Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Garden Within is on YouTube

I recently had the opportunity to attend a free workshop about creating YouTube videos, thanks to the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre’s ILLUMINATION programme.  I originally shared 8 poems from The Science Rhymes Book on YouTube in 2011.  But when YouTube merged with Google, I somehow lost access to this account.  At the first of four workshop sessions, Aaron from Pierson Media kindly took the time to reconnect me with my YouTube account.  Duly motivated, I decided to recite The Garden Within for this workshop project.

Why The Garden Within?  Because in 2019, I discovered this poem (which features on the Environmental Poetry page of the Science Rhymes website) had been published in an Indian Government School Textbook, possibly since 2014.  In a previous blog, Give & Take: The Garden Within, I mentioned this and explained how this spiritual rhyme came about.  That was after delivering this as a speech at a Toastmasters contest.

I was disappointed that The Garden Within poem had been used so extensively without requesting my permission.  I sent rallying letters to what I hoped were appropriate Indian Government departments, libraries, the book’s printer and even the Indian Embassy.  My letter asked for an apology and a copy of the book.  But no reply has been received at this stage.  Meanwhile, someone who heard my speech asked a favour of a friend who was visiting India.  I now have a hard copy of the 2020 edition of this school textbook, Our World Through English Class VIII, from the State of Telangana, for which I express my deepest thanks to those kind travellers.

I hope you enjoy my workshop YouTube recital of The Garden Within.

While preparing to share this poem’s story at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) panel discussion at Cairns Tropical Writers Festival 2024, I searched the internet and found plenty of YouTube videos about The Garden Within.  Mine is just one of many!

Here are some others:

A LESSON explaining how to interpret the poem by Prathibha (2017)
P. J. Manilal made it into a SONG (2017)
The song became a DANCE (2020)
Another LESSON by VKT English Tutor (2021)
Digial Teacher’s Lesson forgot to mention the name of the poem’s author (2021)
So did (2023)

Perhaps this poem is on a similar trajectory to Jane Taylor’s The Star (1806).  Fondly sung as the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, we rarely acknowledge those who created it (Jane and Ann Taylor).  The Garden Within has forged a life in the public domain without me.  Recently translated into Chinese & Korean, it appears to be determined to explore the world all by itself – sharing love and gratitude along the way.

The Garden Within by Celia Berrell was inspired by spiritual artist Sharon Davson’s oil painting With Gratitude Comes Growth, housed in the Hikaru Museumin Takayama, Japan.

Creatura (book review)

CREATURA written by Bec Crew published by Australian Geographic

Imagine an animal that will “mess you up if you so much look at it the wrong way”, and has “some truly bizarre behaviours” or “strange little fingers”.  Bec’s imaginative and often humorous descriptions make reading about the quirky creatures in this book a delight.

Creatura is a collection of Mammals, Fish (and other sea creatures), Invertebrates, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians who call Australia home.  Some you’ve already heard of, but others will be rewardingly new discoveries.  

Each Creatura star originally featured in Australian Geographic’s blog of the same name, where I’ve enjoyed Bec’s refreshing writing before.  They provide perfect inspiration for Science Rhymes like this one:

Heady Hatterpillar  by Celia Berrell

This gum-leaf caterpillar’s like
a hairy sausage unicorn
that keeps its dead and moulted heads
and wears them like a hennin horn.

Caterpillars like to eat and
eat until they split their sides,
then grow another bigger skin.
They’ll do this up to thirteen times.

But stink bugs know they’re tasty things
in which to poke their beaky straw
to suck out caterpillar juice.
A store of food those bugs adore.

It seems our caterpillar’s hat,
when waved across its sausage back,
can thwart a stink bug’s timely snack.
A princess hat prevents attack!

Even if you don’t read all the fine print, beneath each title Bec shares funny and caring, in-a-nutshell summaries.  About the Head-Stacking Caterpillar, she says “… that is some post-apocalyptic warlord fashion, if ever I’ve seen it.” And she’s right!

Bec suffers from arachnophobia (fear of spiders), but that doesn’t stop her from giving certain creepy-crawlies a good rap.  When talking about the Wrap-Around Spider she says “Something this good at hiding shouldn’t be so adorable”.  Doesn’t that make you want to have a look?

And look you can.  The photos are brilliant.  My only wish was that the name of the creature in each photo wasn’t displayed in such small italic print.

Although this isn’t a children’s book, I’m sure recently accomplished readers will find many delights and fascinations here, especially if they like biology topics as much as I do.

India’s Chandrayaan-3 Mission


Hunting for Hydrogen by Sukarma Thareja & Celia Berrell

August twenty-three
in the year of
sent news to the world
from the lunar cold,
successfully landing
at Moon’s South Pole.

Vikram’s the lander
and Pragyan’s its rover,
fitted with lasers
and chemical sensors.
With fourteen day’s work
then fourteen day’s sleep …
these robots might dream
of electric sheep!

Dr Sukarma Thareja says:  With its Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), Pragyan has found elements of Aluminium, Calcium, Chromium, Iron, Manganese, Oxygen, Silicon, Sulphur and Titanium. Underway is also a search for the lightest element Hydrogen.


Find out more about this Indian Space Research Organisation (ISR0) mission HERE


Fraser Coast Regional Libraries held their first Poetry Writing contest for NAIDOC Week this year.  Here I am being awarded a Highly Commended certificate and gift at the Hervey Bay Regional Art Gallery from Regional Librarian Tara Webb today (5th July 2023) for the following poem:  

Ancient Secrets in the Sky  by Celia Berrell

Australia’s first people
shared knowledge that’s verbal
through story and song
both secret and long.

They studied the skies
and became very wise
in using the stars
to travel afar.

Star maps, like diaries
can jog song-line memories,
showing the best ways
we now use as highways.

When driving one day
on the Great Western Highway,
know ancient astronomy’s
part of its history.


Ancient Secrets in the Sky was inspired by a 2016 article I read in the New Scientist magazine titled Were Aboriginal Australians the first Astronomers?  It was written by Ray Norris, a science communicator and Astrophysicist with CSIRO and the Western Sydney University.

Ray used to tour Arts Festivals with his Indigenous friend Bill, presenting a show called The First Astronomers.  All the information was based on Yidumduma Bill Harney’s knowledge of the stars, passed down the generations through rote learning.  It shows us that Aboriginal Australians were serious stargazers, long before Stonehenge or The Pyramids were built.

Yidumduma Bill Harney is an Elder and Senior custodian of the Wardaman people in the Northern Territory.  Bill was born in the 1930’s and communicates the joy of his culture to a global audience through art, story and song.  He is also a published author.

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is For Our Elders.  I’m honoured that Ancient Secrets in the Sky is being  appreciated as a way of recognising and respecting Australian Indigenous heritage of the lands on which we live and their scintillating science-based song-lines of the starry night’s sky.

ChatGPT and Poetry

Science Rhymes is accepting submissions for our BRIGHT IDEAS poetry contest with National Science Week 2023.  Using AI, such as ChatGPT, is allowed on the understanding that such poems are attributed to the person & AI neural network used.  Below, is a justification and guide for using AI written by ChatGPT, a Q & A segment, followed by A Science Rhyme by John & ChatGPT.

ORIGINS OF THE FUTURE crayon drawing by Sharon Davson

ChatGPT’s ability to write rhymes about science, nature, and the environment presents a unique and engaging way to explore these topics. By using poetic techniques such as rhyme and rhythm, ChatGPT can create memorable and enjoyable verses that aid in the retention of information. Rhymes have long been recognized as powerful mnemonic devices, helping individuals remember and recall complex concepts with ease. When applied to scientific subjects, this approach can be particularly beneficial for students.

Poetry has the capacity to transform scientific and environmental concepts into vivid, imaginative expressions. By employing evocative language, metaphor, and storytelling, ChatGPT can bring these topics to life, making them more relatable and accessible. The rhythmic nature of rhymes enhances the appeal, embedding the information into the memory through the repetition and musicality of the verses.

While ChatGPT can provide links to sources for the poems it generates, it’s important to exercise caution and verify the accuracy of the information. ChatGPT is a language model trained on a vast corpus of text, but it doesn’t have direct access to the internet or the ability to browse web pages in real time. Therefore, it’s advisable to cross-reference the information provided by ChatGPT with reputable sources to ensure its accuracy.

To best ensure the accuracy of science information in the poems, it’s essential to provide clear guidelines and prompt ChatGPT with accurate scientific facts. Clearly specify the desired topic, outline the key points, and emphasize the importance of scientific accuracy. By providing specific details and referencing trusted sources, the resulting rhymes will have a higher likelihood of being factually correct.

Incorporating ChatGPT’s rhymes into educational settings can stimulate students’ interest and engagement with science, nature, and the environment. The combination of creativity and accurate information helps foster a deeper understanding and long-term retention of the topics at hand. By tapping into the power of poetry, ChatGPT opens up a world of possibility for students to explore, appreciate, and remember the wonders of science, nature, and the environment.

Prompt given to ChatGPT was: Write 300 words about how ChatGPT can write rhymes about science, nature and the environment.  Can this help students remember new topics?  Can ChatGPT provide links to sources for the poems it creates?  Include guidelines to best ensure the science information is accurate.

Answering John’s questions on ChatGPT poetry

  1. Have you tried using ChatGPT?  In February, my friend Nicky and I gave ChatGPT a prompt to create a funny rhyme about black holes.  (You’ll find that poem at the end of the PDF Clever Concepts in Science.)  I included this poem as I am allowing ChatGPT or equivalent AI co-authored poems in this year’s Science Week blog of poetry – on the understanding that writers acknowledge the language AI they have used to co-author a poem.

  2. What happens if two people ask ChatGPT to do exactly the same thing? Will it always create the same poem?   ChatGPT has limited contextual memory, so perfect duplicates would probably be coincidental rather than expected.
  3. What do you think of the poem John & ChatGPT came up with? I liked it more than the Black Hole poem experiment.  Perhaps that’s because prompt information given by John was more specific and included “written in the style of Celia Berrell”.
  4. Is it original or has ChatGPT just taken lines from your published works?  It’s original as far as my own poetry is concerned.
  5. Have you read any articles about concerns over training AI on copyrighted material?  Yes I recently read New Scientist’s May issue 3435 on the AI Revolution.  I think giving these neural networks access to copyrighted material is essentially a form of theft, particularly since someone else will profit from it.  However, it may be the only way such Large Language Models could acquire sufficient “quality” language training.
  6. Were you impressed with the reference links supplied by ChatGPT?   YES!  It appears that “in the style of” prompted the neural network to search for examples.
  7. Are you pleased to be part of the AI training material or annoyed? I’d say I’m ambivalent.  I themed this year’s call for poems for Science Week around the poem “Mother of Invention”, accompanied by an image of the drawing “Origins of the Future” by Sharon Davson (which inspired the poem & features at the top of this page).  This image and poem’s sentiments make it clear there is no way to put the stopper back in the bottle now!  So there’s not much point in just being upset about it.  Better to work out how we can safely learn to navigate and legislate for its pitfalls ASAP.
  8. Is it a good thing that your poems are now incorporated into this ‘AI intellect’? Is this a form of immortality for you?  I like to think my Science Rhymes creations/intellect helps make the world a better place – at least for some.  Perhaps a part of that will live on.  But I would personally prefer to avoid being around if AI becomes sentient and we all have to contend with ITS FEELINGS … THAT WOULD BE DISASTROUS!

John’s Prompt to ChatGPT: write a poem in the style of Celia Berrell

ChatGPT’s response: Celia Berrell is an Australian poet who writes poems for children. Her poems are usually about science and nature and are written in a way that makes them easy to understand and fun to read. Here’s a poem in the style of Celia Berrell:

A Science Rhyme created by John & ChatGPT

The world is full of wonder,
From the smallest ant to the tallest tree,
There’s so much to discover,
And so much more to see.

The stars above us twinkle,
In the sky so dark and deep,
And when we look up at them,
We can’t help but feel complete.

The oceans are so vast,
And the creatures that live within,
Are all so different and unique,
It’s like a whole new world to begin.

So let’s explore this world of ours,
And all that it has to give,
For there’s nothing quite as wonderful,
As the life that we all live.

ChatGPT’s Source: Conversation with Bing, 13/05/2023 
(1) Celia Berrell | Australian Children’s Poetry Website. Accessed 13/05/2023.

(2) “The Beauty of it All” by Celia Berrell | Australian Children’s Poetry …. Accessed 13/05/2023.

(3) “Peace by Piece” by Celia Berrell – Australian Children’s Poetry …. Accessed 13/05/2023.

If you’ve read down to here, CONGRATULATIONS!  I hope you’ve found this information helpful.  And good luck with any poems you create.

Imagining a TARDIS for World Poetry Day

The lovely Saime Jung at Twinkl, where teachers create and share inspiring resources for students, has compiled a list of 15 favourite poetry blogs, which includes Science Rhymes!  She also asked “Why do you think that learning poetry is so cool?”  Poetry has so many styles, forms and facets.  Some sends our imagination into different situations, feelings and places.  One person may connect with a poem in a way that makes them laugh or gasp, whereas others might find the same words deeply emotional. 

What’s your answer this question? 

We might say rhymes help us remember; poems create crazy ideas or that verses can be shared over and over again.  What do you reckon to this suggestion for World Poetry Day?

Imagining a TARDIS  by Celia Berrell
(Time And Relative Dimension In Space)

What a wonderful toy
is the TARDIS!
It’s Doctor Who’s
little blue box.

It’s bigger inside.
So much stuff it can hide,
from a skate-park to
clean pairs of socks.

a magical TARDIS,
do you think it’s a
secret we’d keep?

Or would that depend
on inviting some friends …
and whether
we’d need any sleep?

With a
stay-or-go-anywhere TARDIS,
there are infinite things
we could do.

It has so much appeal,
for a toy that’s not real …
let’s imagine instead
that it’s true!

This poem was inspired by an article called The Physics of the Doctor Who TARDIS box and was first published in Australian Children’s Poetry.


Origins of the Future

The above picture is a working drawing for a painting by Sharon Davson and it is a catalyst to some amazing things.

Sharon started the full-sized oil painting back in 1985, but stopped about half-way through.  Inspired by this drawing, I wrote the Science Rhyme Mother of Invention which is displayed on the Environmental Poetry page, here on the Science Rhymes website.

In 2013 Mother of Invention was published in the Canadian school textbook NELSON ENGLISH 10 (see image below).

Fast forward to 2021 and that planned oil painting is still very – unfinished!  Along with another unfinished artwork by Davson.  The record sale of these two unfinished paintings is setting a new precedence within the art world.

As author, I will be honoured to recite Mother of Invention at an event being held at Parliament House Brisbane on Tuesday 18th May at 10.30am to celebrate this event.  Does this mean the painting will never be finished?

Davson’s image for Origins of the Future was inspired by William Blake’s God-like painting The Ancient Of Days.  I imagined a Stone Age man, forging his partnership with science and technology through insatiable curiosity.  Neoteny in humans refers to our juvenile traits that endure into adulthood.  They include things such as our unstoppable curiosity, desire to play and experiment, plus our incredible adaptability.

Writing the poem Mother of Invention, inspired by Davson’s Origins of the Future, was how my Science Rhymes journey began.

Fashionable Distancing

Many cultures have known for centuries that the best way to avoid catching disease or pestilence is through distancing ourselves from such threats.  Below are two poems on this topic.  The first is about something many of us have needed to do recently.  But the second safety strategy has definitely fallen out of fashion.

The word QUARANTINE means strict isolation to stop the spread of disease.  It originated in Italy in the 1300’s.

Forty Days in Italian  by Celia Berrell

Venice, in the Middle Ages
feared infection from the boats
that visited its harboured stages,
ordering sailors to “stay afloat!”

For forty days they had to anchor.
NOT set foot on Venice land,
to make sure none were sick and rank
or had bubonic plague at hand.

Quaranta giorni (Kwa-rant-a jee-or-nee)
Quaranta giorni (Kwa-rant-a jee-or-nee)
is “Forty Days” in Italian.
That’s where the word for isolation
known as QUARANTINE began.

Some instances of social distancing made certain items of clothing trendy!  Voluminous crinoline skirts prevented suitors from getting too close; elaborate broad-brimmed hats stopped others breathing down your neck and the wearing of elegant gloves shielded hands from germs.  They have all served as kinds of fashionable personal protective equipment (PPE) in the past.

One famous outfit, associated with plague doctors in the 17th and 18th Century, included a funny-looking long-beaked mask.  The foot-long beak could hold perfumes or herbs to keep nasty smells at bay.  Looking rather macabre, this mask has been a popular item for fancy-dress events.  Can you see our recent use of masks taking a trendy turn too?

Hats and headgear have many purposes.   From keeping our heads protected to indicators of social status.  But the wearing of indoor bonnets such as the humble mob cap in schools has definitely fallen out of fashion.   However mother-of-four, Leonie McDonald, laments this because of head lice!

Bonnets and Headlice  by Leonie McDonald

Bring back bonnets I say
For children at school every day
It used to be part of our kids’ daily wear
To confine their own nits to their hair.

To get infected with a case of lice
Is as we know not very nice
The only known cure was the old kerosene
Or before that indeed a full shave it would seem.

So to counter this dreaded social plague
Bonnets became quite the fashionable rage
For to get your head shaved every time kids got nits
Would annoy any female to horrible bits.

With chemical treatments we get so blasé
To have nits abound has become quite blasé
Well enough I now shriek with my duty of four
To afford all this nit stuff is making me poor.

Not to mention of course what all of us know
Repeated toxicity can make your health low
So spare me I beg you from pecuniary divestments
In chemists rewarding financial investments.

Give me a break and check your kids’ hair
And if they have nits then you keep them there
Don’t send them to school with their hair wild and free
If you must send them in, put on bonnets for me.


Perhaps wearing a hoodie could help instead?

Ocean Animals (book review)

OCEAN ANIMALS written by Blake Chapman and illustrated by Astred Hicks

When I first opened this book, it looked like a proper scientific resource with plenty of photographs and a handy glossary at the back – and it is.  But it reads like a Talent Show!

It’s as though the best ocean acts are waiting in the wings, ready to star in this amazing book’s performance.  I was half-way through before I came up for air!

Blake is a great host as she introduces the weirdest, smartest and sneakiest sea creatures.  She’s friendly, cheeky and fun to read.  Nearly every page has two or three exclamation marks, which just shows how fantastical and fast-paced the performances are.

Each chapter has a winning “Sea-lebrity”, such as the ‘poison breath skull cap’ on page 20 and ‘natural little water pistols’ on page 79 (including search words to access rewarding video links on the internet).

Astred’s illustrations make excellent backdrops for setting each scene as we learn about ocean environments, these creatures and their extraordinary abilities.

The Ocean’s got talent alright!

I carry a cotton bag …

I carry a cotton bag in my pocket
by Sukarma Thareja & Celia Berrell

Sometimes simple is simply the best.
A light cotton bag can pass this test.

To mother-nature our plastic is toxic.
It won’t break down, so we can’t compost it.

Plastic bag use?  We need to stop it.
Instead, keep a cotton bag in that pocket!

Like Gandhi’s humble spinning wheel,
natural fabrics have homespun appeal.

A symbol of self-sufficiency
with an eco-friendly guarantee.