Tropical Ecology in Panama

Classroom Curriculum for Teachers and Students

Program Overview

About the Panama Experience

Monkey resting on Liana

Monkey resting on a liana vine in the tropical forest

In the first Panama RET in 2010, two Milwaukee Public School teachers, Sarah Oszuscik and Dana Thome traveled to Barro Colorado, Panama for a four-week research experience. Sarah and Dana lived and worked with graduate students, field workers, post-doctoral students, and professors who conduct research through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). This opportunity encouraged the teachers to meet with scientists renowned in their field of study, attend research seminars, and meet with education specialists affiliated with the Smithsonian. They also took the opportunity to visit scientists working at other Smithsonian Field Stations in Punta Culebra and Punta Galeta. Their work and study gave rise to the development of a five-unit teaching module on ecology and environmental science based on Wisconsin State and National Standards.

2011 Panama Trip

We were fortunate to be able to continue the project during the summer of 2011, thanks to support from NSF RET grant money and additional funds from the University of Milwaukee - Milwaukee Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Two additional teachers from Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts, Sara Wroblewski and Marcel Piatek joined our group. The four of us spent 2 ½ weeks in Panamá. While there, we began the work of adding new unit components for middle school students and revised and refined the work on the five units that were laid out in 2010. Sara and Marcel focused on global climate change and nutrient cycles while Dana and Sarah built on the inquiry-based lesson components.

Sarah and Dana served as guides for our new participants. We were able to make many new connections with a variety of people who work in Panama. Not only did we connect withy current researchers on Barro Colorado Island, we spent time working with forest guides and forest rangers who shared their love and knowledge of the beautiful island with us. We were also able to visit a local rural school in the community Las Pavas. We are looking forward to fostering these relationships with the people on and around BCI in the future.

We have begun establishing a solid program foundation, provided successful research experiences for four teachers over two years and have put many resources and curricular components in place that are accessible to anyone interested. We hope to continue to grow and expand upon our work; forging new friendships and relationships among teachers and students in Milwaukee Public Schools, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panamá, and the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.