Fish

Friday, June 10, 2011

Escuela Creativa
The Cloud Forest School was like no other school I have ever seen! When we pulled up the mountain and got out, this so called “school” looked like a beautiful summer camp. It was on top of one of the many green mountains here in Monteverde and it overlooked the mountain range. We were greeted by the Sobria, who organized groups coming to visit this incredible school. There were different buildings that made up the school all separated by trails and grass. There was an immediate trusting atmosphere when we were told we could leave our book bags on the picnic table outside the office.

We took a tour around and I was amazed to see how “green” this school really was. Each grade had a row of plants and when the fruits that are grown are ripe, everyone picks the fruit and takes a plant home to continue growing at their own homes. The goal, we were told, is to teach the students how to be self sufficient and be able to live off the land. They even make their own compost with the food that they would normally throw away. There were windmills and solar panels as well that did not work all the time because of their rainy season but it helps the school during their summer season.
The greenhouse we were shown by Eduardo, the man that was in charge of the landscaping, was unbelievable. Eduardo told us that they teach the students how important indigenous plants are to the environment and every plant that was in the greenhouse was native to Costa Rica. As we walked around the campus some trees had book-like laminated pages with information on them and we were told when a new plant is added, the students are responsible for updating these books and adding new pages. The school even had trails that ranged from a five minute walk to a 6 hour hike to the top of Monteverde.


The Greenhouse

The inside of the classrooms were even intriguing. It was exactly what my “dream classroom” would look like. There were many colors, pictures and artwork all over the room. There were even things hanging from the ceiling! I loved all the student’s artwork that was decorated the walls of all the entire school. When we peeked in some classes, the teachers were teaching in English. My 12 year old hermano tico, Daibe, attends the Cloud Forest School and when I talk to him at home it is not like talking to a normal middle school aged student. There was no negative intonation in his voice about the school and when I asked him if he goes on a lot of hikes he responded “yes!” The classes that aren’t even related to science are sometimes spent outside in one of the school’s two kiosks. They have mini courses that include yoga, meditation, gardening (Eduardo is the instructor) and others.
This school has so many features that are beneficial to the students and the community around them. First off, they are teaching the students to be environmentally friendly by little things like making organic compost and planting new trees to help with the reforestation. This will benefit them the rest of their lives and it is something they can share with others. Continuing with my hope to build a community-based classroom, I want to incorporate this environmentally conscious mindset. It not only is good for the person that is giving back to the earth but for everyone in the world!  The colorfulness of the classrooms is another aspect I plan on incorporating in my classroom. Learning in an aesthetically pleasing environment is much more enjoyable than a dull boring classroom. Having the students decorate rooms and hallways with their own creations will also make the students feel like they are proud of their work because it will be displayed. Doing unexpected lessons like taking short walks and using the resources around me wherever I end up teaching will make all the difference in my plans because the students will be engaged. It is almost like a trick to get the students to learn. If you can disguise something as looking like a game or going to see a really interesting animal while teaching, the students will learn without realizing it!


My Dream Classroom

After knowing that it was a private school, I figured that only the “richer” students of Costa Rica was able to afford this dream-like school. I was surprised when we were told that the majority of the school is not only Ticos but are able to attend the Escuela Creativa because of scholarships and a few sponsorships. Sobria even told us that if a student wants to attend, they will find a way to make it happen. The diversity in the school is another beneficial feature of the Cloud Forest School. They are preparing their students to be global citizens by accepting many exchange students and the local Ticos as well. Some are richer than others and some come from different countries but they are all a part of making the earth a better place and that is so important for the youth of today. It demonstrates how making the earth a greener planet does not just affect the country you might live in, but every country and ocean on the planet.
Visiting this school also opened my eyes to different options that I have in school or after I graduate. Sobria explained to us that there are many people that come to teach there from the United States either as interns or as first or second year teachers. UNCW does not allow internships abroad except Belize, Kuwait and South Africa. Maybe that will change but even if it doesn’t, being able to teach their as a rookie teacher would take what I have learned and discovered in the past three and a half weeks and build on it making me a much better teacher.


6th grade service project for the school: rebuliding the tree house

The Cloud Forest School was like nothing I have ever seen before or even heard about. They are doing such great things at this school and if I am not able to go back and teach there, I at least want to go back and visit and help send funds to allow the children that want to be a part of what is happening there the chance and opportunity to be.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Escuela Creativa
The Cloud Forest School was like no other school I have ever seen! When we pulled up the mountain and got out, this so called “school” looked like a beautiful summer camp. It was on top of one of the many green mountains here in Monteverde and it overlooked the mountain range. We were greeted by the Sobria, who organized groups coming to visit this incredible school. There were different buildings that made up the school all separated by trails and grass. There was an immediate trusting atmosphere when we were told we could leave our book bags on the picnic table outside the office.
We took a tour around and I was amazed to see how “green” this school really was. Each grade had a row of plants and when the fruits that are grown are ripe, everyone picks the fruit and takes a plant home to continue growing at their own homes. The goal, we were told, is to teach the students how to be self sufficient and be able to live off the land. They even make their own compost with the food that they would normally throw away. There were windmills and solar panels as well that did not work all the time because of their rainy season but it helps the school during their summer season.
The greenhouse we were shown by Eduardo, the man that was in charge of the landscaping, was unbelievable. Eduardo told us that they teach the students how important indigenous plants are to the environment and every plant that was in the greenhouse was native to Costa Rica. As we walked around the campus some trees had book-like laminated pages with information on them and we were told when a new plant is added, the students are responsible for updating these books and adding new pages. The school even had trails that ranged from a five minute walk to a 6 hour hike to the top of Monteverde.
The inside of the classrooms were even intriguing. It was exactly what my “dream classroom” would look like. There were many colors, pictures and artwork all over the room. There were even things hanging from the ceiling! I loved all the student’s artwork that was decorated the walls of all the entire school. When we peeked in some classes, the teachers were teaching in English. My 12 year old hermano tico, Daibe, attends the Cloud Forest School and when I talk to him at home it is not like talking to a normal middle school aged student. There was no negative intonation in his voice about the school and when I asked him if he goes on a lot of hikes he responded “yes!” The classes that aren’t even related to science are sometimes spent outside in one of the school’s two kiosks. They have mini courses that include yoga, meditation, gardening (Eduardo is the instructor) and others.
This school has so many features that are beneficial to the students and the community around them. First off, they are teaching the students to be environmentally friendly by little things like making organic compost and planting new trees to help with the reforestation. This will benefit them the rest of their lives and it is something they can share with others. Continuing with my hope to build a community-based classroom, I want to incorporate this environmentally conscious mindset. It not only is good for the person that is giving back to the earth but for everyone in the world!  The colorfulness of the classrooms is another aspect I plan on incorporating in my classroom. Learning in an aesthetically pleasing environment is much more enjoyable than a dull boring classroom. Having the students decorate rooms and hallways with their own creations will also make the students feel like they are proud of their work because it will be displayed. Doing unexpected lessons like taking short walks and using the resources around me wherever I end up teaching will make all the difference in my plans because the students will be engaged. It is almost like a trick to get the students to learn. If you can disguise something as looking like a game or going to see a really interesting animal while teaching, the students will learn without realizing it!
After knowing that it was a private school, I figured that only the “richer” students of Costa Rica was able to afford this dream-like school. I was surprised when we were told that the majority of the school is not only Ticos but are able to attend the Escuela Creativa because of scholarships and a few sponsorships. Sobria even told us that if a student wants to attend, they will find a way to make it happen. The diversity in the school is another beneficial feature of the Cloud Forest School. They are preparing their students to be global citizens by accepting many exchange students and the local Ticos as well. Some are richer than others and some come from different countries but they are all a part of making the earth a better place and that is so important for the youth of today. It demonstrates how making the earth a greener planet does not just affect the country you might live in, but every country and ocean on the planet.
Visiting this school also opened my eyes to different options that I have in school or after I graduate. Sobria explained to us that there are many people that come to teach there from the United States either as interns or as first or second year teachers. UNCW does not allow internships abroad except Belize, Kuwait and South Africa. Maybe that will change but even if it doesn’t, being able to teach their as a rookie teacher would take what I have learned and discovered in the past three and a half weeks and build on it making me a much better teacher.
The Cloud Forest School was like nothing I have ever seen before or even heard about. They are doing such great things at this school and if I am not able to go back and teach there, I at least want to go back and visit and help send funds to allow the children that want to be a part of what is happening there the chance and opportunity to be.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Costa Rican Community Culture


The elementary school we went into a few times, Santa Elena Elementary, was a much different experience than any field work I have done in Wilmington, NC.  The schools were very open and the children, especially before class and during break had a lot of freedom.  Both of the schools we went to in Heredia and the Santa Elena School in Monteverde were obviously allowed to incorporate their country’s religion into the school day. In the school in Heredia, there were a few statues of the Virgin Mary and in class, I was able to see a class in prayer.
Iglesia and the community soccer field

Comparing this to the United States where religion is kept separate from the school, the culture of Costa Rica is apparent inside the school walls. For break, the children “run wild” but there is a certain level of trust that is involved.  When I went to Rachel Freeman Elementary for instance, they could not go anywhere without adult supervision. Also, not just the first school we went to but every school we have had an opportunity to go into, the students are much more interested and engaged in the lessons we taught. At first, I thought they were only interested in us because we were “gringos” and were new to them. After observations of their everyday normal classes, I realized that the students pay attention to their normal teacher! When I started thinking about why the students seem much more attentive in class, even though they are somewhat wild when they have their free time, I thought about my first home stay in Heredia and how the family has a large impact on their child’s education. My first Mama Tica, Ana Victoria, was constantly telling her 10 year old daughter to “estudia, estudia!”
Our first week here we were told that there are four very important aspects of the Costa Rican culture: schools, churches, soccer and bars. While the bars do not seem to fit in with the other three, the culture is everywhere! The church is right next to the soccer field and the soccer field is right next to the school. Families walk as a group to and from school. The importance of family was reiterated for me again when I saw all the little children walking hand in hand with their father, mother, grandmother or any other family member. The people here are not worried about hurrying to get home to watch a television show or play Xbox 360, they spend their time talking with their families or with family friends. Both my familia ticos houses were very open and the relatives and friends of the family just walked through the door without knocking or calling beforehand. It is not a rude behavior at all, it’s just very welcoming. It makes me think about the future, not just as a teacher, but one day when I have my own house, I want it to be a warm and welcoming environment. People in the United States seem to be a little more closed off than the people of Latin American countries. For example, I am very close with my nuclear family but not quite as close with my extended family as the Ticos here in Costa Rica are.


Children playing futbol after school while the adults and teenagers enjoy the day

I have noticed my host family is not as protective of their children as well. One friend of the family has a 18 day old beautiful baby girl, Abril, and she was handed over to me to hold while the mother danced in the kitchen with my 12 year old hermano tico. You can see how much the families love each other but they do not “baby” their children. The children are very independent but at the same time, they are always connected with their parents, brothers, aunts…etc. For instance, the 12 year old that I am living with, Daive, walks around to other people’s houses alone at night but he is usually visiting family friends or relatives. It is interesting to see that even the young children and most surprisingly to me, the teenagers partake in this family-oriented lifestyle. The two teenagers I am living with now both act very much like regular teenagers but every night they are a part of the family and enjoy spending time with them. Teenagers in the United States however, seem to not want to be in their home and the parents expect that. I grew up eating dinner with my family every night and it was “weird” if I didn’t while on the other hand, I had friends that thought it was weird to eat with their family!
I will use what I have seen in these families’ homes by incorporating it in my classroom. After one class, we talked about ways to seeing the strengths of future students that are English Language Learners and use their strengths to benefit our classes one day. One method I plan on using that was discussed in the class is having the students write. This includes giving them the freedom to write personal accounts and stories that they want to talk about. This will really bring all the students together and form the Costa Rican community I hope to have in my classroom.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

 ¡No Habla Español!


After studying Spanish for two weeks at CPI, I have learned a lot about the language. On the other hand, it has made me realize how much more I need to learn to really know the language and be able to hold a substantial conversation. I quickly realized that is going to take more than the three and one half weeks I am here in Costa Rica. After thinking about this week and last week, I really understand how it feels to be a learner in a place that does not speak my language. I realized this after talking at dinner how I feel like my Tico family either thinks I am stupid or rude because sometimes I just have no idea what they are saying. It makes me frustrated sometimes because I want to say something so bad but I just cannot form the words in their language.

CPI in Heredia
 Since the class I am taking is only a Spanish class, I am not in a Spanish social studies or a Spanish mathematics class. If I think the Spanish teacher speaking in Spanish is difficult to understand when he is teaching only the language, I cannot fathom how difficult it would be to comprehend a lesson about algebraic word problems or what happened in the Korean war in a foreign language. This experience has really opened up something that I have never actually experienced first hand. I feel like I give so much more credit to the students in my high school that were not fluent in English but were taking all the same classes as me and passing them. Looking back, I know exactly how they feel when they might have put their head on the table or skipped a day in class every now and again because listening to a foreign language for hours at a time is exhausting! I have never felt as tired as I have on this trip! The beautiful hikes and the local shopping are not the activities that have made me as tired as I am; it is the Spanish classes and going home to an (almost) entirely Spanish speaking household. I just want to communicate and sometimes the only word I can get out is "sí." I have gotten better but there are times where I want to say much more than I do and I simply cannot.




Teaching at Santa Elena Elementary School

I cannot describe how this has changed my view on ESL students. I have always thought it must be tough to not be able to speak English in an English speaking classroom, but experiencing it is totally different. I never want to be the teacher that gives up trying to teach something to the students of the classroom that do not understand English. Especially after going into the schools here in Costa Rica not being able to speak their language well, I realize how much I can teach if I really try to make them understand. By teaching such hands on lessons with objects they already knew, they were much more interested than if I was to only speak to them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

La Carpio


This public Costa Rican school was not the fanciest school nor was it the highest tech school I had ever seen but when we visited La Carpio, Costa Rica, the school in San Joaquin looked like heaven in a school form. When when the bus pulled up to La Carpio, the change of the neighborhood was apparent. The normal houses in Costa Rica are not huge and they are usually connected to the house next door but they are made with cinderblocks or other “normal” housing materials. La Carpio, however, looked more like a shanty town neighborhood. The smell of garbage was everywhere including the Montessori school we went into. The children were so happy one would never suspect they probably came from such poor living conditions. Of course they melted all of our hearts when each student was told to pick an “amigo.” The little girl that chose me had a head full of black ringlets and she had the brightest smile. We played a guessing game, dressed paper dolls and afterward, she “cooked” me lunch. A little boy would wonder around and after only a few seconds it was obvious he was a special needs student. He constantly wanted to be holding someone’s hand.




           
 In both schools we went into, it was interesting to compare their method for teaching the special needs students. In San Joaquin, the special needs students were not integrated into the regular classrooms but they also were not separated by need or by grade. All students with a special needs were integrated together. In La Carpio, the special needs students were integrated into the regular classroom. Even though neither of these situations was probably chosen, it is fascinating to see how the children react. Students from both schools handled the situation well, and while I was there, I didn’t notice any frustration or distraction towards the special needs students. I think this has a lot to do with the culture of this country. The people here are generally not selfish and they are willing to help each other out. A fellow student made a good point when she said that none of the students, when cleaning up, thought about whether they had made the mess they were cleaning up, they just cleaned it. It is so community oriented that most students, unlike a lot of students from the United States, do not even consider not cleaning up something because they didn’t make the mess. When I have my own classroom, I want to incorporate the community that a lot of the Costa Rican schools have. It makes the classroom a more pleasant environment and also saves a lot of time when students are not arguing about who is going to clean up what.




Going to La Carpio really gave me a firsthand account of something I have heard about on the radio, seen on television and even discussed in my education classes. Seeing a town/neighborhood as impoverished as this one gave me something that no classroom discussion could ever give me. With a teacher perspective in mind, I wonder how any of the children coming from a community like this can ever focus on something as trivial as homework or how would they remember they have a quiz the next day when they are worried about getting food for their baby brother or sister. It really blew my mind. I really saw how much I take for granted living in the United States when I saw the living conditions of the people of La Carpio. At the same time I believe this, I also see that these children are extremely capable. These children were doing things that every typical child does. Pity should not be given to these children, but instead, high expectations. These are the children that need the expectations the most so they will have the motivation to change themselves for the better.


           
Gail, the women in charge and the leader of the Montessori school was probably the most courageous person I have ever seen. Her faith in education and making people’s lives better was unbelievable and her story was so amazing I don’t think words could do it justice. I loved how her heart went out to the people of this area but she did not baby these people. She wanted to help them and she is definitely turning things around. She was a great model for a teacher teaching to studnets in lower economic statuses. Her expectations were not low but she was realistic on what could and should be done. I want to get to know my future studnets to know where they come from so I can give what I can to better the students' education and life to the best of my ability.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

En la Escuela!


The past few days we finally got to go into the schools in San Joaquin. I was really nervous because I know only a little Spanish and the children in the schools know only a little English. I was worried the lesson plans we had prepared were not going to make sense to the students, mainly because of the language barrier. To my surprise, the children received the lessons very well. They were more attentive to any other students I have tutored and some of the groups I had, had six students in them. It could have been because we were something new they were not used to and they felt like they had to listen but the way they acted seemed like they genuinely were interested in learning.








The first day we went into a school, we had prepared a lesson involving leaves and were planning on using them for categorization, detailed observation and as an English lesson. The other lesson plan was a letter writing activity. We had letters from the United States to give to the students and we had planned on teaching them the parts of a letter so they could construct their own letters to send back to their new pen pals. When we arrived at the school, we were told the plans had been changed and we were to go into a preschool-kindergarten aged class where we would be only interacting with the students without our lesson plans. While one group did that, the other group would be in a special needs classroom. We swapped after about forty minutes. This sudden change in our plans demonstrated how a teacher should always have a backup plan and be able to think quick in order to adapt to the changes that are inevitable in a school, no matter the country the school is in.


The second day we were in the school, we got to utilize the lessons we had created. One classroom did the leaf activity where every “student teacher” had their own group of about six or seven and would talk about the similarities and differences in the leaves using Spanish and English. Some students knew some words in English and others knew none. This proved to be difficult at the beginning because I had to think how I could help the ones who knew no English while at the same time challenging those that did know what I was saying. That is where the English-Spanish dictionary comes in handy! Overall, the lesson went really well, thanks to the awesome students we had that stayed engaged throughout the entire lesson.


When we swapped classes again, we did the letter writing activity. Instead of small groups, we did a classroom lesson and the five of us college students would walk around and help those in need of assistance. Their English was not very good, but it was obvious they wanted to learn. Some of the sentences they constructed were a little bit broken but they only get about forty minutes of English a day.






The parents of the students found out we were coming into the school to help teach English and some of the mothers made baked goods for us as a snack and a thank you. It was interesting to see the Costa Rican culture’s influence on the school and how it differed from United State’s schools. One day we had homemade tortillas and a soft cheese and the next day the mother’s made us some kind of sweet bread and cass juice to drink.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Waterfalls, Hummingbirds and Earthquakes


Our first full day here in Heredia was pretty unbelievable. When we first arrived yesterday, we got to experience our first earthquake, which wasn't very noticeable, but we saw the effects when we traved to the waterfall garden today. Our guide, Javier, pointed out that what was green vegetation the day before was replaced by red dirt from the earthquake on the side of the roads. When we arrived at the gardens everything was muy bonita. Some of the plants we saw were "poor man's umbrella," orchids, Queen of the Night and so much more I could not keep up with all the different names.



My favorite, the orchid!

I was so excited when we stepped into the bird section that housed all the toucans. They were so colorful and would dive down at our heads every now and then. Other birds I saw were hummingbirds feeding out of their feeders and buzzing by us. Monkeys were next to greet us and our guide informed us they weren't very friendly. The animal I was anticipating the most wasn't the big cats like the jaguar or pumas or even the boa constrictors or other snakes, but instead, it was the sloth. They were so cute I wanted to pet them but they were snoozing.


Me holding a newly hatched butterfly!

Everyone I have seen here has been so happy and friendly to me that I am pretty excited about meeting my host family tommorrow. Trying to speak the little amount of Spanish I know has proven to be difficult but it is really entertaining. Yesterday in the farmers market, me and another girl were almost playing charades to the coconut venders when we tried to ask them a question. Every Tico around tried to get involved with our "game" to help us out. It even introduced a wonderful photograph experience with an elderly but fiesty old man. The bakery we went to next smelled like heaven. I have never seen doughnuts as huge as the doughnuts in this bakery. They were about double the size of Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts.



Farmer's Market (May 13)



I can't really think of any words to bring justice to what the waterfalls looked like in La Paz. The closest word is breathtaking. I am in love with this land. The vegetation is so green and beautiful that every aspect of the entire hike was picture worthy!

Muy Bonita!

Tommorrow we will be going to the volcano Poas to peer inside it from the top. I can already tell the next few weeks I am here are going to be packed full and long, but the experiences I have already gotten in only one and a half days are worth the early mornings. After all, Costa Rican coffee is world famous. =)