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  • Gloria Hoffner

First Day of Spring

More fun activities on my website: Scienceforseniors.net and questions may be sent to: Science4seniors@gmail.com

Ah the sound of Spring…. Birds singing, lawnmowers whirling and people with allergies sneezing. What is Spring? How does it change the Earth? Here’s some fun facts and an experiment you can watch grow into an answer!

1) Why do we have four seasons? Answer – The Earth tilts on a 23.5-degree angle as it travels around the sun. That means the amount of sunlight falling on some areas of the planet changes during the year. Living in the United States this sunlight change means we experience Winter, less sunlight, Spring, sunlight increases, Summer, highest level and Fall, reduced sunlight.

2) When is Spring 2020? Answer – The first day of Spring is March 19th.

3) How is the first day of Spring determined? Answer – By the vernal equinox. During an equinox, the Sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is almost equal. The vernal or March equinox is when the Sun passes the celestial equator moving from north to south and thus begins Spring in the North Hemisphere.

4) How do birds react to Spring? Answer – Warmer temperatures and sunlight mean most plants grow faster. This gives birds more access to nutrition to allow the females to develop eggs and after the eggs hatch to provide food for their baby chicks.

5) Why are there so many baby animals born in the Spring? Answer – Many mammals, such as deer, foxes and squirrels, mate in the fall and remain pregnant through the winter. Giving birth in the spring when plants bloom gives these animals access to more food for themselves and their offspring.

6) Why do the insects return in Spring? Answer – Some insects, like Monarch butterflies, fly to warmer weather to survive during winter. Others, like Ladybugs, allow their body temperature to drop during winter and remain alive but sluggish collecting together under leaves etc. When warm weather returns in the Spring, migrating insects start their journey north and Ladybugs and others allow their bodies to warm with the weather and thus become more active.

7) Why do birds sing? Answer – It would be nice to think they sing to wake up humans every morning! But that’s not true. Birds sing to attract mates and defend their territory.

8) How do birds learn to sing? Answer – Amazingly, some birds are born knowing how to sing! Others, such as Sparrows, have to learn to successfully use their syrinx, a specialized voice box. Baby birds learn their songs by listening to the parent birds and as with humans, practice, practice, practice.

9) How do flowers know when to bloom? Answer – Flowers have a gene called Apetela 1. Triggered by warmth and sunlight, this gene activates over 1,000 other genes in the plant and starts the blooming process.

10) How do indoor Spring flower events force flowers to bloom early? Answer – In late winter, growers trick plants by placing them indoors and controlling 12 hours of darkness followed by 12 hours of light and a 60-degree temperature. These settings will make the plant ‘think’ it is Spring and produce a bloom in about two weeks.

11) How long has the Earth had plants? Answer – The first plants appeared in the ocean about 600 million years ago. The first plants on land appeared about 470 million years ago.

12) How long ago did flowers appear? Answer – The earliest flower appeared about 125 million years ago.

13) Why does the Earth need plants? Answer – Plants provide a food source, materials for clothing and shelter and oxygen for the planet.

14) How do plants produce oxygen? Answer – Through photosynthesis, the process through which the plant makes its food, plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

Just for fun…..

15) If you were trapped in an airlock with NO oxygen, how many plants would you need to keep you alive? Answer – According to the website gizmodo.com, humans consume about 50 liters of oxygen per hour and plants, it varies by species but about 5 milliliters per hour so between 300 and 500 plants.

16) Why do men give women roses as a sign of love? Answer – Long ago in Rome, Anthony wanted to win the heart of Cleopatra of Egypt. So, he sailed from Italy with roses, a plant native to his country, and presented them to his love. Cleopatra fell in love with roses and with Anthony and thus the plant became the symbol of love.

17) Why do brides carry flowers at their wedding? Answer – In ancient Greece before the use of soap, brides carried flowers so the scent of the petals would cover up their body odor.

18) Why did sailors eat flowers? Answer – Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. It can cause fatigue, swollen legs, sore gums and even tooth loss. Sailors away from fresh fruits would sometimes eat rose petals as a source of vitamin C.

19) How many types of flowers are there in the world? Answer – Scientists estimate over 400,000!

20) Where did the first flower bloom? Answer – The oldest flowering fossil was found in China. Flower then made their way around the world via air, such as dandelion seeds; sea, floating on oceans and rivers; and animals, the burs on your German Shephard from a walk in the woods show how animals help plants travel the planet.

And something to think about the next time you are annoyed…..

Those bird ‘gifts’ on your car? The truth, birds don’t completely digest seeds so the remains are excreted and bring new plants.

Seed experiment


Materials: Ziploc bag, corn seeds, paper towel, and water.

Process: Fold the paper towel in fours as if you are making a pocket. Place the seeds in the fold of the paper towel. Wet the towel only slightly. Place in the Ziploc bag with the open end of the towel facing upwards to the opening of the Ziploc bag. Close the Ziploc and tape to a sunny window.

Results: In about a week or 10 days you will see the seeds sprout! It’s a mistaken belief that dry seeds are dead. The seeds are not dead but dormant and the combination of water and sunlight activate the seeds.

** FYI – Corn seeds can be transferred and planted a ½ inch in soil to continue their growth. You can’t grow corn on a windowsill and get an ear of corn. Corn must be planted in rows so that the wind will spread pollination thus produce ears of corn.

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