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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 5:23 am | Fair 42º


Opportunites Abound for Laguna Blanca School Expedition to Belize, Guatemala

The Maya monuments and temples of Tikal were once protected by a canopy of jungle vegetation.
The Maya monuments and temples of Tikal were once protected by a canopy of jungle vegetation. (Blake Dorfman photo / Laguna Blanca School)

[Noozhawk’s note: Third in a series. Click here for a related story, or click here for another related story.]

Belize and Guatemala are small countries with big histories. The Maya monuments of Tikal in Guatemala are perhaps the most visible piece of the region’s past, but the famed stone relics are turning to dust at an alarming rate.

While many visitors may be too overwhelmed by the grandeur of the views to see it, the temples, which were once protected by the canopy of jungle vegetation, are now exposed to the elements so that one can pluck at a wall and take out a chunk that becomes powder when clenched tightly in the fist.

Laguna Blanca School teachers Arturo Flores and Blake Dorfman were able to meet with archaeologist Rudy Larios, who resides near the monuments, thanks to their guide for the week, Anabel Ford Ph.D., director of UC Santa Barbara’s MesoAmerican Research Center.

Larios has seen facades crumble to nothing in a matter of decades, giving a real sense of urgency to the more conservationist “archaeology under the canopy” that Ford is practicing at the site of El Pilar across the border in Belize.

In this sense, the educational opportunities grow even larger for the group of Laguna Blanca students who will have the opportunity to travel to the area next summer.

A wall at the Tikal monuments shows signs of disintegration. (Blake Dorfman photo / Laguna Blanca School)
A wall at the Tikal monuments shows signs of disintegration. (Blake Dorfman photo / Laguna Blanca School)

There can be a more humanitarian project, such as helping plant a forest garden at the Santa Elena Public Library in Belize, to go along with real-life applications of chemistry that go into understanding the destruction at Tikal.

Future biologists might be interested to study how the rather diminutive howler monkeys that swing above them can bellow loud enough to be heard from a mile away.

From Tikal, the scenic lakeside city of Flores is just a 90-minute bus ride away. Traveling around Flores in a Tuk-Tuk three-wheeled taxi, one can find an array of souvenir-shopping and dining options. The pizza at Terrazzo, made with many local ingredients, is not to be missed.

A prop-plane ride back to Belize begins the journey home with eagerness to share the bountiful educational opportunities that lie in the heart of Central America.

Click here for more information about El Pilar. Click here for more information about Laguna Blanca School.

— Blake Dorfman is a teacher at Laguna Blanca School.

Young and old can be found on the bus to Flores. (Blake Dorfman photo / Laguna Blanca School)
Young and old can be found on the bus to Flores. (Blake Dorfman photo / Laguna Blanca School)

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