Rachel Crandell was a second grade teacher who needed to teach about the rainforest. But the rainforest was being cut down at a fearful rate. Nevertheless, Rachel was determined to finding something hopeful and inspiring for her 2nd grade class to learn about. As she said, “I am a teacher who loves to learn hands-on, doing real projects with results that make a difference.”
She ended up not only escorting many children to the rainforest, but also helping to protect The Children’s Eternal Rainforest by founding the Monteverde Conservation League U.S. She motivated thousands of children from many countries to support the rainforest. Rachel was a wonderful example of how one idea put into action can make a difference.
As she said, “I have led a dozen trips to tropical rainforests to study tropical ecology. I give slide presentations to schools, clubs and organizations. I share resources and ideas through workshops and this site. I write children’s books about indigenous cultures. I promote the sale of sustainable products from tropical rainforests. I am a rainforest advocate; thus, my name is Rainforest Rachel.”
As reported in the St. Louis Beacon, in 2001, immediately after retiring from a nearly two-decade teaching career, Mrs. Crandell contributed to Six Inches to England: An Anthology of International Children’s Stories. It was quickly followed in 2002 by Hands of the Maya: Villagers at Work and Play. In 2008, she collaborated with a former colleague’s daughter, Kristin Pratt-Serafini, on a children’s book celebrating the 20th anniversary of work she had helped make possible, preservation of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The book was The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure.
“I thought, ‘How cool would it be to write the story of the children’s rainforest’,” Pratt-Serafini recalled. “Rachel came up with the plot and did the research; I wrote the narrative and did the illustrations. It was really inspiring to work with someone who cared that much about what she did; she was a very selfless lady.”
Mrs. Crandell advised aspiring writers like Pratt-Serafini to let their hearts lead them, because it’s how she chose to write.
Lynne Cherry, author of The Great Kapok Tree, read The Forever Forest and said, “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t change the world. For the creatures that call the Children’s Eternal Rainforest HOME, the children who saved that forest made the difference between life and death. I feel so grateful that Rachel Crandell and Kristin Joy Pratt have finally told the story of El Bosque Eterno de los Nios a testament to the power of children.”
Rachel was happy that children around the world made a difference by saving a huge wilderness area in Costa Rica. She said, “This precious wild place is home to thousands of species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. You will find this book gorgeously illustrated by Kristin, chock full of tropical information, and inspired by the efforts of children from 44 countries. After reading The Forever Forest, you may find yourself wanting to help, too!”
When she needed to teach her second graders about the rainforest, It led her to discover the Children’s Eternal Forest (the Bosque Eterno de los Nios, or BEN) of Costa Rica. The BEN itself started in 1986 when Swedish second graders got the idea to help save 25 acres of tropical rainforest. That idea expanded into a world-wide youth-led effort to do something much bigger purchase 54,000 acres of tropical rainforest. By 2007, the 20th anniversary of the BEN, the organization that Rachel founded had raised over a quarter of a million dollars for its support.
As Rachel and Kristin wrote, “Children around the world are beginning to write this next chapter of this story. Edmund Burke once said, ‘Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.’ Thanks go to the little Swedish kids long ago who chose to do something. They began to protect tropical rainforest and many friends have helped since. Now the Children’s Eternal Forest has a chance to be a forest . . . forever.”
Rachel’s story is told at http://mclus.org/in-memoriam-rachel-crandell/