GeoYear – GapYear


March 1 – April 24, 2022



Geoversity’s GeoYear is an immersive gap year plus study-abroad alternative taking place in Panama. It draws on a 20-year track record of adventure-filled learning experiences working with youth leader organizations such as Global Brigades and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, and numerous educational, indigenous and scientific institutions such as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and the Guna General Congress, as well as global policy and business leaders.

This version of GeoYear is a two-month program offered to individuals who are considering becoming a leader or who are already on a leadership path. 

With over 20 years of youth leadership work in Panama, it is ideally suited to engage explorer-minded individuals who seek once-in-a-lifetime adventures, to team up with new and equally motivated friends and, ultimately, to grow in their capacity to make significant contributions to the well being of Planet Earth.

How GeoYear Learning is Different

You will be immersed in Panama’s diverse ecologies and cultural systems, experiencing them and producing shared meaning through these equally diverse lenses:

  • Western scientific observation
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Tracking
  • Mythic storytelling traditions
  • Artistic expression

Throughout the program, you will work to identify and develop your own potential as a leader and co-creator in larger spheres of endeavor. You will experience hands-on collaborative design and innovation with “nature-inspired” methodologies like Biomimicry, Permaculture and integrated land management, “Teeming” for organizations, Biophilic and Living Buildings design, and Prosocial for managing common resources.

The GeoYear Explorer’s Map

Travelling over a thousand miles while maintaining carbon neutral status.

Our Knowledge Transfer to You

Biocultural Immersion

  • Ecology, Evolutionary Theory, Complexity (patterns, flows, processes, cycles) 
  • Biocultural Anthropology (human origins and evolution, diversity and adaptation, behavioral ecology, cognition)
  • Indigenous Worldviews (select readings, experiences, guests)
  • Holistic Tracking and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) 
  • Story of Place, with GIS and 7Vortex

Leadership and Development

  • Fail Forward experiential learning 
  • “Teeming” –  adaptive organizational principles 
  • Mythic Storytelling
  • Art and Expression
  • Personal action for effecting change 
  • Health and Heart – personal resilience


  • Permaculture, agroforestry, indigenous land management practices
  • Biomimicry 
  • Biophilic Design, Living Buildings, Bamboo Construction
  • Living Systems Frameworks
  • Prosocial – Evolution Institute approach to managing common resources
  • Innovation and Social Entrepreneurs

What others say about it

I am a college undergraduate pursuing a BS in ecology at University of California, Davis. I discovered Geoversity while taking a gap year after graduating high school in 2018. I’m sure that my months with Geoversity in Panama will stand out as a turning point in my development as an aspiring biologist and world citizen. Currently, I am a research assistant for a lab which studies the conservation of tropical birds negatively impacted by agriculture. My internship with Geoversity was a major factor in my winning this position. I look forward to going on to grad school with the goal of becoming a Professor of Ecology.

Tom Philips, Former Geoversity Intern

Is GeoYear for you?

GeoYear is open to individuals who are considering or who have already embarked upon a leadership path in life.  

If you’re one of the 12 selected, you’re in for 8 weeks of immersion in natural and cultural diversity tackling real-life challenges in the community and environmental service and scientific fieldwork.

Get ready for rigorous coaching and high expectations from your peers and mentors for breakthrough achievement. 

With successful completion of the program you’ll come away with performance evaluations and documentation helpful in obtaining academic credit and, ultimately, enhanced career opportunities for your GeoYear investment.

You Will Explore diverse and rarely-visited rural and indigenous rainforest and island communities, while sailing, biking, hiking, and paddling your way from the Pacific to the Caribbean along the Jaguar’s Trail in one of the world’s top 20 biological hotspots—a wildlife corridor of global importance.

You Will Sharpen your powers of pattern recognition and develop the skills of “living systems and design thinking”.

You Will Expand your capacity for natural resilience – as individuals and as leaders.

You Will Grow in your understanding of traditional place-sourced knowledge and gifts of artistic expression and storytelling.

You Will Gain hands-on experience with “nature-inspired” methodologies including biomimicry, permaculture, regenerative and biophilic design, spatial storytelling, and “teeming” superorganism organizational practices.


Why is it useful for me?

By the end of the 8 weeks, all participants should have achieved adeptness in the practical skills of living system analysis, team building, project planning and biocultural leadership. You are also expected to present to the Geoversity faculty and staff a project proposal for implementation in Panama or in any other location of their choice. We expect that some of the GeoYear participants will collaborate together on projects.

Upon successful completion of 8 weeks at Geoversity’s School of Biocultural Leadership you will receive a certificate of achievement as a qualified GeoExplorer.

How is it structured?

Our expansive 8-week journey is your intro to biocultural leadership through living systems thinking. As you travel over 1,000 miles by sailboat, foot, bikes, rafts, and dug-out canoes to coastal islands, historic urban, and remote rainforest locations around Panama, you’ll be learning the basics of cross-cultural teamwork and developing your understanding of natural and social ecology. 

Included in the GeoYear program is the option to come a month early or stay on for an extra month as an intern in the Mamoní Valley Preserve for four weeks of real-world experiences enriched with interaction with faculty and fellow teammates. Your menu of work opportunities as an intern could range from photo documenting jaguar habitats using drones and camera traps in the upland rainforest, to building bamboo structures or working with children on a local school garden project.

You’ll also be assisting Geoversity staff in the day-to-day workings of the preserve and in Geoversity’s educational and conservation activities. Your base during much of that time will be Geoversity’s science center, Centro Mamoni, located at the rainforest’s edge on the border with Gunayala.

Joining you on this GeoExplorers’ journey will be your local wilderness guides, mentors, film makers, and researchers to ensure safety, discovery and a world of empowering fun.

What do my days look like?

Every week will be full of stimulating activity where even the modes of transportation (sailboat, mountain bike, etc.) and shelter (a tree house or remote jungle campsite) present challenges. 

Expect to participate in day-to-day decision making, often necessitated by the unexpected such as a sudden storm or a mechanical breakdown. You’ll be encouraged to keep a daily written and video journal, participate in podcasts live from remote locations, and in “on the spot seminars” with faculty so that you’re fully unpacking the insights to be gained from surprise encounters, setbacks, breakthroughs and more.

You should have at least one day a week that is totally yours and open for unstructured activities including just pure fun and relaxation. During your work on independent projects, especially during Semester Three, you’ll have plenty of latitude in the planning of your weekly schedule.

How do I plan all this

Upon inquiry, youwill receive a detailed GeoYear Essential Information package with our suggestions and requirements regarding what to pack, even the type of packs you’re expected to use. 

You will also be invited to participate in at least one meeting with the Geoversity Life Changer staff and, possibly even an online meeting with your fellow GeoExplorers. 

Finally, you’ll have access to a password protected section of the Geoversity website with a large amount of background on staff and faculty, resources on subjects related to your full GeoYear journey and more. 

Everything you need for bedding, transportation, meals, and all other essentials will be here waiting for you. And, if you forget something, not to worry: Panama is a world commercial hub so you won’t have any trouble finding what you need.

GeoYear is a one-of-a-kind 8 weeks program inspired by and built on the success of the following Geoversity experiences:

Learn more about: