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Mohawk Regional students hunt iguana, eat termites on Belize trip

  • Mohawk students pose for a photo at the Lebaha Drumming Center in Dangriga, Belize, during a 10-day excursion earlier this month. Kathleen Stier—contributed photo

  • Mohawk students headed to a snorkeling trip near a coral reef in Belize. Kathleen Stier—contributed photo

  • Recent Mohawk graduate Sam Rhode examines an iguana he found while snorkeling in Belize. Kathleen Stier—contributed photo



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BUCKLAND — Thirteen students from the Mohawk Trail Regional School traveled to another world this summer — to the rainforest, Mayan culture and barrier reef of Belize, a small Carribbean nation just south of Mexico.

A small country of 380,000 residents that is 60 percent forest, Belize is known for its diverse ecosystems and many species of land and water animals. It was also home to the Mayan civilization, which flourished there about 3,000 years ago.

“It was quite an adventure, as we spent five days in the rainforest, four days on the coral reef and an overnight at the Belize Zoo,” said Mohawk science teacher Kathleen Stier, who was one of the chaperones on the trip.

The first time Stier went to Belize was in 1979, she said — and it was a trip that changed her life. “It was a rugged, unforgettable trip,” she said. “It made me want to study biology.”

Since then, Stier has been to Belize a few more times. But she spoke about it so often that her Advanced Placement biology students started asking her to take them with her this summer.

“Ten of the 13 were in my eco-biology class,” she said. Part of the trip expenses where paid for through a donation made to the Mary Lyon Foundation. Also, said Stier, the group did some fundraising.

The visiting students brought 300 tubes of toothpaste, books and cloth to give the villagers of Blue Creek. And they also bought local crafts to help the villagers, who had seen tourism drop this summer due to fears about the Zika virus.

“We had an opportunity to interact directly in the Mayan village with their families,” Stier said. “We donated books, soccer balls and pump, material — they generally make their own clothes — sneakers and athletic clothes.”

But it wasn’t all a trip to paradise, according to Stier. “We had one student get stung by a scorpion, which crawled inside his glove overnight.” Stier’s daughter, chaperone Melanie Stier, had a near encounter with a Fer-de-lance extremely poisonous snake along a footpath, and a few students were stung by jellyfish.

“We hunted down some iguanas, ate termites, and swam into a cave with vampire bats,” Stier said. “Anyways, it may sound crazy but it was a lot of fun and the kids had the field trip of their life.”

“It’s great for kids to learn how simple life can be — and how happy,” Stier said.