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Thomas Simons' Wind Energy for Kids book - Spark Change Series

Poster showing Alexandra and Thomas with comics chat bubbles. They discuss the future of Earth and wind energy

I came across Thomas' book on LinkedIn and I told myself finally someone did it!

I enjoyed discovering Thomas' work and how he's adapting his book to reach audiences globally. Quite an inspiring story I'm eager to share with you today.

Meet Thomas, a passionate scientist with a curious daughter, and now author of Wind Energy for Kids.

Table that includes Thomas origin (Germany), his current position (Project manager) and his educational background (PhD in chemistry)

Alexandra : I discovered your book through a LinkedIn post as you were looking for international collaboration partners. It got my attention as a fan of renewable energy, and also advocate for science outreach in languages other than English!

Could you summarize your work?

Thomas: I have written a children’s book on Wind energy called Wind Energy for Kids. My book is aimed at a young age starting at preschool, but also for first readers and primary school kids.

It was very important for me to start at the kids’ point of view, with phenomena and concepts they already know. From there I tried to give the basic aspect of the fascinating wind power technology. I used comparisons between modern wind turbines and everyday things to describe the incredible dimensions of such technology.

In addition, I held a few lectures (online and live) where I underlined the points of my book with models and little experiments.

The book has been –up to now- sold nearly 15 000 times and translated to five different languages. Currently there are editions in German, English (UK), Polish, Dutch (Netherlands, Belgium), Chinese (Taiwan) and Danish. Stay tuned for the Chinese (China) and English (USA) editions!

I seek to not only reach the kids, but also the parents. It is very interesting to see when the grown-ups grasp the dimensions and power of modern wind turbines! Most of them know the concept, but it is hard for most people to realize how powerful and big the turbines really are.

Several editions of the book Wind Energy for Kids in different languages

Alexandra: What drove you to write these books?

Thomas: I think the starting point was definitely the curiosity of my older daughter! At the age of four, she naturally asked questions about my work and then about wind turbines.

I started to explain it to her with simple words, but always in a very neutral way without moralizing and without demonizing fossil fuels.

However, my daughters alone would not have driven me to write it down as a book. At the same time, I was working in a team with many young families and realized how common was the kids' interest in wind energy. And that there is a lack of good books for kids regarding this technology in an objective/factual way.

After reading some of the excellent books of Chis Ferrie - the Baby University series with the internationally renowned Quantum physics for babies etc. I thought it would be great to have a book like this for wind energy! Being a maker, I started writing and drawing.

Of course as a natural scientist, it was important to me that all information is physically right despite simplification.

Alexandra: Have you been involved with other science communications projects before?

Thomas: Initially, my communication and teaching skills grew as a young leader in “Deutsche Waldjugend”, a Youth Nature Conservation Society with similarities to boy scouts.

Afterwards, I deepened these skills as a trainer for lifeguarding and first aid.

Science communication was part of my university experience, of course mostly for a specific audience of experts. Hence, I would not say I am a professional science communicator, despite writing a book about science.

However, I always enjoyed teaching undergraduates during my PhD. From my point of view, science communication should be a very basic skill for every scientist! Although I know, it is actually not very common.

Wind Energy for Kids books with a wind turbine model

Alexandra: Wind energy is such a complex (yet important) topic and you targeted a very young audience. How do you balance scientific evidence with educational goals but still keep it light and accessible?

Thomas: Besides being surrounded by curious youth asking questions, what drove me was also to create a book that empowers them.

The kids should be able to find their own conclusions about wind power. Kids should be trusted to evaluate facts. Provided they have good information, even younger children can make very good judgments about supposedly difficult topics from my experience. There is no need to tell them: “Fossils are bad, Renewables are perfect!”

Tell them the facts and they will come to the right conclusions.

It is necessary to give the next generations the mindset and the knowledge to build a sustainable future!

Alexandra: I love that you first published it in your native language (German) and since have partnered up to adapt it for other countries - translating them to various languages but also tuning the content to fit the local audiences. This is brilliant and rare to witness such a level of involvement in adapting books internationally!

What you’ve done since the first publication?

Thomas: When I wrote the original version, I never thought that it would one day be translated into other languages. Therefore, I used common German landmarks for comparisons; such as the Cologne Cathedral to evaluate the height of wind turbines. Useful in Germany, but not for nobody elsewhere!

As I worked on the first translated versions, I carefully listed which information had to be adapted. It was then obvious that the maps showing the local distribution of wind energy had to be changed.

Then, when I worked on the Taiwanese edition, the comparison of the electricity production of a wind turbine with the annual household electricity consumption was completely inadequate. I came up with a new comparison: one turn of the rotor of a modern offshore wind turbine can power an electric car for about 200 km.

This comparison is so much better, much closer to a kid’s daily experience and surroundings. That's why it ended up in the Danish edition too and will also be used in new editions in the future.

Alexandra: What was the most challenging and the most rewarding in your author’s journey?

Thomas: The hardest step was to find a publisher! I talked to 40 (yes, forty!) publishing houses before finding Spica Publishing, a small family-owned company. They answered me right away and were happy to publish my little project.

It is great and rewarding to see how natural and common wind energy has become for kids. It is also great to see young children questioning why it is better to do complicated things like pulling fossil fuels out of the ground and burning them, instead of using natural energy sources.

And it is rewarding to be noticed as an author by other authors, initiatives and companies in the field of green energy. One of the best moments during my journey was that afternoon at Maasvlakte beach in the Netherlands together with the awesome OffshoreWind4Kids by William Beuckelaers, who supported the Dutch edition of the book.

It is so much fun to build your own Offshore Wind Turbine Foundations in the water!

The connections I found in collaboration with “Stiftung Offshore Wind” (German Foundation Offshore Wind) are so valuable! All together: renewables, or at least wind energy has an awesome community!

Spoiler: the next episode will be about OffshoreWind4Kids!

Thomas posing with a Wind Energy for Kids book on the beach

Alexandra: What were your daughters' reactions, and what kind of feedback do you get?

Thomas: My older daughter and some of her friends are already little wind energy experts! They love the information they have learned from the book and like to share it.

Of course the best facts for all kids are on the pages with the elephants and giraffes! “Do you know how many giraffes stacked on top of each other are as high as a wind turbine?” is a VERY common question kids ask random people after reading my book.

On the other hand, my daughters are quite cool-headed about my author’s journey.

“Isn’t it normal that your father has written a book? What’s the thing about it?” However, I know some days, they will realize that it is not common. Hopefully, they will sum up that my book has made a difference...

Other parents or teachers are often astonished and fascinated, when they hear about this project. Being an author seems to be very special to many of them. Nevertheless, most of them love the book and the idea behind it.

Most of them had little knowledge about wind energy! Different offshore foundations, the number of wind turbines in Germany (as many as grains in 1 kg of rice!) or the dimensions of turbines were often completely new to them.

Alexandra: If you could turn back time and share one piece of advice with your younger self about climate communication, what would it be?

Thomas: Never stop talking about the right things! We really need an understanding of climate action for renewables, it’s never too early to start thinking about this!

Do not be shy to talk about your needs and wishes! Be persistent and don’t stop asking, if you want to get something, like be published.

Train to explain your special topic as simply as possible! My PhD supervisor always told us to be able to explain your thesis in a manner everybody in a crowded pub could understand. If you can, you can explain it to kids too! This is also part of being a good scientist.

Laptop with Wind Energy for Kids book and wind turbine models

Alexandra: So going back to the LinkedIn post that piqued my interest. What are your next steps as you look into more international collaborators?

Thomas: A very good fact about being published by Spica is the fact, that they are offering special branded editions with a quite cool volume discount.

If you are interested in a unique marketing gift or employee give away you can get a branded edition of my book starting at only 250 copies and with discounts up to 50%. This offer extends not only to the already existing language editions, but also to new editions to be created on demand.

For new country editions/adaptions we, Spica and I, try to minimize the risk and get a good starting base. Our requirement for new editions is a collaboration partner, who is interested in ordering an initial volume. This reduces the initial costs (for layouting, translation, etc) associated with a new version.

In return, our partner could have some influence on the level of adoption and get a branded edition with a volume discount.

If there is anybody who is interested in a special gift, a unique marketing present or an educational STEM-oriented product I am the perfect person to ask!

To find out more about the Wind Energy for Kids editions, visit Thomas' website.

See you soon for a family outreach activity on the beach with OffshoreWind4Kids.

Dive into the electrifying world of 'Spark Change,' an interview blog series providing practical advice and skill-building opportunities for climate communication and knowledge mobilization.

Dive into the electrifying world of 'Spark Change,' an interview blog series providing practical advice and skill-building opportunities for climate communication and knowledge mobilization.

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