CRAWFORD COUNTY - On June 13, 39 students and staff from North Crawford, Wauzeka-Steuben and Seneca schools traveled to Costa Rica.
They drove through the night to arrive in Chicago for a 5:30 a.m. flight, and when they landed in San José at noon, they hit the ground running.
The group started with a walking tour of the downtown area of San José, the country’s capital, including the National Theater, the Central Market, and the National Museum. They also enjoyed a meal of “casado,” Costa Rica’s typical dish, consisting of meat, rice, beans, salad and plantains.
On the second day, they visited Doka Estate and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. At Doka, they toured a coffee plantation and learned how coffee is grown and processed. They even got to try their hand at flipping the coffee beans that were drying in the sun, and of course, they got to sample coffee.
At La Paz, which is an animal reserve and waterfall park, students saw animals native to Costa Rica including toucans, monkeys, sloths, jaguars, poison dart frogs, and a butterfly garden. After seeing the animals, the group hiked to see the park’s five waterfalls.
“The waterfalls were breathtaking,” said Gracie Babb of North Crawford. “What I really enjoyed about them was the fact that we had to hike to see them. They were secluded in rain forest, which made them even more beautiful.”
On the third day, the group traveled to the Irazú volcano and they were lucky enough to see the volcano’s crater before the clouds came in. The elevation of the volcano is around 12,000 feet, and the students were surprised by how cold it was! After leaving the volcano the group made the three-hour trip to the Sarapiquí area, which has a very tropical climate.
In Sarapiquí they stayed at Selva Verde Lodge, which consists of small cabins in the jungle along the Sarapiquí River. This is the area that brought the students out of their comfort zone the most.
“We survived with lizards in our rooms and no wi-fi in the middle of the rainforest,” said Grace Corlis of North Crawford.
While in the Sarapiquí area students helped plant almond trees for a local farmer. The almond trees are meant to help bring back and support the Macaw population in the area. After their hard work, students enjoyed a tour of the farm and were treated to fruit and popsicles with the farmer’s grandchildren. The students loved interacting with the children and trying to use their Spanish to talk to them.
“Planting trees was a lot of work, especially in the hot Costa Rican sun,” said Trent McCullick of Wauzeka-Steuben. “But it was worth it. We helped save habitats and our environment. What’s more rewarding than that?”
“It was a great experience where we got to see more of the jungle along with meeting the landowner and his grandkids,” Haley Atkinson added.
Also in Sarapiquí the group enjoyed a tour of a chocolate plantation where they learned the history of chocolate and sampled each step of its history, starting with the bitter cocoa bean that was used as a “coin” by native people, to “the drink of the Gods” that was offered to the Spaniards when they first arrived, and finally, chocolate as we know it today.
After enjoying a tour of an organic pineapple farm, the group returned to San José for one night before traveling to the western side of the country to the Jacó area. On the way there, the group stopped for a zip lining opportunity near the Tárcoles River. While zip lining they saw a lot of wildlife, including snakes, iguanas, macaws and crocodiles!
The highlight of the trip for most students was a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. The park is located on the Pacific Ocean and requires a hike through the jungle before arriving at the beautiful beach. Students were surprised by the friendly and curious monkeys who are not afraid to steal from humans! Faith Morga learned this lesson the hard way when a monkey walked up to her and stole her lunch out of her hand!
“Being in a different country really opened my eyes that there is more than just the small corner of the world we live in,” Faith said. “I really enjoyed all the activities, except for when a monkey stole my lunch. I really enjoyed the zip lining and the chocolate tour. The trip was an amazing experience.”
Jessica Wick is the North Crawford School District Spanish teacher.