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Project Learn Belize 2013

School of Education


SOE and SONHP teams in Dangriga.

In early January of 2013, students, staff, and faculty from the School of Nursing and Health Professions (SONHP) and the School of Education (SOE) journeyed to Belize.

During the last six years, Project Learn Belize has sponsored ongoing programs of immersion and education at Sacred Heart Primary, a school of over 700 elementary school-aged students in the town of Dangriga.

This was the first trip that USF student nurses and student teachers worked and lived together to support local students, faculty, and the wider community.

bel13_Miranda-SpearsThe team of seven student nurses from SONHP (with faculty Dr. Mary Lou DeNatale and Dr. Enna Trevathan) conducted a variety of activities at the School, most notably, over 500 basic “physicals” (height, weight, vision, blood pressure, etc.) for both students and faculty. Prior to that time, no such data had been obtained or kept in any permanent school records.

These sessions with each class also provided an opportunity to introduce concepts of health, first aid, and nutrition to the students. A follow-up workshop was conducted for Sacred Heart faculty and staff, which included practical tips on how to use the data collected on the children in considerations of classroom management, health promotion, and safety.

bel13_Deidre-O'ConnorFour Dual Degree Teacher Preparation (DDTP) seniors and four graduate students from Teacher Education (TEd) (with DDTP Program Coordinator, Melissa Hope, and Dr. Geoffrey Dillon, S.J., director of Project Learn Belize) worked closely with the Belizean teachers in the classrooms for two weeks.

After a very brief period of observing in the classroom, the USF “Teacher Assistants” were invited to share their knowledge and deliver classroom instruction in a variety of subject areas. These experiences not only strengthened their sense of “being a teacher” but also modeled many “best practices” for the local teachers, who readily (and gratefully) added these to their own teaching repertoire.

bel13_Teryka-GarciaThe contributions of Project Learn Belize were highlighted in a national Belize radio interview while the groups were there. On the last class day before departing, the entire school community presented a “program of thanks” that included local Garifuna dancing and drumming. Certainly the highlight was the performers bringing the USF team “on stage” to dance with them.

"The lack of resources was the biggest obstacle we faced. Classrooms have no technology, only a blackboard. Students have notebooks, but not always pencils. There are no art supplies or extra paper. The textbooks in the classroom are badly torn and outdated…"

"The children are amazing; I miss many of them already. Each day we arrived to the school to receive running hugs, which lasted throughout the day. Got to admit, it was kind of fun being treated like celebrities." - Andrea Pawlonek (TEd)


The experiences of the participants also incorporated the Project’s desire to provide a meaningful “immersion”, wherein the group learned much about the culture and peoples of this developing third world country.

Nightly reflections helped the USF teams process what they were seeing, hearing, experiencing, and the inevitable impact those experiences had on their own sense as teachers, nurses, and citizens of a global community.

For more information about Project Learn Belize, see their website at: http://socrates.usfca.edu/~dillon/PLB/

Written by Dr. Geoffrey Dillon, S.J.