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Coral Reef Ed-Ventures

Coral Reef Ed-Ventures is an innovative, cooperative educational venture between Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. This school-based project began in 2000 as an effort to facilitate community awareness of reef ecology and to support and encourage reef preservation. Reefs are important because they provide natural protection for coastlines and are the basis of tropical marine fisheries. Reefs also attract tourists, providing substantial income to island and coastal communities.

The Meso-American Barrier Reef

The Meso-American Barrier Reef lies off the coasts of southern Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. The reef extends for 625 miles form north to south, from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula to the islands of the Gulf of Honduras. The reef is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Off the northeast coast of Belize, Ambergris Caye’s close proximity to the reef allows this small island to boast the title of Belize’s premier vacation destination. Hol Chan was Belize’s first marine reserve, and its mission is to monitor the health of the reef for sustainable fisheries and environmental and economic stability. The island’s economic and ecologic dependence on the reef necessitates a local understanding of the reef’s central role in everyday life.

Program Structure

An interdisciplinary team of Smith College undergraduate students serve as the teachers for the program. During the program, children explore reef ecology through field trips to the beach and reef, conduct in-class experiments, and participate in creative activities with arts and crafts projects, stories, and games. With strong collaborative support from Hol Chan Marine Reserve’s education coordinator and a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer at Hol Chan, the program is able to offer meaningful small group discussions on issues ranging from environmental ethics to the pros and cons of mangrove destruction. Guest speakers whose livelihoods depend on the reef, ranging from tour guides to dive masters to environmental volunteers, emphasize the importance of the reef as a critical resource to everyday life. By the end of the program, the children are able to demonstrate significant knowledge of the coral reef environment by identifying reef organisms, discussing adaptations and symbiotic relationships, and understanding threats facing the reef. The program concludes with a graduation ceremony, during which the school children perform skits using their learned knowledge of the coral reef and receive “Coral Reef Expert” cards.

Contact Us

For additional information please contact:

Anne Wibiralske, Program Coordinator, via email:
awibiralske at smith.edu