2019 Children's Science News - Silver

In her winning entry, Canadian science writer Sharon Oosthoek followed efforts by scientists trying to save Hawaii’s endangered alula, a plant that once was widely used in decorative leis. She lured her readers into the story from the outset, writing: “Somewhere on a windswept cliff on the edge of the Hawaiian island of Kauai grows a plant that looks like a cabbage on a stick. It’s the last wild plant of its kind, and its exact location is a closely guarded secret.” Oosthoek described efforts by horticulturists to save that last, lonely plant by cultivating offspring in greenhouses and laboratories. They use small paintbrushes to pollinate the plants by hand. She also investigated what a pollination process confined to greenhouses means for the future of the species in the wild. “Writing about plants, especially for a kids’ audience, is a tall order,” Christine Dell’Amore said, “but Sharon’s lively, concise writing undoubtedly educated children on a subject they probably haven’t heard much about.” The story explored endangered plants as an introduction to broader ecological issues and left young readers to deliberate on the challenges. Anna Rothschild, two-time AAAS Kavli award winner and multimedia producer for the FiveThirtyEight website, said the story is “about conservation, adventure, and passion. It gives young readers a glimpse at perhaps the biggest question many environmental scientists ask themselves: Am I doing enough?” Commented Sharon Oosthoek: “When rare plant hunter Steve Perlman told me losing a species is a lot like losing a friend, I felt the emotional tug of his job. I knew then I wanted to write a piece that conveyed to our young readers not only the sound scientific reasons for protecting rare plants, but also the humanity that drives this work.”