Think Locally; Explore Globally

Field Notes From the Amazon

Last summer the Educator Academy in the Amazon was fortunate to be featured in the Place-based Education edition of Green Teacher.  As we prepare for our 2017 program, we can’t wait to introduce the Amazon to a new group of teachers and help them create deeper global and local connections for themselves and their students.

Think Locally; Explore Globally                                                                                                              by Christa Dillabaugh, Terri Hebert and Kelly Keena                                                                             Originally published in Green Teacher 110, Summer 2016

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.

The mere mention of the word Amazon conjures up images of snaking rivers and strange wildlife or “Save the Rainforest” t-shirts and fundraisers. The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, shelters more than 10 per cent of the planet’s known biodiversity, with new species still being discovered at the rate of one every three days. Its rivers and tributaries account for more than 15 per cent of the world’s fresh water and its forests store more than 90 billion metric tons of carbon. To say that the Amazon is a critical global resource is simply an understatement. These facts are brought to life for educators as they explore and experience this vital ecosystem for themselves.

But is that enough? One still might question how this first person experience with the Amazon translates into changes in instruction once the educators are back home. How does it provide educators with the transferable skills and new understandings needed to successfully forge global connections for their students?

terri-hebertFor the last four years, we have been seeking answers to these questions via the Educator Academy in the Amazon, a unique place-based professional development experience for K-12 educators set in a remote corner of Northeastern Peru. As we hike along rainforest trails, engage with local communities, and traverse the rainforest canopy, we use the principles of place-based education to explore, engage, and understand the Amazon and its connection to our home place. Through this intensive, coming-to-know experience, we uncover universal understandings about the complexity and vulnerability of ecosystems and how they connect to one another…

To access the full article, please go to and enter the password 109sped

To learn more about the 2017 Educator Academy and register please go to:

or contact Academy Director, Christa Dillabaugh at]]>

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