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Educator Academy Stories

Why do your professional development in the Amazon?

Marissa Copan, 2013 Educator Academy Scholar

“I was given a scholarship in 2013 which allowed me to attend the Educator Academy in the Amazon. To say that this was a life-changing trip is an understatement! This trip has truly helped me to connect my community the environment. From teaching ecological concepts in the classroom, to incorporating more sustainable practices in the conference room -- the skills and concepts that I learned continue to make a difference today. I've been able to implement new curriculum and continue to learn from the others that were on my trip and am looking forward to creating new connections and experiences from this trip - 6 years later! Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to attend, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”

Michelle Watkins, 2017 Educator Academy Scholar

“Why I selected the EAA for PD?

The place…WOW pretty much covers it! Being immersed in the amazing biodiversity of the rainforest of NE Peru helps you build a personal connection with an incredible ecosystem that is a spectacular surprise a minute. I’ve attached just a couple of the 1800 photos that I took during my most recent visit. Words just can’t do justice to what you’ll see….from bird watching on the river at sunrise…to leaf cutting ants “on parade”…to the sunset from the Canopy walkway…to night hike adventures and so, so much more!

The people…The EAA Faculty include a whole team of leading experts in diverse fields that join participants for the entire experience. A great community spirit emerges and exciting collegial conversations unfold all the time. I really love (and find it mighty inspiring) to be able to “wonder” and “wander” with the pros! So much real science happens on the trail and in the boats, as well as in the workshop environment. There is also so much to learn from the Maijuna indigenous community that the Morpho Institute has developed a close collaborative relationship with. Their sustainability initiatives truly model how impactful community conservation efforts can be!

The possibilities…’Just this week I’ve had incredible opportunities to ignite “Wonder” in my students thanks phenomena from the experience, and I’ve listened with glee to my students as they passionately broke open the complexities of the fires in the Amazon. I’m especially excited about exploring both local and global environmental issues with my students, so I’m often making the leap from “The Adirondacks to the Amazon.” The collaborative network of teachers that come to the EAA are a forever resource. I really value having such an enthusiastic bunch of teacher leaders to bounce ideas around with even after the experience. The storyline and phenomena possibilities are limitless!

Rosanna Ruiz, 2019 Educator Academy Scholar

“There are so many elements of the trip that moved me, and there is much that has inspired me to bring into my classes and the trainings that I host. The awesome thing about an immersion experience is that you have an opportunity to connect with the environment on a very personal level. It is this connection that stays with us and moves us to look at our own communities through a different lens. I continuously ask myself, “How can I use this global experience/example to bring about awareness of our local issues?” Conservation is such an important topic, and yet building awareness can be a bumpy road when it comes to misinformation, economies and political agendas.

If I had to pick one word to describe my experience, it would be connectivity. The immersion experience connected me to the amazing rainforest, and to myself within the element of nature. This connection is etched in both my mind and my heart, and I now see the world through a different lens. This professional development has left me excited and equipped to share what I have experienced, with both my students and my colleagues, in a profound way."

Patrick O'Connor, 2019 Educator Academy Scholar

"The EAA was a true blessing. I was not prepared for what I would encounter. I was able to walk through this majestic place while learning about the inner workings of this advanced system. The way the Amazon maintains itself is truly something amazing. To be able to see and feel it all happening in front of my own eyes connected me to this world in a way that I have never experienced before. The people were also amazing. From teachers to professors to researchers to locals to lodge staff- everyone was so well qualified and had an important role to play to make this entire experience possible and I give thanks to all of them. And we had so much fun along the way! I cannot stress enough how important it is for any science educator to take this journey with the Educator Academy in the Amazon.“

Jo-Anne Sawyer, 2017 Educator Academy Scholar

"Before the Educator Academy in the Amazon (EAA), my worldview came from reading books and scrolling through pictures. After watching the sun rising over the mist of the rainforest from atop the canopy and gazing at the moon and shooting stars from the shores of the Amazon River, your worldview shifts in a way you will struggle to put into words for the rest of your life. Some experiences can only be experienced, and the EAA brings you to the places others can only read about in books or watch pass by on a screen."

Dina Disantis, 2018 Educator Academy Scholar

“While attending the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest, I was able to participate in activities I had only dreamed about. We were involved in workshops that gave us a better understanding of inquiry-based science, we gained a global perspective on educating our young people about the world around them.

We visited and learned from the vast knowledge of the local indigenous community. They openly welcomed us to learn about them and from them. Experts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithothogy shared their knowledge with us on early morning birding trips. We participated in activities through Project Learning Tree and learned how to better bring the Amazon rainforest into our classrooms. We went through the intricacies of the 5E Lesson Design, exploring STEM education, neotropical biodiversity and sustainable development.

The fun never ended as we hiked through the rainforest, climbed along a ¼ mile canopy walkway, boated along tributaries of the Amazon, and the great Amazon itself. My favorite part was working with the many talented educators from all over the United States and being a part of a base-line aquatic science and fish study.

This trip has left an everlasting impression on me and I hope to return again one day in order to once again experience one of the most fascinating places on earth. I am forever grateful to the Morpho Institute team. They are some of the most professional and passionate people I have had the opportunity to share the experience with.”

Kate Price, 2019 Educator Academy Scholar

"I loved every minute I was in Peru, from riding the boat to the lodge, to night hikes, the lessons we took part in and the full immersion into the ecosystem. More than anything what I appreciated was the connections, to the people I traveled with and the ones that we had the opportunity to learn from along the way. I have brought so much back, lessons for my classroom as well as lessons for life, how to make small changes that can help make a bigger difference."

Chanda Jefferson, 2017 Educator Academy Scholar

“Traveling to the Amazon was indeed the experience of a lifetime. Stepping away from my fast-paced life into a beautiful sanctuary of peace and tranquility allowed me to engage in ideation, inquiry, reflection, and growth with a group of passionate educators from around the US. Unforgettable is the word I would use to describe my Amazonian experience with EAA. I left the Amazon revived, with an expanded global perspective, high-quality classroom resources, and lifelong friendships.”

Janet Ort, 2018 Educator Academy Scholar

"So, What did I learn, and continue to learn from the Rainforest?  So much more than the trees, birds, monkeys, dolphins, fish, or the things that glow in the dark. I experienced scientific content in a multi dimensional way. I floated on the Napo RIver at night with a million million stars overhead. I got to learn with amazing instructors.  I had conversations with famous authors in canoes and in hammocks.  I stood in treetops surrounded by brights colors and sounds. I experienced the local conservation efforts of the Maijuna. I got to dream of long term projects the Save the Rainforest and support the local efforts of her peoples.

It is rare as an educator to be fully engaged with like minded professionals over an extended time.  The Morpho Institute gathers outstanding professionals to facilitate thinking, doing, planning, collaborating, and meditating on science manifested all around us. We walked near the sky; we looked into the leaves, we saw creatures and organisms in the darkest dark; we spent hours learning from the Maijuna and each other.

The 2018 Amazon Educators Workshop Scholarship enabled me to reconnect to the Forest and her peoples. I once again hear the songs of the Amazonian rainforest; this time, amongst like minded people teachers and learners of all types and ages. Our adventures were individual, as an AP cohort, and a group. We have continued the connections made and are making plans for ongoing projects. We are all eager to learn and tell more stories of the forest and her people. We are eager to catalogue the diversity, the changes, and data.  More than that, we are committed to using that data to help the students in our classes, the peoples of the forest, and the scientists continue to champaign its survival."

Megan McDaniel, 2017 Educator Academy Scholar

The Educator Academy in the Amazon has had an immediate and long-lasting effect that has resonated in my teaching and my life personally since the first day. By far, this was the best professional development course I have attended, with the opportunity to engage as a student as well as think about how my experiences can impact my teaching, and even design and carry out my own mini field investigations. The impact of the experience ran so deep that I wanted to generate an opportunity for my students to also experience the Amazon and all of the connections to community, culture, integrative ecology, and humanitarian efforts. I will never forget the first time I stood in the forest and being taken back to that second grade girl reading books and learning about the magic of the tropical rainforest, and there I was actually in the Amazon Rainforest! Wow!”