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Ed Rastetter, senior scientist at the Ecosystems Center, presents a copy of Living Sunlight to East Falmouth School teacher Wendy Scholes. The Ecosystems Center staff donated books to all of the elementary and middle schools in Falmouth, Bourne and Mashpee.

MBL Ecosystems Center Staff Donates Books to Help Local Elementary Schoolchildren Better Understand the Earth


Explaining the science of how the Earth works can be difficult, and especially challenging when the audience is elementary school students. But Molly Bang, well-known author and illustrator from Woods Hole, and Dr. Penny Chisholm, a senior scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accepted the challenge and decided to write “the best books we could about how the earth works – especially about how sunlight affects the Earth.”

“We as a society have to make decisions about cloning, genetic foods, effects of climate change and other factors. Without a solid basis in science, how can we do this responsibly?” asked Ms. Bang.

Ms. Bang and Dr. Chisholm published Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life earlier this year. The book, geared for elementary schoolchildren, focuses on one of the most vital biological processes on Earth—photosynthesis.

This fall Ms. Bang approached the Woods Hole Science and Technology Education Partnership (WHSTEP) about sponsoring a workshop that she would run for Falmouth, Bourne and Mashpee teachers to help them explain the concept of photosynthesis to children.

While the WHSTEP executive committee was supportive of the idea, committee members doubted that the schools would be able to purchase the books, given current school budget constraints. The WHSTEP representative from the Ecosystems Center brought the news to her colleagues. Would they be willing to chip in a few dollars each to buy books for the schools?

Within several days, Ecosystems Center employees had raised enough money to buy two books per school for each of the 10 elementary and middle schools in the Falmouth, Bourne and Mashpee school districts.

Edward Rastetter, senior scientist at the Ecosystems Center, presented the books to the teachers October 29 at the workshop for teachers held at the Falmouth Public Library. He commented that “a general scientific literacy is vitally important for society to respond to the climate change issues facing us. Molly Bang's Living Sunlight is a great introduction for young children into one of the most fundamental processes that will be affected by climate change, photosynthesis.”

Teachers were enthusiastic about both the workshop and the book. “The workshop was very well done. The information was very useable and appropriate to the science curriculum,” said Deb McRoberts, teacher of motivated and talented students at East Falmouth and Mullen-Hall Schools. “The book Living Sunlight is beautiful and, with the explanatory text in the back, incredibly useful. Many teachers couldn't wait to get started.”