Experiential Education in the Amazon

Mrs. Mahoney is the Upper Division biology, environmental science, and anatomy and physiology teacher.  She and her wife live in Seminole Heights with their two pets.  In her free time, Mrs. Mahoney can be found doing just about anything on, in, or near the water. 

I teach the layers of the rainforest in every single biology class each year, and I love it.  However, even my most enthusiastic class on the rainforest layers pales in comparison to teaching about it while standing on a platform 200 feet up in a Kapok tree in the Peruvian Amazon.  This is when I teach the best, and this is when students remember the information the most. Experiential education is one of the most effective ways that I have found to teach science and the Amazon Trip is full of experiential education.

While I enjoy these educational moments with my students, my favorite memories from the Amazon come from the downtime. This includes time spent in airports talking about the excitement to come, hours of card games that always include laughter, and sitting in a boat in silence under the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen. All of these moments give me better insight into who each student is, and helps me be a better teacher and mentor to them in all of our future interactions.  For the parents that travel with us, the feeling is the same. I love getting to know a parent outside the constraints of emails and phone calls.  I love relaxing with parents and getting to know how they see their child as a person, not just a student.

I see my students and parents grow on this trip in ways that just are not possible in a classroom.  Traveling through the bustling streets of Iquitos or boating by floating villages on the Amazon introduces our students to resource utilization in a way no lecture can.  We all learn that it is possible to happily live in a world with no internet access.  Visiting the local clinic gives us all an appreciation for our health care access. We learn that fun can be found anywhere and that regardless of our differences, humans have a lot in common no matter where we go.  Every person I have taken to the Amazon has come back a better scientist and a better global citizen.

The point of this article is that if you can, you should travel with us.  Come see the Amazon. Come breathe air from the lungs of the Earth. Come play a round of cards with us and laugh with us and climb trees with us and catch piranha with us and go on night hikes with us and stalk monkeys through the jungle with us.  Come learn with us!


The Amazon Expedition is a student and family trip to the Peruvian Rainforest that will take place from Saturday, June 20 – Tuesday, June 30. Students and families will travel to the lodge and research center for a 10-day adventure that includes ziplining through the rainforest canopy, canoeing through flooded forests, hiking, searching for poison dart frogs, swimming with pink dolphins, fishing for piranha, feeding Amazonian manatees, and observing monkeys and other vast variety of wildlife.

An informational meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 6pm in the Middle Division Science Lab. For more information on the trip, or to RSVP for the informational meeting, please email Colleen McCormick at cmccormick@academyatthelakes.org.

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