When Keith Crowley, director of Chewonki’s Traveling Natural History Programs (TNHP), heard that the 2015 summer reading theme at Maine public libraries would be “Every Hero Has a Story,” he smiled. One of his goals is to tie Traveling Natural History Programs to library and school curricula and he knew heroes would provide that link. “We support and enrich what a lead educator, whether in a library or a school, is teaching—and our live animals help bring the lessons to life,” Keith explains. “I immediately knew that we could create a wonderful program that would inspire young readers and get them interested in natural history. Creators of superheroes like Batman and Spider-Man have borrowed lots of super powers from the animal world.”
The new program is Hero Adaptations and it’s been in great demand at libraries and community centers around Maine all summer. In part because of his own love of superheroes, TNHP Educator Matthew Weeks took the lead in designing Hero Adaptations, which he and his colleagues have presented in 35 Maine communities since early June. Matt focused on the extraordinary adaptations (attributes acquired through evolution in response to the organism’s environment) of bats, spiders, and owls.
“Hero Adaptations has definitely been a hit and lots of fun to present, “ says Matt. “Who hasn’t wished he or she had super powers? I love teaching children about the amazing real powers that animals possess.”
Matt and his fellow TNHP staff members encouraged the dozens of children who saw Hero Adaptations to enter a statewide contest requiring them to create their own owl-inspired superhero, draw the creature, describe its super powers and how it uses them, and explain what it does for a day job. The TNHP staff received 45 entries and chose three runners-up and a grand prize winner. Runners-up are Katie H. B., age 8, from the Cundy’s Harbor Library in Harpswell; Eamonn, age 7 ½, from the Belgrade Center for All Seasons in Belgrade; and Jessica, age 4, from Naples Public Library. The winner of the grand prize is 10-year-old Izzy from the South Portland Public Library. Izzy wrote the story of the Hoot, owl, artist, and Olympic swimmer by day and hero by night, who is “super silent to sneak up on bad guys.” The Hoot’s laser eyes, ability to swivel his head 270 degrees, and sidekick, Echo, make him particularly dangerous to wrongdoers. Chewonki is presenting Izzy with a $25 gift certificate to Nonesuch Books, an independent bookstore in Izzy’s town.
Izzy drew the Hoot, an artist and Olympic swimmer by day, and the Hoot’s sidekick, Echo, who helps fight their archenemy, Atilla.
Eamonn’s Great Owl makes sure to “get enough sleep so he can catch bad guys at night.” By day, Great Owl works as “a mattress tester.”
Katie H. B.’s Ninja Owl Girl “can hear every single sound for miles. She is also a reporter who never forgets to ask the question, ‘Hoo?’ (Who?)”
Jessica chose to sculpt her characters in Play-Doh and take photos of them (this photo shows a spider, Owly Owl, and Batty Bat).
All four of these young library-goers deserve congratulations for the thoughtful way they listened to Hero Adaptations and for their super imagination.