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Practicing Fieldwork: The Transformational Value of a Collaborative Ethnographic Field School in Ecuador

Jean N. Scandlyn, John Brett, and Sharry Erzinger

This article describes and critically evaluates a new and developing field school of the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) in the rural lowland community of Mondaña, Ecuador. The program combines Participatory Action Research (PAR) (Minkler 2000) with Rapid Assessment Process (RAP) (Beebe 2001) to conduct on-going research on sustainable development and health. Mondaña is home to the Yachana Lodge, a for-profit, award-winning ecotourism lodge whose profits help to support the Colegio Técnica Yachana (CTY), a technical high school that teaches male and female students from the Amazonian region, most of whom are indigenous, skills in sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, ecotourism, and microenterprise. Students from UCD work closely with colegio students to complete each year’s research project and present the results to the community. Although the field school uses a team-based approach to research in contrast to the more usual model where students conduct independent research projects, it nonetheless provides students with the opportunity for a transformative educational experience as demonstrated in their final reflection papers. [Ecuador, ethnographic field school, sustainable development, Participatory Action Research, rapid assessment process]

The Applied Anthropologist, No. 2, Vol. 28, 2008, pp 204 - 216

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