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Springfield teacher heads to Belize for extra study

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    Lisa Kuhl of Waterville, who teaches science at Springfield Middle School, displays some of the supplies she collected from her students to donate to La Democracia School in Belize.

    <The Blade/Lori King
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Lisa Kuhl of Waterville, who teaches science at Springfield Middle School, displays some of the supplies she collected from her students to donate to La Democracia School in Belize.

The Blade/Lori King
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Lisa Kuhl is headed for a hot, sticky place next month, but it's exactly where she wants to be.

Ms. Kuhl, an eighth-grade science teacher at Springfield Middle School, was selected as a 2007 participant in a program called Earth Expeditions. She will travel to the Central American country of Belize to study conservation and marine ecology.

The program was established by Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

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A student made a drawing of a Mayan pyramid that can be found in the Central American country of Belize.

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Its aim is to provide teachers with research experiences in conservation hot spots around the world.

In Belize, Ms. Kuhl and other American teachers, along with instructors from Miami University and the Cincinnati zoo, will study manatees and aquatic mangroves and explore the influence people are having on coral reefs.

"We'll also interact with some local teachers and students," Ms. Kuhl, a Waterville resident, said. "It'll be hot and humid. There'll be lots of bugs. They want to kind of take you out of your comfort zone. I'll be living in a hut with one other person and will spend one night in a baboon sanctuary."

Ms. Kuhl will earn seven graduate credit hours from Miami for completing the program.

The experience will prove valuable for teachers, according to its co-director, Chris Myers, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Miami.

"We need to go beyond textbooks and engage educators and students in the real world," he explained. "We envision every educator as an ambassador who creates as well as transmits knowledge, who promotes needed dialogue at all levels of society, and who inspires students to do the same."

The emphasis is on learning by experience, said David Jenike, vice president of education and facilities at the Cincinnati zoo and a teacher in the program.

"Reading about the rainforest is one thing. But it can be transformational for students to hear about the rainforest from their own teacher who's experienced it firsthand," Mr. Jenike said.

Ms. Kuhl, who has been at Springfield for five years, said the school system is defraying part of the $975 cost of the program, but she is paying for her plane ticket, shots, and supplies.

She said she'll keep a journal that will be graded, and put together an "inquiry action project," based on her experiences in Belize, that will be used in math, English, social sciences, and science classes when the new school year begins.

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