BioInquiry: Discovering Central America Trimester Study Abroad Program
Why Spend a Trimester Abroad With MEI?
Imagine snorkelling with shark rays along the second largest coral reef in the world in Caye Caulker, Belize, or hiking through the Costa Rican Cloud Forest for Biology class. Imagine studying Maya foundation myths while visiting the ruins outside of San Ignacio, Belize and Tikal, Guatemala, or kicking back along the beachfront stops of Placencia and Montezuma to write papers and study. The Bioinquiry: Discovering Central America program allows students to complete senior level courses in biodiverse and culturally diverse regions of Central America. The 50-day schedule allows for an even balance of reading and writing, exploration and reporting, and experiencing the region’s challenges through a volunteer project with the community of Antigua. Though our focus is the biological world, students will consider human interaction with local land and water resources throughout our journey.
Biology – Grade 12
This program focuses on in-depth biological analysis, field studies, metabolic processes, and molecular genetics, as well as various branches of the life sciences. By studying regional literature, as well as completing biology reports, students refine their analytical, critical and communication skills.
Human Dimensions – Grade 12
This is an active and adventurous course. At the core of this program is the development and unification of body and mind. Students have the opportunity to participate in activities including hiking, swimming and team sports. While one part of our day is spent kinesthetically interacting with the environment, the other allows for students to absorb and reflect, finding a muse in their surroundings.
English – Grade 12
The core English course focuses on the refinement of literacy, communication and analytical skills. Students build on their understanding of academic language and practice using it confidently in discussion and argumentation, in both oral and written forms.
Students can substitute Studies in Literature – Grade 12
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Prep Session 1: Early January, 2018
Flight and hotel details are available on individual program sites, available to registered students and their parents.
Preparation and Course Work
In order to ease into the program, students have access to the course website where reading lists will be posted. Course preparation is spread out over three weeks: our first week of preparation begins in mid-August, focusing on novel studies; the second two-week session begins in late August, focusing on completing small assignments. These online sessions are designed to connect students with their teachers and classmates, to help complete short tasks, and to alleviate the workload during the trip. Students are required to complete all pre-departure work prior to leaving to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running while overseas.
Departure From Toronto (Day 1)
Our North American departure hub is Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Five hours prior to our departure, a short meeting will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Terminal 3, to distribute course packs and maps and to clarify travel procedures. All students are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. Students making alternate arrangements must contact MEI before May 31.
Caye Caulker, Belize (Day 2–6)
Our journey begins with our arrival in Caye Caulker. This area offers remarkable sights including coral canyons in which students have an opportunity to snorkel and witness an astonishing range of tropical fish, manta rays, and sharks. Students will find this an ideal location for research into theories on the mechanisms of evolution to current ideas in molecular genetics. Additionally, our mornings will be spent introducing students to various morning workouts such as yoga, martial arts and Frisbee.
San Ignacio and Placencia, Belize (Day 6–10)
As a democratic and English speaking country, Belize is an anomaly in Central America. It has a unique blend of cultures including Mayan, Mestizo, African, European, Arabic and Asian. Excursions in this region take us to spectacular waterfalls dropping more than 300 meters, warm water pools near the Rio On. We also venture to the Mountain Pine Ridge area, renowned for its system of enormous caverns. In this setting students will investigate a variety of writings, both the ancient and modern Mayan texts. Our English focus turns to the clash of scientific method and the romantic interpretation of the cosmos.
Settling in on a long expanse of white beach, students kick back and rejuvenate along the coastline of Placencia. The relaxing environment provides an atmosphere conducive to early morning yoga and meditation sessions, afternoon poetry workshops and evening studies in human physiology.
Flores, Guatemala and the Ruins of Tikal (Day 10–20)
As we enter the Tikal Ruins, its sheer size will help set the tone for analyzing theories on the carrying capacity of the earth and the growth of populations. As students reflect on the rise and fall of the Maya, we compare and contrast the situation of our own modern civilization. Our next destination will take us into Guatemala’s northeast jungle, the Petén region. The descendants of the Maya migrated to the Petén area after the collapse of the great Mayan cities in the Yucatán. This isolated area is a perfect location for students to begin to pair their study of English with that of Biology. Students will have time to reflect on the relationship between humanity and the natural world while enjoying all that the lake has to offer, including swimming, boating, fishing and hiking in a small nature preserve.
Antigua, Guatemala (Day 20–23)
Antigua was Guatemala’s capital city for more than 200 years until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Our intent is to ignite a social responsibility in students that will continue beyond the scope of this course. Our discussions and readings will focus on the problems at hand and the possible solutions that exist at a local, national and global level. While working with members of these small communities, students will learn hands-on skills required to implement selected development projects. In addition, the students’ biological perspective will analyze the health issues that arise when a community is continually exposed to such environments. Our academic attention will focus on disease, water supply, medicine and the metabolic processes of living systems. All students will be required to communicate their findings in written, oral and visual formats.
From the service project in Guatemala, we travel to La Fortuna where students have the opportunity to zipline across rainforest canopies, hike through waterfalls and unwind in natural hot springs. Located at the base of a volcano, La Fortuna is where students immerse themselves in the biodiversity of the environment.
Next on our schedule is the verdant mountain village of Monteverde. We spend five days in an Ecolodge perched amidst the Cloud Forest. Students might very well spot an Emerald Toucanet or a family of playful monkeys from their own back porch. Students are surrounded by an abundance of wildlife and organisms to collect and study. Quality lab and research facilities will also be available at this location. Students will take time to dissect one of Shakespeare’s plays and utilze the solitude in the Cloud Forest to perform their own version of the play.
Next, students transfer to the beachfront town of Montezuma, one of the hidden gems of Costa Rica. This is an ideal location to balance work with play as students complete their major projects and prepare for their final evaluations and Independent Study Units. We complete our final BookChat discussion of the Trimester and students showcase select pieces from their creative portfolio during podcast performances.
The final stop on our journey will be Manuel Antonio and its National Park. To many travelers, this is the most beautiful location in the entire country and it is easy to see why. Here, we reside high on the beachside and gaze out over the sparkling blue waters and the National Park. In the backdrop of this relaxed atmosphere, students could not ask for a better setting to conclude our journey. Each day consists of a new adventure: from strolling along the palm-lined beaches to hiking through rainforests teeming with wildlife, to whitewater rafting the rapids on the Naranjo River. Students have time to reflect on their diverse experience and academics in order to prepare for their final culminating assignments, exams and the Independent Study Unit interviews. After our final exam, students have one last day to celebrate their time together and prepare for their journey home.
Travel dates subject to change.
All prices include international student fees.
- Ministry-approved credit(s) upon successful completion of the course(s)
- $95 Registration Fee
- Custom course pack
- Student Login
- MEI journal
- Digital yearbook
- Hotels and accommodations
- Breakfast and dinner daily
- Entrance fees to all course-specific sites
- Return airfare from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport
- Approximate airline departure taxes and fees
- Transportation between hotel locations via private coach
- Transportation for all listed program excursions
- Flight from Belize to Costa Rica
- Travel Visas
- All airline taxes, charges and fees
- Registration fee
- Course texts
- Medical Insurance and Cancellation Protection*
*All students travelling with MEI Academy are required to purchase Medical Insurance.
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