Inspiring Environmental Stewards

Endangered Crops Species?!?

by Nancy Castaldo

It’s been many years since I was Nature Nancy, camp counselor, during my summers, but I still wear that hat when I write my books and those are still the faces I see reading them. I can remember the kids piling out of the buses from New York City to experience camp in the country. So much of what I introduced to them was new to them, like jewel weed and the Eastern box turtle that roamed around my cabin. We touched feathers and tried to identify which bird left them behind. We went on walks and listened to the sounds of squirrels scampering and birds calling. It was wonderful to see so many things through their eyes.

As I finished college, completed my science classes, and began writing, my focus was on endangered animals and protecting the environment. By the time, I had my own child and was a Girl Scout leader, I thought I was aware of most environmental issues. I had no idea I was in the dark about something so important. Fortunately, my daughter began working at a nearby farm and I wrote a book called Keeping Our Earth Green. Both brought my attention to a crisis of such magnitude that it would impact everyone. There were not just endangered animals, like pandas, wolves, and bald eagles. There are endangered crops species. Imagine not being able to go to the store and purchase a banana for your lunch or a sweet slice of watermelon. Seeds from many crops are being lost daily for a whole host of reasons, including climate change and modern farming methods.  How did I not know that this was happening, that we were losing our biodiversity so drastically? Why wasn’t it on the news daily?

I began to explore the topic and found that there were people all over the world working to save our plants, our crops, our food. It gave me hope!

Now, I wanted to share that with my young readers. I believe with all my heart that they are the people who can make a difference.

It took 8 years for this book to be published, but I was thrilled that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who published Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, would take the leap with me and publish this important story. This book was a journey, not only emotionally, but physically as I traveled as far away as Russia to research this global issue and step through the doors of the brave seed scientists who perished there protecting seeds during WWII.

When I visit schools, and talk to kids and teachers about the importance of our farming methods and food security I am never surprised that they are unaware of the risks that scientists and farmers alike are taking every day to put food on our tables.

I want readers of THE STORY OF SEEDS to know where their food comes from and how they can make choices that make a difference to the future of our food. Although this is a frightening subject, there is so much to be hopeful about. We can celebrate the growth of farmers’ markets and the choice of many heirloom varieties that contribute to our biodiversity. But, we have to remember that with any environmental crisis, it is the marginalized that are impacted the most and the choices we make do indeed have an impact.

I sometimes think about those kids that came to camp every day eager to discover the outdoors with Nature Nancy. They must have their own families now. I hope that they have passed on their curiosity and that they are still interested in the world around them.

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years.  Her 2016 title THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World introduces older readers to the importance of seeds, farming, and the crisis we currently face. It received the Green Earth Book Award and many other accolades.  Her latest is BEASTLY BRAINS: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel. Other books include Crystal Kite Award winner SNIFFER DOGS: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World and MISSION POLAR BEAR RESCUE.  Her research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia and she loves sharing her adventures with her readers. She has conducted programs at the Boston Children’s Museum, Atlanta Zoo, Tennessee Aquarium, among others and has spoken at the Science Teachers Association of New York State and New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Many of Nancy’s books have received recognitions, including an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Smithsonian Notable Book For Children, a NSTA Outstanding Science Trade title, a Crystal Kite Award, Green Earth Book Award, and a Junior Library Guild Selection. In addition to these accolades, she was honored to be the recipient of the 2007 New York State Outdoor Education Association’s Art and Literature Award for the body of her work. As a long-time environmental educator, she treasures this honor and hopes to empower more children with her books about the Earth.

 

 

Click here to read other guest blogs.

 

Now Accepting 2018 Nominations

Nominations for the 2018 Green Earth Book Award are now open until November 20, 2017.   Winners that best convey the message of environmental stewardship will be selected by an expert panel of judges in the picture book, and children’s and young adult fiction and non fiction categories.

The short list will be announced in March 2018, and the winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2018.  The award in each of the categories will be comprised of a monetary award of $750 to the author and $750 to the illustrator/photographer (or $1,500 if the author and illustrator/photographer is the same person). In addition, Green Earth Book Award-winning books will be donated to Title I schools or military bases across the country.

2018 GEBA Nomination Form
2018 Green Earth Nomination Instructions

Hundreds of Kids Get Eco-Books

Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to donate hundreds of books to under-served kids during Salisbury University’s Children’s and Young Adult Literature Festival.  The annual festival celebrates environmental literature, connects authors to kids through school visits and presentations, and provides a forum for University teachers-in-training to learn about environmental literature and how to best use it in the classroom.

During the festival, we presented hundreds of books to Andrea Berstler on behalf of the City of Salisbury’s Book Festival, a 2-month series of events inspiring children and adults to read.

This year’s festival gave tribute to SU professor and Green Earth Book Award founder and committee chair Dr. Ernie Bond, who passed away last year. The Nature Generation announced the winners of the 2017 Green Earth Book Award and enjoyed an environmental panel featuring past Green Earth Book Award winning authors Shelley Rotner, Karen Romano Young, and Ali Benjamin.  Future grads researched Green Earth Book Award winners and then presented posters on their findings, see below for examples of a few.

Special thanks to the authors who participated, and SU’s Dr. Patty Dean, Shanetia Clarke, and Erin Stutelberg and Laura Marasco for helping us reach the next generation of environmental stewards by participating on our panels and helping us select amazing books!

 

30 Ways to Keep Your Water Clean

Did you know?

  • The United States has 3.5 million miles of river to protect and enjoy.
  • 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. gets their drinking water from a river or stream.
  • Of the 1,200+ species listed as threatened or endangered, 50% depend on rivers and streams

Rivers supply our drinking water; irrigate our crops; power our cities; support fish and other aquatic species; and provide countless recreational and commercial opportunities. In celebration of National Rivers Month, here’s a list of  including fixing leaky faucets, cleaning up after pets, installing rain barrels.

30 easy actions you can take to keep your streams clean:

  1. Only rain belongs in the drain- don’t dump anything in your sewers you wouldn’t drink.
  2. Use a sponge and bucket instead of a hose when washing your car – and try to wash it on a permeable surface.
  3. Water your yard first thing in the morning.
  4. Don’t overwater your lawn.
  5. Install rain sensors on irrigation systems.
  6. Install a rain barrel for outdoor watering.
  7. Plant a rain garden for catching storm water runoff from your roof, driveway, and other hard surfaces.
  8. Use lawn or garden chemicals sparingly.
  9. Mow your lawn less often.
  10. Sweep your sidewalks instead of hosing them down.
  11. Plant native, low maintenance plants and grasses.
  12. Minimize the amount of ice-melt you use.
  13. Consider minimizing impervious surfaces like bricks, gravel, natural stone or permeable pavers around your home.
  14. Do not drain your pool, spa, or fountain to a storm drain.
  15. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
  16. Take a shower instead of a bath.
  17. Only run the washing machine and dishwasher when you have a full load.
  18. Use high-efficiency washing machines.
  19. Wash your clothes in the correct load size—with cold water.
  20. Use a low flow shower head and faucet aerators.
  21. Fix leaks.
  22. Install a dual flush or low flow toilet or put a conversion kit on your existing toilet.
  23. Upgrade your water heating systems, including water heater, pumps and pipes.
  24. Monitor your water usage on your water bill and ask your local government about a home water audit.
  25. Keep your car well-maintained.
  26. Keep your septic system well-maintained to prevent leaks.
  27. Walk, bike, or share a ride when possible.
  28. Participate in a stream or river clean up near you.
  29. Share your water saving through conservation and efficiency tips with your neighbors.
  30. Teach your kids how to be good stewards.

 

Volunteers test for pollution in the South Fork Cactoctin Creek at Water Quality Day on the Chapman DeMary Trail.

It was a beautiful early summer day for The Nature Generation’s annual Water Quality Day at the Chapman DeMary Trail! Citizen scientists enthusiastically helped experts catch and count creek creatures–benthic macrointervetbrates- which helps determine the health of the creek. People learned about how much energy it takes to clean water with the Loudoun County Public Schools Energy Education team, turned in plastic bags to trail sponsor Maid Brigade to be recycled into a bench, learned about trees and water quality from the Loudoun County Tree Stewards, purchased native plants for their own gardens from Watermark Woods; and learned about trends in water quality at the South Fork Catoctin Creek from Josh McGhee, a college student who conducted an analysis of the data collected in the past few years.

One of the two groups working with the benthic macroinvertebrates used an app developed through the Audubon Naturalist Society to help identify the critters. After identifying them, that information was used to help determine the health of the creek, which was great. You can download this free app on your smart phone through the Apple App store of Google Play. Look for Creek Critters. It is fun and easy to use, and helps track these creatures which are a great way to understand the health of our waterways.

Thank you also to all of the experts and organizations, including Gem Bingol with the Piedmont Environmental Council, Gregg Triling with the Audubon Naturalist Society, David Manning with Loudoun Wildife Conservancy, Sarah Alli with Loudoun Watershed Watch; Loudoun County Tree Stewards; Loudoun County Public Schools Energy Education Team; Maid Brigade and Watermark Woods. Thank you also to our special guests Josh McGhee, Debi McGhee, Nancy Reaves, and Patti Yarbrough. Thank you also our trail partners: Piedmont Environmental Council, Loudoun Valley High School, and the Town of Purcellville.

 

 

 

Advice on how to make your kids eco smart

The key to preparing students for a sustainable future, according to education experts from our “Closing the Environmental Literacy Gap” webinar, including Louisa Koch (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and Kevin Coyle (National Wildlife Federation), is to integrate environmental learning into all subjects, consistently, throughout K-12.  By doing so, all students will have knowledge on how they are integral in protecting the planet and they also will learn the value of contributing to society.

We need not only well trained scientists to help us with environmental practices, but also an informed and motivated citizenry to help us make smart choices moving forward.

Here are some tactics many schools are taking to prepare students for the environmental challenges they’ll be facing in the future:

  • Becoming a certified Green School
  • Planting school gardens
  • Offering after school eco-clubs
  • Requiring community service relating to nature (i.e. water testing, tree planting)
  • Taking field trips in nature
  • Prepping their educators to teach the environment
  • Infusing environmental learning in all subjects
  • Using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
  • Ranking high in math and science
  • Creating environmental career and tech education paths

What can parents do?

  • Encourage your schools to adapt the practices above.
  • Get your family outside—nothing nurtures stewardship more than falling in love with nature.  Go in your backyard, to a park, along a path.  Click here for activities you can do along the way.
  • Teach your kids the facts about science, nature and the environment with a Green Earth Book Award winning fiction book; or give them a nonfiction winner that feeds their imaginations on how to protect our planet. Click here for a list of eco-books for kids of all ages.
  • Help them excel in science and math.
  • Expose them to different kinds of jobs and real world experiences.

 

Click here to hear a recording of the webinar.

During this April 27 webinar, experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and Uniondale Public Schools in New York joined us in a comprehensive discussion on our nation’s environmental literacy gap:
  • what is the current gap
  • why it is relevant to our future (including environmental implications and security, economic, and social significance)
  • what are disparities within the gap itself
  • what are effective ways to close the gap

Thank you to the Security and Sustainability Forum and to Emily Walton (The Excalibur Group) for making the webinar possible.

 
THANK YOU TO OUR GENEROUS SPONSORS
 

 

 

Congratulations, Green Earth Book Award Winners!

April 21, 2017

We are proud to announce the winners of our 2017 Green Earth Book Award.  Our national national award recognizes books that best convey the environmental stewardship message and inspire youth to grow a deeper appreciation, respect, and responsibility for their natural environment.  This year’s winners shed light on complicated issues surrounding human’s impact on the planet – including coal mining, endangered coral and sea turtle habitats, and the loss of our seed diversity.

“Green Earth Book Award winners offer hope to people who feel frustrated about how the new administration is ignoring the science and the gravity of the declining health of our planet,” said Amy Marasco, founder and president of The Nature Generation. “These books are tools that we can use to educate our next generation and inspire them to play a role in reversing the dangerous effects of climate change.”

Environmental nonprofit The Nature Generation has bestowed the award for the past 13 years to bring national recognition to important works and their authors with its highly qualified “seal of approval” for environmental literature.  The winners are chosen by a panel of literary, environmental and educational professionals.

Picture Book

Follow the Moon Home, written by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Meilo So (Chronicle Books)

Acclaimed activist Philippe Cousteau and renowned author Deborah Hopkinson team up to offer a story of the powerful difference young people can make in the world. Meet Viv, who has a new home and a new school by the sea, and follow her as she finds her way in a new place and helps bring together a whole community to save the sea turtles of the South Carolina coast. Age 5-8

Honor Winners:

Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

In this breathtaking companion to the award-winning Grandfather Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, with Bethany Hegedus, tells a poignant, personal story of the damage of wastefulness, gorgeously illustrated by Evan Turk.  Age 4-8

Green City, written and illustrated by Allan Drummond (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

When a tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, residents decided to rebuild a town that could not only survive another storm, but one that was built in an environmentally sustainable way.  Age 5-8

 

Children’s Fiction

Saving Wonder, written by Mary Knight (Scholastic Press)

In this utterly transporting debut about the power of words, the importance of friendship, and the magic of wonder, Curly Hines must decide whether to fight Big Coal to save the mountain he calls home.  Knight delivers a strong environmental message and a language lesson in her debut novel. Readers will feel Curley’s sorrow and cheer him on during his campaign to save what he loves most. Knight frankly addresses the reality of harsh changes, but Curley’s spirit, moving people inside and outside the community to act, is inspirational.  Ages 8-12

 

Children’s Nonfiction

Science Comics: Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean, written by Maris Wicks (First Second/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Science Comics: Coral Reefs offers a complete introduction to coral reefs, in a gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views. Whether you’re a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for ocean creatures, his books is for you.  This absorbing look at ocean science covers the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance. Nonfiction comics genius Maris Wicks brings to bear her signature combination of hardcore cuteness and in-depth science. Age 9-13

Honor Winner:

Pocket Change: Pitching in for a Better World, written by Michelle Mulder (Orca Book Publishers)

Each year, humanity uses resources equivalent to nearly one and a half Earths, and we’re still not meeting everyone’s needs.  What if you could meet all your needs while getting to know your neighbors and protecting the environment at the same time? Find out how growing a tiny cabbage can fight poverty, how a few dollars can help ten families start their own businesses and how running errands for a neighbor can help you learn to become a bike mechanic—for free!  Age 8-12

 

Young Adult Fiction

 Dig Too Deep, written by Amy Allgeyer (Albert Whitman & Co)

With her mother facing prison time for a violent political protest, seventeen-year-old Liberty Briscoe has no choice but to leave her Washington, DC, apartment and take a bus to Ebbottsville, Kentucky, to live with her granny. There she can finish high school and put some distance between herself and her mother– her ‘former’ mother, as she calls her. But Ebbottsville isn’t the same as Liberty remembers, and it’s not just because the top of Tanner’s Peak has been blown away to mine for coal. Half the county is out of work, an awful lot of people in town seem to be sick, and the tap water is bright orange–the same water that officials claim is safe to drink. When Granny’s lingering cold turns out to be something much worse, Liberty is convinced the mine is to blame, and starts an investigation that quickly plunges her into a world of secrets, lies, threats, and danger. Liberty isn’t deterred by any of it, but as all her searches turn into dead ends, she comes to a difficult decision: turn to violence like her former mother or give up her quest for good.  Age 13 and up.

Honor Winner:

Rescued, written by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic Press)

Raja has been raised in captivity within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up…and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return. There’s one last chance to save Raja — a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.  Age 12 and up

Young Adult Nonfiction

 The Story of Seeds, written by Nancy Castaldo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Something as small as a seed can have a worldwide impact. Did you know there are top-secret seed vaults hidden throughout the world? And once a seed disappears, that’s it—it’s gone forever? With the growth of genetically modified foods, the use of many seeds is dwindling—of 80,000 edible plants, only about 150 are being cultivated. With a global cast of men and women, scientists and laypeople, and photographic documentation, Nancy Castaldo chronicles where our food comes from, and more importantly, where it is going as she digs deeper into the importance of seeds in our world. This empowering book also calls young adult readers to action with suggestions as to how they can preserve the variety of one of our most valuable food sources through simple everyday actions. Readers of Michael Pollen will enjoy the depth and fascinatingly intricate social economy of seeds.  Age 12 and up

Honor Winner

Inside an Osprey’s Nest, written by Teena Ruark Gorrow and Craig A. Koppie (Schiffer Publishing)

Take a photographic journey through nesting season with a newly mated osprey pair. In this true raptor adventure, the ospreys prepare a nest and mate, but their eggs do not hatch. Through an unlikely twist of events, the unviable eggs are swapped by biologists with hatchlings from an ill-fated nest. Witness the heartwarming account as the adults become foster parents and care for the young, including a nest interloper. Watch as the helpless chicks grow into fledglings and experience first flight. Age 12-21

 

Click here to see the short list.

 

 Science Comics jkt_9780545828932.pdf
FollowTheMoonHome_CVR DigTooDeep_CVR
Be the Change high res Green City high res
Rescued InsideanOsprey'sNestFrontCover
Pocket Change

 

Click here to download a complete list of Green Earth Book Awards winners since 2004.