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Have You Seen Mary?

Award-Winning Book Teaches Kids About Migration

July 01, 2013

The Nature Conservancy recently completed a project with 32 schools across Nebraska. Copies of Have You Seen Mary? a children’s book written by Jeff Kurrus and featuring Michael Forsberg’s photographs, were sent to third and fourth grade teachers. In turn, the teachers shared the story, featuring two sandhill cranes searching for each other on the Platte River, with their students and evaluated what they learned about wildlife from reading it.

“Teachers reported significant gains in learning about sandhill cranes and Nebraska wildlife as a result of reading Have You Seen Mary?,” said Jill Wells, writer for the Conservancy. “The students overwhelmingly enjoyed the story and photographs, and showed an increase in interest in the spring migration.”

Many partners worked to make this project happen, including author Jeff Kurrus, who donated a portion of the books. “I donated the books because there is a large contingent of students who still don't know this great Nebraska phenomenon exists. Regardless of where I go to talk about the book, students are fascinated with these birds and the use of photographs to convey messages about this species as well as other species,” Kurrus said.

Funding for the project was also provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust (with support from the Nebraska Academy of Sciences) as part of their quarterly Public Information and Education mini-grants process.

The books will continue to be in high demand next school year. Have You Seen Mary? was nominated for the 2013-2014 Nebraska Golden Sower Awards, sponsored by the Nebraska Library Association. The nominee list is developed by selection committees of volunteer readers representing classroom teachers, media specialists, and librarians in Nebraska. Each list is created from nominated titles sent in by participating libraries and schools from across the state. Local library or school officials are responsible for selecting books from these lists they feel are appropriate for the needs and interests of their patrons or students. Voting eligibility requires readers to have read or heard a minimum of four of the current nominees from the category in which they will be voting. This means that demand for Have You Seen Mary? will be very high, and the copies will reach thousands of students in the year ahead.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $204 million in grants to over 1,500 projects across the state. Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Jill Wells
(402) 342-0282

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