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#384281 - 07/21/10 10:43 AM Dr. Petters teaches kids about Mayan Astronomy
Marty Online   happy

It is not a summer camp, but the subject is totally absorbing the minds of a select group of young persons from around the country. They are between the ages of twelve and sixteen and for the entire week they will be spending time at the Petters Institute of Dangriga learning about the intriguing yet advanced astronomy practiced by the Mayas. Dr Arlie Petters, the renowned scientist, is facilitating the program. News Five’s Isani Cayetano headed south today and has a report.

Isani Cayetano, reporting

Traditionally, much has been studied about the ancient Maya Civilization. The architecture of their massive stone temples has long been the marvel of archaeologists. Conversely, historians have focused a great deal on the socio-cultural attributes of the people including religious practices, trade economics and their overall way of life. But what seems to be overshadowed in the many history lessons being taught is that the Mayas were light years ahead in the realm of astronomy and mathematics.

While most students are enjoying their summer vacation a class of twenty-seven has convened at the Petters Institute in Dangriga where they spent a little over a week learning the fundamentals of the Mayan calendar, their numeric system and mathematics.

Twelve year old Thaddeus Clark is one of several participants who have taken the course being offered by a professor at Duke University. Thaddeus displays an uncanny ability to read, write, and count in Maya.

Thaddeus Clark, Participant

“There are many aspects of their lives that I and some other of my colleagues here know nothing about for example Venus, the star, we now know how many days it takes and in what positions they will be visible and invisible.”

Isani Cayetano

“And in terms of the symbols I know the Mayas used a lot of symbols and you guys are divided into teams and you have a symbol representing the name of your team. How did you guys come up with that?”

Thaddeus Clark

“Well the Maya language is based on a syllabic way so that depending on the way you put it, it puts the syllables in line making sounds.”

Although phonics and linguistics play an integral role in communication, the ancient Maya also relied heavily on the use of symbols to represent numbers.

Anthony Deras, Participant

“The Maya have seventeen calendars and each calendars have so many numbers. Like this one, this one has, these are one, two, three, four, five. These are five and they are the long counting calendars and these represent, and these are numbers. Like all of these represent one, this is one, two, three, four, this is five; a total of eight.”

According to math professor Dr. Marcus Werner the importance of learning math and astronomy ties in with these students learning the history of this indigenous people.

Dr Marcus Werner

Dr. Marcus Werner, Math Professor, Duke University

“This course has actually been quite challenging I think but [uh] the students did very well. We had several assignments and they’ve been very active, they’ve been asking questions. I got the impression they were interested in, well, part of their own heritage of course.”

For Dr. Arlie Petters, a renowned mathematician and scientist at Duke University, this program has been a departure from the norm as the students, ranging in age from twelve to sixteen, are being exposed to another aspect of ancient history.

Dr. Arlie Petters, Math Professor, Duke University

Dr Arlie Petters

“First of all the Mayan Civilization is an integral part of our heritage. We are delighted to have Dr. Werner come and have our young people look deeper into this heritage, in particular mathematics and its astronomy. My sense is that all of us, at least when I was a kid, learned Mayan astronomy largely through its history. I never got a good sense of the deeper mathematical system which is a base twenty system that they employed.”

And while they may not apply this obsolete method of counting and calculation in the modern world for Thaddeus the opportunity to learn more about the past is something he will take along with him into high school.

Thaddeus Clark

“There are many things some include more mathematics than I ever thought was included in the Mayas. It has also been very educational.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano

Dr. Petters will be a guest this Wednesday morning on Open Your Eyes.

Channel 5

#384287 - 07/21/10 10:51 AM Re: Dr. Petters teaches kids about Mayan Astronomy [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Dr. Petters and Mayan Astrology

Since the beginning of summer we've been showing you summer camps all over Belize City, that are training kids in art, sports, and even photography. Today we ventured out to the South where Emaun Hyde visited Dr. Arlie Petters in Dangriga. This duke university professor and physicist is teaching kids about Mayan astronomy and we found out more....

Dr. Arlie Petters, Exec. Director - Petters Research Institute
"The basic idea is to take our students deeper into the intellectual history and the intellectual capabilities of the Mayas."

Emaun Hyde
"On the PSE there were so many students who did terribly on it, on the math part of it. Do you think that this will make a difference and this will help?"

Dr. Arlie Petters
"I believe that it would definitely would. Programs of this sort connect the math you are learning in school to something relevant in your culture. Something relevant to your nation. That is what makes it stick."

Emaun Hyde
"How does it feel being a part of something like this that is helping children? How does it feel being such a big influence on them?"

Dr. Arlie Petters
"I feel so proud of our young people. In fact I see a bright future for our young people. I am always optimistic about them. You imagine a 12 year old commanding these hieroglyphs just after a couple days, being able to understand some of the astronomy just after a few days. My sense is that we are developing the Belizean intellectual and we are going to start from the elementary work our way through high school all the way to university level."

Emaun Hyde
"What are your hopes for these students?"

Dr. Arlie Petters
"My hope is that they are able to see the connection between different areas of knowledge through summer experiences of this sort. I would like them to be able to also develop internally the confidence to know that they too can understand hieroglyphs; they too can have a command of knowledge that is what I hope for. I believe deeply that if you show young people, you believe in them, you care about them, you're going to bring out greatness in them."

Petters however isn't the only one giving back to Belize's youth. His team includes volunteers from the Peace Corps who told us that they are happy to give back.

Brooke Anderson, Volunteer
"It's a wonderful expereince. I think maybe at the outset you start thinking that you are going to go help but what you learn that it's a mutual exchange and so while you are giving you are also receiving. And often times you receive a lot more than you end up giving. I find that to be true here in Belize for sure."

Alex Roche
"I have to agree, I've been doing some summer camps and I was all excited that I was going to teach these kids chess and math and realize that I learn a lot more form them than they learn from me. It's a very humbling and wonderful experience."

Jenna Altherr, Volunteer
"I certainly have felt more alive since I have gotten here. Since March I am with the work that we have been doing and it's been incredible so thank you Belize."

The professor Dr. Marcus Werner is teaching the Belizean students more about their own culture. He told us about this rewarding experience.

Dr. Marcus Werner, Instructor
"It's very nice to meet young people at the age from 12 - 16 and see how they get excited about that because its exactly the same age that I got interested in my mathematics so I sort of know what's going on."

The students told us about what they have been learning and shared how they plan to use it.

Juana Meza, Student
"At the beginning we learn how to convert calendars, like there are 3 calendars, the Tzolk'in, the Haab' and there is also the Long Count. We also were learning Maya mathematics which is really cool. We learnt about huge numbers and we use the Vegidecimal system which is base 20, actually we use base 10. So they use larger numbers. I have a lot of friends who actually belong to the Mayan culture and they don't really know much about it, so me I am a mestizo so I do have a Mayan background and with this knowledge I plan to share it with them so they could actually know more about it."

Dorien Villafranco, Student
"When I go for studying abroad I think it's going to give me wider options and what to base my studies upon, so I think astronomy might be one of them."

Emaun Hyde
"What has been your favorite part of the summer program so far?"

Dorien Villafranco
"The astronomy, most of it cause the mathematics we carry in high school which I have already graduated but the astronomy definitely is new."

Leann Gongora, Student
"I enjoy about learning about the Mayas. They were very interesting, I didn't know a lot about them and now that there is this camp I have learn a lot about them."

Emaun Hyde
"Now you know about the Mayas. How will that knowledge affect you in school?"

Leann Gongora
"It will definitely help me because I think that in high school social studies will be a plus for me."

Emaun Hyde
"How has the program helped you?"

Leann Gongora
"I've met a lot of new friends, I've learn about the Mayas, the astronomy, the history and that will definitely help me in the future."

Emaun Hyde
"Would you like to say anything to Dr. Petters and the teachers and volunteers?"

Leann Gongora
"I would like to say 'thank you' they were very nice, very generous. Dr. Werner is very intelligent."

The camp began last week Wednesday and is scheduled to run for about a week. Dr. Petters said that he intends to have more summer camps annually....

The camp began last week Wednesday and is scheduled to run for about a week. Dr. Petters said that he intends to have more summer camps annually.

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