Students immersed in Costa Rica’s rich culture and biodiversity

West Jefferson Hills School District  |  Posted on

Thomas Jefferson H.S. students visit with students in Costa Rica

The Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ) Spanish department took 16 students and two chaperones on a five-day tour of Costa Rica this summer, visiting the capitol city, San José, and venturing further southwest to the town of Jaco. After the cancellation of TJ’s 2020 trip to Europe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this adventure served as the first international field trip by Thomas Jefferson students in four years and was open to any high school student. Mr. Michael Kilcoyne, a counselor at the high school, led the trip, along with his wife Monica, who teaches at Pleasant Hills Middle School.

In Jaco, students experienced a zipline experience. They learned about some of Costa Rica’s climate and wildlife, and saw their first sloth! They completed 10 different lines that grew in length and took us back to the bottom of the mountain.

After seeing wildlife from a distance as they zipped past, their next stop was a park where they could take a moment to truly take in the beauty. Unlike most of the United States, areas are not populated by a large population of a few species, but rather a small number of hundreds of species. It is part of what makes Costa Rica so renowned for its beauty.

Preservation of this density of biodiversity is a top priority for Costa Rica. For example, if an individual purchases land and there are trees on the property, it is illegal to remove any of them. For the health and protection of these species, and because so much of the country’s revenue comes from tourism, taking care of the abundance of life in the country is taken very seriously. Students were given ways to take care of the world back home, and were encouraged to share what we know and take steps to nurture their own share of the world’s biodiversity.

In the two days, students dined alongside another group from Chicago who also were participating in a tour. They were able to share stories and learn about each other and make new friends. They visited another national park. Once cited as one of the top 12 most beautiful parks in the world by Forbes, Manuel Antonio National Park was a highlight of the trip and contained one of the few beaches people can safely swim in throughout Costa Rica. From there, students went to a local school to deliver supplies they bought for the kids who attend.

On the last night of the trip, we took a ride to the top of the mountains. We had dinner and watched a captivating show of traditional music and dancing.

Overall, it was a memorable learning experience for all of the students!

Adapted from an article by Camryn Dailey, senior, Thomas Jefferson High School