Costa Rica has some of the most remarkable biodiversity in the world. Despite aggressive protection of its natural resources and the promotion of sustainable tourism, the Central American republic still faces major environmental challenges. The 17 juniors on this year’s Global Education trip to Costa Rica explored these challenges as they patrolled the beaches of a nature reserve, learned from local experts, lived with a host family, volunteered at a community school, and visited an organic farm.
Stormy weather added to the excitement of protecting leatherback turtles at Pacuare Nature Reserve. Collaborating with a team of biologists, students took turns walking the beaches in search of new hatchlings and clearing the beach of trash and debris. The dramatic weather was intimidating, but also encouraged the girls to rise to the challenge. “Not being scared, being calm, focusing on the positive, and being comfortable with my surroundings definitely opened my eyes to a new me,” wrote students on the trip blog. “I am stronger than I ever thought…when faced with a challenge, I rose up to it and came out tougher and experienced, ready for anything.”
After their adventure at Pacuare, the group headed to the community of El Paraíso for their homestays. The homestay proved to be particularly meaningful to this group of rising seniors. The trip blog reflected the deep bonds students formed with their host families and their welcoming community. Gabriella Chen explained, “Their hospitality, kindness, positive outlook, and simple lifestyle inspired me to focus less on superficial and materialistic things and more on my family and friends.” Alexandra Berthiaume was similarly moved. “I can truly say that El Paraíso has taught me how to live the rest of my life: with the people I love beside me, with compassion for others, with thankfulness for what I have, and with enjoyment through every moment of the day.” Kelly Krawczyk added, “Despite the language barrier, we have connected and communicated and the loving family has been a highlight of the trip so far.”
While staying in El Paraíso, students visited a farm in and the La Selva Biological Station. At the farm, they helped make organic fertilizer and witnessed organic farming methods firsthand with farm owner Daniel Gutierrez. At La Selva, students sampled local waterways to test the level of pesticide runoff. As Cheyenne Coote explained, the group learned “how families have to balance between providing enough food for their families and farming in such a way in order to protect the wildlife.” Grace Ann Brew drew connections between her AP Environmental Science class and the farm visit. “In APES we learned about the different people involved in solving environmental issues: the scientists (to discover methods), the doers (to implement those methods), the government (to support those methods), and the educators (to advertise those methods to the public),” blogged Grace Ann. “Daniel’s story helped bring to life the role of these different groups of people in solving environmental issues.”
Students also had time for some fun, including rafting on the Sarapiquí River, playing board games, and celebrating birthdays. Trip leaders Mary Quirk and Lara Wulff praised the spirit the group displayed throughout the 15-day journey. “If you want to carpe diem, you have to step out of your comfort zone,” said the chaperones. “This has been one of the key themes of our trip. Being with [the students] here in Costa Rica, in this beautiful, tropical environment—unplugged and focused on the here and now, knowing every moment of this trip is precious—we have watched them rise to this challenge.”