Going on a Blind Date in the Amazon


Standing on the banks of the Sucasari River as dusk began to settle around me, I strained to hear the sound of approaching boats over the cacophony of rainforest insects and frogs.  

Amazon rainforest.

I had only emerged from the jungle two hours earlier, after spending over a week with high school students exploring the rainforest from top to bottom – my personal version of heaven. With just enough time for quick shower and a clean set of clothes, I needed to regroup – and quickly.  
“No rest for the wicked - Smiles everyone!” I had to be ready to greet a boat of weary educators who had just spent the better part of two days traveling to this remote corner of the Amazon rainforest in Northeastern Peru. I knew their names and some of their faces, but we had never met in person. Feeling like I was about to go on a blind date with 28 people all at once, I could feel the butterflies of nervous anticipation taking wing in my stomach. Who were these people that I would spend the week with? (I’ve been at this long enough that I know educators can be WAY harder than students!)Was I ready for them? Were they ready for me? 

Going on a Blind Date in the Amazon

Could they handle the ambitious agenda I had planned in order to cram as many learning, exploring, and discovery opportunities as possible into our short time together? In the end, would they be able to justify the fees they had paid to attend this K-12 science professional development experiment that I (along with my amazing Amazon faculty) had dreamed up? Would they embrace the adventure with gusto and not balk at the rustic conditions, the humidity, mud, heat, and biodiversity in the latrines? Would they find their inner explorer and wring every last drop of wonder out of each experience we threw at them? Could they get up before dawn, bird before breakfast, dig up leaf cutter ant nests till noon, climb through the rainforest canopy after lunch, and keep going long after dark in search of nocturnal wildlife along rainforest trails? Would we, together, be able to successfully build curriculum connections between these amazing Amazon experiences and the classroom? Or, would they revolt and retreat to the hammocks, exhausted, nursing their frustrations with pisco sours and cervezas, while plotting a mutiny? 

Finally, the sound of outboard engines parted the curtain of rainforest noise and two boats full of the 2014 Educator Academy participants rounded the bend in the river. 

Educator Academy in the Rainforest

In short order, 28 disheveled, but smiling bodies emerged from the covered boats. As the educators clambered up the steps to the lodge, I could see a wonderful mix of anticipation, curiosity, excitement, and awe wash over their faces as they took in the Amazon rainforest for the very first time – mirroring the euphoria and relief felt when you realize your blind date is going to be way better than expected! 

Educator Academy in the rainforest

It was immediately evident that my 28 “blind dates” were more than up for the adventure we had planned. Little did any of us know just how life changing the next 8 days would be, how close we would all become, and how the Amazon would transform the ways we think and teach. No one could have anticipated how the Amazon would refuse to let us go once we returned home.    

Educator academy in the Amazon

“I miss the Amazon so much it's almost crippling. I find myself smelling the laundry I brought back, being weirdly comforted by heady smells of river and decay still in them. It makes me happy that there are still traces of mud on my boots… I'm never, ever going to shake this place — that's just the way it is. And as fragile as the Amazon is today, it needs more people who can't forget it — more people who won't ever let go.”  

~ Laurel Allen – California Academy of Sciences

Are you ready for the blind date of a lifetime? Registration is open and scholarships are available for the 2015 Educator Academy in the Amazon.  Learn more and download the syllabus here.


Educator academy in the Amazon


Future posts will include reflections from our past participants and how they are making the Amazon rainforest come alive in their K-12 science classes. Stay tuned




Christa Dillabaugh is our Education and the Rainforest Editor.  A former middle school and high school science educator, she coordinates experiential field programs for educators and students in the rainforests of Central and South America.  She currently serves as education director for Amazon Rainforest Workshops and loves traipsing through rainforest mud in search of teachable moments!  You can read her Amazon field notes at http://amazonworkshops.wordpress.com/

Photo Credits:  ©Christa Dillabaugh, Amazon Rainforest Workshops