2. Brief Description:
The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is composed of coral reefs, barrier
beaches, lagoons, salt marshes and tropical forests. In this TORCH
we will explore through authentic inquiry-based learning-research
activities the incredible coral reefs, beaches, lagoons, forests
and wetlands of Mexico's Mayan Coast. Our work is done in cooperation
with Amigos de Sian Ka'an, a non-profit organization that has been
instrumental in the protection and management of the protected area.
Described by Jacques Cousteau as one of the most magnificent reefs
on earth, we will use snorkels for our exploration. In addition,
we will explore and investigate the remarkably diverse coastal tropical
forests. There are also visits to the Coba 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 ecosystems.
- 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.
- Co-design and co-implement a Participatory Action Research project
(with geological and biological components) serving the interests
of the local community.
- 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 workshop.
Palapa classroom with powerpoint / Cooperativo water
taxi to offshore coral reef
3. Site description:
oThe 9 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, Quintana Roo, Mexico. We stay
a night south of Tulum. Study visits at the Coba Mayan ruins and
a study snorkel in the cinotes (underground freshwater rivers).
oDays 3-7 the group will stay five days studying in the Sian Ka'an
Biosphere Reserve. Investigations by snorkel of the magnificent
coral reef, barrier beaches, lagoons, salt water marsh and tropical
oDay 8-9 the group will drive back to Cancun and then fly home.
4. Levels of teacher-participants: We invite intermediate-
to secondary-level pre-service, in-service, education undergrad
and graduate student, science education professors (teacher of teachers)
and science education professionals (e.g. science education coordinators,
university, park, museum and outdoor center affiliated).
Snorkel Beach Camp
5. Structure of workshop:
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 coastal, wetland and forest ecosystems. 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.
Tulum Maya Site / Coatimundi / Snorkel Team Practicing
for Coral Reef Survey
6. Content Knowledge Topics: Field Geology and Field Biology
in the Context of Natural Ecosystems and Ecological Concepts
This course provides a field geology and field biology 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.
Mangrove Biology & Geology Snorkel Float
Learning Activity Topics Include:
Environmental History of Mexico
Mexico's Protected Areas and Communities
Tectonic, Geologic and Physical Geographic Development of the Yucatan
Watersheds and Coastal Environmental Change
Physical Oceanography of the Coastal Zone
Ecosystem Studies of Coral Reef, Barrier Beach, Lagoon, Mangrove,
Salt Water Marsh and Tropical Forests include:
Ecosystem Structure and Function
Habitat Fragmentation and Degradation
Global Coral Reef Assessment
Cenote Biology & Geology Snorkel
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, dissecting microscope, GPS units.
Dissecting microscopes / Notebook computer data
9. Food and Lodging: We will be cooking in our field camp
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 occassionally lodging in simple lodges
and sleeping in beds in shared rooms.
Participants will sleep in sleeping bags on sleeping pads in tents,
as well as shared rooms in a simple lodge.
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 sleeping bags on sleeping pads
in tents, as well as shared rooms in a simple lodge.
Heading home after a full coral reef survey snorkel