A Simple, Lasting Impact: An Educator’s Trip to Costa Rica

Any student can learn in the classroom, but experiential learning is what makes education truly meaningful for kids.

Through hands-on investigation and travel, students see how concepts from class play out in the real world and gain a deeper understanding of their role in a global community.

As an educator at Fredericksburg Academy, I am privileged to be able to share these experiences with my students through our annual No Barriers Youth program to Costa Rica, inspiring the next generation of responsible global citizens. This past year’s trip was particularly meaningful in driving home the concept of how individual actions have a profound global impact.

CostaRica1Case in point: After a morning of service work in San Jose, students traveled to the Pacific to explore coastal ecosystems. Upon arriving at the beach, they witnessed a shocking phenomenon — an entire shoreline covered in plastic waste. Bottles, toys, straws, and other plastic debris covered nearly 90 percent of the beach’s surface.

Students first assumed that the waste was put there by locals, but through critical investigation with our trip leader they were able to make the connection between waste and watersheds. Trash from cities and villages upstream trickled down to the shore, and debris from other countries arrived at the beach from global oceanic currents. In fact, some of the trash could have arrived from the U.S. — washing into the ocean from American streams and arriving in Costa Rica on the Pacific current.

Witnessing the plastic beach firsthand, and investigating its source, drove home the concept of how local actions like littering can lead to global issues like plastic pollution.

Similarly, students experienced how small actions can have a profound influence on people. In both La Carpio and La Fortuna, students worked closely with impoverished and orphaned children, playing games and reading Spanish/English books. While many take for granted access to play and reading materials in our country, for many children around the world these things are hard to come by.

Working with Gayle from the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, students learned about the cycle of poverty and how government policies and social structures impact individuals. The actions of a minority, such as dictatorial governments in a third-world country, can have profound impacts on the majority. Many of Costa Rica’s poor are immigrants from Nicaragua, where the minority has much and the majority, little. The actions of few dictate the livelihood of many.

Upon arriving back on campus in Fredericksburg, students put their knowledge of how individual actions have a profound global impact to work. Collaborating with our Lower School librarian, students created an informational video and poster to raise awareness of poverty in La Carpio and La Fortuna.

During our annual Spring Book Fair, the students shared their travel experiences with our families and collected donations to purchase Spanish language books. These books will be brought down to families in Costa Rica during next year’s trip, providing much-needed educational materials for children in La Carpio and La Fortuna. A simple project, donating books, can have a lasting impact on our global community.