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Daniel McNeal | August 1, 2017

World View’s study visit to Costa Rica and Nicaragua began with an early morning flight on July 19. Sixteen K-12 and community college educators and administrators from across North Carolina immersed themselves in a new culture by touring important historical and ecological sites, visiting local schools, and by staying with host families to gain a better understanding of the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan countries. 

After a short bus ride to Atenas, Costa Rica for lunch and an orientation, participants met their host families and left for a homemade dinner after a long day travelling. We started the next day early with a Spanish lesson and by touring Atenas on foot. The afternoon was spent traveling to the Central Pacific Beach and relaxing on the Pacific Ocean (a first time seeing for some). Driving back, we saw a unique facet of Costa Rica; native crocodiles in the Tarcoles River.

On Friday, we visited the University of Peace – an academic institution mandated in 1980 by the United Nations that offers degrees related to worldwide peace and security – and listened to a lecture on leadership, sustainability and ethics in education. In the afternoon, we traveled to the Financial District in San Jose and met with a non-profit national development group where we learned about the Costa Rican economy and the importance of foreign direct investment.

Saturday started with a trip to the capital city of San Jose. We toured important historical and cultural sites and gained a better understanding of the history of the country. We spent Saturday afternoon with a visit to a local organic coffee farm – an important part of the Costa Rican economy – before wrapping up the day with a Latin dance workshop.

Sunday continued with tours of the Ark Botanical Gardens (one of the most comprehensive collections of medicinal and aromatic herbs, plants and trees from around the world) and the Peace Waterfall Gardens to get an idea of the local ecological system in Costa Rica.

On Monday, we visited a local school and participated in an assembly to celebrate “Anexion Del Partido De Nicoya”, the day when a major part of the Guanacaste province, Nicoya, became a part of Costa Rica. After the assembly, our educators spent 45 minutes teaching a lesson to students in grades five and six. In the afternoon, our participants had a round table discussion with English teachers from the region to discuss the Costa Rican education system and how it compares and contrasts to the school system in North Carolina. We also discussed strategies to combat bullying.  For many, this was the best day so far. The local school children were excited to speak with us and the educators were eager to establish connections and to engage in discussion.

We said goodbye to our host families on Tuesday and left on a long bus ride through the Costa Rican and Nicaragua countrysides to Granada, Nicaragua. Granada is the oldest city in the America’s mainland and the history was evident at every corner.

We split into two groups and spent the next two days alternating between building adobe bricks which would be used to support a local non-profit organization, visiting a local school, planting trees and delivering much needed school supplies.

World View asked participants to step out of their comfort zones, to be open to and engage in new cultures and to challenge preconceived notions as they further develop their World View. After a whirlwind 10 days, I can safely say all of that was accomplished.

To further reflect on our experiences in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, World View will hold a workshop on September 8 for participants. This workshop will focus on finding ways for our educators to incorporate their experiences into their schools and classrooms.