Nurturing Nature in the Classroom

Guest Post by Rebecca Bielawski, for Kellee of Unleashing Readers

Childrens book Bees Like FlowersIf you are having trouble getting your class out and into nature, there are a hundred ways you can get nature into your class. If you want your kids to run wild with nature-based crafts and projects, but your imagination feels as dried up as an autumn leaf, don’t despair – On the wonderful world wide web you can discover all the inspiration you need. I especially recommend Pinterest boards and Google+ communities to look for specific ideas suited to your group’s age and other circumstances.

Here are a few tips for adapting nature projects and nature crafts that you might find, to your own classroom or home school environment.

Adapt ideas to your local area e.g., seeds to germinate that are readily and cheaply available, plants that are easy to sprout and suited to the climate and of course child friendly. Your local garden centre can help out. Local plant species will always be more relevant to the kids. (Planting sunflowers was my favourite as a kid.)

Adapt ideas to your available resources Most projects will not represent an elevated cost. Here you can use recycled materials such as plastic bottles and yoghurt pots, eg. hand trowels can be made from plastic milk or juice bottles with handles. You can also reinforce the Reuse, Reduce Recycle mantra. If you have more of a budget you could, for example, buy plants for the classroom that represent your nature goals.

The Creative Process - A Look at How My Books are Conceived and Created


sketches for monkey stuffThe first idea that leads to a finished book could be anything-- a character, a rough sketch, a rhyme or even a painting style, and can come from anywhere-- a memory from childhood, something someone says, things I see at the supermarket, in nature and especially things that kids do and say.  Kids are nutty, I am privileged to have the opportunity to listen and learn from them (and steal their ideas!). I don't always start with the story, sometimes an illustration comes first.  Generally, I start out with a style of illustration in mind but invariably, the book goes in another direction and I have to adapt to accommodate it.  My planning sketches are loose at best and the process reminds me more of sculpting than illustrating.  Never in order, I chip away at each page. I usually start with the page for which I have the strongest idea or the clearest concept and every consequent page has to try and maintain some kind of continuity of style.  This means that I always end up going back to the earlier pages to adjust elements correct and perfect.  This is the process I call "infinite tweaking" because when I think I'm finished illustrating, there is usually another month before I'm really finished.  This was exhausting in the beginning, but now I accept it as part of the process.

To Translate or Not to Translate


To many of you, the thought has probably entered your head; If I can make money selling my books to the English reading community, why don't I translate them to a bunch of other languages and make even more? Well, there a few things that you might not have considered.

I would say that unless you have a clear reason why you want to translate your book to a different language, as part of a strategy that includes marketing (in a foreign language), think carefully before you attempt it. How much is it going to cost? How difficult is it going to be? What do I hope to achieve exactly? Will it be worth the time, effort and money?

For children's picture books, graphic novels, cook books and other formats with a heavy illustration element the transition could be relatively simple as there is little text and in many cases the images, can be recycled. But to translate a full length novel could be an expensive and complicated endeavour.

Monkey Stuff 5 stars from READERS FAVORITE


My first book Monkey Stuff received a 5 star review from READERS FAVORITE

readers favorite 5 star reviewReviewed by Kristie I.

"Monkey Stuff: A Children's Rhyming Counting Book," written and illustrated by Rebecca Bielawski, is an adorable story about a mischievous monkey told while teaching numbers one through ten. Each number represents an object or objects that the monkey steals from an animal or person. The monkey steals a cow's bell, a horse's four horseshoes, a princess's seven pearls, and nine apples from an apple tree, to name a few. In the end it is stated that maybe the monkey is not so bad as he returns the items, but really he is returning them because his mum told him to.

This is a book that young children will want to read and look at over and over again. The illustrations are cute and entertaining and are filled with details. The emotions and expressions that come onto the faces of those losing their objects are well-done as are the pictures of the monkey. I really liked the illustration of the monkey wearing hot mitts and running off with the buns. Written in rhyme, the story is catchy and holds the attention of young children well. I like that each number is written boldly and plainly so that children can learn to recognize the number and identify it along with being able to associate it with the number of objects on the page. This is a great resource for children to help reinforce counting skills and number recognition. Moreover, it is also an enjoyable book to read.

Do kids read ebooks? Do parents buy ebooks for their kids?


I asked myself the same questions.  Is it worth the extra effort? The answer is yes, I think so anyway. Ebooks will never replace printed children's books or at least I hope they never do but they definitely have a place. 

  • They are a great marketing tool for authors 
  • They cost nothing to produce 
  • They are cheaper so parents can buy to see if they want to spend money on the printed book
  • Instantaneous download to your reading device
  • Great for vacations, travelling with children or keeping them amused as you wait in the doctor's waiting room.
  • As devices become better, bigger, lighter and cheaper sales should increase

I figure, if you have written a kids' book, you have the digital images from when you made your print book then you might as well take advantage and make the ebooks as well.  That said, it is not as easy to make an ebook that will work well on most devices and the format is still extremely restricted in terms of images and special text.


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