Background Info

Pantanal Center for Education and Research

Our area of interest in the Northern Pantanal is located south of the town of Poconé, Brazil, in the state of Mato Grosso. Ethan Shirley has been going to this region since 2003 volunteering at an ecolodge, performing functions from cooking and cleaning to guiding tours and making plaster casts of jaguar prints. There is one main dirt road stretching 150 kilometers from Poconé to Porto Jofre, a small fishing village which contains a rest stop, resort, and airstrip. On the pothole-filled dirt road (called the Transpantaneira Highway), the drive between Poconé and Porto Jofre can take three or four hours. Porto Jofre has a small population of local fishermen and the surrounding area has a larger population  of cattle-ranching pantaneiros. The area currently has no school, so members of the community have moved the 150 kilometers to Poconé or further to get their children an adequate education. 

Many of the locals would prefer to make their livelihood in the Pantanal, and would stay if there were a school nearby. Both pantaneiros and fishermen from the surrounding areas will be able to send their kids (20 to 50 in total) to school without leaving the Pantanal. The school will also hold evening classes for adults, many of whom are illiterate.  Volunteers and trained locals will serve as teachers, with subjects ranging from basic childhood education to literacy for adults to basic math, English, and biology for tour guides.  The importance of conservation of the natural surroundings will be stressed to individuals of all ages, and workshops open to the public will provide additional education about the environment and sustainable development. 

Joining the school with a research station will provide an opportunity to do an in-depth study of the Pantanal while promoting sustainable development in the region. Professors, undergraduate and graduate students in the realms of engineering, biology, geology, and architecture (among others) can conduct extended and one-of-a-kind research in this vibrant wetland. Additionally, the joint facility functions as a study abroad destination for other undergraduates. To further the goal of sustainability, solar power, a biosand water filter, a biogas digester and a trash incinerator are included in the design, which also incorporates a self-ventilating roof monitor to keep the building cool inside.  Finally, the center will arrange for monthly visits by a doctor to give locals access to basic healthcare in the area.

The facility thereby brings together education, healthcare and green technology in a rural area which before lacked all three, in order to help preserve the culture and the nature of the Brazilian Pantanal.

Learn more about our model: The CER Approach

Subpages (4): Map Team The CER Approach Video