NOAA Features Alumna's Children's Book: 'Ocean Adventures with Millie and Sam'

February 23, 2022 | Atlanta, GA

A recent graduate of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences was inspired by her daughter to co-write and illustrate a children’s science picture book for a class assignment — and now, that work has found a new home: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA's RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies) science program reached out to Annalisa Bracco, the professor who designed the class assignment. Bracco in turn contacted Devon Robinson (EAS '21) to see if she would work with the agency to help publish pages and art from “Ocean Adventures with Millie and Sam” on its website to help with its science communications goals. 

NOAA RESTORE is also publishing pages and art from two other Georgia Tech students who were in Bracco's class: "A Water Drop's Bedtime Story" led by nuclear and radiological engineering undergraduate student Luke Wells, and "Fred's Deep Ocean Adventures" co-written by Sophie McCabe, a chemical and biomolecular engineering undergraduate student.

NOAA RESTORE's story on Bracco's class and her students' works can be found here, along with a StoryMap with free downloads of each e-book.

Read the books:

A Water Drop's Bedtime Story written and illustrated by Luke Wells.

Fred's Deep Ocean Adventures written by Sophie McCabe, James Smalley, and Sydney Matyczynski. Illustrations by James Smalley.

Ocean Adventures with Millie and Sam," written by Danielle Newman, Clayton Parnell, Parinia Patel, Devon Robinson, and John Thompson. Illustrations by Devon Robinson.

Creative storytelling, effective communications

“We are very pleased to feature these children’s books, as they illustrate the importance of communicating deep-ocean science to younger audiences,” says Hannah O. Brown, communications and engagement specialist for the NOAA RESTORE Science Program, which is dedicated to Gulf of Mexico research. “Those young readers may become the next generation of researchers who ask important questions about the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.” 

“I am thrilled and honored to have this book chosen for e-publication by NOAA,” Robinson says. “It is important to have a wide range of science-based teaching tools available for children and everyone else. It is imperative that scientists are able to communicate effectively to promote fact-based decision making among individuals, communities, and governments.”

Bracco, who also researches ocean and atmospheric dynamics, came up with the idea for the assignment after a visit to a first-grade classroom. “I was finding out that they (the students) were not going to learn much about anything happening below the upper 200 meters of the water column,” she shared in fall 2020

Bracco addressed this by asking students in "EAS 4801: The Deep Ocean" to use creative storytelling — while avoiding scientific jargon — to bring the deep ocean to life for K-8 students.

For Robinson, this would come naturally, as her daughter Amelia was three years old when she developed “Ocean Adventures with Millie and Sam” with four fellow students: Danielle Newman, Clayton Parnell, Parinia Patel, and John Thompson. Robinson provided the artwork, and set up the idea for the book, as well as the storyboards. 

The book chronicles the journey that a young girl, Millie, takes with Sam, a sea turtle, to the ocean depths. Along the way, Sam introduces her to coral reefs and their populations, the dangers of plastic pollution for ocean species, underwater thermal vents, and the kinds of instruments scientists use to monitor the ocean’s vital signs.

In the last pages, Millie tells Sam she wants to stay with him, but the turtle says he needs her back with her family. “Us ocean folk need someone like you to spread the word about the ocean floor up there on land. Will you do that for us, Millie?”

Millie is based on Amelia, Robinson says, and her daughter provided positive early reviews. “She was super excited to see the book and hear the story. However, she did say ‘Mama, this is just pretend. My turtle’s name is Myrtle.’ Her favorite part is the bioluminescent creatures and the underwater smoke vents.  When she starts to read on her own and grows a bit older, I think she will really treasure it.”

Robinson is now a staff scientist and consultant at Montrose Environmental Group, a national environmental solutions company. There, she tracks data, regulatory and compliance submittals, and provides communications for a variety of industries in a range of environmental media. Robinson wants to continue that work, along with her research. “Environmental science is my passion, so writing about it is natural for me. As for getting published, we shall see what the future holds.”    

And as to whether that future may include more publications that tackle science for younger generations, she says, “Absolutely! I would adore the chance to create more children’s books and do the illustrations. This was such a fun and rewarding project.”  

Until then, Robinson shares a bit of parting wisdom for Amelia and fellow kids in her dedication on the book’s last page:  

To Millie – Stay curious and kind. Love, Mom

For More Information Contact

Writer: Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences

Editor: Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications
College of Sciences