Two weeks ago, UGACR hosted 84 seventh graders from San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, on campus. The middle schoolers attended four days of workshops on sustainability, agriculture, carbon sequestration, and entomology, all taught by our staff, while also enjoying the awesome wildlife on campus. These students were extraordinary- each was trilingual, speaking German, English and Spanish. They also did several hours of community service at the local San Luis school.
These workshops were designed specifically to match Fit4Earth‘s goal of learning by doing. In the sustainability workshop students toured a local coffee farm and created and presented their own sustainability reports. In the carbon sequestration class, they helped in the nursery, filling bags with fresh soil for new seedlings. During their spare time, the students played soccer and basketball on campus or sat on the front porch in rocking chairs, talking.
Fit4Earth workshops are a bit different than our day to day schedule here at UGACR. A typical day involves scheduling student groups of around 15 and leading tourists on our regularly scheduled activities including guided hikes, birding, medicinal garden tours and more. With this group of seventh graders, we completely changed the game to cater to our clientele. We followed a rotation schedule so that each group had no more than 20 students, ensuring each child was able to ask questions and create a conversation with the teacher, rather than a simple lecture based class. We took the students out in to the San Luis community not only to learn, but also to serve.
Fit4Earth was also an opportunity for us to prove we are committed to environmental education. For years now, we have focused our efforts on conservation and ecotourism for small groups, and shifting our efforts to accommodate this number of middle schoolers was certainly a challenge we were happy to accept. This is not the first year we have hosted Fit4Earth, but this was the first time during my time here that we had shifted from ecotourism to environmental education on this scale, and it was incredible. The students had a real interest in the subjects and endless questions and it was a pleasure to help foster their learning about the world around them and strategies they could use to help protect it. You can read what students have had to say about past years’ experience here.
In my last blog post, on Earth Day, I wrote about something that one student said that particularly struck a chord with me. Two weeks after the fact, and it’s still on my mind. During the sustainability class, students were asked how to overcome obstacles that keep them from more sustainable practices like recycling. One student replied, “We have to remember that our actions may only be a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be smaller without it.”
“Out of the mouths of babes oft come gems.” How much good could we accomplish if we all remembered this short saying and applied its meaning to our lives? It makes my head spin to think of the number of times we say, “I’m just one person, what could I do?” and how much could be accomplished if, every time we think this, we remember that our drop is important to the entire ocean.
Fit4Earth is an incredibly special and unique program and I am proud to have both taught and learned with all the students and professors who attended. Like the girl in the sustainability class, all students have something to teach us, if we are only willing to listen.
Blog post and photos by Erin Burnett, UGACR Photojournalism Intern