Earth Expeditions
Student seated on rock journaling, Khao Yai Nat’l Park
Hut and lotus pond, Watpa Sukato
Buddha statues
Phra Paisal Visalo, Buddhist monk, Watpa Sukato
Painting of the Buddha seated on lotus flower
Ancient temple ruins
Macaque monkey, close up, Khao Yai Nat’l Park

Course Overview

Study emerging models in conservation and education. Understand nature through Buddhist philosophy.

Travel to Thailand to investigate this country's astonishing Old World rain forests and diverse cultural environments. This course will address key topics in ecology while exploring emerging models of conservation and education. Possible research projects include Buddhism and the environment; indigenous ecological knowledge; spiritual connections to nature; and community forests. Discover the power of inquiry to generate knowledge and inspire conservation. All students will have the chance to conduct an investigation of the local ecosystem, asking their own questions, collecting data, and presenting conclusions.

Prior to and following the field experience in Thailand, students will complete coursework via Dragonfly Workshops' Web-Based Learning Community as they apply experiences to their home institutions.

Course Themes

  • Tropical ecology and conservation
  • Buddhist philosophy in education
  • Western and Eastern modes of understanding nature
  • Indigenous ecological knowledge
  • Buddhism and conservation activism
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Participatory education
  • Community-based conservation

A typical Earth Expeditions day in Thailand is likely to include:

  • Visits to field conservation sites
  • Lectures
  • Student-led discussions of key course topics
  • Engagement with local communities
  • Open inquiries
  • Journal writing


Thailand is especially renowned for its temples, its mouth-watering cuisine, its hospitality, and its astonishing biotic diversity. Known as Siam until 1939, the Kingdom of Thailand was never colonized by a European power. Thais are proud of their strong culture and their history. Buddhism influences all aspects of Thai life and is practiced by 95% of the population.

"My experience in Thailand was beyond my expectations. Not only did we meet Thai people from all walks of life--monks, teachers, students--but we got to actually know these people. They're still friends today."

- Whitney J., Gray, Tennessee

Planned Sites in Thailand

Khao Yai National Park

Located approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, Khao Yai is Thailand's oldest national park. The 2,100 square kilometer park encompasses a variety of vegetation zones including evergreen rainforest and mixed deciduous forest. Approximately 200 to 300 wild elephants share the park with tigers, gibbons, barking deer, civets, and sun bears. Khao Yai's rich forests are home to a large population of hornbills including the great hornbill, one of the most conspicuous of the hornbill clan with its bright yellow "horn" or casque on top of its head. There are numerous hiking trails and several wildlife observation towers, including one near a natural salt lick that entices elephants, barking deer, and gaur into the open.

Various forest wats (temples)

Discuss Buddhist views on nature, ecology, and conservation with scientists, educators, and "ecology monks" active in conservation efforts in Thailand. The group will spend several days at Buddhist monasteries, where students will be instructed in meditation practice and participate in discussions on contemplative education.

Watpa Sukato

Watpa Sukato is a forest monastery in a remote village in northeast Thailand's Chaiyaphum province. The monastery is an outstanding example of the interwoven strands of conservation, Buddhism, and community. The monks designated the forest surrounding their monastery as sacred, prohibiting logging and the killing of wild animals. They fostered a reverence for nature among the local community and recruited the villagers to help prevent forest fires. The monks also helped local children form an environmental education club called Dek Rak Nok (Children Love Birds) with the goal to protect the local bird population.  Monks also lead an annual week-long "Green Walk" around the watershed forest to promote conservation awareness.

Wat Paa Mahawan

Wat Paa Mahawan is a forest monastery in the mountains of Chaiyaphum. Monks of Wat Paa Mahawan work with the local community to nurture and conserve the forests surrounding the temple. The forest is an important watershed area, and the community conservation efforts help ensure the health of vital river systems upon which the local people, the forests, and the wildlife depend. The monks have also begun a biodiversity monitoring program to collect data on forest recovery and cultural uses of wild species. The monks hope to use the data to create further conservation awareness in the local communities.

(Course locations are subject to change.)

Dragonfly Workshops Web-Based Learning Community

Upon acceptance into the program, students will join instructors and classmates in Dragonfly Workshops' collaborative Web community to complete pre-trip assignments. After returning home, students will continue to work in their Web-based community through early December to develop projects initiated in the field, discuss assignments, and exchange ideas. All students should expect to spend two to three hours a week contributing to their Web-Based Learning Community from their home or school computer. Navigating the Web platform is easy--it's designed for people with no prior computer experience. To learn more about this unique Web experience, visit

More Information

For more information on the admissions process, physical requirements, and more, please visit Admissions and/or FAQs.

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Course Details

Notes from the Field

Earth Expeditions, Thailand

Overlook at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

Kara Urbanek

High School Spanish Teacher from Columbus, Ohio

"The environment was both the backdrop and center stage to my Thailand experience. As an educator, I have a great mission to share my newfound deeper connection to conservation with others."

Program Costs