Eva Lucretia Gordon – author, pioneer in children’s science literature, educator
Eva L. Gordon was a pioneer in writing children’s’ science literature having co-authored two primary grade textbooks of nature stories long before science for young children existed. These books were based on her first-hand knowledge of the outdoors and her experience teaching first and second graders in the public schools in Milwaukee WI. These two modest books, entitled Fall and Autumn, beautifully demonstrated the twin requirements for good authorship – knowledge of the topic and the reader.
It was following these early achievements that Eva Gordon entered Cornell University as an undergraduate where she stayed on after completion of her master’s degree to influence several generations of future teachers and writers. As one of the two women on the College of Agriculture faculty, she became so involved with her classes and students that she had little time for writing herself. Her creative energy went into reviewing books and she guided her students in judging, selecting and using the books.
As a nature science educator, she was sought by authors and publishers in nature science literature. Teachers from all over came to Cornell to take her courses. She had joined the faculty in 1929, received the MS in 1931, and PhD in 1947 and served in the Children’s School of Science at Woods Hole for two successive summers in 1933 and 1934.
Gordon served as an Assistant Professor at Cornell from 1947-51, an Associate Professor from 1951-56 and full Professor in 1956. During the 1952-53 academic year, she served as the chairman of the Section on Nature, Science and Conservation Education. From 1952-56 she prepared the Cornell Rural School Leaflet and produced a notable series of publications, in addition to her regular teaching and graduate student advising.
Her special interest grew to be in children’s science books. The problem of reviewing and evaluating such books served as the subject for her doctoral study. Her competence in this area brought national recognition. When she started her assistantship at Cornell, she began to help with the preparation of the Cornell Rural School Leaflet. She became sole author and producer of several Leaflets and also prepared a bibliography of nature study for the 1939 edition of Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.
Gordon was an active member of the American Nature Study Society (ANSS), the National Council on Elementary School Science, the National Science Teachers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her official duties were most often with the ANSS. ANSS honored her with a Life Membership and in 1962 created the Eva L. Gordon Award for Excellence in Children’s Science Literature (recognizing the accomplishments of the author).
- Nature Studies for Children: An Autumn Book 1926
- Nature Studies for Children: A Spring Book 1927
- Inviting Bird Callers: Cornell 4-H 1960
Among Gordon’s greatest satisfactions was seeing her students carry forward the torch she lit. It seemed most appropriate to honor her by honoring excellence in writing for children. Some of the recipients for the Eva L. Gordon Award for Outstanding Children’s Science Literature were Eva’s students and friends in ANSS. All the award winners met her high standards as expressed in the following criteria.
- Does the author open new doors to adventure?
- Does the author develop good attitudes?
- Does the author build understanding of interrelationships?
- Does the author encourage children to make their own scientific observations?
- Are the author’s writings accurate, readable and have a quality of joyousness?
- Do the author’s writings relate to many kinds of 20th Century situations?