Every Day is Earth Day

Here on the third planet from the sun, most of us feel gratitude for Earth’s gifts and concern for her well-being every single day, not just on May 22. That’s certainly true for the authors and illustrators I work with at Authors for Earth Day. A4ED is a team of children’s book creators who commit to donating one school visit fee per year to a non-profit organization that is working to keep our planet and all its inhabitants healthy and protected.

This year, my first as an A4ED author, I’ve teamed up with Oxford Elementary School and an enthusiastic group of fifth graders. These devoted kids have committed themselves to helping me choose a worthy recipient organization for my A4ED donation. Under the direction of their incredible classroom teachers, they’ve spent weeks learning about Xerces Society, Ocean Conservancy, and Maine Audubon. They’ve educated their fellow-students about the work of each organization, and are coordinating a school-wide vote next week in which the entire student body will decide which organization to support.

It’s been a thrill to introduce these kids to stewardship ideas, to watch them explore the good work of organizations I admire, to read their powerful letters of support, and to watch, via the internet, as they reached out to their entire school community today with their ideas. The real highlight of this experience, though, will come next week, when I’ll travel to OES and spend two days talking about the natural world I love so much (ocean movement! butterfly journeys! honey bee mysteries! invasive species! grand new islands!) and, of course, deciding once and for all on where to send our A4ED donation.



For more information on Authors for Earth Day, including a list of hundreds of children’s authors and illustrators who are available to visit your school in the 2018-2019 school year, visit the A4ED website.

For more information on how to be my A4ED school next year, contact me by email.







One Very Fine Day

That right there is one of my new favorite things. It’s a butterfly life cycle game, hand-made for me by Mr. P’s kindergartener’s at Brookwood School, a replica of the set they keep in their classroom for students to challenge themselves with. The idea is to mix all the tiles up with your eyes closed, have a friend set a timer, and wait for that friend to shout, “Go!” Then you open your eyes and try to put the life cycle pictures in the correct order as quickly as you can.

The reigning butterfly life cycle tile game champion in Mr. P’s class is a young man named Porter, and he had looked a little nervous on Friday when his class challenged me to try and beat his time of 7.56 seconds.

He needn’t have been. I did not come even close to beating his time. That game is harder than it looks! These kindergarteners are great sports, though, and they gave me a second chance.

Once again, not even close.

So—this is the part that is making me smile as I type—those generous little souls spent a part of the rest of their day making me my own set of butterfly life cycle tiles. A remedial game set, they told me, in which they drew the caterpillar stages extra carefully because those were the tiles I kept putting in the wrong order. “Now you can practice at home,” they said.

And you know what? Porter did not look at all nervous this time.

“By the time you come back, Mrs. Burns, I’ll probably be in fourth grade,” he told me. “I’ll be even faster by then.”

Thank you to all the kindergarteners at Brookwood School, to their teachers, to librarian Sheila Geraty, to all the staff and administrators who’ve built such a vibrant learning community and then invited me to be part of it for a day. I got at least as much as I gave. Considering the way I feel every time I look at the new butterfly life cycle tile game sitting on the desk beside me, I’d say quite a bit more.

Three cheers for monarchs! Three cheers for learning! Three cheers for kindergarteners!

Okay. I’m off to practice …

Some WRAD Book Recommendations

Yesterday, February 16, was World Read Aloud Day, and it was magnificent. I celebrated by Skyping into classrooms in Fairfax and Virginia Beach (Virginia), Madison (Wisconsin) and Quito (Equador), and I got to read and talk with students about butterflies, citizen science, and honey bees. I also got to give a sneak peak of my newest book (LIFE ON SURTSEY, due out in November of this year) and recommend some of my very favorite recent nonfiction books. You know, books like …

Neary School

© Loree Griffin Burns
© Loree Griffin Burns

This was Book Week at the Neary School in Massachusetts, and I was thrilled to help the staff and students celebrate by talking with fourth and fifth graders about citizen science. As is always the case during my time with students, special moments were everywhere. One of the sweetest was writing this dedication, dictated by a student buying a copy of Tracking Trash for her older sister.

Sort of makes you want to go buy someone you love a book, doesn’t it?

Thank you, Neary School, for a great day. Long live books, the people who celebrate them, and the people who share them!

Middle Schoolers Rock!

© Yana Davis

Especially these ones.

Thank you, Driscoll School, for sharing your enthusiasm for science with me and with your school community. It was a treat to be part of your Science Solstice festivities … and I love this picture of us!

Brookwood School

© Loree Griffin Burns

Check it out.

That right there is the FeederWatch station of the Pre-K students at Brookwood School in Manchester, Massachusetts. It has everything the students need to monitor the feeder bird populations on their school grounds: stools for comfortable viewing, windows looking out over the school bird feeders, a basket for storing clipboards, data sheets, and pencils, and photos of birds to help remind watchers what they are seeing. There is even a sign–its posted on the easel at the left of the photo–warning passersby: “Shhhhhhhh! Bird Watchers at Work!” I was lucky enough to have a personal tour of this research station, and was mighty impressed with the citizen scientists who work there. Thank you Brookwood Pre-K students!

Thank you also to the Brookwood kindergartners, who shared their MonarchWatch experiences with me, the first graders, who told me about their tulip work for Journey North, and the second graders, who taught me about chicken care, introduced me to Cynthia and Mabel … and even gifted me a couple of fresh eggs.

Hooray for student scientists and the schools that inspire them!

More Wednesday Wild: Bob’s Spicebush Swallowtail

© Bob R, Grade 5


This photo arrived by email over the weekend, along with a note from the fifth grader who snapped it. “Today I was working in the yard, and I saw a butterfly,” he said, “so I went to go check it out .. I am pretty sure it is a Spicebush Swallowtail …”

He thought I’d like to see it, and he was right. (Thank you, Bob!) In one of those fun happenings that fuels my school visiting, a teacher at Bob’s school independently sent me photos of a froglet she found in her backyard.

Look closely at the world around you, friends. There is so much to see.

(Read that last sentence every morning and you won’t even need me to come to your school. Although if you’d like me to come to your school, you should check out the School Visits page of my website. I added my first 2012-2013 school year events to the calendar this morning!)

Center City Public Charter School

Photos courtesy of An Open Book Literacy Foundation

Last month, while in Washington, D.C. for the USA Science & Engineering Festival, I was invited to visit the Center City Public Charter School in Center Heights. Sponsored by An Open Book, my morning visit with Ms. Vanessa Elliott’s sixth grade science class was, in a word, spectacular. Ms. Elliott’s students were excited and inquisitive and completely jazzed by the concept of citizen science. And I was completely wowed by their enthusiasm.

The morning would have been a success no matter what, because Dara La Porte from An Open Book had prepared the school, and Ms. Elliott had prepared her students, and because these kids were so very open to rewriting the definition of a scientist. (You know, so that it included them.) But my supremely generous publishers, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers and Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books, pushed the event over the top by donating enough copies of Citizen Scientists and Tracking Trash that each student went home with a copy of their very own.

Do you know how cool that was? It was very cool. I thought so, and so did the students.

Sometimes in the rush to write and edit and perfect and promote and meet deadlines, I lose sight of what I am really trying to do with my work: share stories and ideas that thrill me with people who will be equally thrilled. I’d like to thank each and every student I met at CCPCS last month for reminding me of that. Happy exploring to all of you!

Some Buzz in the Mailbox

On Saturday, our mailman delivered a package of vibrant, buzzy Thank You cards from students at Cluny School in Rhode Island. The stupendous weather, garlic plants bursting through straw mulch in the garden, long days outdoors, the Red Sox taking a couple from the Yankees, and those sweet cards made for a happy, happy weekend. Here are just a few of the smiles sent my way …

“You have inspired me to try and get over my fear of sharks.”

“I also learned what I should do if I run into a bee hive: calm down and get some smoke.”

“”If someone came up to us asking about bees, we could give them something to listen to.”

“The Hive Detectives is a very clever name.”

“Your scarf was so beautiful.”

“Come visit us again soon!”

Thank you, Cluny kids. I hope I can visit you again soon. In the meanwhile, Happy Spring to each and every one of you!