Coastline class not just a day at the beach By Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY SAN PEDRO, Belize — Yes, they’re spending a week on the coast of the Caribbean sea in 80-degree weather. And yes, they have to wear bathing suits every day.

Ken Mattes of Belize Marine Trec prepares Elon University sudents for exploration of the reef off Ambergris Caye in Belize.

So go ahead and envy the Elon University students enrolled in a study abroad marine biology course here. Just don’t call it a day at the beach.

“This is no spring break,” says biologist Ken Mattes, director of Belize Marine Trec, a tropical research and education center that hosts college groups. Fun? Yes. But it’s “the greatest kind of fun from an academic point of view. They’re having fun learning. What could be better than that?”

In fact, the scuttlebutt on campus back in Elon, N.C., is that this course, Field Biology in Belize, is one of the most demanding.

The tour begins in the rainforest, with a series of exercises to familiarize students with scientific methodology. Each day begins with a bird walk at 6:30 a.m., and the promise of a test at the end of their stay. How to distinguish between a tropical kingbird and a social flycatcher, both of which have yellow breast and black heads? Look for the white ring around the flycatcher’s head. The rest of the time, days and nights, is devoted to measuring, counting, categorizing, observing, analyzing and concluding things about the important roles played by epiphytes, leafcutter ants and other members of the rainforest ecosystem.

Once on the coast, time is more loosely structured. There are snorkeling labs all but one day, and students work on group projects, applying principles they learned in the rainforest labs and field work. Mattes typically lectures students on how global warming threatens the already disappearing coral reefs. One of their final exams, a “fish and coral practical,” is conducted under water, using waterproof paper.

“You work for what you get,” says Monica Van Dongen, a sophomore biology major who has heard the typical class average in past years is a C. Noting that students had required reading over the holidays, and took their first test before setting foot on an airplane, she says, “I read the entire book and I ended up getting a C.”

Open to science and non-science majors, many students say that, aside from the potential for adventure, they were attracted to the course’s format.

“It’s easier to concentrate on my science credit all at once rather than trying to do my journalism and extracurriculars,” says Amy Jo Jenkins, 21, a double major in journalism and international studies. Plus, she says, it beats the alternative: a four-credit science course over a 14-week semester would involve a three hours of lectures each week along with a weekly three-hour lab. “You don’t have to sit in a classroom day in and day out,” she says.

Biology professors Janet MacFall and Nancy Harris, who led the course, agree it’s an exhausting schedule, but say the concepts they address are relatively simple. And while a lot of information is imparted, their larger academic goals more general.

“We’re not looking for the detail we would have at Elon. We’re looking for clarity, that you understand what we did,” MacFall says.

Even more, the course urges students to consider biology “in the broader picture of stewardship,” and recognize that “people aren’t independent of the world around them,” MacFall says. “My personal goal is to have the students come away caring about this place.”

The Belize Flag

The red, white and blue standard is a symbol of our nationhood. The flag evolved from a blue and white civilian flag in the colonial days to what it is today, a sign of unity. Marion Ali looks at how the national flag developed over the years.
Marion Ali, Reporting
The flag we salute today at the sound of “Land of the Free” was introduced on September twenty first, 1981. It is the result of decades of input by many Belizeans from both sides of the political fence.
The flag went thru many changes dating back to 1950. The civilian flag, also called the Baymen’s flag, had a blue background and a white disk in the centre. It was introduced on February second, after the first political party, the People’s United Party, was formed.
But in 1967, this more detailed flag with the coat of arms was adopted after the then British Honduras gained self government in 1964. W Crampton wrote in the book, Flags of the World in 1978, that the flag was used only on land.
It was not flown as the official flag because the settlement was a British territory and the official flag was the Union Jack. But just prior to our attainment of Independence, a Committee was set up to design the National flag, and after some minor changes to the original emblem, the final masterpiece was submitted. The main colors are royal blue, red and white. The red borders the top and bottom were added to include the colors of the existing political parties at the time. This letter dated February first, 1982 and signed by the York Herald of Arms in England, Conrad Swan, states in detail the features of the Coat of Arms.
The Coat of Arms consists of a shield that is divided into three sections. At the base, a ship is in full sail, which represents the mode of our trading. At the two upper sections are tools once used in the timber industry in Belize. Those include a paddle and a beating axe on the left and on the right – a saw and a squaring axe. Supporting the shield are two woodcutters dressed only in long white trousers and standing on grass. The Mestizo man on the left is holding another squaring axe over his right shoulder, while the black man on the right is holding a paddle over his left shoulder. Above the shield rises a mahogany tree and below is the motto scroll “Sub Umbra Floreo”, which when translated from Latin reads “Under the Shade I Flourish”. A wreath of fifty leaves locally called “Scorn the Earth” encircles the Coat of Arms. The fifty leaves signify the year 1950, when the first flag was presented.
Now that we have a better knowledge and background of the flag, it is our hope that it instills in all Belizeans a sense of pride and unity because of what it represents. Only this week, City Councillor and the man who has made the biggest Belizean flag yet in Belize, Roger Espejo, draped the Commercial Centre in downtown Belize City. Espejo first hoisted the flag off an industrial crane on February eighth 2008 off the Northern Highway. And for him, the move was prompted by that same pride of being a Belizean.
Roger Espejo, Made Large Flag
“We really wanted to send a message that after the elections were over that we are really one people, red or blue aside. And we put up the Belize flag, which we had ready for the next morning after the elections and this was to signify that unity is far bigger than politics.”
One ensign that proved to be far bigger than even the acts of terrorism is this flag which was flown at the World Trade Centre on September eleventh, 2001. It is one of the few that were discovered after the tragedy and although damaged, it is permanently on display at the Museum of Belize. Curator at the Museum, Teresa Batty, says it was salvaged by a Belizean at the site.
Teresa Batty, Curator, Museum of Belize
“It was a Belizean who was assisting with volunteering and the person found the flag and turned it in then the Fire Service from New York gave it to our Belize Mission in New York. So it was donated to the Museum when we were launched in 2002. It has lots of holes, still dirty as it came but for us it’s important. When you look at it you can see all the holes, but it survived.”
Perhaps its fate is a lesson that we as a people can learn from. CH5

The Battle of St. George’s Caye, Belize 1797

When the Baymen leaders were summoned to a public meeting on June 1st, 1797, each man knew in his heart that the stakes were high. They all remembered how a Spanish force had swooped down on St. George’s Caye without warning nineteen years earlier, and how the Spaniards had seized, and shackled and marched them overland to Merida.
They had no illusions of what the Spaniards would do to them this time. They had a choice: to fight, to flee or to yield.
Yielding was not an option. It would mean many years of servitude and perhaps death. Flight was not an attractive prospect either. They would lose everything they ever worked for and they knew the Spaniards would hunt them down like game.
Resistance seemed to be the best option. The odds were not great. In fact, they were slim. But there was a glimmer of hope that they could prevail. The meeting decided by a majority of 14 votes to stand and fight.
The account of the battle is best told in the terse words of Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Thomas Barrow, Superintendent of the Settlement, who wrote in a dispatch to Lord Balcarres in Jamaica to say:
“On the morning of Monday, September 10th, fourteen of the largest vessels of the Spanish feet weighed anchor and at nine o’clock brought to about a mile and a half distant from our fleet. Captain Moss was then of the opinion that they meant to delay the attack ‘til the following day, but nine of them got under weigh about noon.
“These carried each two 24-pounders in the bow and two 18-pounders in the stern. One schooner carried 22 and all the rest from 8 to 14 guns in their waist. And every one of them, besides being crowded with men, towed a large launch full of soldiers. The other five vessels, with several launches, all full of men, remained at this last anchorage at the distance of a mile and a half.
“Our fleet was drawn up with His Majesty’s ship Merlin in the center, and directly abreast of the channel. The sloops with heavy guns and the gunboats in some advance to the Northward, were on her eastern and western flanks.
“The enemy came down in a very handsome manner and with a good countenance in a line abreast, using both sails and oars. About half after two o’clock Captain Moss made the signal to engage, which was observed with great cool and a determined firmness, that to use his own expression to me on that occasion, would have done credit to veterans.
“The action lasted about two hours and a half, when the Spaniards began to fall into confusion, and soon thereafter cut their cables and sailed and rowed off, assisted by a great number of launches which took them in tow.”

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