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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"What has been your favorite part of the summer program so far?"
"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."
"Now you know about the Mayas. How will that knowledge affect you in school?"
"It will definitely help me because I think that in high school social studies will be a plus for me."
"How has the program helped you?"
"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."
"Would you like to say anything to Dr. Petters and the teachers and volunteers?"
"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.