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FOREST-BASED LEARNING

in the Amazon
Rainforest

 

Re-imagining Education for Indigenous Communities in Sensitive Ecosystems

The Forest School is an unprecedented educational model for Indigenous communities in Ecuador. It interweaves indigenous knowledge with progressive environmental education, resulting in the rejuvenation of both community and ecosystem.

Unlike traditional public schools, the Forest School immerses students in their living environment, teaching them regenerative agriculture, bioconstruction, and the importance of biodiversity through hands-on experiences. Complemented with high speed internet connectivity and a curriculum that includes math, language arts, English, arts and entrepreneurship, community youth are prepared to be intercultural leaders in our complex world while growing closer to their cultural roots.

For centuries, Indigenous communities have been forced to live a story based on a colonial legacy, a story that teaches them to destroy their forests and extract its natural resources.

 

Revitalizing our forests means revitalizing our story. Revitalizing our story starts with education.

 

Forest-based learning is the single, most effective way for Indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest to return to their ancestral traditions while preparing themselves to navigate a modern world. Our curriculum and pedagogy inspires a reconnection with cultural roots to become, once again, the stewards of essential ecosystems. If our world wants to survive climate change and fight biodiversity loss, we need defenders who live on the frontlines of the rainforests, we need The Forest School.

WHY IS THIS SCHOOL SO IMPORTANT?

The public education system in these rural communities promotes family separation and distress by forcing students to attend western-based schools in far-away cities. This not only results in the devaluing of their language, culture, and spirituality, but in the loss of knowledge of how to keep their forests alive for their own sustenance and for the survival of all life on earth

 

Under typical circumstances, families have no other choice but to cut their trees down to make money, a situation that exacerbates the deforestation crisis in the Amazon Rainforest and destroys any hope of finding a sustainable way out of poverty. 

This approach to education not only makes a difference for local community members, but for all of us.

SUPPORT THIS SCHOOL WITH A MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION

  • REVITALIZING EDUCATION

    10$
    Every month
     
  • EMPOWERING EDUCATION

    20$
    Every month
     
  • TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION

    30$
    Every month
     

Funds from these monthly plans provide stipends for teachers and guides from the community itself, and to mentors who monitor students' progress and provide tutoring, especially in math, Spanish and English. We also use funds to purchase necessary supplies, equipment, and infrastructure.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT SO FAR?

In the pilot phase, twelve children from the community are benefiting from the educational experiences provided in their village by their parents/teachers, external mentors, and volunteers who share their knowledge in areas like permaculture and agroforestry, bioconstruction, cultural identity, ancestral arts and cosmovision, entrepreneurship, and more. 


By having access to the right infrastructure, technology and internet (provided by our partners at Terraformation), the children connect to learning platforms such as RazKids and Aleks (both companies have given these children free access to their content). 

Their schooling is monitored, evaluated and validated by El Sauce School, a private school in Quito. El Sauce provides transcripts and diplomas to the students. 

We trained two community women leaders to be the principal school coordinators and facilitators. They monitor and plan the daily experiences with the students and receive continuous training in leadership, pedagogy and soft skills. They are supported on a weekly basis by the Humans for Abundance team and El Sauce School staff. With funds from our partners at the Gift Trust in New Zealand, these women now receive stipends as educators.

Students regularly participate in Pachaysana's Rehearsing Change program, an intercultural education experience that focuses on education for social change. The Forest School students develop intercultural communication skills and get to live, travel and learn with students from U.S. universities such as Brown University, American University, Macalester College, Wesleyan University and The Ohio State University. 

The school has become a safe space for all the students to be free and express themselves in ways they have never been able to before in the public school system. With the guidance from the Fundación Pachaysana team, experts on using the creative arts and theater-based methodologies to dismantle oppressive systems and strive for social justice, some of them are discovering they love painting, dancing, and drawing, while others are developing skills as leaders and see themselves as change-makers in their community.

A UNIQUE LOCATION

The school is located in the kichwa community of Mushullakta - in the middle of the upper Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, one of the most biodiverse areas of the world.

This community restores deforested patches previously used for timber extraction or monocrops.

WHAT IS THE SCHOOL'S FOCUS?

The curriculum and experiences are based on the forest as their main source of information and inspiration, and their ancestral Kichwa culture and cosmovision as their base. 

 

The mission of the project is to graduate students who know everything there is to know about their forest’s ecosystem, spirituality, cultural/ancestral value, history, environmental/climate importance, and income-generating potential so that they can create projects that are sustainable for their community and environment for many generations to come. 

The families involved in the project decide what they want the students to learn by crafting an “indigenous student profile” which specifies what they want their children to know, do, and feel at the end of their schooling experience when they graduate.

 

For the first time in decades, the families can once again emphasize the transmission of indigenous culture and traditions to their young.  This is one of the reasons why the curriculum has a strong focus on identity, ancestral traditions, and the arts/crafts as these things are a huge part of indigenous culture. 

A few examples of the student's work:

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OPPORTUNITIES

This forest-based learning school project has a real potential for expansion in their own community and beyond. 

There are other families that live close by that could be conviced of becoming ecosystem restorers if their actions have a an impact in the quality of education that their children receive. This could result in more hectares of land being restored into a healthy native forests and many more families benefiting from increased food security, health and well-being.

The expansion of this project can persuade many other indigenous communities in the Amazon - and many other potential partner schools in the cities - to form more restorer/co-restorer aliances that exchange high quality education and resources provided by the schools with ecosystem restoration services provided by the rural communities. 

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PARTNERSHIPS