Banana Slugs wrap up summer reading

Published 2:11 am Monday, August 11, 2003

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
VANDALIA -- The faces in the young crowd sprouted flowers and other colorful designs, along with the remains from the "dirt" pudding complete with worms which was their dessert Tuesday at the finale of the Cass District Library Summer Reading Program.
T. K. Lawless Park provided the setting for the mixture of food, games, rides and a special concert by the Banana Slug String Band.
The nature setting was in keeping with the entire team of the summer program -- "Reading…Naturally."
And the Slugs, they fit right in.
The band, from Santa Cruz, Calif., has been teaching children about science and ecology with their songs for 18 years.
For the concert, the band sang the songs they have learned during the Kid's Nature Workshops, presented all summer long as part of the Summer Reading Program.
Songs like: "Dirt Made My Lunch," "The Water Cycle Boogie," "F.B.I.," "Roots, Stems, Leaves" and "I'm A Tree."
This was the band's first performance in Michigan. It came about through Cass County District Library Director M. E. Harper's excellent coffee and a friend in Ohio.
The Banana Slug String Band was already part of the park program in Ohio which M.E.'s friend Cinda Hanbush Pinkerton coordinated.
Cinda drove in from Ohio Tuesday to introduce the band, which includes, "Airy" Larry Graff, originally from Michigan: Doug "Dirt" Greenfield, who actually married Kim Woodland in a meadow; "Solar" Steve Van Zandt and "Marine" Mark Nolan. All were environmental educators and teachers.
With their music and creative way of teaching, they hope to offer "environmental education using all the senses," said Graff, "and reach every kid. The kids become the performers."
Money comes from schools, parks and libraries and many trusts, he added. Van Zandt praised the "women of vision," like Cinda and M.E., who bring the concepts to the children.
He is the main song writer. "I try to drive the car which doesn't have a radio," he said. Then he "rehearses" songs in his head.
Their name come from the slugs in the Redwood Forest, near where they live. "The slugs keep the ecological system balanced," Van Zandt said. "They are the grand recyclers."
The band encourages listeners to look closer, especially at things they may seem nonappealing at first.
Their popularity grows as performers and with their CDs and picture books. Two women actually played their tapes while giving birth, he added.
For more information on the Banana Slugs, you may go to their website: