Thursday, June 28, 2012

Learning Through Living

This is me at the Belize Zoo on the night tour
holding Balboa the Boa Constrictor!
By Jordan Clark, E-Term Student and Guest Blogger

By promoting nature, conservation, and the economy, ecotourism has become a suitable suggestion as an effort to conserve the biodiversity in Belize. Ecotourism is best described as an opportunity to bring attention to nature. This is being achieved by balancing conservation and development, and letting the disciplines of ecology and the characteristics of culture work as one.1

A specific sect of ecotourism that I would like to address is the importance of environmental education. Environmental education helps to provide awareness and knowledge of the threats that endanger biodiversity.2 By utilizing such methods as ecotourism and environmental education, the ability to slow the rate of ecological destruction will happen as awareness increases. The Belize Zoo is a center for environmental education and animal rescue that serves to help natives and foreigners understand and conserve natural resources.2

The animal on top of the cage, Junior Buddy,  is a Jaguar
born into captivity. Here he's licking the face of a student.
The animals that belong to the Belize Zoo are all native to the Belizean habitat, in comparison to American zoos that have animals from all over the globe.2 The zoo obtained the animals through both rescue and donation. The menagerie of animals donated to the zoo in 1983, came from a documentary filmmaker that had filmed a movie in Belize but no longer wanted the animals.2 Now the animals rest safely and happily in the Belize Zoo with plenty of chances to educate the people of Belize. The Belize Zoo offers an array of programs and opportunities such as interactive education, the annual Environmental Science Fair, and the Conservation Carnival.2

All of these programs are local and are mostly targeted towards a younger demographic but, of course, are able to reach out to adults as well. The motive behind these educational programs is to teach the students how to make better use of natural resources, and the effects of such actions.2

The national animal of Belize is called a Tapir,
one of the many animals we learned about. 
The Belize Zoo is truly one of a kind. Being able to learn about all of the native animals in the country was such a contrast to the American zoos, because of the different foreign animals that exist in those zoos in America. I find it very important to learn about all animals, but especially to know about the animals that live in your own ecosystem. Knowing what native animals live in your ecosystem can help you to better protect areas around you.

Having the chance to see how the Belize Zoo was operated was such a great opportunity that was offered to me by having E-Term at Ferrum College. Experiential learning helps to create more memorable experiences that help people to make practical applications of lessons learned. That’s why I find it important to incorporate experiential learning with environmental education. The important lessons to be learned about the environment can be better taught by giving students an experience that they will never forget.


1. Norris, R., Wilber, J. S., & Marin, L. O. M. (1994). Community-based ecotourism in the maya forest: Problems and potentials. In R. Primack, D. Bray, H. Galletti & I. Ponciano (Eds.), Timber, Tourists, and Temples (pp. 327-342). Washington D.C.: Island Press.

2. Coc, R., Marsh, L., & Platt, E. (1994). The Belize Zoo: Efforts in Education and Outreach. In R. Primack, D. Bray, H. Galletti & I. Ponciano (Eds.), Timber, Tourists, and Temples. (pp.389-395). Washington D.C.: Island Press.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Last Weeks of a Great E-Term Course


During the third week of E-Term, my class went on a couple of day trips to Blacksburg, VA. We went to Virginia Tech to see their crystallography department. Crystallography is basically the study of a solid compound and determining its structure, which is done by machines and computers. While at the facility, we were given lessons on how the crystallography machine worked and how to operate the computer program used to create the structures of compounds. We then were able to take solid crystals we created in our lab time and use the machines to find the structure of the solid compounds we made. Using the computer program was challenging because it does not just tell you the structure of the compound; you have to figure it out. However, it was a very interesting experience, and I think my class and I took away a lot from this trip.

E-Term has now ended. I had a fantastic time these past three weeks. We spent most of the first two weeks in the lab doing whatever kinds of experiments we wanted to do. Some of the guys in my class have a fascination with explosions; Dr. Powell allowed them to do some very small-scale experiments that produced bright light, smoke and/or fire. I am not much of a fan of making fire and explosions, but I did one pretty cool demonstration by using a copper penny in which a colorful, fun reaction takes place.

Other than that one awesome demo, I spent most of my time conducting failed experiments. But that’s ok. Sometimes experiments don’t work. I often think that you learn more from a failure than from a success.

This chemistry E-Term was a great experience. I did a lot of things I know I normally would not have been able to do. I conducted experiments that were interesting to me as well as see other experiments my fellow students were working on. I also had a great time working with my fellow students as well as with Dr. Powell. This was an experience I will not forget!