2. Brief Description:
The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is composed of coral reefs, lagoons
and tropical forests. In this TORCH we will explore through authentic
inquiry-based learning-research activities the incredible coral
reefs of Mexico's Mayan Coast. Described by Jacques Cousteau as
one of the most magnificent on earth, we will use snorkels for our
exploration. In addition, we will explore and investigate the remarkably
diverse amphibians and reptiles of the coastal tropical forests.
There are also visits to the remarkable Mayan ruins and the cinotes
(freshwater underground rivers) throughout the area. A group of
12 intermediate-secondary level science teachers will be selected
to study coastal ecosystems in the Mayan Coast, Mexico through hands-on
· Learn about the climate, flora, fauna, and geology of Mayan
· Become familiar with global and local threats to these
· Learn the Grinnel system of field journaling.
· Learn a variety of field research techniques that can be
applied in the classroom as well as in the field with their students.
· Experience inquiry-based learning first-hand and develop
inquiry-based lessons for their own classrooms.
· Be encouraged to establish long-term professional connections
with each other and local experts.
· Participate in professional forums on inquiry-based science,
alternative assessment, and constructivist pedagogy in the science
· Contribute to the creation of a world wide web site that
will illustrate the philosophy, pedagogy and experiences of the
3. Site description:
oThe 8 days of the institute will be spent traveling to and from
and staying in the Mayan Coast, Mexico.
oDays 1-2 the group will fly to Cancun, Mexica and then caravan
to the Sian Ka'an Biospehere Reserve, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
and stay two nights at Tulum while working nearby on the Caribbean
Coast. Study visits at the Mayan ruins and a snorkel in the cinotes
(underground freshwater rivers).
oDays 3-6 the group will caravan through the Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Reserve along the Caribbean Coast to Punta Allen, Quintana Roo and
stay three nights while working nearby in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Reserve. Investigations by snorkel of the magnificent coral reef.
Invesitgations of amphibians and reptiles in the tropical forest.
Night walks in the tropical forest.
oDays 7 the group will caravan to Tulum while working nearby on
the Caribbean Sea
oDay 8 the group will drive back to Cancun and then fly home.
4. Levels of teacher-participants: Participants may be pre-service
or in-service teachers of secondary level life science, integrated
science, biology, geology or environmental science.
5. Structure of workshop:
From June 29- July 6, we will travel South along the Yucatan Peninsula's
Mayan Coast into the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. For those eight
days, participants will attend content lectures and guided hikes
and snorkels and undertake field studies in both coastal and forest
ecosystems, comparing those of the Mayan Coast. Our days are filled
with field work. Our evenings include lively text-based discussions
of inquiry-based learning, expeditionary learning, team development
models, global environmental change. There will also be several
night walks in the forest.
6. Content Knowledge Topics: Natural Ecosystems and Ecological
This course provides an overview of the Mayan Coast, Quintana Roo,
Mexico natural tropical coastal ecosystems: what they are; how they
work; and how they evolve and adapt to change. Ecosystem structure
and function, as well as ecosystem development and dynamic equilibrium
are integrated into a central theme of sustainability from a local
and global perspective. Particular emphasis will be given to the
ecology of Quintana Roo's Caribbean Coast , the Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Reserve. Biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere interactions and exchanges
within the coastal zone and tropical biomes are introduced as related
to issues of local and global environmental change. The philosophy,
pedagogy and learning activities of the course employ a standards-
and inquiry-based approach.
Environmental History of Mexico
Experimental Design and Data Interpretation
Watersheds and Coastal Environmental Change
Causes and Consequences of Biodiversity
Geologic and Physical Geographic Development of the Yucatan Peninsula
Corridors and Global Climate Change
Mexico and Global Environmental Change
Habitat Fragmentation and Degradation
How Coral Reefs Work
Mexico's Protected Areas and Communities
7. Curriculum materials:
Each participant will receive a binder in which to put all course
handouts. Included will be readings on global change and current
environmental issues in coastal ecosystems, both global and local.
Maps and field guides for each field site as well as descriptions
of common field techniques and their applications will also be included.
In addition, teachers will receive handouts regarding pedagogy,
such as ways in which inquiry based learning may be implemented
in the classroom. Each participant will receive a Project WET curriculum
guide and a copy of Project Estuary.
8. Field Equipment: Our field lab includes several notebook
computers, TI-89 graphing calculators, a full set of Vernier calculator
and computer-based laboratory probes and standard geological and
biological survey equipment. A digital projector, external portable
CD-RW, portable printer, dreamweaver and fireworks web design software,
compasses, underwater writing tablets, barometers, digital cameras,
mini-DV camcorders, 35 mm SLR, microscopes, GPS units.
9. Food and Lodging: We will be cooking in our lodge and
occassionally eating out in simple local restaurants. Participants
will be asked to help the camp manager with cooking and cleaning
chores in rotation. We will be lodging in simple lodges and sleeping
in beds in shared rooms.
10. Physical Fitness Requirements: The
Maya Coast TORCH course involves hiking, dayhiking with a 20 pound
daypack, hiking on trails and off-trails, traveling in a van for
several hours on sometimes curvy coastal roads, †traveling in a
motorboat on a choppy water surface, snorkeling for several hours
a day.† Participants will sleep in shared rooms in a simple lodge.