Summer 2018 Applications Accepted Starting October 1st Notify Me

How can India, the world's largest democracy, meet the basic needs of millions?
Days: 21 • Group Size: 10 - 12 • Ages: 15 - 18
June 23 - July 20 Application Opens Oct 1st
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India: Sustaining the World’s Largest Democracy

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India Summer Program

Sustainable Summer will be launching an India Summer program in the Ladakh Region of India for Summer 2018. It will be 4 weeks in length, include some incredible Himalayan scenery, and a whole lot of really fascinating programming on the subject of sustainability, and primarily the role of education and public infrastructure in sustainable development. This program is being developed by two of our most experienced facilitators with an initial multi-week program development effort completed in Spring of 2017. We have staff back in Ladakh and at Navdanya (the legendary environmentalist Vandana Shiva’s project) again for the month of September to finalize programming details. Much more to come in November 2018 when we release the full itinerary and program scope.

In this Sustainable Summer Program…

We’ll dive into – pun intended – India’s water resource management systems (think huge dams and massive public works projects) and education system, and try to understand why millions in India still lack the basic human needs of clean water and and education. We’ll spend much of our time living and learning with an organization that is addressing India’s challenges through education and our students will spend about an hour of every day in a “conversation” class with Indian high school students helping them with English language acquisition. We’ll also experience India’s rich culture, explore its bounty of natural wonders, and take part in all sorts of other unforgettable experiences on this Sustainable Summer program in India.

  • You’ll meet with several leaders of environmental NGOs that are working on food, water, and energy issues.
  • You’ll trek in the shadows of the world’s highest mountains
  • You’ll visit a Buddhist monastery built into a cliff wall a thousand feet above the “Grand Canyon of the Himalaya”


in the shadows of the world's highest mountains


the "Grand Canyon of the Himalaya"


environmental leaders working on pressing food, water, and energy issues

2017 Facilitators *

Tyler Davis

Tyler Davis

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Skyeler Congdon

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I believe that Sage had her most memorable summer yet. Both programs seemed to draw remarkably intelligent and nice kids. Sage seems to have been exposed to so many new perspectives and has developed a zest for wanting to make positive change. Suddenly she is seemingly well versed and has reasoned opinions about issues she […]

  Nancy,  parent from Rumsen, NJ

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Student Stories

Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Tour

Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through dynamic place-based learning.
Field Studies
How can India, the world's largest democracy, meet the basic needs of millions? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
Leadership Activities
Our approach to leadership development is adapted from the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s youth leadership curriculum.
Design Thinking Challenge
Participate in a half-day design thinking workshop, including a real innovation challenge applied to a local community problem. Design thinking is a formal process innovators use to create solutions to problems. We'll learn about human-centered design, and then engage members of the local community to conceive a project that is usable, sustainable, and lead to better outcomes within the community.
Independent Project
Learning happens best through a constructivist approach of inquiry, action, and reflection. Students should be prepared to engage in an independent project for the duration of the program that follows this approach. It can take the form of journalism, photography, film, research, advocacy, or other. Some students (for instance, those in an IB degree program) may find that they have a school-related project that can connect to Sustainable Summer. Others will be asked to develop a project concept through a guided process pre-program. The final "deliverable" is completed after the program.
Case Study
It's easy to be green when you have the time, resources, and autonomy to do so. But the real-world is far more complicated. We'll work through a multi-stakeholder case study related to a local issue so students can better understand the process of negotiation and comprise that is needed to implement sustainable solutions.
Sustainability Action Plan
All students develop a Sustainability Action Plan, which outlines a proposed sustainability initiative to complete back home. The SAP is considered a work in progress that gets “workshopped” in small group settings throughout the program. The final version is shared with the group at the end of the program and “accountability partners” are established to encourage implementation of the outlined action steps.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (83% of tuition), or scholarship (as low as 15% of tuition).

How It Works

  • Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive up to an 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

What's Included


in eco-lodges and other locally-owned (and often sustainably-minded) establishments


3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.

Immersive Activities

Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.

Ground Transportation

Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!

2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

Tuition does not include airfare, $95 InternationalSOS membership (required), or personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals.


We designate a recommended group flight for students. Students, whether arriving on our group flight or independently, will be met at the international arrivals area by our staff. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment. We provide the below information as a courtesy to prospective families for planning purposes.

Our designated round trip group flight:

Escort on Both Outbound and Return Flight

Outbound Flight


Return Flight



  • Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families - please check your MySummer account for more information. This is the only source of completely accurate and up-to-date information about our fligth logistics.
  • Not all of our group flights have a staff escort. Please see above for specifics and our Flights page for additional details.
  • Students NOT traveling on our designated group flight will be assessed a $35 fee if they arrive on a flight other than our specified group flight and/or a $35 fee for departing on a non-group flight ($70 total). Students must verify BEFORE BOOKING all non-group flight travel itineraries


  • Arrival

    Participants will depart for Quito, Ecuador (UIO) on our ‘group flight’. It is an evening departure, so students from all over the US (and internationally) will have ample time to travel from their local airport, connect with our group, and then make the flight to Quito.

    Upon arrival, we’ll take private transportation to our accommodations in Tumbaco, a short drive from the new Quito International Airport, for a good night's rest.

    We'll use our time at MIA well with some orientation activities that will familiarize us with local customs, health and safety protocols, and our individual and mutual goals for the program.

    Day 1
  • Orientation and Huasquila

    After breakfast, we take private transportation northeast over Papallacta Pass and the spine of the Andes. We're heading for Baeza, in Ecuador's cloud forest zone, about 2 hours away. We'll stop for a bathroom break and perhaps a batido, a delicious fruit smoothie, before continuing onward. From Baeza, we head an hour south and down in elevation into the rainforest and indigenous communities of Napo Province near Tena, a major gateway to the wilds of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We'll spend a week in the the area at Huasquila jungle lodge learning about reforestation, social enterprise and sustainable economic development; visiting chakras, the 'forest gardens' of the Kichwa people; trekking through the jungle; and spending time with the local people. After lunch at Huasquila, we will don rubber boots for a short walk to las golondrinas waterfall. Our Kichwa guide will introduce us to traditional medicinal plants and their uses and we will also learn about reforestation and rainforest conservation efforts in this region of the Amazon. Returning back to the lodge, we'll continue our orientation, as well as some time to relax by the pool, followed by dinner.

    Day 2
  • The Kichwa
    We'll be up before day break for a visit to one of the local Kichwa communities and to participate in the traditional guayusa ceremony, a ritual that has been practiced in the Ecuadorian Amazon for thousands of years. After breakfast, we will visit a guayusa nursery and learn how this herbal leaf is grown, how to plant it, and why it has so much potential as a sustainable agricultural export crop. After lunch, we will visit another local Kichwa community where the president of the community will give a briefing about their reforestation work. We will visit several chakras, the Kichwa family gardens; learn about the different native plants, including manioc, guayusa, and cacao; and then help with reforestation work in the community. Later we will receive a presentation on the about the traditional dances and Kichwa culture. Returning to the lodge, we will have dinner and then a guided night hike through the rainforest, when many of the jungle's inhabitants are most active. Day 3
  • The Gran Canyon
    Today we will be an all-day hike into the Mondayacu Gran Canyon, a rigorous, but rewarding hike through impressive jungle to a towering waterfall. A refreshing swim is a nearly mandatory outcome of our adventure. Our local guides will point out all manner of birds and other wildlife along the way. Day 4
  • Caves and Crafts
    After breakfast, we will hike to a series of caves, collecting seeds and plants along the way. After exploring the caves, we'll head back to the lodge for lunch and then walk to a nearby Kichwa community that is part of a Fair Trade alliance. The women in the community manufacture bracelets and other jewelry, which is sold at fair market prices around the world. These local artisans will show us how to make traditional Kichwa jewelry from the seeds and other items we collected during our morning hike. Day 5
  • Misahualli
    After breakfast, we venture to Puerta Misahualli where will take a take a dugout canoe ride to a jungle outpost. There we will learn how to make chocolate from scratch, continue our exploration of Kichwa culture, and see plenty of monkeys frolicking in the trees. Returning back to the lodge, we will stop at the El Arca wildlife rescue center to see some of the large jungle mammals that have been forced out of this part of the Amazon due to deforestation, and which can no longer be seen in the wild. Day 6
  • Kallari
    We'll spend most of the day at Kallari, a chocolate cooperate run by the Kichwa. We'll lean about their entire supply chain, from the cacao that is collected from small family chakras throughout the region, then processed locally into chocolate and exported to the US and Europe. Kallari is n outstanding example of sustainable enterprise. Day 7
  • Rafting
    Tena is one of the world's top destinations for whitewater rafting. We'll spend the day paddling the Class III Rio Jatunyacu, which means 'Big Water' in Quichua. The Jatunyacu tumbles out of the Llanganates National Park in a torrent of big waves punctuated by calm pools, making it a great trip for both beginners and more experienced rafters. After rafting, our group will enjoy a scenic bus ride back to Quito for our final night in Ecuador. Day 8
  • Departure
    Return to the US Day 9
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.