CANTON, Mo.– In December, Culver-Stockton students raised over $600 to buy and donate school supplies to children from the Mayan Village of Blue Creek, Belize. Following the fund drive, Dr. Lauren Schellenberger, professor of biology, and Dr. Scott Giltner, professor of history, travelled with 18 students to Belize and Guatemala to personally deliver the goods during a study-trip for tropical ecology and environmental history. With these funds, the students purchased classroom supplies such as pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, notebooks and printer paper. Blue Creek is located deep within the rainforest in the southernmost district of Belize, near the Blue Creek Rainforest Preserve.
“An important part of a study abroad experience such as this one is reciprocity,” notes Dr. Giltner. “Our students are privileged to study in someone else’s country, learn from them and with them, and we are aware of the need to give something back. We can’t just be tourists. The students understood this and worked hard to raise the money. We are proud of their effort.” The group delivered the nearly 100 pounds of school supplies to the Blue Creek School, spent some time talking with teachers and students, and even spent some time playing soccer and other games with the children.
According to Dr. Schellenberger, encounters like this deeply enrich study abroad experiences. “Meaningful interaction with local people at the study abroad site is critically important for our students to develop a global perspective. Our students made a cultural connection that had a real impact on them and our hosts in Blue Creek. Exchanges like this help make a study abroad course so much more than just a tour,” says Schellenberger.
The trip combined Dr. Schellenberger’s and Dr. Giltner’s classes, using the zoos, jungles, rainforests and island reefs of Belize and Guatemala as their classrooms and laboratories. The course started with three days in Guatemala, which included explorations of the Petencito Zoo, the colonial Spanish city of Flores, and an exploration of the Mayan ruins of Tikal. Students and faculty then spent three days at a remote and rustic field station in the Maya Mountains of southern Belize learning about the rainforest from Mayan guides. Finally, they studied marine biology and reef ecology on an island located in the South Water Caye Marine Preserve, located off the coast of Belize along the world’s second largest barrier reef.