Our Story

We started the Panama Experience program in 2010 with the idea of developing a network of science teachers from multiple Milwaukee Public Schools who share a meaningful research experience in tropical ecology. The teachers collaborate on developing a comprehensive curriculum to teach major concepts in environmental science to inner-city Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students.

 

Since 2010, more than 18 teachers have participated in the program in Panama. While in Panama, the teachers worked on research projects that were being conducted in the Schnitzer lab at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Their work and study gave rise to the development of a five-unit teaching module on ecology and environmental science based on Wisconsin State and National Standards. More than 30 additional teachers have participated in our science workshops in Milwaukee and follow-up lesson planning and resource development. 

 

To date, the teaching modules and resources have been used to educate more than 500 students in more than11 different MPS schools from a diversity of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. 

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How to use this site

The Panama Experience website is designed to educate teachers, students, and interested members of the public about tropical ecology and the Milwaukee Public School teacher Panama research experience. The website has information about the Research Experience in Panama for Milwaukee Public School Teachers program. The multi-unit teaching modules that we have developed can be downloaded from the Curriculum page of this site. 

As we continue the Panama Experience, we will continue to add to our selection of teaching modules.

The next Panama Experience trip to Panama will be in summer 2021

Not sure what to do next? Read more specifics about how to use this site if you are a teacher, student, or family member

More Information

For Teachers


We strive to deliver high quality, current science instruction to our students. We believe that the best way accomplish this goal is to help teachers become more familiar with basic research as a way to better understand and thus teach science. We know that when teachers are more prepared and passionate about the subject, students benefit. Goals of the Panama Experience program for teachers include: 1. Improve teaching and learning of science by engaging students in creative, inquiry-based lessons that were inspired and developed by teachers participating in the Panama Experience. 2. Make resources available to teachers, students, teachers and families on the Panama Experience Curriculum and Media pages. 3. Create a network of teachers who are interested in sharing ecology and environmental science with their students using inquiry-based techniques.
The Panama Experience program emphasize cutting-edge research experiences that inspire the development of inquiry-based instruction in ecology and environmental science. Browse the Home and Overview sections to see who we are and what we want to accomplish with the Panama Experience project. View the Curriculum section to learn about the types of multi-unit teaching modules that we are developing. Download the Rainforest Species Interaction Cards on the Curriculum page and explore the different ways to organize and play games with them to learn about food webs. Click on the Participating Teachers link to meet the teachers who have contributed to this program. Browse the Media section to see the photos of tropical plants and animals, as well as the videos and interviews of research scientists. We hope that you enjoy exploring the Panama Experience site and that it will assist you in teaching ecology and environmental science to your students. If you have questions or comments, please contact us using the Contact page.




For Students


Do you like learning about new and interesting plants and animals? Can you imagine how many amazing creatures live in the tropical forests of Panama? By searching this website, you will find things that are surprising, interesting, and fun to learn about. The tropical forest of Panama is home to many different species of life. From leafcutter ants on the forest floor to howler monkeys in the tree tops to keel-billed toucans flying overhead - there is an entirely new world for us to explore together! What is it like to stand in a jungle where the tree trunks are the size of monster truck tires? What do you think it is like to be a scientist working in the forest? Check out the media page to browse pictures to see what the tropical forest and its animals really look like. After that, browse the video library to learn about what scientists study in the forests of Panama. Share all of the cool things you find with your friends, family and teachers! If you have questions or comments, please contact us using the Contact page.




Family Connection


Thank you for taking the time to visit our site and to talk with your children about tropical ecology and environmental science. We hope that you will find our content informative, interesting, and perhaps even entertaining. Browse Home and Overview sections to see who we are and what we want to accomplish with the Panama Experience project. View the Curriculum section to learn about the types of multi-unit teaching modules that we are developing. Download the Rainforest Species Interaction Cards on the Curriculum page and explore the different ways to organize and play games with them to learn about food webs. Click on the Participating Teachers link to meet the teachers who have contributed to this program. Browse the Media section to see the photos of tropical plants and animals, as well as the videos and interviews of research scientists. We hope that you enjoy exploring the Panama Experience site with your children and learning about ecology, environmental science, and the country of Panama. If you have questions or comments, please contact us using the Contact page.





Meet The Program Director

Dr. Stefan Schnitzer is the Director of Environmental Studies and a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. He holds appointments as an Adjunct Curator at the Milwaukee Public Museum and as a Research Associate with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution in the Republic of Panama. He conducts the majority of his research in Panama. 

 

More information on Stefan Schnitzer and the research that is being conducted in the Schnitzer Lab can be found at http://s10318.wixsite.com/schnitzerlab.

The Panama Experience is supported with funding from the National Science Foundation
Research Experience for Teachers Program and Marquette University

A classroom curriculum for teachers and students