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Prepare to Learn about Daddy Penguins—and Our Awesome Immune Systems

March 20, 2021

Another Way for week of March 12, 2021

Prepare to Learn about Daddy Penguins—and Immune Systems

Soaking up some rays at the fabulous Columbus Ohio Zoo. Photos by yours truly.

Sometimes it takes children—grandchildren—yours, your neighbors, or anyone’s—to bring us more in touch with the natural world. Do you agree? At least on their good days! I love the things I’m being exposed to educationally as I watch or hear what my grandsons are learning and exploring. And they are teaching others!

First story. I guess I’ve always loved penguins just because they’re so cute and make us giggle when they toddle back and forth walking, but I was especially impressed when I learned about the active role the father penguins play caring for their offspring. I was “supervising” my oldest grandson, Sam, watching some of his virtual video instruction from a book called Little Penguin: Emperor of Antarctica. I definitely enjoyed it as much as Sam.

Did you know that father Emperor penguins on the continent of Antarctica carry the baby penguin still in its egg—almost as if in a womb. After the female lays the egg (almost five inches long), the father penguin tucks the egg under a flap of fur at the bottom of his legs, like a little insulated curtain, officially called a brood pouch. So the father carries the egg for about five months on his feet. After the baby penguin pecks its way out of its egg, it stays warm under that fluff of fur—very cozy as it grows bigger. When they can no longer fit under that flap, they are ready for the outside world and have enough fur of their own to stay warm.

Sam at “school” and our dog Velvet keeping him company.

Furthermore, penguin couples are pretty much monogamous, and even though the mother and father frequently spend months apart getting food for themselves and the little one, they usually come back to the same nesting area each year to mate. Videos show the male penguins gathering in a huge huddle, keeping each other warm and protected somewhat from the fiercely cold temperatures. And they take turns staying on the coldest outside ring. How much we can learn from our furry friends! Meanwhile, the mother penguin is “off duty” for about nine weeks, feeding and fattening herself up to share regurgitated food with her young penguin later.

The World Wildlife Federation notes that even their feet are adapted to the icy conditions, containing special fats that prevent the feet from freezing and strong claws for gripping the ice.

Always a zoo favorite. Our grandson Owen admiring his friends.

My second story is from my second oldest grandson, now seven. The boys were born only two months apart. Unfortunately, they don’t live near each other but were enjoying sending videos of themselves back and forth when we visited one family. We use the Marco Polo phone app, a video messaging program named after the swimming pool game. They were sharing things they had learned in school or from their own reading.

James gave us what his mother called “The Immune System Lecture” which apparently, he’d been sharing with anyone who’d listen, including neighbors as they took walks. In his words:  

James working hard on a card for Great Grandma Miller.

“There are many ways to fight germs. We have our five defenses, not just the immune system. First, when we breathe in a virus or a germ, some get trapped in the nose hairs. The ones that get past, get stuck in the nose. And the liquid in our nose, we swallow it and it goes down into our stomach which breaks down the germs. And the ones that get passed by the immune system, there is a type of white blood cells that shoot out antibodies that attach themselves to the viruses and germs. White blood cells come on to attack and eat them and some white blood cells devour them whole. Our skin acts like a suit of armor! And there are other ways to fight germs: washing our hands off lots of times, getting a vaccine, lots of exercise, sleeping a lot, and taking pills and medicines.”

Like one of my grown daughters said, “I’m not sure I knew all that!”

Children keep us young and our brains active, right? What a blessing they are in our lives!

What have you learned from children?

What things of science or nature fascinated you? Do you remember wondering about stuff?

As always, comment here or send your stories to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Silver, Beverly P - silverbp permalink

    Hi Melodie, Thanks for the latest blog. (easier to thank you this way, I hope, than in the space below the blog. ) I share it with several friends, including Ginger. Beverly

  2. Melodie, your interaction with the grandchildren reminds me of the many “mystery” trips we took with ours. Kids of all ages love animals, and I remember seeing the sense of wonder and awe when they observed zoo animals up close.

    All four of our grandchildren made cards when they were younger. Jenna, now a teen, has persisted in card-making, having inherited her mother’s flair for art. Some of her “flowing” creations are of boutique quality, I tell her.

    I’m glad you are enjoying and documenting this period in your family life. When they move into their teens, the interactions will be different.

  3. Thanks for the reminder that interaction–and things they want to do–will be different for sure once they move into adolescence etc. I had girls only: not sure how my “little” boys will be. They are certainly growing up. I got permission from mommy on using the photo I used. That will become even more rare (using a picture), I’m sure, in the teen years. Since I posted this, I found the pic of Sam reading on his notebook that I had wanted to use. I’ve inserted it now above. 🙂

    Yes, James was working on a card in his picture. Great grandma enjoys hearing from them.

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