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Coolbean the Soybean: Bringing agronomy to life

Soybeans are one of the most nutritious beans on the earth, making for a healthy food. One-half cup of soybeans has three times more protein than a hotdog! But food is only one aspect of this amazing crop; soybeans are also used in the production of cardboard, cars, crayons, and more. Soybeans are the second most planted crop in the United States, just after corn, and are vitally important to the U.S. economy. In Wisconsin alone, soybean production is a $1.6 billion industry.

Cover of book, Cool Bean the Soybean

Because soybeans are such an important industry, author Shawn Conley, PhD, decided to create the character of "Coolbean the Soybean" to help children learn about agronomic, crop and soil sciences. The book, which carries the same title as the character, is published jointly by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

Coolbean the Soybean explains the job of farmers and agronomists through characters named Haila and Aliah, respectively, who Conley named after his daughters. Along the way, Coolbean explains modern farming techniques, and how a seed becomes a plant and then produces a crop. The book tells the story of how soil, sunshine, and water affect the growth of the plant.

Conley is an agronomy professor and the Soybean and Wheat Extension Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I wanted to develop a fun, yet educational, tool to help teach today’s youth about where food comes from, career opportunities in agriculture, and explain why soybeans are so important, not only here in the U.S., but around  the world,” says Conley. “My daughters were the main reason for writing this book, but I also remember being inspired at an early age by my first and second grade teacher, Mrs. Swiggum. Hopefully this book can help inspire the next generation of agricultural scientists.”

Coolbean’s content follows Common Core education standards. “We chose to follow the format of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graphic novels and comics because it’s a style that kids are very comfortable with,” says Lisa Al-Amoodi, managing editor of books for the Societies. “It also allowed us to package a lot of nonfiction science content into a cool story about a soybean.”  

Coolbean the Soybean can be purchased on www.societystore.org, or by calling 608-268-4960. Educators interested in classroom adoption may contact Lisa Al-Amoodi (lalamoodi@sciencesocieties.org).

The book was published with generous support from the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.