Mark Newman, affectionately known as the Sooper Yooper, gave his final presentation of the year late last month at Coopersville South Elementary School.
Newman told students about many different types of invasive species affecting natural life in the great lakes through the use of his book, Sooper Yooper: Environmental Defender. The book features Billy Cooper, an ex-Navy SEAL from the Upper Peninsula who works to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species with the help of his trusty side kick, Mighty Mac, and sponsor “the Wedge” who is modeled after West Michigan’s own environmental advocate, Peter Wege.
Newman began his presentation to the students by asking, “What are invasive species?” Immediately students’ hands were raised and there was excitement in the room. The students stayed involved, both asking and answering questions from Newman throughout the entirety of the hour-long presentation. Newman said it’s important to talk to young people about environmental advocacy.
“The kids are our future so it’s important to educate them on environmental issues like these. They are the ones that are going to be responsible for protecting our Great Lakes,” he said.
Newman has spoken to 50,000 students from 200 schools in five states in the last two years. He said the most important thing about his program is to help students understand that taking care of the environment is important. Newman said that the enthusiasm he sees in the students, and the legacy of his best friend, Sooper Yooper illustrator Mark Heckman, are what keeps him going. With the help of the Wege Foundation and a sponsorship from West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Newman has kept the promise he made Heckman to go to as many schools as he can to tell students about the book.
The best part of the program, from the point of view of the schools, is that it is completely free. Due to budget cuts, many schools are unable to host authors and talks like this one, and Newman says schools are often very thankful to the Wege Foundation for sponsoring the free program.
Newman already has a waiting list for next year when the second book in the Sooper Yooper series comes out, but he encourages more schools to schedule the program. If your school is interested in bringing the Sooper Yooper in, or for more information on the Newman or his book, visit www.sooperyooper.com.