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Andrews teacher and students travel to Costa Rica for first-hand experiences

Hunter B. Andrews PreK-8 science teacher, Kyle Hetrick, recently traveled to Costa Rica with some of his students.  Below is a narrative of the trip and the inception of the idea in Hetrick’s own words.

There is nothing more dear to my heart as an educator than my role as a mentor and leader to promote a more global perspective in my students.  Taking students out of their comfort zones to appreciate and accept cultural diversity should be the role of every educator focused on preparing students to deal with the world they are growing up in.  Trekking on my hands and knees in South Africa to observe a crash of rhinos and diving 100 feet below the surface of the ocean to swim with sharks are a few of many stories I share with students to get them engaged in conversations about biological diversity as well as the role humans play in the preservation of our Earth.  I rely on these stories in the classroom to inspire my students to take any opportunity to travel and see the world, even if it is only to the Carolinas; the world beyond the Peninsula is vast and diverse. 

A little over a year ago, I started coordinating with Worldstrides, an educational travel company, who helped me take my role of sharing the world a step further.  As a teacher of life science, I couldn’t choose a more fitting place than Costa Rica to take students on a weeklong adventure.  Occupying less than a percent of the world’s landmass and home to five percent of the Earth’s biodiversity, Costa Rica provided the perfect stage for me to share my global perspective (as well as my knowledge of science) with my students as well as help them develop their own.  Four Andrews’ middle school students, a sister and parent of one student, and I took the opportunity to explore a corner of the world we had yet to see before. 

While on our adventure, we learned through hands-on experiences about conservation, biodiversity, scientific investigation, as well as Costa Rican and Latin American culture.   Learning to cook a traditional Costa Rican meal and zip lining 200 meters above the canopy of the Monteverde Cloud Forest are only a few of the many highlights of the trip.  The experiences we shared would not have been the same had it not been for the warm and generous people of Costa Rica.  The students and I were at peace knowing we were among friends during our journey.  At times we even felt like family, particularly when we shared a meal in a traditional Costa Rican home overlooking the expansive rain forest.  Having never met any of us before, every Tico and Tica we came across was welcoming and generous.  We will always be grateful to them for sharing such an amazing place with us. 

My students make me very proud.  Seeing the value this opportunity had, they all found the means to fund their own trip.  One student even cut lawns last summer to raise enough money to go, and another gave up Christmas and birthday presents, asking her family only for this “once in a lifetime opportunity.“  Reflecting about the trip on the flight home, it became clear to me these students had become an asset to their schools and community as explorers and leaders.  Their experiences in Costa Rica challenged them to become more patient, tolerant, and accepting, traits they all wish to share with their peers and family. It is my wish that my students and I inspire other teachers and students to step out of their comfort zones and find the means to explore and understand their roles as global citizens.  Pura vida!

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