Where else have I seen Common Core, librarians, books, and nonfiction authors working in harmony? One surprising place was in my work last year with Authors For Earth Day, a program founded by Brooke Bessesen. Authors volunteer to donate a portion of their school visit fee to an environmental cause the students choose by vote.
The librarians at schools I was visiting during Earth Week jumped on the idea, practically wrestled for the right to do it. And it wasn’t just for the feel good aspect of helping the environment. They immediately knew this was a Common Core bonanza which tied right in to nonfiction research and persuasive writing. Here’s Hella Rumschlag, the librarian who booked me for the visit.In advance of the visit, I chose five organizations for them to consider: American Bird Conservancy, the Elephant Listening Project, the Nature Conservancy, the Pollinator Partnership, and the Rain Forest Conservation Fund. These are favorite organizations of mine and relate to my books such as The Bumblebee Queen and Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls of Whales, Elephants, and Birds. I tried to choose organizations that would give kids a sense of the wide variety of environmental issues and approaches to solving them. Initially, I had chosen a sea turtle organization among the candidates, but the librarian informed me that the turtle is their school mascot so it would have an unfair advantage in swaying the students.
As you can see, Common Core is a natural for librarians, teachers, and nonfiction authors who have been involved in inquiry for years. I say, let's embrace it and expand on it. The ideas seem solid and the thinking aspects of these standards are deeper than most previous mandated curricula. The bureaucratic aspects of how it is implemented are the sticky points and those will be fought in districts all over the country. Most of all, we just need to give our teachers more respect and better tools. And bring back librarians—the champions of deep inquiry!