One of the components of the Alcuin Montessori middle school is Beyond the Classroom Walls. The Beyond the Classroom Walls program is designed to extend students’ learning into our broader communities and beyond. Each week, they take one afternoon and leave the campus for a trip into Oak Park or Chicago. These trips are designed to encourage independence, orienteering, and community building while enhancing and reinforcing the curriculum. The biggest BTCW outing is our biannual trip to San Jose, Costa Rica.
During their time in Costa Rica, the students go on various day trips to see the Costa Rican sights, but they also participate in a Spanish immersion language program at the Costa Rican Language Academy. Additionally, they volunteer at the Ana Frank Day Care (a government-run day care) for the day where they work with children infant through ages ten. This allows the middle schoolers to work outside their community and truly become citizens of the world.
The students compiled some journal entries from their time in San Jose. Here are some excerpts:
At 7:30, we got on the bus and headed to the Doka Coffee Estate. We got there around 9:00 and ate the provided breakfast. At breakfast, we sampled some coffee, and some of us even took espresso shots! After that, we got a tour of the plantation and learned how the coffee is made. A 46-kilogram bag of coffee (not from this estate) once sold for $30,000!
After that we took another bus ride to La Paz Waterfall Garden. We saw toucans, butterflies, frogs, snakes, monkeys, and wild cats such as ocelot and jaguars. Next, we had a buffet lunch. After lunch, we went to see the waterfalls. They were beautiful! While we were touring the waterfalls, it started to pour. It made it even more fun. After a long beautiful day, we went back on the bus.
The drive to Braulio Carrillo National Park was long, but there were a lot of cool sights. People were all having their own little conversations, and eventually, we got there. We were in the middle of a rain forest (but it thankfully wasn’t raining), and it was quite hot out. Our tour guide showed us around, and right away, we saw some sloths, which had not been in the area recently. After this, we got on a tram in groups of six. It was great, and we went through the rain forest at several different levels of elevation. Then, we turned around and returned to where we started.
At the beginning of the day we had our breakfast before heading off to CRLA. We had our usual classes and had a small break for 15 minutes before heading off to some more classes, before finally having lunch. After lunch, we headed out to the Ana Frank orphanage and daycare, where we played with the children, toddlers, and babies. We also brought our donations as they needed extra supplies. After our visit, we were taken to see the sorts of conditions that the children lived in once they went back to their families at the end of the day.
Today was a super fun day in Costa Rica! We learned a lot. Our classes at the CRLA were very interesting and I received a lot of homework. It is nice to learn some extra Spanish so we can talk with our host families. The classes helped, and I can talk more easily. After classes, we spent the rest of the day on tour. We visited Cartago, which is not as busy as San Jose. It was a former capital of Costa Rica. The tour consisted of traveling to different viewpoints in the surrounding mountains and looking around Cartago. The views were beautiful. We visited the famous basilica in Cartago that is very important to the Costa Rican community. Every August, Costa Ricans from all over the country walk, sometimes for days, to get to the basilica and pray to the virgin angel. After visiting the basilica, we headed to a very nice restaurant for dinner, and then returned to our host families.
Today was another fun and interesting day in Costa Rica. It began by waking up muy temprano or, very early. We had a delicious breakfast made by our host families and headed off on a tour of San Jose with one of the lovely people from CRLA. We saw many things such as the National Museum of Costa Rica, multiple homes of former presidents, the building where the congress meets, el Parque de España, lots of street art, the National Theater of Costa Rica, and many tiendas (stores). After our pleasant tour around the city, we made our way to CRLA for a relaxing lunch. We had Spanish classes followed by a sweet little graduation ceremony where we got a certificate of our participation. In the afternoon, we had our second Latin American dance class as well as a cooking class. At the end of the day, we said our goodbyes and hopped on the bus to go to the supermercado to buy snacks for the airplane. In the evening, we went back to our host families to share one last meal. For us, this was a bittersweet moment.
Now that the trip is coming to a close, we are thinking about our experiences from this past week. Zip-lining in the rain forest, climbing up lots and lots of stairs above waterfalls in the pouring rain, singing in the bus, buying chicharrones in the market, watching Costa Rican game shows, playing with children in the daycare, and drinking WAY too much cafe. All of which have contributed to this trip being an unforgettable learning experience, however, there are a couple that stick out as the highlights of the trip. For example, zip-lining. Our zip lining experience taught us many things about having to handle disappointment. This was because at first, we were told that we would be able to go zip-lining and were ecstatic about it, then, when we arrived in the rain forest, we learned that we would not be going zip-lining and would be going on a tram tour instead. We were determined not to let it ruin our day. This made it even more exciting when we actually were able to go zip-lining and ended up having lots of fun. It was one of our favorite parts of the trip!
Another learning experience on the trip was going to the Ana Frank Day Care Center. We not only learned about taking care of babies and playing with children but also about different lifestyles. Although the children did not have as much as we did, such as parents, they were still happy. When they were at the daycare, they had food, water, teachers, and a safe place to play, which cannot be said about the neighborhoods that these children live in. They were very grateful for this sense of safety and community, especially those who lack parental figures. This shows that community and love are the most important things in life. Lessons that we have learned on this trip are important in being a culturally aware person and having a good perspective of the world. These skills will help us in whatever walk of life that we choose. This trip has been a fun, interesting, educational, and, most of all, an unforgettable experience.
A blog by various Alcuin staff members.