‘Opening our minds in the rainforests of Panama’


Ian Fridman, a 17-year-old ORT Argentina student, participated in World ORT’s Ecology Summer School in Panama. Here he describes the impact the two-week research course has had on him:

Watching a Beyonce show on YouTube is in no way comparable to actually seeing the greatest artist of your generation performing live on stage – even if watching the film partly replicates the experience.

This analogy has been in my mind during my time at World ORT’s Ecology Summer School in Panama. I have witnessed ecosystems and their wildlife from an experiential perspective, rather than from a biology textbook. I’ve always been curious about animals and plants, but my approach to them has always been via the books we are given at school. Ever since we arrived in Panama, my mind turned to start thinking, “now I could write that book myself!”.

In the first week at the summer school we went to scientific research centers and took tours around the country’s natural environments, but the main project we worked up to was the preparation of a full scientific document paper.

In order to present one, we observed a chosen aspect of the jungle’s ecosystem and analysed the obtained data to display in the final document. We learned how to write such a paper and with the help of coordinators we created a final edit.

I will return home not only with more knowledge about nature and the way ecosystems work, but with mental tools to resolve methodical questions. Everybody who had the privilege to be here has developed a clear critical thinking plan when it comes to the observation and analysis of certain matters. This has opened a world of opportunities for us both in our scientific work and in our daily lives.

Another fantastic part of this summer school was the cultural exchange that happened within the walls of the shared accommodation. There was so much learning and appreciation for one another that it was impossible not to make friends. All of the bonds we made throughout these days came to enrich the beautiful group of teenagers we created, and I could not be happier about it.

All in all, this fortnight was nothing but wonderful and I am eternally thankful to ORT for this fascinating experience that opened my mind in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Doing what you love while still being able to make friends is not exactly easy – but that is precisely what World ORT’s Ecology Summer School is all about. Like Hannah Montana once sang, you get the best of both worlds.