GC biology connects with San Salvadoran people
The Georgia College International Education Center sends GC students all over the world for education and service opportunities, even to the Caribbean.
GC biology majors headed to the Bahamas last summer to help the Bahamian people learn more about their environment. A group composed of undergraduate students, graduate students and professors traveled to the country and stayed on San Salvador, a small island with a population of about one thousand.
It is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, said GC graduate student Scott Johnson. The island is so small, in fact, that there is only one small resort on the island for tourists, which is one of the Bahamas’ main sources of income.
The children in this particular area of the Bahamas have grown up with an abundance of fascinating sea life right in their back yard, yet they have never really had a chance to experience it in a learning environment. GC’s students and faculty changed that for them.
GC students and faculty brought a “touch tank” with them to the island. The chaotic primary school children were captivated by the tank, which made sea life available for the children to touch and see as they learned. Johnson explained that the tank was not harmful to any of the organisms involved and was closely monitored.
“My favorite part about studying abroad in San Salvador, Bahamas was being able to experience a community in person that is so [much more] diverse than the one we live in day-to-day here in Milledgeville,” said senior Mary Richard Evans, a biology major.
The school was divided into grades and separated by multiple buildings. All of the students wore uniforms, but a few students who made good grades wore red vests and were in charge of helping the teachers of the school.
“The most impactful part of the trip for me personally was when we were able to visit the local elementary school on the island to teach the students about the various corals, echinoderms, and hermit crabs, [which are] referred to as soldier crabs on the island,” Evans said. “It was so inspiring and fulfulling to see their faces light up when they were actually able to hold and see the creatures that many of them are not able to see otherwise because many of the children were never taught to swim and do not have access to snorkel gear.”
Along with helping children understand the environment and organisms around them, GC students helped clean up San Salvador’s beaches and created a makeshift shed out of the rubbish they gathered. They also collected organisms and conducted research.
“This was done hand-in-hand with the members of the San Salvador Island Living Jewels, and this NPO [Nonprofit Organization] then took ownership of the equipment and lessons to administer teaching training workshops and other conservation initiatives,” said GC biology professor Melanie Devore. “As a result of these activities, our students truly connected with members of the local community. They became partners in activities, and both Bahamians and our GC students were equal participants in projects.”
The GC International Education Center will be conducting a similar trip to the Bahamas in summer 2018. For more information, visit their website or stop by the Bone House.