Four Cortland teachers were selected to be part of the New York State Master Teacher Program biodiversity tri
p to Belize in July. Abbey Albright, Carol Brafman, Karen Krichbaum, and Jim Ulrich joined 25 other science, math, and technology (STEM) teachers from the Central New York Region. Each teacher had to complete an application process and was selected by the Master Teacher Program to attend.
The main purpose of this trip was to bring STEM teachers to Belize to learn about issues affecting Belize and Central America, and learn about the impact people are having on the our climate. Although an ecologically and culturally diverse country, deforestation from coastal development, and exploitation of crude oil negatively impact the environment and wildlife.
While in Belize, the teachers went on several trips including exploring Xunantunich Mayan ruins, canoeing through a cave to explore artifacts on the Macal River, touring a permaculture farm, exploring a rainforest medicine trail, interacting with the Garinagu culture, learning to make pottery and cook as the Mayans did, learning Mayan math, visiting the Belize Zoo, learning about the Chiquibul National Park, and horseback riding and through the forest.
A highlight of the trip was a visit to a local school, the San Antonio United Pentecostal School. Unlike the traditional way public schools are funded in New York, education in Belize is only compulsory to to age 13 and require parents to pay for uniforms, book costs and annual fees. In order to attend secondary school, students must pass an exam and pay tuition. The students performed traditional Mayan dances for the visiting teachers and the teachers were also able to speak to the Principal about the educational system.
Carol Brafman, mathematics teacher at Cortland High School, said the experience was truly rewarding: “It was a wonderful opportunity to experience another culture and see the issues affecting the people in Belize. I will now be able to bring the issues to our students to think about, research and discuss. I think we all get so wrapped up in our own day to day activities that we do not think of the world and how human actions impact the world.”
The goal of the trip is for the Master Teachers to infuse their experience into their teaching. Each teacher is now working on lesson plans to teach next school year that include information and issues experienced from their trip. They will also make presentations of their lessons to the rest of the Central New York Master Teacher Cohort. Cortland is proud to have four teachers participate in this rewarding experience.