We are committed to empowering biocultural leaders.

Our Mission and Vision

Earth Train envisions a world where human values, enterprise and habitat are in harmony with nature. Our mission is to promote biocultural renewal—that is the practice of creating sustainable communities and institutions in harmony with nature and enriched with biological and cultural diversity.

We work toward our mission through:

  • Peer-to-peer teaching
  • Peer-to-peer networking
  • Cross-cultural and cross-generational coaching and mentoring
  • Experiential learning
  • Creating learning organizations
  • Cultivating biocultural business

Special Announcements

EEL Urban+Environment Brochure Cover

Apply Now to Participate in Earth Train's Urban+Environmental Panama Institute

Earth Train's Emerging Environmental Leaders (EEL) is hosting an exciting new summer institute on urban + environmental development in Panama. Through immersion experiences in the jungles of Panama and in several interesting urban environments in the throes of rapid development, students will learn to address the balance between socioeconomic advancement and conservation.

Learn more from the brochure, and sign up with our application form! Summer session July 5th - 14th

Grit PDF Cover

Earth Train's Grit and Leadership Challenge, now open for applications

High schoolers, don't miss your opportunity to participate in one of two "Grit and Leadership Challenge" sessions, co-hosted by Earth Train and EarthED at the Mamoní Valley Preserve in July and August! Click here for more information.

Recent News

ISP Service Learning at the Mamoní Valley Preserve

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting the International School of Panama's Talent Development Program Service Learning task force—a group of eight industrious and motivated students from ISP's elementary school and high school.

Photo of Grey

"What I learned today was that sometimes people from the city take a lot of things for granted, and that we need to help others that don't have as much as we do." – 10-year-old Grey Murray during our reflection circle at night.

Foto: Kael Shipman

The 4 elementary school boys wanted to provide a way for kids living in rural, off-grid environments to have access to light at night that would help them work on their homework, read, or get around the community without problems. They came up with a solar-powered night-light that they called Sun Jars, and amazingly, after engineering a prototype, the kids launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $3,000 to fund the project!

The girls on the trip—representing the ISP high school—had two goals. The first was to improve recreational facilities in La Zahina through a set of easy-to-assemble soccer goals made of pvc piping, and the donation of old sports balls that they gathered from friends and family. The goals went up lightening fast, and we had a great time playing ball afterwards.

Their second goal was to create a relationship with the community of La Zahina that would help them and their classmates work with community members to deliver solutions and aid over the long term where it's really needed. The girls interviewed several families in town to ask how they thought the school could best help them solve some of their more serious problems, like access to good health care and supplies, and improving the quality of their education. They plan to use this information to design more directed service campaigns in the near future.

The kids were a pleasure to host, and demonstrated the level of maturity, thoughtfulness and drive that we strive to foster here at Earth Train. They're welcome back any time, and we'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment of ISP's Service Learning initiatives!

Calling All Young Conservationists!

Earth Day 2015 Logo

To celebrate Earth Day 2015, Earth Train is calling on 10 middle- and high-school kids to convene at our offices at City of Knowledge building 146a from 3:30pm to 5:00pm on Wednesday, the 22nd of April, for a conversation on consumerism, industrialism and waste. Bring an old used cell phone to donate to Rainforest Connection and get a delicious home-made cookie!

Biocharred

March is the transition month from the dry to rainy seasons here in Panama. As it so happens, seasons are changing for Earth Train and her many partners and friends in the Mamoní Valley Preserve.

You may remember a post from last September outlining our strategy talks with Ceiba Forestry and Rainforest Capital for bolstering an ecologically-sustainable economy in the Mamoní Valley. If you don’t remember, feel free to read here.

Ceiba returned this month to further our joint vision for a Mamoní Valley Preserve that lives on the cutting edge of ecological restoration, biocultural renewal and socially positive enterprises. On this visit, we lit the match on biochar and got Ceiba’s nursery going with a cubic meter of the fertilizer-on-steroids.

It’s backbreaking work, from harvesting to loading and unloading the lumber; burning the industrial refrigerator-sized pile; shoveling, crushing and bagging the char; and all of this is compulsory before even mixing and burying the product for fertilization! Thankfully, James Rob, and Christian from the Ceiba crew successfully passed the torch to the local employees, who will be producing the black gold en masse to jumpstart the nursery, which is one exciting part of our collective vision for the MVP.

Oh how the second-hand trembles onward!

Ananda School Visit

There’s nothing more satisfying to an Earth Train staffer than the presence of well-rounded, respectful students within the thatched roofs of Centro Mamoní. We’re sad to see the spirited scholars of the Ananda Living Wisdom School fly back to their California community this week.

While they were here, the students experienced the draw of Panama City, trekked through the rainforest in the Mamoní Valley Preserve, visited multiple communities in the valley, and coasted out to visit Colón.

From the base of Centro Mamoní, the eight participating students and four chaperones went on three hikes and visited two communities. In San José, the Ananda crew presented gifts to the local students, kicked around a soccer ball, and painted. In La Zahina, everyone played with kayaks in the water. Of course, no visit to the MVP is complete without checking out Junglewood Falls, where the girls swam in the cascades and baked in the sun on the hot rocks.

Most importantly, the Ananda crew showed world-record work ethic. Thanks to their help, led by Earth Train’s own Mark Knetsch, Centro Mamoní’s recreation area looks better than ever. Soon we’ll have both a seating niche carved into the hill above the pool and a humble (but beautiful!) cascade flowing into the pool itself. She doesn’t look like much yet, but say hello to the newly christened Ananda Falls!

A big thanks to all the hard-working ladies of the Ananda Living Wisdom School; we hope to see you all (or maybe the boys) again.

OJEWP Comes to Centro Mamoní for a Workshop on Climate Change

Earth Train was honored to receive a group of young leaders from the Organization of Emberá and Wounaan Youth of Panamá—OJEWP—for a climate change workshop developed in collaboration with our Leadership and Guide Program. Twenty indigenous youth plus five community leaders came to Centro Mamoní for a weekend intensive on climate change, its global and local significance, and how they can lead the way to changing behaviors through a rediscovery of their own cultures' traditional ways of managing and respecting natural resources.

As part of their workshop activities, participants interviewed a number of families in the rural Mamoní village of La Zahina. They then compiled their findings and presented to the rest of the group on such topics as the local economy, land and resource management, and the role of spirituality in daily life.

This workshop was funded in part by a grant from the Alstom Foundation, through Earth Train's Leadership and Guide Program. It also served as a gateway to the recruitment of more Leadership and Guide Fellows—outstanding young individuals who will be offered a spot in our program to receive training in community leadership through eco hospitality.

The MET Meet the Guna

The largest group of outsiders to ever visit the mainland Guna village of Cangandi made its way there this month. A group of 40+ made up of MET students, teachers, and Earth Train team-members hiked over rainforest and abandoned asphalt for a day of back-breaking work, connecting with Guna children through art, a breathtaking dip in the nearby river, and culminating in the renewal of Earth Train’s official agreement of collaboration with the village and local Sahilas.

This visit was part of the Metropolitan School of Panama’s visit to Guna Yala as hosted and coordinated by Earth Train. The crew embarked on a 4-day adventure that exposed them to many facets of Guna Yala - some of which are rarely, if ever, experienced by tourists.

Guna Yala is undeniably beautiful, but signs of climate change marr the landscape and remind us of our impact on the environment. We stayed for three nights on Asserdup, a miniscule Guna island that is showing signs of erosion on the sea-facing side. The nearby Gardí Islands get inundated with floods due to rising sea levels; many communities face a difficult decision of whether or not to move to the mainland. Students discussed climate issues and took part in cleaning the island on which we stayed.

In addition to environmental and biological messages, MET students witnessed some of the most outstanding aspects of Guna culture - the celebration of the Guna revolution in 1925, and a coming-of-age ceremony in full swing, among other things. On the Gardí island we visited, murals of famous Guna leaders of the revolution plastered the walls along with paintings announcing “LONG LIVE KUNA YALA” and “90 YEARS OF FIGHTING.” Children performed dances, played indigenous flutes, and shook maracas. Local students dressed up as colonial police in a dramatic and outlandish reenactment of the cultural and physical oppression that the Guna endured, leading to their revolution. The crew even toured a local museum and learned how to make winni - beaded Guna bracelets.

On the mainland, students saw firsthand the difficulty of living in a remote location. Cangandi is at the top of a precipice with incredible vistas of the valley below, but what they have in beauty, they lack in resources - most notably potable water. The easiest access is to ride a boat through a canal left from American occupation and then hike for over an hour across an abandoned airport tarmac and through the rainforest. Suffice it to say that the village’s location doesn’t lend well to importation. Despite these speed-bumps in logistics, the hospitality could not have been more thorough. In anticipation of the students' arrival, the village prepared dozens of smoked fish and piles of boiled yucca. We enjoyed a bit of Guna singing and spent time with the students coloring, building chairs and preparing classrooms for the upcoming school year. Finally, the kids played in the river, jumping from banks into the deep water.

Some of the most important questions asked on the trip are too complex to answer in a single blog post: as a society, what can we learn from the Guna and vice versa? How do their lives and ours differ? How can the Guna improve their quality of life without sacrificing their indigenous roots? Students pondered this and more as Earth Train staff charged them with finding the answers over the course of their careers and lifetime.