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Adventures in Belize!

25 Jun

Coral Reef Ed-Ventures is an environmental education collaboration between Smith College’s Environmental Science and Policy Program and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on Ambergris Caye, Belize.  This program for local children, which runs each summer on the island in Belize, is currently led by Professor David Smith (Biological Sciences and Environmental Science and Policy) and Dr. Denise Lello (Lecturer and Research Associate in Biological Sciences and Environmental Science and Policy).  Coral Reef Ed-Ventures began 19 years ago with two Smith student teachers and a few children.  This year’s team comprises six Smith student teachers who will engage over seventy children in two education camps!

This year both of the camps (The REEF Program [Advanced] and the Youth Program) are organized around the theme CONNECTIONS: participants will explore the connections between nature, the environment, and the community. The campers will also be introduced to research methods like mapping and coral identification, techniques the student teachers will themselves use when they analyze the data they collect in Belize.

L to R: Aidan Coffin Ness ’20 (SPN/EDC), Katherine Akey ’20 (EGR), Carla Schwartz ’20 (BIO/MSP), Dana Vera ’19 (EDC/MTH), Liz Nagy ’18 (ENV/EAL), Emiline Koopman ’18J (BIO/MSP).

The students are just starting week 4 in Belize. You can see pictures and read more about their experiences on the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures blog.

The Coral Reef Ed-Ventures program could not function without the generous financial and in-kind support of the people of San Pedro, Belize; the Hol Chan Marine Reserve; the Environmental Science and Policy Program; generous alumnae donors; the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability; and sources of endowed student support, including the Agnes Shedd-Andreae ’32, and B. Elizabeth Horner Funds. Thank you for your support!

Education in and for the World- Students in the Coral Reef EdVentures program are at it again!

6 Jul
Coral Reef Ed-Ventures is an environmental education collaboration between Smith College’s environmental science and policy program and Hol Chan Marine Reserve on Ambergris Caye, Belize. The Coral Ed program uses experiential, place-based education to build a community of youth who are confident stewards of their local environment. Each summer, Smith student teachers head to Belize to lead local children in research, facilitate the creation of art and music, play games, and provide opportunities for the children to interact with and learn from community members engaged in conservation work. This year, six Smith students are in Belize running the program for its 16th summer.
The 2015 team, from left to right: Elena Karlsen-Ayala, ’16; Shabnam Kapur, ’16; Laura Henry, ’16; Riley Gage, ’15; Emily Volkmann, ’16; Mandy Castro, ’17

We asked biological sciences major (track 5: biology and education) Mandy Castro, ’17 to take a moment out of her busy day to answer a few questions for us:

Q: What inspired you to apply to participate in Coral Ed?
A: This is exactly what I aspire to do as a profession, which is to teach biology to kids. Coral Ed also has given me a wonderful opportunity to do just that and partake in various forms of research from scuba diving and surveying sea fans to taking kayaks to the mangroves and getting my feet wet with drone research.
DSCN0817                           Mandy, left, and team mate surveying sea fans in Belize.

Q: What do you hope to take away from your experience this summer?
A: I hope to acquire better classroom management skills and more practice creating curriculum for varying age groups.

Q: What has been the biggest adjustment for you now that you are in Belize?
A: The biggest adjustment for me would be the heat and the humidity. I am a California girl born and raised where we only experience dry heat. So this totally took me outside my physical comfort zone.

Q: What has been a highlight of the experience thus far?
A: One of my favorite experiences was the crocodile trip through the lagoon during advanced camp. Seeing the crocodile wrangler in action by jumping into the water and capture a crocodile was an exciting experience for the campers and as well as for us, the teachers.

Read more about the Coral Ed program, follow the students’ blog (click on the year on the top menu) and more at

Postcard From Coral Ed-ventures in Belize

14 Jun

As the Smith College Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program enters its 13th year, students participate in another fun and educational summer running youth camps in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize. Below is a recent email update we received from the Smith women spending their summer teaching and learning abroad in Belize. 

A view from the Mayan Princess, where students stay before relocating to their apartment:

Dear Coral Ed Alums, family and friends,

Greetings from La Isla Bonita!

We arrived in San Pedro Monday mid-morning to a bit of a overcast and gloomy day. After checking in at the Mayan Princess we said hi to all of our many friends and colleagues on the island. After moving into Mellie’s apartment, we started visiting schools and making appointments to advertise for camp. When we stopped in at Hol Chan to talk to Miguel and Mariela, we met Kirah, a biologist, who suggested the students in advanced camp could participate in a long-term sea grass density project. This project will involve students working along shallow transects and collecting core samples and data on sea grass density, salinity, and water temperature. We’re really excited about this new opportunity for our advanced campers! And also for providing helpful hands for Hol Chan’s research!  Our students may also have a chance to compare their data to data from other sites where information has already been collected.

The three returners are happy to be back!  The three new team members are excited and getting acclimated to the heat! Megan has started SCUBA with Eddie and the rest of the team is looking forward to doing a refresher dive with Eddie later this week to prepare for research. We just confirmed our first movie night will happen this Saturday. We’re planning on showing Rio and will busy making posters tonight after dinner.

Hope everyone is doing well. We would love to hear from you.

Sending you sun and love from San Pedro!



Kaylyn, Angela, Alyssa, Megan, Laura, & Kayla




Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program off and sunning

5 Jun

As the Smith College Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program enters its 13th year, students gear up for another fun and educational summer, running youth camps in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize. Students will be sharing their adventures in Belize weekly on our blog so stay tuned!


Read the full article here:  Smith College: News.