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International Journal Highlights ANHC’s Beatrix Potter Programming

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jane Jones-Schulz and Ruthie Berryhill developed an educational program in 2016 focusing on Beatrix Potter’s life story as an example of women working in the natural history field as part of Women’s History Month in March. The more Jane and Ruthie read about Potter, the more they found that sharing her life story helped them introduce facts about the mushrooms and lichens she illustrated, the struggles of women to be recognized in science and publishing, links to art and nature, and the importance of safeguarding public lands.

When Jane and Ruthie began to see the excitement, materials, and information leading up to the sesquicentennial of Potter’s birthday in 2016, they decided to make Potter the focus of the ANHC’s educational outreach for that year. Jane dove in and started compiling materials and information to create a more extensive speaking program and educator’s guide, and aligning the materials with the state’s education frameworks.

The program was given to a variety of school classes in which students dissected mushrooms and learned how to make spore prints. It was so popular that it was selected to be presented at the annual Arkansas statewide conference for school librarians. It was later selected to be presented at the annual Arkansas statewide conference for teachers of gifted and talented students. The program also became a favorite of public library summer reading programs for students, as well as women’s clubs, and senior life facilities.

Before Jane retired from her part-time position with the ANHC, she contacted the Beatrix Potter Society in the United Kingdom (UK). Founded in 1980, the Society is based in the UK, but has members worldwide. It promotes the study and appreciation of Potter’s life “in all its aspects and upholds and protects the integrity of her unique work and bequests”. The Society publishes a monthly e-newsletter “Pottering About” with the latest news from around the world. Jane had hoped the Society would be interested in our programming and write a short paragraph about it in their e-newsletter. The editor of “Pottering About,” Janet Sullivan, contacted Jane.

“Thank you for sending this – how very exciting and inspirational! I am going to forward your email to the editor of our print Journal and Newsletter (which I am also involved with). I think this is worthy of a longer mention than I can give it in ‘Pottering About’ – and I think it should be mentioned somewhere!” Sullivan said.

The Beatrix Potter Society’s Journal and Newsletter contains articles on Potter-related topics, from new research on all aspects of her life to discussion of her published works, and her later interests in sheep farming, conservation, and the National Trust. The ANHC and our Potter programming was featured on a page of the July issue of the Journal and Newsletter, including images of thank you notes Jane received from students who participated in one of her gifted and talented classroom programs in Texarkana. The article also linked to the ANHC’s website.

When we create educational programs and materials, we never know how far our reach will be. This time, the materials were able to reach people across the ocean.

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