Nordonia students experience science and adventure in Costa Rica

by Nicole Rosselot

An adventurous group of Nordonia High School students, teachers and administrators wrapped up the 2022-23 school year with an action-packed trip to Costa Rica from June 6-13. After almost two years of planning, the group of 48 students and eight chaperones packed their bags and embarked on an expedition that brought science classrooms to life.

According to Aaron Coleman, NHS honors biology and biotechnology teacher, this is the first international trip the science department planned. The trip, organized by Coleman and fellow science teacher Vanessa DeBoo, was coordinated through EF Educational Tours.

Coleman and DeBoo selected Costa Rica because it closely aligns with the high school biology curriculum. “Our trip provided real world examples of what we teach in the classroom,” Coleman said.

She explained that the NHS biology curriculum delves into humans’ interdependence with other organisms and the environment as well as natural selection, evolutionary process and biodiversity.

“As biology teachers, our minds were blown with every tour that we took because we were seeing the application of the biology curriculum right in front of us,” Coleman said.

During their trip, the group visited three areas in Costa Rica: Sarapiqui, Arenal and Guanacaste. In Guanacaste, the group explored Rincon de la Vieja National Park and took a boat tour on the River Tempisque in Palo Verde National Park.

The students visited the town of La Fortuna in the Arenal area, where they learned about volcanoes at Arenal Volcano National Park. Students then gained insight into geothermal energy use at Arenal Hot Springs.

The Tirimbina Biological Reserve in the Sarapiqui area was also a memorable stop. “We learned about the process of cocoa beans being turned into chocolate,” Coleman said. “The kids actually made chocolate right in front of us.”

According to Coleman, the itinerary included activities that fell into three categories: adventure excursions, such as white water rafting, ziplining, kayaking and snorkeling; educational opportunities, such as nature walks and tours of both a pineapple farm and coffee plantation; and cultural experiences, such as visiting with a local farming family.

Throughout the trip, Coleman said, she was proud of the students’ willingness to try new things. “What stands out to me is that students were consistently put in new situations and they had the attitude of ‘I’m gonna go for it’ and I love that attitude,” she said.

For example, some students were uncomfortable in the water, so white water rafting, kayaking and snorkeling were challenging for them. Instead of sitting out, the students put on their life jackets, which were required for all participants, and faced their fears.

A favorite activity anong students, according to Coleman, was the trip to a self-sustaining organic farm. The students spent time with the family that runs the farm, learning how to harvest crops and prepare local dishes. With guidance from the farmers, the students chopped vegetables, made homemade tortillas and prepared their own meal.

“After dinner, the students cleared off all the tables and they danced,” Coleman said. “Our tour director had a playlist and they were [dancing the] salsa and merengue with the farmers and the local families. It was awesome.”

International trips provide many learning opportunities, Coleman explained. Not only did the students experience real world science, they also developed resilience, bravery and independence as well as a greater respect for others.

“I think there is incredible growth in getting out of their comfort zone,” Coleman said.  “I feel strongly that it helps create a more globally minded citizen.” ∞

Cover Photo 2: NHS students Brooke Soder, Mackenzie Thompson, Lani Tedor and Lauren Margerum have fun white water rafting in the Rio Sarapiqui with NHS teacher Aaron Coleman. Photos courtesy of Aaron Coleman.
Photo: NHS studets (l-r) Madelyn Morrow, Grace Bugarcic and Mallory Ralls go snorkeling in Culebra Bay.
Photo: NHS science teacher Aaron Coleman (l) and NHS principals Jessica Archer and Anthony Buckler stand with students and their tour guides at the Tirimbina Biological Reserve, where students made chocolate from cocoa beans. Photos courtesy of Aaron Coleman.

On our cover (Photo 1): Nordonia High School students Audra Shamblin, Miranda Lloyd, Reese Knotts and Emily Renner share a meal with their tour guides at a local family farm during a trip to Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Aaron Coleman.