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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Teacher Handouts
Eco Mystery Writing Contest

1. HOW TO BECOME AN ECO DETECTIVE
2. Role Playing Cards for Monarch Mysteries
3. Driving Questions from The Adventures of the Sizzling Six

I read Claire Datnow’s eco mystery series, The Adventures of the Sizzling Six, with great pleasure. The way she weaved lessons in ecology, economics, civics, group dynamics, and growing up into a good read accessible—no, engaging—to younger readers, is inspiring. I very much admire the authors commingling of poetic scene setting with clarity of exposition of complex subjects out of reach of common understanding, with editorial advocacy. Datnow has developed the skill of making clarity from complexity. Thank you for your commitment to writing books.

George Terrian, environmental architect


Dear Teacher,
Each time I write a new eco-mystery for the series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I am amazed at what I learn about the species central to my story. I have developed this unit to share the excitement of learning with students. It is my hope these lesson plans will inspire them to take action in their own communities, and, ultimately, become wise stewards of the earth’s precious natural heritage.
Feel free to download and print the curriculum unit How to Become and Eco Detective. Lessons can easily be correlated to the Common Core State Standards Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. You can also print up the Role Playing Cards and the Driving Questions for use in your classroom.
I would be honored if you would share your students’ work with me at: cldatnow@me.com
Please feel free to adapt the lessons plans to suit your students’ needs, time constraints, and grade levels.

1. HOW TO BECOME AN ECO DETECTIVE
An Interdisciplinary Unit for Writing Across the Curriculum
Claire Datnow
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An ecological mystery is a scientific investigation and a mystery combined into an exciting story. In an eco mystery the role of villain is played by an unknown ecological problem that is harming a species. The characters are affected by the problem, and like good detectives they must carry out an investigation that will identify the problem and then help solve it.
1. Warming Up: 
Begin by reading an excerpt from one of The Adventures of The Sizzling Six. You may choose an excerpt—with lots of dialogue between different characters—from one of the eco mysteries for the students to read as a play. The purpose of this activity is to get kids curious about a species and wanting to know more.
Next, discuss the meaning of the term Endangered Species with your students. How does a species get selected to be included on the list of Threatened, Vulnerable, or Endangered Species?
Have students read at least one eco mystery, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, as a model for writing their own eco mysteries. For younger students you may want to read these aloud in class (below fourth grade).
         How do scientists find out if a species is in some way endangered? Note: I suggest that students select a species that lives in their state to facilitate research.
For a handy overview of the topic visit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered_species
2. Select a Species  
Next students select the species they want to investigate—plant or animal. You might want to narrow the selection by starting with your own county, or state. For a complete list of US endangered species see these links:
 
http://www.fws.gov/endangered/?s8fid=112761032793&s8fid=112762573903&countyName=Jefferson (interactive web site!)
Give students time to look over the possibilities before making their final selections.
3. Research the Species:
Now students begin researching the species they have chosen.
—Observations: Where possible, take field trips to nature centers to observe the species in their natural habitats. If possible, visit the habit that serves as the setting of their story—forests, lakes, or streams. Make notes and observations on the animals, plants, sights and sounds, and on how they are related to the mystery.
—Interview local experts, or email them. Invite them to do a presentation in your classroom. Contact local organizations that promote wildlife and nature conservation, such as the Audubon Society, Water Watch, Nature Centers, and Wildlife Refuges.
—Read books, both fiction and nonfiction. Find articles on the Internet. Watch documentary movies about their species.
 (Set a deadline of about one-six weeks for the students to complete their research, depending on the depth of the investigation.)
For more detailed lesson plans on research click on the pdf file below:
teacher resources for eco mystery
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4. Experiment:
If possible, carry out your own experiments to test the air, water, soil that the species lives in. As you make discoveries, you may begin to find the solution to your eco mystery, and a possible way to save the species. Invite or consult local agencies to explain, or demonstrate how to test for air, water, and soil pollution.

—Investigate the Problem. Perhaps there is a landfill upriver from your site, a dam, a factory, a shopping mall, or housing development—this may be a possible ‘villain’ that is harming their species. At the completion of their research students should complete a worksheet that includes: Species Name, Appearance, Habitat, Behavior, Life Cycle, and Reasons why they have become threatened or endangered. See Example:
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/woodpeckers/red-cockaded-woodpecker/
5. Explain and Draw Conclusions:
–Solving the Mystery: Review your problem and the results of your observations, research, experiments, and investigations. Can you suggest a cause for the ecological problem that is damaging the species? Once you understand the cause of the problem, and a possible solution you are ready to tell your story. You will take the reader through everything you did, while developing the characters, place, time, setting and a plot.

6. Write The Eco Mystery:

Have students read a least one of eco mystery of
The Adventures of The Sizzling Six. Go over the major elements of writing a story, adjusting it to the level of the students: Plot, Protagonist, Antagonist, Setting, Character, Point of View, Dialogue, Theme. Create a main character who has a reason to care about your ecological problem. Perhaps it is a daughter of a zoo specialist, the son of a forest ranger, or a field biologist who spends time working in the woods, at a lake, or a river, behind the scenes of the local zoo, wildlife rehabilitation center, or in a research laboratory.
—Develop a few supporting characters who can play key roles in your plot—perhaps the manager of a wildlife refuge who would know something about each of the creatures in the refuge. As your character works through the mystery, these experts can be a source of information.
—Provide some background on the main character as the story goes along to draw the reader into ‘knowing’ your character.
—Include ‘red herrings’. Every good mystery has some distractions, which misdirect the main character’s investigation. This keeps the readers guessing until you are ready to tell all in the conclusion to your eco mystery.
—End the story where the actions of the main character(s) help to solve the problem that is harming the species.
HAVE FUN!
For More Details on Literary Connections and My Blogs go to this link:
teacher resources for eco mystery

7.Publish and Share.
Suggests ways in which the book can be published for distribution in the classroom, the school, with environmental organizations, or for wider audiences.
For school DISCOUNTS AND BULK ORDERS of The Adventure series please contact: mediamint@me.com
The Adventures of The Sizzling Six are also available for downloading as ebooks
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Links to Additional Resources:
Project Wildlife Resources
Project Learning Tree
Audubon Teaches Nature
Alabama Wildlife Federation
Wildlife Habitat Assessment
Alabama Wildlife Conservation Status
Alabama Endangered, Threatened Species List
Interdisciplinary Unit on Endangered Animals

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 Author Presentations for School Visits, Conferences and In-Service Training

Claire is available for author presentations at libraries, bookstores, elementary, and middle schools free of charge. This applies to events within 30 miles of Birmingham, Alabama. I am available for events farther away if travel costs are reimbursed.
“Visits” with Claire via Skype are also offered for free.

Presentation Topics
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* Bringing Books to Life! Claire leads her audiences on a fascinating journey that integrates technological innovation, ecology and writing. Claire demonstrate how innovative new technology transports readers from the printed page to video clips, to allow readers to see and hear what the characters in the story are seeing and hearing. Wow! How? To see how please view a two-minute video clip at:
Media Mint Publishing
 * How to Become and Eco Detective: A highly interactive, hands-on presentation, illustrated with photos and videos. Using examples from The Adventures of The Sizzling Six series, Claire guides students through the process of writing their own eco mysteries, illustrating how to weave scientific principles into the stories to help characters solve ecology mysteries, and then how to take action to resolve them.

  • Reading and Q&A Forum: Claire reads selections from The Adventures of The Sizzling Six series and take questions. She passes out ringer questions with humorous answers to the audience in advance. Particularly appropriate to bookstores, short library programs, or ecology clubs.
* Book Discussion: Claire meets with small groups of students who have already read her eco mysteries to talk about the book. Presentation will focus on topics of interest to students.

How to Schedule a Presentation

Email Claire at: cldatnow@me.com. If you'd like to discuss a presentation on the phone, let her know and she'll email back telephone numbers where she can be reached.

How to Prepare for a Presentation:

It is preferable for participants to have an opportunity to buy or check out a copy of The Adventures of The Sizzling Six before the author arrives. Make sure everyone on your team knows about and promotes the presentation. English teachers, Earth Sciences teachers, school librarians, administrators, public librarians and booksellers can all contribute to making it a successful visit. You can order books from your local bookseller, or through Amazon.com and other on-line booksellers. I can provide books at signings myself.
Links to the author’s curriculum guides and related activities will be provided.

Reviews and Testimonials:

A superb ending that kids will love. A well researched and balanced presentation, grounded in solid facts and real conservation issues that educates and engages the young adult reader.
Cleo Lackey, Media Specialist, Brookwood Forest Elementary School.
The way you wove lessons in ecology, economics, civics, group dynamics, and growing up into a good read accessible—no, engaging—to younger readers, is inspiring. You have developed the skill of making clarity from complexity.
George Terrian, environmental architect
Claire’s presentations are truly engaging and highly interactive. By the time she left we had a room full of students eager to try their hand at writing their own eco mysteries.
Karen Kapp, Director, Birmingham Better Basic


Role Playing Cards for Monarch Mysteries
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Have students role play the characters in the eco mystery by reading the cards.
Students can also use these cards to have the characters debate the issues with one another.

Alex Kohn a student at Stone Middle School: (the main Protagonist)

I was very upset when I found out that the population of monarch butterflies has become so
small. Scientists say the migration of monarch butterflies—considered one of the world’s great
natural spectacle—is in danger of vanishing! Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch
butterflies will lay their eggs, and it is the major food source for monarch caterpillars. But
farmers are spraying their crops with herbicide that is killing the milkweed plants. To help save
the monarchs scientists and conservationists are encouraging people to grow milkweed in their
own yards and gardens. I can’t believe that our neighborhood association and our city council
are trying to stop people like Mrs. Mariposa from planting milkweed in their gardens! The
Sizzling Six have got to find a way to overcome these obstacles in order to save the monarchs
before it is too late.

Mr. Prickles, President of the City Council (Antagonist)
I’m tired of do-gooders like Mrs. Mariposa trying to get people to believe that they’re letting their
garden become overgrown with weeds to save monarch butterflies. The Weed Ordinance of
Mortaburg states that residents must maintain their yards free of weeds and shrubs higher than
twelve (12) inches. It’s clear that Mrs. Mariposa has violated Mortaburg’s weed ordinance
because she’s growing weeds higher than 12-inches tall. Worse yet, Mrs. Mariposa doesn’t cut
all the weeds back in the fall, so the seeds from her weeds start growing in our yards. Her yard
attracts mice, groundhogs, snakes and all sorts of bugs. Perhaps the pests appreciate her
neighborhood eyesore, but the neighbors do not. A child could be dragged in there and never be
found—or even bitten by a poisonous snake there.

Mrs. Mariposa, Homeowner and Wildflower Gardener (relationships/wise person)
I do not cultivate weeds in my garden. I grow plants native to this area. You see, a plant is called
a weed when it grows where it is not wanted. I am a horticulturalist. That means that I am an
expert on the science of growing wildflowers. Not to brag, but I am the most successful grower
of wildflowers in Mortaburg. There’s a big difference between letting invasive plants like poison
ivy, kudzu, privet, and bramble bushes get out of control, and growing wildflowers that attract
butterflies, bees, birds, and other wildlife. Ordering me to cut down my wildflower garden may
seem to be just a little thing that does not truly hurt any one or any thing. But, you see, my
garden attracts all kinds of pollinators, including bees. Without bees, most of the flowers we love
and the food we eat would disappear. Can you imagine living in a world without flowers or fruit?
Or a world without butterflies?” Did Mr. Prickles or the city officials think about this when they
fined me and wanted me to destroy my garden?

Mr. Freed, Director of the Mortaburg Botanical Gardens (Helper)
Any human activity—construction of new buildings or roads, clearing land for farms or houses,
cutting down forest for lumber, or spraying herbicides on plants—damages the wildlife's habitat.
Wildflowers gardens can replace some of the lost habitat. We humans are the real culprits,
because we destroy nature without thinking about the consequences. Mrs. Mariposa’s garden
with it’s tall wildflowers is not a weedy jungle. It’s an attractive haven for wildlife.!



Driving Questions from The Adventures of the Sizzling Six:
Monarch Mysteries (Book 7 of the Eco Mystery Series)
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Why do monarchs migrate to this part of Mexico each winter?
Why do the monarchs return to the US and Canada each spring?
Why do Monarchs lay eggs on milkweeds which are toxic?
Where does the Monarch Butterfly fit into the food web if it becomes
poisonous to its predators when they eat milkweed?
What is the name of the poison in the monarch butterfly's body and how
potent is it?

How can the we help save the monarchs before it is too late?
How do the monarchs know where to go in Mexico if they’ve never been
there?
How can it be a crime to grow our state’s wildflowers?

What attracts butterflies to land on people?
What dangers do the monarchs have to overcome on their migration to
Mexico?
Why do they tag butterflies?
Will planting milkweeds help the monarchs migrating from Mexico?

Questions from the last paragraph on the book:
The Sizzling Six are helping the monarch butterflies. Why should they care?
What difference does it make if the monarch migration disappears? Or little
the bugs and big weeds disappear? Or even if half of all the species on earth
disappear?

All these questions are in the book with answers revealed as the story
progresses. Do you found them useful? You can find the printable teacher
handout, outlining the curriculum unit,
How to Become and Eco Detective,
on the top of this page.


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Special Educator Price: 12 or more books $5.00 each
Order by email: mediamint@me.com


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