This past January, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to California with the MTN. The previous summer I participated in their two day workshop and it was an amazing experience. This workshop inspired me to be a better educator as well as an advocate for the environment.
The trip was an incredible whirlwind that started in San Francisco and headed down towards Monterey. The themes of change and friendship prevailed as the relationship between Ed Rickets and John Steinbeck was explored. Our first stop was the John Steinbeck Museum in Salinas. The museum shed some light on the life of Steinbeck and his friendship with Rickets.
Moving onward, we headed to one of the largest monarch colonies in California at Pismo Beach. It was unbelievable to watch the monarchs as they hung in clusters. There were over 28,000 monarchs at the wintering area. This was one of the highlights of the trip and an item to cross off my bucket list! The monarchs were awe-inspiring in their clusters as they flew around our heads. It felt like they were floating and I did not want to leave this magical place!
The northern elephant seals were another highlight of the trip. This event was magnified as we witnessed a baby being born. I was astonished by these mammoth creatures and I found it fascinating that the elephant seal population almost became extinct back in the 1800s. By 1892, only 50 to 100 individuals were left with the only remaining colony on the Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja California. The Mexican government protected the only elephant seals known to be in existence. Since then, the population of northern elephant seals has recovered at an average rate of six percent per year. Today, thanks to government protection and the seals' distant lives at sea, the worldwide population has grown to an estimated 150,000 seals.
Our group then headed to Sand Dollar Beach and a walk along the “Jade Coast”, which gets its name from the rock that is deposited all along the beach. I enjoyed the quiet moments on the beach as we took in the breathtaking sights.
The whirlwind tour took us to Butterfly Town, USA also known as Pacific Grove. There we toured their fantastic natural history museum and sat on a whale! We were then off to Point Lobos, with its amazing trail that shared sea life and an old growth Cypress Forest. I can tell you that I was in almost a daze but enjoying every minute.
Our trip also took us to Andrew Molera State Park, another butterfly habitat and we were able to walk along the coast. The highlight for me this day was the trip to the Monterey Aquarium. They had an amazing display of jellyfish, showing the different varieties of jelly fish and the differences in their structures and habitats.
The sea lions at Moss Landing were so cool! Do you know the difference between seals and sea lions? Both animals are called pinniped which means “fin footed” in Latin, but they have some definite differences. Sea Lions have small flaps for outer ears while seals are earless. Sea lions are noisy while seals are quieter. Sea lions can walk on land while seals have to crawl. These were just a few of the facts I learned.
This experience inspired me to stretch my limits as a person and as an educator. I completed tasks and overcame obstacles that I never would have thought I could have accomplished. I want to inspire my students to the same level. I also want to help them understand the delicate balance of the world around us. There is a quote from Bradley Miller that “teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as the caterpillar." Children will never love nature unless they understand it. Through this adventure, I learned more about nature and its interrelationships than I would have ever dreamed. I hope to stretch my students the same way!
Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5. As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree. Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!