Belizean Big Cats gain popularity in the U.S

Monday, June 8th, 2015. Chrisbert Garcia Reporting: Three summers ago, Cole Manor Elementary School (CMES) teachers Susan Castle and Cynthia Wirth attended Belize’s Teacher Institute in Environmental Studies and Culture – collaboration between Belize Foundation for Conservation, Belize Ministry of Education and State University of New York-Cortland. AR-150609872.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

This session, held at the Lodge at Chaa Creek, introduced participants to the Belize Zoo and Problem Jaguar Center which was founded by environmental activist Sharon Matola.

Castle and Wirth’s experience inspired them to get involved with ongoing efforts to promote a book called “Pat the (Great) Cat,” the tale of an injured Belizean jaguar rescued by the Problem Jaguar Center and eventually resettled in the Milwaukee County Zoo.

The Spanish- English picture book was co-authored by young students in Milwaukee and Belize. Enthusiasm for Belizean Jaguars at CMES has continued to grow, so much so that even the school’s principal, Nicole Poncheri has fallen in love with our Jaguars which have become the focus of the school’s annual EXPO.

EP-150609872.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667Principal Poncheri said: “Typically, with our Academic EXPO, each class picks a different topic – various countries around the world, sea life, for example – and, then, does a culminating project at the end of the year. This was the first time everyone worked on the same topic. The decision to do a school-wide theme just evolved.

We put the idea out there to the staff, and the teachers and the students were totally on board. It really created a lot of excitement around the school. The kids did research. Our announcements included a daily fact about jaguars.

We had a slide show assembly about (Wirth and Castle’s) trip to Belize, and these women brought so many resources into play. The whole thing has been fun for all of us.”

CMES’s Academic EXPO will take place on June 10th, beginning at 9:30 a.m. More details about the jaguar program at Belize Zoo are posted at

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