Costa Rica 2015: Day 6- Beach and San Jose

Our time in Dominical has come to an end. We say goodbye to our time down south with the morning at the beach before heading north to San Jose for tomorrow’s flight. Here’s a video with some testimonials from the students about their experiences:

From here we traveled back up to San Jose to stay at a hostel near the airport. No pool, no pool table, no dart board meant just some basic fun together: cards and circles of boys and girls chatting and hanging out- not even missing the fact they’d now been close to a week without cell phones!

Costa Rica 2015: Day 5- Turtles and Rafts

Our last full day and we split the group into two sections to rotate from river rafting and helping at Hacienda Barú’s turtle habitat preserve. Although not turtle season, we helped dig up the nursery, a large raised area of the property a short distance from the beach. This involved turning the sand so that that sun could clean off any bacteria left from the previous hatching. While some dug up the nursery, others added fresh coats of paint to signs while a third group cleaned up trash along the shore so as to prevent the returning turtles from ingesting items which could jeopardize their health. The efforts of the preserve increase the chances of the hatchlings’ survival from 1 in 500 to 15 in 500. Even with no direct contact with the turtles or the turtle eggs, our work was instrumental in helping give the turtles a chance at survival. Here’s an article from Hacienda Barú’s website about their work.


Here’s a clip about the work we did:

While digging in the turtle nursery, we found an iguana nest. It was odd to feel the leathery texture of the eggs and we were all surprised by the flexibility of the eggs as we squeezed them slightly and felt their give, very different from the hard shell of other eggs.


After the turtle preserve we went river rafting. Although the river was not as full as some wished, it did provide enough rapids to get everyone wet and made for some great photo opportunities.





And a video montage from my raft:

Tomorrow is our last day in Dominical. We’ll spend the morning at the beach before hoping on the bus and making our way back up north to San Jose to spend the night. Oh, and cell phones? I don’t think they’ve been missed!

Costa Rica 2015: Day 4- Last Rotation and Talent Show night

The last of our three day group rotations today saw us headed to Hacienda Baru, , a short drive from our compound. This is an amazing place with a dynamic history typical of this country. The owner, Jack Ewing, author of Mokeys Are Made of Chocolate, greeted our group and explained a bit of the history of his 830 acre wildlife preserve. Hacienda Barú started 30 years ago as rice fields and cattle pasture. Jack shared about his personal and professional transformation over the years which led him away from farming and hunting to the eventual establishment of this wildlife preserve. Here is Jack greeting our group:

As we arrived, we spotted a sloth in a nearby tree and got a fantastic glimpse of the sloth’s jovial face through the observation scope the staff had set up.


Then it was off to put on our harness and other gear for an educational zip through the canopy’s 8 lines, making our way through the rainforest of chocolate trees (cacao) and amazing wildlife.
























Here’s are two quick views of launching from one of the zip lines:

And some student reflections:

Izzy and Neely:
Cardio is important and horse back riding is fun. We liked seeing wildlife that we would normally not see in America.
This trip has been great so far. Being able to experience so many different
activities like horseback riding, jumping off waterfalls, and participating in cultural
dances, have been amazing events that I will always cherish. I feel very grateful for
being able to take part in this trip…
This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It has been really fun so far and I’m
looking forward to every part of it. I’m really happy that I was able to be a part of
such a wonderful trip.
Katie and Elisa:
We have really enjoyed all of the activities so far and each day seems to trump
the last. We are very grateful to have the opportunity to go to Costa Rica with
our entire class.
There is something to enjoy everyday, whether it is a new food or activity. This
trip pushes me out of my comfort zone but I’m glad I get to try all of these
amazing new things.

We returned in time for our Salsa lessons. ALL ARE NOW READY FOR OUR NIGHT OF SALSA DANCING! Check out our group’s experience here:

Follow our Costa Rican adventure on Twitter:

Costa Rica 2015: Day 3- Horses and Falls (Water-falls!)

Our day began with espacio, a Sacred Heart tradition of taking time for silence, and an opportunity to identify a word/intention for the day and write it on a Post-it, affixing it to their chest. After a few moments of walking among themselves and looking at the words others wrote, they gathered into groups of same/similar words and shared about why they identified that particular word. This allowed us a chance to understand that although we may each have our own expectation, this shared experience helps connect us on many levels.

My group headed out to Nuayaca Falls and just a few minutes into our bus ride we pulled over to see a sloth hanging from a tree, and were delighted by a Toucan swooping over our heads to land in a tree next to a second toucan! On arriving at the Nuayaca property (consisting of over 120 acres!) we had a chance to make the trek by horseback to Nauyaca Waterfalls. The horses had life and spirit and we all remarked on how the horses seemed to have an understood “pecking” order, making our ride that much more exciting. Here is Jordon’s horse cam with part of his ride from the falls to our midway point where we stopped for lunch. Check out the horse’s unspoken communication as they kick it up a notch together to cantor speed at around 14:28.

Our guides were pros and made us feel safe and appropriately challenged. Their savy at helping us climb the face of the falls to jump into the pool below was impressive. Here are some photos of the ride and the Falls:

and a movie montage of snapshots of our experiences:

We closed the day with some traditional Costa Rican dancing led by a group of local high school students connecting to their cultural narratives. Check out the High School Cube stream with our students participating:

And finally, a night of shopping from the convenience of our hotel property, a Marketplace that brings local artisan crafts, coffee and souvenirs. A portion of the proceeds go directly to support local needs including an orphanage as Carlos explains. See the stream here:

Stay tuned for our last day of our three day rotation: my group’s participation in Hacienda Baru’s “Flight of the Toucan” zipline and eco tour experience!

Costa Rica 2015: Day 2- Groups

Our team was divided into three groups.  My group visited a local primary school, engaging the children in games and helping do some painting around the compound before handing out the much anticipated school supplies we brought.  This last part was a highlight for all since the children take their education seriously and looked forward to receiving the tools that would help in their success.  Click to hear some of the members of my group offering a few words about the day.

Some pictures:

We closed the afternoon after lunch with a quick walk from the school to a local swimming hole for some much needed cool down:




And just in case you think it’s all work– here’s our evening program of Costa Rican music and dancing led by local youth: (hit your browser button to return to the blog)

And our own students jumping in.


Costa Rica 2015: Day 1

This gallery contains 5 photos.

After a series of legs: SF to Houston or SF to San Salvador and then to San Jose, Costa Rica, followed by a three hour bus ride to Dominical, we finally arrived at Villas Rio Mar.  With no cell phones, … Continue reading


written by Leon, Mitchell and Justin

In a blink of an eye, our week in London has come to a close. Each and every member of our team is going home with life-changing memories. From the streets, to the sites, to the science, no part of our trip was done for naught. In just one week, we immersed ourselves in the culture of London, learned about Anemone Pulsatilla, engaged in field work with world-famous scientists, (some of us) visited the burial site of Janet Erskine Stuart, and so many other things. Through these experiences, we bonded closer and closer together, not only as a class, but as friends. As the old saying goes, though, “all good things must come to an end.”


However, our team begs to differ. From our experiences this week, our interest in the field of botany/ecology has soared to new heights. We are excited to learn not only how plants affect us, but how we humans can positively affect the earth around us. In our minds, this trip to London was only the beginning of the road; we are all very excited for the upcoming two-year course.


To conclude, our group would first like to extend a special thank-you to Mr. Farrell, Ms. Simpson, and Ms. Yeh for accompanying us on this trip; we greatly appreciate how you made the “wise freedom” aspect of this journey tangible and evident. To Mr. Helms, we are very excited to study botany/ecology with you the next two years. We were all saddened that you were unable to come with us to London, but we thank you for giving us this little taste of what we will shortly be diving into. We would also like to recognize Mrs. Saltveit, Dr. Krejcarek, and the SSH community for supporting us throughout this whole process. Also, we thank you for letting us use this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about the trip. Our team would also like to thank Dr. Bruce Pavlik, Dr. Lisbeth Louderback, Dr. Sarah Barlow, Dr. Sara Oldfield, Dr. Bryn Dentinger, and Lawrence Trowbridge for making our trip such a great learning experience. We appreciate how you made your profound information so clear and concise. Finally, to our parents, thank you for providing each one of us with much-needed financial and moral support. We all deeply appreciate the lengths you went through to allow us go to London.


Without every single one of your individual efforts, this experience would not have been possible. Once again, we thank you for such a memorable experience.