Thursday, June 6, 2019

5•7•5: Science, Art and Poetry

To Script or Not Script:

I have produced 8 short animated documentaries for kids and families about life cycles and I found no necessity for a script and voice over. These stories tell themselves. The first short in the Anim8Nature series is the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly…a story most children learn by kindergarten. I wanted to make them as accessible as possible for the largest audience, with no language barriers.


My objective with this series is to get children and their families outdoors, observing nature and asking questions. That and the fact that the running time on most of these is around one minute…they are not intended to be a definitive treatise on the subject. 

However, as I expand the subject matter of my films to include more phenomena, I am beginning to consider the benefit of a script. I have lots of experience writing for preschool. I had the privilege of producing an animated series of interstitials for HBO Family. My independent project Bees Buzz & Lions Roar was 30 minutes of preschool animated shorts and stories.  This work is intended for an older audience.


Haiku is a kind of poetry developed Japan that consists of a total of seventeen syllables. Three lines with five, seven and five syllables. Traditionally these poems are about nature.

Most of my creative writing of the last few years has been haiku. As a devotee of Asian culture in general and specifically the arts, this does not surprise me. The poems below were written in November of 2018 on my walks in the woods in Central Virginia right before I moved to Brooklyn.

                                                     Color of copper
                                                     Festoons the woods in autumn
                                                     Leaves crunch under foot

                                                     Sun setting too soon
                                                     I anticipate solstice
                                                     Warm sun on my back

                                                     I startle a squirrel
                                                     She stays and eats her acorn
                                                     A friend in the woods

However, a script based on haiku seems a bit far fetched? Or does it?

Proof frame of work in progress

Lunar Cycle:

Currently I am collaborating with astronomer, Dr. Jason Aufdenberg on an animated doc about the lunar cycle in relationship to the sun and tides. The time frame is 14 days, from new moon to full moon. Starting to work on the script, I stumbled upon an article about organizations referencing haiku when writing their mission statement.  This inspired me to update Anim8Nature’s mission statement.


Anim8Nature’s films creatively express awe for the physical manifestation of a variety of natural phenomena without misrepresenting them. 
(That’s why collaborating with scientists is so important.)

Poetry and Learning Science:

Further researching haiku and its many uses, I found this article about haiku in science classrooms and I was off and running. Of course, all of the arts play a role in education; music, literature and visual arts.

Proof frame of work in progress

Drawing/Animating to Learn:

Like all of you, I have enjoyed observing the moon. However, this process of animating it was been such an education. That has really been true for all of the animated docs I am made.Yes, creating content explaining phenomena is an amazing educational tool for the content creator. It works for kids too, I see this is my workshops.

Stay tuned as my haiku inspired lunar cycle scripts develops.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Breathing Easier: An Urban Green Space

First Visit to Green-Wood

I visited Green-Wood Cemetery Friday for the first time. I’m sure I had noticed it on a map of Brooklyn, which I am referencing constantly these days.  However it just didn’t occur to me that it was such an important asset for our community or that I would be so mesmerized by what it has to offer.

The World Health Organization summarizes the benefits of urban green spaces as:
        • Facilitating physical activity and relaxation
        • A refuge from noise
        • Trees that produce oxygen
        • Trees that help filter out harmful air pollution, including airborne particulate matter

An Introduction

Let’s start with the basics. Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838. It is now a National Historic Landmark and accredited arboretum. I was interested to learn it actually predates Central Park in Manhattan. Green-Wood is one of the islands of green space in an ocean of cityscape. Together they form a network for animals, insects and seeds to thrive in this urban environment.

        • 478 acres of mostly open land with 4 bodies of water
        • largest “collection” of mature trees in NYC
        • countless species of birds, insects and small mammals
        • supports honeybees with hives and flowering plant
        • proactive interest in environmental education

Violets Photo Credit: Jörg Hempel

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring: A Time and Place

Photo Credit: MusicAnimal, Heckscher Playground and Central Park South Skyline from Rat Rock, Wikipedia
I found myself in Central Park one afternoon last week. As an outdoor enthusiast and gardener, I was surprised I had not considered it a destination. In the past I have visited the Park numerous times, but not since I moved to Brooklyn 4 months ago. I was on my way from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to a meeting at Columbus Circle. I walked through the Park and felt like I was in a time warp.

Photo Credit: Danielle Racke

One of my dreams as an environmental educator/artist/media producer is to coordinate groups of students in different locations as they share their observations about signs of the changing seasons. This would be done on some cool web portal that let the student enter text and images and compare notes. I see this happening at the Claytor Nature Center at the University of Lynchburg, where I have conducted workshops and somewhere like the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Narrows Botanical Garden here in Brooklyn.

Photo Credit: Ingfbruno, Central Park, The Dairy

Back to my experience at Central Park....I was very surprised to see how many indicators of Spring were further along than what I was seeing everyday in my neighborhood in SW Brooklyn (Bay Ridge). For instance, Central Park had fields of daffodils, forsythia bursting forth, deciduous magnolias further along than my neighborhood and subtle differences in the flowering of maples and other trees. These may seem minor, but again my sense was that I had been fast forwarded in time. 

Extra excitement was provided by one hawk in flying through the trees and three over head. A good omen?

Photo Credit: Ram-Man, Red-tailed Hawk

As I walked, I pondered my hypothesis for the "dramatic" differences. Perhaps not all that dramatic but still...something was going on. I looked up and around and saw the high rises on all sides of the park. I wondered if it was some kind of "oven effect". The heat generated by the buildings and the heat reflected off of the buildings, streets and sidewalks were creating a micro-climate. Ecologists jump in here and help me out.

NOT springtime in this photo but great view of the park. Photo Credit: Martin St-Amant

I am  looking forward to getting more time in Central Park soon.

1870 Vaux and Olmstead Map of Central Park, New York City 

Quite a few things have changed this week since I was in Central Park. I haven't been back yet but I see a lot of changes in my neighborhood. Cherry trees are starting to blossom and the magnolias are out in full force. Spring is an express of a specific time and place. Like all things, it is constantly changing.

Dogwood flowers yet in Brooklyn, but coming soon,

One of the amazing things about Spring is that it comes in fits and starts and no matter how it manifests, it is appreciated. Today was 65 degree, a sunny day and glorious in its expression of Spring. I volunteered at the Narrows Botanical Garden which is part of the park system along the coast of Bay Ridge where I live in Brooklyn. I feel like a human being again. I had dirt under my finger nails and spent time this afternoon with other people who like to do the same thing....get their hands in dirt. Adjusting to life in the big city isn't necessarily easy but there are many benefits along the way.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rewilding: 12 Years of Connecting with Nature Part1

What I Learned from the Trees

I grew up on the edge of the woods and I am always drawn to the trees around me.
The past 12 years I have lived in Central Virginia on a 3 acre plot of land that borders the Blackwater Creek Natural Area. I have enjoyed working/wandering my own little plot but spent many hours walking the trails along the creek and biking on the bike path that crosses the James River.

Trees in the Yard

Almost all of the artwork I have created since coming to Lynchburg is a direct reflection of my engagement with this place. A huge magnolia tree graces my backyard. I frequently took branches from that tree for my students at Lynchburg College to draw during class. It didn't take me long to join in the fun and start my own series of magnolia drawings.

 Magnolia Branch One
mixed media on paper

Monday, September 17, 2018

Close Encounter of the Avian Kind

I opened my front door this morning to be greeted by a hummingbird flying straight at me, in a friendly way. I assumed it would fly off immediately but no, it kept coming back to the porch four or five times.

public domain

What is it about interacting with an animal that is so captivating? An even better experience is when it is aware of your presence and seems to acknowledge it in some way. Don't you just wish you could have a real conversation with them. 

Photo: Kristin Harris

I was saddened by the fact that I had recently pulled up scores of zinnias that had attracted the hummingbirds and many other birds and insects, especially the yellow finches. Maybe the hummingbird this morning was registering a protest or asking where they went?

Hummingbirds can be belligerent  little bullies. I was quite surprised to learn this recently. I didn't see this behavior with the zinnias. Perhaps I would have seen it if I had a hummingbird feeder. I makes sense that they protect their sources of food and mating territory. They don't look like toughies!

What kind of close encounter did you have today?

Related Post:

Have You Thanked a Tree Today

Animating Nature & Science

I see a world where the transformative power of art and the creative problem solving of science blossom together. This is possible when we encourage our children to explore science with art and allow them time to imagine and create. Anim8Nature is dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship by exploring science with art and encouraging careful observation of the natural world.

Learn more about on this blog and our website. I have assembled a team of experts to create media, lesson plans and workshops to help students and families explore science with art. We want to spark curiosity and get kids outside as environmental stewards. Join us.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Moment with a Praying Mantis

Creating content for children appeals to me primarily because children have a sense of wonder that many lose as adults. Children's imagination engine is firing on all cylinders. It doesn't hurt that my mental age is 5 years old. There is a natural affinity.

Many of our formative experiences as children frame our lives.  So as a creator, it's fun to imagine producing content that makes that kind of impression. It's even more fun to have those experiences that engage the awe and wonder of childhood.

Praying Mantis        Public Domain

Sunday, August 12, 2018

4 Ways to Say Goodbye

I am saying goodbye to Central Virginia after living here for over 12 years. My home in Lynchburg is on 3 acres (much of it trees) that borders a large rails-to-trails park system along the Black Water Creek. I have probably spend over 1500 hours walking on the trails and riding on the bike path over the years. Many more hours were spent puttering around my vegetable garden, a water garden and a flower garden. 

My California Giant Zinnias

I am saying goodbye because I am moving to Brooklyn into what I can only assume will be a small apartment.  This move is for the happiest of reasons and we are thrilled to be making this transition. That said, I will be leaving some wonderful outdoor spaces that have fed my soul and informed much of my artwork and animation for the last 12 years.

1. Savor Every Moment Together

5•7•5: Science, Art and Poetry

To Script or Not Script: I have produced 8 short animated documentaries for kids and families about life cycles and I found no necessity f...