Eleven Carlthorp School 5th Grade students experienced “Pura Vida” on a summer adventure to Costa Rica from August 12-21, 2019. The ten day trip led by Carlthorp School teachers Claudia Zurek (Director of Spanish Education) and Loch Gallagher (Director of Innovation and Special Programs) allowed students to experience total immersion in the culture of Costa Rica through exploration of the rainforest, cloud forest, beaches, rivers and both the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans of the country. Students honed their Spanish-speaking skills by participating in real-world scenarios such as hiking, white water rafting down the Sarapiqui River, zip-lining, surfing, salsa lessons, organic farming, playing with their native Costa Rican peers, and so much more.
This is the third year Carlthorp School has offered this experiential education trip that provides cultural immersion opportunities aimed at maximizing each student’s personal growth with the goal of empowering students to gain a greater perspective on our world. The experience creates an environment that promotes a strong sense of teamwork and group awareness, yet recognizes the importance of leadership and individual success. Living side by side in small groups, Carlthorp’s student participants learn just as much about themselves and others as the places they visit.
The students journaled throughout the trip and shared their thoughts with their parents and the greater community. Excerpts from the journal entries paint a colorful picture of this magical trip.
Journal Entry 1: Dear Parents, we are in Costa Rica! We are having so much fun, and we are completely safe. After a very long day and night of travel, we woke up to the pleasing sounds of nature. In the morning we got up and headed down to breakfast. We tried new foods by exploring the local cuisine. During orientation, we discussed being out of our comfort zone and made a verbal agreement to follow the program rules and the Code Of Conduct.
You parents should be very proud of your kids because where we went to zipline was no kiddie zipline. People were nervous but everyone did great and went on all of the six ziplines stretching over the entire cloud forest valley. All the kids were over five-hundred feet above the ground. The wind and clouds around us stung our faces. The final zipline was almost a minute long! When we went back to the hotel we all went into the warm hot springs and played around in the pool before dinner.
After dinner, we all went back to our rooms and started to get ready for bed. Tomorrow our next challenge: WHITE WATER RAFTING!!!
Journal Entry 2: It was raining hard when we arrived (to white water rafting) but we barely noticed as we sped through the rapids that felt like they had come straight out of an amusement park ride. There were also calmer parts of the river where we could even get out of the raft and float lazily. Even more amazingly, we were able to spot many animals including two sloths, a few frogs, and even tiny bats hanging upside-down on the dark side of a tree. After wrapping up our rafting experience, we changed into dry clothes and re-boarded the bus. Our group then rode down to a local restaurant where we enjoyed a pleasant meal.
Journal Entry 3: Today was another very “fun” day as we ate our way through La Fortuna. We started the day with a morning meeting, where we shared our quote, word, phrase, and goal for the day. We also had a quick dance party where we danced to the song of the day, “The Git Up.” After morning meeting, we had a delicious breakfast prepared by the hotel staff. It included pancakes, eggs, plantains, and many other yummy foods. We then left breakfast to pack for our next adventure.
After a short drive we arrived at a local farm. At the finca we saw many animals, crops, and trees. We even got to try some different foods! We munched on cacao beans, sugar cane, star fruit, and many other sweet treats along with some sour ones. After we visited the farm, we enjoyed a delicious organic meal from resources created right there at the finca.
Journal Entry 4: Halfway through our adventure in Costa Rica continues, and we have continued to experience the culture and wildlife of a lush environment. Our morning started off with seeing a sloth on the side of the road. In a place like Costa Rica, wildlife is everywhere. We learned about the differences between two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths and also learned that sloths can swim! On our Hanging Bridges tour, we learned about the rainforest. Our guide taught us about plants, history, and the ecosystem. We saw frogs, snakes, lizards, and more. Lunch was at the hike site. We practiced our Spanish skills ordering from our waiter and were rewarded with a delicious meal. After lunch, energy levels were a little lower from our super active morning. Still, we kept a positive attitude and pulled through, excited by our next hiking adventure! We went on a hike that took us to a site where magma from a volcano had come during its prior eruption. The view was amazing. Positive attitude for the win! After a long day of hiking, we went to the hot springs to take a break. There was a water slide, and we had a good time on it. We returned to the hotel, and rested for an hour. Dinner was in town. We again got to practice our speaking skills ordering food; then we also went to the local ice cream shop and had a sweet treat. Now we're winding down, getting ready for a long bus drive to the beach tomorrow. Who knows what new things we'll learn or see in the next half of our trip?