Still Tracking Trash


All good books come to an end. But more often than not, the stories inside them continue …

This week the ocean research vessel Alguita, known to Tracking Trash readers for its pioneering investigation of plastic debris in the North Pacific Ocean, set sail on a new mission. For the next six months, Captain Charles Moore and his crew will be sampling plastic in the South Pacific Ocean, and studying the effect this plastic has on the world’s lantern fish.

Thanks to Algalita Marine Research Education’s Ship2Shore program, classrooms with an interest in this story can follow the new expedition closely, receiving weekly blog updates, photos, and videos. They can also interact directly with Captain and crew by posing questions through the blog. Getting started is as easy as sending an email to [email protected] and asking for a Ship2Shore blog user name and password.

Please click here for more information.

And please join me in wishing fair winds and safe travels to the Alguita and her entire crew.

On Tracking Trash and Making Art

“Science tells us how the world really is. And how things really work. The one thing you don’t have time and space for in science, though, is to express how that feels to you.”  ~ Carl Safina

And so Carl and a team of scientists, artists, and conservationists took a trip through parts of Alaska, to see for themselves what humankind’s plastic trash problem looks like. To consider how it makes them feel. They created this video, which will surely leave you thinking harder about plastic fly swatters in the shape of football helmets and bears that raise families on remote beaches and the surprising ways that art and science can work together. Totally worth twenty minutes of your day…

I appreciate and admire the conservation message in this film. (As the author of Tracking Trash, how could I not?) But I was equally enthralled by the way it celebrates that place where science and art meet and reach out to the world. I sincerely hope the creativity born of the journey will make its way to where I live sometime soon. For now, I’ll ponder its messages from afar.

Edited to add: I’m not sure why the YouTube link won’t embed properly, but here’s a link to the YouTube site where you can watch the video.

Convenience Will Kill You

I’ve been working with the fine folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on an enhanced digital edition of my first book, Tracking Trash. One of my jobs has been to scour the digital world for content that might enhance a young reader’s experience of the book. This week, I’ve been particularly interested in finding video footage that explores what we can do–you, me, the world–to address the issue of marine pollution. (Answer: REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE plastic. But mostly: REFUSE) I’ve found some great material, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the final product.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a favorite video that didn’t make the cut. Plastic State of Mind is a must-see PSA from fimmaker Ben Zolno, featuring AshEL Eldridge and Jenni Perez, that I found through the Plastic Pollution Coalition video gallery. Warning: the tune and new lyrics are catchy. And spot on in the most uncomfortable way: “Skip the bag, the cup, and spork, dude. Convenience will kill you.”


My NSTA 2012 Deets

This week I’m putting the finishing touches on a presentation for the National Science Teachers Association annual conference, and preparing for a panel presentation too. If you’re planning to join the festivities in Indianapolis, I’d love to see you at one or both events. Here are the details:

How Can I Help? Empowering Students with Citizen Science
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Westin Indianapolis, Capitol II

As a scientist, a writer, and a mother, Dr. Loree Griffin Burns is committed to providing children with accurate, age-appropriate information about real world events. Drawing on her experiences researching and writing about environmental issues from ocean pollution to the collapse of honey bee populations, Burns proposes a formula for sharing these stories without scaring students: give them something meaningful they can do to help. From tallying beach debris (International Coastal Cleanup) and monitoring native bee populations (Great Sunflower Project) to tagging monarch butterflies (Monarch Watch) and hunting ladybugs (Lost Ladybug Project), Burns has practiced citizen science in her own backyard, coordinated events in her community, introduced projects into schools, and observed events from Central Park to central Mexico. In this workshop, she’ll recommend a variety of nationally organized and freely available citizen science projects, pairing them with trade books to help teachers promote both inquiry and literacy in their science classrooms.

Integrating Science and Literacy: A Journey, Not a Destination
Friday, March 30, 2012
JW Marriott Indianapolis, White River Ballroom D

This session offers teachers and administrators an opportunity to learn from authors how to integrate their award-winning trade books into science instruction. Participants can get up close and personal with these acclaimed authors:

Loree Griffin Burns
April Pulley Sayre
Peggy Thomas
Pamela S. Turner
Sallie Wolf
Wendy Saul

Other presenters are educators who have served or chaired the NSTA/CBC Outstanding Trade Book Committee. Opportunities will be available to work in small groups with the authors and vetted activities will be shared.

Edited to Add:
In addition to the two presentations described above, I’ll be signing copies of Tracking Trash and The Hive Detectives at the NSTA conference in Indianapolis next week. Here are the details:

Friday, March 30
Indiana Convention Center
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Booth #1467

And get this: the fine folks at HMH are giving the books away, while supplies last. Come on over and get one; I’ll be happy to sign it for you!

Got Bugs?

Okay, Scientists in the Field (SITF) fans … do you remember this Donna M. Jackson title from 2002? Of course you do. How could you forget that cover? I remember reading it back when I was obsessively studying the SITF series and preparing to pitch my own title to its editors. That pitch became my first book, Tracking Trash, and now, in just a couple hours, I’ll be in a conference call with Tom Turpin, the guy up there with the bugs on his face.

Can I just take a moment to say that this sort of full circle stuff thrills me to no end?

Anyway, Tom and I are joining forces with a group of scientists and educators to tout the power of insects in science education. We’ll be sharing our ideas later this month at the Entomological Society of America annual conference in Reno, Nevada, in a morning-long symposium. If you happen to be in ‘the biggest little city in the world’ at the same time, do please stop by and say hello. I don’t think there are any plans for us to wear bugs, but you never know …

Especially for Science Teachers

It’s a linky kind of Friday …

Today I’ve got some links especially for science teachers. I’ll add this post to today’s STEM Friday round-up, but please feel free to forward it to the science teachers in your life, too.

First up, the American Museum of Natural History has published its slate of online classes for the fall, and they are pretty cool. (Space, Time, and Motion, anyone?) You’ll find full listings and course descriptions at the AMNF Seminars on Science webpage.

Also, the National Research Council has compiled a new framework for improved K-12 science education standards in the United States, and their report is available online for free. Go to the National Academies Press website and scroll to the “Dowload Free PDF” button. (Free registration is required in order to download.) I’ve begun reading it myself and am encouraged by the call to move science education away from rote memorization of facts and toward a hands-on approach wherein students actively participate in the scientific process. I know the transition to more experiential learning in the science classroom won’t be easy to implement, but good gravy, won’t it be more fun?

Finally, in the spirit of encouraging kids and teachers to actively participate in the scientific process, a sneak peak at my upcoming book about citizen science is now available on Goodreads. (You must be a Goodreads member to access the page; becoming one is free and easy.) If you read the chapter, I’d love to know what you think.

A round-up of posts from the kidlitosphere on the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) can be found at Wrapped in Foil today. Check it out, and happy clicking!