Poland and Buckfield instructors receive fellowships for research trek.

POLAND – Teachers from Buckfield and Poland will travel to the vast wetlands of Brazil’s Pantanal next week as part of an international research team of educators, scientists and geographers.

The program, “Strengthening Geography in Schools through Conservation,” is part of a nationwide program developed by Earthwatch Institute with a grant by the National Geographic Society Education Foundation.

Although few people have heard of it, the Pantanal is the largest wetland in the world and one of the most spectacular wildlife areas in South America. Home to jaguar, giant river otters, howler monkeys, anacondas, toucans and the hyacinth macaw, the wetland is located south of Brazil’s Amazon River on its border with Paraguay and Bolivia. The area is threatened by unplanned and unsustainable development.

Tabitha Dionne, a teacher at Bruce M. Whittier Middle School in Poland, and Thomas Light, a teacher at Buckfield Middle School, will visit the Pantanal Feb. 14-25. They are part of a 15-member international educator team that will join Earthwatch Institute and Conservation International researchers.

The teachers will help scientists map and monitor endangered wildlife in an initiative to develop baseline data for managing the area. While at the field research site, the teachers will communicate daily with students in their classrooms through e-mail and photos of their daily activities which can be followed by the public at www.esd189.org/tlp/pantanal.

Teachers will share what they have learned through projects at schools and conferences with colleagues when they return home.

The teachers’ fellowships are supported by Earthwatch with grants from the Aristotle Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and the National Geographic Society Education Foundation.

The teachers were selected through a competitive application process in collaboration with local geography alliances and state technology education initiatives.

Earthwatch provides opportunities for students, teachers, business leaders and resource managers to enrich their learning and broaden their understanding of sustainability. Every year, more than 400 teachers worldwide receive educational fellowships to take part in research. To learn more about Earthwatch, go to www.earthwatch.org or call 800-776-0188.

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