My overriding motivation for writing is to create nature stories that fill children with awe, believing that when they are allowed to love nature first, children will develop the resolve to protect it later in life. As such, I refrain from overt preaching about conservation in my writing and instead focus on material that gives children the inspiration to develop their love of nature first.
My specific motivation for Pitter and Patter was an article about the world’s biggest cave— the Son Doong Cave in Vietnam—a cave so vast that a rainforest exists in its center. The photographs showed a fantastic world of water and life hidden from view. I thought about how water flowed through this system—how it carved out a vast, natural cathedral; how it plunged from unimaginable heights into the rapids below; how it moved up through the trees of the rainforest and fell back down again as rain. The photographs were a testament to the wonder of water on the move. My desire to capture this wonder for children resulted in Pitter and Patter.
Pitter and Patter is a gentle ride through the water cycle through the eyes of two raindrops. Pitter travels above ground encountering stream, river, wetlands, and ocean habitats and the organisms that live there. Patter drips below ground visiting meadow, soil, and cave habitats along the way before rejoining Pitter out at sea.
The story begins and ends at a gray cloud, allowing young readers to develop a ‘”big picture” understanding of the water cycle without being overburdened by terminology. As children enjoy the story and characters along the way, the science concepts of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection are illustrated, mapping out alternative paths that water takes as it cycles from ground to cloud.
Pitter and Patter also introduces the concepts of “watershed” and “habitat,” helping readers make connections between specific habitats and the organisms found there, and ultimately gaining an appreciation of biodiversity in general.
Above all, the story features nature as the “star,” stoking a child’s innate fascination in the natural world and paving the way for environmental stewardship later in life.
Children love the sound of rain and the crash of waves. They love to look at clouds. Through Pitter and Patter children see how the water cycle connects all these things that they love.
Editor’s note: As a biology teacher for 17 years, Martha Sullivan extensively covered ecology and sustainability. In 2011, she earned an MA in Education from the University of Bath with a thesis on Education for Sustainable Development. In 2013, she became a certified Master Gardener, master naturalist, and Master Composter through the University of Maryland Extension.