Final Week 2020

Our final week of the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures 2020 program! Team STARRS finalized work on our Coral-related Marine Activities website, with the help and advice of Professor Shannon Audley and Ms. Graeham Dodd, Director of Curriculum Design and Innovation at the Smith College Campus School. The website includes the lessons and online activities that we created during the previous weeks of the program. This website has been shared with various volunteers that will give us feedback on the content of the lessons, and it is now posted here.

Covid-19 has made the year 2020 a year like no other throughout the world, as we all know! Although our Coral Ed Team didn’t expect to have to work remotely when we signed up for the 2020 program, I believe we got far more done than we anticipated when Coral Ed transitioned to remote format for the first time in its history. The 21st year of Coral Reef Ed-Ventures will be remembered for happening despite the adversities faced, and we hope that the materials developed this summer will be of great use for the program’s 22nd year in summer 2021! 

We would like to thank everyone who made this year’s program possible, and all who contributed to the development of lessons and activities, especially:

  1. Coral-Ed alums who took the time to connect, converse, and advise us on how to develop engaging and meaningful lessons for different age groups, as well as how to transition into online programming. 
  2. Media outlets in San Pedro, Belize that helped us disseminate the news that we would not be conducting the Coral Ed camps this summer due to the current pandemic circumstances. 
  3. Joanne Benkley for all the “behind the scenes” administrative work. 
  4. Professor Shannon Audley for working so closely with us in the lesson plan development process, in assisting us on how to incorporate anti-racist education into our lessons, and for helping us set up the website. 
  5. Professors Denise Lello, L. David Smith and founder Professor Emeritus Al Curran for modifying the program to be completely remote, giving us the opportunity to be part of the team, and providing us with so much support and encouragement throughout the program. 
  6. Thank you to all of you who supported our summer 2020 Coral Ed program and who have been keeping up with our updates. You are part of this team as much as us!.

Lastly, I personally want to thank my team members for all the hard work and commitment to the program this summer and for helping one another, not just with our program duties, but also with other personal circumstances that came up along the way. We did it! 

       Yeiny Moreno, Smith College Class of 2020 and Team STARRS

Week 5 Update

This week Team STARRS continued to make virtual lessons for students and teachers in San Pedro, and improved and revised our previous activities. We are working on topics like Ocean Currents, Marine Protected Areas, Advocacy and Activism, Conservation, and more! We are so excited to share these lessons and activities with the San Pedro community. 

As part of our project we have been working with professional educators to inform our lessons, and next week we will meet up with Graeham Dodd. Graeham is the Director of Curriculum Design & Innovation at Campus School of Smith College, and she will give us advice on using Google Forms for our lessons and explain us how the Campus School found success in their transition to remote learning. Graeham will connect us with several Campus School volunteers. These elementary students and their families, plus other volunteers will give our projects their first run through. Their trial run feedback will help us improve our activities before sending them to our friends in Belize.

Throughout this lesson and activity development we have found the time spent together as a team peer editing, collaborating, and connecting with supportive resources like Graeham and our other Coral Ed Alum panels to be most rewarding. 



Despite working remotely from cross-country and time zones, we remember that we are all part of the broader Coral Ed-Venture community. It’s hard to believe that we have only one week left for our summer project.


Remember to vote on our Camp Name for 2021!

-Hannah Gates and Team STARRS

Week Four: Online activity development

This week team STARRS began to develop online activities that could be used by children any time. We look forward to trying them out with volunteers in the Smith community and beyond this summer. We also began planning for an in-person camp next year. In order to prepare materials accessible online. team STARRS spoke with Coral Ed Alums Dana Vera and Kayla Clark. Dana and Kayla continue to work in education and were able to give helpful advice in terms of how to create effective lesson plans. Team STARRS explored google forms as a potential platform for the remote camp. Two previously made lesson plans were converted into google forms to allow for campers to work remotely. Converting these plans to google forms helped us to get a better understanding for how google forms works. The next step will be to come up with a platform through which to share these lesson plans. Having panels with alums has given us tools and options for hosting platforms. Alums have informed us of resources such as flip grid, newsela, remind, and nearpod. Alums also inspired us through providing us examples of their own lesson plans.

In order to prepare for next year’s camp we came up with a few ideas for a theme and mural. After talking amongst one another we decided it might be good to build the camp around the themes of environmental justice, intersectionality, advocacy, and climate change in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to build the camp around the idea of change and building a better future.  In order to articulate these plans we are in the process of coming up with a name for the camp. At the moment we have two ideas for a name for the camp. One being “Changemakers: The Sea and Me” and the other being “What’s in Me, The Change in the Sea.” We would love if you could help us to come up with a name by using this link to vote! And remember to check back next week for more updates!

-Cassandra Gonzalez and team STARRS

Week Three Blog Update

This week team STARRS continued the journey to creating lessons that we hope teachers and students could use in San Pedro. 

Incorporating Anti-Racist Education

We have adapted some of the lessons developed last week to include culturally sensitive anti-racist education. Shannon Audley, a Smith College professor of Education & Child Study, provided the team with resources on how to appropriately include this in our exercises. Anti-racism is the practice of recognizing, challenging, and changing the values, structures, and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism (Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat). We hope to include this in our lessons while taking an intersectional approach, where we not only consider ethnicity, but also the other multitudes and intersections of identities. We hope that we can design lessons that are STEM-focused and that recognize power imbalances among communities while empowering students. 

Coral Ed Alum Panels

We wanted to gain insight into how teachers are connecting with students virtually and how we should adapt our lessons to be accessible to our campers. To accomplish this, throughout the week we were able to interview past Coral-Ed members on their experience in San Pedro and their more recent teaching experiences. The five Coral-Ed alumni, all of whom have gone on to pursue educational career fields after their Smith College education,  shared their experience with the transition into online learning and how to engage virtually with campers.

Video Resources

We have created a list of engaging educational videos and websites for teachers or students to access. We hope that these resources may also be helpful for future Coral-Ed teams when developing their lesson plans for camp.

Plan for Next Week

The goal for next week is to complete a daily plan for the youth and reef camp as well as to conduct another interview with a Coral- Ed alumni. 

Genesis Canizales & Team STARRS


Weeks One and Two: Lesson Planning, Zoom Meetings, and More!

This first couple of weeks of the 21st year of Coral Ed look quite different in comparison to previous years. Remotely, our team is hard at work on materials that we hope teachers and students in San Pedro will be able to use.

In order to get the word out about the Coral Ed program this year, we asked our friends at San Pedro Sun to help us notify people on the island. Check out this link to an article announcing that Coral Ed will not be returning to La Isla Bonita this year.

We started our work this year by reviewing past camp materials (2014 – present) and online resources in order to find what we think are the most promising lessons and activities for future camps. From corals to biotic relationships to mangroves, we sorted through the years, picked our favorites and together we were able to develop over twenty lesson plans! (The process of peer review proved to be extremely helpful). Working on lesson plans when you have not yet taught in San Pedro provides its own set of challenges for members of our team that are new this year, but the team continues to power through and do an amazing job. In another meeting, we each presented our favorite lesson plan to the group (team + professors) in order to get some feedback and share what we were learning and excited about.

The Start of Our Coral Ed Alum Panels

At the end of this week, we had our first Coral Ed alum panel with Beth Callaghan ‘04, who currently works at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a great opportunity to ask questions about effective lesson planning as well as ways to optimize the online learning experience. 

Moving Forward

Now that we have a grasp on the in-person lesson plans, we will begin the process of transforming those lessons into online formats so that they are available to the children of San Pedro (and possibly even a larger global audience!).

On another note, in lieu of T-shirts this year we got to choose our own ocean-themed mask:


   – Glenda Perez & Team STARRS


Introducing Team STARRS 2020

Hello! I’m Yeiny Moreno, a recent Smith College graduate with a major in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience. After spending a summer teaching hygiene, nutrition, and health in Guatemala and working as a counselor in a summer camp in New York City, I’ve developed an interest in child development and education. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and though I loved interacting with the marine environment around me, I never got the opportunity to learn about how to take care of it. I first got the opportunity when participated in the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures Program last year.  I had an amazing experience not just teaching the kids but also learning from them about the island, the reef, and what they care about. Though I’m sad that we won’t be returning to the island this summer, I’m grateful that we still get to do remote work that can be used in the future.

Hello! My name is Glenda Perez and I’m a rising senior at Smith majoring in Environmental Science & Policy and Education, with a concentration in Translation Studies (Spanish & Portuguese). I’m passionate about teaching in a way that is fun/relatable for students, have worked in several classrooms, and am also particularly interested in marine science in the Caribbean. I participated in the Coral Reef Ed-Ventures program last year, and I’m excited to be working on educational materials for the island! I learned so much from my time with the kids from camp and out researching the reefs, which makes me eager to work on lesson plans again to connect with kids who can find ways to support environmental efforts in their own community.

Hi Everyone! My name is Cassandra Gonzalez and I am a rising senior at Smith College. I am a Psychology major and work at the Smith College Museum of Art. I hope to take what I have learned from my time running camps and tours at the museum to create effective lesson plans this summer. Before going to Smith I attended a Marine Science Magnet High School in Connecticut and last year I studied abroad in Australia through the SIT Sustainability and Environmental Action program. I’m hopeful that I can take what I have learned about environmental science and apply it to my work here. I anticipate that through my work I can improve upon my teaching and expand my knowledge of environmental science while encouraging participants to take action. I intend to promote positive change within the San Pedro community and am hopeful that I will be able to come to Belize next year and meet the campers!

Hi everyone! My name is Hannah Gates and I am a rising Junior at Smith. I am majoring in Education with a Museums Concentration and hope to work as a natural sciences museum educator after graduation. For many years I have enjoyed teaching and learning from students in my home town of Pierre, South Dakota at our local Children’s Museum- the South Dakota Discovery Center. I love teaching my students about the natural world around them and how they can be conservationists and advocates in the community. In return, they teach me their perspectives on our ever changing world and remind me to be always curious and fearless in the pursuit of new knowledge. Unprecedented circumstances have uprooted our expectations and normal operations, but I know our team won’t let any obstacle stop our teaching and learning. We will work together to make this new reality an opportunity for critical thinking, problem solving, change making, and community building- and I can’t wait to have fun doing it!

Hello! My name is Genesis Canizales and I’m a rising junior at Smith College. My major is Environmental Science & Policy with a minor in Economics. I am very interested in teaching our campers the importance of our natural resources. This will be my first experience with creating lessons in the marine sciences but I am very excited to build upon my environmental knowledge and to be immersed in research to provide the campers, teachers and community  in San Pedro with engaging materials that address reef ecology and sustainability topics.