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Want to Inspire Kids?

Learn from nature writer Lynne Cherry how to get past “motivated avoidance”

      The woods near Lynne Cherry’s girlhood home were her “whole world.” She spent her free time there, inspired by the plants and wildlife to hone skills that would become her livelihood and mission: drawing and writing. When the woods were razed for development, a fire ignited in Cherry’s youthful heart that burns still. Her life’s work has been to ignite that fire in other young hearts, because kids, she says, are hugely instrumental in addressing our planet’s environmental challenges.
        When the award-winning author/illustrator of many children’s books appears at Quiet Waters Park next week, she’ll tell a close-to-home story about Maryland kids saving Belt Woods in Prince George’s County, one of the largest remaining stands of old-growth hardwood forest on the Atlantic Coastal Plain.    She’ll show a few short films from Young Voices for the Planet, a documentary series she has produced and directed featuring kids who have made real impacts for planetary good, on their own initiative.
       Young Voices for the Planet, shown throughout the country in educational programs and broadcast on PBS, arose from Cherry’s realization that just giving kids the science on climate change and environmental destruction wasn’t enough to engage them in action.
         “For years as an educator on the environment, I hit my head against the wall,” she said. “I could see the doom and gloom come over their faces.” 
        Then Cherry found a study about “motivated avoidance.” When people are presented with a problem they feel powerless to change, they are motivated to avoid it. They go into denial.
       “As an author going around seeing kids in this state of motivated avoidance, I realized I had to give them success stories.”
        Young Voices for the Planet shows just how effective and successful kids can be: 11-year-old Olivia raised $200,000 to help rescue birds from the Gulf Coast oil spill. A group of kids successfully banned plastic bags in their community. A nine-year-old boy founded an organization that planted a billion trees in his native Germany and worldwide. Florida students saved their school $53,000 in energy bills. Children meet with their representatives and influence lawmaking. 
        “Kids want to take action, and their voices are so powerful,” Cherry says. “If we focused more on developing civics awareness, we would have a population that was more engaged. We’ve neglected explaining what a democracy is about. It doesn’t work without public participation.”
       Cherry’s lushly illustrated books include The Great Kapok Tree, A River Runs Wild and How the Groundhog’s Garden Grew. Flute’s Journey, written while she served as artist-in-residence at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, is the story of a wood thrush that begins life in Belt Woods.
          Cherry will be signing books after her talk, sponsored by the Anne Arundel Bird Club.
Wednesday, April 18, 7pm, Quiet Waters Park Blue Heron Center, Annapolis, free: 410-703-4664.