Children’s Book Series: Adding Art into STEM 

When you think back to your childhood and the activities you would do, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s coloring or drawing a picture, making something with Playdoh or clay, or even learning to read through basic picture books. All these activities are related to the arts, which help children develop creativity, ingenuity, communication, and performance skills to assist them throughout their education and formative years.  

In 2016, Bolton & Menk created a series of children’s books dedicated to increasing awareness of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) careers. The series aims to teach students ages 6-12 about important construction, environmental, and social issues that landscape architects and engineers help solve, while also introducing industry-relevant terms. 

This unique series shares technical information in an easy-to-understand format. From cover to cover, these 20-page books broaden a child’s perspective of the world, showing them career possibilities they may not have seen before. Highlighting careers that align with STEAM interests gives students the confidence to try something new and discover passions they might not have otherwise realized. 

Bolton & Menk asked professional staff to write each book; each author developed the concept, wrote the text, and assisted with storyboarding and reviewing the final book. The firm partnered with Lime Valley Advertising in Mankato, Minnesota to develop the illustrations, with the final layout completed by Bolton & Menk’s Creative Studio

Each book begins by introducing the character and then explains the STEAM-related field through creative storytelling. The books all end with a glossary to encourage conversation around the book’s topic. The different characters show how elements of landscape architecture, planning, and engineering can all work together, highlighting the multi-disciplinary nature of making improvements to a built environment. Our characters span a variety of ages, ethnicities, and genders, allowing readers to see themselves in the story.

Children's book storyboard sketch
 
 
colored storyboard illustration
 
Storyboard draft and final illustration.
 

Each book begins by introducing the character and then explains the STEAM-related field through creative storytelling. The books all end with a glossary to encourage conversation around the book’s topic. The different characters show how elements of landscape architecture, planning, and engineering can all work together, highlighting the multi-disciplinary nature of making improvements to a built environment. Our characters span a variety of ages, ethnicities, and genders, allowing readers to see themselves in the story.

Group of students with Bolton & Menk's Will the Civil Engineer book
 
 

Lime Valley Advertising believed in the effectiveness of these books. According to their art director, Brian Maciej, “When the engineers are speaking to their skill as a passion, it’s extremely effective. Kids can use their imagination and put themselves in the story.”  

This is realized, in part, because of how visual these books are. Maciej says that a visual can take complex and highly technical messages and break them down into art and design – you’re going back to your basic universal language, pictures.  

This children’s book series started as one publication in partnership with the Smithsonian Waterways Traveling Exhibit, but soon expanded to include many careers near and dear to our hearts. Whether it’s Green Trees and Sam, Parker the Planner, Will the Civil Engineer, or Lindsey the GIS Professional, both kids and adults can learn about the career skills needed in a clear and concise manner, enhancing their knowledge of how the world around them is built, while bolstering critical and creative thinking skills. 

Bolton & Menk employee reading to a classroom of kids sitting on the floor
 
 

You can read the entire series online or purchase a hard copy for yourself! As of summer 2023, 10 books have been published, including one in Spanish. Be sure to check out our partnership with Esri at SteamAtWork.com to find a variety of online learning materials related to each story for educational opportunities beyond the story itself. 

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