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Can You Educate, Entertain, and Engage?

Posted by Susan Stoltz on

Anybody who has ever seen me in front of a crowd of people or simply one-on-one teaching about wildlife, conservation, or ecosystems knows that this is one of my most passionate callings.

 I recently resigned my job of nearly a decade at a conservation zoo. I was fortunate enough to work for the education department and my job was to teach. I got to give tours, drive the train, perform creature features throughout the zoo, and walk around speaking with people about all the important aspects animals have in their ecosystems. Why is a dung beetle as important as an apex predator like a wolf? What happens when a piece of that ecosystem disappears? Why should we care?

Working at the zoo was the best job I've ever had. Not only did I get to be outside all day observing animal behavior ( including people!) but I also learned that I have a talent for speaking passionately, as well as entertainingly and intelligently, about the importance of wildlife and our planet.

The other day I went to a garden center and asked for a peat free compost. The employee helped me read all the labels and we finally found what I was looking for. As I went to pay the woman at the register and another employee asked why peat free was so important to me. Suffice to say I regaled them with facts about peat bogs, what our destruction of them is doing to the planet, how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere each year when we harvest it ( peat bogs are a carbon sink — they occupy approximately 3% of our planet yet absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than all the forests on earth combined), and how it’s used for agriculture and gardening products. My teaching skills kicked in and they listened, asked questions, and were amazed at how little they knew about something so important to our planet.

As an author, I write books for children to help teach them about wildlife, ecosystems, and conservation. If children don’t learn about something as simple and important as a dung beetle, or as impressive and necessary as apex predators like a lion is to the ecosystem they live in, they won’t ever care. And caring is what is going to save this planet from ourselves.


I write educational workbooks that partner with my picture books. When I’m at an event talking with parents and grand parents, aunts and uncles, they begin to understand why this is an important issue, and they see the enthusiasm and joyfulness with which I speak about these issues and their eagerness to learn more is motivation to help the littles in their lives learn as well.

I guess that’s a really long explanation to say, don’t let anybody kill your enthusiasm for what you’re passionate about. Can you speak to a crowd of people from age 1 - 100 and reach them all with equal fervor mixed with a bit of craziness? Can you feel their aspiration to understand more with every word you speak? Can you write in a way that learning is an adventure rather than a chore? If you can, your message is more important than the average story. Never let anybody try and tell you otherwise.  We need authors who can educate, invigorate, and motivate. Is that you?


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