Queenie the Quail: How she met Dr. Coyote!

Dr. Coyote is a good friend of mine. He lives on the edge of the open space near my home. Many people see him and run away because he is, after all, a coyote. He could eat your dog or cat in the middle of the night while you are asleep. Sometimes he is lonely because nobody says hi to him when he is walking around town. It’s sad everyone judges him when they don’t even know him.

My mom, Cindy from Cynthia Ogden Illustrations, draws Queenie and Dr. Coyote.
Gracie Lu, my niece, drawing quails. Her imagination and drawings helped spark the stories of Dr. Coyote and his friends.


One day, many years ago, Dr. Coyote was walking through a meadow. It was a foggy day. You know – the wet drippy fog that only small coastal towns get during the summer. He stumbled across a tiny quail that was being attacked by a vicious mountain lion. Quickly Dr. Coyote made himself large by spreading out his limbs to look ominous. Once they made eye contact, the mountain lion looked down and sheepishly and ran away. Dr. Coyote gently picked the quail up. Her feathers were matted with blood! She was in shock, but she had a spark in her eye. Most coyotes would have gobbled her up! Not Dr. Coyote. He carefully carried her to his laboratory.


He laid her on his lab table and nursed her back to health. It took two weeks of constant care. Dr. Coyote had to take her everywhere he went so he could keep an eye on her. During that time, they became the best of friends. Now when you see Dr. Coyote walking around town, he wears a white lab coat, and Queenie the Quail is perched on his shoulder. They are inseparable!


Something magical happened on that lab table. Something that stirred the imagination of Queenie! She can talk just like Dr. Coyote, but that is another story.


I wish you could visit his lab that is hidden near my home. Maybe you’ll see Dr. Coyote and Queenie the Quail rescuing another hurt or scared animal. Or perhaps you’ll see them walking around town quietly chatting with each other.


For more information on my animal friends you can follow me on social media!

My mom, Cindy, shares her special art supplies with anyone interested in creating – especially children. There is usually a child or two sitting at my mother’s kitchen table using them up! Our favorite art supplies come from our friend Ron at California Art Supply.

Osteospermum in the classroom!?! (A.K.A. African Daisies)

A few months ago, I was introduced to these intricate flowers. My class was on a hike around our school’s acreage, studying eucalyptus trees, when one of my students disappeared for a second behind some trees. She emerged with a striking purple daisy-like flower.

Baby osteospermum hiding underneath the adult plants.

My class clustered around her, and she ended up picking one for each student. They put the purple beauties in their hair or on their clothes. My principal saw the flowers and wrote the Latin word osteospermum on our whiteboard.

Notice the shape around the leaves has tiny points. I thought they’d be hard like thorns but they are soft.

Using our momentum, we started a unit on osteospermums. First, I began studying them and learning about their structure, color, and how they grow. The following week my students and I began studying them together.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I am always taking pictures on my Nikon. This time was no different. The pictures gradually turned into a non-fiction book, a gallery walk, points of conversation, references to draw in our science journals, and more.

My students holding flowers to dissect back in the classroom.
We dissected the flowers, collected data and wrote it down. My student felt like real scientists.

Do these flowers grow near you? Maybe you’re as lucky as I was, and they thrive on your campus. Could you collect them for your students to study? You can use this nonfiction reader to bring nature into your classroom even if you don’t have osteospermum nearby. Open the world of botany to your students with these complex, yet prolific, flowers. 

How many flowers are in this picture? Read my printable book or ask my students to find the answer! More osteospermum products coming soon!

Introducing Dr. Coyote

My niece, Gracie Lu, has a wild imagination, and she is obsessed with birds. Most kids read children’s books while she devours piles of bird books. She quickly memorizes every fact about these winged creatures. She is a walking bird dictionary. Not only can she tell you all these things, but she can also draw detailed pictures of her favorite birds. One day she is drawing California quails. The next, she’s creating a crazy scientist to go with them. She named him Dr. Coyote. My brain instantly was on fire! I could visualize a tame coyote wearing a white lab coat. After talking to my mom, who is a talented illustrator, Dr. Coyote began to take on more of a personality and fascinating story! Dr. Coyote is now my mascot. He helps me teach my students with a science twist! You may be thinking: how could a coyote be tame? Or what is his back story. If you stick around, you’ll learn about Dr. Coyote, his friends, and how he can bring science to all aspects of your classroom too!

The Armadillidium Family

This is a slightly humorous take on Covid family life. The Armadillidiums are also known as roly polies and we have a lot of them crawling around our yard in Montara. My daughter is constantly finding them. She carefully picks them up and makes little homes for them in old jars and cups. My mother, inspired by my daughter’s creations, drew this cartoon featuring these fascinating creatures.

Enjoy. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Montara Lighthouse

It’s so easy to take the beauty surrounding my little town for granted. I tend to look at the dark side of things and focus on the traffic, trash on the beach and the never ending to-do list waiting for my immediate attention. Last summer my daughter begged me to take her to the beach. I didn’t want to go because my precious fog had been replace with heat, and not our normal 70 degrees heat but, but heat heat. The kind of temperatures from places that actually have a traditional summer. These places are also usually equipped with fans and air conditioning. We don’t even own a fan! We shouldn’t ever need one. I rolled my eyes and I thought of the crowds, parking and having to cross the highway that separates our home from the beach. She was very persistent and despite my apprehension, I decided to take her to my favorite beach.

We drove across the street to the Montara Light House. It’s one of our small town treasures; it and its accompanying old buildings. It guards one of the best beaches ever. It’s small and safe, tucked inside of a protective cove.

I was pleased with myself because I actually remembered to bring a shovel and a bucket for my daughter to play with. We had a wonderful time exploring the small tide pools and walking in the creek.

Although I love the beach, I don’t always like going to the beach. It’s the sand that makes me want to keep beach trips at an arm’s length. Sand gets everywhere. Seriously, everywhere.

Where is your favorite place to go when it’s hot? Do you enjoy the beach? Does sand drive you crazy? What do you do for your children?

Oxalis

Did you ever eat oxalis as a child? I did because my older sister told me to. I wanted her to think I was cool, so I complied. As I was munching away she proceeded to tell me that a dog had peed on the one I picked and put in my mouth. YUCK!

That really ruined snacking on them for me, even as an adult. Instead, I watch my students sucking on the stems and enjoying their crisp fresh flavor. Who knows what could have peed on them? I try not to think about it.

I am partial to these pops of yellow that signal the beginning of spring. Some people think they are weeds, and they probably are, but I don’t. They are the flowers of childhood innocence, bouquets lovingly picked by small hands and given to favorite adults or left in small vases to adorn tables.

I am taking my first grade scientists outside next week to study them for a whole day. Have you studied oxalis, taken the time to sit down and see what bugs are crawling on them, or even eaten one?

I hope you stop and enjoy the oxalis.

Knotty Trees

An old beauty along Highway 1.

I love it when the weather changes from hot to foggy, especially during our coastal summer. Let me tell you, early June was way too hot this year. I am a coastside girl at heart. My mother used to call me her “mushroom baby” because of how much I enjoy the cool, drippy, damp fog that wraps around us like a soft blanket. The coast is littered with Monterey cypresses, and sometimes the fog brings out shadows I’ve never noticed before in these grand old trees. They are tall, twisted, and full of gnarly knots. They are like worn, arthritic hands rising high out of the ground with ancient tales to tell. They don’t tell their story with words; they tell it with the deep crocked shadows they cast and with the breathtaking patterns they create.

These are the “finger” trees that line the parking lot outside my classroom.
This is a typical intersection in El Granada.

I took my Nikon and walked around our collection of small towns, pausing to snap a shot here and there. The silhouette of the trees against the backdrop of the foggy sky is breathtaking and my pictures barely do it justice. I wish you could feel the cool, misty breeze that nipped my nose as I stood and took these.

Sunshine Valley Road in Moss Beach.
This one was the weirdest cypress I found. It looks like it was trimmed recently, leaving a funky maze of branches.

Do you like to take leisurely walks or contemplative drives? Do you enjoy studying the beauty of nature? If so, tell me about your adventures in the comments below!

The Story of Our Hands

When a friend told me I should think about taking more photographs of hands, I was not thrilled. Adorable faces of little children are so much more exciting to photograph. I wanted to learn, though, so I reluctantly listened. I’m so glad I did! I began looking for interesting hands and started to see a certain beauty in them; fingers are important tools that we take for granted.

It was fun to capture old and young hands, hands busy with art supplies, hands creating and discovering – all of which are precious and photo-worthy. It’s the story of our hands.

Building hands.
Hands surrounded by art supplies.
Pausing hands.
Hands creating with pencils.
Dirty hands holding a blue bellied lizard!
Hands teaching at the art store.
Hands playing outside.
Hands creating prints!
Busy hands getting ready.
Working hands.
Hands petting animals at school.

Photographs tell a story without words- quiet yet bold tales. They show love, work, passion, creativity, and more. Who knew that you could find all these feelings in pictures of hands?

What stories are the hands in your life telling today? Share your photos or thoughts in the comments below.

Have You Ever Licked a Banana Slug?

I have, at least I think I did in the sixth grade during Outdoor Ed. Those nasty little slimy mollusks.

I never thought I would actually enjoy finding them, until a parent suggested that I take my first graders to look for some. You know what that means: time to learn about banana slugs (yuck)! I tried to find a good book about them to read with my class, and I actually found NOTHING! Believe me, I searched. If I missed something, please let me know in the comments below.

I did find a lot of information online, reading a little here and there. I taught my students all about their habitat and why they need to hang around redwood trees. We drew sketches of the things we would find on our hikes. I gained a whole new respect for them; they are actually totally cool! (Ignore their reproductive cycle to keep it G-rated!)

At one point, I confess, I unintentionally I told my class a big lie. I said that banana slugs don’t camouflage at all. OOPS!?! I took them outside with my fake banana slugs and had a whole brilliant lesson planned. Then some bright SIX YEAR OLD says, “Oh look! They do camouflage!” I paused and quickly changed my lesson. YOU WOULD THINK that a little, slimy, fluorescent slug wouldn’t be able to hide at all, but they can. They can hide really well! I always love it when some smarty pants kid is more observant than I am. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job and they learned something!

On our field trip to Purisima Creek Redwood Reserve we found over 200 banana slugs as we hiked. It was a lot of work to find them, but a lot of fun to count them! I completely recommend taking your people on a hike to find these beautiful and interesting creatures under the cool canopy of redwood trees.

This is in honor of the awesome kiddos in my class that really wanted to squish one and didn’t on our hike -at least I don’t think they did!
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