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Students immerse themselves in local culture of Costa Rica

Students from the Pequea Valley, Cocalico, Ephrata and Twin Valley school districts recently traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a nine-day STEM Costa Rica Tropical Ecosystems trip with the WorldStrides program from June 18 to 26.

“Traveling together isn’t just about the places we go; it’s about the experiences we share and the memories we create,” participant Adeynn Yunginger said in a statement.

“To travel is a journey of the soul,” participant Amelia Madrigal said.

“From visiting Costa Rica, the group and I got to experience many new things such as horseback riding, zip lining, hot springs and much more. The trip was a great opportunity to make good friends and memories,” Addie Y. said in a statement.

Overheard at dinner, one participant stated: “I haven’t smiled this much in a very long time.”

The group traveled to San José, Arenal, Monteverde and La Cruz. (Photo courtesy of Betsy Techman, Twin Valley School District)
The group traveled to San José, Arenal, Monteverde and La Cruz. (Photo courtesy of Betsy Techman, Twin Valley School District)

According to the WorldStrides website, the Costa Rica trip takes students on an exploration of tropical ecosystems. Starting in the capital, San José, the group experienced a world of flora and fauna. They viewed bursts of lava at Arenal Volcano, visited a local school, toured a coffee plantation and learned local cooking.

“Students and teachers benefit immensely from and enjoy a trip to Costa Rica where they actively engage in experiential learning rather than merely being passive tourists,” Betsy Techman, English language specialist at Twin Valley, said in a statement.

“By immersing themselves in the local culture of a Spanish-speaking country, they enhance their language skills through authentic interactions with native speakers,” Techman said.

The four districts have a long history of traveling together dating to 1992. The cohort has traveled to Costa Rica every other year since 2012, with the exception of 2020. The students raise funds together, have group meetings to prepare and collect school supplies to take to children in Costa Rica, explained Techman.

Since 2012, Techman has coordinated the trip. Each school has a chaperone; Techman coordinates the planning and serves as lead chaperone for Twin Valley. Other chaperones were Jen Bilby who teaches Spanish and English language learners at Pequea Valley; Ephrata Spanish teacher Lori Warfel; Cocalico Spanish teacher Kate Gomez; Cocalico science teacher Corry Bilby and Twin Valley teacher Ruth Hernandez.

The group traveled to San José, Arenal, Monteverde and La Cruz. They visited Arenal Volcano National Park 1968 Trail, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Santa Elena Biological Reserve, a butterfly garden and ecological farm, Playa Rayadas, Britt Coffee Plantation, Gold Museum, and National Theater of Costa Rica.

The STEM Costa Rica Tropical Ecosystems trip included a tour of Britt Coffee Plantation. (Photo courtesy of Betsy Techman, Twin Valley School District)
The STEM Costa Rica Tropical Ecosystems trip included a tour of Britt Coffee Plantation. (Photo courtesy of Betsy Techman, Twin Valley School District)

“This hands-on approach fosters cultural understanding and sensitivity as they navigate daily life, participate in community activities, and appreciate local traditions firsthand,” Techman said.

“Additionally, students gain a broader perspective on global issues such as environmental conservation and sustainable development by visiting eco-friendly initiatives and exploring Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity,” she continued.

“Such immersive experiences not only deepen their academic knowledge but also cultivate personal growth, resilience, and adaptability in a diverse and interconnected world,” Techman said.

Activities included a canopy zipline tour, horseback riding, cooking class, art class, dance performance class, visit to a hot springs, Palo Verde boat tour, technical school visit with students and San Jose guided sightseeing tour.

“We watched as students and adults overcame fears and shared new experiences together and it was beautiful,” Techman said.

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Participant Abby Tillman signed up for the trip because friends were going and she thought it would be fun to travel with them. She didn’t really know what to expect but decided to give it a try.

“It was truly the best choice I have ever made,” Tillman said. “Not only did I get to spend time with my friends and made memories that will last a lifetime, but I also got to make new friends that I would’ve never had the chance to meet if it weren’t for this trip!”

For anyone who has never been outside of the U.S., Tillman believes going to Costa Rica with the WorldStrides program is a great starting place.

“You personally will not have to worry about making the plans but you get the advantage and opportunity to experience so many new things and seeing a whole different way of living and their culture,” she said. “It was truly life-changing to see a whole different world and make so many new fun memories.”

Tillman recommends students participate in future trips.

“If you have the slightest bit of interest and the availability to go I say just go for it! You only live once and Costa Rica is truly an amazing country,” she said.

Even without friends going, she suggests participating.

“You will make new friends and feel completely safe with the chaperones.”

Tillman concluded: “Having the opportunity to go on this trip is truly a blessing, many people only get to dream of these types of opportunities. Go for it, there is no way you will regret it!”


Source: Berkshire mont

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