On July 13th, nine Belizean teachers and one District Curriculum Officer successfully completed the 9th annual “Teacher Institute in Environmental Studies and Culture” sponsored by the Belize Foundation for Conservation and hosted by The Lodge at Chaa Creek in the Cayo District. Thirteen education professionals from The State University of New York also attended and were involved in the cross-cultural educational exchange.
The Institute provided the teachers with the opportunity to engage in cross-cultural collaboration with international educators in order to examine and share best practices in education applied toward the study of the environment and cultures. Through experiential learning tasks, the teachers were able to explore and develop an understanding of ancient Maya civilization, archeology, natural resource conservation, and ecotourism. The teachers were also introduced to a new book written by children of Belize and the U.S. as part of an international literacy initiative. “Pat the (Great) Cat: A Jaguar’s Journey” chronicles the true story of a jaguar whose dramatic journey from Belize to the United States is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. The Belize Ministry of Education has chosen the book as a supplemental text for the coming school year. It may be that this is the first time that the students are authors of their own textbook!
The five day training workshop is a collaborative effort between the Belize Foundation for Conservation (BFC) based at the Chaa Creek Natural History Centre, the State University of New York at Cortland (SUNY-Cortland), and the Belize Ministry of Education. Since the institute’s beginning in 2003, over 90 Belizean teachers have benefited from the training.
The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Thomas Pasquarello – Institute Director, State University of New York – Cortland, Mr. Pablo Chan – Ministry of Education, Cayo District Curriculum Officer, Mr. Mike Green – Executive Director of the Belize Foundation for Conservation, and Ms. Miguelina Cuevas-Post – United States Peace Corps volunteer.
Field activities and conference sessions focused on environmental education methodologies, cultural awareness, and sustainable conservation practices. The Belizean teachers were awarded 16 hours of Professional Development credits from the Ministry of Education’s Teacher Education and Development Services. BFC and SUNY Cortland along with the Ministry of Education plan to continue these workshops on an annual basis.
Funding for the institute was provided by The Belize Foundation for Conservation, the State University of New York at Cortland, The Lodge at Chaa Creek and Belize Natural Energy Ltd.