In Print

Quest Martha's Vineyard

Vineyard Quest ready for Islanders

By CK Wolfson - November 22, 2006

"Quest Martha's Vineyard," editor Natalie Munn, assistant editor Kim Munn. MV Times Press. 2007. 53 pages. $9.25.

It is her first look at the finished product, and as Martha's Vineyard Regional High School chemistry and environmental science teacher Natalie Munn flips through the pages of the book she organized and edited, she keeps repeating, "Wow," under her breath. Almost two years after inception, the Quest Martha's Vineyard book is available for distribution.

Smartly designed by Tara Kenny and cleverly written by mentored groups of regional high school students, the Quest book is an entertaining guide to eight historic or environmentally significant Island sites such as Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary, Great Rock Bight Preserve, and the Martha's Vineyard Museum. Information about the unique aspects of each is presented in long rhymes, or in fill-in-the-blank puzzles.

Introducing Mytoi Garden, writers Josh Gothard, Randi Sylvia, and Katherine Wilson include the caution:

"This tall cedar tree is different from before,
It can be as wide as 20 feet, which is hard to ignore.
Its reddish brown bark peels off in long strips,
But please don't pull it, it hurts the tree when it rips."

At the end of each chapter visitors are led to the place where a Quest Box containing a stamp carved by Jackson Parker, is hidden. In the back of the book is a place to add the stamped impression.

With a cheerleader's enthusiasm, Ms. Munn says, "It's a great way to introduce visitors to the Island, to learn what the Island has to offer, and that there's more to do than go to the beach." Smiling broadly, she continues, "And I think this book will be used by Islanders to learn more about the Island. I'd been here seven years and had never been to Long Point before doing that book."

Providing information and directions in the chapter on Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Allison Carr, Naomi Rayfield, and Elicia Williams, under the mentorship of Pilar Redmond, encourage visitors:

"As you enter, see a garden kept by volunteers alone,
The Edey Foundation has helped with this home
For butterflies and mallards and fish in the pond.
On your right is this haven, but keep walking beyond."

And in the chapter on Long Point, student writers Hannah Guerin, Erin Keany and Gizelle Soares, working with mentors Suzan Bellincampi and Sarah Mello-Trudel, include some background:

"The Wampanoag Native Americans used this land for firewood, until the European stealers acquired it for use. Now the Trustees of Reservations keep it for us to enjoy, and to serve as a wildlife refuge."

Ms. Munn says, "You might not think to go to Great Rock Bight if you didn't really know where it was. Then you might walk around for five minutes and get bored and leave. Whereas if you have a book like this, you have a 30- or 40-minute guide of what the students found interesting about the site."

She smiles broadly. "The poetry may not be perfect, but it's the student's writing, and the neat thing about it is that it motivates you to visit all eight places."

Each chapter includes Jillian MacCleod's carefully rendered maps, Emily Regan's cartoon illustrations, and a fact list that includes the directions, hours of operation, fees, phone numbers, facilities, history, and rules, such as keeping dogs on leashes or no smoking, and in the case of the Native Earth Teaching Farm: "Please do not feed the animals."

Quest books are independently written and produced under separate auspicies and funding. The idea for Quest Martha's Vineyard originated with the Martha's Vineyard Environmental Education Alliance (MVEEA), a group composed of environmental professionals and educators, such as Ms. Munn, who holds a doctorate degree in biomedical chemistry from Tufts University. The group meets monthly with the mission of furthering environmental awareness through education.

Susan Bellicampi, director of Felix Neck, was familiar with Quest books through the work of Steve Glazer, who developed the Valley Quest program, and invited Mr. Glazer to speak at a workshop hosted at Polly Hill Arboretum for the MVEEA.

The project was awarded a Toyota Tapestry Grant of $2,500. "One of the strengths of the project was that it was so tied to the community," Ms. Munn says. A portion of the book's profits will go to the high school and the organizations represented in the MVEEA. Quest Martha's Vineyard was published without charge by MV Times Press.

Ms. Munn composed a guideline to structure the writing process. "I advertised it in all of my classes and the other science teachers joined in. The kids chose in ranking order the sites they wanted to write about. Then I went to each organization to see if we could do this, and asked if they had somebody who would serve as a mentor. And it worked out great. The organizations cooperated totally."

After recalling that along with her sister-in-law, special education teacher Kim Munn, who served as assistant editor, she walked each path testing the directions when she was eight months pregnant. "The process of putting all the separate parts of the book together was challenging," says Ms. Munn. Still, she is optimistic about developing future Quest books, along with other projects that might originate in her classrooms connected to conserving energy.

"I'm open to new directions, and I can very easily imagine a second edition," she says, giving credit to the cooperation the students demonstrated. "It got the kids out and got them to look at things in a different way. The experience brought out a wonderful side of them, and allowed people to see how responsible kids can be. People worry about kids today, but my experience has been really good. The kids are willing to be advocates and take a positive role in their community."

Quest Martha's Vineyard is available now at the MV Times, Island bookstores and selected locations.