Trip to Costa Rica turns teachers into students

  • by crv.staff
  • 29.04.09
  • 3:53 PM UTC

Recently, teachers from Canada had an eye-opening, eco-experience in Costa Rica. They went to see first-hand how environmentally conscious Earth University is there and returned to Canada with ideas for sustainability. Here’s the story:

Originally posted in: April 27 2009 | By Joe Bankscosta-rica-rincon-de-la-vieja

The teachers became the students this past March when 14 public and Catholic high school educators came together to experience, learn about and bring back lessons of sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and geographic wonders from the central American country of Costa Rica.

Both school boards and Algonquin College jointly sponsored the March 9 to 18 trek under the auspices of the college’s See Earth program, an annual Algonquin-coordinated program in its third year. It was created to give teachers a real-life appreciation of concepts of sustainability, eco-tourism and environmentally-friendly ways of everything from generating power from dung to fish farming. Costa Rica, a country which has designated 40 per cent of its lands as national parkland, is considered a world leader in many of these concepts. Further, each teacher participated in a video legacy project that would be used in classrooms as an audio-visual supplement to pass their knowledge onto students.

To do that, the teachers were led on a busy itinerary to visit the 500-student Earth University that specializes in training students from tropical countries, studied bats at the Tirimbina wildlife reserve and took part in UN-sanctioned tree planting on acreage owned by Rios Tropicales, an award-winning resort deep in the country’s rain forest on the famous Pacuare River.

What they saw astonished them. Erika Belletrutti, a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Barrhaven, said the trip made her aware of how lacking in food recycling efforts her own 1,500-population school is. Earth University separates food waste and sends it to feed pigs, which in turn, provide manure for biogeneration.

“Our school doesn’t even recycle coffee cups; apple cores and food waste is just thrown out.”

Others agreed their own students and Canadians in general could learn a lot by copying the living practice of reducing, reusing and recycling so clearly demonstrated by the Costa Ricans they saw.

Gordon Kubinek, a Grade 12 teacher at Brookfield High School and Green party candidate for Nepean-Carleton in the last provincial elections, was impressed with how the country works extremely hard to make the most out of their natural resources, without exhausting its self-sustaining ability.

In fact, he felt Costa Rica showed him how complacent Canadians have become.

“Costa Rica has less of everything and yet they’re doing a better job of protecting their food supply, national park system, tourism, and coffee plantations.”

The government appears to focus on the public good and “they have to ask the question in everything they do.” There is more focus on the public good, without the egalitarianism. There is no military, but a large police force.

“It makes me think that Canada is very backward in many ways.”

Susan Ragaisis, a Grade 7 teacher at Mother Teresa Catholic High School in Barrhaven, found she thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the trip, but especially the individuals she came across.

“These are real people who make a real difference by making choices.”

She was especially impressed with the calibre of the women the delegation had met, including Anna Quiros, an eco-tourism business owner in Pocoro, and Natalia Arias Grillo, an engineer at Earth University who interpreted the demonstration crops there.

“We got to see the effects of the rain forest on the environment, to learn about reforestation through Rafeal (Gallo),” the owner of Rios Tropicales.costa-rica-orchid

In fact, there’s another reason the teacher won’t soon forget the resort; she discovered an Alien Coral Snake under a pile of clothes after emerging from a shower. After making a hasty retreat, the snake – confirmed as poisonous – was removed by lodge staff. But not before spraying venom as it was picked up with a handling rod.

The teacher has a new respect for nature, and expects to bring the message of environmental sustainability into the classroom.

“I want to take it to the next level; I have so much to give them.”

But it won’t only be new lessons and great memories these teachers are expected to share. Prior to the trip, each of them had to select a topic of expertise and report on it from Costa Rica, with their reports videotaped as part of a legacy project co-ordinated by Algonquin’s Learning and Teaching centre. Further, each is obligated to give up a week of the summer vacation to extend a local version of the See Earth program to summer school students.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

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