Binghamton University student aims to teach evolutuion through children’s book

Robert Kadar collects stories for Kickstarter-funded project

One Binghamton University student hopes to evolve the children’s book formula with the Kickstarter project “Great Adaptations.”

“Great Adaptations” is a collection of 10 short stories, produced and organized by Robert Kadar, a graduate student at BU studying anthropology, and written by Tiffany Taylor, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Reading in England.

The stories themselves are narrative poems that teach children about a specific scientific phenomenon, with a focus on evolution. Each story is also accompanied by illustrations by different artists, like James Munro, Yuko Ota, Rosemary Mosco and J.N. Wiedle.

Kadar said books such as “Aesop’s Fables” and Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” inspired the project.

“It came to me that it would be great for kids to actually have stories about the nature of animals because they’re just as cool as fantasy stories,” Kadar said.

“Great Adaptations” also features short notes at the end of each story to explain the scientific and evolutionary aspects. These notes are written by a team of various scientists from the United States, England and Germany, including faculty and students from BU, like Anne Clark, a biology professor; Ben Eisenkop, a third-year doctoral candidate studying biology who gained fame on Reddit under the username “Unidan”; and David Sloan Wilson, a biology professor and the director of the evolutionary studies program.

Kadar got in contact with Taylor to present his idea for “Great Adaptations” after he discovered her first children’s book, “Little Changes,” which was published two years ago. The book also took the concept of evolution and made it accessible and fun for young children. Taylor said that Kadar pitched her the idea of creating scientifically accurate entertainment for kids that incorporated the work of both scientists and artists.

“I was really excited about the idea of a close collaboration between science, art and poetry, and I thought it had a lot of potential to excite and inspire a future generation of scientists,” Taylor said.

The funds for the book were raised on Kickstarter, with an original goal set at $25,000. The collaborators hosted an AMA, or Ask Me Anything, with Unidan on Reddit during their fundraising to help raise interest in the project. At its closing, they raised $52,026 with 1,620 backers on Kickstarter.

Publication is slated for October 2014.

Emily Groenendaal, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, said that she is looking forward to seeing how the book turns out.

“I think this book is a really, really good idea,” Groenendaal said. “I think the idea of poems and having different illustrators would be really interesting and captivating for the kids while also helping them to learn, and the fact that its an international project makes it more desirable because it would be more legitimate. With more hands essentially stirring the pot, there would then be more ideas and the information will probably be better conveyed.”