Category Archives: International Crane Foundation

Will You March for Science?

On Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2017, scientists across the United States will do something they don’t generally like to do. They will leave their labs, their field study sites, their university classrooms and travel to Washington D. C. or to other cities across the country, including Chicago, to get political. They will be marching for science.

There is even a March for Science website … leave it to the techies among them! And this is what they say about their cause:

“The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.”


If you want to get involved you can donate here, as well as find a local march near you. Actually, there are 228 sites across the United States and around the world where people will be marching, scientists and those who join them in valuing the freedom and findings of science and the importance of keeping those findings free of politicization. In Illinois, people will be marching in Chicago and in Champaign. In France, they will be marching in Lyon, Lille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Paris. And Canada, our neighbor to the north, will have ten satellite marches in solidarity with the United States! Canadians will march in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Hamilton, Victoria, Halifax, Vancouver, Prince George, and St. John’s.

If you know Canada’s recent history of attacks on science research and evidence, you’ll understand Canadians’ fierce solidarity with scientists in the United States. With the election of Justin Trudeau to become Canada’s Prime Minister in 2015, the troubling administration of Stephen Harper (2006-2015) came to an end. Harper’s administration was infamous for issuing gag orders, muzzling scientists and preventing them from sharing their findings with the media and the public or with other scientists at conferences. Scientists had to get approval from the government before they could talk with the media, and they were assigned “minders” from the public relations department to manage those interviews. The bureaucratic red tape was onerous and media requests were often denied. Coverage of climate science, for example, dropped by 80% as a result. For an excellent NY Times op ed by Canadian scientist Wendy Palen, associate professor of biology at Simon Fraser University, please click here.

In summary, Stephen Harper is a climate change denier. His government closed research libraries and purged valuable, sometimes irreplaceable records, consigning them to the dumpster, calling that a cost-cutting measure. Harper also cut all funding “for the Experimental Lakes Area, a world-renowned research facility where scientists run experiments on pollution and environmental contaminants in more than 50 small lakes in northwestern Ontario. Other casualties included (Canada’s) northernmost Arctic monitoring station and national census.”

Sound familiar?

Scientists, who normally prefer to remain apolitical, became outraged and sprang into action when the Harper government passed legislation that eliminated or severely amended the “marquee environmental protection laws” that Canadians prized.

And then this happened:

“Fearing the continued erosion of even the most basic protections for food inspection, water quality and human health, Canadian scientists filled Ottawa’s streets in the Death of Evidence march. That theatrical mock funeral procession became something of a cultural touchstone. It was a turning point that galvanized public opinion against Prime Minister Harper’s anti-science agenda. “

Canadians Took to the Streets

Canadians Took to the Streets to Mourn the Death of Evidence

There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.

But one thing is certainly clear. U.S. scientists are taking a leaf (probably maple) from the Canadian playbook and planning a massive response to the Trump administration’s gag orders, cutbacks in science research funding, scrubbing of climate science data and other science research from government websites, appointment of cabinet members who are hostile to their work, and other constraints on their research, including preventing them from sharing their findings at conferences and with the media and the public.

Scientists and their supporters will be marching on April 22, 2017, and people from around the world will be joining them in solidarity.

Protecting Science Must Be a Priority (Photos: L, Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP; R, Phil Plait)

In solidarity, Golden Apple STEM Institute will be rescheduling our spring follow-up session from April 22nd to May 6th, because we have schools that will be participating in the Chicago march and some of our teacher participants are planning to march on their own. We will be joining them. STEM Institute coach and faculty member Wayne Wittenberg  and his family will be marching in D. C. Some of us will be marching in Chicago.

But there are ways for you to march other than literally going to Washington D. C. or to downtown Chicago on Earth Day.

Every time you create opportunities for your students to understand and appreciate the work of scientists, you are marching for science.

Every time you create a unit, with lessons and activities, to help your students understand that global climate change is largely caused by human activity, and that this is not opinion, not conjecture, but settled science, you are marching for science.

Every time you create after school opportunities for students to do more science and engineering, you are marching for science.

Every time you raise your voice to tell your principal and colleagues that students need more science time, that science must not be marginalized or wait until 4th grade, you are marching for science.

Every time you help a colleague who is struggling to teach science effectively and is not quite sure how to do it, you are marching for science.

Every time you support a science organization with your membership and your participation, from NSTA to the AAAS, from NRDC to the International Crane Foundationyou are marching for science.

Every time you write to your legislators or sign a petition to protect the work of scientists from those who wish to silence them and to demand evidence-based policies, you are marching for science.

But most importantly, every time you inspire your students to develop a passion for science and aspire to become STEM professionals, or at the very least, to become informed, science-positive citizens, you are marching for science.

Will you march for science?

Please leave us a comment to let us know how.

~ Penny

You can read more about Golden Apple STEM Institute here.


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Filed under AAAS, International Crane Foundation, March for Science, NRDC, NSTA, science teaching, Uncategorized, war on science

The Ripple Effect … and Saving Whooping Cranes

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to make many ripples” Mother Teresa

Some years ago, I joined the International Crane Foundation, making an annual contribution to the foundation to support their work in researching, conserving, and educating about crane species all over the world. Four times a year, they publish The ICF Bugle to update their members about the progress being made in restoring various crane populations and habitats. I have a tendency to let these newsletters gather on my dining room table, but today I grabbed a couple to read on the train and toss.

The May 2014 issue featured a letter from ICF President Rick Beilfuss who focused on the future of whooping cranes, and that’s when it hit me. Until today, I had forgotten how I came to care about cranes in the first place. An image flashed in my mind, and I remembered when I was in 4th or 5th grade in the 50s reading stories in My Weekly Reader about the near extinction of the whooping crane. There were around a dozen left alive at that point, and there was a strong likelihood that the species would vanish. I knew about extinction because I had learned about the beautiful, once abundant but now extinct, passenger pigeon.

While I had never seen a whooping crane and My Weekly Reader wasn’t even in color back then, something about the irrevocability of extinction and the magnificence of these birds resonated with me all those years ago. I soon went on to other concerns, growing up, becoming a teacher, one cause and another, until I heard about ICF, maybe stumbled across the organization on the Internet, and decided to join. Today I realized the connection between those two events separated by more decades than I care to name. I know that something I learned about the natural world as a child caused me to make a decision as an adult – a decision for the natural world, for conservation, for research, for education, and for my own pleasure.

Running Whooping Cranes

Running Whooping Cranes

And today I also learned, courtesy of Google, that I am not alone.

To verify my memory, I googled “my weekly reader whooping crane” and found the following comment to a blog post on the demise of My Weekly Reader.

Carol on 
August 23, 2012 at 10:18 am wrote: Two things about the Weekly Reader: 1) They arrived all rolled up in brown paper and had to be separated; I, as a marvelous student, had the “honor” of being chosen to separate them! 
2) In about 1950, I read in My Weekly Reader that the population of Whooping Cranes was down to around 39. So when I retired in 1996, I took a boat trip out of Rockport, TX to see the Whooping Cranes, which by then were making a nice comeback. Last week I went to the International Crane Foundation, in Baraboo, WI, where I saw 2 more Whooping Cranes.

So Carol had read a similar article in the children’s newspaper, and it stayed with her too.

But Carol and I aren’t alone. It turns out that Ruth Zachary, commenting on a photo posted by Bill Bouton on Flickr, had this to say: “Oh my! These are the birds which started my love affair when I was a child–I read about them in My Weekly Reader…”

Something sparked in Carol’s imagination, and in Ruth’s, and in mine during our elementary school years that has stayed with us our entire lives. As it did as well with Chester McConnell.

Now in his late 70s, McConnell first read about whooping cranes when he was in 5th grade … and also in My Weekly Reader. He went on to become a wildlife biologist in Tennessee. He was quoted in a recent article, “I’ve gone everywhere whooping cranes are. My job took me to those places, and I always made it my business to look up the whooping cranes when I had a chance.”

In retirement, McConnell publishes a very active blog and website called Friends of the Wild Whoopers, to keep other enthusiasts informed about the birds and their habitat. He and his publishing partner Pam Bates recently established Friends of the Wild Whoopers as a nonprofit that will acquire land to maintain and increase the habitat where whooping cranes winter over, nest, and stopover during migration. They also help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat, raise funds to provide rewards for persons who inform on those who kill whooping cranes, and educate interested persons about whooping cranes and their needs.

So an interest that began in 5th grade with My Weekly Reader has filled a life with purposeful work. Journalist Sara Sneath in the Victoria Advocate quotes McConnell, “They’re a beautiful bird. And they’re the largest bird in North America. People just fall in love with them when they see them. You just have a soft spot in your heart for anything that has a hard time getting along.”

Similarly, Dr. George Archibald, ICF co-founder, first learned about whooping cranes not via My Weekly Reader, but through a Canadian radio show that he heard as a student in Nova Scotia. Here is the ICF mission statement:

Inspiring A Global Community The International Crane Foundation (ICF) commits to a future where all crane species are secure – a future where people cooperate to protect and restore wild populations and their ecosystems. These efforts sustain the places where cranes live, to the benefit of countless other species.

International Crane Foundation Headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin

International Crane Foundation Headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin

And the whooping crane that so fascinated me as a child? Well, thanks to the work of thousands of people with a passion for that magnificent bird, including the folks at the International Crane Foundation, whoopers have recovered from a low of only 21 birds in the wild in the 1940s to around 599 birds today. The whooping crane’s recovery is one of conservation’s most inspiring success stories.

Whooping Crane with Chick

Whooping Crane with Chick

You can follow their progress on the ICF Facebook page.

You can also go to the ICF website and adopt a crane for your classroom for only $50.

Children Mesmerized Learning about Cranes

Children Mesmerized As They Learn about Cranes

To get your students started investigating cranes, check out these videos.

The first is under two minutes long and shows an encounter between a crane and an alligator. If you stop it at .48 seconds, you could ask your students to predict what will happen. This might make an excellent hook.

And this 8 minute National Geographic video on Operation Migration will introduce your students to the ingenious ways people have devised to bring whooping cranes back from the brink of extinction. Perhaps it will plant in one of them the same fascination with whooping cranes that My Weekly Reader inspired in me so many years ago.

I ask you to reflect as you plan. What can you do today that will create a ripple effect in the mind of a child? What new worlds can you open that will be life shaping for a child in your classroom? What stories can you tell that will resonate down through the years? What books can you recommend that some child will take to heart? What field trips can you provide that your students will never forget? You might never know the answer to these questions, but perhaps it’s enough for any of us to simply create as rich a set of experiences, as deep a pool of knowledge, as we possibly can in our classrooms and then let the spark of individual curiosity take over from there and set a young imagination to flight.

The Magnificence of Flying Cranes

The Magnificence of Flying Cranes

The eminent Jungian psychologist, author, and teacher James Hillman spoke of just that kind of mystery, the great question of character and destiny. In his bestseller The Soul’s Code, he suggested that our calling in life is inborn and inherent and that it’s our mission in life to realize it. He called it the “acorn theory” — the idea that our lives are formed by a particular image, just as the oak’s destiny is contained in the tiny acorn. He was probably drawing on Aristotle’s concept of “entelechy,” the need for self-fullment that we all share and that starts with the seed and comes to full fruition in the tree.

But that seed needs fertile soil to grow and flourish, so why not shape your classroom to be a place that will nourish your students’ life passions and allow them to take root.

~ Penny

Learn more about Golden Apple STEM Institute here.

Photo Credits: All photos are courtesy of the International Crane Foundation, with the exception of the final photo, that of flying cranes, which is courtesy of Dave and Liz Smith.

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Filed under curiosity, Friends of the Wild Whoopers, International Crane Foundation, My Weekly Reader, whooping cranes