The most recent news and notes about project progress! 

Pantanal News - Spring 2014

posted Apr 1, 2014, 6:20 AM by Ethan Shirley

Spring is in the air, and over fifty people are preparing to work on various projects in the Pantanal over the summer. Our annual fundraiser, Pantanal in the Arb, isTHIS SUNDAY APRIL 6 starting at 9:00am at the Washington Heights entrance to Nichols Arboretum. Sign up online at:


                                         Children at Colégio Nazaré perform with volunteer teachers.          Students teach in the United States in preparation for teaching in Brazil

The coming summer features four major programs beginning in early May. First, we are working with Brazilian non-profit ECOA to bring small scale biodigesters, wind turbines, and water filters to rural communities in the Pantanal. Undergraduate and graduate students from Michigan and Brazil will be teaching and installing these sustainable technologies with families in the communities.

Throughout the summer, we will continue to teach music with our partner non-profit the Ciranda Institute and students from the United States. We are testing a new internet video conference teaching program that will involve young music students in Brazil learning from and with musicians in the United States. We are presenting about this project at the International Society of Music Education conference in Porto Alegre in July.

Another group of University of Michigan students will be working at local schools and ecolodges to teach English to kids and adults in the tourism industry. Additionally, PCER is opening its doors to more undergraduate students through a program with Stanford University that will focus on the biology and ecology of the Pantanal.The coming summer features four major programs beginning in early May. First, we are working with Brazilian non-profit ECOA to bring small scale biodigesters, wind turbines, and water filters to rural communities in the Pantanal. Undergraduate and graduate students from Michigan and Brazil will be teaching and installing these sustainable technologies with families in the communities.


Thanks to those who came to see Marcin Szczepanski's Pantanal photos exhibit in the Duderstadt Center Gallery in January

As always, we thank you for your continued support andhope to see you at the Pantanal in the Arb event on Sunday!

If you want to get involved or have any ideas, please contact Ethan at


Ethan Shirley


Pantanal News - Winter 2013-2014

posted Apr 1, 2014, 5:45 AM by Ethan Shirley

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from all of us in Brazil and in the United States! Come see an exhibit about the Pantanal and our work at the Duderstadt Center Gallery in January. The opening ceremony will be tomorrow, January 8 at 4:00pm.
Music students at the Colégio Nazaré.                                        Kids are interviewed as part of TransTech Pantanal project.
Our music project continues to provide new opportunities to kids living at the Colégio Nazaré. A video of some of the kids playing basic songs is here. The Instituto Ciranda of Cuiabá has partnered with us, and we are building with them a system involving Americans and Brazilians teaching and learning both in person and over the internet through video-lessons.
In December and January, we began working on a large project with partner non-profit ECOA to teach sustainable technologies in some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of the Pantanal. We will work with local experts and students to teach about small-scale wind turbines, biodigesters, and slow-sand water filters. We will also teach basic emergency medicine and CPR in these communities. Some more information is on ourwebsite.


UofM photographer Marcin Szczepanski spent some time with us and in a remote community in the Pantanal. His pictures are featured on his website.I would like to invite all of you to check out an exhibition of his work about the Pantanal and its people, which will run from January 8th until January 25th in the Duderstadt Center Gallery on North Campus in Ann Arbor. An opening ceremony will be held on the 8th from 4:00pm until 6:00pm, and students and Pantanal experts will be around to answer your questions. We hope to see you there! 

Our annual Pantanal in the Arb 5k fundraiser will take place on the 6th of April at the Hospital entrance of the Arb. More info will follow in the spring newsletter.

If you want to get involved or have any ideas, please contact Ethan at


Ethan Shirley


Fall Newsletter

posted Oct 15, 2013, 5:19 AM by Ethan Shirley   [ updated Oct 15, 2013, 5:23 AM ]

Pantanal News - Fall 2013

BOM DIA! This summer was a success as we executed a variety of projects in a variety of locations. We worked with partners old and new, and we taught and learned from kids and adults in the Pantanal.
A group of students and recent alumni spent almost two full months at Nazaré Orphanage continuing a music education program. Together with our partners at the Ciranda Institute in nearby Cuiabá, lessons are now continuing in our absence. Some limited concert footage of the kids is coming soon!
A student group from UofM ran workshops at three local schools and in several rural communities about bio-sand water filters. Local kids helped out with the teaching their fellow students!
Other groups designed, built, and tested small-scale wind turbines and biodigesters which will be further developed and taught in a number of rural communities in 2014. This is part of a grant that we will work on with our partner non-profit ECOA of Mato Grosso do Sul. Kids teach classmates about water filters

Music teachers and students                                                                    Kids teach classmates about water filtration.

In other news...

There will be a fundraiser in Ann Arbor this fall. Details to follow shortly. 

Volunteers helped us run CPR/First-Aid and English classes in rural schools throughout the Pantanal region.

If you want to get involved or have any ideas, please contact Ethan at


Primeiro Concerto do Nazare!

posted Jul 29, 2013, 8:56 PM by Julie Bateman

After four weeks of music classes, the students of Nazare had their first concert today! The PME team will be blogging soon in greater detail. For now, here's some footage of today's performance!

Beginning of music lessons at Nazaré

posted Jul 5, 2013, 11:20 AM by Ethan Shirley

We've begun the Pantanal Music Exchange teaching program in the past few weeks here, working with kids at the Nazaré Orphanage to learn to play the violin, viola, and cello.

Working with a wide range of ages (and attention spans) has been a challenge, but a core group of older students has already emerged as dedicated musicians. Due to age gaps we decided to hold separate classes for the older students. They have started to take strong leadership roles in the classes we hold with the younger students as well.

In our first week and a half together we worked to establish strong fundamentals in bow and instrument positions. Of course, just holding the instruments didn’t really satisfy the kids, who wanted to immediately play the instruments they were learning to hold. After some rhythm games, learning the string names, pizzicato exercises, beginning bow technique, and a lot of patience we dove into learning a short canção: The Flower Song. Evanildo, Pedro, and Luis played a lovely two part harmony to the Flower Song at the end of class on Monday.

CPR and First-aid at local schools

posted Jul 4, 2013, 2:27 PM by Ethan Shirley

After finishing up our water, waste and wind technology projects at schools and our base in the Pantanal, we've begun the second phase of the summer here, in which we will be teaching CPR, English, and music at local schools and our partner orphanage Nazaré. 

During the last week of June we visited the schools at Chumbo and Cangas to teach First-aid and CPR. Although the classes were to follow a very structured format, at times it was difficult to complete a lesson as planned and still address all of the students’ (and teachers’) misconceptions about basic health issues. The general lack of (correct) knowledge about common illnesses and bodily mechanisms was both frustrating and illuminating. We spent a fair bit of time convincing some that hitting a person on the back was not an acceptable substitute for the Heimlich maneuver. In the end, though, being able to sort through and eliminate at least some of their misinformation was rewarding, especially with regard to life-saving skills like CPR.


On the first day, students learned how to safely and effectively analyze an emergency situation and identify life-threatening injuries. Students left the lesson with the ability to identify the presence of several vital signs such as pulse and breathing. They also learned how to evaluate a victim’s mental status. The second day focused on basic wound care management. The students now know how to stop many types of bleeding and splint various parts of the body. We actually heard a story of a student who, the day after taking our class, ran home to splint her brother’s broken arm! Our final day was spent teaching CPR. We showed them an instructional video (in Portuguese), approved for use by the American Heart Association. At times during the video we would interject in order to elaborate on or simplify certain concepts. The students were able to practice chest compression technique on our makeshift mannequins.   

Phase 1 Complete

posted Jul 3, 2013, 8:43 PM by Ethan Shirley

Phase one of summer 2013 is now complete. PCER hosted three technology projects: a team teaching bio-sand water filters, water filtration, and water-borne illnesses; a team dedicated to designing a functional bio-digester; and a team that installed two wind turbines at PCER. Additionally, we hosted a project to measure environmental mercury to evaluate the impact of local gold mining operations. 

The water filters team spent almost all their time at local schools, where they taught first to older kids and then to younger kids with the help of older kid volunteers. Our team and helpers installed two functional filters at schools. Students will present the filters as part of the semester theme project of healthy living. The teams of local students will, over their winter vacation (beginning in mid-July), take these technologies to more rural communities.

The bio-digester team and wind turbine team spent more of their time developing and constructing technologies at PCER in the heart of the Pantanal. The technologies are still being tweaked and tested.  

Left: Students teach about water filtration at Chumbo. Middle: a reduced-scale model wind turbine is demonstrated at Chumbo. Right: Loading the bio-digester at PCER.

More pictures from this May and June are posted on the University of Michigan's flicker account here:

Chumbo Water Sanitation Workshops 5/23/13

posted May 27, 2013, 1:39 PM by Julie Bateman

Water sanitation lecture at a school in Chumbo
Water Systems' workshops are in full swing in the rural town of Chumbo. Pictured to the left is Ethan lecturing, in a cloud of bacteria, at a local school.

Students are leading a series of basic engineering and water sanitation workshops at the schools in the towns of Congas and Chumbo, on the edge of Pantanal. The classes focus on the importance of clean drinking water and together they build sand-based water filters. Adult evening classes are currently underway to spread the word across the community. The goal is that the kids and parents will jointly understand the water issues to help alleviate a number of serious diseases that plague the area. 

Check out all the photos*, including adult night classes, here!

*Photos by Marcin Szczepanski/University of Michigan, College of Engineering, Multimedia Producer

SPRING NEWSLETTER - In case you missed it

posted May 11, 2013, 12:36 PM by Ethan Shirley

Pantanal News - Spring 2013

BOM DIA! Spring has flown by and in less than a month, we'll be setting out for a fourth summer in the Pantanal! This summer will be the first of many that we will work in collaboration with Brazilian university students! While continuing negotiations with the Secretary of Education to open a school in the wetland, we have started community-wide efforts from workshops on water sanitation to a student orchestra!

Expanding on last summer's popular music lessons at the Nazare Orphanage, student and alumni musicians will lead a month-long program in July.  Check out the PME Video on Indiegogo for more, we'd be very grateful for your support! 

Students are nearly complete with testing their technologies and designing workshops on biosand water filters, biodigesters, recycling and small scale wind turbines. Workshops on these technologies will hopefully take place in rural communities throughout the Pantanal through a new partnership with Brazilian non-profit, ECOA! Lots more to come during their adventures this summer on the blog. 

In other news...

Thank you to everyone who came out for Pantanal in the Arb IV! A sunny day and great turn-out, look forward to seeing you again in the fall! English classes (the start of a Guide Course) started  this spring! Interested in teaching English in Brazil? Contact Ethan - ethan@pantanalcer.orgThis spring, Ethan continued to discuss opening of a public school in the Pantanal, possibly at a location on the Cuiabá River near the majority of the families.

If you want to get involved or have any ideas, please contact either Julie at julie@pantanalcer.orgor Ethan at


Julie Bateman


Music Program Featured on Michigan Radio

posted May 2, 2013, 8:02 AM by Ethan Shirley

Our Pantanal orchestra program, Pantanal Music Exchange, was featured on Michigan Radio's Stateside with Cynthia Canty on May 1st. To listen to the interview with Ethan and Alex, visit To learn more about the project and how to get involved, check out the Pantanal Music Exchange tab on the left. 

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