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, Costa Rica 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.
We are now in the midst of a year-long interdisciplinary class that will include Walking With Wolf, student blogs (which I hope you'll check out on the right), individual research projects, and a 10-day trip to Monteverde this Spring. The students are working hard and must fundraise their entire way there - they need your help. If you are willing to support their efforts,
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.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We're So Excited!

In full disclosure, I do have the Pointer Sisters' song echoing in my mind as I write this post. I am so excited, and we all have lots to be excited about. The students at the Lister Academy continue to work incredibly hard and we have taken several big steps closer to our goal. Almost all of the students have received their passports - something that few had even considered getting otherwise. We have also purchased our airline tickets - leaving early in the morning on Wednesday, April 6th and returning even earlier in the morning on Sunday, April 17th. Additionally, we have arranged for our accommodations while in Monteverde - see my earlier post on Cabanas Valle Campanas.

The students have finished reading Walking With Wolf, and are starting to decide on their research projects that will dominate the spring semester and dictate our itinerary while in Costa Rica. We were also thrilled to be featured in the Portsmouth Herald this past Friday, with a great article by Jennifer Feals. In the article, we share our current status and plans for finishing our fundraising. We have a fundraiser at Papa Ginos in Portsmouth this coming Thursday night - just print out the flyer pictured here if you can come and support us. We'll also be doing a Costa Rica dinner mid-February - details to come.

I hope that you have been checking out the student blogs, and may consider a donation at our website, to help the students cross that finish line.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cabanas Valle Campanas

Where you stay while traveling can be an important part of the experience, and this was my dilemma - until now. Originally, I had priced out hostels, figuring that it was the most economical way to go. There is certainly nothing wrong with a hostel - in addition to being the right price, it can have a very cool vibe with its common areas and communal living. I visited several very nice hostels that were family run and very safe right in Santa Elena, just outside Monteverde.

I was satisfied with those accommodations, but throughout our planning I continued to be nagged by the idea that there was a better solution. While a hostel is an interesting experience, it's a travel experience rather than an indigenous cultural experience - which would be a better fit with our class. When my wife and I went back to Monteverde last year, we stayed at a wonderful family farm that had added a few cabins on their property - Cabanas Valle Campanas. The cabins range from 3-person to 10-person, and each have running hot water and a full kitchen. It was paradise! Rather than being surrounded by the bustle of a hotel or town, we went to sleep with a private view of a splendid sunset and awoke to the birds just our door. We had breakfast a couple of the mornings with the family, in their home. (If you'd like to see some video of the cabins, they are in our feature video on the class YouTube Channel)

After speaking with the owner, Reina Cruz Brenes, we all decided that this would be an ideal solution. During our previous stay, I had spoken with Reina about my hopes of "someday" bringing students to Monteverde, and she had commented on my passion and dedication to them. As I started to fill her in, now, on the details of our class, she surprisingly shared that she knows Wolf - the main character of our book, Walking With Wolf. Now, I gather that many people in Monteverde "know" Wolf, but Reina explained that her uncle, Eladio, worked with Wolf - and it hit me that Eladio Cruz has a central presence in Wolf's stories (the picture to the right is from the author's blog, and has Wolf in the middle and Eladio to the right) . I can think of no better way to have the students immersed in what they have been learning, and am incredibly excited about this fateful discovery.

Please take some time to check out the student blogs, and if inspired to do so, head to our website to see ways to support their work.