– THE BIG IDEA:
Michigan Wildlife: A Coloring Field Guide includes 31 animals, 20 activities, Michigan species checklists, and a 150 word ecological term glossary. Animals in the book have two coloring pages that include track and scat measurements, range maps, diet, habitat, and life-cycle information. This book is designed to spread awareness about native wildlife to children and families, while also inspiring creativity through art, science, and outdoor experiences. Here is a video I made that explains the Nature Explorers educational philosophy really well.
– HOW IS IT PERSONALLY FULFILLING using your skills and passions?
I am an environmental educator and a writer that loves travel and wildlife photography. I have been to 25 countries in six continents, and I always bring art supplies, binoculars, and magnifying glasses with me. I teach local children as a way to share my passion while giving back to the community and establishing cultural connections.
I feel lucky that I have known what I was passionate about for a long time, and that I learned about the creative freedom of becoming an entrepreneur at a young age. I started my first jewelry business when I was 13 to raise money to go to Australia. I first worked outdoors with kids in high school, and began teaching abroad in college. Using both my passions and my skills, I have been developing the curriculum of Nature Explorers International throughout my life’s experiences.
A challenge was given by Jeff Hass at the last Fulfillment event: “If you have a talent, you have a responsibility to use that talent to make the world a better place.”
I have a talent, refined over countless experiences, to connect children to their environment, and inspire a deep rooted love of nature. I try to reach as many children personally as I can, whether I can speak their language or not. One morning, 62 Malagasy kids showed up for Nature Explorers in a Madagascar rainforest, and nearly as many one rainy day near a Borneo river. Locally, I teach summer camps and Saturday programs at my location in Benzonia, and work with the Human Nature School and the Northern Michigan Partnership. Last fall, between four different programs, I was teaching about 144 students per week.
I have been wanting to find a way to branch out, and reach more children than I can personally teach. I know that there are so many more kids out there that could benefit from being exposed to Nature Explorers, and that I will only be able to sustain this teaching schedule for so long. Distributing my book will help me to reach a much wider audience, and to exponentially expand my ability to share my skills and passions through print. The activities will give access to teachers, environmental educators, homeschool parents, and more to try out Nature Explorers activities. I hope to place the book in local schools, libraries, state park gift shops, bookstores, and tourist attractions, therefore fulfilling my goal of reaching a wider audience.
– HOW DOES IT MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY?
In today’s technological age, it is more important than ever that children spend time connecting to the earth. I believe that introducing children to the simple concepts of nature exploration makes them more likely to pursue and develop these ideals on their own, throughout their lives.
Nature Explorers curriculum enhances children’s curiosity of their environment, lessons their fears, and helps them to gain an understanding of simple, natural laws. The activities in the book will give educators and parents the opportunity to try out Nature Explorers curriculum.
I strongly believe that intertwining art into education helps children to remember what they’ve learned, gives them a creative outlet, and encourages them to spread awareness into their community. I also think introducing young readers to the concept of a field guide is an important way to build a base of local natural history knowledge. I have therefore created a project that intertwines art and science into an educational community tool.
– Since you already launched “phase one” of your idea, please describe phase 2 of your idea, how you will take it from where it is now to where you want it to be.
The version of Michigan Wildlife: A Coloring Field Guide that is currently in print, didn’t quite fulfill my vision. So, I have been working with my team to perfect the project, making the pictures bigger, standardizing the page format, and adding a bubble on each page that includes realistic colors. I want this next version to visually represent the beauty that I have poured into the content.
I dream of learning how to use In-Design one day, but for now I have hired an amazing graphic designer to help lay-out the revised edition. The new version of the book should be ready to print by March. Since I didn’t felt completely proud of the project, I haven’t quite figured out the best way to distribute the book yet. Since I self-published, I don’t really know how to get into bookstores and gift shops around the state.
Phase 2 of this idea is to distribute the new, more user friendly edition of Michigan Wildlife: A Coloring Field Guide to a broader reach around the state before the summer season hits. The books can currently mostly be found in stores in Benzie County, and a few other locations. Having this new revised edition will help give me the confidence to dedicate the time and research into distribution this spring.
– HOW WILL YOU USE THE $500?
To purchase copies of the new, revised edition of Michigan Wildlife: A Coloring Field Guide to be distributed around the state before summer.
The revised edition should be ready to print a proof by the end of February. The printing will be in March, and I will be focusing on distributing them in April and May.
– HOW CAN WE (THE AUDIENCE) GET INVOLVED OR SUPPORT?
If anyone in the audience has connections with businesses, schools, or national or state park gift stores that would be interested in wholesale purchase information, that could really help with distribution. I would love to plan a release event for the spring, if anyone has a suggestion for a venue.
There are many parts of running my own small businesses that I am not an expert in. I can always use help with graphic design, marketing materials, website design, and publication advice.
Please help to spread the word about Benzie summer camps,, apply to volunteer. or come visit as a special guest presenter.