Watson Chronicle

WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

Student Opportunities and Student News

Students Create Documentaries During Field Experience to Belize

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Susan Catapano, director of international programs at Watson College of Education, and Dennis Kubasko, professor and CESTEM director, have led student field experiences to Belize for the past six years. This spring, 14 students in their internship semester worked in schools in both North Carolina and Belize. After 10 weeks interning in N.C. schools, students took part in a five-week overseas experience that allowed them to compare and contrast schools in the two countries, immerse themselves in a different culture and develop a global perspective.

Most children in Belize speak English, Spanish and Creole. While English is the primary language, some students said communication is a challenge because the dialect is quite different. Schools have few resources and little technology. While in Belize, WCE students used a chalkboard instead of a smart board, planned lessons using paper and pencil and engaged students in traditional ways. Pre-service teachers said a key lesson learned from the experience was the need for flexibility. 

Belize1The WCE students created documentaries of their experiences. The films were shared with faculty, families and friends at a red carpet event at the college hosted by Catapano and Kubasko. The students chose a wide range of topics including visits to a chocolate farm and a crocodile sanctuary, and profiles of a local artist and an aspiring Olympic runner.

Onslow County teachers, who accompanied Catapano and Kubasko on a prior trip to Belize raised funds to bring teachers and student athletes from San Pedro High School to Northside High School this year. The students’ experiences were captured in interviews conducted and filmed by WCE students Heather Jiske and Emma Mounsey. Two young basketball players who participated in the exchange were offered scholarships to return in August to finish school at Northside High. One grinned as he told the WCE students, “I miss the school already and can’t wait to get back.”

Special education majors Elizabeth Quick and Lexi Gibson created a documentary titled, “Talking with Kyla,” that chronicles their work in the classroom with a student with Down syndrome. In Belize, children with special needs like Kyla are in the general curriculum. There is no stigma and her peers warmly accept Kyla, but with few resources available to help her learn, she had struggled to communicate for years. Gibson taught Kyla, her teacher and the class sign language. Now, Kyla shares words and feelings, something her teacher said, “has made a tremendous difference for everyone in the class.”