Monarch Teacher Network

This has been the most wonderful three days. The people, about sixty of them, training together have shared fantastic experiences using Monarchs in their classrooms – from pre-school right through the primary school (they talk in grades, but I can’t get my head around it).

There were also two teachers from Peru, where they will be introducing MTN when they go back home, at their school and further afield.

There was a huge range of ideas to share on getting children involved with raising Monarchs, learning about milkweed and of course assisting in the migration. Much was made of their relationship with Mexico, and the ways in which American children can be made aware of children growing up in Mexico. The feedback from the teachers, talking about their experiences working with children was awesome.

At most of these schools Monarchs are raised and released. School is just about to go back for the new school year, and the children will benefit from the experiences and inspiration the teachers have just gained. Some children will be encouraged to make handcrafted Monarchs during an art activity and send them via mail to a sister school in Mexico. In a few months, after the winter, the Mexican children will send similar Monarchs back north.

Some classes make quilts, decorating individual squares, and send them to Mexico. Others have parades and invite the community to get involved. Gardens are planted for the Monarchs – and other birds and butterflies too. The Monarchs are the catalyst, the great ‘trigger’ of this environmental awareness.

Many of the teachers explained how there could be some reluctance among older children, or the tougher boys, to be involved with butterflies – but how after they see the pleasure that the other kids in the class are getting from the activity, they get involved too. It just takes one caterpillar wriggling into its chrysalis, or one butterfly unfolding itself and drying its wings… And this was evident at the course, when someone watching the wildlife in the cages we’d made, called out “Pupa alert” and everyone instantly crowded around the table to witness another emergence.


We learned how to make great desktop ‘cages’ for caterpillars, and gathered fresh milkweed and critters from a piece of land, probably ten acres, across the other side of the road. We learned to look carefully at a plant and see what other wildlife was using it as a host. The milkweed community is a fascinating ‘structure’ – we can learn so much about biodiversity from this most ancient of plants.

Mary and I have seen how lucky we are not to have milkweed beetles and milkweed bugs in NZ. Also, we’ve been warned about poison ivy and poison oak as we trip around outside. We’ve been amazed at how noisy the cicadas are, and revelled in the summer heat over here. But the sun doesn’t seem to burn…

It’s the height of summer here in the northern hemisphere. Around here, New Jersey, there are many deciduous trees, lush and green, properties are mainly unfenced, and one gets the impression as you drive around that you’re on the outskirts of a city, sort of like you’re leaving Cambridge and about to get into a rural area… but the landscape doesn’t change. One minute it’s residential, then light industrial, residential again, light industrial, a shopping centre, more homes… Very few fences. No farm animals, occasional vegetables or orchards. Cars are very much like they are at home – a wide range of different makes and ages.

Peaches and summer fruit are to die for. Last night we ate at a ‘clam bar’ and enjoyed their clam chowder and other fresh seafood. NZ mussels were on the menu too. Their beer was great, but one was enough.

The people have been so hospitable, it’s made our stay so pleasant. Everyone we meet has been so kind and helpful. Many have apologised for their international reputation, saying ‘what must we (the rest of the world) think of them’. They don’t talk politics, although it’s top of mind on the news of course with the elections so close.

Today (Saturday) we are off to Philadelphia to look around that city, and see such things as the Liberty Bell.

I have taken lots of photographs, and will upload them to, user name NZMBT, when I get a better connection. Right now I’m using the wireless connection of ‘someone around here’, but it doesn’t let me do too much…

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