Jumping into the river
Senior River Stewards wrote, illustrated and designed a picture book, taking readers on a colorful journey through the Great Miami River.
The 2020 cohort of University of Dayton River Stewards created a children’s book, Into the River, to inspire children’s literacy and educate local youth about the importance of rivers in the greater Dayton area.
Written for the third grade reading level, the picture book takes readers on a colorful journey through the Great Miami River, adjacent the University campus. Sixteen senior River Stewards wrote, illustrated and designed the book, which incorporates local landmarks, fundamental watershed education and native species. It was published April 22, on Earth Day, in conjunction with the Brother Joseph W. Stander Symposium, the University’s annual celebration of academic excellence.
“I see this book as a great way for students to ‘take home’ their education,” said Rachel Carr, the project’s programming lead and a political science major from Centerville, Ohio. “We hope that the story transforms general scientific concepts into local, meaningful and memorable stories. Children are powerful influencers in the community and can help our mission of stewardship. Their education and involvement in these issues is vital to our whole community.”
• Among the students’ goals was to create a culturally relevant and socially inclusive book for children living in book deserts, where access to books does not meet the needs.
“We wanted children to easily identify with the book … and see the urgency and need for protecting the rivers.” —Baylor Johnson, civil engineering major from Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan
• The River Stewards partnered with the City of Dayton Water Department and Division of Environmental Management, the Miami Conservancy District and Five Rivers MetroParks to produce 2,400 copies of the book.
• Plans for a release at Dayton Metro Library of the printed book was postponed because of the novel coronavirus. Instead, children, families and teachers have immediate access to the e-book and accompanying lessons through the UD Libraries ecommons site.
“There is always going to be a need that needs to be met. We have to step up and meet that need.”—Kelly Hines, environmental biology major from Indianapolis
• At the RiverMobile — the mobile learning classroom created by the River Stewards in 2012 — children used pipe cleaners, Play-Doh and colored pencils to create pictures of what most attracted them to the watershed: animals, make-believe and fishing.
“The kids’ art was incorporated into the final book, which was really awesome.”—Meaghan Lightfoot, environmental biology major from Potomac, Maryland
• River Stewards added scenes and characters to the kids’ art to create a whimsical narrative about a child transformed into creatures of the river.
“I learned that I can grow as an artist and learn about different tools to create something new, and to really listen to the community while creating art.” —Noel Michel, mechanical engineering major from Columbus, Ohio
• Community envisioning sessions solicited input on plot, characters, watershed and features of history, landscape and lifestyle that should be included on the pages.
“We wanted the community to have a voice in this entire process.” —Natalie Merline, environmental biology major from Eureka, Missouri