Our children are the future of our island and teaching them about the importance of conservation of our beautiful Barrier Reef and fragile ecosystem is key. What better way of doing that than engaging them on a hands on experience camp. The Smith College Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Summer Camp was in its 13th year of fun and educational summer youth camp here on La Isla Bonita.
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 along with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
This year’s team of student teachers from Smith College consisted of:
*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)
*Megan Svoboda ‘12 (anthropology)
The Smith student teachers and up to 125 Belizean school children, aged 7 to 11, participated in a two-week, inquiry-based program to learn about coral reefs. There was also a one-week program for youth aged 12 and older, during which the students produced a final project to share with their community.
The advanced program kicked off with a presentation and training on sea grass beds around San Pedro by Kirah Forman, a marine biologist from Hol Chan. Students spent the next week practicing scientific research by collecting data on a sea grass bed in front of the San Pedro High School. The hope is to continue monitoring the same seagrass bed every year to observe if and how it changes.
This program was followed by the two week youth camp for children 7-11 years old. In the youth camp children learned about the different marine environments surrounding San Pedro ranging from the mangroves to the deep sea through art, games, field trips and presentations. Mariela Archer, Hol Chan’s Education Coordinator gave two workshops, one on sea grass and one on mangroves. The students also took a field trip to see mangroves that had been planted by last year’s Coral Reef Ed-Ventures advanced campers.
During the second week the students went on a glass bottom boat trip to Hol Chan marine reserve to see the corals, sea grass and animals that they had learned about and were thrilled to see dolphins jumping on the way. The glass bottom boat was made possible by donations by Blue Water Grill, Holiday Hotel, Searious Adventures, Southwind Properties, Belize Bank, Seaside Realty, Reef Seekers and Sunrise Realty.
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.
On Thursday, July 12, 2012, 125 island children became Coral Reef Experts and had a fun graduation ceremony at the Lions Den. Children participated in different skits, performed dances and songs which they had learnt during the camp. After having recited their pledge to protect the reef and our environment for future generations they were officially presented with their Coral Reef Expert Cards.
Special Thanks to Casa Pan Dulce, Latitudes Café, Dandes, Fidos, Greenhouse, and parents who contributed food for snacks during camp and for graduation.
Congratulations to all proud graduates and thanks to all the teachers for hosting a fun and educational summer camp; see you next year!