Monthly Archives: March 2013

Keen To Be Green

By Audrey Lintner

The word friendlyconjures up a whole bunch of near-universal images. The neighbor who always waves from his front porch, the shop clerk who never fails to greet you with a smile, or the coffee shop patron who pays for the next guy in line.

But what about being friendly to the planet?

Hold on, there! Take it easy. I’m not talking about junking your appliances and living off of whatever’s in season on your lawn. When I say environmental friendliness, I’m thinking of simple changes that can have a big impact.

Mind you, I’m fairly lazy. I spin my own yarn just to avoid having to get out of my chair and go shopping. If I can pull off a reasonably green lifestyle, anybody can.

It started with light bulbs. Figuring that filling every light socket in the house with 150-watt bulbs would be overkill, I cut them back to 60-watters. We lowered the setting on the water heater, which not only saves gas and money, it also saves me from being boiled in my bath. These simple successes led to bigger and better ideas.

Cold setting for most laundry loads? Check. Raking leaves instead of running a leaf blower? Trick question. We actually grind ‘em up with the lawnmower; it saves on garbage bags and mulches the lawn at the same time. The thermostat is set to 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer. We pour boiling water instead of chemicals on weeds that come up through the sidewalk cracks.

Our yard is full of critter-friendly plants and hiding places; birds and snakes are always welcome to drop in and provide spray-free pest control. Bundle these ideas with the well-known practices of recycling paper, glass, and plastic, and you can see that it really is easy being green.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and the path to ecological enlightenment starts the same way. Where do you stand?

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng

We love hearing from you! Share your green suggestions in the comment section below, and don’t forget to check out this great book full of environmentally-friendly ideas for kids. 

Keen To Be Green

By Audrey Lintner

The word friendlyconjures up a whole bunch of near-universal images. The neighbor who always waves from his front porch, the shop clerk who never fails to greet you with a smile, or the coffee shop patron who pays for the next guy in line.

But what about being friendly to the planet?

Hold on, there! Take it easy. I’m not talking about junking your appliances and living off of whatever’s in season on your lawn. When I say environmental friendliness, I’m thinking of simple changes that can have a big impact.

Mind you, I’m fairly lazy. I spin my own yarn just to avoid having to get out of my chair and go shopping. If I can pull off a reasonably green lifestyle, anybody can.

It started with light bulbs. Figuring that filling every light socket in the house with 150-watt bulbs would be overkill, I cut them back to 60-watters. We lowered the setting on the water heater, which not only saves gas and money, it also saves me from being boiled in my bath. These simple successes led to bigger and better ideas.

Cold setting for most laundry loads? Check. Raking leaves instead of running a leaf blower? Trick question. We actually grind ‘em up with the lawnmower; it saves on garbage bags and mulches the lawn at the same time. The thermostat is set to 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer. We pour boiling water instead of chemicals on weeds that come up through the sidewalk cracks.

Our yard is full of critter-friendly plants and hiding places; birds and snakes are always welcome to drop in and provide spray-free pest control. Bundle these ideas with the well-known practices of recycling paper, glass, and plastic, and you can see that it really is easy being green.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and the path to ecological enlightenment starts the same way. Where do you stand?

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng

We love hearing from you! Share your green suggestions in the comment section below, and don’t forget to check out this great book full of environmentally-friendly ideas for kids. 

How Green Was My Movie?

By Audrey Lintner

When I think about films that encourage environmental stewardship, I recall those lovely travelogue-esque movies from elementary school: majestic mountains, thundering rivers, and sweeping “Filmed in Pana-wrapa-wowie-vision” prairies.

My friend Kathleen suggested Soylent Green.

When you stop to think about it, finding an environmental film is tough work. There are the post-apocalyptic movies that grab you by the eyeballs and bring their message home with all the delicacy of a runaway freight train. There’s the Sweetness and Light genre, showing people dancing hand in hoof with unicorns while bluebirds sing cheery little songs.

You wanna know what my favorite environmental film is? How Green Was My Valley. Yeah, the one with Maureen O’Hara and Roddy McDowall.

Since the movie was filmed in black and white, we’ll never really know just how green said valley was. What we do see is a heartbreaking commentary in slow motion. The creeping piles of slag from the coal mines gradually move from backdrop to center stage, burying grass, homes, and dreams. Without wages, prospects or the ability to fight back against corrupt officials, the villagers flee and the valley succumbs.

There are plenty of family and environment-friendly offerings out there, if you feel up to a little digging. For the tiny tots in your family, consider The Animal Train, an animated short that deals with the environment and endangered species. Older kids (and probably grownups) might enjoy The Lorax. You’ve likely seen the most recent incarnation, but have you seen the original from the 70’s? Watch both and see how the messages compare.

Looking for more ideas? Visit Common Sense Media for titles, synopses, and reviews. While you’re at it, check out the Little Pickle Press shop page and check out our selection of environmentally-friendly books.

Which LPP book would you like to see made into a movie?

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng

How Green Was My Movie?

By Audrey Lintner

When I think about films that encourage environmental stewardship, I recall those lovely travelogue-esque movies from elementary school: majestic mountains, thundering rivers, and sweeping “Filmed in Pana-wrapa-wowie-vision” prairies.

My friend Kathleen suggested Soylent Green.

When you stop to think about it, finding an environmental film is tough work. There are the post-apocalyptic movies that grab you by the eyeballs and bring their message home with all the delicacy of a runaway freight train. There’s the Sweetness and Light genre, showing people dancing hand in hoof with unicorns while bluebirds sing cheery little songs.

You wanna know what my favorite environmental film is? How Green Was My Valley. Yeah, the one with Maureen O’Hara and Roddy McDowall.

Since the movie was filmed in black and white, we’ll never really know just how green said valley was. What we do see is a heartbreaking commentary in slow motion. The creeping piles of slag from the coal mines gradually move from backdrop to center stage, burying grass, homes, and dreams. Without wages, prospects or the ability to fight back against corrupt officials, the villagers flee and the valley succumbs.

There are plenty of family and environment-friendly offerings out there, if you feel up to a little digging. For the tiny tots in your family, consider The Animal Train, an animated short that deals with the environment and endangered species. Older kids (and probably grownups) might enjoy The Lorax. You’ve likely seen the most recent incarnation, but have you seen the original from the 70’s? Watch both and see how the messages compare.

Looking for more ideas? Visit Common Sense Media for titles, synopses, and reviews. While you’re at it, check out the Little Pickle Press shop page and check out our selection of environmentally-friendly books.

Which LPP book would you like to see made into a movie?

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng

Spaghetti in the Classroom

By Jodi Carmichael

Social media is a wonderful invention. It brings strangers together that may have otherwise never found each other.

A few months ago a friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook. She’d forwarded the link of my book, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons to a teacher friend, suggesting it may be a good classroom tool.

The teacher’s response floored her. Not only had she already heard of Spaghetti, her class was in the middle of reading it!

And who is this fabulous teacher? None other than Mme. Jones, a creative 5/6 teacher at W.J. Fricker School in North Bay, Ontario, Canada.
We quickly became Facebook friends, and when she told me her plans to have her students make their own movie posters based on Spaghetti, I just knew we had to feature her classroom on the Little Pickle Press blog.

Initially Mme. Jones downloaded Spaghetti because another friend recommended the book, and she was looking for a great read aloud to do with her class. When she started reading it, she knew her students would really enjoy all the lessons Connor learns along the way, and that this great story, infused with humor, would suck them in and make them think. More importantly, she knew it would open up engaging dialogue with her students. She hoped that they would pick up on the fact that Connor is different then other kids at school without her explicitly telling them, and that they would have conversations about how different people react to different situations, and what it means to be different.

Mme. Jones read Spaghetti to her students using her iPad, projecting it onto the board using an Apple TV, so that students could see the wonderful illustrations in the text.

During a discussion one day about one of the lessons, a student mentioned that this book would make a great movie. She took her cue from that student and invited them to create the posters as part of a media assignment.



And how cool was that?

I was burning with curiosity, wanting to know their honest reactions to the story, so I asked them to complete a questionnaire. I was thrilled with their responses, which I’ve summarized in the remainder of this post.

The class comprises of six burgeoning artists and three authors, one of whom is “fleshing” out a zombie apocalypse novel. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

The kids’ favorite parts of the book included the gym and library scenes, but the most popular sections were when Connor dumps Spaghetti on his head, and when he shows off Charlie’s dog tricks. They also happened to be my most favorite chapters to write.

Not surprisingly, the favorite illustration was Connor dumping spaghetti on his head. It makes me wonder if this was the artist, Sarah Ackerley’s, favorite drawing, too.

The students especially enjoyed the poster project, as they were able to use their own designs and thoughts about the book. This struck a chord with me. When I had my first discussion with Sarah, I gave her very little guidance because I wanted her to be free to bring her own artistry to the project.

None of the children knew that Connor had Aspergers Syndrome when they initially read the book. And only a few students knew anyone with Aspergers, so his reactions to many of the events in the book were surprising, until Mme. Jones told them what having AS means.

When I wrote Spaghetti, I purposely left out his diagnosis for a number of reasons and the chief one was so that readers would be able to personally identify with Connor’s struggles. To my immense satisfaction, this seems to have been successful. Every student related to Connor in a different way; whether it was his difficulty being patient, his tendency to talk too much, or sometimes interrupting people, they could all see themselves in Connor.

Most importantly, did the kids get the message that being different is okay and that even if you are different you can do amazing things? You bet they did!

They had the best ideas of what adventures Connor should go on next; the museum, traveling to a foreign country, summer vacation, high school, meeting another kid with Aspergers, and even a trip to Los Angeles where he could hang out with a super star all day! (Some of these suggestions I’m already researching!)

So, thank you Mme. Jones’ Grade 5/6 class. It was a blast reading your responses and I love the movie posters.

I’d give you all an A+!

Spaghetti in the Classroom

By Jodi Carmichael

Social media is a wonderful invention. It brings strangers together that may have otherwise never found each other.

A few months ago a friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook. She’d forwarded the link of my book, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons to a teacher friend, suggesting it may be a good classroom tool.

The teacher’s response floored her. Not only had she already heard of Spaghetti, her class was in the middle of reading it!

And who is this fabulous teacher? None other than Mme. Jones, a creative 5/6 teacher at W.J. Fricker School in North Bay, Ontario, Canada.
We quickly became Facebook friends, and when she told me her plans to have her students make their own movie posters based on Spaghetti, I just knew we had to feature her classroom on the Little Pickle Press blog.

Initially Mme. Jones downloaded Spaghetti because another friend recommended the book, and she was looking for a great read aloud to do with her class. When she started reading it, she knew her students would really enjoy all the lessons Connor learns along the way, and that this great story, infused with humor, would suck them in and make them think. More importantly, she knew it would open up engaging dialogue with her students. She hoped that they would pick up on the fact that Connor is different then other kids at school without her explicitly telling them, and that they would have conversations about how different people react to different situations, and what it means to be different.

Mme. Jones read Spaghetti to her students using her iPad, projecting it onto the board using an Apple TV, so that students could see the wonderful illustrations in the text.

During a discussion one day about one of the lessons, a student mentioned that this book would make a great movie. She took her cue from that student and invited them to create the posters as part of a media assignment.



And how cool was that?

I was burning with curiosity, wanting to know their honest reactions to the story, so I asked them to complete a questionnaire. I was thrilled with their responses, which I’ve summarized in the remainder of this post.

The class comprises of six burgeoning artists and three authors, one of whom is “fleshing” out a zombie apocalypse novel. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

The kids’ favorite parts of the book included the gym and library scenes, but the most popular sections were when Connor dumps Spaghetti on his head, and when he shows off Charlie’s dog tricks. They also happened to be my most favorite chapters to write.

Not surprisingly, the favorite illustration was Connor dumping spaghetti on his head. It makes me wonder if this was the artist, Sarah Ackerley’s, favorite drawing, too.

The students especially enjoyed the poster project, as they were able to use their own designs and thoughts about the book. This struck a chord with me. When I had my first discussion with Sarah, I gave her very little guidance because I wanted her to be free to bring her own artistry to the project.

None of the children knew that Connor had Aspergers Syndrome when they initially read the book. And only a few students knew anyone with Aspergers, so his reactions to many of the events in the book were surprising, until Mme. Jones told them what having AS means.

When I wrote Spaghetti, I purposely left out his diagnosis for a number of reasons and the chief one was so that readers would be able to personally identify with Connor’s struggles. To my immense satisfaction, this seems to have been successful. Every student related to Connor in a different way; whether it was his difficulty being patient, his tendency to talk too much, or sometimes interrupting people, they could all see themselves in Connor.

Most importantly, did the kids get the message that being different is okay and that even if you are different you can do amazing things? You bet they did!

They had the best ideas of what adventures Connor should go on next; the museum, traveling to a foreign country, summer vacation, high school, meeting another kid with Aspergers, and even a trip to Los Angeles where he could hang out with a super star all day! (Some of these suggestions I’m already researching!)

So, thank you Mme. Jones’ Grade 5/6 class. It was a blast reading your responses and I love the movie posters.

I’d give you all an A+!

Featured Customer of the Month: Monkey See, Monkey Do

By Cameron Crane

If it’s not on our shelves, we will get it.

If you don’t know the full title, we will find it.

If you can’t come in, we will deliver it.

This is the customer service commitment of Monkey See, Monkey Do…Children’s Bookstore, our featured customer of the month this March. Monkey See, Monkey Do, located in Clarence, NY, has been “bringing books to life” since 2009.

Monkey See, Monkey Do aims to be “a little bookstore with big ideas”. With their beautiful collection of books, home-like ambience, author-instructed writing classes, book-themed parties, and even summer camps, this fabulous bookstore goes above and beyond to foster a love of reading in adults and children alike. We are grateful to be a part of their collection.

Part of what makes Monkey See, Monkey Do so wonderful is their commitment to their mission:

Viewing this statement as a roadmap, Monkey See, Monkey Do has successfully become the go-to place for the community to discover their next read, expand their technical knowledge, and attend events (or even throw parties). It truly is a gem in the Clarence community, offering an experience that is more than words or books.

Luckily for those of us living outside of New York, Monkey See, Monkey Do has expanded their horizons, offering the opportunity to shop their wonderful collection of literature online. Browse their collection here

If you are in Clarence, we highly recommend visiting Monkey See, Monkey Do to shop, take a class, or meet one of the dedicated booksellers, committed to making the store what it is today. Be sure to look for Little Pickle Press’ award-winning titles!

Registration is now open for Monkey See, Monkey Do’s Spring Break Camps for children. Find out more here.

Thank you, Monkey See, Monkey Do, for all that you do to foster a love of reading, and for your continued support of Little Pickle Press!

Featured Customer of the Month: Monkey See, Monkey Do

By Cameron Crane

If it’s not on our shelves, we will get it.

If you don’t know the full title, we will find it.

If you can’t come in, we will deliver it.

This is the customer service commitment of Monkey See, Monkey Do…Children’s Bookstore, our featured customer of the month this March. Monkey See, Monkey Do, located in Clarence, NY, has been “bringing books to life” since 2009.

Monkey See, Monkey Do aims to be “a little bookstore with big ideas”. With their beautiful collection of books, home-like ambience, author-instructed writing classes, book-themed parties, and even summer camps, this fabulous bookstore goes above and beyond to foster a love of reading in adults and children alike. We are grateful to be a part of their collection.

Part of what makes Monkey See, Monkey Do so wonderful is their commitment to their mission:

Viewing this statement as a roadmap, Monkey See, Monkey Do has successfully become the go-to place for the community to discover their next read, expand their technical knowledge, and attend events (or even throw parties). It truly is a gem in the Clarence community, offering an experience that is more than words or books.

Luckily for those of us living outside of New York, Monkey See, Monkey Do has expanded their horizons, offering the opportunity to shop their wonderful collection of literature online. Browse their collection here

If you are in Clarence, we highly recommend visiting Monkey See, Monkey Do to shop, take a class, or meet one of the dedicated booksellers, committed to making the store what it is today. Be sure to look for Little Pickle Press’ award-winning titles!

Registration is now open for Monkey See, Monkey Do’s Spring Break Camps for children. Find out more here.

Thank you, Monkey See, Monkey Do, for all that you do to foster a love of reading, and for your continued support of Little Pickle Press!

Cool the Earth

By Chloe Martin
It wasn’t until I was 39 years old that I realized that climate change was happening and it was reallybad news. What took me so long? I had gotten a great education, kept up on issues that threatened the health and well-being of my two young children, and still supported an environmental group I had worked for during.  Yet despite all that, like many people, the enormity of the threat of climate change just wasn’t on my radar. Or if it was, the information was coming in as unrelated dots, and I wasn’t able to see the big picture, nor understand how it related to me.
But in 2007, an article on the front page of the New York Times about the grim assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finally made me pay attention.  I decided to take a retreat, and start connecting those dots. The picture that emerged made me feel scared, sad and guilty. I looked back at all the things I would have done differently if I had understood the implications, and I felt regret. But those feelings were powerful motivators for me.  I vowed to make changes in my own behavior moving forward, and to teach my children environmental stewardship. I knew that wasn’t enough, so I started to look for ways to help educate and inspire others to change also.

Remarkably, I discovered that another mom in my community, Carleen Cullen, had recently developed a program called Cool the Earth to teach kids in elementary and middle schools about climate change and inspire them to reduce their carbon footprint. A play presented by their own teachers introduces the concepts of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change in an engaging, child-friendly way—the cute polar bears whose ice is melting ask the kids in the audience if they’ll help get rid of the scoundrel, Mr. Carbon, by taking home the Golden Coupon Book to share with their parents. The coupons contain 20 simple, measurable actions—like recycling or biking to school—that kids and parents can take to reduce their carbon footprint.  They pledge to take action, return the pledge coupons to school, and the results are aggregated with all the other actions in the school community.  It really adds up, and families learn that “every action counts.”

I volunteered to be the Cool the Earth Team Leader at my sons’ school, where I’ve had the delight of collecting coupons from children who are proud to be taking actions and teaching their parents. I’ve been thanked by parents for helping their children develop a sense of environmental stewardship.  And I’ve been proud to report back to the community that thanks to their actions, we’ve reduced the carbon equivalent of about 60 cars off the road each year. What gives me hope and satisfaction is knowing that these kids—and they’re all over the country as Cool the Earth has grown to a nation-wide program– are growing up with an awareness that I didn’t have, and are developing environmentally friendly habits and a mindset that they’ll carry forward into adulthood to create a more sustainable world. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chloe Martin is now 45 years old. Before her epiphany about climate change, she was raised in Southern California and France, and received her BA and PhD in Psychology from Yale University. Her volunteer work with Cool the Earth led to a position on the staff at the non-profit, Cool the Earth.  She and her husband live in Marin County with their two sons, ages 9 and 12. They are her greatest motivation in her work to mitigate climate change. Cool the Earth provides the program for free to K-8 schools. For more information and to sign up to run the program in your school, visit cooltheearth.org

Cool the Earth

By Chloe Martin
It wasn’t until I was 39 years old that I realized that climate change was happening and it was reallybad news. What took me so long? I had gotten a great education, kept up on issues that threatened the health and well-being of my two young children, and still supported an environmental group I had worked for during.  Yet despite all that, like many people, the enormity of the threat of climate change just wasn’t on my radar. Or if it was, the information was coming in as unrelated dots, and I wasn’t able to see the big picture, nor understand how it related to me.
But in 2007, an article on the front page of the New York Times about the grim assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finally made me pay attention.  I decided to take a retreat, and start connecting those dots. The picture that emerged made me feel scared, sad and guilty. I looked back at all the things I would have done differently if I had understood the implications, and I felt regret. But those feelings were powerful motivators for me.  I vowed to make changes in my own behavior moving forward, and to teach my children environmental stewardship. I knew that wasn’t enough, so I started to look for ways to help educate and inspire others to change also.

Remarkably, I discovered that another mom in my community, Carleen Cullen, had recently developed a program called Cool the Earth to teach kids in elementary and middle schools about climate change and inspire them to reduce their carbon footprint. A play presented by their own teachers introduces the concepts of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change in an engaging, child-friendly way—the cute polar bears whose ice is melting ask the kids in the audience if they’ll help get rid of the scoundrel, Mr. Carbon, by taking home the Golden Coupon Book to share with their parents. The coupons contain 20 simple, measurable actions—like recycling or biking to school—that kids and parents can take to reduce their carbon footprint.  They pledge to take action, return the pledge coupons to school, and the results are aggregated with all the other actions in the school community.  It really adds up, and families learn that “every action counts.”

I volunteered to be the Cool the Earth Team Leader at my sons’ school, where I’ve had the delight of collecting coupons from children who are proud to be taking actions and teaching their parents. I’ve been thanked by parents for helping their children develop a sense of environmental stewardship.  And I’ve been proud to report back to the community that thanks to their actions, we’ve reduced the carbon equivalent of about 60 cars off the road each year. What gives me hope and satisfaction is knowing that these kids—and they’re all over the country as Cool the Earth has grown to a nation-wide program– are growing up with an awareness that I didn’t have, and are developing environmentally friendly habits and a mindset that they’ll carry forward into adulthood to create a more sustainable world. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chloe Martin is now 45 years old. Before her epiphany about climate change, she was raised in Southern California and France, and received her BA and PhD in Psychology from Yale University. Her volunteer work with Cool the Earth led to a position on the staff at the non-profit, Cool the Earth.  She and her husband live in Marin County with their two sons, ages 9 and 12. They are her greatest motivation in her work to mitigate climate change. Cool the Earth provides the program for free to K-8 schools. For more information and to sign up to run the program in your school, visit cooltheearth.org

Featured Young Writer: Crazy About Birds

 By Zoe McCormick, 14


My parents often tell the story about when I was four years old and they put up a hummingbird feeder. The first time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder I got so excited that I talked nonstop for over an hour about it. I talked so fast, nonstop, for so long, that my parents began to worry that there might be something wrong with me. They worried that I might be crazy. They were right. I am crazy-crazy about birds.  
After seeing the hummingbird at the feeder, I insisted that my parents get some books about hummingbirds. I wanted to do research on hummingbirds so I could figure out what kind of hummers we had at our feeder, and learn everything that I could learn about hummers. Ten years later, I am still crazy about birds.

When I was nine, I joined 4-H because I realized that if I did the poultry project, I could talk my parents into getting me a chicken. When I was twelve, my grandmother took me to sit by the lake on her ranch. She brought a bird field guide and binoculars and we spent the afternoon identifying birds. For some reason, I loved seeing a bird and being able to look in the field guide, identify the bird, and learn all about it. Ever since then, I have carried a field guide and binoculars with me almost everywhere I go, and continue to work on bird identification.


Bird identification is an important scientific tool. Bird identification helps ornithologists (scientists who study birds) learn about the health of bird populations as a whole. Bird populations tell us about the health of our planet. Birds are the canary in the coalmine when it comes to climate change. Scientists who study birds are finding dramatic changes in bird populations. Birds are showing up where they are not supposed to be for a lot of reasons. Sometimes, because of climate change, the food they depend on is scarce, and birds have to leave their normal territory to look for food. All birds depend on water for their survival. When we destroy wetlands and dam rivers, we are destroying the water supply and habitat that birds need for survival. The thing is that it’s not just about the birds. We people need a healthy planet to survive, too.

I go birding every chance I get. I enter the birds I see in eBird, a huge online database of bird sightings from all over the world. Scientists use the data from eBird for various studies. I also work with other birders doing data collection. I enjoy meeting other birders and learning from them. I have been working on Waterbird surveys with the Richardson Bay Audubon Center. When my family travels, I do research on the birds in the area that we will be visiting, and plan where we will go birding.

There are not a lot of kids who are interested in birding. I sometimes wish there were other kids to go birding with, but the most important thing for me is to be doing something that I am passionate about.

Featured Young Writer: Crazy About Birds

 By Zoe McCormick, 14


My parents often tell the story about when I was four years old and they put up a hummingbird feeder. The first time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder I got so excited that I talked nonstop for over an hour about it. I talked so fast, nonstop, for so long, that my parents began to worry that there might be something wrong with me. They worried that I might be crazy. They were right. I am crazy-crazy about birds.  
After seeing the hummingbird at the feeder, I insisted that my parents get some books about hummingbirds. I wanted to do research on hummingbirds so I could figure out what kind of hummers we had at our feeder, and learn everything that I could learn about hummers. Ten years later, I am still crazy about birds.

When I was nine, I joined 4-H because I realized that if I did the poultry project, I could talk my parents into getting me a chicken. When I was twelve, my grandmother took me to sit by the lake on her ranch. She brought a bird field guide and binoculars and we spent the afternoon identifying birds. For some reason, I loved seeing a bird and being able to look in the field guide, identify the bird, and learn all about it. Ever since then, I have carried a field guide and binoculars with me almost everywhere I go, and continue to work on bird identification.


Bird identification is an important scientific tool. Bird identification helps ornithologists (scientists who study birds) learn about the health of bird populations as a whole. Bird populations tell us about the health of our planet. Birds are the canary in the coalmine when it comes to climate change. Scientists who study birds are finding dramatic changes in bird populations. Birds are showing up where they are not supposed to be for a lot of reasons. Sometimes, because of climate change, the food they depend on is scarce, and birds have to leave their normal territory to look for food. All birds depend on water for their survival. When we destroy wetlands and dam rivers, we are destroying the water supply and habitat that birds need for survival. The thing is that it’s not just about the birds. We people need a healthy planet to survive, too.

I go birding every chance I get. I enter the birds I see in eBird, a huge online database of bird sightings from all over the world. Scientists use the data from eBird for various studies. I also work with other birders doing data collection. I enjoy meeting other birders and learning from them. I have been working on Waterbird surveys with the Richardson Bay Audubon Center. When my family travels, I do research on the birds in the area that we will be visiting, and plan where we will go birding.

There are not a lot of kids who are interested in birding. I sometimes wish there were other kids to go birding with, but the most important thing for me is to be doing something that I am passionate about.

A Lesson from Severn Suzuki

By Khadijah Lacina


Ever heard of Severn Suzuki?  Neither had I, until a couple of weeks ago, when I was introduced to her via a YouTube video of her addressing the UN in 1992. In her short speech, she eloquently and passionately speaks out for social justice and an end to environmental degradation.

What makes Severn’s speech even more amazing is that she was only twelve years old when she gave it. And she gave it on behalf of The Environmental Children’s Organization (E.C.O.), which was made up of twelve and thirteen year olds who raised the money to travel to Brazil in order to speak at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In doing this, they gave voice to children all over the world who are seeing the planet being destroyed around them– not just their own generation, but the generations who come after who will inherit the messes being made by their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

 

I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil — borders and governments will never change that.


I’m only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.


In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.


And tell them she does. With the clarity of a child and the wisdom of someone much older, she first points out the common humanity shared by all, then goes on to reveal the hypocrisy of so many.


At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:


  • not to fight with others
  • to work things out
  • to respect others
  • to clean up our mess
  • not to hurt other creatures
  • to share – not be greedy

Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?


So true, Severn. Where is the humanity, compassion, and respect in war, greed, and the ruination of the very environment in which we and our children and our children’s children live?


She ends with a challenge, not just for the delegates of the UN sitting before her, but for all of us.


Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grownups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.


What have you done today to make positive change? More importantly, what can you do– today, tomorrow, and every day?


A Lesson from Severn Suzuki

By Khadijah Lacina


Ever heard of Severn Suzuki?  Neither had I, until a couple of weeks ago, when I was introduced to her via a YouTube video of her addressing the UN in 1992. In her short speech, she eloquently and passionately speaks out for social justice and an end to environmental degradation.

What makes Severn’s speech even more amazing is that she was only twelve years old when she gave it. And she gave it on behalf of The Environmental Children’s Organization (E.C.O.), which was made up of twelve and thirteen year olds who raised the money to travel to Brazil in order to speak at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In doing this, they gave voice to children all over the world who are seeing the planet being destroyed around them– not just their own generation, but the generations who come after who will inherit the messes being made by their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

 

I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil — borders and governments will never change that.


I’m only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.


In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.


And tell them she does. With the clarity of a child and the wisdom of someone much older, she first points out the common humanity shared by all, then goes on to reveal the hypocrisy of so many.


At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:


  • not to fight with others
  • to work things out
  • to respect others
  • to clean up our mess
  • not to hurt other creatures
  • to share – not be greedy

Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?


So true, Severn. Where is the humanity, compassion, and respect in war, greed, and the ruination of the very environment in which we and our children and our children’s children live?


She ends with a challenge, not just for the delegates of the UN sitting before her, but for all of us.


Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grownups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.


What have you done today to make positive change? More importantly, what can you do– today, tomorrow, and every day?


Off the Summer Slide, On to Summer Camp

By Cameron Crane

Image Credit: activityhero.com

This weekend in San Francisco was incredible. The sun was shining, the air was the perfect combination of warm and breezy, and it seemed like everyone was out and about taking advantage of it. It hardly felt like March. It was fantastic, but it also served as a subtle reminder that the year is flying by, and summer is just around the corner. It’s time to actually start following through with that resolution to work out, to finalize the flights and save a little extra for your big vacation of the year, and for those with children, it’s time to start figuring out where they are going to spend their time each day when they’re not in school.

For many of us, the solution to the latter is simple—we’ll send them to summer camp. Camp is fun, easy, social, and children love going. I know I loved it as a child. But before you sign your children up to spend the summer playing tug-of-war and capture the flag, there are some important factors to consider.

Like any time of year, balance is key, and while summer is a time for children to let go and play, intellectual stimulation is still crucial. In fact, when students do not engage in enriching activities for the mind or experience some form of formal education over the summer, they can end up “experiencing a significant drop in their learning momentum that can affect how they perform next year.” This is commonly known as the ‘summer slump’ or ‘summer slide’.

According to Oxford Learning, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computational skills during the summer months. Boston Mamas notes that reading can drop more than two levels in the two months out of the structured environment that school provides. In order to prevent these losses, children need at least 2 to 3 hours of supplemental education per week. Staying on top of your child’s reading list and picking a summer camp that will foster learning are great ways to ensure that your children are staying ahead.

Luckily, there are many summer enriching and intellectually stimulating summer camps out, tailored to fit your child’s particular interests. Whether your child loves art, animals, sports, space exploration, or protecting the environment, there is a camp out there with a curriculum just for him or her.

Here are some of our favorite Bay Area Summer Camps:

Broader list of Bay Area summer camps here
What is your favorite summer camp program in your area? Please share with us!

Off the Summer Slide, On to Summer Camp

By Cameron Crane

Image Credit: activityhero.com

This weekend in San Francisco was incredible. The sun was shining, the air was the perfect combination of warm and breezy, and it seemed like everyone was out and about taking advantage of it. It hardly felt like March. It was fantastic, but it also served as a subtle reminder that the year is flying by, and summer is just around the corner. It’s time to actually start following through with that resolution to work out, to finalize the flights and save a little extra for your big vacation of the year, and for those with children, it’s time to start figuring out where they are going to spend their time each day when they’re not in school.

For many of us, the solution to the latter is simple—we’ll send them to summer camp. Camp is fun, easy, social, and children love going. I know I loved it as a child. But before you sign your children up to spend the summer playing tug-of-war and capture the flag, there are some important factors to consider.

Like any time of year, balance is key, and while summer is a time for children to let go and play, intellectual stimulation is still crucial. In fact, when students do not engage in enriching activities for the mind or experience some form of formal education over the summer, they can end up “experiencing a significant drop in their learning momentum that can affect how they perform next year.” This is commonly known as the ‘summer slump’ or ‘summer slide’.

According to Oxford Learning, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computational skills during the summer months. Boston Mamas notes that reading can drop more than two levels in the two months out of the structured environment that school provides. In order to prevent these losses, children need at least 2 to 3 hours of supplemental education per week. Staying on top of your child’s reading list and picking a summer camp that will foster learning are great ways to ensure that your children are staying ahead.

Luckily, there are many summer enriching and intellectually stimulating summer camps out, tailored to fit your child’s particular interests. Whether your child loves art, animals, sports, space exploration, or protecting the environment, there is a camp out there with a curriculum just for him or her.

Here are some of our favorite Bay Area Summer Camps:

Broader list of Bay Area summer camps here
What is your favorite summer camp program in your area? Please share with us!

The Extraordinary of Ordinary: Part II

By Land Wilson

Park School’s “Save Earth” anti-catalog art  from blogs.parkschoolcommunity.net

This past year, I have learned a lot about Ted Wells’ background and his work. He grew up on a farm in Hopkinton, NH where he spent much of his time climbing trees, riding horses, playing in the barn, or skiing at Pats Peak. After Bowdoin College and five summers working with horses and children at E/L Ranch in Montana, he found his way to Bank Street College of Education (where he wrote his thesis designing a recycling program) and then to The Park School in Brookline, MA where he is in his eleventh year.

Ted is concerned about the environment and committed to doing what he can to help. He wants to help teachers understand their role in shaping the next generation in a way that addresses these problems. In his words, “We need to redefine citizenship to include taking care of our community by protecting the natural world. This is a broader definition of citizenship than currently used in schools. We must find hands-on environmental projects for kids to take part in to help nature and to know they can make a difference.”

In November 2008, Ted and his students started the Catalogue Canceling Challenge—a nationally-embraced annual school competition where grades at each school compete to cancel some of the 19 billion catalogues mailed in the U.S. each year at the expense of 50 million trees annually. As of last month, 98 teams from 23 states have engaged in his Catalogue Challenge and 77,246 unwanted catalogs have been cancelled. 463,476 catalogs have been stopped, 9,298 kids have participated, 1,284 trees have been saved, 1,286,645 gallons of water have been saved, and 827,129 lbs. CO2 have been stopped. Ted’s program is growing and has been taken on by the “Kids Who Care” at Sun Valley School.

In 2011, Ted and his students started BagtheBook.org–a project aimed at getting classrooms to convince communities to cut down on the 540 million yellow phone books littering our doorsteps each year. The project addresses the environmental costs of such waste and serves as a service-learning project for classrooms that gets students engaged and educated about civics.

In 2013, Ted and his students launched a petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware to make fewer, greener, and smaller catalogs. With Restoration Hardware’s Fall 2012 release of a 992-page companion set of three catalogues weighing 5.5 lbs. during the same year as Universal Studio’s release of The Lorax, people in great numbers across the nation and abroad were outraged. This petition is already an impetus for a demand by citizens for greater accountability from corporations. As our environment degrades, corporations who profit at the expense of our environment are not going to be tolerated.

                                                        

The projects led by Ted and his students—the Lorax Petition, the Catalog Canceling Challenge, the BagtheBook.orgproject, the petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware (please sign!) the school recycling, gardening, and composting programs, and the YouTube videos he makes with children to support green projects and education—are having a ripple effect across the U.S. and abroad. Ted is empowering a wave of children and grownups to be part of the answer more than any other grassroots school-based educator I know.

We need more leaders like Ted to get people engaged in safeguarding Earth. For the sake of the planet and ourselves, let’s spread the word about Ted and his work. Someone once said that real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. And Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” On behalf of children and grownups around the world, thank you, Ted Wells, for being our extraordinary hero.

The Extraordinary of Ordinary: Part II

By Land Wilson

Park School’s “Save Earth” anti-catalog art  from blogs.parkschoolcommunity.net

This past year, I have learned a lot about Ted Wells’ background and his work. He grew up on a farm in Hopkinton, NH where he spent much of his time climbing trees, riding horses, playing in the barn, or skiing at Pats Peak. After Bowdoin College and five summers working with horses and children at E/L Ranch in Montana, he found his way to Bank Street College of Education (where he wrote his thesis designing a recycling program) and then to The Park School in Brookline, MA where he is in his eleventh year.

Ted is concerned about the environment and committed to doing what he can to help. He wants to help teachers understand their role in shaping the next generation in a way that addresses these problems. In his words, “We need to redefine citizenship to include taking care of our community by protecting the natural world. This is a broader definition of citizenship than currently used in schools. We must find hands-on environmental projects for kids to take part in to help nature and to know they can make a difference.”

In November 2008, Ted and his students started the Catalogue Canceling Challenge—a nationally-embraced annual school competition where grades at each school compete to cancel some of the 19 billion catalogues mailed in the U.S. each year at the expense of 50 million trees annually. As of last month, 98 teams from 23 states have engaged in his Catalogue Challenge and 77,246 unwanted catalogs have been cancelled. 463,476 catalogs have been stopped, 9,298 kids have participated, 1,284 trees have been saved, 1,286,645 gallons of water have been saved, and 827,129 lbs. CO2 have been stopped. Ted’s program is growing and has been taken on by the “Kids Who Care” at Sun Valley School.

In 2011, Ted and his students started BagtheBook.org–a project aimed at getting classrooms to convince communities to cut down on the 540 million yellow phone books littering our doorsteps each year. The project addresses the environmental costs of such waste and serves as a service-learning project for classrooms that gets students engaged and educated about civics.

In 2013, Ted and his students launched a petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware to make fewer, greener, and smaller catalogs. With Restoration Hardware’s Fall 2012 release of a 992-page companion set of three catalogues weighing 5.5 lbs. during the same year as Universal Studio’s release of The Lorax, people in great numbers across the nation and abroad were outraged. This petition is already an impetus for a demand by citizens for greater accountability from corporations. As our environment degrades, corporations who profit at the expense of our environment are not going to be tolerated.

                                                        

The projects led by Ted and his students—the Lorax Petition, the Catalog Canceling Challenge, the BagtheBook.orgproject, the petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware (please sign!) the school recycling, gardening, and composting programs, and the YouTube videos he makes with children to support green projects and education—are having a ripple effect across the U.S. and abroad. Ted is empowering a wave of children and grownups to be part of the answer more than any other grassroots school-based educator I know.

We need more leaders like Ted to get people engaged in safeguarding Earth. For the sake of the planet and ourselves, let’s spread the word about Ted and his work. Someone once said that real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. And Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” On behalf of children and grownups around the world, thank you, Ted Wells, for being our extraordinary hero.

The Extraordinary of Ordinary: Part I

 By Land Wilson


History shows that ordinary people are often behind the extraordinary changes of the world. Last year, I met one of these ordinary people behind extraordinary change. As a result of this one person’s work, 144,500 people have taken action online, thousands of students have become empowered environmental stewards, two major companies have changed their policies (Dixon Ticonderoga and Universal Studios), 1,284 trees and 1,286,645 gallons of water have been saved, and 827,129 lbs. of CO2 have been stopped. Luckily for us, and the planet, these great people tend to lead by example.
This has been my experience of getting to know Ted Wells, a 4th grade teacher at The Park School in Brookline, MA.

In late 2011, I kept coming across news about the students of a 4th grade teacher named Ted Wells. They had read Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and liked the idea that the Lorax character “spoke for the trees.” They enjoyed discovering that in the end, the Once-ler realized that life is not just about making money, it’s about doing what’s best for others and the environment. The kids were excited for the upcoming movie. When they went to the movie website, they were upset. There was no mention of saving the Earth. They wanted to see Dr. Seuss’ environmental message expressed and thought there should be green educational materials available. So, they created a petition on Change.org asking Universal Studios to improve the Lorax movie website in a way that would make Dr. Seuss proud.

To their surprise, their petition gathered nearly 60,000 signatures and Universal changed its webpage exactly as Ted’s class requested. Universal even used the Truffula tree image for a button and linked to the Green Tips Random House page, just as his students suggested in their petition.Universal commented that these developments had already been in the works. We’ll never know what their true intensions were, but Universal did say that the kids accelerated their plans. I loved that this petition reinforced Dr. Seuss’ environmental message to people around the world

In the spring of 2012, Julie Harris, the principal at my kids’ school, asked me if I would volunteer to do a lunchtime Green Team project. The issue of plastic pollution was discussed and forty students eagerly stepped up to do something. Thanks to the petition by Ted Wells and his students, we saw that a petition was an option for us. The kids were keen on a project that was close to their lives, and everyone could relate to the large quantities of Crayola markers tossed out year after year.



The idea of expressing concerns to a beloved company was intimidating, but two things paved the way. We called Ted Wells for advice on how to create a petition. To our delight, he welcomed our call and he understood our concerns about the impact of plastic on the planet when it reaches landfills, incinerators, and oceans. He gave us council, and he encouraged us to reach out to Crayola first. We took his advice, but Crayola told us that there was nobody we could speak with at the company about our concerns. So, using Change.org, Mr. Land’s “Kids Who Care” launched the “Crayola, Make Your Mark!” petition.
Some extraordinary things unfolded for us. Nearly 90,000 supporters signed our petition! National media coverage was extensive. The “Kids” received a California Legislature Resolution from Assembly Member (now Congressman), Jared Huffman. We’ve received support from prominent organizations, celebrities, politicians, and countless kids. Perhaps most noteworthy, Dixon Ticonderoga, one of the world’s leading art supply companies, responded to the kids’ request by initiating its own recycling program. One of the most exciting things that I’ve witnessed has been to watch leaders-in-the-making as these children express and engage themselves to make their world a better place.

Why do I share these things about the “Kids Who Care” from Sun Valley School in a post about Ted Wells? Because without his leadership, these extraordinary things would not have occurred. He inspired us and then enabled us. He was kind and respectful. He extended a helping hand to people he didn’t even know. I believe that caring for people and places we don’t know is a mark of greatness. I think it is a crucial step in our ability to lead the world to a better place. 

Tune in tomorrow, as I share more about the man who is inspiring children and educators around the world.


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Land Wilson is the award-winning author of Sofia’s Dream. He was born and raised in Marin County, where he developed a deep appreciation for nature and an interest in environmental protection, which later became the inspiration for his book. Land currently lives in San Rafael, CA with his wife and two children.