World ORT’s first Ecology Summer School is a howling success

Teenagers hone science skills studying the fauna and flora of Panama’s rainforest

For 30 students from across Latin America and Spain it was the chance of a lifetime – two weeks fully immersed in Mother Nature, learning her secrets under the guidance of experts from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Working together in teams, they built their knowledge in ecology and environmental science as well as their technical and statistical skills and awareness of local and global environmental and conservation issues.

Conducting and presenting research

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Some observed Howler monkeys and tried to establish when and why they made their distinctive calls while others studied plants such as the Calathea, whose flowers close when in direct sunlight. And at the end of the Summer School, the students each presented their findings to the group.

Gabriel Baca, a student at World ORT-affiliated Colegio Isaac Rabin in Panama City, said all the participants had learned and accomplished “an immense amount” in what had been an unforgettable experience which had strengthened his love for science.

I was able to learn how the behaviour of several mammals and birds change in different circumstances, to study the biodiversity of the Panamanian Isthmus, and to see the impact that humans are having on various ecosystem,” he said. “I compared the relationship between a plant´s morphological features and its defensive mechanisms, learned the methods behind creating scientific papers, and much, much more.”

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Coming from eight countries it was an opportunity for the students to make new friends and learn about different cultures.

“With me were bright students from all over Latin America who shared my interests, passions and ways of seeing the world. We made lifelong friendships by learning together,” Gabriel said.

Sofía Piltch from Argentina agreed.

It was an unforgettable experience – culturally, socially and educationally enriching. I will always be infinitely grateful to WORLD ORT for giving me the opportunity to be part of something which has given us tools to achieve academic excellence.”

The Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman, said the Summer School had encapsulated World ORT’s mission of Educating for Life.

“Students were amazed from the beginning to the end and really enthusiastic to learn. I am very proud of the work they did and happy that they returned home with new, useful knowledge as well as new friends for life,” he said.

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