By Larry Bock
Founder and Organizer, USA Science & Engineering Festival
Planet Earth — that fragile blue marble in space that we call home — deserves better from all of us, I think we would agree.
And for good reason. With such issues as energy, pollution, conservation and sustainability, and climate becoming rising worldwide concerns, it behooves everyone to do their part to make sure she thrives — and survives.
NASA astronaut Ron Garan said last year after returning from spending more than five months on the International Space Station situated 250 miles above Earth: “I looked down at this indescribably beautiful fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us and has protected all life from the harshness of space, I couldn’t help thinking of the inequity that exists. I couldn’t help but think of the people who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, of the social injustice, conflict, and poverty that exist. The stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants reaffirmed the belief I share with so many. Each and every one of us on this planet has the responsibility to leave it a little better than we found it.”
It is this interconnectedness and the power within all of us to make a difference that comes to mind as we prepare to observe the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. Moreover, what is especially refreshing is the growing number of children who are primed and ready to do their part in Earth Day, said Seymour Simon, well-known children’s science book author whose array of award-winning works have covered such subjects as ecology, the environment and nature. “You might think that the Earth is so big and the subject so vast that kids would be overwhelmed,” said Simon, “but you’d be surprised at what they have to say about it all.”
Simon, whom the New York Times called “the dean of the [children's science] field,” is among a prestigious lineup of 36 featured authors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who will excite and engage young readers April 28-29, 2012 in Washington, DC at the USA Science & Engineering Festival and Book Fair hosted by Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest celebration of science and engineering.
The Book Fair, with its featured authors and book signings, is designed to demonstrate to kids that the wonders of science are all around them waiting to be discovered. In addition, the fair gives students the chance to meet and hear some of the best-selling science writers in the country, which not only inspires kids to connect with science through reading, but helps build a strong foundation for science motivation in the classroom and for science literacy into adulthood.
As a preview to Earth Day, Simon, in a recent blog titled “Children Are Earth’s Powerful Advocates,” details just how tuned in kids are to observing this special day and doing their part. He writes:
Earth Day is a topic that comes up often as I travel the country, speaking in schools to thousands of children. Our planet Earth is so big and the subject so vast, that you might think that kids are overwhelmed. “What does this mean to me?” Or, “Why should I bother about Earth Day?” You might think that kids wonder. You might be surprised at what they really do say.
In anticipation of Earth Day last year, I posted an invitation to kids on my blog. I wrote: “How are you contributing to the Billion Acts of Green? Tell us how you are celebrating Earth Day.” And I promised to publish each child’s writing to inspire other readers to do the same.
We often get a dozen or so responses to one of my blog postings. But this invitation to be a vocal participant and advocate on Earth Day drew almost 300 responses from around the country. Here are some of the promises made by elementary students who have specific strategies for making a difference:
“Our class is going green. We are recycling all our old papers.”
“I ride my bike or the bus to school to keep the air cleaner by not using our car.”
“My carbon footprint was 13.5 (not so good). To reduce my carbon footprint I will reduce, reuse and recycle.”
“My brother and I go out and pick up all the litter that people throw in a creek near us. There are lots of fish and frogs so when we are finished I look back and feel great.”
“I love trees and that’s why I don’t waste paper. I recycle and encourage others to care about our world like a mother would care for her newborn.”
“I usually refuse to use plastic silverware and cups.”
“I learned that it takes one step at a time and if we start now the Earth will get better sooner. If we don’t start…..who will?”
I have a favorite Native American proverb that suggests why we, as adults, should take our lead from the children as we celebrate Earth Day: “Treat the Earth well. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
The author of more than 250 highly acclaimed science books (more than seventy-five of which have been named Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the National Science Teachers Association), Simon brings his excitement in science to children’ at the Festival’s Book Fair during his presentation on Saturday, April 28.
No ordinary event, the Book Fair (April 28-29) is part of the Festival’s finale Expo weekend celebration scheduled at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Expo — replete with a bevy of hands-on excitement in science, including 2,000 exhibits and stage demonstrations — will culminate a month-long series of nationwide activities by the Festival to inspire the next generation of innovators.
In addition to Simon, here is just a sampling of other esteemed featured authors that visitors can expect to hear and meet in the subjects of conservation and sustainability, green technology, climate, nature and energy alone:
- Loree Griffin Burns, Ph.D., author of such natural world books as: Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion, and Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard.
- Bruce Degen, noted children’s science book author and illustrator, whose latest works include The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge, which was named the 2010 AAAS Science Books & Films Award winner.
- Physicist-turned-writer Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future.
- Paleoecologist and climate science author Curt Stager whose latest book is Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.
- Children’s author Dia Michels who specializes in writing about mammals and whose latest work includes If My Mom Were A Platypus: Mammal Babies and their Mothers.
- Joel Achenbach, staff writer for the Washington Post, whose suspense thriller, A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea, is his groundbreaking account of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Being a good steward of the Earth is our challenge. Join us at the Festival for inspiration and insight into what we can do with our children to make a difference!