Multidisciplinary design firm Bolton & Menk came about the idea of a children’s book when the firm was brainstorming ways to partner with communities that were hosting the Smithsonian Waterways Traveling Exhibit. The firm had completed a number of water improvement projects with a handful of the host communities and thought a children’s book about the water cycle (Walter the Raindrop) would be fun to develop and hand out in conjunction with children’s activities being offered in one of the communities. The idea grew from there as the design firm began to approach staff within its various work groups. Two more books were authored by staff within the landscape architecture and civil engineering groups. The purpose of the project has evolved into a much larger idea – to develop a series of children’s books that promote reading and education about landscape architecture, engineering, and how communities can be improved through planning and design. The e-books are available online for free on the firm’s website.
These books are expanding their reach and effectiveness to connect with even more audiences. They have the potential to reach a wide audience of youth to educate them about design and what we do to solve problems. They help youth understand how landscape architecture creates positive change on the environment (e.g. clean water strategies, habitat and plant community restoration) and in our communities (e.g. promoting social interaction, design for all users, health, safety, and wellness). The hope/goal is that these books inspire interest in STEAM-related (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) fields at a young age. According to a Metropolis Magazine article, most of those in the landscape, architecture, planning, and urban design fields chose their profession because they had a parent, some other family member, or family friend who was in a related profession. Some of these topics, landscape architecture in particular, are not frequently written about in children’s books and are charting into new territory for children in the 6-12 years age range. As a result, this book set has the potential to promote diversity in the associated professions that make up the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry.
Green Trees and Sam was developed as a fun and whimsical way to introduce children of all ages to the profession of landscape architecture. The book is short, simple, and easy to read, but touches upon a plethora of topics relating to landscape architecture and the types of skills that landscape architects can have. Interestingly enough, the book was initially written about a boy named Sam, and originally started with “This is Sam. Sam is the man. Sam designs parks with trees and a plan.” The idea then emerged that this children’s book served as a great opportunity to promote females in the professional world as well. The award-winning books have been shared at multiple schools and communities and have been a huge success.
Landscape architects understand the need for educating youth about the profession. This book is an example of how one firm leveraged their resources for the greater good of promoting the profession. For other K-12 resources, be sure to check out Your Land by the American Society of Landscape Architects and also the work of new nonprofit, Future Landscape Architects of America.