A local guide’s perspective
If you are a Spanish teacher looking to travel with your students not only to improve their Spanish skills but also participate in service learning projects, Costa Rica offers plenty of opportunities for your high school and middle school students.
Our Costa Rican Forum Tour Manager, Rafael, recommends these four volunteer sites as the best places to inspire your students to live sustainably, protect the environment, and engage in their own local communities as future leaders and agents of change:
1. Reforestation Program – Sarapiquí Conservation Center
Despite 25% of Costa Rica’s land mass consisting of protected rainforest, deforestation is a looming threat. Students participate in Sarapiqui’s service project in the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor to reestablish biological connectivity and refurbish the habitats of the country’s 500,000 species.
Student volunteers assist in planting native trees in local farms, maintaining the center’s greenhouse, and collecting seeds and saplings of endangered plant species.
The lush environment enables students to disconnect from the modern world (limited transportation- accessed only by foot or on horseback), learn about sustainable food systems, and utilize their Spanish.
2. Sea Turtle Conservation – Proyecto Pacuare
On a remote, tropical beach on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast lies one of the country’s largest sea turtle nesting sites.
It is no coincidence that this beach is a part of the national park called Tortuguero. Despite efforts to protect them, sea turtles in this area have been at risk for illegal egg poaching, hunting, pollution, and beach erosion.
At Proyecto Pacuare, student volunteers help prevent sea turtles from vanishing by preserving the sea turtle’s natural habitat through beach maintenance, ensuring the sand is perfect for nesting.
The remote location also allows students to get away from their phones and embrace nature – there are no grocery stores, roads, internet, or cell service in this part of the beach.
3. Wildlife Volunteering with NATUWA Sanctuary
A great project for animal lovers is volunteering with NATUWA, a sanctuary that provides shelter and protection for endangered wildlife including macaws, ocelots, sloths, monkeys and jaguars.
Students learn how to care for an animal in a way that will allow it to survive in its natural habitat.
Volunteer tasks include maintenance work on enclosures, feeding animals and baby animals (featuring baby sloths!), planting trees, and participating in the environmental enrichment of animals.
4. Community Service in a rural school
Getting involved in a service project in a local community provides a meaningful experience that enables students to expand their cultural knowledge and language skills.
Our Costa Rica Team works closely with local community service projects that focus on supporting local schools.
Student volunteers participate in painting schools, working jointly with others in the construction of a new classroom, or helping with the general maintenance of a rural school.
If you are traveling to Costa Rica in 2020 or plan to travel soon with high school students, speak with your Program Adviser about the best service-learning opportunities to add to your itinerary.