BRIGHAM CITY — When it comes to kids, it turns out brine shrimp are a crowd pleaser.
At a special event at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on Saturday, young visitors and their parents came from as far as West Valley and even Boston to read a new children’s book, create brine shrimp ecospheres and look through microscopes at crystals from Great Salt Lake.
“I think it’s pretty cool how we get to see all the brine shrimp,” said Gracie Swensen, 11, from Wellsville.
Swensen is a junior ranger volunteer at the refuge.
“I like that we get our own little brine shrimp,” said Beatrix Schweiger, 10, a fellow junior ranger from Wellsville.
She was referring to brine shrimp eggs and food that participants could put in little baggies, ready to take home and grow a brine shrimp ecosphere using salt and water.
The new children’s book, “The GREAT Great Salt Lake Monster Mystery,” was written by Dr. Bonnie Baxter and Jaimi Butler, who have worked together to build the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College.
“We noticed when we were raising our own kids that there was no children’s book on Great Salt Lake,” Baxter said. “... We just recognized a void, I guess. It was in our mind for a long time to write one.”
She said they threw around the idea for 10 years and then spent five years writing it. Their goal was to publish the book by the time Butler’s youngest, Cora was in college.
Cora’s currently seven, so they made their deadline.
The main characters in the story are their children — Butler’s are John and Cora and Baxter’s are Lela and Ava. Ava didn’t want to be in the book, so she’s the narrator.
As the children search for the monster, they go on an adventure through the lake’s ecosystem.
This is the book’s major message — the one the authors want children and their parents to take with them after reading it.
“It is a remarkable ecosystem,” Baxter said.
“Remarkable and important,” Butler added. “... People love to hate Great Salt Lake. We love to talk about how stinky it is and how many bugs there is while not recognizing how important it is for birds and people.”
The monster is an invitation to enter that ecosystem, and the book leaves the existence of the monster up in the air at the end, even though the authors are scientists.
“We crowdsourced ... and the kids wanted a monster,” Baxter said.
The book is also unique because it communicates knowledge about science through a story, a blending of fiction and non-fiction.
Because of this unique format and the book’s hyper-local focus, it was difficult to find a publisher. So Baxter and Butler set up their own publishing company, called Salty Sirens.
The book is sold only at independent, local bookstores.
It can be purchased at The Queen Bee and the Ogden Nature Center in Ogden, the Wild About Birds Nature Center in Layton and several stores in the Salt Lake area.
Baxter and Butler have worked with science specialists in Salt Lake and Granite school districts to formulate science curriculum relating to Great Salt Lake and its ecosystem.
Teachers can download this curriculum free of charge from the “Teacher Resources” section of the Great Salt Lake Institute’s website.
The curriculum provides resources, especially for sixth grade, which teachers wanted help with after science standards for that grade level were retooled a couple of years ago, Butler said.
Baxter and Butler also provide teacher workshops and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.