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Smith Students Dive in to Educators' Role

Emily Tyner ’06 narrates a trip on the glass-bottom boat

Though residents of Belize, the small tropical jewel on the Caribbean coast, rely on the income generated by the increasing tourists who dive and snorkel along its pristine coral reef, few of the country’s natives have ever studied the natural wonder.

But that’s changing thanks to an annual program called “Coral Reef Ed-Ventures,” in which several Smith students travel to the Central American country for six weeks each summer to educate local children about the undersea ecosystem there and ways to preserve it.

The program, which began in 2000 with only five students, has grown each year in enrollment, accommodating 70 students this summer, and adding an advanced course for children who have mastered the information in the basic course.

“We want them to become caretakers of this natural resource,” said Allen Curran, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Geology, who has helped coordinate the program since its inception.

Back in the classroom

Six Smith students traveled to San Pedro, in Ambergris Cay, Belize, this summer to participate in the educational program.

While the children in Ambergris Cay understand that the coral reef is important for their economy, many of them had never seen it up close before enrolling in “Coral Reef Ed-Ventures.” The natives generally do not swim and the glass-bottom boat trip to the marine reserve is, for many, their first time seeing it up close, says Curran.

For the Smith students, the Belize trip provides a chance to use their knowledge in a teaching setting, and one in which there are significantly fewer resources than in the United States, said Curran.

“Rather than teaching conceptual information about the environment, we are teaching them about their own backyard,” said Katie Morrice ’07. Also teaching in Belize this summer were rising seniors Kelsey Winsor, Whitney Dorer, Erin Benger, Sharon Beauregard, and Emily Tyner ’06.

-Kristen Cole

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