— by Glenn Hovemann
After making books that connect children and nature for 33 years—Sharing Nature with Children was published in 1979—Dawn is on the cusp of a huge advance as we publish our first-ever app. Based on the book Over in the Ocean, this is a “book-app” that teachers and parents in particular, are going to love.
“Dawn has entered a brave new era!” my wife and co-publisher, Muffy Weaver, exclaimed when the app made its debut on Apple’s App Store. But perhaps the most encouraging thing of all is the response of teachers when they actually saw it on the iPad. “As a mother and educator, this App is a treasure!” exclaimed Mrs. MJ Broker in an App Store comment, citing “teachable moments” in reading, math, and science.
I previewed the app with two particularly experienced educators, Sandy McDivitt and Carol Malnor. Sandy, now retired, was until recently the Executive Director of the 650-student Forest Charter School in Nevada City, California, a school that features “personalized learning.” Carol is the former Director of Online Learning at Performance Learning Systems, as well as a long-time teacher and an author.
“The great thing about this app is that it uses multiple senses,” Sandy said. “For decades there was an almost-exclusive focus on visual skills, but this app stimulates auditory learning skills as children listen to the author either reading or singing. And it has an important tactile, physical movement as well as students play the counting game.” Studies show that more learning occurs when more senses are involved.
Carol pointed out that the app provides “focused engagement,” an especially good thing for “squirmers”—children who just can’t sit still to read, or even when they are being read to.
“Brain-compatible activities,” Carol said, “are those that are (a) meaningful, (b) useful, (c) fun, and (d) either interesting or something with which there is an emotional connection. It’s meaningful because the fishy facts are informative, presented interestingly, and are visually appealing. It’s useful because after children count and learn about the animals, they use what they have learned at the end, in the counting game. It’s fun—that’s for sure!—having the pufferfish puff or the octopus squirt ink when the screen is touched. And there’s an emotional connection because the app is all about mothers and babies, which is something that kids really care about. This app pretty much has it all.”
“In addition,” Carol said, “the app provides variety and choice—two more important components in successful learning—when the child selects among three options, read to me, read to myself, or sing to me.
“I personally think, as an educator, that apps are going to revolutionize the way that we think and learn,” she said. “With iPads and similar devices we can find avenues for children to explore whatever interest they have. I’m excited for learners!”
Many of Dawn’s books lend themselves to fun, educational apps or ebooks. This is just the beginning. Of course, we picked an outstanding book by an outstanding author and illustrator to be the first project. Marianne Berkes’ talents as an author really shine, and Jeanette Canyon’s polymer clay art is just outrageous. And fortunately, our developer, Malachi Bazan (see Artist of the Month at right) has just the right aptitude and attitude for the job. He’s the one who made it all happen.