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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

The Adventures of The Sizzling Six

Alabama Butterfly Atlas Launch

Invitation to Participate in the Alabama Butterfly Atlas
It is my honor to interview Sara and Paulette about their plans to create an on-line
Alabama Butterfly Atlas. By good fortune, I meet Paulette at the Moss Ross Festival and she motivated me to add an eco mystery about butterflies to my on-going eco mystery series.
Sara Cunningham Bright is a professional photographer whose work has been featured in Canoe, Southern Living, Birder’s World, Outdoor Life, Geo, and Portico, and is on permanent display at McDonald’s Corporation, Alabama Power, Wachovia Bank, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Paulette Haywood Ogard has taught classes on wildflowers and native plants at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and conducted workshops throughout the southeast on wildlife habitats, butterflies, and butterfly gardening. Paulette and Sara are the co-authors of Alabama Butterflies: Glimpses into their Lives.

Blogger book cover
Glimpses into their Lives. Read More...

Green Ribbon Schools Award

Alabama Green Ribbon Schools
On a day filled with sunshine, it was my pleasure and privilege to attend the celebration recognizing the three schools and a university as Alabama Green Ribbon Schools Award Winners for 2015.

Green Ribbon Shirely Farrell
Shirley Farrell, State Dept. of Education, with Liz Ellerson of E.A.T. South (Boris Datnow)

Congratulations to the winners:
Auburn University
Bluff Park Elementary School, Hoover City Schools 
Lincoln Elementary School, Talladega County Schools
Lincoln High School, Talladega County Schools Read More...

Birmingham Butterfly Awareness Day

Butterfly Gardening and Conservation

Butterfly on Boris

On a  perfect summer day, I was delighted to join the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to celebrate Butterfly Education and Awareness Day, and to share my newest book in the eco mystery series for middle grades, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Monarch Mysteries (book 6).

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Butterfly Education and Awareness Day

Butterfly Education and Awareness Day
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, June 14, 2014, 10 - 2 p.m. Free

Ellie & Butterfly

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Teachers for Earth Day 

Amazing Science Stories and Books with Environmental Themes:
Throughout Alabama inspired and determined environmentalists are finding ways to conserve our precious natural resources. When I began my eco mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I did not fully anticipate the number of dedicated environmentalist I would meet along the way. What an inspiration it has been to see environmental educators like Traci Ingleright, Kay Stone and Kimberely Murray teaching students to appreciate and understand nature. And what a privilege and an education to see biologist and conservationists like Ken Marion, Thane Wibbles, Mark Bailey, John Trent, Eric Soehren, and Eric Spadgenske, Michele Reynolds, Arnold Rutkis and April Waltz Lapidus actively working to save species. Read More...

Hiking The Tuskegee National Forest

Audubon Field Trip to Tuskegee National Forest
On a crisp early morning in April, a group of intrepid explorers from the Birmingham Audubon Society arrive at the Pleasant Hill Trailhead in the Tuskegee National Forest. Bird calls ring out high above, which our knowledgable birders identify for the novices as pine warblers, red-eyed vireos, brown thrashers, eastern towhees, northern cardinal, Carolina wrens and a variety of other birds. The blackened areas in the forest show the on going effort by the US Forest Service to restore the longleaf pines by controlled burning of undergrowth.This is because extensive timbering and replanting with loblolly pine during the settlement period of the nineteenth century increased the population of pine beetle and caused a sharp decline in longleafs—and with them the endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker that nests in mature longleaf pine forests with grassy undergrowth.
Pleasant HillTrail Read More...

How Teachers Can Use Enhanced eBooks

Teaching with Enhanced eBooks

In the previous blog, I provided an overview of the advantages of using Enhanced eBooks for the general readers
Advantages of Enhanced eBooks. In this blog, I’ll focus on the benefits of Enhanced books for teachers with examples that you can download and use in your classrooms. While thoughtfully Enhanced eBooks can indeed enhance your students learning and appreciation, finding examples I considered worthwhile was not as easy as I anticipated. Read More...

Advantages of Enhanced Electronic Books

How You Can Benefit from Enhanced Electronic Books
Imagine zooming far above the Atlantic Ocean, reading a fascinating book about the exploration of the ocean, when, magically, the author is sitting next to you, telling you what inspired him to write the book! This is no futuristic fantasy, it’s exactly what I experienced when reading Atlantic, an Enhanced eBook by Simon Winchester. Watching and listening to the video was an Aha moment for me! It brought home the power of Enhanced eBooks and inspired me to begin creating my own. To get a clear view of this new development let’s look at where we are right now. Read More...

Advantages of Enhanced Electronic Books

How You Can Benefit from Enhanced Electronic Books
Imagine zooming far above the Atlantic Ocean, reading a fascinating book about the exploration of the ocean, when, magically, the author is sitting next to you, telling you what inspired him to write the book! This is no futuristic fantasy, it’s exactly what I experienced when reading Atlantic, an Enhanced eBook by Simon Winchester. Watching and listening to the video was an Aha moment for me! It brought home the power of Enhanced eBooks and inspired me to begin creating my own. To get a clear view of this new development let’s look at where we are right now. Read More...

Conservationists Saving Nature

Salute to Alabama’s Nature Conservationists


We are bombarded daily by dire news of global warming, the extinction of species, the destruction of the natural environment, and the urgent need for alternative energies. Too often this leaves us feeling discouraged and powerless. Rather than pay lip service to these problems, I feel the need to do something that will make a difference—even in a small way. Read More...

Writers and Illustrators Book Basket

Gwin Elementary School Receives Joan Broerman Book Basket
            As the lucky "winner" of the Joan Broerman Book Basket, I had the pleasure of donating a basket filled with new books to the library at H.W. Gwin Elementary School.  Ginger Clark, the librarian, Traci Ingleright, enrichment teacher, and her students gathered in the library to accept the books and to get a sneak preview of what they would soon be reading.     Read More...

Outdoor Classroom Expo

Outdoor Classrooms Inspire Students to Apply Common Core Skills

Back in the 1990s, with only a vague idea of how to go about it, I decided that my students and I would create a nature trail on the grounds of the middle school where I taught. It was easy to do—if I discount the time I nearly got run over by a truck hauling gravel, the backbreaking work of dragging wheelbarrows filled with gravel onto the trail, the misery of being attacked by poison ivy, and the difficulty of finding funds for the project. After battling on our own for months, the neighborhood association generously provided funds for the completion of the trail, and the Extension Service built a small amphitheater that students could use as an outdoor classroom.  Read More...

Annual Alabama Coastal Birdfest 

Tenth Annual John Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest 
On a balmy autumn day we departed Birmingham for the Alabama Coastal Birdfest with high expectations and not an inkling about the storm lurking off the Gulf Coast. At a reception that evening we enjoyed meeting fellow birders and relaxing on the back deck overlooking an expansive view of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Read More...

Native Bees and Pollinator Houses

Making a Pollinator House at Sims EcoScape

On a perfect autumn day, Boris and I joined a group of conservationists gathered at the Sims EcoScape to help build a pollinator house. We didn’t know much about pollinator houses and hadn’t visited the EcoScape, but we trusted Michele Reynolds, on a mission to show others how to put native plants back into their gardens and parks, and Arnold Rutkis, who designs and installs EcoScapes for the Southern Environmental Center in Birmingham. Besides, what could be nicer than chatting with nature lovers, renewing old friendships, making new ones, sipping delightfully fresh gazpacho, and dipping into whole snacks and sweets on a shaded patio.  Read More...

WIK interview with Heather Montgomery

Guest Blog with Author Heather Montgomery
It is my honor to host Heather Montgomery, author and environmental educator. Heather writes about science and nature for kids. Book and article topics range from snakes to soil. Her publishers include Capstone Press, Highlights for Children, Picture Window Books, Science World and Crabtree Press. Heather's passion for subjects like mummies, mysteries and snail poop bring her presentations to life. Heather was granted the Roosevelt-Ashe Award for Outstanding Educator in Conservation. Selected from educators across the south, the award honors conservation heroes for their contributions to protect wild places and wild things. Read More...

How to Write Eco Mystery Teacher Resource

Dear Teacher and Nature Guide,
Each time I write a new eco-mystery for the series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I am amazed at what I learn about the species central to my story. I have developed a unit to share the excitement of learning with students, for writing across the curriculum, “How to Write Eco Mysteries.” It is easy to integrate into your on-going science and language arts curriculum. You can view and print the lesson plans for the unit, How to Write Eco Mysteries. Read More...

Saving Diamondback Terrapin Turtles

Eco Mystery of the Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

On a surprisingly cool morning in August, far from the lab on the UAB campus in the heart of downtown Birmingham, where they were hatched, we gently release diamondback terrapin turtles into the open marshes around Cedar Point near Dauphin Island. As if sensing that this watery, wild place is their ancestral home, the terrapins begin to explore their new habitat. Swimming between tall marsh grasses, they reach a mud island where they can begin to acclimate to life in the wild. Read More...

Green Apps to Get Kids Outdoors

Let Your App Be Your Nature Guide
We've all heard about the problem of kids—and adults—spending too much time indoors playing video games and not enough time outside moving about. With new “green” apps, outside time and screen time do not have to be mutually exclusive. Instead of battling to keep kids away from gadgets, why not use technology to encourage kids to explore outdoors? My friends who are birding enthusiasts and environmental educators are already doing so, so why not join them. In this blog I suggest apps that will enhance kids’ experience outdoors—as well as our own. 
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Writing Eco Mystery Adventures 12

The End of One Adventure and the Beginning of a New One

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Technology That Connects Us To Nature

In Search of the Elusive Cerulean Warbler

When we venture outdoors, many of us try to unplug from electronic devices. I don’t appreciate a ringing cell phone while floating down a peaceful river, or the jarring sound of an ATV or motorcycle, drowning out bird calls. My recent outdoor adventures, however, have shown me that nature and technology need not be kept at a distance.  Read More...

Audubon Mountain Workshop

36th Annual Audubon Mountain Workshop

As we speed north from Birmingham how delightful it was to watch the spring flowing, like a sparkling green wave, into the mountains and up to Camp Alpine where we would be joining fellow nature conservationist for the Audubon Mountain Workshop.
Read More...

Alabama Green Ribbon Schools

Alabama Green Ribbon Schools

What a pleasure and an honor to be invited to the Green Ribbon Schools Award ceremony sponsored by the Alabama State Department of Education! As the awards were presented it was so heartwarming and heartening to learn how conservation organizations, schools, and teachers, working together, can make our communities healthier and more beautiful for all. Three schools and one school district won the Alabama Green Ribbon Schools Award. 
Read More...

Citizen Scientist Eco Mysteries

For many kids, science class means slogging through textbooks, memorizing the discoveries of others, and performing pretested experiments that come with preconceived answers. Citizen science projects can offer kids the chance to study and to participate science outside the confines of the classroom.

Read More...

Protect Wildflowers

Easter Wildflower Hike with Fresh Air Family.

The spring weather was perfect for an invigorating hike despite the threat of showers. Verna Gates, Founder and Executive Director of Fresh Air Family, guided us on a delightful walk through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Drawing form Biblical parables and old folk tales, Verna wove stories around the amazing variety of spring wildflowers, some of them only to be found in Alabama. Blazing yellow, red, and orange tulips, pansies, and poppies created a gorgeous contrast to the delicate blue, violet, and mauve trilliums, spiderworts, and wild geraniums, to name but a few. Read More...