To call today a full day would be an understatement. It is currently 9:42 and we have been in action since around 7:15 this morning. Upon arriving in the hotel lobby for breakfast, the Florida and California teachers were reunited for the first time since our orientation trip to Santa Cruz in April. An air of enthusiasm and anticipation filled the room as we all greeted each other and prepared for our first full day in Panama. Our first stop was the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Tupper Campus where we had to complete registration process with the Smithsonian. Once we received our badges, we headed over to the Center for Tropical Paleontology and Archaeology (CTPA) for an orientation and tour of the laboratories. During our orientation, we discussed the Gompothere tooth that Dr. John Turner found at Madden Lake (Lake Alajuela) in 1959 and how his discovery lead to a new understanding of animals that inhabited the isthmus during the late Miocene.
After having a picnic lunch and reveling in panoramic views of Panama City, we returned to CTPA to tour the research labs with PCPPIRE intern coordinator Jorge Moreno. During our tour, Ingrid Carolina Romero, shared her studies in Palynology with the group. We learned about the processes necessary for collecting and analyzing pollens from core samples. Ingrid shared slides on the microscope and the processes she goes through in the lab each day. In addition to the pollen samples, we looked at fossil wood slides and discussed the characteristics visible in the samples. Each day I spend at STRI I am truly amazed at the amount of learning I accomplish. The scientists are welcoming and happy to share their work. These experiences bring valuable perspectives into the classroom and provide a multitude of new discussions and questions to be asked. After speaking with Ingrid, Jorge took us to meet the summer PCPPIRE interns. Gina, Michael, Paris, and Isaac gave us their background and shared some exciting aspects of their time working in Panama. The interns will be joining us during our fieldwork providing support and sharing their knowledge of the localities where we will be working.
We ended our afternoon listening to Dr. Jonathan Hendricks talk titled, “Neogene History of Tropical American Cone Shells” at Tupper. Dr. Hendricks gave background information about cone snails and discussed his research on the patterns of fossil shells found in the Dominican Republic. During our trip, we will visit the Gatun formation and find fossil cone snails. Dr. Hendricks research is not only fascinating, but something I hope to be able to bring into my classroom this year through a lesson developed while on the trip to Panama. The talk this afternoon was my “Ah ha!” moment of the day.
The lessons I hope to develop became more clear and moving forward I feel I have direction for my planning and the support necessary to provide solid content paired with an engaging activity for the kids. At the conclusion of the day we had a welcome dinner at El Trapiche where I was able to talk more about my lesson ideas with Dr. Hendricks and Dr. Waite. The level of collaboration that takes place during and after the GABIRET experience in Panama amazed me last year, and after day 1, I can honestly say this year is going to be a tremendous success.