Students in this course co-develop an Eco-Leadership program in Paraguay with our partner, Para La Tierra.
Nestled in the heart of South America, Paraguay is home to the beautifully delicate Cerrado, the lush Atlantic Forest, the challenging Gran Chaco, and other rare and secluded ecosystems that have received little study and deserve far more attention. Some of Paraguay’s rather unusual fauna include the Chacoan peccary (first discovered in fossil form and thought to be long extinct, but as it turns out they are quite alive as seen in one of the banner photos above), owl monkeys, giant anteaters, guanacos, white-winged nightjars, and more than half the world’s species of armadillo, including such representatives as the greater fairy and the screaming hairy armadillo.
Environmental awareness is on the rise in Paraguay, but contends with increasingly strong pressure from population growth, agriculture, cattle ranching, hunting, and construction. The presence of conservation organizations in Paraguay is quite limited, and there is a critical need to better understand and to build on the traditionally close relationship between local people and the land on which they depend.
Students in this course will have the unique opportunity to co-develop an Eco-Leadership program for Paraguay, working in partnership with Para La Tierra (PLT), a nonprofit conservation organization devoted to scientific research, conservation, and community engagement. The founding Director of PLT, Karina Atkinson, is a Global Conservation Fellow with Project Dragonfly. Her work has earned a Rolex Award, and she and the PLT team are deeply committed to supporting the next generation of conservation and education leaders. Students will learn with Paraguayan youth and others the diverse skills required for effective eco-leadership, including methods for assessing wildlife populations; how to develop public exhibits, participatory media, and community events celebrating local biota; how to evaluate both educational and ecological outcomes, and how to support the ingenuity of local teams to foster local knowledge creation and informed environmental action.
- Collaborative leadership
- Youth clubs and organizations
- Guarani socio-ecology
- Natural history of Paraguay
- Inquiry-driven learning
- Participatory education
- Community-based conservation
A typical Earth Expeditions day in Paraguay is likely to include:
- Study at field conservation sites
- Team-based strategic planning and program development
- Interactions with experienced and emerging eco-leaders of all ages
- Student-led discussions on key course topics
- Journal writing
- Projects supporting the mission of Para La Tierra
Planned Sites in Paraguay
Students will fly into Asunción, the capital of Paraguay and a historic South American city. Here, shaded streets and local squares, where Guarani vendors sell exquisite needlework and hand-crafted leather, exist alongside more industrial zones and upscale malls. Asunción is the transportation hub of Paraguay and a gateway to the country’s diverse biological and cultural landscapes.
A biodiversity hotspot located at a boundary between the endangered Cerrado and humid Atlantic forest, Laguna Blanca combines eco-recreational facilities that serve visitors throughout the year with the conservation headquarters of Para La Tierra. The mix of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as well as ongoing taxonomic and ecological research makes Laguna Blanca an ideal training site for experienced and emerging eco-leaders. Para La Tierra also has programs and partnerships with local schools, villages, and towns. As a growing organization, Para La Tierra is well positioned to expand the eco-leadership program developing at Laguna Blanca to other sites in Paraguay.
Dragonfly Workshops Web-Based Learning Community
Upon acceptance into the program, students will join instructors and classmates in Dragonfly Workshops' collaborative Web community to complete pre-trip assignments. After returning home, students will continue to work in their Web-based community through early December to develop projects initiated in the field, discuss assignments, and exchange ideas. All students should expect to spend two to three hours a week contributing to their Web-Based Learning Community from their home or school computer. Navigating the Web platform is easy--it's designed for people with no prior computer experience. To learn more about this unique Web experience, visit dragonflyworkshops.org.