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Author Brings Hands-On Environmental Education to Joppa View

Perry Hall students spent last week hearing presentations from prominent "green" children's author Jennifer Keats Curtis.

From an osprey caught in fishing line to an otter without toys, students at learned new approaches to environmental issues last week.

"Most kids can identify exotic animals, but they're less familiar with what's in their own backyards," said children's author Jennifer Keats Curtis, following a presentation to kindergarten students on Friday. "They may not realize what's living right here in Maryland."

Curtis, an Anne Arundel County native, has published five children's books about positive interactions with the local habitat. Three additional books are scheduled for release this summer.

But with the help of an environmental education grant, Curtis took a break from writing last week for presentations to every class in each grade level at Joppa View.

"My stories are all about kids helping to solve problems, and sometimes the solution is to do nothing or find someone who can help," she said.

Curtis has worked with biologists and environmental advocates to make her stories as accurate as possible, she said. In "Osprey Adventure," the main character is a child, but when it's time to cut the fishing line that traps a baby osprey, a biologist takes over.

A class discussion on Friday focused on preventing some human-made problems related to the Chesapeake Bay.

"I'm still really worried about [ospreys] getting tangled in trash," Curtis told students. "What can we do?"

"You shouldn't throw stuff in the trees," a student suggested.

"Even though we weren't the ones to throw it there, we could pick up the trash," another student said.

Afterward, students touched the feathers of a mounted taxidermic osprey.

Curtis said she never intended to become a prominent "green" children's author, but rather sees herself as an "accidental advocate," who started as a journalist with a love for animals.

Tressa Norris, the school's library media specialist, said Curtis' stories and enthusiasm made a real impact on students.

"We don't always have the opportunity to teach about this in the classroom," Norris said. "When they get to have a real-life experience, they come away with a changed perspective." 

What's your opinion of the environmental education at your child's school? Tell us in the comments.

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