How Does Your Garden Grow?

Partnering with programs like the Atlanta Community Food Bank Garden Program and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to bring bird friendly and healthy food education to youngsters connects well with our ethos. Citizen Science participation starts early. We hope our readers will share with public and private K-12 schools!

SCHOOL GARDEN GRANTS to grow healthy, happy, nature-connected kids!

School gardens provide an exciting context for cross-disciplinary learning and a wonderful opportunity to engage students in hands-on activities, project-based learning, and citizen science. Kids benefit from gardens in academic, physical, emotional, social, and behavioral ways. We are excited to support teachers’ efforts to engage kids in outdoor learning and all its benefits!

We will award 20 grants to teachers within the United States who strive to take the classroom outside, reconnect students with the natural world, and teach them valuable concepts and skills that integrate across all subjects. In partnership with our amazing sponsor, Alaska Fertilizer, we’re thrilled to support 20 teachers with a $500-$2,000 grant, gardening supplies, and BirdSleuth’s Habitat Connections kit. Funds can support a new garden or the revitalization of an existing one. In addition to funding food/veggie gardens, preference will be given to bird, pollinator, native habitat, rain, and other natural projects. Continue reading

Archaeology Lab 101

Much of the scientific rigor involved in archaeology is related to the careful documentation of what often appears to be a proverbial needle in a haystack: tiny flakes of chert stone, potsherds, or obsidian can be found in the layers (or lots) of a dig unit.

In this tropical environment we’re dealing with wet, loamy earth, so those stone or pottery fragments are frequently covered in mud, and who better to clean much of these items than interested novices. Continue reading

Getting Your Archaeological Feet Wet

Day #2 at CCAP began with the same sense of camaraderie as Day #1 as we continued the process of clearing out topsoil, clipping roots, hauling soil and stone, and yes, working on walls. Each conversation with the team was informative, as we discussed the upcoming step of closing out the “lot” we’d started and opening the next one of the unit – basically as we approached the change-over of levels for the precise documentation required at an archaeological dig.

We were quite close to that point when we stopped work for lunch, returning with high energy to move on to the next stage. But it’s green season in Belize, and Mother Nature had other plans for the day. Continue reading

A Day In the Life of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project

When Crist wrote about the Chan Chich Archaeological Project in April it was in anticipation of the group’s arrival. Now that we’re several weeks in I’ve had the opportunity to assist them first hand, in part as a “guinea pig” for guest involvement as citizen science participants. Fellow contributor Phil Karp (a veteran of many citizen science programs) was enthusiastically up  for the experience as well.

The team of archaeologists and field school students, led by Texas Tech University associate professor Dr. Brett Houk, is studying the ancient Maya at Chan Chich and surrounding sites. Several weeks into their dig they’ve made significant progress, and they gamely accepted the challenge of taking novices into their ranks.

We began at the beginning, well known to be the very best place to start, with a new “lot” located next to a well-established excavated area. Continue reading

Graduation Day in Sylvester Village

IMG_0767

Earlier this week I did something that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated would be part of my Chan Chich experience: I attended a primary school graduation.

Sylvester Village is a community where employees of Chan Chich and Gallon Jug Farm live with their families. The Casey Community School is where many of the village’s children go for their first years of education. As one might imagine, the school is not very big. In fact, this year the school only had one kindergartner. Growing up in suburban America, this was very different from my early education which had about 24 kids in a first grade class with multiple classes per grade. However, perhaps the biggest difference from my experience was the school’s emphasis on community.

Continue reading

Sustainable Education

outdoor compost rendering CCL

To me, conservation tourism isn’t just about facilitating guest experiences in nature, but rather, it is about ensuring that guests walk away from their experience having gained a new appreciation for the systems they have interacted with. When I first spoke with Crist about spending my summer at Chan Chich, we mostly discussed working on developing a hydroponic food production system at the lodge. Not only would this system serve as a food supplier for the kitchen, but would also have an interactive educational aspect so guests could learn about the process. While this project is still a focal point of my internship, sustainability isn’t just about improving one aspect of a system, just like good conservation tourism is about having a medley of experiences.

When strengthening both the guest experience and sustainable operations at Chan Chich, it isn’t enough to just focus on what is going in to the kitchen. Rather, it is essential to focus on what is coming out of the kitchen as well.

Sustainable waste management has been important to the operations at Chan Chich for some time now. However, never before has these processes been visible to guests. While the hydroponic project is still under development, applying the project’s ideas of sustainable technology and guest education to waste management in the meantime is highly beneficial.

The result?

Continue reading

Cornell’s Climate Friendly Construction

oakImage-1495980544830-jumbo

A view of Manhattan from the roof of the Bridge building on the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Photo VINCENT TULLO

When Cornell University competed in 2011 to develop an applied science and engineering campus in New York City, part of its pitch was that it would construct an academic building that would at least approach making as much energy as it used in a year, a concept known as net zero. It won. Then came the hard work of making that vision happen at the campus, known as Cornell Tech. Continue reading

If You Happen to Be at the Smithsonian – But You Don’t Have to Be

Science, entrepreneurship, conservation and innovation converge at this amazing open source summit with events in multiple Smithsonian locations ranging from New York City, Washington DC and Panama City.

Frequent contributor to this site Phil Karp, will participate in a forum on Restoring Nature. The synergy of forum subjects with our interest in wild foods and our work in conservation focused hospitality makes us wish we were there.

What’s Working in Conservation

Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution in the area of global conservation with an unprecedented gathering of thought leaders, scientists, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders and international media.

The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Gaps, Meaning & More

09GAP-superJumbo-v2.jpg

Kyle DeNuccio, right, on Lake Batur in Bali, a gap year stop. CreditKyle DeNuccio

I am currently interviewing candidates to join us for summer internships, and possible university gap year projects at Chan Chich Lodge. Most importantly the projects will focus on various food-related initiatives, some longstanding goals and others more in the spirit of random variation. We have had plenty of awesome interns, as well as wondrous wanderers and sometimes sabbaticalists join us here and there for more than two decades, and we feel qualified to claim that this fellow (who reminds me a bit of this fellow) speaks truth:

Independence Days: My Perfect Imperfect Gap Year

By

Midway through a lackluster freshman year at the University of San Diego, I called my parents and told them I planned to leave school after the spring semester. Continue reading

Happy 20th Anniversary, Meg!

543092After posting this quick thought about foraging, I sent a link to Meg, and she reminded me that she had not only been to Belize but that there is a book about her time here.

As I explored the book I realized that it was first published 20 years ago, incidentally the year when I first visited Belize. I also discovered that the book is in wide circulation among educators in the USA, for hopefully obvious good reasons:

Journey along with Dr. Meg Lowman, a scientist who, with the help of slings, suspended walkways, and mountain-climbing equipment, has managed to ascend into one of our planet’s least accessible and most fascinating ecosystems–the rain-forest canopy. “Fresh in outlook and intriguing in details, this book will strengthen any library collection on the rainforest.”–Booklist Continue reading

Coastal Preparations

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and specifically Lisa Feldcamp, for this note and video on adaptive coastal folks:

“It hurt my heart to see how [the beach] had been deteriorated,” says Norris Henry of St. Andrew’s Development Organization. “I know in the past there was a nice beachfront, where you can play cricket, you can play football, you can run. But it’s so sad to see it is no longer there.” Continue reading

A Different Type of Hero

The Veerni Institute now makes it possible for 75 girls to continue their education. But the group has to turn away nearly 300 applicants each year for lack of funding. Poulomi Basu for NPR

The Veerni Institute now makes it possible for 75 girls to continue their education. But the group has to turn away nearly 300 applicants each year for lack of funding.
Poulomi Basu for NPR

“It all began with a shawl…” seems like the stuff of fairy tales, but the combined attraction to a handmade textile and the desire to help the woman weaving it proved a pathway to Jacqueline de Chollet’s life work. Over 20 years ago while traveling in a dusty village of India she saw a woman weaving the shawl in her home.

“She had three or four children including a baby she was nursing in her arms,” de Chollet recalls. “And she looked way older than her age.”

Hoping to provide a little help, de Chollet offered to buy the shawl. “And as soon as I gave her the money a man walked in and took the money away from her.”

De Chollet was outraged. “I felt, this woman — nobody cares about her. She’s off the map. She has no rights.”

Although de Chollet came from far different circumstances as this woman, growing up in the 1950s she felt that society dictated her position as a wife and mother. She wanted to make a difference in the world, and felt that addressing the issue of the rights of women and girls in India was an important first step. Continue reading

Keeping Shakespeare in Mind

Illustration by Mathew McFarren

Illustration by Mathew McFarren

Quite a few of our team can attest to the power of a liberal arts education, especially when put in such a joyful context.

Scott L. Newstok’s convocation speech to the Rhodes College class of 2020 embraces this joy, adding the cheeky tweak of asking the incoming class to approach their college experience in the “spirit of the 16th century”.

Building a bridge to the 16th century must seem like a perverse prescription for today’s ills. I’m the first to admit that English Renaissance pedagogy was rigid and rightly mocked for its domineering pedants. Few of you would be eager to wake up before 6 a.m. to say mandatory prayers, or to be lashed for tardiness, much less translate Latin for hours on end every day of the week. Could there be a system more antithetical to our own contemporary ideals of student-centered, present-focused, and career-oriented education?

Yet this system somehow managed to nurture world-shifting thinkers, including those who launched the Scientific Revolution. This education fostered some of the very habits of mind endorsed by both the National Education Association and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning: critical thinking; clear communication; collaboration; and creativity. (To these “4Cs,” I would add “curiosity.”) Given that your own education has fallen far short of those laudable goals, I urge you to reconsider Shakespeare’s intellectual formation: that is, not what he purportedly thought — about law or love or leadership — but how he thought. An apparently rigid educational system could, paradoxically, induce liberated thinking.

“Take advantage of the autonomy and opportunities that college permits by approaching it in the spirit of the 16th century. You’ll become capable of a level of precision, inventiveness, and empathy worthy to be called Shakespearean.”
So how can you think like Shakespeare?

Continue reading

Comic Heroes Promote STEAM

steam-comics-01_custom-178e12d22e5a23c61e43f2d12b77fd95c322801d-s800-c85

Moon girl and Spiderman. Image from Marvel

Comic superheroes is a curious topic to cover here, but relevant with the development of Marvel’s new comic series of STEAM Variants. Five of Marvel’s heroes are stepping to into a new role and tackling new challenges in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (hence STEAM, sometimes referred to as STEM, which lacks the art component) with the intent of inspire young readers to explore their passions in those disciplines.

“We plan to continue to motivate our fans to explore their passions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math and present these disciplines through some of our favorite young heroes who are doing just that — following their dreams and preparing for the challenges that await them ahead,” David Gabriel, Senior VP for Sales & Marketing of Marvel Comics said in a statement.

Continue reading

Putting A Value On National Parks

Academic research publications tend to appear dry and out of reach to most non-academics. As someone who prepared for an academic research career, but who subsequently left that career, I am conflicted in what to say about that.

So I will say nothing about that. Instead, I say, read this (we rarely post without images, but the point of this post is purely a thought exercise, so I am keeping it strictly limited to words):

1. Summary This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive estimate of the total economic value of the National Parks Service. The estimate covers administered lands, waters, and historic sites as well as NPS programs, which include protection of natural landmarks and historic sites, partnerships with local communities, recreational activities and educational programs.

Our estimate of the total economic value to the American public is $92 billion. Continue reading

Video Tour of a Recycling Plant in Brooklyn

My junior year, I founded and sat as president of my high school’s recycling club, which was a fairly simple operation of setting up cardboard boxes in classrooms and asking people to put their plastic or glass bottles and aluminum cans inside – paper recycling was already managed by the school district, but the rest wasn’t. Every Monday I’d go around collecting all that material into the big blue plastic bags sold by the county for residential recycling, normally filling one to two of them a week, and then take them to some neighbor of the school’s gracious enough to loan us their curb space for recycling pickup the next morning. From those big trucks that would load up the blue bags for the county, all the glass, plastic, metal (and garbage people thought was recyclable or didn’t care enough to remove) probably went to a recycling plant a bit like the one in the video below:

Continue reading

Expeditions In The Interest Of Science (Secondary Discovery, Nature’s Majesty)

p03xtfz4

The survey crew inventories the park for butterfly habitats (Credit: John McLaughlin)

This BBC article, featuring butterfly hunters in the very northwestern-most spot in the lower 48 of the USA, reminds us of an expedition we tracked not long ago:

Equal parts academic and mountain man, wildlife biologist John McLaughlin has scaled mountains and traversed snowbound passes to identify more than 40 butterfly species.

It’s best to bring an ice axe when counting butterflies in North Cascades National Park. Located on the Canadian border in the US state of Washington, the park is renowned for its jagged peaks, limited trails and annual snow pack.

“Before my census crew could learn to identify over 40 butterfly species,” John McLaughlin recalled, “they had to know how to safely traverse snowbound, steep passes and – if necessary – to self-arrest using an ice axe.” Continue reading