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B.A.L.A.M. students explore the ruins of Tikal, Guatemala

B.A.L.A.M. Update -
Student expedition to resume in 2013.

Since 2006 the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and the Spanish Department at Phillips Academy have teamed up to offer students a unique experience of archaeological exploration and linguistic and cultural immersion through the Bilingual Archaeological Learning Adventure in Mesoamerica (aka B.A.L.A.M.).  Over the course of the project’s history, B.A.L.A.M. has taken 41 Andover students on a trip of a lifetime through the jungles, cities, and villages of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala to explore ancient Maya ruins and caves as well as the vibrant modern culture and languages of Mesoamerica.  Students have visited famous sites such as Tikal, Calakmul, and Palenque, while also gaining access to little known cave and surface sites newly documented and studied by B.A.L.A.M. co-director Donald Slater.  Throughout their travels, students continually interacted with local people during linguistic and cultural exercises led by B.A.L.A.M. Co-director Mark Cutler in large cities as well as small indigenous villages.

However, the escalating violence in Mexico has recently prompted the United States to issue a Travel Warning for the country.  Despite the success of previous trips, this has resulted in the cancellation of B.A.L.A.M. 2011 and 2012.  Sadly, a resolution to the violence in Mexico does not seem imminent, thus B.A.L.A.M.’s travels to Mesoamerica have been indefinitely suspended.  Though this is an unfortunate (but hopefully temporary) end to this phase of B.A.L.A.M., it ushers in an exciting new chapter for the expeditionary learning project. 

In 2013 B.A.L.A.M. will resume its student expedition to a new destination - Peru.  Though this geographic shift will necessitate a new name for B.A.L.A.M., the key goals of the project will remain the same – to introduce students to ancient Native American civilizations while providing an intensive linguistic and cultural immersion experience in a Spanish speaking country. 

The 2013 itinerary is not yet set, but will include visits to major Peruvian archaeological sites such as Machu Picchu and Chan Chan, as well as tours to indigenous villages and major cities including Lima and Cusco.  Several hikes in the Andes are also planned.  In 2012 Slater and Cutler will travel to Peru to scout a new project itinerary and make appropriate contacts.  Please check this website in September 2012 for an extensive update. 

Applications for the project will be made available in early fall 2012 and will be due at the end of the Fall trimester.  The trip cost is expected to be approximately $5,000.  Need based financial aid will be made available to students.

In its exciting new chapter, B.A.L.A.M. promises to continue its tradition of excellence in offering an amazing adventure and incredible learning experience that will be remembered for a lifetime!

Donald Slater - Robert S. Peabody Museum

Mark Cutler - P.A. Spanish Department

Former headmaster John M. Kemper was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in 1962.

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