Faculty Recipients: Barbara Giorgio-Booher (Art) and Tom McConnell (Biology)
Partner: Rinard Orchid Greenhouse (Muncie, IN), Ball State Stream Ecology Lab (Muncie, IN), and Indianapolis Zoo (Indianapolis, IN).
In this project, Ms. Giorgio-Booher, Dr. McConnell, and an interdisciplinary team of students developed and published two wildlife conservation books for children in grades 3-5, entitled "Conservation Tales: Invasive Carp" and "Conservation Tales: Monarch Butterflies." These titles are a part of an ongoing book series covering 13 animal species, with the story development, design, publication, and promotional activities embedded in Ms. Giorgio-Booher’s ART 370 class. Dr. McConnell co-mentors the course, bringing his scientific expertise and contacts to the project. Each semester, students are recruited from a variety of backgrounds to work on the publications. The team for this iteration included students with backgrounds in animation, drawing, visual communication (graphic design), photography, and life science teaching.
To produce these books, students interacted with researchers and biologists at external partner institutions to create stories that reflect authentic science practices and teach about conservation. The external partners supported the project by allowing team members to observe the scientists in action as they researched the featured animals. The partners then became characters in the illustrated books to show readers how real scientists collect data and use that information to protect wildlife and habitats. Each book includes learning activities designed for readers to do at home, in a classroom, or at a nature center. Students also produced promotional posters, stickers, tee shirts, bookmarks, and online graphics for in-person events.
Despite COVID limitations caused by the pandemic, this class conducted four community outreach events in Muncie and Portland, IN, and presented at two conferences of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc.
The story manuscripts and illustrations were published in May 2021 and are available to the public through the Conservation Tales website. Copies of these titles and other books in the series are being purchased by K-12 teachers, nature centers, and other customers across the country, and all proceeds support future writing projects. In addition to helping students work across disciplines and develop invaluable real-world publishing and promotional experience, these books are helping to meet the demand for environmental education materials.
The Conservation Tales project received a three-year Sustained Course grant through the Provost Immersive Learning Grant program.