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Think Locally; Explore Globally

Originally appears in the Summer 2016 issue

As the sun sinks below the treetops, the hum of an outboard motor becomes audible over the cacophony of jungle sounds that signal nightfall in the Amazon. Moments later, a small boat pulls into view and 28 educators from the United States clamber into the humid twilight at river’s edge. Gazing up at the rainforest, most are unaware they are about to be transformed – personally and professionally – through their deep exchange with this place called the Amazon.

For the next nine days, the Amazon will serve as teacher, mentor, and guide – equipping these educators to return to their classrooms with new perspectives on how to help their students make sense of their world. Learning in the Amazon favors inquiry, personal discovery, and the ability to ask good questions. It requires a holistic, multi-disciplinary lens to understand its complex past, present, and future. Its preservation calls for local engagement and global collaboration.

But is it really necessary to travel thousands of miles by plane and boat to reach a remote field station in the rainforest to accomplish this? After all, one of the most basic tenants of place-based education is to focus on the local rather than on distant places like the jungles of South America. This article will explore how an experience in the Amazon serves as a touchstone to better understand one’s place in the world.

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Christa Dillabaugh, Director of Amazon Rainforest Workshops, develops and facilitates experiential field programs in Central and South America for US students and educators, including the annual Educator Academy in the Amazon for K-16 educators. Dr. Terri Hebert, Assistant Professor within Indiana University South Bend’s School of Education, teaches science methods to seniors in the Elementary
Education program and an introductory class of scientific inquiry to freshmen entering all education programs. Dr. Kelly Keena is cofounder of Blue Lotus Consulting & Evaluation in Colorado, a small evaluation firm focused on supporting organizations in understanding their impact and telling their stories. For more information, please contact us at