Each afternoon students work in one of seven productive areas to gain first-hand knowledge and to apply what they are learning in the classroom. All of the projects are important components in achieving sustainability at both the high school and Yachana Lodge.
Many of the high school students have grown up on farms throughout the Amazon region and have experience working with animals. At Yachana they are raising chickens that provide food and eggs for both the school and lodge. There is also a fish farm where they raise tilapia, cachama and even aquatic snails. Other animals include pigs and African sheep. Students make the animal feed for the chickens from corn grown on the farm. Excrement from the pigs and chickens is used to create organic fertilizer.
Currently the students produce approximately 35% of the food consumed at the high school and Yachana Lodge. The school’s organic farm provides the land on which they are growing many types of fruits and vegetables including plantains and other varieties of bananas, yucca, rice, beans, tomatoes, corn, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, melons, papaya, citrus fruits, and peanuts. They have also planted various herbs and spices such as cilantro and basil. In the nursery, students apply what they have learned about cells in biology class by grafting orange and lemon trees onto lime tree rootstock, which speeds up production while diminishing the risk of damage by insects.
With an award-winning ecolodge right next door, Yachana students have an incredible opportunity to study tourism while running the Yachana Lodge working in several different areas including housekeeping, maintenance, kitchen, dining area, gift shop, butterfly house, lodge grounds and administration. Their teachers and mentors include the lodge professionals that work with them as they learn by doing. Students also have the opportunity to meet and interact with tourists from all over the world.
Students working in the micro-enterprise area make traditional handicrafts that are sold at the school, in the gift shop at the lodge and more recently exported to other countries. Through their creations they are sending messages about conservation and sustainability in the Amazon. In their silk screening operation, students create and stamp their designs on shirts that are then sold or used as school uniforms. The assembly and distribution of water filters, a general store and the sale of products in local markets is also part of the program.
Due to the fact that the high school is located in the middle of the jungle, there are a unique set of challenges related to energy generation and water. Solar panels, diesel-powered generators and water pumps are just a few examples of equipment that requires constant attention. The students working in this productive area are also responsible for keeping public areas of the high school clean.
Art made from trash? That’s what students working in Recycling are creating. They are responsible for implementing systems to deal with the garbage generated at the school and are working to reduce the amount of plastic and other materials that are not good for the environment. Through their artwork the students are sharing messages and reminders with their fellow classmates and visitors alike, encouraging them to “take care of the Earth” and to be more conscious about their choices when it comes to purchasing products that contribute to the amount of trash at the school and introduced into the rainforest.