Northeastern Section–41st Annual Meeting (20–22 March 2006)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


THOMAS, Elizabeth1, CURRAN, H. Allen1, ETHEREDGE, Susan2, TYNER, Emily3 and PECKOL, Paulette3, (1)Department of Geology, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, (2)Department of Education and Child Study, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, (3)Department of Biological Sciences, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063,

Healthy, well-managed coral reef systems are an essential natural resource for coastal communities in many tropical countries. Local knowledge of reef ecosystems may be limited, and the study of coral reef ecology is not a common aspect of school curricula in these communities. Nonetheless, coral reefs are an ideal topic for teaching young school children about fundamental ecological and environmental principles. As an outgrowth of the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGGRA) Program to monitor the health of coral reefs in Belize and in cooperation with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, students and faculty from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts initiated the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program in summer 2000. Now in its 7th year, the program employs Smith College student teachers to lead a two-week intensive inquiry-based program for children ages 7 to 11, as well as teacher workshops that focus on using the reefs, beaches and other local resources as tools for teaching. The goal of the program is to increase understanding about the needs of a healthy reef ecosystem, how various organisms interact within the reef, threats to the reef, and how to conserve the reef's resources. The curriculum has built-in flexibility, and the children are engaged in active, hands-on classroom and field trip-based learning experiences. Lessons focus on marine science with a multi-disciplinary approach. Daily program activities include visits by local businesspeople who use the reef and its resources in their daily jobs, experiments, crafts, games, local field trips, stories and poetry and journal writing. Pre-and post-program questionnaires, completed by the students, are used as assessment tools. Upon completion of the program, students perform a play for their parents and the community illustrating what they have learned and each child is awarded a Coral Reef Expert card at the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures graduation ceremony.