This paper documents an approach to sharing and sustaining Maya environmental and cultural heritage through the development of a primary school curriculum and associated activities in order to bring cultural knowledge and practices to formal school settings. Methods include long-term ethnographic research on environmental knowledge and practices in two Maya communities in Toledo; participatory workshops with educators; iterative consultations with district educators, community leaders, and families; and community for a focus on discussions of how and whether such information could be integrated into formal schooling. Curricula and content for workbooks, radio shows, and field guides are comprised of both generalized and specific knowledge regarding environmental and cultural practices. Findings are presented on the effectiveness of the curriculum based on pilot testing with teachers and students describe their learning experiences using the lessons and the responses of teachers participating in workshops to gather feedback on the piloting testing with teachers and students at seven schools in the Toledo District in 2010-2012. In particular, we focus on how students describe their learning experiences using the lessons and the responses of teachers participating in workshops to gather feedback on piloting of the curriculum. These data are contextualized through a discussion about the need to conceptually link environmental and cultural heritages. In addition, we examine the challenges of linking informal practices with formal school settings, the need to carefully consider the ethics of bringing Maya environmental and cultural heritage into schools, and the complex roles of researchers and community members, organizations, and educators in creating heritage curricula. Researchers consistently point to the problematic nature of simply cataloguing environmental knowledge of cultural practices as static entities. We suggest that this project supports the dynamic nature of this knowledge by promoting sharing, discussion, collaboration, and experiential learning.
Zarger, R., Baines, K. (2013). Sharing and sustaining Maya environmental heritage in southern Belize. In N. Encalada, P. Pelayo, G. Pinelo, & S. Solis. (Eds.), Research Reports in Belizean History and Anthroplogy, Volume 2. Paper presented at the 2013 Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize, 2-5 July (pp. 138-144). Belmopan, Belize: Institute for Social and Cultural Research.