2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM

Coral Reef Ed-Ventures: An Environmental Education Program for Children in San Pedro, Belize

ETHEREDGE, Susan, Department of Education and Child Study, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, PECKOL, Paulette, Department of Biological Sciences, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063 and CURRAN, H. Allen, Department of Geosciences, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, sethered@email.smith.edu

Healthy, well-managed coral reef systems are an essential natural resource for coastal communities. 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, faculty and students from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, USA, initiated the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program in summer 2000.

Now in its ninth year, the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program engages Smith College undergraduate students in leading a two-week intensive inquiry-based experience for about 70 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 central intent of the Coral Ed-Ventures curriculum is to teach children what an ecosystem is and to increase their awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of a healthy reef ecosystem.

The curriculum emphasizes a methodology of critical thinking and inquiry-based science learning, teaching marine science through a multi-disciplinary approach that includes literature and poetry, visual art, crafts, the performing arts, and field trips. Pre-and post-program questionnaires, completed by the children, assess their learning. By the end of the program, the children are able to demonstrate significant knowledge of the coral reef environment by identifying reef organisms and discussing adaptations and symbiotic relationships. They are also able to articulate the environmental challenges to the reef system and what needs to be done to protect and conserve the reef.

The Smith College Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program, in collaboration with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, continues to grow each year in participation and scope, as does community involvement in and support for the program.