Belize is Our Classroom

Vermont Commons School Educators, Jennifer Cohen and Mark Cline Lucey on the beach of Placencia at the end of their student trip to Belize in January.

Vermont Commons School Educator, Social Studies Department Chair and Research & Service Program Director, Mark Cline Lucey is no stranger to Belize or the BFREE Field Station. Having first met BFREE Executive Director, Jacob Marlin, during his junior year of college while studying abroad in Belize. Mark returned several years later to live and work from the BFREE Field Station. In 2004, Mark joined the team at Vermont Commons School and soon after, he and Vermont Commons School English Instructor, Jennifer Cohen, began bringing student groups to Belize. Mark and Jennifer are passionate advocates for both Belize and BFREE having traveled with more than five student groups over the last ten years.

Mark and Jennifer both have an intimate knowledge of the players, wildlife, cultures and the developmental and political issues facing Belize. This depth of knowledge and understanding shines through their incredibly informational and inspiring field courses year after year.

We are so fortunate to work with many educators like Mark and Jennifer who are deeply invested in their students as well as the BFREE mission. Together we strive to inspire students to be global citizens, who care about their environment and recognize their role to take positive action.

Check out Mark and Jennifer’s group of incredibly smart and talented students and receive a glimpse of a BFREE field course through their eyes by watching this student made short-film documenting their trip to Belize in January, 2017:





BFREE staff stand on the beach in Placencia as they kick off their annual staff retreat. Pictured from left to right: Heather, Isabel, Nelly, Maya, Tyler, Jacob, Estaban, Tom, Thomas, Pedro, Elmer, Canti

BFREE staff stand on the beach in Placencia as they kick off their annual staff retreat. Pictured from left to right: Heather, Isabel, Nelly, Maya, Tyler, Jacob, Esteban, Tom, Thomas, Pedro, Elmer, Canti

The staff of BFREE works hard all year to ensure the running of the BFREE field station. They make certain that it is maintained, properly functioning and that all visitors are kept safe, fed, and happy during their visit. BFREE staff members also play a large role as site guides, educators and researchers.

 For most staff, traveling to the field station from their homes means commuting long distances. During the week the field station is more than just a workplace, it is also their home. Staff work either Monday through Friday while living at BFREE or work on shifts of ten days on, ten days off. The staff happily admits that they think of BFREE as their second home and each other as family.

For the 2016 annual retreat, the group ventured to the small, coastal village of Placencia for the night. The evening was spent enjoying dinner together before going bowling at Jaguar Lanes, a small four lane modern facility just north of Placencia.

BFREE staff retreat april 2016 beach

Staff pose for another group photo after a fun night of bowling at Jaguar Lanes.

Bowling is widely an unknown sport in Belize and only one of the Belizean staff had played before. You wouldn’t be able to know this however by the level of competition that existed before even lacing up our shoes! The competition remained heated throughout the evening as well as the cheers and laughter. There was even talk upon returning to BFREE of turning the dining room table into the staff’s mini practice lane. Don’t worry, the table has been spared.


Tom Pop proves to be a natural as he aims for another strike during his first time ever bowling.

BFREE Executive Director, Jacob Marlin, and Deputy Director, Heather Barrett, would like to extend another big “thank you” to all of the staff for making BFREE a fabulous workplace and for believing wholeheartedly in the BFREE mission.