Costa Rica: An Experience to Remember


Photo courtesy of Ellie Rogowski

This August, nineteen Fenwick Friars spent two weeks exploring the small country of Costa Rica as a part of a new course at Fenwick, The Ecology of the Rainforest. The students took the course via Schoology during the second semester of the 2017-1018 school year, and learned about the biology of the organisms that inhabit rainforests, the components and characteristics of rainforests, as well as the geography and history of Costa Rica. Mr. Menich was the teacher of the course and decided to offer the program when Mr. Polka presented him with the opportunity. Mr. Menich believed that this trip, “would be an awesome opportunity for students to apply what we learn about ecology and climate change to a place where it’s having a dramatic effect.”

The students arrived at the Juan Santamaría International Airport on July 30 with the help of the chaperones, Mr. Menich, Mrs. Whitman, and Mrs. Carey. They were met by naturalist guides and Jonathan Sequeira and Mario, who were both experts in the study of the Costa Rican rainforests and its inhabitants. Mr. Menich stated that the mastery of “the naturalist guides provided all the necessary information to fully get in touch with the Costa Rican environment.” The guides led the Friars on multiple hikes, two boat tours, and an exciting outing to watch sea turtles lay eggs. The guides’ knowledge allowed the students to come face-to-face with the material they studied in the previous months.

The students were organized into groups in order to conduct an experiment while on the expedition. The experiments ranged from topics such as the benefits and costs of traveling to Costa Rica, to something as complex as the biodiversity of Costa Rica. The expertise of Jonathan and Mario were crucial in order to complete the assigned labs.

The education the students received was accompanied by thrilling adventures. The Friars were able to go zip-lining in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

The students obtained a birds-eye view over the endless green canopy on over fifteen different zip lines, including a “Tarzan Swing”. The Friars also went whitewater rafting in the Naranjo River of the Manuel Antonio National Park. The adrenaline rush was intercepted by a quick stop halfway through the course at a waterfall, where students took pictures standing underneath.

The most prominent topic of the endeavor was sustainability and the protection of organisms. Over twenty-five percent of Costa Rica is protected land. The country is well-known for its conservation efforts. Consequently, the force that drives Costa Rica’s economy is tourism. The students participated in ecotourism, where tourists choose to experience an active and educational trip while being mindful of the disturbances to the environment and the pollution caused. This form of tourism allowed the students to realize how their actions directly affect the world around them. The students had the opportunity to visit a small farm where they each planted a tree and acquired a real-world view of Costa Rican culture.

The Fenwick students received an overall once in a lifetime opportunity. Junior Natalie Cooney stated, “I traveled to a lot of different places that I would not have ever been able to go to. I learned a lot about the places we visited and it was a great opportunity to become closer with a lot of my friends.” Mr. Menich hopes to continue this course in the future in order to allow more students to have the opportunity to teach more students about serious issues, such as climate change, and allow them to obtain a hands-on view of what they learned in the classroom.