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This week and last week we welcome our Alternative Spring Break volunteers to care projects in Heredia. On an Alternative Spring Break project, volunteers spend a week at Centro Infantil: Semillitas de Vida assisting teachers in leading classroom activities and caring for the children at the care center.
The alternative spring break program offers university students an opportunity to spend their spring break doing meaningful service work in a destination close to home. Because they only have a week, the projects are strategically chosen so that volunteers don't lose a lot of time in traveling to their destination. With a roughly 3 hour flight from airports in the southern United States, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for North American university students looking to do something unique and productive with their time off for spring break.
Working at Semillitas de Vida in Heredia gives the students hands on experience in childcare as well as Spanish-language immersion. Volunteers work with children ranging in age from very small babies all the way to school-age children who come to the center outside of regular school hours. Daily duties include coming up with and leading learning activities in the classroom, supervising and playing with children during recess, helping to serve and clean up after snacktime and lunch, and getting things ready for the childrens' post-lunch nap.
A part of the system of care centers sponsored by the Costa Rican government, Centro Infantil: Semillitas de Vida receives around 100 children daily. The center provides a vital service to local low-income and single parent families by being able to provide meals and a structured education to children, allowing their parents to work during the day knowing that their child is in good ...
At the start of every February, Costa Rican students find themselves preparing for the start of another school year. Summer holidays in Costa Rica typically line up with the start of the tropical dry season, running from mid-December until early February. Recognizing this free time as a period with great potential for student development, Projects Abroad teaching volunteers have taken the opportunity to offer free English classes to any students wishing to attend.
In Costa Rica, a huge premium is placed on a person’s ability to speak fluent English. The influx of foreign businesses that provide the majority of jobs for Costa Rica’s middle class as well as an extensive tourism industry require employees to possess strong English skills. For that reason, children begin learning English from a very young age, and it remains a central part of the curriculum throughout both primary and secondary education. While English is vital to career success, unfortunately, the public education system in Costa Rica struggles to consistently find English teachers who have significant experience in the language. Lessons often suffer from mispronunciation and a lack of understanding of how English works in practice, complicating students’ ability to learn.
“The idea of having volunteers in the classrooms is basically to take advantage of having native speakers of the language,” states Andres Mendoza, regional English director for the Ministry of Public Education in Heredia. “So with the volunteers, we are able to bring the language to Costa Rica for free, and our students are exposed to other cultures, to other customs, to other traditions. Basically to listen to the correct pronunciation of the English language.”
Teaching volunteers as ...
From 10-23 January, we welcome 30 students and professors from the school of education at SUNY-Cortland to our care and teaching projects in Heredia where they will have the opportunity to put classroom lectures into practice while simultaneously navigating the facets of life in a new culture and language.
The group is divided between two care centers, Centro Infantil: Luz Divina, and Centro Infantil: Semillitas de Vida, as well as Escuela Braulio Morales Cervantes where volunteers lead ESL classes for local students. In both care centers, volunteers are focusing on early childhood development activities in addition to taking on daily responsibilities to assist the teachers of each class. Activities include, games, songs, and simple English lessons aimed at stimulating the development of children ranging in age from 10 months to 12 years.
In Escuela Braulio Morales Cervantes, as local students are on summer break until the end of the month, volunteers are leading special English classes offered free of charge for students looking to get ahead over the holidays. In addition to gaining hands-on experience in the classroom, volunteers are also taking the opportunity to share some of their insight into teacher training by providing teacher training seminars for teachers in both care centers.
While gaining practical classroom experience is the central focus of the 2-week experiential education course, by living with local host families, students are given a full taste of life in Costa Rica, from gallo pinto to Spanish-language immersion. In their freetime, students learn about local culture through dance classes, a coffee tour, a dinner overlooking the Central Valley, and a tour of artisanal markets and the Jade Museum in San Jose. Weekend excursions include a trip to ...
After sunset on December 11 and 12, as most of the world was gearing up for the holiday season, conservation volunteers in Barra Honda found themselves deep in the woods setting traps to see what species of bats could be caught. At the same time throughout the rest of Central America, researchers, biologists, volunteers and bat enthusiasts were doing the same for the third year in a row.
The Mesoamerican Bat Survey, or "Conteo de Navidad" is carried out annually in the weeks leading up to Christmas in every country from southern Mexico through Panama as part of the Central American Strategy for Bat Conservation (Estrategia Centroamerican para la Conservación de Murciélagos). The aim of the survey is for researchers to unite across international borders to better understand the various bat species within each region.
In Costa Rica, the survey takes place at various points throughout the country and includes a variety of ecosystems and geographical features, including the tropical dry forest, rain forest, and cloud forest. The Program for Bat Conservation of Costa Rica (Programa para la Conservacion de Murcielagos de Costa Rica, PCMCR) oversaw the surveys carried out in ten national parks and land reserves throughout the country covering areas in the North, South, and the Caribbean.
Due to the extensive cave system and diversity of forest and flora existing within its limits, Barra Honda National Park provides the ideal habitat for a large number of bat species, making it an important site for bat research. Projects Abroad conservation volunteers worked alongside local students and researchers to carry out the Christmas survey, setting traps in points around the park with varying geographical features. By observing roosts as well as utilizing mist nets ...
Recently, education centers throughout Heredia held activities aimed at helping students to improve their English and to celebrate their accomplishments thus far. The central activity was the Heredia Regional Spelling Bee and Impromptu Speech competitions, where the winners of the school-wide and later the district-wide competitions contended for a spot to represent Heredia in the national competition.
Originally started by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, this is the second year that the English-language Spelling Bee has taken place; however, it is the first year that the Impromptu Speech portion of the competition has been implemented. Beginning at the school-wide level, students from the 3rd grade through high school are divided between the elementary and high school cycles and then compete to represent their school at the district level. The winner of each district then advances to the regional competition where the winners of the Spelling Bee and Impromptu Speech competitions at both the elementary and high school levels will represent the Heredia region in the national competitions.
The Spelling Bee competition is similar to traditional spelling bees held in the U.S. and other English-speaking nations. Students are presented individually with a word to be spelled orally in front of a panel of judges, with incorrect spelling resulting in elimination from the competition. This happens in rounds which become increasingly difficult as the competition advances until one student is left who is then declared the winner. The only difference between the traditional spelling bee and that created for non-native English speakers is that students are first given a list of potential words. If all of the words on the list are used during the competition, the judges then ...