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Monarchs across McDuffie: Teachers learn about butterflies during workshop at Watson-Brown Foundation

Area teachers didn't let this opportunity flutter by. Approximately 16 educators from the Central Savannah River Area attended the third annual Monarch workshop Friday and Saturday at the Watson-Brown Foundation in Thomson.

"It is just phenomenal," said Kathy Buurma, a fourth grade teacher at Westminster Day School in Augusta. "No, maybe awesome is a better word. ... They provide a lot of hands-on material that I can take back to my classroom, as well as share with other teachers at my school."

Ms. Buurma said she is excited to take materials back to the second grade teachers at Westminster. And that is the attitude the workshop organizers were hoping for.

"Their classrooms will be hopping Monday morning," said Dot Kay, a coordinator with the McDuffie Environmental Education Center. Ms. Kay is an educator at many of the field trips and events at the WBF, but she was a student at the weekend butterfly workshop.

The workshop was taught by Susan Meyers and Jennifer McCoy of the Monarchs Across Georgia organization. The workshop provided one Professional Learning Unit credit for teachers to apply to their certification in Georgia. During the workshop, teachers and informal educators watched videos about Monarchs, participated in hands-on activities learning to grow gardens that attract the species, and crafted plastic nurseries, catching nets and net cages to grow their own Monarch communities in their classrooms.

"I'm even learning to sew," quipped Vann Wilson, an educator from Glascock County. "This has been superb. I can't tell you how excited I am to be here."

Mr. Wilson was receiving sewing lessons from a fellow workshop participant, who helped with his butterfly-catching net. Ms. Meyers said each participant left with many grade-specific handouts, as well as live specimens and plants to start their communities.

"No matter what grade level you teach or what county you teach in, all of this applies to the curriculum in Georgia," said Teresa Sellars, a third grade teacher at Euchee Creek Elementary School in Grovetown.

While most of the participants were teachers, Ms. Meyers said she also welcomed "informal educators" to the workshop.

"It's been very good, considering I didn't know a whole lot about butterflies," said Jayne Andrews, a stay-at-home mom from Martinez. "I learned The Very Hungry Caterpillar book is not accurate."

Monarchs are black and orange butterflies that migrate in masses every fall to their wintering grounds in Mexico. In the spring, they fly back to their summer home where they lay their eggs and die. In 1937, scientists began placing small sticky wing tags on monarchs to discover their habits. In 1975, it was discovered that some monarchs fly over 1800 miles. Participants had the opportunity to tag and release Monarchs during the Watson-Brown Foundation workshop.

The Watson Brown Foundation is a certified Monarch pollinator with its own garden located on the property. During the workshop Saturday, Ms. Meyers presented the official sign to Landscape Manager Dexter Rhodes.

"I am proud... We had to jump through hoops and circles to get it," Mr. Rhodes said. "It was more to it than I realized."

Monarch Across Georgia is an organization dedicated to the study of Monarchs and the restoration of butterfly habitats across the state.

The Watson-Brown Foundation is a sponsor of MAG and plays host to the workshop each summer, paying half of each teacher's workshop fee.

"They are such wonderful supporters of Monarch education," Ms. Meyers said. "They even sponsor our website."

The website address is

The Watson Brown Foundation also offers free historical or environmental field trips with free transportation for area school classes.

The foundation is located at 310 Tom Watson Way in Thomson. For more information, visit, or call 706-595-7777.

Web posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007

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