I had the honor and privilege to work with Mr.Ron Hirschi. To say it was amazing just doesn't seem to be enough. The experience was truly life changing and humbling. To be afforded the opportunity to be in a pond, interacting with the environment while watching your students learn was positively awesome! I am not an outdoor enthusiast, so this was, at first, a very daunting job. We were asked, as classroom teachers, to put on the waders and go into the pond to help collect the critters and plant life. I tend to shy away from "getting my hands dirty" so I must say that I was rather nervous with the whole idea. All that changed from the very moment I waded into that murky water. I was well aware of the fact that falling would not have been very prudent, so I was careful with my steps! Each time I entered the water for another "catch" I was more and more sure of myself, and, even my footing!

To say that I had fun would just not be enough. I will carry this experience with me forever, both as a teacher and as a human being living on this amazing planet! This experience truly reminds us of how small we really are in comparison to all the amazing life that exists in our environment and how big a role we really must play in conservation. I encourage everyone to be part of this wonderful experience!

Thank you, Mr. Hirschi!!

Lori Schnegg
5th grade teacher
St. Brigid of Kildare School
Dublin, Ohio


Get in touch by email at whalemail@waypoint.com Phone: 360-379-1729 Mail: PO Box 899 Hadlock, WA 98339 Visit amazon.com for a good listing of available books, but check my publishers for the best rates for school sales. Island Heritage/ Welcome to the Islands, Sylvan Dell, and Boyds Mills all are easy to work with and make it easy to do a fund raiser with books like Swimming with Humuhumu, Ocean Seasons, or Lions Tigers and Bears!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011


I get to work with a lot of kids. Thousands of them...........These days, many have never gone outside in ways that put them face to face with the incredible diversity nature has to offer. Or maybe it is just that so many kids these days don't live in rural places or they only visit sealife parks or zoos and other artifical environemnts? I don't know..........But they can enter a world where Two Kids I created for a series of books help them see and experience worlds of nature in Hawaii and Alaska, our newest states and our most precious natural learning places.

SWIMMING WITH HUMUHUMU is all about two kids from the mainland who visit Kauai with their parents. On every page, Maddie and Cole experience new life forms in a very natural and real life way. Actually, the two kids are my pretend Grandkids and their parents are Scott and Nichol...........

Maddie and Cole write postcards of their experiences to my wife, Brenda......except in the book, they are simply writing to Gramma.........as they learn some Hawaiian, they write to their Tutu, Gramma in Hawaiian.

Little Books within this book help the reader learn more about Monk Seals, Whales, and Sea Shells. Hawaiian words and a bit of culture sneak in too. Illustrated by my friend and the wonderful Hawaiian artist, Tammy Yee, I bet you will love this book if you are new to the islands. I still pick it off my shelf from time to time and use its pages to bring me back to snorkel trips and moments when I first saw an octopus while swimming down at a favorite beach or when, as a family, we first saw humpbacks leaping free of the turquoise ocean..........

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


If you are visiting this site to consider a visit to your school, think about how kids respond in other schools I work with and have worked with during the past 20 years and more.........

Lately, I seem to use more of my art skill, helping kids create beautiful works they can use to express concern about the environment.

And yet, my friend Sharon Buda who is an art teacher, will tell you that she brings me to Wyandot mostly for my science skills.........Afterall, I am a biologist and love nothing more than to take kids out to a field, farm, wetland, river, pond, or ocean coast and see what we can find. Netting baby fish, frogs, and helping a child find a salamander............these can be life changing experiences for the growing number of kids who spend more time indoors than out in nature.

Writing......Hmmmm. Yes, I am a writer and use art and ecology to help kids WRITE FROM EXPERIENCES. This is what I am best at, I think..........helping teachers find ways to get the most reluctant writer to write. But we need to include art and ecology to make it work!

To get in touch, Call me at 360-379-1729

or email at whalemail@waypoint.com   

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Okay. I've written a lot of books, but this new one is special!
I got to work on this with Yuko Green and my
friends at Island Heritage - always a treat to be sure.
Yuko has that ability to capture the truth and the fun
of an adventure like this one.........and it all began in Ohio.

If you read the book, you will see two kids setting out on
a summer adventure with their parents.
They travel to Alaska from Ohio and while away,
write postcards to their classmates back home in Pickerington
at Whalestreet Elementary!

Well.......Whalestreet is not just one school but a composite
of all the schools I have worked with in recent years
that connect with Dr. Mary Sheridan, Dr. Sharon Buda,
Larrie Habel, and the person I dedicated the book to,
Susan Pomerantz.

Together, we have introduced kids to the water world
and connected them to the distant ocean
in ways few can imagine
it would and hopefully will, take me a BIG BOOK
to explain.
Let's just say we have had fun getting kids out onto waters
and into some amazing art and ecology projects.

But wait.
The kids in the book write to Whalestreet, but address their postcards
Paula Vertikoff and Charlotte Stiverson,
both amazing teachers I had the privilege of working with
during their very first year of teaching in Columbus schools!

For those of you familiar with Fred the Monkey and Project SOAR,
Paula introduced me to Fred........
Charlotte and her students at Columbus School for Girls
have long been inspiration for me in their many environmentally
sensitive projects. Plus, they have been my most cherished
editors and helpers on books that have and haven't
appeared in print! We have fun with words and actions.

But wait!
There is certainly more if you turn to page 32.
There you will find the most wonderful poem,
theoretically written by our young Alaska Adventurer,
but in truth, written by a student at
Tremont Elementary!
Thanks to Claudia Fett for helping kids
get involved in the poetry contest that led to this
Raven Poem.

Raven is said to have the hand of creation
and I have had the luck of being handed friendships in Ohio.

Thank you to all who have supported my work.
I look forward to hearing all the raven poems at an event
in Columbus soon!   

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Friends of Fred

Fred is about as fun a friend as you can find. I am sending him off to the world so you can enjoy him too. Just yesterday, he dove into the frigid waters of Nordland. He dove in with some kids who embraced his friendly ways and found him to be a kind of buddy with a message of hope.

Fred is about hope. He is about finding ways for kids to take charge of their own concerns while learning and caring about the world around them.

You will soon see Fred enter book worlds in hopes he finds a wider audience for his message of optimistic concern for ocean and land. Somehow, he seems to be able to bring smiles to faces. Afterall, he has a mission for 2010 to make at least 100 people smile. Big smiles!!! 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fred and Friends

My life changed this past summer after a wonderful visit to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. There were the albatross, one in paricular that haunts me. Then too, the dolphins, many honu, and great new friends who I now call on to help teach ocean to kids around the world.

The little baby albatross, the one I say haunts me, was an individual among the million or so living out there in the middle of the Pacific. Each morning, I would get up with the sun and walk to a place I call Monk Seal Point. Many mornings, I had to circle wide, giving space to the resting seals. Sometimes, Annie Bell and Walterbea came too. It was a good place to visit in the first hours of our days together and I cherish every moment.

The first morning I photographed my young albatross friend, she or he, I never learned which.........was right at the very edge of the Naupaka. I've always loved this plant and use it for clearing the lens of my mask each time I snorkel. Nenes really like its berries that remind me of snowberry back home. Soft, round, smooth berries that puff when you pinch them.

Little albatross walked down to the water's edge on the second morning I met this special bird. Fred was with me and somehow that moment became a special time of bonding between bird, monkey, and me. Fred, you have to understand, is a very special monkey. A gift from my friend Paula. She let me on to him the year before when she was teaching kindergarten and told her kiddos that a monkey named Fred was causing any kind of missing marker, messed up desk, or any other major kindergarten tragedy. But, she never ever let the kids see this magical monkey. He remained a mystery creature until shortly after my last visit to her school.

Fred, I decided, would come with me to Piheman. To Midway Atoll. And so the story began as Fred snuck into my suitcase when I stopped by the kindergarten room. I soon wrote to the kids, drawing a picture of Fred as if being xrayed at the airport within my suitcase. I told them Fred was coming with me and before long, postcards were flying to kids, chronicling Fred's journey and soon to be, journeys around the world.

I shared the idea of postcards from Fred with other teachers, including my friend, Debbie Charna at Columbus School for Girls. I asked her and others to see if students might have questions for Fred to answer while out at Papahanaumokuakea. Little did I know where this would lead; how charming and intellectually challenging the child originated questions might be.

I prepared for the journey, packing my alloted 40 pounds of camera gear, clothing field guides, and little more into a backpack and suitcase. Soon, I was off with Fred poking his head out from a zippered pocket of the pack. He was now free to be seen by one and all and before I even left Seattle Tacoma International, he was obviously making a mark on the world. People seemed to love the idea of a monkey traveling with an old guy like me.

The first to really take notice were the gals at Dilletante, a Seattle chocolate shop I've known since it opened its doors up on Capital Hill where my family and I lived when I was going to college at the University of Washington. They make the best chocolate on the planet and their small coffee stand in the airport rises above all other for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is virtually plastic free. Fred noticed this when I bought a treat enroute to the Hawaiian flight to Oahu, first leg of our journey.

Fred demanded a photo with the more than cute and friendly girls and we were off on our first plane ride together. Several days later, after great learning experiences on Oahu to prepare for Papahanaumokuakea, Fred and I were becoming intimate friends with a baby albatross about to attempt to leave its island home. All around the bird and the two ape friends, fairy terns hovered and frigates dove, while the offshore lagoon waters painted a scene you know from any dreams you might have had of the most diverse and soft blue of any water on planet ocean.

White sand beneath our feet was painted a deadlier red, blue, and green. All plasticized by incoming debris from every corner of the globe. Plastic so pervasive it was impossible to scan an inch of sand without seeing micro pieces of a world so far removed from this otherwise peaceful and idyllic place. 

to be continued............ 

Saturday, September 19, 2009


19 Sept......just got word that our new book, An Alaska Adventure will arrive at the end of this month! Here's a page from one of the final edit checks.......Ilustration by Yuko Green. Yuko and I worked together on Winter is for Whales and had a lot of fun with this new book that tells the story of two kids who visit Alaska with their parents. Sarah and Cole head north from their home in Columbus, Ohio. They pan for gold, photograph brown bears and wolves, and Sarah falls for the Ravens!

I'm most proud of this book for a couple of reasons. It might be the first book to include a woman bush pilot. She's a former classmate of Sarah's mom from college days. They bump into her in a Fairbanks coffee shop and she takes them on a last minute journey to her home in Barrow. As Sarah says, "Beverly is Inupiat and so totally awesome --- she is a PILOT. She is going to fly us up to where her family lives in Barrow!" This leg of the trip leads to the blanket toss, illustrated above........and to Cole's meeting of Beverly's nephew who shares a love of basketball with the young traveler from Ohio.

I wanted to pay some tribute in this book to two of my all time favorite teachers. So, I enouraged young Sarah and Cole to journal each day and to send postcards back to their classmates at Columbus School for Girls and Wyandot Elementary. The postcards are for Paula Vertikoff and Charlotte Stiverson who teach with such loving grace......... Sarah got a little creative help from a real live student poet from another Ohio school. I'm happy to introduce her writing to you. After 30 years of trying to include kid writing in one of my books, here is the winning entry in a poetry contest designed just for this book:


Always be the smart bird,
Always yell louder than any other singing bird,
Fly upside down for fun
Do rolls and somersaults when flying,
Stay tough and buff.

You can read her poem and the rest of the adventures, journals, postcards, and gold panning secret mapping in our new Alaska book. Buy a copy directly from the publisher, Island Heritage or from Amazon or other booksellers.

Contact me for a special edition Bookplate that might just feature autographs from Yuko, Alexus, me, and a raven or two. And don't forget to fly upside down for fun.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The Seabeck Salmon Team at Nick's Lagoon.

Here in Washington State there is a project called Salmon in the Classroom. Calling it Salmon IN the Classroom should be a tip off, a loud and clear message that this is not a good idea. I've been opposed to it since its inception, both as a biologist and as a teacher. My main concerns are that fish like salmon have no business spending time indoors. They were truly born to be wild. Learn a little about wild salmon ecology and you'll know that salmon in classrooms are started out as eggs stripped from hatchery fish, placed in tanks, taken to schools, raised for a while, then released into a stream. Typically, the stream they are released into is not their parent stream. Worse yet, the stream might be many watersheds away from the natal stream.

Often carrying fungal diseases into the stream after life in an aquarium, the salmon are let go with possible lethal effects on fish living in the receiving waters.

I do agree with the original thought behind this project. It is a wonderful notion to get kids excited about salmon. Letting them see fish develop from egg to kid salmon is a good thing.

My objection centers mainly on the fact that a far more exciting alternative exists throughout salmon country. I've not wanted to simply voice my opposition without working hard to see that kids take advantage of the alternative. Here are a couple of examples based on salmon streams, one on trout streams, and a couple related examples of good watershed teachings on midwestern streams, far from salmon waters.

I did a one day author visit at Seabeck Elementary in Seabeck, Washington about ten years ago. I showed slides and talked with the kids about water projects I'd gotten involved with in Ohio. A mom in the audience came up to me after the presentation and we talked a bit. She got excited about "doing something with the kids".

I asked if they ever took the kids to nearby Seabeck Creek. No. But they did raise salmon in the classroom, hatchery fish they released each year at a bridge crossing.
Long story very short, we started taking the kids to the stream about once a week and the mom and many other moms and dads started an after school "Salmon Team" somewhat like soccer or baseball. The kids showed up, but had to try out for the team. They also had to share what they learned with their classmates the day after our adventures in Seabeck Creek.

After a year of sampling salmon in Seabeck Creek, the kids became local experts and soon shared their knowledge at workshops, water celebrations, and salmon conservation group meetings. We started wandering away from Seabeck Creek during the second or third year of study and one of the kids and I stumbled on a small estuary. It was an enclosed lagoon fed by five springfed streams. I did a little research and discovered that virtually nothing was known about the largest of the streams and nothing at all was known about the smallest four. The lagoon itself was soon found to be a rearing place for juvenile salmon and I named it Nick's Lagoon after the boy who first discovered the beautiful little piece of water.

We started focusing a lot of attention on the lagoon and streams, naming each for kids in the Salmon Team. There was Muddy Marc Creek for the kid who got wet quicker and muddier faster than any I've ever worked with. Joe's Creek is a short run stream named for one of the best salmon finding kids around.

We carefully chronicled our findings, especially after discovering that chinook salmon swam into the lagoon from other streams, spending time there even though the adults did not visit its waters. This made the place highly valuable for many reasons. Juvenile rearing habitat is precious these days due to loss of habitat. Chinook are threatened species too. So, when the entire property surrounding the lagoon was listed for sale, we took action.

Teaming with the Trust for Public Land, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, and Kitsap County Parks, we raised the funds to purchase the property. This is all with thanks to the Seabeck Salmon Team. They could have sat back in the classroom and stared at fish in a tank, but their long road to saving a valuable habitat became an environmental award winning project. Nick's Lagoon is now preserved as a natural area park managed by the county and watched over by the kids and families who protected it.

More recently, I visited Breidablik Elementary, a school just north of Seabeck and a school (not the same building) my grandmother attended in the early 1900s. They too had a salmon in the classroom project and would place the fish in Jump Off Joe Creek, a stream that runs past the school and into nearby Hood Canal.

Learning about Nick's Lagoon and a little about salmon ecology, students and teachers at Breidablik started wondering what to do with their fish in the aquarium. they also started planning new projects - projects that would leave the salmon in the wild and take the kids OUT of the classroom.

In spring of 2009 they released their salmon in a more appropriate location within the watershed of the hatchery of origin. This was in Puget Sound, not Hood Canal. We also spent a day netting Jump Off Joe Creek and the shallows of Hood Canal at its mouth. Way too much fun, the kids soon became expert at handling the seine and at identifying fish.

We discoverd that Jump Off Joe already had a nice population of a small salmon most commonly called Cutthroat Trout. There is a good chance the cutthroat would have loved to see the salmon in the classroom dumped into their creek since cutthroat are predators of juvenile fish. Chances are good that the stream is too small to support other salmon species, but time will tell as we get to know the creek better by visiting it on a regular schedule, just as we did at Nick's Lagoon.

Any trout fisher will tell you that the Snake River is pretty much heaven. I get to fish the river fairly often, especially when visiting Wilson Elementary in Wilson, Wyoming. On my first author stop we took the fifth graders down to the big river and netted along side channels and along braids where it was safe to be in water with kids dragging a seine.

We worked on a Big Book (see my website) during that time and talked about doing more with the kids outside. The netting experience was what inspired our next adventure and offers a wonderful example for many schools around the country.

There's a tiny creek within walking distance of the school. Having the Snake River nearby more or less makes this piece of water invisible to anyone. Anyone, that is, other than a kid.

We visited this tiny Kid Creek with all the kids, netting with seine and hand held dip nets. The result? Inspired writing and art and a wealth of new knowledge about the stream, its history, and its future. The local land trust is now looking into ways of treating the stream and for sure, Wilson has found an outdoor learning lab right in their own backyard.

I can say that much of what I've done and will do with kids on waters all started with school visits in Ohio. I've taken several thousand kids seining in the Scioto, Darby, and other streams as well as into many ponds. The best of these projects is now connecting schools as we attempt to help kids see the connections in the Scioto/Ohio River Watershed.

Kids at Wyandot Elementary and St Brigid, both in Dublin have been doing some of the most creative watershed work. We started by seining in ponds on both school grounds. After a few years of documenting fish, invertebrates, and water quality in these headwater ponds, we took an ambitious approach in the spring of 2009.

Older kids can cover more ground than little ones and middle schoolers at St Brigid were up to the task of following a tributary to Indian Run Creek, itself a tributary to the Scioto. We followed the little creek, netting all the way, troubled by a lack of water and an abundance of litter. But we eventually traced the path of the creek all the way to its connection with Indian Run. And when we did, we looked upstream and there, in plain view was Wyandot Elementary School! We had followed the water and connected the dots to a partnering school.

Now, the two schools can compare notes on fish, water quality, and the many art and writing projects they have done related to the stream studies. Better yet, they can move on up and downstream to find ways of improving the water quality and connect with other schools in their watershed.

Each of the examples are at schools with streams within walking distance of the building. I'm often asked what to do during a school visit and I invariably ask if a stream flows nearby. Thanks to the examples of schools like Wilson, Wyandot, Breidablik, St Brigid, and others, I can point to some great ways schools use the experience. I know teachers take this learning back into the classroom. My job is to take the kids OUT of the classroom and definitely, to leave the salmon where they belong --- in a stream where we can watch over their well being.