Fortunately, there are a lot of things I do not know.
This is good because my job is to find local mysteries. Mysteries are everywhere and many can be discovered just by asking the right questions.
One fall when my son was three, he asked me where the bugs go in the winter. I thought I would go to the library and find a book. But there wasn’t a book. So I did the research to write one.
I was already a science writer for adults. I understood the process. I read the journal articles and took notes. I found experts. I asked questions. And I listened. By doing this I learned about the amazing Arctic woolly bear caterpillar that freezes solid in the winter. And I also learned about dragonflies, pavement ants, ladybugs, and monarch butterflies.
I not only learned about the insects, I learned about the people who study them. They were exploring the mysteries of how the natural world works, and I felt honored to know them.
After I wrote my book, I found an editor who was as excited by bugs as I am, and eventually we published the book Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter.
Another time I found a mystery because I was captivated by a kind of tree. I learned that Jack pines are part of a fire ecosystem. Their pinecones are covered with a resin. The resin comes off with heat. And then and only then do the cones open and the seeds fall out. I found that so exciting. It was a part of the natural world that was hidden, a mystery.
After learning about Jack pines, I heard about the endangered Kirtland’s warbler that nests below these trees. Again, I researched, interviews and listened. I also walked among the trees and tried to see the bird. I talked with researchers who study the bird in Michigan and those who follow the bird’s migration. There were tree specialists and fire experts. I interacted with many smart and curious people. Eventually I wrote Fire Bird.
More recently I learned that a neighbor of mine, a professor at a local university, designed a solar panel system that could literally power the world. Her suggestion is to set up panels and windmills on the Sahara Desert. The systems would not only provide more electricity than the world uses now, and it would help the local environment of the desert.
My neighbor gives me hope. And so do all the other brilliant people studying the way the universe works and finding new ways to solve environmental problems.
My job is to explain the mysteries these people have solved. In the process I hope to get other people as excited as I am about the wonderful, weird and fragile world we live in. Every time I learn something new, I love that I can share it with my readers.
Amy S. Hansen has authored over a dozen books for children, mostly about the science of everyday life. She has also written for several children’s magazines, including Highlights for Children, and her electronic encyclopedia, Earth Explorer, received a Parents’ Choice Award. Discover more at www.amyshansen.com.