As the Smith College Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program enters its 13th year, students gear up for another fun and educational summer running youth camps in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
This year’s student participants—Angela Oliverio ’12 (majors: biological sciences and philosophy), Kaylyn Oates ’12 (geosciences and education and child study), Alyssa Stanek ’13 (psychology and education and child study), Kayla Clark ’14 (sociology and education and child study), Laura Malecky ’13 (study of women and gender), and Megan Svoboda ‘12 (anthropology)—along with faculty members David Smith, professor of biological sciences, Al Curran, professor emeritus of geosciences, and Denise Lello, lecturer in biological sciences, team up with personnel at the Belize Hol Chan Marine Reserve to provide educational summer programs to the local youth.
The Smith team departed this week for a six-week stay on the Belize coast.
The Smith student teachers and up to 100 Belizean school children, aged 7 to 11, participate in a two-week, inquiry-based program to learn about coral reefs. There is also a one-week program for youth aged 12 and above, during which the students produce a final project to share with their community.
The programs integrate exploration of the local reef and coastal environments through the study of geology and marine science, and make connections to the existing curricula of the Belizean schools. Smith students will also engage in research to survey abundances of invertebrates and invasive fish on the reef and to map mangroves and sea grass beds.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef extends 180 miles along the coasts of southern Mexico, Belize, and northern Honduras and is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Ambergris Caye is located off the northeast coast of Belize, and its close proximity to the reef allows this small island to boast the title of Belize’s premier vacation destination. The island is dependent on the reef economically as well as ecologically.
The island’s Hol Chan Marine Reserve was established in 1987 in response to concerns about the increasing amount of uncontrolled diving and fishing on and near the reef. A healthy coral reef and adjacent sea grass beds and mangrove communities are needed to support tourism and sustain fisheries. The degradation of these habitats would be detrimental locally and regionally.
Coral Reef Ed-Ventures student teachers strive to educate the community and heighten awareness about the important economic, ecological, and aesthetic benefits that coral reefs provide to Belize. They use a wide variety of strategies, techniques, and materials to teach children concepts about reef ecology, including field trips, crafts, skits, games, and other hands-on activities. The program seeks to inspire conservation and sustainable use of coastal resources by providing children an opportunity to learn how healthy reefs function, how various organisms interact with the reef, what threats to the reef ecosystem exist, and how to protect it. Smith College’s Environmental Science & Policy Program and Center for Community Collaboration sponsor this project, which is made possible by a gift from Linda Salisbury ’78.
The Coral Ed Team of 2012 is very excited to begin their adventure on La Isla Bonita!