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Leopold Week  •  Virtual Programming


A Sand County Almanac Virtual Book Club for Educators

The Phoenix Zoo and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are very pleased to announce a virtual book club designed specifically for educators. We hope you’ll join us as we explore Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.

Like so many people, I was first introduced to Aldo Leopold through his book. It was a serendipitous experience, as I had never heard of Leopold or sought out the Almanac before. I was simply leaving for a research trip to Mexico studying ocelot habitat usage and trying to determine how people and predators could coexist. Upon my departure, a friend tucked a book in my backpack and said I might want something to read during my time off. I laughed, knowing there would be precious little of that!

Two weeks into my expedition, I did, indeed, slip away for some “me time.” I found a hammock on a stretch of private beach. It was just me, the surf, warm sand in the afternoon sun, and the Sierra Madres in the distance. I opened the book my friend had gifted me, and embarked on a new journey that day that did not end until the sun went down, and I could no longer see the words on the page.

Virtual Book Club

The perfect landscape setting to read about Leopold’s “Sand Counties.”

Throughout that afternoon journey, there were many moments when I laughed in excitement, when I delighted in the sheer craftsmanship of descriptive words, and when I gasped at my own personal discoveries, as I identified with so much of what I read. At some points, I had to stop to catch my breath and to clear my eyes, as the tears of self-revelation made it impossible to read.

When I finished my first reading of A Sand County Almanac, I knew my life would never be the same. And it wasn’t. That single book, that exceptional afternoon, that inviting hammock and welcoming beach opened the door to a whole new adventure for me. It marked a dramatic change in my own personal focus and my career. It lit a fire I had not previously experienced, and that has led me to some truly wonderful experiences and people.

Virtual Book Club

Throughout the years since that sunny afternoon in Mexico, Leopold has shown up in the most unexpected ways. His essays enabled me to bring language arts concepts alive for my students and inspire them to be better communicators. His books allowed me to introduce environmental topics in ways that were far more personal, reflective, and engaging to foster stewardship. He has even influenced my personal travels and life experiences.

Because of the personal impact Leopold had on me, I am keenly aware of how he continues to inspire new audiences. That is why I jumped at the chance to collaborate with Eric Proctor from the Arizona Game and Fish Department to initiate this virtual reading club.

Virtual Book Club

In just a few days, we will begin reading A Sand County Almanac as group of educators and people motivated to make a difference in our world. Once a month, from January through May, we will have the opportunity to respond to some online questions and discussion prompts to encourage a deeper analysis of not only Leopold’s words and philosophy, but also what it says to us personally, and what it can mean to our students and peers. We will explore ways to implement Leopold and his work into various formal and non-formal educational settings and content areas. In addition, each month will culminate with an online, live book club meeting. These meetings will be shaped by the direction of conversation sparked by the monthly prompts and by the thoughts and ideas of the participants who are able to join us online.

If you are a formal or non-formal educator seeking new ways to integrate language arts, science, and conservation, then this free professional development opportunity might just be a doorway for you as well. To learn more about our book club, please visit this link to sign up. If you have any questions, you may also reach me at mmills@phoenixzoo.org.