Musician Tom McGrath and children's author Benette Whitmore blend their talents in an energetic, interactive presentation on endangered species and the environment.

Tom shares inspired musical interpretations of Benette's endangered species counting book, Ghost Bat in the Gum Tree, to enhance a colorful reading of the book, while students participate in the creation of rhythms and sounds to accompany the text.

A discussion on threatened, endangered, and extinct species culminates in suggestions on "How Students Can Help."

Lesson plans connected to LANGUAGE ARTS, MUSIC, ART, SOCIAL STUDIES, and SCIENCE curriculums make it easy for teachers to extend this presentation into their classrooms.

Tom and Benette also offer workshops for parents and teachers to provide creative ideas for strengthening literacy skills, while deepening respect for our natural world and empowering children to do what they can to help preserve and protect native species.


Linked classroom activities and lesson plans for all grade levels are available to teachers and librarians who invite Tom and Benette to their schools. Examples include:

o LANGUAGE ARTS: Scripts for a play where students act out the roles of endangered species, sharing specifics about animals' characteristics, as well as their endangered status; Reading and language arts lessons related to endangered species, sustainability, and recycling.

o MUSIC: Lessons on world music: endangered materials once used to make percussion instruments

o ART: Lessons for creating simple percussion instruments from natural materials; lessons for imaginative art projects using recycled materials; lessons for making headpieces depicting various endangered species.

o SOCIAL STUDIES: Lessons on world geography and habitats native to endangered species.

o SCIENCE: Lessons include topics of composting, reduce/reuse/recycle, and decomposition in worm bins.


Tom has traveled the world performing original music, from playing music at small clubs, to accompanying international dance troupes, to giving concerts at large arenas, to sharing his musical and production talents with various artists in the recording studio. He has produced two CDs of his own original music (Pictures at the Family House and Ten Shades of Blue), and was nominated for a SAMMY (Syracuse Area Music Award) in 2006 and 2007.

Benette has published seven children's books-- from picture books to a young adult novel-and she also wrote 35 episodes of a children's television program, Pappyland, which TV Guide named one of the "Ten Best New Kids' Shows." She teaches writing and public speaking courses at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in Syracuse, where she received the Outstanding Teaching Award and the President's Award for Community Service. She also teaches writing at Syracuse University and communication classes at Le Moyne College. To learn more about Benette, visit her website at:


Dear Benette and Tom,

Thanks so much for offering your brilliant and extremely effective "Go Animal!" program at our school. Your enthusiasm and creative ways you connected with our students made quite an impact. Students couldn't stop talking about you, and, more importantly, how they could live out, more fully, the important messages you present in your books about what everyone can do to protect the Earth!

Your approach to the subject matter on "endangered species" that I had been working on with our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students for about a month really hit home when you not only named many of the plants and animals presently threatened, but listed the staggering numbers of animals on the long list as well.

Your facts and colorful presentation about the endangered plants and animals of the world, and including the way Tom "the percussionist" set the tone for the presentation, was a perfect extension and enhancement to the "Readers Theater" performance and the extensive research my 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students were involved in to learn more about this important topic. As a matter of fact, after Tom played his various drums, we all really felt like we were in the Tropical Rainforest!

Benette and Tom, you are welcome back to our school any time! We enjoyed learning more about what we can do to LOVE the Earth and protect our animals of the WILD today and into the future. We are working on nature riddles to share with you the next time you come to visit us! Go Animal!


Cynthia Needham
School Librarian, Dr. Edwin E. Weeks Elementary School
Syracuse, New York


When scheduling “Go Animal!” it's important to plan ahead (sometimes up to one year in advance, but more typically two months prior to our visit). That way, you'll be more likely to get your first date preference. And— on top of that-- you’ll have time to enact some of the linked lesson plans.

For more information, and to discuss possibilities for your school or conference, contact Tom or Benette.


Elementary School Presentations

Tom and Benette typically give four 40-minute presentations when invited for a full day; they give two 40-minute presentations in a half-day visit.

It's important to organize your student groups so they are similar in grade level, with two morning sessions, a break for lunch, and two afternoon sessions. Tom and Benette are willing to fit in a quick visit (around 10 minutes) to do a book reading and performance for kindergarten classes if the schedule permits.

Benette and Tom are happy to speak with you at length before their visit so you and your students are completely satisfied with the "Go Animal!" experience.


Audio-Visual Needs

Tom and Benette will need a projector with PowerPoint software (with an extension cord, if necessary, to reach an outlet) and screen, as well as a microphone (either hand-held or wireless- they're flexible!) if they are presenting in a large room to a bigger group. For presentations in smaller rooms, a microphone will not be required.

Book and CD Signings

Benette's book, Ghost Bat in a Gum Tree, and Tom's CDs, Pictures at the Family House and Ten Shades of Blue, are all available to purchase. They will be happy to sign books and CDs for interested students, teachers, and parents. Tom will bring copies of his CD. Schools should order copies of Benette's books in advance from any book distributor.

Tom will bring copies of his CD. Schools should order copies of Benette's books in advance from any book distributor.

The most successful signings happen when a school is highly organized by having students order books and CDs in advance, and when the school places its order with a bookseller (publishers, local bookstores, book distributors, or on-line companies) in plenty of time for books to arrive.

It also works well when teachers send home order forms with their students, including on the form a place where parents or students can write down their wish for the inscription for books and/or CDs.

If inscriptions for book orders are then placed like a bookmark within the books themselves, it works really well as students pass them along to Benette.

Tom will bring copies of his CDs on the day of the event. His CDs only have limited space for a short inscription, so please be concise in your requests. The cost of Tom's CDs, Pictures at the Family House and Ten Shades of Blue, is $10 each.

Finally, it's helpful to enlist the help of a couple of enthusiastic parents on the day of the visit, so the signings go smoothly.



Appleby Elementary School, Marathon, NY
Avon Elementary School, Avon, NY
Brookville Elementary School, Binghamton, NY
Caledonia-Mumford Elementary School, Caledonia, NY
Camden Elementary School, Camden, NY
Chestnut Hill Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
CNY Crawford Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
Donlin Drive Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
East Hill Elementary School, Camillus, NY
Elmcrest Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
Enders Road Elementary School, Manlius, NY
Fabius-Pompey Elementary School, Fabius, NY
Heman Street Elementary School, East Syracuse, NY
H.W. Smith Elementary School, Syracuse, NY
Lakeland Elementary, Solvay, NY
Letchworth Central School, Gainesville, NY
Liverpool Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
McConnellsville Elementary School, McConnellsville, NY
Morgan Road Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
Nate Perry Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
NYS Teachers' Conference, Syracuse, NY
Onondaga Road Elementary School, Camillus, NY
Parents as Reading Partners Conference, Syracuse, NY
Reynolds Elementary School, Baldwinsville, NY
Sandy Creek Elementary School, Sandy Creek, NY
Solvay High School, Syracuse, NY
Soule Road Elementary School, Liverpool, NY
Tecumseh Elementary School, Syracuse, NY
Wetzel Road Elementary, Liverpool, NY
Willow Field Elementary School, Liverpool, NY


Full-Day (four 40-minute presentations): $600
Half-Day (two 40-minute presentations): $400
Individual 40-minute presentations $250
Parent/Teacher Workshops $200/hour

For schools within New York State, but more than 50 miles from Syracuse, please add an additional $100, as well as the cost of expenses for meals and overnight accommodations.

Schools outside of New York State should inquire about specifics.

Can't afford our rates? Don't give up! Call to discuss some creative possibilities. Also, consider coordinating our visit to your school with visits with other schools in your area to help share travel/accommodations costs.

Please email Tom or call him at 212-496-6604
or…email Benette or call her at 315-317-6361.