16 Science Teachers Chosen for Costa Rican Fieldwork Trip

tree frog in Costa Rica

A tree frog in Costa Rica. (© Piotr Naskrecki/ iLCP)

Climbing 30 meters (100 feet) up a canopy tower to look over the Costa Rican rainforest, slogging through dense vegetation to collect data amid snakes and mosquitoes, tramping around in the dark in search of elusive nocturnal species … is this how you’d like to spend your summer vacation? For 16 teachers from around the United States the answer is “Yes!”

Conservation International recently teamed up with the Northrop Grumman Foundation to create ECO Classroom — a unique professional development opportunity for public middle and high school science teachers at the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) site in Costa Rica. In ECO Classroom’s inaugural year, we weren’t sure how many teachers would apply, but we were overwhelmed with the response.

Teachers applied in teams of four and proposed projects that they would conduct in the field if selected. We received 37 team applications — 148 individual applications to read (and reread!). Overall the teachers were impressive, with creative and exciting project proposals, and it was a very difficult selection process. After much consideration and discussion of the applicants, four groups were selected — Anne Arundel (Annapolis, Maryland), the SOL Sisters (southern California), Chicago Northwest (Chicago, Illinois) and the Ecologically Minded Long Island Educators (Long Island, New York).

These teachers represent a wide range of schools, grades taught, ages and academic and professional backgrounds. But they all share a common dedication to teaching and a thirst for new experiences. Over the coming weeks I’ll be meeting with the teachers to give them information and plan for the trip. I know they are as excited as I am to spend two weeks in the forest of the Central Valley of Costa Rica, where howler monkeys wake you and frogs and insects sing you to sleep.

I hope that the teachers will find this experience to be a time of collaboration and learning. I know that the beauty of the Costa Rican rainforest will invigorate and inspire them to return to their classrooms to share their love of science and nature with their students — thus nurturing the next generation of environmental stewards.

Morgan Cottle is the project manager of the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network.

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