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Living in Yucatán Course Information


What: Living in Yucatan is an Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) environmental citizenship field experience, exploring cultural resource issues from the height of the classic Maya civilization through the present in the Yucatan peninsula.

The course comprises three research and study modules: Maya culture and archaeology, tropical deciduous forest ecology, and the impact of development on the Great Maya Coral Reef. The Maya culture module explores current archaeological excavations and evaluates seven major reconstructed Maya sites. Tropical deciduous ecology is studied on the grounds of the historic Kiuic, home to one of the oldest forests in the Puuc region of the Yucatan and an excellently preserved, and as yet unstudied, major Maya city. The final module examines the impact of tourism on the shallow marine environment and sea turtle habitat from Cozumel and Cancun to the coast of Belize.

Who: The course is open to students at all ACS schools. The course is interdisciplinary and open to students of all majors.

When: The course is held during the summers, primarily in the month of June. The course earns 8 semester hours. For Millsaps students, the course fulfills core 6 and 9 OR core 6 and 7. Credits from the program are also easily transferred to most American colleges and universities.

Cost: The course fee of $3120 covers all expenses except airfare and some meals.


Dr. George Bey III
Associate Dean of Sciences
Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss.
(601) 974-1385


Course Details

The ultimate goal of the program is to train students who are not necessarily science or anthropology majors, to become environmentally and historically conscious citizens equipped to deal with the complex nature of human-land use history and environmental issues in the 21st century. The course will be taught using a critical thinking and problem-solving pedagogy while exposing students to three major areas of field based investigations.

The students learn environmental citizenship as they concomitantly contribute to sustaining the increasingly threatened reefs, coastal wetlands and tropical forests of Yucatan. The development and teaching of environmental citizenship are accomplished through the application of basic environmental research.

The students field-based research is integrated with established, on-going research projects and programs. Much of the research conducted will be done on sparsely studied or unstudied portions of the Yucatan ecosystem. Results of the research in its various forms are vital to understanding how to preserve and protect the ancient and modern remnants of Mayan culture, as well as, the natural floral and faunal framework within which the Mayans have survived and flourished for centuries.

Testing and Evaluation
Student evaluation will be comprised of four components, fieldwork (complete with journal entries), quiz grades, reflective essays, and a final exam. As detailed below field work and reflective essays are weighted the most heavily. The assessment of the student's field performance will be based on observations made by all of the instructors. At the conclusion of each segment of the course each professor will administer a quiz and assign a reflective essay that they will evaluate. There is also be a final essay exam given at the conclusion of the course that will be graded by all instructors. The breakdown of the components is as follows.

Field Evaluation: 35%
Quizzes: 15%
Reflective essays: 35%
Final exam: 15%

Grades will be based on the following scale
92-100 = A
89-92 = A-
86-89 = B+
83-86 = B
79-83 = B-
76-79 = C+
73-76 = C
69-73 = C-
60-69 = D
Below 60 = F

Liberal Arts Abilities

Because this course is part of the core, a number of essential skills and abilities will be emphasized.

Written and Oral Communication
There will be several opportunities for students to express themselves throughout the course. Three, 3-4 page reflective essays will be assigned at the conclusion of each major section of the course. Each student is also required to keep a daily journal. The field-based research will be analytical which will require a different style of writing. Informal discussions in the field and inevitable interaction with local residents will aid in developing oral communication skills.

Quantitative Thinking
Anthropogenic interaction and impact on nature is the focus of the science component of this course. Evaluation of impact involves the acquisition, reduction, and interpretation of data. Students will be required to collect and evaluate numerical data daily as part of this course.

Historical Consciousness
A goal of this course is to examine the way in which humans have interacted with the ecosystem in the Yucatan Peninsula from the prehistoric past through the contemporary period. The study of this ecosystem provides the opportunity to focus on a number of important environmental issues. Current issues relate to the controls and impact of natural systems on the rise and eventual collapse of the Classic Maya civilization, the evolution of a colonial system of environmental exploitation, and the impact of modern commercial development on shorelines and shallow marine environments.

Global and Multi-Cultural Awareness
Environmental science is global awareness, no country stands alone. Culture plays a significant role in dictating behavior that controls many societies attitude toward the Earth and our role on Earth. Living, working, and interacting with locals will give the student an opportunity to understand the values, hardships, dreams, and reality of life in a culture very different from their own.

Valuing and Decision Making
Themes covered require students to evaluate the benefits to society or self versus the impact on our environment. Risk assessment and ethical considerations made daily have lasting and often dangerous consequences. What is the value of tourism over the environment?

The highest expectation for students participating in this course will be one of respect. We are guests and are expected to behave with respect for all people, property, and the environment. Disrespectful or unruly conduct will not be tolerated and may result in immediate termination of the student's participation in the course.