By Tim Lyman
CLAYTON — Sometimes, the work you do in college can help your community nearly 20 years down the road. That’s the case with “Haas the Great Blue Heron: The Beginning of an Adventure,” a children’s book in which a father heron eagerly awaits the hatching of his egg near the St. Lawrence River. After a night’s indecision, the father heron names his chick “Haas” after the sound he makes when he is born.
The book was written by Juliane B. Flora in 1994 and completed in 1996, while she was a student at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., but was never published. It was illustrated with artwork by Ms. Flora’s late mother, Diane Bauer.
Stephanie Weiss, who lives near Fishers Landing, assistant director of Save the River, a Clayton nonprofit dedicated to preserving the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding area, has been friends with Ms. Flora “since we were little” and thought it was a good time to share her book with the world. She contacted the author to tell her about a grant Save the River offered that was funded by the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council in Watertown.
Save the River sent a grant proposal to the Youth Philanthropy Council asking for funds to publish the book.
The grant was approved in early 2013, and the book was published in August.
“My intention has always been to publish it,” said Ms. Flora of Clayton, originally of Red Hook. “I worked at Fort Drum; with starting a family and a busy work schedule, life just got in the way.”
“It would not have happened without the assistance of the grant,” she said.
When the publishing project was presented to Save the River’s education committee, Heather White, a board member who is a kindergarten teacher at Sherman Elementary School in Watertown, suggested adding informational inserts to the book to help it align with Common Core standards. That way teachers could write lesson plans on it to use in the classroom. It was decided that Mrs. White would add the information to the book.
“This book project was a good fit with Save the River’s In the Schools program. It’s a beautiful story of a heron, and with us adding the nonfiction part, it makes a complete package,” she said.
Mrs. White, whose kids are “sixth-generation on Wellesley Island,” has introduced lessons for her class that correlate with the lessons taught in the book. She also built a full-scale model of a heron’s nest for her students, and some children were surprised to see that the nest was bigger than they were.
“Whenever you can add a hands-on experience to a lesson, it helps the student to understand the material,” Mrs. White said.
Ms. Flora decided to donate all the proceeds from sales of the book to the In the Schools program. Launched in 2009, this program introduced a partnership with local schools that educate students about the St. Lawrence River. The program assists with curriculum development and field-trip support.
Kate Breheny of Clayton, Save the River’s program director, said two schools have purchased sets of the book for their libraries: Watertown’s Sherman Elementary and Guardino Elementary School in Clayton.
“By us having the book in our schools, the students are learning about the heron and the organization,” Ms. Breheny said. She said selling the book through Amazon has enabled the nonprofit to reach an “international audience.”
The book was published through CreateSpace, an Amazon company that allows people to self-publish their work online.
Between online sales and school sales, the book has sold 380 to 400 copies, with more sales expected as more people become aware of it.
Ms. Flora plans to write two more books about Haas and hopes to use more original illustrations by her late mother for “The Stormy Adventure” and by Ms. Weiss for “How a Heron Hunts.”
The book can be purchased either at Save the River or Amazon for $10.
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