There’s a new book for children about the ecology of the Salish Sea — and a campaign to put it in the hands of every Washington fifth- and sixth-grader.
A jellyfish, luminous and mysterious, floats through dark water. A gull looks like it’s trying to talk with its mouth full of a starfish. And a sea lion swims straight toward the camera, its eyes big and soulful.
“Explore the Salish Sea,” a new nature guide for kids, is a lavishly illustrated exploration of the waters that connect Washington and British Columbia.
Just published by Little Bigfoot, the children’s book division of Seattle-based Sasquatch Books, the book is intended to kick-start the imagination of Washington fifth- and sixth-graders, and elevate their understanding of their home waters.
The text is by Joseph Gaydos, of Orcas Island, science director for the SeaDoc Society, a marine-science and conservation program focused on the Salish Sea, and Audrey DeLella Benedict, founder and director of Cloud Ridge Naturalists, a nature education nonprofit based in Colorado.
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The Salish Sea comprises the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Strait of Georgia and was renamed by the Washington State Board on Geographic Names in 2009 to honor the first people of the region, the Coast Salish tribes.
The region’s transboundary waters sustain a vast web of life but also suffer the degradation of many habitats and species. To turn the health of the Salish Sea around, people must first know, love and care about it — especially in the next generation, Gaydos said.
“We are spending millions of dollars on restoration, but if we are not educating tomorrow’s leaders about this place we are going to fail despite our best intentions,” he said.
The book is packed with facts — from the weight of an octopus (150 pounds) to the length of a killer whale’s teeth (3 to 4 inches), from how deep a harbor seal can dive (1,630 feet) to the life span of a geoduck (168 years).
But more than gee-whiz facts, the book is aligned with Washington state core science-learning standards to step kids through the fundamentals of the ecology of the Salish Sea.
Among other subjects, the book explores the sea’s geography, its intertidal life, its deeps, diving mammals and birds, and epic migrations of some of its animals, from salmon to gray whales to sandpipers. Even beach stones get a chapter — a window into the geology of the Salish Sea.
The book encourages kids to get out and explore, and to think about ways to help take care of the Salish Sea every day, from picking up trash to taking transit and preparing themselves for careers in science.
In addition to an ambitious book tour that started April 20 and continues all over the region through July, the two authors have launched an online fundraising campaign with the goal of putting the book in the hands of every fifth- and sixth-grader in Washington, regardless of ability to pay.
Their dream was to create a book that kids could read with their parents, their siblings, neighbors and friends. The book has a kid-tough wipe-clean hardcover, and is backpack-ready as the outdoor season gets underway.
The authors donated their work, and are putting their share from book sales into the fund to provide the book for kids, Gaydos said.
“This wasn’t a capital venture for us,” Gaydos said. “This is a mission to get people to love and take care of this place.”