You better Belize it

Students explore an ancient ruin while studing in Belize.
Courtesy photo

Did you know you have a chance to travel to Belize during Spring Break?

Beautiful mountains and emerald rain forests are landmarks of this magnificent country. And through the course “The Collapse of a Civilization: The Environment, History & Science of the Maya,” students can have the opportunity to experience Belize and all it has to offer.

The course will be offered in Spring 2015 and students will be able to learn and understand the Mayan culture, what led to its rise and fall, and what we can take away from their civilization. Another added bonus? The class can earn you four credits toward the World Views Frame of Reference!

The class is that it is being co-instructed by physics professor Catherine Garland, biology professor Cynthia Moulten, and former history professor turned Dean Jonathan Spiro. The team approach, they say, allows for an interplay of different subjects all in one class. They’ll learn about culture, math and science, and how all of these helped build the Mayan culture.

“It’s not a class any would teach individually,” Garland said. “Each professor brings in a different perspective that will be taught in the class.”

In other words, each professor will focus on their specific subject, and all three will tie them together to apply them to the Mayan culture as well as today’s culture. Garland will be teaching how scientifically advanced the Mayan culture was. They developed their own calendar, built temples to study astronomy and even had their own numerical system that was based on 20 instead of our system of 10.

“Their world view was so based in science and math, it is what led them to become so advanced,” Garland says.

Spiro will focus on who the Mayans were as a culture and how we have learned about them through archeology and writings. He will also explore their creation myths, which are much different than our own.

Moulten will cover the environmental aspect of the class. The Mayans were an agriculturally centered society and she will teach students how this influenced on their rise and their fall.

All three professors will tie each aspect together and allow students to apply them to today’s culture. And ultimately, everything learned in the classroom will be explored on the actual trip.

“I’m so excited!” exclaimed Garland. “We will be visiting two or three archeological sites where they’ve been excavated, including the temples. A canoeing trip is planned where students will enter a cave that was used for ritual sacrifices. We will actually be staying deep in the rainforest, where the opportunities to hike are planned. There are also plans to visit a botanical garden, where plants are grown that were used for medicinal maladies, a butterfly garden, and visit a local town to experience a market day.”

Students interested in sustainability issues are encouraged to take the course. Since the Mayans led to their own decline, those events can be applied to today, professors said. However, Garland explained that she would recommend the course to everyone in all majors, especially those who have not travelled outside the United States and want to experience a new culture.

“This class has been offered three other times and students have thoroughly enjoyed their experience. I would recommend it to everyone!” she exclaimed.

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