Action Education

Learning by Doing

Action Education

For more than 10 years, Community Agroecology Network has offered college students and lifelong learners hands-on educational opportunities in global food systems, agroecology, and intercultural exchange. Together with rural partner communities in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Nicaragua CAN’s Action Education Program impacts adults, university students, and professors from across the United States, including the University of California, Santa Cruz, California State University Monterey Bay, Evergreen State University, Santa Clara University, and the University of Vermont.
CAN envisions action education not only as learning by doing, but as a form of advocacy for a more just world. CAN works with university students, rural youth, farmers, and the public to raise awareness and create tools for change around global trade, hunger, and sustainable agriculture. We use field studies and field courses, youth empowerment, farmer exchanges, and research-based trainings to educate and inspire action for social and environmental justice.


CAN Field Courses offer students the opportunity for intercultural exchange while exploring some of the diverse topics in which we work. Each course is uniquely designed yet share a common goal: to engage participants in meaningful relationships with CAN communities and expose them to international work and service. The courses we currently offer include:

Alternative Spring Break (ASB): Maya Culture & Community-Based Food Security

ASB in the Yucatan focuses on the experience of intercultural exchange and hands-on agroecology in Maya communities. Through working with community members on community-based food security projects and homestays with host families, students are immersed in daily life in Tabasco, Quintana Roo, a small Maya town.

Tropical Agroecology & Sustainable Development in Costa Rica

This course’s goal is to deepen students’ understanding of the theory and practice of sustainable development through the intensive, interdisciplinary field study of community development and coffee agroforestry in Agua Buena, Costa Rica. The course also focuses on the natural history and ecology of the incredibly diverse and lush tropical biosphere of Costa Rica’s southern border with Panama.

Food Security and Nutrition

This course will focus on community-based innovations for food sovereignty and security, with a unique emphasis on nutrition, nutrition education, dietary analysis, food preservation, traditional food diets and crop and seed-saving methods.

International Field Study

Field study provides students with a unique and rewarding opportunity to engage with a rural community for 10 weeks of independent study. Students stay with a host family and contribute to a local project defined in collaboration with CAN’s local partner organization. Projects vary widely, depending on the partner community students choose.

International Youth Exchange

CAN launched the International Youth Network for Food Security and Sovereignty in 2011 to empower rural youth working toward food systems change in their own communities. The annual International Youth Exchange unites youth leaders from CAN partner communities in Mexico and Central America for intercultural exchange with a focus on mutual skill building in agroecology, rural enterprise development, research, and leadership.

AgroEco® Coffee Tour

CAN founders Steve Gliessman and Robbie Jaffe lead a tour to the tropical highlands of Nicaragua. Engage directly with farmers and community organizers in the region about the culture, ecosystems, and challenges facing coffee growing communities. Meet youth leaders who are inspiring local food security and sovereignty projects. Experience the beauty of tropical biodiversity on guided tours by experts in ecology and agroecology.

Additional Course Opportunities

CAN works directly with faculty members at any university to develop field courses in partnership with CAN and one of the network communities. Contact the Director of Action Education for more information.

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