University of Minnesota

Earthducation Expedition 4: South America begins Oct. 20

Two U of M faculty members explore intersection of education and sustainability

October 15, 2012

Earthducation Expedition 4, the fourth in a series of seven-continent explorations investigating the intersection between education and sustainability, begins Oct. 20 in South America.

Led by curriculum and instruction professors Aaron Doering and Charles Miller, the team will travel to some of the most extreme environments on the globe. In their two-week journey, they will travel from the Amazon Rainforest to the Atacama Desert to the mountains of Patagonia, studying the educational and environmental challenges in these regions while attempting to find local answers to one fundamental question: “How can education advance sustainability?”

South America is home to the world's highest waterfall, driest desert, largest rainforest, and longest mountain range. It also is facing significant environmental and educational challenges such as deforestation, educational inequalities between rural and urban communities, and natural resource exploitation and depletion. During Expedition 4, the team will travel from Peru to Chile to Brazil, exploring diverse ecosystems as they collaborate with a broad array of individuals and communities.

"Many communities in South America are actively working to preserve both their local natural environment as well as the cultures and languages of a great spectrum of indigenous groups," said Doering. "This includes the largest number of uncontacted tribes anywhere in the world, who live secluded within the dense jungles of the Amazon."

Among other adventures, the team will investigate fog harvesting and traditional cultures; test their mettle in the world's driest desert and learn about how life is sustained there; travel by motorized canoe down the Amazon to visit an indigenous rainforest community; and visit with the gauchos who raise sheep in the plains of Patagonia. They'll also spend time at schools discussing the unique educational challenges that face the many remote and isolated communities on the continent.

During the trip, the team will post their findings online, where teachers, students, and others around the world can view and discuss them. Online visitors can also view videos, photos, and field reports from the previous three Earthducation expeditions to Burkina Faso, Africa; Arctic Norway; and Australia.

"By gathering stories about education and the environment from around the world, we hope to create a foundation for embedding sustainability in learning at all levels and in all cultures," Miller says. "Ultimately, we anticipate that Earthducation will be the world's leading online community focused exclusively on the increasingly vital fusion of education and sustainability."

For more information on Earthducation, to follow Expedition 4, and to add your voice to the global narrative, visit The team will return on Nov. 6.

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