Grades 7/8: Ethnology and Sustainable Ecology in Belize
During this nine-day course, students will study the history and ethnology of Belize, while exploring the diverse ecologies of its barrier reef and tropical rainforest ecosystems. Partnering with IZE Belize, students will spend the first portion of the expedition visiting Maya archaeological sites and observing hundreds of species of exotic birds and plants, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals in the remote mountains of southern Belize. During this time, students will have the opportunity to observe Mayan hieroglyphs and explore magnificent limestone caves while learning about the geological processes that form them. Additional cultural activities will include engaging in a community service project at a local school; learning about the medicinal and culinary uses of the local herbs, plants, and trees through visits to local farms; dining on traditional meals; and participating in a drumming class and performance with local instructors.
For the second portion of the expedition, students will transition their focus to the marine ecosystems of the Belize barrier reef. Relocating to South Water Caye, a small island covered with coconut palms and tropical flowers, students will spend their days snorkeling the reef formations of this UNESCO world heritage site and learning about marine ecology and sustainability issues from marine scientists at the nearby Smithsonian Research Station. Possible marine encounters include wrasses, octopuses, rays, angelfish, groupers, seahorses, upside-down photosynthesizing jellyfish, and maybe even a giant manatee.