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Hanley Sustainability Institute

‘Into the River’ a River Stewards’ children’s book released on Earth Day 50/Stander

By Mark Gokavi

The University of Dayton River Stewards’ 2020 senior capstone project was to create a children’s book about the Great Miami Watershed. “Into the River” is one of many projects featured in UD’s Stander Stander Symposium on Earth Day 50. The book will be released that day with a live presentation at noon April 22.

“This culminated from months of meetings during the course of our junior year about what type of project we wanted to do, what community needs we wanted to focus on, and what community assets we found,” said Natalie Merline, one of 16 Rivers Institute students presenters listed on the Stander website. “Through these meetings, we decided to focus on literacy efforts in the area because literacy was something we were all passionate about and it was a way for us to include a lot of creativity in our project.”

The project was designed to create a Dayton-inspired, semi-fictional story that was inclusive and relatable for children and fostered pride of place and stewardship, Merline said, who added that the River Stewards collected drawings, writings and ideas from local children about how they think of the river. Those are included in the final product.

They also had a community visioning event where partners shared ideas about what should be included. “We wanted to make sure this was a book inspired by the people in the area to foster a sense of co-ownership of the book,” Merline said. “After a lot of storyboarding, we decided on a colorful, collage style illustrated book that followed a child’s fantastical dream of the rivers with historical, societal and ecological messages.”

Merline said the plot involves a child whose classroom lesson leads to a dream that involves an adventure through the Great Miami River watershed. A duck and a wise old turtle help teach about the importance of natural ecosystems, the roles humans play and the value of coming together as a community.

A local printer produced 2,400 copies, which will be distributed throughout the Dayton community and a free ebook (available at the link above) for families to access anytime.

“We hope this book inspires kids to interact with their local waterways and find a sense of ownership in these beautiful natural areas,” Merline said. “We want children to feel like they can be leaders in the efforts to protect these natural areas, as well as be curious and adventurous. Overall, we hope children enjoy this book and learn a little something too.”

Along with Merline, the other presenters are Rachel Carr, Cassidy Count, Jack Hallagan, Kelly Hines, Baylor Johnson, Zack Jordan, Katherine Kirchner, Troy Lampenfeld, Meaghan Lightfoot, Noel Michel, Sammy Miller, Claire Roberts, Carter Spires, Austin Williamson and Casey Willson.

For more sustainability news and information, visit HSI’s news blog, the Hanley Sustainability Institute website and the Sustainability Program website.

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