The 2012 GPS+Camera Pilot Project examined the question “How has Codrington Village changed over time?” in Biology, Social Studies and Geography.  Students conducted original research including site visits, water testing, ethnographic interviewing, and interpreting artifacts and recorded both how they conducted their research and their conclusions.  Each subject area produced a 10-15 minute video.  This video is a combination of the three videos and gives you an introduction to the 2012 GPS+Camera Pilot Project.


Well, the GPS+Camera Pilot Project is completed now and while I am of course a somewhat biased observer, from my perspective it was an amazing success.  Students in all three subject areas worked incredibly hard to conduct original research around our central question “How has Codrington Village changed over time?” and last Thursday presented their findings to their school, to community members and to Barbuda TV.  They also compiled their findings into four videos: a Geography video, a Social Studies video, a Biology video and a short compilation of all three videos.  The compilation will be uploaded today and the longer subject-specific videos soon after.

Geography students examined artifacts, sketched and photographed the historic site, interviewed community members and archaeologists, and examined a wide variety of primary documents from maps, to newspapers, to drawings, to written descriptions.  We assessed the reliability of different primary sources using Time, Place, First-hand Knowledge, and Bias and cross-checked them with each other and with our site visits, interviews and artifacts.  Each student then drew their interpretation of the castle and justified their interpretation based on the reliability of their sources and whether or not their information could be cross-checked with other sources.  I was immensely impressed by the students’ work  – I know many university students who would have a difficult time accomplishing what our 11-15 year-olds did.

In Social Studies, our students examined the historic site of Indigo Well and conducted six extensive interviews with former Barbudan Cowboys.  The students’ started by examining secondary sources written about Barbuda’s cowboy past (and to a lesser extent cowboy present).  Students identified gaps in our knowledge and, with minimal guidance from their teachers, identified knowledgeable people in their community and set up interviews with those key informants.  Students practiced ethnographic interviewing skills using the guide produced by the Smithsonian Institute until students felt confident not only designing an interview, but asking follow up questions they had not previously prepared as well.  In the interviews, we discussed Barbuda’s open range cattle herding practices then and now and why we thought this change had occurred over time.  Some great stories emerged – be sure to check out the Social Studies clip in our collective video and stay tuned for the longer Social Studies video in the future!

In Biology class, students mastered their material so quickly that instead of using field guides about mangroves written by someone else, they created their own field guides specifically designed for Barbuda’s mangroves and created a video tour of the four types of mangroves found in Barbuda.  They interviewed community members and Barbudan ecology experts to discuss both the mangroves’ ecosystem services and how human use of the mangroves has changed over time.  Students took water samples and tested the water for PH, salinity and other indicators of water quality.  In the future, we hope to have students regularly monitor environmental indicators (like water quality) as part of their year-round curriculum.  Such opportunities would not only help Barbudan students understand their community better but could also provide useful, accurate information to help inform real decision making.

Overall, this pilot project exceeded our most ambitious expectations.  Students mastered their skills and content in almost no time and were completing high quality original research in all three subject areas by the first week of the project.  It was also very clear that these students are receiving an excellent, high-quality education from their teachers at Sir McChesney George Secondary School.  All three of us are incredibly grateful for how friendly, welcoming, supportive and patient every single one of the teachers at Sir McChesney George Secondary School have been.  It was a real pleasure working with your students and we hope in the future to get a chance to work more directly with all of you.  Thanks to everyone and with any luck, we’ll be seeing you again in the near future!

Thanks again from the GPS+Camera teachers,

Maggie Morrison

Michael Cornell

Dan McGovern


All groups participating in the GPS+Camera project conducted interviews today.  The Social Studies group invited in Gene Cephas, revered as one of the top cattle herders in Barbuda, although he no longer herds cattle.  Gene Cephas provided students with a wealth of information and stories regarding how cattle herding practices in Barbuda have changed over time.  Students were also excited when Mr. Cephas rolled up his pant leg to reveal a scar from a bull horn.  After an exciting morning, students recorded their knowledge of cattle herding practices in Barbuda, past and present, on video-camera to be shared with the local community this coming Thursday.  For the remainder of the week, students will be practicing their presentation and hopefully conduct their 6th interview with Sir Eric Burton, a gentleman who has a long history as a parliamentary representative for Barbuda and the one-time owner of several hundred heads of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses.



On Friday, students continued to work on their GPS+Camera Projects.  Biology students began taping their video-guides of Codrington Lagoon’s four types of mangroves, Social Studies students continued their ethnographic interviews with elders in the community, and History/Geography students analyzed their sources, determined gaps in their knowledge, designed interviews with community members and visiting archaeologists for Monday, and started to script their presentations.  In between working on their projects, students watched their three Houses (Cedar, Logwood, and Lignum Vitae) compete in a round-robin basketball tournament.  Students used their newly learned photography skills to record the game.  Some highlights are included above.


Today was a big day –  all three groups investigated our question “How has Codrington Village changed over time?” from the methodologies of their disciplines.  In History/Geography class we’d already examined primary source documents (from letters, to maps, to newspaper articles) to try to better understand the village’s oldest structure – Codrington Castle.  We started off the day by reviewing what we knew and the reliability scores we’d given our different primary sources.  Today, we used “A Practical Guide to Recording Archaeological Sites” produced by the Scotland’s Rural Past project ( to Observe, Sketch and Photograph the remains of Codrington Castle.  Students noted a large cistern that is remarkably close in size, shape and location to a pigeon coup shown in one of our primary sources.  On closer investigation, students’ noticed what I’d missed – pieces of shell embedded in a crumbling section of the cistern.  The students immediately identified it as being made of locally made lime (which uses shells) and consultation with students’ grandparents resulted in the traditional name of the cistern – “Pigeon Coup.”  Students also observed, sketched and photographed artifacts found on Barbuda that are contemporary with the Castle.  They will get a chance to test their hypotheses as to the artifacts function when they interview Dr. Perdikaris on Monday.

In Social Studies, students conducted their first ethnographic interviews with some of the men who were (and in some cases are) Barbuda’s cowboys.  In Biology, students traveled to the nearby Mangroves and began to record their video-guide of the Codrington Lagoon mangrove system near the fisheries.

Photos of the History/Geography students are work are included above.


Today at Sir McChesney George Secondary School, students in the GPS+Camera Project learned the basics of photography.  Using a giant stack of National Geographics, we brainstormed what characteristics we thought made an interesting photograph.  We saw examples of Framing, Proximity, Disturbance, Vantage Point, the Rule of Thirds, and Lighting.  Our students when moved around campus in groups, taking pictures and recording their subjects and the photographic techniques they used in their photo journals.  Examples of student work can be seen below (as well as some action shots from the last few days).



I have a wonderful story from Antigua that I wanted to share.

Two days ago the director of HERC, Dr. Sophia Perdikaris, was walking along a pier in the town of Saint John’s, along with Dr. Becky Boger, when they saw a very young female puppy desperately swimming in the bay and heading out to sea. In a move which is totally characteristic of our fearless director, Sophia immediately jumped off of the pier and into the water to rescue to the struggling pup. They brought the dog to a vet who said that aside from fleas and some minor injuries she was in good health.

Dr. Becky Boger with the rescued puppy

Dr. Becky Boger with the rescued puppy.

Becky has adopted the dog and I’m sure she’ll have a great life back in New York. The puppy is about 10 weeks old and looks like a Doberman mix. Despite her harrowing ordeal the puppy is eating well and is loaded with energy.

We can add this dog to the long list of animals rescued by Sophia. On the islands of Antigua and Barbuda alone this list includes a goat, a horse, two dogs (one she brought home with her) and numerous lizards! As I write this my own rescue dog is curled up on the couch next me. I know I echo many others when I thank Sophia for taking a big risk by jumping into a busy bay (this is where the cruise ships dock) and thank you to Becky for taking in a pup in need. This world is a better place because of people like them and I know at least one puppy that would wholeheartedly agree with me.


Today was our second day with the GPS+Camera Pilot Projects.  We spent the morning with our 30 students divided into their 3 subjects of History/Geography, Biology and Social Studies.  Each class covered some of the basic content and skills we’ll be using for the rest of the course.

In history/geography, we started off the morning with conflict statements about the latest pop-culture break up from a variety of sources.  We decided which ones we believed and which ones we didn’t, in the process creating a reliability scale for information sources.  We then brainstormed historic sources of information and determined which were primary and which were secondary sources.  We then used our reliability scale to discuss what made a more or less reliable primary source.  Using 4 real historic maps, 2 real (and conflicting) descriptions, a newspaper article (complete with sketches based on childhood memories) we investigated our research question:  what did Codrington Castle look like from 1800-1900?  We rated the reliability of our historical sources and used cross checking to see what information was mentioned by multiple primary sources.  We created ground-level and aerial drawings of the Castle, compared them with our classmates, and justified our drawings based on our primary sources.

In Biology we started off the morning examining the opinions held by Barbudans of the mangroves. We watched a video about mangrove conservation, and brainstormed how we could compose our own video, to advocate for the conservation and protection of mangrove areas in Barbuda.  We created our own Mangrove Field Guides by breaking up into groups, and each group investigating the characteristics of the four native mangrove species, and then presenting them to the other groups.  We also examined what we knew about the past and present uses of the mangroves as well as the leading causes of mangrove deterioration throughout the Caribbean, and how we could monitor the ecosystem to ensure development was being carried out sustainably.

In Social Studies, we began by showing students a clip from a video of a rodeo in the United States in order to make the connection between traditional cattle herding practices (and cattle herding cultures)  in Barbuda and those elsewhere.  Then students were read observations from the diary of a traveler who visited Barbuda in the early 1800s and who described the cattle herding, wrestling and hunting culture that had developed on the island.  Afterwards, students were given reading on specific elements of cattle herding practices and how they changed over time and then shared their findings with the class.  In addition, students learned how to observe and sketch an historic site by investigating a well with an enclosure that had been used extensively in Barbuda’s early cowboy era.

The afternoon was spent working on oral history interviews on themes related to our three subject areas.  Tonight, students will practice interviewing an elderly family member in preparation for writing full length interviews for tomorrow.


Today was our first day at Sir McChesney George Secondary School.  We arrived at school bright and early to meet the 30 students who had been chosen to participate in the GPS+Camera Pilot Project.  The students ranged from Forms 1-4 (ages 11-15) and we’ve already had some good opportunities for peer learning in our mixed-age classrooms.  We started by discussing human-environmental change over time, starting with Amerindian impacts on the island (likely playing a role in the local extinction of the manatee) and moved to the modern day.  We ended the section by brainstorming how Barbuda’s geography and environment influenced the different human communities who have lived on Barbuda over time.

Maggie Morrison (the GPS+Camera Biology Teacher and a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University in International Educational Development) then led the combined class in a rousing introduction to mapmaking over time.  Students scoffed at the abilities of early mapmakers until asked to draw a map of Barbuda from memory!  While we had a number of square islands and Codrington Lagoon moved from one side of the island to the other in several instances, the students by and large did a great job of recreating Barbuda.  Using, we went on a longitude and latitude scavenger hunt and searched out Barbudan landmarks with satellite maps.

For homework students will be reading about oral histories and traditional knowledge.  Tomorrow morning we will start off in our subject groups (Geography, Social Studies, Biology) before moving on to interviewing skills in the afternoon.  All in all, a great first.