Posted by: Through the Eyes of Women | March 13, 2011

March 21, 2011 Host Corinne Frugoni intervews Children’s Author Christine Petersen.


My first taste of writing came at age eleven, when Road Rider magazine published my review of a children’s book called Mouse Margaret, by Rimsky Jones. It was a fitting first vocation. I was the child who was so immersed in books that she read while walking home from school—the one who came into the school library twice a week for a new stack of books, which the librarian had already picked out in anticipation. I lived and loved the characters like members of my family—a habit I haven’t quite outgrown.

The landscape of my childhood was another powerful influence on my developing awareness of the world. I grew up in the small California coastal town of Laguna Beach. The beach there is long and narrow, and the shore dips sharply downward. This produces fast and high waves that crash with fury even at low tide, and an undertow that requires parents to keep a constant eye on their bathing children. I went to sleep each night to the sound of booming waves, and can hear them still in my memory. Weather permitting, we walked and played on the beach every day of the year. I told my parents long, convoluted tales as we watched for whales spouting offshore, or while rock-hopping among the tidepools in search of shells, sea stars, and other tidepool creatures.

Narrative and nature remained powerful influences into my adulthood. The challenge I faced was how to mesh them in a career. Eventually I chose to study biology, specializing in the behavioral ecology of bats. An unexpected event laid the groundwork for a shift in my focus from fieldwork to education. After completing a survey of bats at an historic ranch north of San Francisco, my adviser suggested that I inform the community about my work and results. Almost two dozen people showed up at that first naturalist program, following me into the redwood forest to observe as I caught bats and explained their vital role in the ecosystem.

Through my work as a naturalist I began to recognize that public education plays a crucial role in the cycle of scientific research. I gradually made the shift from field research to formal education, teaching science and media at an independent middle school in Minnesota. I used inquiry, citizen science, and project-based learning to explore questions about the natural and physical world with my students. Bat programs continued to be an important part of my summer routine. Along the way I gave in to another old and nagging urge. I began to write.

In 2007 I left teaching to work as a professional freelance writer and environmental educator. To date I have published more than three dozen educational resource books for readers in grades 2-12 and written two magazine articles on natural history. Between book projects I post to an environmental blog called “Intelligence with the Earth” (see the link above).


Christine is a graduate of:

Hamline University, Department of Education (Center for Global Environmental Education):

San Francisco State University, Department of Biology

Christine is a member of the following professional organizations:

• Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

• The Authors Guild

• American Society of Journalists and Authors

• National Science Teachers Association

• Minnesota Science Teachers Association

• North American Association for Environmental Education

• Minnesota Association for Environmental Education

• National Association for Interpretation

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