Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Interactive learning

The top floor of the Baltimore Aquarium boasts a tropical rainforest from the ground up. Here you will see turtles, fish, and birds among other animals. It cannot even come close to the experience we had in the tropical rainforest this past weekend. Although Saturday was an early morning, we arrived at Manu, settled in, and began our hike through the rainforest. The humidity and vegetation were in complete contrast to our homes in San Pedro. We took a trail through mud and streams to reach the rainforest and continued on through a natural trail. Our "guide," Gilbert, had a machete, which was, quite possibly, the coolest thing of all. I mean, how many times do you get to hike through a rainforest with a guy with a machate, and a dog we named perro? Anywho, with the help of Gilbert, Alejandra, Mariano and Mauricio (2 grad students in the field), the rainforest enabled us to learn about different plants and some animals. Two hours of hiking brought us full circle out of the rainforest, and we went for a little swim (with a turtle and some fish) before a lecture on bioindicators. After dinner we hung out as a group and played cards and a fun game called "Signs." It was a nice relaxing time and we all had a lot of fun. The next day I woke up early and went bird watching. We took a short walk and saw different birds and birds' nests. They were so beautiful. My favorite was the King vulture and the woodpecker, but, above all, I really enjoyed just listening to the birds. Breakfast followed at 6:30, and then we head out to the stream to begin our work. We stood in the stream and collected data in 2 minute samples. I fell in immediately, and the water felt great. From then on, most of us weren't worried about getting wet, and we had so much fun. It was nice to be active outside and in the water, especially while the weather was so beautiful. We continued collecting data and moving throughout the stream for different samples. It was beautiful, and I actually really enjoyed searching for the bugs we were collecting and picking them up with my fingers (who needs forceps anyway)? We headed back to organize our data and identify the orders of the aquatic insects we found. After lunch we head out and came back to school. Overall, the weekend was really nice, and much better than I expected. I cannot convey to you the beauty in the natural environment we explored here, nor how fortunate we were to use it to learn in an interactive manner. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

-Kim Hultslander

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