Despite the fact that Latin-American countries present ideal environments to train young scientists, most of these countries lack local scientific capacity. Here I describe the design and implementation of an undergraduate-level blended course on paleontology. The course was taught in 2012 to 10 biology majors from the University of Panama and it had three main foci: (1) a design grounded in a theoretical framework that supports meaningful learning; (2) the application of concepts and skills to the region where the students live, making the learning experience relevant and authentic; and (3) a strong research and science-communication component that allowed students to experience real-life situations (i.e. those commonly faced by scientists throughout their careers). These components contributed synergistically to engage students with paleontology, a field not formally taught in their country. This work can be applied to different disciplines in science and to different levels in students’ scientific training.