I hold an adamant belief that travel can be an invaluable, life-altering experience. Families that have the means to travel often see it as a luxury, and take for granted the incredible learning that they and their children gain. I work in an alternative high school – most of my students are from families that do not have anywhere near those kinds of means. Their experiences have been, in large part, a struggle and the larger world is mostly an abstraction – including the potential wonder and hope that it can hold. Monteverde epitomizes that kind of wonder and hope – blending the culture of indigenous inhabitants with that of the American Quaker settlers that arrived in the 1950’s, and balancing a model of conservation with becoming an international eco-tourism destination. The book, Walking With Wolf, tells this story in a remarkable way. When I went back to Monteverde during my next February vacation, I bought and devoured this book – changing my fanciful desire to my bring students there, into a passionate drive to do so.
When I returned from my second visit and spoke about my intentions to share this experience with my students, I no longer received simple smiles and nods – I was met with excitement, doubts of my sanity, and lots of questions:
- What will students learn? They’ll learn everything from ecology to economics, history to agriculture, and community development to world affairs. Most of all, they’ll learn what wonders the world can hold and what role they are capable of having in that world.
- What will the class look like? It is a yearlong, interdisciplinary class that will include a significant amount of experiential education. We'll spend the fall reading Walking With Wolf and blogging about the learning adventures it sparks – I hope you keep checking back and follow the student blogs (links are on the right sidebar). In the spring, students will pick an area of personal interest and create an individual research project that compares some aspect of our home to that of Monteverde. Mid-spring, we’ll go to Monteverde for 10 days and students will determine the itinerary to meet the needs of their projects. When we get back, they'll be producing a culminating product to represent their learning. If all this sounds vague, that's because I'm not arbitrarily dictating the outcome - this is student-centered and student-driven.
- Am I crazy? Well, certainly not because of this. It is a challenge to do international travel with any group of students and plenty of people wouldn't dare do it with students that have struggled - but aren't those the very students that we should be doing this kind of inspiring thing with?! The students that I have in this class have made a commitment to working hard and they deserve a chance to prove themselves. They are turning their lives around and if I can be a part of that then I'll do whatever it takes - crazy or not.
- How will we pay for it? Hopefully, with your help. The students have already been working hard (even during the summer before the class started) and we’ll be including future fundraising information here, but we’d also really appreciate a check for any amount you can offer – we have to raise $15,000 by January. Checks can be made out to “Lister Academy – Costa Rica Class”, and mailed to: Robert J. Lister Academy, Attn: Bryan Mascio, 35 Sherburne Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801.