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New! Free Study Guides for Teachers

So here I am. I did it. I wrote three children’s books about rescuing endangered species —ResQ and the Baby Orangutan; ResQ Takes on the Takhi; and ResQ in Panamá: Can We Save The Frogs?( I signed with a nonprofit publisher— Tumblehome; a wonderful team who believes, like me, in the beauty and importance of science and literacy, and the potential merits to the marriage of these two areas.

How did I get here? By putting one foot in front of the other, first as an environmental plant biologist, and then as a science administrator at Penn State and most recently at the Smithsonian. What I learned on that journey is that the climate on earth has always been changing, and species extinction is nothing new. BUT in the age of the Anthropocene, humans, for the first time in earth’s history, are influencing the planet in ways that are accelerating change at unsustainable rates. Global species endangerment is escalating, and the causes and solutions are complicated. We are bequeathing these problems, and the need to find solutions, to the next generation. Now we need to inspire them to get engaged. My goal in writing the ResQ series is to heighten children’s awareness of what is happening, but also intrigue them about how science can help come up with strategies for survival.

My publisher and I believe that books like mine would work well in classroom settings. We were lucky enough to secure a pilot grant from the Brabson Family Foundation, which has allowed us to distribute the books to classrooms in ten schools serving economically-disadvantaged children. Over the past year I have made virtual visits to these classrooms; the experiences have been memorable and inspiring. I visited a fourth-grade classroom in Queens, NY. Like the borough where this school is located, the children were a rainbow, clearly coming from many different places, metaphorically and physically. What they had in common was such enthusiasm not only for these books but for the issues behind the stories — the plight of our world and the creatures living in it.

As I have reflected on these virtual visits to inner city and equally poor rural schools, I was reminded of my years at the Smithsonian Institution. About 30 million visitors come to the museums on the Mall each year. That leaves annually nearly 300 million citizens who do not come to visit, and of those many who will never visit a major museum or be exposed to the bigger stories of endangered species, let alone travel to remote parts of the world. At the Smithsonian we used to talk about how to reach this vast population, and the Institution has been pursuing solutions to address these issues. Similarly, albeit at a much smaller scale, I came away from the interactions with these school kids, believing that my books, and others like it, have a role to play in engaging and educating children about their world and the creatures that inhabit it. To that end I devoted last summer to writing detailed study guides for each of the three books and want to offer them, with keys, free of charge to teachers interested in adopting the books in their classrooms.

Today’s school children hold in their hands the future of our blue planet. Teachers play a critical role in opening up the world for their students. We are proposing using the ResQ series to create an integrated strategy to learning — about scientific problems and solutions, imbedded in geographical and cultural realities, all while becoming more proficient readers. I write this blog today hoping that those for whom these ideas resonate will tell their teacher friends to check out the ResQ series.

For study guides and association materials contact me at

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