Nearly three years since starting her company, Blue Dot Kids Press, publisher Heidi Hill is gearing up for another launch, but this time, it’s taking place on the high seas. Next month, she, her husband, and their seven-year-old son will embark on a year-long adventure, traversing the world aboard a 42-foot sailboat. It’s all part of Hill’s new initiative, Set Sail for Science, which promotes Blue Dot’s books about nature and planet protection, while calling attention to the company’s quest to educate the next generation of global citizens.

In the Name of Science

The desire to combine Blue Dot’s corporate mission with Hill’s personal goal put the Set Sail for Science concept into motion. “We have always promoted the idea of kids reading, getting inspired, and then acting on what they’ve learned,” she said. “Now, as the publisher of Blue Dot Kids Press, I am personally digging deep or, more accurately, unfurling my sails… to do even more about what we talk a lot about.” Each of Blue Dot’s titles, which include board books for ages up to 3 and picture books for ages 3–12, contains a teacher’s guide, containing supplemental activities for teachers, librarians, and families. By extension, Hill and her family will serve as role models to inspire others to observe and report on their own findings in their respective environments. “As citizen scientists, individuals—no matter their education or experience—capture and share data that can be used by professional scientists, advocates, and local and world leaders to take action,” she said.

In January, Set Sail for Science will leave from San Francisco, traveling across the Pacific Ocean and heading to its final destination in Wellington, New Zealand. Key highlights along the way include the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, where Hill and her family will observe gray whales, whale sharks, and California condors; and the Marquesas archipelago in French Polynesia, home to migrating sharks, whales, turtles, and dolphins. “Our voyage is my family’s real-world extension of Blue Dot Kids Press’s storylines, which is something we’re always encouraging our readers to do: take what they learn in books and do something,” Hill said.

After culling real-world data at these points of interest, Hill will turn the information over to a team of science research nonprofit groups, working hand in hand to further their educational endeavors. Noted partners include the Ocean Cleanup, mapping where floating plastic ends up for the purpose of maximizing a global cleanup strategy; the GLOBE Observer, tracking clouds and their impact on weather and the environment; and the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society’s iNaturalist research, exploring biodiversity and how to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Hill noted the synergy of this type of field work with Blue Dot’s books, including The Moon Tonight: Our Moon’s Journey Around the Earth (Jan. 2023). As readers collect their own observations about the clouds they see, Hill’s family will be doing the same.

Real-World Classroom

To engage young readers as they travel vicariously with the Hills, Blue Dot will post project ideas and activities for families, educators, and librarians in the Blue Dot News blog and on social media (@bluedotkidspress). Hill is a firm believer that geographic location should not limit participation, regardless of whether or not readers are landlocked. “Ocean plastics pollution often comes from trash in rivers and streams, so kids can observe, record, and report plastics in whatever water is near them,” she stated. Similarly, they can focus on animal conservation by focusing on outdoor creatures in their local parks, and for cloud watching, simply look up.

Blue Dot’s journey won’t end in New Zealand. Come January 2024, the company will venture into new waters with its first foray into chapter books for ages 7–10. After starting with board books and picture books, Hill is confident that this next step will enable older readers to grasp the same themes and prepare them for their own educational adventures. “Our new chapter books will explore issues kids are grappling with today, plus celebrate creative thinking and collaboration—key skills for 21st-century learners,” she said.