Otis Environmental Author Aimee Nezhukumatathil

“It's just gorgeous,” Aimee Nezhukumatathil enthused over the commemorative poster Middle School art teacher Seexeng Lee created for the 2024 Philip Otis Environmental Author’s residency at Blake. “You've heard how special fireflies are to me. I would have been happy with a squid or a flower, but this is extra personal.” 

After spending the week sharing her love of fireflies and the many other plants and animals she’s written about in her bestselling book “World of Wonders,” Nezhukumatathil reflected on her interactions with students from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade during assemblies and classroom visits. “I loved that I could be the guest in their space and see how students are reacting to my book and what kinds of questions they have for me as a writer,” she said. 

Nezhukumatathil, who met with art, science and language arts students throughout her residency, admired the balance she saw in Blake’s curriculum. “It was a standout moment to see how art is integrated and cultivated from Pre-K and up.” Student art was on full display in the Upper School’s Martha Bennett Gallery, which hosted an exhibition featuring pieces inspired by Nezhukumatathil’s book and its illustrations by Fumi Mini Nakamura. Nezhukumatathil had several opportunities to explore the show, which was one of the highlights of the open-to-the-public Wonderfair, a family-oriented event for all ages to explore wonders of nature at a variety of interactive stations. Guests could also take in a conversation between Nezhukumatathil and “Brains On” science podcast host Molly Bloom ’01.

“The Wonderfair was the standout. That was my personal favorite,” Nezhukumatathil said of her residency. “It was just a feast for the senses. The whole event showed that learning also takes place outside of classrooms, and it was done in such an accessible way.”

During her assembly talks, Nezhukumatathil emphasized the importance of having a sense of wonder: “Don’t let anybody take away your curiosity or wonder—don’t let anybody dim your shine.” And she encouraged students to follow their passions: “It will pay in dividends if you choose to do what you love.” That, she said, is the message she hopes most resonates with students: “Remember all the things you had access to and find a way to carry that on through your college years. Don’t let that spirit of curiosity end with Blake’s graduation.” 

See photos from Nezhukumatathil’s visit to Blake

See photos from Wonderfair (by Rebecca Slater)

See Nezhukumatathil’s Breakfast at Blake presentation