The Best In-person Professional Development- Monarch Teacher Network Workshops 2012

The best cross-curricular professional development I have ever been a part of was the Monarch Teacher Network’s “Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies”.  I first took the workshop back in 2006 and I still volunteer as a staff leader every summer.  It’s fabulous and I can’t recommend it enough!  Below you will find information about this summer’s workshops in the US and Canada.   (Clicking on the link will take you directly to a registration form for that workshop).

US Dates

June

June 13– 14:    Leesburg, Virginia (Loudoun County, DC Area)

June 14-15:    UC-Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara, California

June 18-19:    Lyonia Environmental Center; Deltona; Florida (Volusia County)

June 18-19:    Coyote Hills Regional Park; Freemont, California

June 20-21:    Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park; Gilroy, California (Santa Clara County)

June 25– 26:    Union Mill and Daniels Run schools in Fairfax County, Virginia (Fairfax County, DC area)

June 25– 26:    Charlotte Country Day School; Charlotte, North Carolina

July

July 30-31:    Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center; Sioux City, Iowa

August

Aug 2-3:    Heartland AEA; Johnston, Iowa (Des Moines area)

Aug 2-3:    Quad Cities Botanical Center; Rock Island, Illinois  

Aug 6-7:    Frankfort Square Park District; Frankfort, Illinois (Chicago area)

Aug 13-14:    William Paterson University; Wayne, New Jersey (Passaic County, NYC area)

Aug 14-15:    Interpretive Center in Freedom Park; Williamsburg, Virginia

Aug 16-17:      Raritan Valley Community College; New Jersey (Somerset County)

Aug 20-21:    EIRC facility; Mullica Hill, New Jersey (Gloucester County, Philadelphia area)

Aug 20-21:    The Boston Nature Center; Mattapan, Massachusetts (Boston Area)

Aug 22-23:    Childrens Museum of New Hampshire; Dover, New Hamphsire

For more information or if there is no registration form available: contact: Brian Hayes at bhayes@eirc.org856-582-7000 x110 or write  Monarch Teacher Network™ at EIRC – MTN, South Jersey Technology Park,  107 Gilbreth Parkway, Suite 200, Mullica Hill, NJ 08062.  fax: 856-582-4206.

Canada

The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

Stop what you are doing and go pick up this book. The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe was just the book I needed to get out of my reading slump and I have been recommending it to everyone I know.  I have a personal connection to the story of the monarch butterfly’s migration, but this is a story that many people will identify with.

Luz Avila’s mother abandoned her as a child and she was raised by her Abuela.  Now that she is in her twenties, Luz takes care of her grandmother.  She works a factory job, dreaming of the day she will be able to go back to school.  But the job pays the bills and lets her grandmother live life relatively worry-free.  But when Abuela suddenly announces that she wants to take Luz home, to visit their family in Mexico, it breaks Luz’s heart to have to say no.  She promises that they will go one day, after they save the money and pay off a few more bills.  Abuela dies before plans can be made, and Luz is plagued with regret.  Then she wakes up a few days after the funeral and sees an out-of-season monarch butterfly in the garden that her abuela so loved.  It’s a sign, and Luz takes it to heart.  For the first time in her life, she throws caution to the wind and lives life spontaneously.  In a few short days she is in an old, beat-up VW bug on her way from Milwaukee to Mexico.  She carries Abuela’s ashes with her, planning to scatter them in the monarch sanctuaries near her family’s ancestral home in Angangueo, Mexico.

This is a quest story, a journey, both spiritually and physically.  Along the way Luz meets women who leave an imprint on her life and her heart, changing the way she looks at the world.  Each woman alters the flight path a little more, but they all enrich Luz’s life.  And when her mother reappears in her life, Luz must decide which way to fly.

As a monarchaholic, I know this book would affect me deeply.  But I also believe the casual reader will find themselves immersed in the tale of the monarch butterfly.  And the descriptions!  Oh, the language in this book!  I’ve been to Angangueo, to the sanctuaries, and I’ve visited Alternare in Michoacan.  Reading The Butterfly’s Daughter transported me back to the dusty dirt roads high in the Transvolcanic Mountains.  I could smell the fresh blue corn tortillas and hear the sound the butterfly wings beating in the blue sky.  The language of the Purepuchuan people rings in my ears even now.  (Read about my time in Michoacan).  Monroe traveled to the sanctuaries with Monarchs Across Georgia, a group very similar to my beloved Monarch Teacher Network, and the authenticity of her book speaks volumes about that trip.  I could not put the book down.

Highly, highly recommended.  Published for adults, but with definitely crossover YA appeal.

*copy purchased by me  

 

 

Want to visit the sanctuaries?  Read my post about an amazing professional development opportunity for teachers!

Summer Professional Development (Free in NJ!)

Last night I participated in another great #titletalk on Twitter.  The subject was personal and professional development this summer.  Personally, I plan to read a lot this summer, putting a dent in my huge TBR pile/shelf.  I also plan to write a lot this summer.  But about halfway through the chat I remembered my favorite and most consistent form of professional development each summer- the Monarch Teacher Network!

I first took the cross-curricular workshop about 6 years ago and it changed my life.  On the surface, it sounds like a workshop for science teachers but that is far from the truth.  The teacher-leaders focus on ways to use monarchs and the environment across the curriculum and across grade levels.  Since taking the workshop I have been acting as a teacher leader at one of the NJ workshops every summer.  I don’t feel ready for the new school year unless I have spent time with my fellow monarchaholics. :)

From a 2008 blog post:

Tuesday was my last day at my summer job.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are devoted to my passion- the Monarch Teacher Network.   As a former participant, I am now a volunteer staff member and the workshops are my favorite part of every summer.  It never fails to completely inspire me and motivate me for the new school year.

This year is no exception.  There are about 60 participants, including 3 from New Zealand and 2 from Peru.  At what other professional development workshop do you work with international teachers?  AMAZING.  The other participants are from NJ, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.  It’s a whirlwind three days, and today was a flurry of activity.  But it’s unbelievable just being able to share this amazing eperience with so many other extraordinary teachers!

I left today feeling completely revitalized and energized, despite the 8 hour day and 2 hours of driving.  Unbelievable.  And I can not wait to continue the workshop tomorrow and Friday.

 

After I took the workshop I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico on a fellowship from MTN and it was a life-changing experience.  You can read my entries from the trip here

Words can not describe what you see in the sanctuaries, and I wish that all my students could have the opportunity to see the magic takes place there. When you are here and you see, hear and feel the billions upon billions of monarchs, you are overwhelmed with the fact that we really are just a tiny part of this giant universe. It is a truly life-changing experience. Looking back at my pictures, video and words I realize that nothing can accurately describe the sanctuaries. The emotions that run through you as billions of Monarchs cling to the towering trees overhead and dance and play in a river of orange with a stunning blue sky behind them are indescribable.

The Monarch Teacher Network has really changed my life.  They are giving workshops all over the country this year and I will be helping out at the Mullica Hill, NJ workshop.  You should really think about signing up!

USA Workshops:

June

June 9– 10:   Mary Institute of St. Louis Country Day School; St. Louis, Missouri

June 13– 14:   Central on Main; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (Tulsa area)

June 13-14:  Lyonia Environmental Center; Deltona; Florida (Volusia County)

June 20– 21:   George C Round Elem School; Manassas, Virginia (Manassas City, DC area)

June 22– 23:   Heritage High School; Leesburg, Virginia (Loudoun County, DC area)

June 27-28:   LaPerche School; Smithfield, Rhode Island (Providence area)

June 27-28:   Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History; Pacific Grove, California

June 29-30:   Cal Poly University; San Luis Obispo, California

July

July 28-29:  Fairfax County, Virginia (DC area)

August

Aug 1-2:    Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center; Sioux City, Iowa

Aug 4-5:    Neil Smith NWR; Prairie City, Iowa (Des Moines area)

Aug 8-9:  Chilton Elementary School; Wisconsin (Milwaukee area)

Aug 11-12:  Prince William County, VA (DC area)

Aug 15-16:    William Paterson University; New Jersey (Passaic County, NYC area)

Aug 18-19:    EIRC facility; Mullica Hill, New Jersey (Gloucester County, Philadelphia area)

Aug 20-21:  Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary; Bernardsville, New Jersey

No workshop space will be held until a registration form is received. Click on the MTN registration form page to print and complete the registration form.

Canada workshops

To register for a Canadian workshop, visit:  www.monarchteacher.ca  

There will be seven workshops in Canada in three Provinces including New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
July
July 13-14:  Terra Cotta Conservation Area; Terra Cotta, Ontario, Canada
July 19-20:  Regina Public School Office; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
July 21-22:  Sulphur Spring Conservation Area; Hanover, Ontario, Canada
July 26-27:  JR Walkof School; Winkler, Manitoba, Canada
August
Aug 3-4:   Northumberland Hills Public School; Castleton, Ontario, Canada
Aug 9-10:  Enniskillen Conservation Area; Enniskillen, Ontario, Canada
Aug 25-26:  Irving Nature Park; Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
And the best news?
If you are in NJ, you can attend the workshop for free!   MTN has received a grant that will enable them to provide scholarships for the Monarch workshops, “Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies” this summer.  The grant money will allow them to pay all or most of the $99 registration fees for the workshops in New Jersey this summer. There are a limited number of scholarships available and it is first come first served so get the registrations in soon to qualify.  Fill out the attached registration form, mark which workshop you would like to attend, and fax or mail the form to us at EIRC. All MTN Workshops 2011- New Jersey registration form.  

 

Interview with J&P Voelkel

A few weeks ago I reviewed J&P Voelkel’s The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld.  I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to booktalk it this fall.  In the meantime, I was thrilled when presented with the opportunity to interview Jon and Pamela, the husband and wife team behind the book.  There are very few books out there about Mesoamerica, and even fewer for teens and tweens.  I can’t wait to get this one in the hands of my readers.  I also can’t wait to share with them the fascinating interview below.

Hello!  Welcome to the blog and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  As a huge fan of Meso-American culture, I was thrilled to read MIDDLEWORLD. I became interested in Mesoamerica when I began studying monarch butterflies and I share as much as I can with my students each year. How did you become interested in the Mayans?

First of all, we’re honored to meet another Mesoamerican fan! It’s an exciting time to be studying the Maya, because the archaeologists are making new discoveries all the time. There are still thousands of sites to be excavated in Central America, so we always hope that one of the students we meet on our school visits will decide to become an archaeologist and make the biggest Maya discovery of all time!  As to how we became interested, Jon grew up in Latin America and remembers his first visit to some ruins, when he was eight or nine.  I went to school in England where Mesoamerica was never mentioned, so I knew nothing about the Maya until we started on the book.  In fact, when Jon wrote the first draft, the pyramids were just a cool background to a jungle adventure story.  I think we both had a vague idea that the Maya had died out centuries ago.  As we began to research the book and realize the depth of our ignorance, we wanted to learn more and more about this fascinating civilization.  We were also inspired by a chance meeting with a group of Maya teenagers at a site in Guatemala.  They were so excited that children in North America would be reading about their culture, we realized that we owed it to them to get the facts right.

How did you research the mythology and culture in the book? How long did it take you to draft the first book, including research?

First of all we read every book we could lay our hands on.  Then we realized that a lot of the books were out of date and read the new crop of books. A big breakthrough came when Jon did a course at Harvard on reading and writing Maya glyphs.  Through that he met a very cool professor named Dr Marc Zender who agreed to check all our facts for us.  In all, Book 1 probably took about four years to write.  We must have written twenty drafts. Since we began, we’ve made several trips down to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, where we’ve talked to contemporary Maya people, canoed underground rivers, tracked howler monkeys, explored cave systems and visited about 30 Maya sites – so far!


Was the research difficult? I know that when I look for mythology and information to share with my students, it can be difficult to find sources of information. When I do find it, it tends to be in Spanish or a Mesoamerican language. Do you speak Spanish or any of the Mesoamerican languages?

As we’re sure you’ve found in your own research, what makes it difficult is that there’s so much misinformation about the Maya.  The archaeologists have only been able to read the Maya glyphs with any accuracy for the last 30 years – which means that much of what was written before is guesswork and often completely wrong.  The internet is also abuzz with nonsense.  Because the Maya were shrouded in mystery for so long, it seems like people have felt free to project their own perspectives onto them. The only way we’ve found to be sure of using current information is to connect with the archaeologists who are working in the field right now.  We attend lectures and seminars to hear the latest news before it’s published. A great source of information is the annual Maya at the Playa conference in Florida.  And yes, Jon grew up speaking Spanish, so that’s extremely helpful – particularly on our travels in Central America.  Incidentally, we’ve put much of what we’ve learned on a cross-curricular lesson plan CD – free to teachers from www.jaguarstones.com

What’s it like to write as a duo?


Good question!  We used to take it in turns to each write a draft, but these days Pamela does most of the writing and Jon does most of the illustrating. The best thing about working together (and probably the worst thing for our kids) is that we can discuss the plot seven days a week.  We both know the characters so well, they’re like members of the family.  Where other writers have to argue with the voices in their own heads, I get to argue with a real, live person!  Sometimes the arguments get quite heated, but we never settle until we’ve agreed on an outcome we can both believe in one hundred per cent.  I think working as a duo makes the book more exciting because we try to surprise each other by inserting more and more twists and turns into the plot.  I would also say that Jon is more action-oriented while I worry more about the characters’ feelings, so it’s a good balance.

Via Twitter, I saw that you were at ALA this year. What was the best part of being there?

ALA was amazing, a booklover’s dream.  To be surrounded by piles of books and people talking about books was heaven.  Two memorable events were signing our books at the Egmont booth and going out for a huge Mexican dinner with a dozen delightful librarians.  But the best thing of all was that our 13-year-old daughter got to meet her favorite author, Laurie Halse Anderson. LHA sat right down on the floor and chatted with her like an old friend.  It was a life-changing moment.

What is your favorite snack to eat while you are writing?


Pamela eats sweet potato chips; Jon drinks soda and crunches on the ice.

That does sound delicious.  And like Jon, I love to crunch the ice after drinking my Pepsi.  Thanks again for stopping by and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld by J&P Voelkel

If you have been following my blog for any length of time then you know that I have a special place in my heart for books that focus on Mesoamerica/Mesoamerican culture.  When I saw that Egmont was publishing The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld by J&P Voelkel, I was very excited. A combination of Percy Jackson and Mayan culture? Sign me up! Thankfully, I was not disappointed. This is a fantastic adventure book that I highly recommend to middle school and YA readers!

Max is looking forward to a summer vacation in Italy. But when his academic parents come home and inform him of a sudden change of plans- they will be canceling the Italian vacation and taking a research trip to the (fictional) country of San Xavier. A seemingly sudden change of heart sends Max to meet them in San Xavier a few weeks later. Max arrives in the rainy country of San Xavier only to find that his parents have disappeared. Mysterious Uncle Ted becomes Max’s de facto guardian, and the search for his parents begins. At the time of their disappearance, they were exploring an ancient Mayan pyramid deep in the rain forest. While things get stranger and stranger, Max soon finds himself lost in the rain forest that may be responsible for his parents’ apparent death.

Love, love, love this book! Like Riordan’s Percy Jackson, The Jaguar Stones is a rollicking adventure.  Along the way the reader is immersed in Mayan culture.  I know in my own experience, Mesoamerican culture is frequently skipped over in ancient history curriculums so students will be very interested in the mythology and culture strewn throughout the story.  At the same time, Max is easy to relate to.  But my own favorite character is Lola, a Mayan girl who Max meets in his search for his missing parents.  (Yes, there are still Mayans!)  Lola is spunky, brave, and a little fresh at times.  A great female character for a great adventure.

Another great aspect of the book is the appendix at the end.  Including calendar explanations and a recipe, it really enhanced the story.  The Mayan culture is fascinating and the Voelkel’s expertise really shines through in the text.  Hopefully, this series will catch on and today’s students will become more interested in Mesoamerican culture.  Come on- in many ways they were far more advanced than their European counterparts!  I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment in the The Jaguar Stones series!

*review copy courtesy of publisher

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