Category: Teachers & Parents

Why Alabaster Caverns?

The Alabaster Caverns near Freedom, OK are one of two places in the world where you can find black alabaster. Not far from the Santa Fe Trail, it is important in The Black Alabaster Box. 3 min. read. Kid Friendly.

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What Do You Know About the Santa Fe Trail?

The Santa Fe Trail recently celebrated its 200th Anniversary. Who were the people who used the trail? Author, Frances Schoonmaker, discusses a fictional family making the trip west and offers resources for discovering more about the Santa Fe Trail. 6 minute read. Kid Friendly.

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The Diverse History of the Trails West

The diverse history of the Great Westward Migration is illustrated in the life of James Pierson Beckwourth. Born in 1798 to slavery, Beckwourth was of mixed race. His larger-than-life story reached from the Crow Nation in Wyoming to the town named for him in California.

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When Favorite Characters Die

After one of my friends finished reading The Black Alabaster Box, she e-mailed me.“I loved it. . . I must say that you are very brave, because I couldn’t kill off some of my favorite characters.” It’s true. Some of my favorite characters experience the harsh reality of life on the Santa Fe Trail. Two die

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A Purple Iris for Teachers

When I finished my Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education at George Peabody College for Teachers, now part of Vanderbilt University, I was given an iris along with my diploma. Campus had been a riot of iris blooms the weeks before graduation. As we gathered on campus in our caps and gowns, we stood

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Edible Plants and the Character Mr. Payne

Esther Suh’s guest blog reminds us that there are edible flowers that we can enjoy, provided that we learn about them and make knowledgeable choices.  She points out that as Mr. Payne mentors protagonist, Grace Willis, in The Black Alabaster Box he teaches her to identify edible wild plants.  I like Mr. Payne a lot. When he

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Going Batty: On Illustrating

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Mexican free-tailed batsUploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons I made the decision to illustrate my trilogy for very selfish reasons. As a child, I hated it when there were pictures of the people in fiction. The illustrator almost always

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Chapter Discussion Questions for THE BLACK ALABASTER BOX

Teachers who are using The Black Alabaster Box with reading groups, book clubs, or as part of a study of the Great Westward Migration may find these questions useful. You could have students write their take on a question in a journal after reading the chapter, too. I don’t think it would be appropriate to have students

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