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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Ecological awareness through fiction

Manitou Cave of Alabama

Manitou Cave on Lookout Mountain, Alabama

On a brisk spring morning, we arrived at Manitou Caves on the outskirts of Fort Payne, Alabama, where Annette Reynolds, founder and steward of the caves, welcomed our group with a radiant smile.

Intrepid Spelunkers Manitou Caves

Discover and Solve an Ecological Mystery

Project and Problem Based  Eco Mystery Unit.

How can you inspire kids—of all ages—to embark on a lifelong adventure that will motivate them to become wise stewards of nature? In my presentation to Mrs. Geri Evan's fourth grade students at Bluff Park Elementary School, I began by inviting kids to hunt for ecological mysteries in their outdoor classroom.

Monarch Butterflies Kids make connections

The Educational Value of Zoos

Teacher’s Night at the Birmingham Zoo

On a muggy, late summer Alabama night, tired teachers trooped through the gates of the Birmingham Zoo after a long day in the classroom. They were greeted by smiling docents, a friendly talking parrot and a cool gopher tortoise, bigger than a dinner plate. While teachers enjoyed delicious complimentary BBQ and drinks, the zoo’s able and talented educational staff explained the wide variety of resources the zoo provides for teachers. These include school animal programs, a variety of field experiences, guided tours, auditorium programs, and hands-on science experiences.

Birmingham Zoo Teacher's Night
Docent Program in the Auditorium

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

Environmental Fiction 3-8th grade

Environmental Education Inspires Wonder and Curiosity

The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, Eco Mystery series, I hope to inspire readers around 3rd-8th grade to experience wonder and curiosity about  the natural world. In each mystery kids must solve an eco mystery in order to take action to help save a species. The eco mysteries challenge and empower them to help resolve environmental problems that threaten living things in their own communities—yes, students can and have helped make a difference.

Book set 2

Environmental Project Based Learning

Launch of Eco Mystery Project

"To sunshine, clear water, and sparkling skies and to the kids who are cleaning up the Earth.” Jean Craighead George

How can educators launch a PROJECT-BASED LEARNING project that will inspire students to do in-depth investigation and to apply what they have learned to make a difference in the real world? Here’s how I launched projects about
eco mysteries for Melissa Foster’s third graders at Creek View Elementary in Maylene, Alabama, and Robin Gillespie’s fifth and sixth graders, at Oak Mountain Intermediate School in Decatur, Alabama.  
To arouse the students’ curiosity, I planned the event to be novel and dramatic. My presentation encouraged students to generate questions that  plunge them into an intriguing ecological mystery they must solve in order to help save an endangered species. To begin, I dressed up as Mrs. Margarita Mariposa, a character in
The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Monarch Mysteries (Book Six in the series). I donned a striking mask with flowers and butterflies and tossed a paper monarch butterfly into the air.

Day of Dead

The Heartbeat of Mother Earth

 Tenth Annual Science and History Day at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

Perched on a high and windy overlook, we listen to the steady, hypnotic beat of tribal drums, which the First Nation of Canada call the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Far below, a vast prairie stretches away to the horizon. We are a long, long way from home, in Alberta, Canada, at the world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jump, where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains. This place, the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, was used by aboriginal peoples for nearly 6,000 years.  Read More...

Earth Day Picnic

Picnic for the Planet Alabama Nature Conservancy

What a pleasure to be a part of Picnic for the Planet, 2013! On a perfect spring day, we gathered together with kids of all ages for a picnic celebrating Earth Day.  Sponsored by The Alabama Nature Conservancy at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham, picnickers basked in the sunshine, played on the lawns, danced to live music, and enjoyed presentations about the excellent projects of the Nature Conservancy. 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.


Writing Eco Mysteries 11

Eco Brains Science Camp

A shout out for the entertaining and informative Science Camp at Gwin Elementary School, organized by Traci Inglewright. The students viewed fascinating raptors close-up thanks to Becky Collier, program coordinator at the Coosa 4-H Center and her assistant Sunny Cooper. Ms. Collier shared stories about how these birds were injured—often by the careless behavior of humans—and can no longer survive in the wild. Read More...

Environmental Fiction For Middle School

In the not-too-distant future, the children in our neighborhoods and schools will have joined the workforce. Some will find themselves working for corporations, sitting behind desks, standing on podiums, running for office, in positions of influence, making decisions that will, for better or worse, affect the ecological health of our very planet. My mission in writing the ecological mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, is to nurture the seeds of environmental responsibility, giving today’s kids an abiding appreciation for nature and an intelligent understanding of ecological principals and issues before the future arrives. The Adventures of The Sizzling SIx entertains readers while educating them about endangered species and significant environmental issues—so that they will become wise stewards of our precious Earth.