In 2014, Islandport Press launched a partnership with Maine Audubon to publish a series of children’s books that will help increase awareness about endangered species while raising funds for underserved schools. Proceeds from the Wildlife on the Move series go to helping improve education for Maine children, but that’s not the only way this series is reaching kids. The program is also meeting children in their natural habitats by visiting classrooms across the state.
Melissa Kim, children’s and young adult book editor at Islandport Press and author of the Wildlife on the Move series, has accompanied staff from the Maine Audubon Society on school visits where they speak to the kids about the biological facts of owls and bats. Along with Maine Audubon educator Kim Sanders, Melissa Kim visited schools in Lincolnville, Appleville, and Hope, bringing a box filled with science artifacts. The educational kits features a jumbo-sized version of either A Snowy Owl Story or A Little Brown Bat Story (and launching this Saturday: A Blanding's Turtle Story) plus animal skeletons, droppings, and other educational materials to help illustrate the concepts in the books.
“Kids really respond to the true story component of A Snowy Owl Story,” said Kim. “During a visit to the Yarmouth schools, I mentioned that the person who caught the owl was originally from Yarmouth, and that really stuck with them.” Sanders added, “The fact that these books are set locally and are about Maine animals makes kids go wild. They can learn about animal’s migration patterns during the season that it’s actually happening, in the place where it’s happening.”
Kim recalls passing around the snowy owl claw and wing from the educational kit. “The wing is amazing because it weighs almost nothing. When you sweep it through the air, it makes no noise and that’s part of their adaptation,” she said. Instead of simply hearing about these adaptive traits, children are able to observe them first-hand. They can examine bat skeletons, feel the hollow feathers, and with the guidance of the Maine Audubon specialists, play games that teach them about pesticides, pollution, and preservation.
“Wildlife on the Move is all about how people interact with wildlife,” said Sanders. “The curriculum talks about the uniqueness of each animal, but then it moves on to discuss the challenges they face when interacting with people and the impact humans are having. As humans and wildlife come into more and more contact, these are even more important lessons for kids to be learning.”
As the program grows, Maine Audubon is working to create curriculums for teachers. To do this, they are enlisting teachers from Portland to Bridgton to provide feedback about the program to make it even more effective and engaging for children. “We’ve realized how important it is to have a story,” explained Sanders. “Kids respond to stories so much more than they do to dry facts.” In some cases, the Wildlife on the Move series has even helped educate the educators. “I’m more aware of Blanding's turtles than ever before,” admitted Sanders. “I can’t wait to get out there and share that story, too.”
The fourth and final book in the series, A Monarch Butterfly Story, is due out in May 2017.