Skip to main content

Guest Blog: “Bee” a Scientist with Smokey Bear This Summer

I’m at my local library in Nebraska today, helping out with an event for the Forest Service. Toddlers play on an alphabet rug as I tell them what Forest Service scientists do. “They ask questions about the forest when they go hiking or camping,” I tell them. “You can do that, too — especially by reading and using goodies from the Natural Inquirer!”

Across the nation, libraries like mine are hosting Smokey Bear reading challenges to celebrate the icon’s 80th birthday.

Bee a Fire Scientist Coloring Book Fire and Wildflowers PDF Preview
One of the coloring pages from the “Bee a Fire Scientist” coloring book. Pages can be downloaded individually to print at home or order the whole coloring book.

Libraries in 45 states — including Nebraska, where I live — are providing participants with Smokey Bear book logs. Readers of all ages can complete their logs for stickers, bookmarks, and prizes from the Natural Inquirer like “Bee a Fire Scientist” coloring sheets or fire career collector cards.


In my hometown library, readers of all ages — toddlers to adults — grabbed copies of NSI: Nature Science Investigator. They can take this booklet to the nearby national forest in Nebraska and practice scientific skills: counting visitors, sketching insects, searching for animal prints. Other readers snagged a copy of Smokey Bear’s trading card. While Smokey’s stats are fictional, the Natural Inquirer also prints cards for very real fire scientists and specialists.

Cover of the Nature Science Investigator

NSI: Nature Science Investigator

PDF preview of the front of Smokey Bear's collector card, featuring an illustrated Smokey Bear holding a shovel.

Smokey Bear Collector Card Pack

Natural Inquirer Fire Collector Cards

Forest Service Fire Career Cards

Cover of the Spanish version NSI

NSI: Nature Science Investigator – Spanish

Even if your local library isn’t participating, you can download the digital toolkit and join on your own! You can also order free Natural Inquirer swag to celebrate completing the challenge. So grab a book, head outdoors, and “bee” a scientist!

Learn More About Smokey Bear's Reading Challenge

Celebrate Smokey’s 80th Birthday by joining the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge and engage youth in reading about wildfire prevention, forests, and natural resource careers while they explore their local environment.

Complete the challenge through your local library with a printable book log or through the online Beanstack platform. No local library? You can still participate through the digital toolkit!


  • Learn more about wildfire prevention, forests, & natural resource careers
  • Browse Smokey's Reading List for book suggestions for all ages
  • Print free bookmarks, posters, activity sheets, & more
PDF preview of the Smokey Bear Reading Challenge poster.
Margaret Gregory holds a copy of a Natural Inquirer monograph at the booth at NSTA 2024 in Denver.

Margaret Gregory

As a technical writer-editor for Forest Service Research and Development, I translate science into terms that people can understand and use. I do this through stories, webinars, webpages, and any other manner people request! I live in Nebraska, home of...