Education & Outreach
Outreach and education at the Bocas del Toro Research Station spans a range of programs targeting K-12 students, university undergraduates, graduate students and young professionals. K-12 education includes visits to local schools, some of which are in remote mountainous locations, and student visits to the BRS. The station also offers a training workshop for local K-12 teachers once every two years.
More than 190 university undergraduates visited the station as participants in courses hosted by the Bocas Research Station (see page 42), and more than 100 participated as research assistants and interns in numerous research projects. Our outreach specialists also reached local undergraduates by visiting the University of Panama in Changuinola. Finally, graduate students and young professionals obtain advanced training at the BRS where they learn specialized skills for studying biodiversity from the Training in Tropical Taxonomy program.
Activities at the station also touch the general public from around the world. Bi-weekly station open houses received 700 visitors from 20 countries in FY07. The BRS also has an active web presence. The BRS Biodiveristy database received 10,000 unique hits during this two year period. The virtual mangrove walkway and real-time biological monitoring data are also popular sites.
Plans for future development of the public programs include design and construction of an interpretive walk. The walk will include pond, forest, and mangrove eco-systems that are present on the BRS property.
Local school outreach
The BRS local school outreach program began 4 years ago and currently works closely with 10 educational centers in the area. Outreach staff organize approximately three visits to the station per month, and travel to schools that do not have easy access to the station. Over 670 students participated in this program in FY07.
The program consists of activities tailored to the educational level and prior knowledge of each group. Students compare ecosystems, use laminated photo sheets and keys to identify organisms, test water quality and make connections between land use and coral reef health. BRS researchers often participate, sharing their expertise and enthusiasm with the students.
In 2006 the station hosted a second workshop for local teachers, organized in conjunction with Panama's Ministry of Education (MEDUCA). 42 local teachers spent time in the field with outreach staff, listened to scientists present their work and developed effective classroom exercises to incorporate biological information into the standard curriculum.
Marlon B. Smith
Education Program Coordinator
Bocas Del Toro Research Station
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute