leave the beach, but by the time you hit the shower the next morning, your back looks like a tomato and the hot water feels like a million pin pricks.
This is where sunscreen comes in. It works in two ways to protect you from a burn. It either absorbs the UV wavelengths or scatters and reflects it. Depending on the specific makeup of your sunscreen, it will come with protection known as Sun Protection Factor (SPF). If you would normally burn in 10 minutes, a SPF of 15 would allow you protection up to 150 minutes. An SPF of 30 would allow you 300 minutes, and so on.
Don't think, however, you are actually doubling your protection every time you double the SPF. As many consumer groups point out, an SPF of 15 filters out around 92% of UVB radiation. An SPF of 30 will only absorb about 96.7%, and an SPF of 40 will absorb 97.5%. They also point out that while sunscreens are often advertised as "Sun-Block," many are actually only blocking UV-B rays, and not UV-A. To make sure you're getting true broad-spectrum protection, your sunscreen must contain both the organic compounds associated with UV-B absorption and the inorganic associated with UV-A reflection.
If you're like many, you probably aren’t that concerned about a little sunburn. In fact, you may prefer it to the hassle of applying sunscreen. But you should be concerned. Countless studies have shown exposure to the Sun's harmful rays are responsible for early aging and an increased risk of skin cancer. You might think this risk is minimal. Unfortunately, upwards of 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are thought to be caused by the Sun. Combined with the fact that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with the Sun being public enemy number one, even natural sunlight should be fought off with plenty of broad-spectrum, high SPF lotion.
Here’s some other concerns or questions.
In the last few years there’s been an increasing awareness of how much our sunscreen can potentially harm coral reefs. A common chemical called oxybenzone—along with a few others, bleach the coral and damage its DNA. According to recent research, it takes only one drop in 4.3 million gallons of water to cause damage. That’s why some places are moving to ban oxybenzone entirely.
It’s also important to note that you can’t avoid the problem by simply not swimming in the ocean. When you get home, you’ll wash that sunscreen down the drain, and all too often it ends up around the nearest reef all the same.
What about spray-on sunscreens? Besides the fact that sprayed sunscreen often ends up in the wind, misting environmentally-hazardous chemicals into the air is probably not the best idea. More ends up in the air than on your skin, and you’re also likely to inhale some of those particulates. The FDA is investigating whether the inhalation is dangerous for human lungs, but perhaps it’s better to be safe than sorry. Finally, many of us are already terrible at putting on sufficient sunscreen to block incoming rays, so it’s worth noting that a fine mist is less likely to provide adequate coverage than a lotion.
Finally, why not just take a new sunscreen pill? As of now, the FDA notes "there’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen."
Now that you know more about sunburns and sunscreen, take time to read the fun Fuddlebrook story, A Bad Case of the Spots, and learn even more! Then view our video of Mrs. Wigglebum’s Sunny Surprise to demonstrate both the UV waves the Sun makes, and how sunscreen offers protection.
The days get longer and warmer. We adapt by changing out wardrobe, getting our summer haircut, and maybe even eating different “cooler” foods. How do animals adapt to these changes? Nature is so awesome but so often taken for granted. This month we explore some of the ways animals have adapted over time.
Living in communities: Of all the cool adaptations in the animal kingdom, perhaps the most important is the habit of living together in communal or family groups. They can help each other find food, defend against predators, and care for young. Countless species engage in group living, either in herds, colonies, harems, complex societies, or loose associations.
Flight: Animals have evolved a number of ways of navigating the Earth, including walking, swimming, climbing, and hopping. But the evolution of flight takes maneuvering on this planet to a whole different level! Flying not only delivers an animal from one place to another much faster, it also allows creatures to escape predators, explore new territories, and look for resources.
Migration: Perhaps nothing in nature is more awe-inspiring than watching the movement of a population of animals as they migrate from one place to another. The reasons for migration are varied, but they usually have to do with finding food and a good place to mate.
Camouflage: The ability to blend into the surrounding environment can come in handy when trying to avoid a predator, especially for those animals with little other way to defend themselves. Several animal species can change their appearance to match their surroundings.
Hibernation: A lot of animals hibernate, including chipmunks, hedgehogs, bats, and bears. Some animals, such as the America black bear, snooze through winter but can be aroused from their slumber somewhat easily. Others, such as most small mammals, enter a deeper state. It is usually quite difficult to stir these animals during hibernation.
Conservation: For animals that live in areas where resources such as food and water are scarce for long periods of time, the ability to conserve fat and water in the body can mean the difference between life and death. A good example of resource conservation comes from the Bactrian camel, a two-humped ungulate that lives in the rocky and arid regions of Central and Eastern Asia, where temperatures range from -20°F in winter to 100°F in summer. Bactrian camels have a couple of key adaptations that help them to survive these harsh conditions. First, their humps are filled with fat, which can be converted into energy and water in lean times. Second, they can forgo sweating until their body temperatures reach nearly 105°F.
Size Changes: Some animal species try to appear larger in order to ward off predators. The blowfish, also called a puffer or balloon fish, has the ability to puff up to about twice its normal size in response to a predator's advance.
Hair: To most mammals in the wild, hair offers important protection from the elements. The musk ox is an example. It has an important adaptation to its bitterly cold home on the vast Alaskan tundra: Its thick, shaggy hair hangs down to the ground and gives the ox the protection it needs to endure frigid temperatures. Some of the hair is shed in time for summer, allowing the musk ox to cool down as temperatures reach 40-50°F
Nest parasitism: Certain cuckoo birds are famous for their habit of nest parasitism, which refers to laying their eggs in the nests of other species, who then feed and care for the cuckoos' orphaned offspring.
Want to learn more? In the Fuddlebrook book, A Family Visit, Herman’s Jelly Bean Hunt, illustrates adaptation through camouflage. Watch our video as Chloe demonstrates. Also read two other Fuddlebrook books, A Change of Season which introduces hibernation, and In Search of Hidden Treasure where we learn how bats adapt to their cave habitats. Also check out this Animal Planet link for more details.
Yes, science and nature are awesome. Take time to truly marvel at how we and other animals adapt.
This new series marvelously succeeds in introducing young students to inquiry-based, experiential learning of scientific concepts that are age-appropriate. Moreover, students have the opportunity to explore story-based scientific concepts further through hands-on investigations.
--Teresa, Biology Ph.D; former elementary teacher, Springfield, MO
The thing I love most about the Fuddlebrook series is the connection aspect. Not only have the creators connected literacy and science, they have also provided opportunity for exploration of all areas of life. The dispositions and traits of the characters are consistent throughout the books and lead to discussions about friendship, bullying, loyalty, honesty, and humility. Fuddlebrook is "teaching the whole child by connecting to life."
--Carolyn, First Grade Teacher, Ozark, MO