Heartbreaking News from the Monarch Bioreserves

In February 2008, I was privileged enough to travel to Michoacan, Mexico where I visited the monarch butterfly bioreserves with the Monarch Teacher Network.  (Check out my posts from the trip here.)  Right now, a group of friends and teachers is in Mexico where they should be visiting the reserves.  Instead, they are sitting in a hotel in Mexico City, trying to plan their next move.

On Friday, after extreme rainfall across central Mexico, a devastating flood struck the small mountain town of Angangueo in Michoacan. The rain lasted  for over two days and was the heaviest rainfall in over 25 years, according to authorities.
Angangueo is located directly in between two of the monarch reserves and the people there are amazing.  Due to the floods, many homes and lives have been lost.  To make matters worse, much of the mountain forests have been illegally logged, so there have been a great many mudslides in the area of El Rosario.

I can’t imagine what it is like there right now.  The government has declared Angangueo a disaster area and most of the people in the area have been evacuated to other towns. The roads into and out of the area, and up the mountain to the sanctuaries, have been damaged extensively by landslides. According to some eyewitnesses there, the road to El Rosario is impassable.  There has been very little news about the monarchs in the reserves (which pales in comparison to the human lives, of course).  But this year’s monarch population is one of the lowest in years according to scientists, at only 1.92 hectares.

This news video contains footage of Angangueo during the evacuation:
http://www.hechos.tv/estados/confirman-6-muertos-por-lluvias-en-michoacan/v/17714 (thanks to Journey North for the link)

Visiting Michoacan was a life-changing experience.  A few pictures from my trip can hardly capture the magic of the region, but it is the least I can do.  This is getting little to no media coverage in the US.  My heart is breaking for the amazing people who care for the monarch butterflies over the winter months and the losses they have suffered.  They are a resilient people, but I am keeping them in my prayers.

A hotel in Angangueo

Some children on their way to school in Angangueo


The view from the parking lot at El Rosario.  Supposedly the road is completely destroyed.

The path up the mountain at El Rosario.  A river of monarchs.

One of the restaurants run by the local people at El Rosario


A local Purepechuan women at El Rosario

The road, laid by hand by the local people, that is supposedly impassable now due to mudslides

I worry that homes like these are flooded or wiped out by mudslides

Oyamel forests like this one, at Sierra Chincua, have been illegally clearcut, resulting in the mudslides.

More information on the floods can be found here.

Monarch Enrichment Class

I spent the last few days working on the curriculum for my enrichment class.  This year each teacher will teach a 30 minute enrichment period on a topic they are passionate about.  I love the idea and am thrilled to delve deeper into the monarchs with my classes!  I will teach the class 4 times, to a different class each marking period.

I decided to focus a lot on the area of Mexico where the Monarchs migrate.  That means looking at the Aztecs and Mayans, modern-day Michoacan, and the monarch’s effects on the culture.  I’ve come up with a rough outline of the class, seen below.

Meso-American Books for Kids?

I need your help!  This year I will be teaching an enrichment course based on monarch butterflies.  One of my focuses will be the Meso-American cultures in central Mexico, where the monarchs migrate. I am looking for great kid’s books(picture book to YA)about Aztecs, Mayans,Purepechua, etc.  In other words, I need fiction or non-fiction books about Meso-American cultures in Mexico.  So far I have found the following, but I need more!

 

I am interested in books that look at these cultures in the past and now.  I am especially looking for some chapter books/novels.  Any ideas?

Monarch Emergence and Document Camera

Wow! This past week both of my classes were witness to one of nature’s miracles- the emergence of a monarch butterfly from its chrysalis. I have never managed to have both classes view this miracle as monarch usually emerge early in the morning, before we arrive at school. This year, I remembered to move their cage into the air-conditioned (and dark) supply closet overnight. When I removed them in the morning, both chrysalids were dark. I assumed that they would both emerge that morning. Well, lucky us- one held off until after lunch!

What made this experience even better was the fact that I hooked up the document camera and placed it only a few inches from the chrysalis. Then, I hooked up the document camera to the TV. Well, watching the monarch emerge, close-up, on the TV was amazing! (And it allowed me to keep the kids away from the cage so they didn’t inadvertently knock into it). Well, you could hear a pin drop as we watched our two boys crawl out of their chrysalis, flip upside-down, and slowly begin pumping their wings.

I love my document camera!!!

Monarchs, Day 2

Tagging demonstration at MTN workshop

Today was another awesome day at the workshop. Busy, busy, busy as always! But we got through everything and did an great release. There were a few preschoolers and toddlers in the building who came to the event, which made it extra special. Holding one little boy’s hand, I watched his face light up with each monarch that alighted on a participant. And when one landed on his shirt? Absolutely priceless.

The Courier-Post sent a photographer who photographed a good deal of the morning activities, including the above photo where I am explaining tagging to the participants (with Sue, my amazing cooperating teacher from student teaching). There should be an article tomorrow and another story in the local section next week.

One more day left! But if you want to experience a bit of the workshop for yourself, check out this video from NJ.com and the Star-Ledger. This workshop ended today at Raritan Valley Community College. The video is great!

Monarch Workshop

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.

Monarch film

Since last summer, the Monarch Teacher Network has been shooting film for a full length film production about the monarch butterfly and Monarch Teacher Network. The videographer, Ed Waters, has filmed for many years in New Jersey classrooms for the New Jersey Education Association television series “Classroom Closeup”. Ed accompanied the March 8-15, 2008 trip to Mexico, filming in the monarch colonies and other parts of the trip. The film is shot in HD and includes lots of great close-ups.They are hoping to have the final production finished and available as a dvd to teachers who participate in the summer 2008 MTN workshops, as part of the materials they receive at the workshop.

Since his return from Mexico in March, Ed has put together about 5 minutes of footage and made it available. The teacher who is interviewed is Jessica “Netia” Elam, who was trained at our Prince William County, Virginia workshop in August 2007; she teaches Advanced Placement Biology at Forest Park High School and uses monarchs in her work, as a result of getting involved with MTN. ( MTN will be back in Prince William and Fairfax County, VA on Aug 11-13 (Fairfax County) and Aug 6-8 (Prince William County) for another workshop this summer. I will hopefully be working as staff at one of the Va. workshops!)

Below is the clip from the film. It is breathtakingly gorgeous. Keep in mind that Youtube does compress the quality a bit, but it is still stunning. My students watched it with me today and they were sitting silently, at rapt attention. It’s that good!

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