Northwestern’s Assistant Professor of Biology Laura Furlong returned Saturday from a week-long teaching experience at the Creation Care Studies Program in Belize.
Furlong taught a one-week course on the basics of stream ecology. Students were able to work in the classroom and have lab experiences at local streams.
The program invites professors from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ schools to come and teach one-week courses in their fields for one of the four educational components
The program’s campus is on an organic farm ten minutes outside of Nabitunich, a small agricultural town. The town is in Western Belize and only a few miles from the Guatemalan border, giving students the opportunity to become acquainted with both cultures.
CCSP students take three courses during their semester in Belize. One course centers on global environmental issues. Another class focuses on a theology that presents humans as stewards of God’s creation.
The third course studies community development through scientific and non-scientific perspectives, such as the new nursing course NW professor Byron Noordewier will teach later this fall.
Students also participate in an internship. Past experiences have taken place at the Belize Zoo, organic farms, clinics and schools. Students have the opportunity to stay with local families.The program contains spiritual and community-building aspects.
Students are encouraged to attend community churches that speak English (the official language), Spanish or Mayan. Reading programs and building projects have attracted students in the past.
“The students that go are always changed by the experience,” said Furlong. “It’s a very cooperative program and the students bond quite a bit.”
Students in the CCSP come from many different backgrounds. Furlong said that the class she taught included an English major, a Sociology major and science majors.
The students come from a variety of schools as well. The program accepts up to twenty students each semester.
Last week’s trip was Furlong’s fourth experience teaching in Belize. This time, she was able to anticipate the encounters with insects, spiders, scorpions and malaria. But aside from the precautions and in addition to the 90-degree weather, Furlong enjoys Belizean culture.
“You don’t just rush out and do something,” she said of the country’s relaxed pace.
Furlong said that she was shell-shocked when she arrived back in America. The airport seemed to center around shopping and efficiency, where the Belizean culture was not afraid to take time to build relationships.
Furlong also appreciated the lack of materialism and greed in Belize.“You realize how much we could do without…the difference between wants and needs is very evident there,” she commented.
Students in the CCSP live in cottages with electricity and running water, but not hot water. They can do their laundry by hand, or they can choose to pay another person to do it for them. All of their meals are authentic Central American food prepared by local women.
“It’s good food,” said Furlong.
Furlong is currently working to get the CCSP approved at NW, and hopes that the program will be cleared by next fall. The program is registered by the CCCU.
“I’m very supportive of the spirit of the program,” said Furlong. She emphasized that the program is not just for science majors, but also for anyone who wanted to develop a senses of social and environmental justice.
The CCSP currently has another campus that splits its time between New Zealand and Samoa in the South Pacific.
For more information about the CCSP, visit their website at www.creationcsp.org.