BGCI Education Blog

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Taking teachers to the amazon

The other week, we had a delightful guest visit BGCI. Phil Williams, a TV producer-turned environmentalist and educator extrordinaire, popped in to say hello. He runs an organisation called Plan-it Eco, presenting talks and runing school conferences about the inspirational world of the rainforest.

But he doesnt stop there - why talk about it when you can show people, after all? So, he also takes groups of teachers and occasionally school pupils to Ecuador to explore and experience the awe and wonder of the rainforest for themselves.

So far he has taken five school groups to the Amazon; students have an amazing trip, spending time in Quito, visiting the markets and museums, then off to the rainforest, with a canoe trip to a boarding school for indigenous children. These children spend 26 days at school and 26 days at home, as they have a long way to travel. Their school allows them to gain an introduction to and understanding of the outside world and uses its own currciulum designed to maximise the welfare of the idigenous people. The UK students work alongside the pupils on their school vegetable plots and other activities. This is followed by a three day trip to volcanoes, complete with a stay on a llama farm. Phil is taking ten primary school children to the Amazon in 2009, with a possiblity of being part of a televsion programme and is working with a few schools to develop this idea.

Phils has also taken eight groups of teachers out to Ecuador to inspire and encourage them to teach about education for sustainable development and conservation. "The trips can have amazing outcomes -one participant raised £16,000 to help the villiage and school we visited to gain an electricty supply" Phil said. To ensure that the impact of the trip is maintained, teachers produce a diary throughout their travels - with one teacher writing it per day. This is published on the return home, so that everyone receives a copy and a disc is made of all the photographs taken. This creates the perfect teaching aid for bringing the Amazon to life back in the classroom.

Phil does not just whisk peoepl around the world though, he works closely with schools on a range of activities, such as environmental assessments of schools - identifying points for increased efficiency. He reckons that these changes can save a school anywhere between £5,000 - £15,000. Phil gives talks to students on many curriculum areas and trains teachers in using education for sustainable development. Local authorities have been booking him to run student conferences investigating the global impacts of local desicisons, to encourage students to see how their choices have a far-reaching effect.

For more information, contact Phil on

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