#82. Read from cover to cover a magazine about a place that you might want to visit or live in some day

IDEA #82. Go to a library or a newsstand or bookstore and pick out and read from cover to cover a magazine about a place that you might want to visit or live in some day. Examples are New York Magazine, Arizona Highways, Cape Cod Life, and Up Here (about far northern Canada). There is a magazine for practically every city and region in the United States as well as for nations and cities outside the United States. Get yourself interested enough to think about planning a visit there some day.

If one cannot always travel to a new place, it is fun to imagine what it might be like to be there. Some “place-based” publications—New YorkScreen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.23.12 AM Magazine, for example—are primarily intended for those who already reside in and are familiar with their eponymous location, while others—like New Mexico Magazine—are “destination” publications, filled with enticing material designed to coax readers into visiting or moving.

Readers of these magazines should be looking carefully not only at the articles but also at details of content like advertisements, including even the smallest. What is the appeal of this place? How do those who live in and like the place present its “story”? What are some common graphic themes—colors, symbols–and images that readers are intended to associate with the place? What can be learned about the economic life of the place—real estate prices and the types of jobs or economic activities to be found there?

In the same vein, what can we learn about the cultural opportunities and activities in the place? Does the magazine focus any particular aspect of the fine arts or other cultural features in music, theater, or folk traditions? Is there anything about food that looks interesting or unique; are particular aspects of culinary heritage represented that may stem directly from the history of people who live there or who have immigrated there? What would make you want to visit the place on vacation or perhaps even move there? Does the place look as though it would be fun for children, or does the magazine focus only on adult-oriented Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.24.43 AMsubjects?

In the United States a fifth of the population moves every year; consequently learning to “read” a place and its culture is a valuable skill; a young reader can start mastering this skill by reading about a place. Specialized magazines focusing on a particular area have proliferated in recent years, and for the thinking child  learning how to read cultures with skill and in detail is a skill well worth having.

#81. Find a bird guide and start trying to identify the birds you commonly see and hear

IDEA #81. Find a bird guide and start trying to identify the birds you commonly see and hear. Your local Audubon Society can help you develop your skills, and they probably sponsor organized bird-watching events at which you can learn from serious birders. Start your own life list.

No creatures so lend themselves to observation as birds, and the extraordinary profusion of species and the relative ease with which a serious birdwatcher can pile up a long list of species sighted has made birdwatching one of the world’s most popular hobbies. Committed watchers travel the world, often undergoing considerable hardship and vast expense, to build up their life lists, logs of all the types of birds they have ever seen.

Even better, birds are also audible, and many birders are as eager to hear and recognize new species as they are to see them. This auditory birdwatching adds another level of challenge to the activity as a whole.

Field guides to birds of various regions are readily available in print and on line; any library should have several from which to choose. Increasingly publishers are producing guides that use photographs instead of the old, and often lovely, paintings and drawings. There are also audio guides to bird calls, although these may be a bit harder to find.

A sharp-eyed young person armed with a good guide can easily spot several dozen species in most locales over the course of a season, and if there are migratory flyways nearby this number can increase dramatically. Add some binoculars to the watcher’s toolkit and the number will grow even more. As fall turns to winter in the northern hemisphere many bird species are migrating, but the thinner foliage can make those who linger more easily visible.

If the youngster is truly bitten by the birdwatching bug, the next step is to find a local birding group—perhaps through a local Audubon Society chapter—and go out with experienced members. Many birding groups conduct periodic counts of species and individual birds in their area, and participating in one of these events can be exciting and profitable in terms of additions to the list.

Some birders specialize, and so the young watcher may want to work mainly on shorebirds, ducks, birds of prey, owls, or the many species of sparrows. But specialist or not, the youngster who has become adept at sighting birds and looking closely enough to differentiate among similar species will have gained important observing and analytical skills.

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