InHerit has been collaborating with students and faculty from the Universidad de Oriente (UNO) in Valladolid, Mexico and public secondary schools located in Yucatec Maya communities that have cenotes in or near the towns. The goals are to develop innovative, sustainable, and interactive educational programs that explore the geomorphology, oral history, cultural and archaeological heritage of cenotes and motivate youth, ages 11-15, to be proactive in cenote and water conservation efforts in their communities. Education is one key to enhancing the already considerable cultural appreciation of cenotes and to develop strategies for effective and sustainable conservation of the integrated system of sinkholes that make up Yucatan’s vital and fragile subterranean aquifer. By working together with college students, teachers, and middle school students in Yucatán, we believe we can encourage a generation of highly knowledgeable cultural stewards who will advocate on behalf of the responsible and sustainable use of cenotes, conservation of their ecosystem, and promotion of continued education and research at the local level.
During the summer of 2018, we prepared three teaching workshops in Yucatán for faculty from participating schools and our UNO student ambassadors. The workshops pivoted around three themes: Oral History and Folklore, Science and Safety, and Archaeology and Cultural Heritage and brought experts in these fields from Mexico and the U.S. together with teachers to develop experiential education activities for secondary school students to explore cenotes both inside and outside their classrooms. Led by Project Facilitator, Dr. Khristin Landry-Montes and Co-Director Dr. Iván Batún Alpuche in collaboration with our community teachers, we began implementing the program with hands-on activities in all nine schools throughout the fall semester.