It's Not Too Late to Go Camping You're not ready to call an end to summer yet? Neither are we. So grab your backpack and the kids, it's time for a camping trip.

It's Not Too Late to Go Camping

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IRA FLATOW, host:

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

And you know, as the days of summer dwindle down to a precious few, we're all trying to pack in as much as we can before Labor Day, and what better way than to take on end-of-summer camping trip? So why not grab the kids, head outdoors and join us. On the agenda, we'll be making sprouting socks, designing fern-smashed T-shirts, constructing Egyptian stick clocks. And how we make all these things and what exactly are they?

Here to explain is Lynn Brunelle, Author of the book "Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide." "Camp Out!" not only explains the art of sputtering a fern print onto a T-shirt, but it also includes kid-friendly advice on making chicken curry over the fireplace or at the campfire; using clouds to predict the weather; and deciphering animal tracks. It also tells you how to look at the insects and nature back there. There's a wonderful quote in the book. In my favorite chapter called "The Backpack Naturalist" as it quotes Albert Einstein, saying, "look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better."

Lynn Brunelle is here with us to talk about it. Hi, Lynn.

Ms. LYNN BRUNELLE (Author, "Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide"): Hi. Ira.

FLATOW: That's a great quote of Einstein.

BRUNELLE: I thought so, too. I was really pleased.

FLATOW: Wow. So this book is sort of a cross between a science book and a Boy Scout handbook.

Ms. BRUNELLE (Author, "Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide"): It kind of is. You know, it kind of pulls in science and art and history all into just getting outside and sort of putting ourselves in a wilder place.

FLATOW: You know, I'm going to focus on your chapter on "The Backpack Naturalist," because there, you talk about a lot of things in science. And you say - you introduced it by saying you've got your tent pitched, your fire pit set up and your finally at home, bt one of the best parts of being in nature is exploring it - discovering the plants and animals that call your campsite home sweet home.

Ms. BRUNELLE: It's true. Yeah. I mean, it's just so cool. You get out there and you get it right, you know, right in your face.

FLATOW: Yeah. You can actually - and you show us how to identify the bugs around the campsite.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, you know, because they're bugs. I mean, the thing is you go out - I've had people say to me, oh, you know, we go camping, we get bored. And I thought, oh, my God. How? I mean, how can you be bored? You look down and, you know, the ground is teeming with all sorts of things. You look up and the leaves are just, you know, there is countless different kinds and shapes of leaves. I mean, how could you be bored? There's so much to look at and learn.

FLATOW: Yeah. This is really a field guide. I mean, it's just kind of - you've put everything in one spot.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah. Yeah. I've got - I wanted to do everything from practical stuff, you know, so that people wouldn't feel intimidated to go camping. How to pack, how to set up your camp, what kind of food to bring, that kind of stuff, and then bring in all sorts of skills like tying knots and reading compasses, and then to go from there, to all the cool science and art you can do when you're outside.

FLATOW: One of my favorite - and you teach us how to make these little devices and gadgets and cool stuff.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Oh, yeah. I think so. One of my favorite things is - there's sundials. You can make a bunch of different kinds of sundials. But you know, if mom and dad grabbed a cup of coffee to go on the way, you can make a really cool fast-food sundial using that coffee cup and the straw. You poke the straw in - you poke a hole about an inch down from the rim. You poke the straw through the center of a lid and then down through that hole. So you've got like a 45-degree angle. And then you set it up so that the straw itself is pointing north. And that can even be a lesson to get kids to figure out - how do you figure out where north is if you don't have a compass? And you, you know, you get them to figure out east and west. And then you point your straw north in the first day. You write down on the hour what time it is, and you mark down where the shadow falls on your sundial. Then you can take your fast food sundial anywhere. If you move campsites, plunk it down in the sun, line it up to the north, and you've got a clock.

FLATOW: Wow.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah.

FLATOW: Wow. 1-800-989-8255. 1-800-989-8255. Talking with Lynn Brunelle, author of "Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide, From the Backyard to the Backwoods." If you have any questions about what do to and - it's your campsites - some interesting nature or science walk, things to discover. One of the things I always love about going out in the woods is finding a pond and trying to see what's living inside the pond. And you tell us how to actually do that.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah. You can actually peak into the pond without getting your face wet, which is kind of fun. You make this - a pond peeper, really, out of materials that you have laying around the house, either a coffee can or a tomato can and some saran wrap and a couple of rubber bands. You can actually push that tool down into the water and look below the surface, because there is life at every level of a pond. You know, there's life in the muck. There's life just above the muck. There's life in the water. And there's life below the surface. And then there's life right on the surface. And it's kind of cool to actually look at those different layers and see what you can find.

FLATOW: And you show us exactly, with great illustrations, what exactly is in there, what we're looking at.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah. Yeah. And it changes, you know, depending on whether you're in a pond in Maine or a pond in, you know, Southern California. But for the most part, these are kind of the all-stars that you probably going to find.

FLATOW: Yup. And if you're at the beach, you tell us to go into the water, in the tidal pool there.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Absolutely. Tide pools are so cool. You know, we live on the coast of Washington now. I grew up in Maine. So I've been sort of on coasts…

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. BRUNELLE: …from my childhood and my adulthood. And there's just - they never ever cease to amaze me what you can find, especially when you can peak at them in their natural habitat.

FLATOW: Yeah. And I've always been interested - and people think I'm a little nutty when I do this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: I think we're both, probably, coolly naughty.

Ms. BRUNELLE: I think so, too.

FLATOW: I've seen, you've see - I've seen your stuff. You're nutty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Rolling over a log, a dead log, and seeing what crawls out or what's crawling in it.

Ms. BRUNELLE: It is the coolest thing. I, you know, I take my kids for hikes through the woods all the time and show them that, you know, this looks like a tree that's dead but it's not. It's actually the - I mean, it may be the end of the life for that particular tree but it's the beginning of life for so many other things, from decomposers to mosses and lichens and ferns and all sorts of things that use those nutrients in the fallen tree to thrive, really. And yeah, it's so cool to lift up a farm log and see what's under there. You'd be, you know, there's all sorts of cool, creepy crawlies…

FLATOW: Yeah. And you tell us how to separate a pill bug from a millipede.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRUNELLE: That's true, that's true. One's going to curl left and the other one isn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Yeah. And then you move on to trees - and this is always been interesting to me and always something that my, you know, my kids - is always a problem in Math class, and that's how to measure a tree without a giant ruler.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, and you can. You - what you need to do is you use parts of your body, you know, you move backwards, you use a ruler, and use perspective. And you measure the length of your steps back until the tree sits into the ruler that you're holding on at the end of your arm. And through, you know, using a math formula, you can figure how tall that tree is.

FLATOW: Yeah. Simple geometry, I think…

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah.

FLATOW: …is what we used to call it.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, geometry, ha, ha.

FLATOW: Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: I'm supposed to be doing the corny jokes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Let's go to Audrey(ph) in Effie, Minnesota. Hi, Audrey.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah.

AUDREY (Caller): Hi.

FLATOW: Hi there.

AUDREY: Well, I love the outdoors and I never get quite enough of it. But one of the things I think is the greatest part of camping is - and being outdoors -is to look at the skies at nighttime without any interference from city light.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Oh, absolutely. That's my favorite thing, too. And I still remember in fourth grade, my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Holbrook(ph), taught us the constellations and he did that by drawing them on the board and we would copy them down and then we would write down the myths. And I ate it up with a spoon, but I could never find them in the sky. And I still love, you know, star charts - I just love them. I can't get enough of them but I still get a little lost.

So what I wanted to do in this book is to exercise more of a practical way for me to understand it because I figured maybe other people - we're in the same boat. But by using the big dipper, in the little dipper, you got a series of pointer stars and with, like the length of your thumb and the length of your arm, you can use those pointer stars to actually find these constellations that had so eluded me.

AUDREY: Well, one of the other things I wanted to point out is that you can also see iridium flares, and when the space station is going over in a favorable path, you can see that as well and it's actually, can get quite bright. But you can go on the Internet and find out exactly when that's going to go over. And if you know where you are - and this is another thing that you can figure out, what your coordinates are about where you are - then you can get - hunt out the times that the space station and these iridium flares are going to go over. And you can see them and they're quite bright…

FLATOW: That's the sun glinting off the space station's solar panels, right?

Ms. BRUNELLE: Right. Yeah.

FLATOW: …right as it goes over at a certain time.

Ms. BRUNELLE: You know…

AUDREY: And then the iridium flares are also satellites and iridium satellites that are - that will do the same thing…

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. BRUNELLE: …that will do - they will get very, very bright and they'll have a like a minus 8 magnitude, and they'll give you the exact coordinates.

FLATOW: A very - yeah. You can see them in there on the Web, they'll tell you exactly what second to look for these…

AUDREY: Well, that's interesting. You might have solved a mystery. My husband, Keith, and I were out looking at the stars last night and we watched a satellite go by and it's sort of flashed and…

FLATOW: That's right.

Ms. BRUNELLE: …what people (unintelligible) to them. And so I wonder if that's what we saw.

AUDREY: Well, let me tell you where to go. It's called Heavens Above, and you have to put in your coordinates and they'll try to help you find out what your coordinates are. And you go to Heavens Above on the Internet and then they will tell you, they will print out - you can get tonight or where the space station is right now and you can get the next seven days or just, you know, the next day.

FLATOW: Thank you, Audrey. Thanks for calling.

AUDREY: You bet. Thanks.

FLATOW: That's a great tip. 1-800-989-8255. I see the sequel already, Lynn.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, I know, really.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: What about the weather? Do you have things people can talk about the weather?

Ms. BRUNELLE: Oh, yeah, clouds. Clouds are so cool. You can look at, you know, people might think of clouds as just either puffy and white or gray and raining, but there's a lot in between. And, you know, it's kind of fun to be able to look at things that you learn from seeing the clouds up there what the weather might end up being.

Like one thing what I learned, which I thought was really interesting, if you look up in the sky and there's a long contrail behind a plane, then that indicates that that weather is probably going to be changing. So you're maybe in for a moister couple of days. Even if it's a sunny day, if you see a long contrail, then the weather may change.

FLATOW: I love the page you have on sprouting your socks.

Ms. BRUNELLE: I love that one, too.

FLATOW: Tell me - describe that nutty thing there.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Well, you get - you take the kids and you give them some socks. Then you put the socks over their hiking boots and then you go for a hike through a field. And then when you come back to your site and you pull your socks off and you kind of look at all the cool seed hitchhikers that kind of catch onto your shoes as you're hiking along, because plants have so many interesting ways of being able to spread themselves.

So this is a great way for kids to see that, you know, this is one of the ways that they've adapted to do that. So what we do is we hook up the, you know, we figure what the seeds are, you can draw them in your nature notebook if you feel like it and then go trace it back through the field, see if you can pick out the plants they came from, so you got a little bit of a sleuthing thing going. But my favorite thing to do is then you take your sock, put it - sprits it with water a little bit, put it in a Ziploc bag and put it in the sun and your socks will actually sprout.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRUNELLE: I kind of think it's kind of fun.

FLATOW: I - yeah. What did you do on your vacation? Well, I sprouted my socks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: That certainly will start conversation in the office. Errand is cool the next day. 1-800-989-8255. Talking with Lynn Brunelle, author of "Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide". I'll tell you, I know it's the ultimate kids' guide, but I think this is for kids of all ages, they use to say, you know? I love this kind of stuff.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Well you know, it's - I do too, you know? When I was writing it, it was the book I wish I had when I was little.

FLATOW: Yes.

Ms. BRUNELLE: And I still, you know, now I have it, I can still use it and pretend.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Talking with Lynn Brunelle on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

How did you amass all this stuff? I mean, there's so much interesting stuff in here.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Well, it's interesting, too, because my parents were not campers. We grew up in Maine and they were not campers. But my brother and I, you know, we pretty much spent every waking non-school hour outside…

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. BRUNELLE: …regardless of the season, just puttering around and discovering and exploring. And a lot of these things came from some of those early explorations. And, you know, it's interesting even what you were talking about with getting kids excited about science before sixth grade. I mean, these are things that we're excited, you know, that I found exciting really early on and I never stopped. And I think you just kind of amass…

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. BRUNELLE: …these things and accumulate them, and that sort of went in. I mean, it is kind of a lifetime of experience. But, you know, and then I got to do some cool research, too, because I wanted to make sure the book felt complete…

FLATOW: Yeah, yeah.

Ms. BRUNELLE: …something that you - that a kid could really feel empowered by.

FLATOW: I - another - page after page, there are interesting things to do. There's one page here in how to take the animal tracks home with you.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah. Yeah. You have to bring - for some of these projects, you know, you might have to bring a couple of things with you. But I tried to make it clear on what you would need. But you, you know, to do that, you need to bring some plaster of Paris. But it so cool because you actually can get an imprint of a track; it's fun to, you know, to get kids to direct their attention down to see what other creatures are kind of sharing the campsite with them, or the trail.

FLATOW: Yeah.

Ms. BRUNELLE: And then you find a good print and you can pour the plaster Paris over it, let it harden and then pick it off and you've got that animal track. It's actually, you know, that's a technique that scientists used too.

FLATOW: Yeah, great souvenir. Let's go to Antonio in Michigan. Hi, Antonio.

ANTONIO (Caller): Hi, Lynn. Your book really sounds really wonderful.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, thank you.

ANTONIO: Can you tell me how do you make chicken curry in the outdoors?

Ms. BRUNELLE: You know, I have long determined that you don't have to suffer when you eat outside. And one of my things, you know, I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old and we do a lot of car camping now. So I'm a big fan of food-in-foil. So you set - you make your packets beforehand.

The recipe that I have in this book is called curry coconut couscous. And you pile all your ingredients in a foil. And I like this as a mom because I'm kind of, you know, nuts about making sure that the kids have lots of fruits and vegetables in their meals. So you can pile in fresh vegetables and chicken and chicken broth and you fold up your foil pouch.

And you can do it by portions. So you, you know, you make your portions specific and then you write the directions on the foil pouch, which is put in the fire, you know, on the coals for 45 minutes. And then, you open up your foil pouch and you've got your dish right there. You've got your chicken and your curry vegetables and your couscous and it is yum.

ANTONIO: Oh, your - the chicken gets well done, huh?

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, it's really good. And, you know what? It - everything tastes good outside, but why not bring good food?

FLATOW: Good luck, Antonio.

ANTONIO: Thank you.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. One quick question for somebody who wants to do the sock trick. Hi, Janet in Bay Village.

JANET (Caller): Yeah.

FLATOW: Janet, are you there?

JANET: And especially the conversation now, I was wondering since Lynn said she grew up in Maine, and with the sock trick, did she ever find any ticks because - which we had, instead of letting Lyme disease affect us negatively. But we're still fans of camping…

FLATOW: Yeah. How do you…

JANET: …we just want people to be informed.

FLATOW: Yeah. Good question. How do you keep the ticks away?

Ms. BRUNELLE: Well, you got to cover yourself. There are prevention things, you know? I know that there are some chemicals that you can spray to keep it off. But I think the best way of doing it is to wear longer pants and tuck your socks in and just check, you know, because - it is a drag. I mean, when I was a kid, it wasn't as much of a worry. But now it is.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. Lynn, we got just about a minute left. Your favorite hint or any favorite trick?

Ms. BRUNELLE: I'm a good fan of a fern-smashed T-shirt where you take - you're using a natural chlorophyll of the plant. You lay the leaf down on your T-shirt and you hammer it. And what comes out is this amazingly perfect print of a leaf and it's made just by the chlorophyll. It's a grass stain. And you just toss it in the dryer to set the stain and it's not going to wash out.

FLATOW: So you can take home a whole bunch of leaf prints on one shirt?

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, it's so cool. It's, and, you know, my kids like the pounding part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: And they get to, you know, to soil the shirt. What could be better than that, and the mom's not yell at them for it.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Yeah, exactly. Bring their camping adventure home.

FLATOW: Wow. Well, thank you. It's a terrific book. It's called "Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide, From the Backyard to the Backwoods." Forget the kids, I'm interested in this also. I think they'll enjoy it. If you got a week or two, you can take it in the backyard, you know? You don't have to - you can go to a park close by if you want to. Thank you, Lynn, and good luck.

Ms. BRUNELLE: Thank you so much, Ira.

FLATOW: Lynn Brunelle, author of "Camp Out!: From the Backyard to the Backwoods, The Ultimate Kids Guide."

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