Where the rushing waters of the Danube River empty into the Black Sea stands the Roman Fort at Halmyris, a small, historic Romanian town that lies in the midst of the Danube Delta.
The clanging of swords from countless battles echo throughout the Roman Fort, and the names of those who fell defending it are inscribed on a stone wall near the very place where they perished in the heat of battle.
Janet Wise, an 11th-grade chemistry teacher at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, will visit this ancient structure and participate in the archaeology dig for two weeks, beginning July 7.
Wise, a native of Pulaski, Tenn., who lives in Starkville, was one of 12 teachers statewide to receive a fellowship from the Phil Hardin Foundation to participate in the S.A. Rosenbaum Earthwatch program, a nonprofit organization that sponsors field research around the world.
"I want to learn the science of archaeology," said Wise, who taught for 14 years at Columbus High School before going to MSMS, where she's been for five years.
Awarded annually, the fellowship covers all the project costs and pays $600 for her to make the eight-hour flight to Romania. Wise will pay the rest of the travel costs.
The 28-year teaching veteran will be paired with scientists and scholars throughout the world to explore and study the area.
"There will be a team of six to eight volunteers that work with the actual research team," Wise said.
While Wise certainly will benefit, her students may have the most to gain.
"I like to travel and see other cultures, and I try to bring that back to my students at MSMS," Wise said. "I encourage them (my students) to apply for programs such as Earthwatch because there are scholarships for them."
Before the Roman Empire captured the fort, it was occupied by the Dacians, a nomadic tribe who lived north of the Danube River.
After two wars with the Dacians, the Roman Empire finally overtook the fort, providing a base from which to rule the fertile Danube Delta and a gateway to Asia. The Romans occupied the fort for 600 years, more than half of its 1,100-year existence.
In the late sixth century during the reign of the Byzantine Empire, barbaric tribes constantly trying to breach its wall finally succeeded, overrunning the fort, which remains partly erect, overlooking the final leg of the Danube River before it spills into the Black Sea.
The dig and the fort is located in an isolated area. The hotel where Wise will stay is called the Pelican Motel, something Wise began chuckling about as she explained.
"They said to be sure to bring mosquito netting and some tacks to put it up with so you can get some air," Wise said.
This year 21 teachers sent in applications, consisting of an essay and a portfolio or resume. A panel of five judges picked the best applications for fellowships.
Earthwatch has more than 300 expeditions worldwide. Teachers, in their applications, can specify their preferred expedition.
"We try to put the teacher as close as we can to their desired destination," said Nikki McCelleis, division director of curriculum and instruction for the foundation.
The judges look at experience and educational background in selecting the teachers.
Wise wants to learn more about the Roman Empire.
"I'm interested in Roman history," said Wise, who switched from a science major in college to education after teaching at a children's camp. "I've been to Rome and to other parts of Italy, and I have never been to an archaeology dig."
Several years ago Wise, who moved to Mississippi in 1979 with her husband, a professor at Mississippi State, received the Fulbright Memorial Fund Award for Teachers, which sent her to Japan.
"They take 600 American teachers a year to Japan for three weeks," Wise said. "The Japanese government pays for all of it. You are exposed to the Japanese educational system and its culture."
After returning from the expedition, Wise will be asked to write a report to Earthwatch, reflecting on the impact the experience had on her personal and professional development.