A bi-lingual nature story walk
We don’t often think of a children’s picture book when talking about science and conservation. However, translating science and reaching broader audiences with a conservation message often comes down to the story you have to tell. A recent project by the Linda Loring Nature Foundation and the Nantucket New School brings fact and fiction together to tell the story of some of Nantucket’s charismatic caterpillar species.
Last school year, the Linda Loring Nature Foundation partnered with the Nantucket New School’s 1st and 7th graders to learn about science, nature, and creative writing. Over the course of the year, students learned about Nantucket’s natural history throughout the seasons, spent time at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation’s 86 acre property, and kept nature journals of their experiences. This exploration culminated in a student-driven story based on these themes. Through pictures and words students explored fact and fiction through nature story telling; where true information can be learned with an imaginative story ending in some kind of lesson.
An example of this type of writing can be seen in the book “Henry the Impatient Heron” by Donna Love (Author) and Christina Wald (Illustrator). This story follows the trials and tribulations of Henry the heron as he learns to navigate his world and to fish for himself. The book teaches the reader about Great Blue Herons, their life cycle, habitat, and diet all through the lens of a young bird. The crux of the story centers on how patient a heron has to be to catch his dinner. Children can relate to a story about how difficult it is to be patient while also learning factual information about GB herons.
For our own story inspired by nature on Nantucket, the students came up with three story outlines to be voted on. All work and ideas were truly student-driven and, in that spirit, a blind vote from students and teachers led to our final selection. The seventh grade “big friends” then took on the task of fleshing out the story of Frank the Caterpillar and his three not-so-nice caterpillar neighbors.
The story focusses on Frank, a monarch caterpillar, who is constantly teased by other caterpillars found at LLNF; namely a puss moth caterpillar, a tussock moth caterpillar, and a spiny oak worm. While reading the story of how Frank navigates being bullied, we learn about the life cycle, habitat, and food sources for all four caterpillar species. With Frank’s ultimate transformation and triumph, the heart-warming conclusion sees Frank off to Mexico. It’s easy to see that this metamorphosis story was written by 7th graders going through their own transformations.
The first grade “little friends” did an amazing job of collaboratively illustrating the story. Each page is a collage of individual drawings from different children. The caterpillars, moths, birds, and plants were all drawn from studying the real thing either up close and personally or via photos during the winter snows. The final project was pulled together by the teachers at the Nantucket New School and by me, Sarah Bois, as the Director of Research and Education at LLNF. Carla Zenis generously translated our story into Spanish as well as providing translation services for our advertisements.
This project was generously funded by the Nantucket Community Fund whose interests in education and inclusion of all island communities are supported by this collaborative project. Once completed, the story was translated into Spanish to produce a bi-lingual science and nature story. As a large component of our year-round community, those who speak English as a second language are often underserved by the conservation community. We hope that this project helps bridge gap in our island community and conservation specifically.
This amazing work of nature story-telling had been posted as the summer Story Walk at the LLNF property since late May. It will soon be retired, but there is still time to check out this amazing work of art and writing! We still hope to print the story, so it will be available to read at home. The LLNF plans to post the next story the first week of October.