Education and Outreach

Amazon Ecology and Product Development in the Classroom

Student examining copal resin
Students weighing simulated copal resin lumps at Hotchkiss School/>

The Center seeks creative ways to teach students about Amazon rainforest ecology and involve them in our projects to support conservation, culture and economic well-being of traditional communities.  We have done programs focused on copal resin ecology, sustainable harvest and product development at the middle school, high school and college level.  Sixth grade science students at State College Friends School did a three-part lab to learn about the weevils that form resin lumps on copal trees and then used resin samples to make and test different blends of incense. Environmental Science students at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT have conducted simulated harvests of copal resin (lumps made from play dough) to estimate the growth rate of weevil larvae and sustainable harvest levels.  One group of Penn State University students in the Engineering Leadership Development Program is beginning to analyze the volatile compounds in copal resin samples, and advanced students traveled to Peru in March 2009 to work with Bora Indians to assess the abundance of copal resources in their forest and make prototypes of several value-added products from the resin that indigenous communities can eventually sell.

Overview

The goal of the Center’s education and outreach program is to promote the understanding and conservation of Amazon ecosystems and the well being of its human communities.  The Center will approach this goal in several ways.

  1. WEBSITE: The Center’s major education and outreach tool will be this website.  It offers information and ideas about the ecology, conservation, and communities of the Amazon.  It will also be a way to help connect communities with concerned individuals and groups within the Amazon and other parts of the world.
  1. PRESENTATIONS: The Center regularly gives multi-media presentations to scientific conferences, school groups, association meetings and other public gatherings.  See the section on Presentations below for details about these and how to Schedule a Presentation.  See a list of Upcoming and Recent Presentations.
  1. SUPPORTERS: The Center is building a base of individuals who support the Center as donors or people who serve as volunteers in various ways.  These include people who help in areas such as research, writing, outreach, fundraising, technical support, and governance.  Our Amazon Field Volunteer program is a service learning opportunity for people who wish to directly support a Center research or community support project in the forest with their time and resources. 
  1. PARTNERSHIPS: The Center is building a network of partnerships and informal supportive relationships with other individuals and organizations that share our philosophy and broad goals.

Presentations

Presentations by Center representatives are one of the most powerful ways we can share our stories and images from working in the Amazon forest with its people.  We have offered our presentations with students at grade schools and universities, members of civic associations and retirement communities and participants at academic gatherings.  You can view a list of our Upcoming and Recent presentations.  Our basic presentation “Challenges and opportunities for Amazon forest-based people” is a 30 – 60 minute slide talk tailored to the background and interests of the particular audience.  The talk features the environmental and social challenges faced by the Tembé Indians in the eastern Brazilian Amazon, presents some fascinating accounts of the ecology, harvest and marketing of several non-timber forest products (NTFPs), and ends by encouraging people to consider different ways they can support Amazon conservation and communities.  Click HERE to learn how to schedule a presentation.

Beyond the regular presentation, Center founder Campbell Plowden is also available to deliver several types of specialized presentations.  He may present a lecture or seminar type format appropriate for scientific and academic audiences that goes into more depth on the methods and results of studies of specific Amazon NTFPs, such as copal resin, andiroba oil, copaiba oleoresin, titica vines, and amapá latex.  Dr. Plowden has also created several interactive models to present the challenges of Amazon research and communities.  One format includes a role-play type exercise that invites a group to explore the tensions that occur between indigenous people, colonists, loggers, ranchers, government agents and conservationists.  An indigenous community is the focal point of these interactions as it confronts its desires to preserve its traditional culture, increase local income and standard of living, and preserve the forest in the face of pressures and opportunities posed by outsiders.  The other format is an indoor and outdoor laboratory simulation of the harvest of a common Amazon tree resin.  Participants are shown how to collect data on the initial harvest, measure the rate of regeneration, and estimate the level of sustainable harvest.