By Mark Carpenter
Sea turtles, macaws, monkeys, crocodiles, volcanoes, hot springs, boats, waterfalls. and the sand between your toes. This and much more awaits a group of 13 Peebles High School students and their eight chaperones as they boarded a plane early Thursday morning at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for the beginning of a sure-to-be-memorable trip to the country of Costa Rica.
The trip is the brainchild of Peebles High School Spanish teacher Robin Boling, who just finished her ninth year at the school.
“I want to make sure that the kids get to practice the language they learned at school,” said Boling. “I went on my first trip when I was in high school with my Spanish teacher so I wanted to do the same thing for these kids. We go every two years after the kids have taken at least two years of Spanish so they can actually use it and benefit from it. This will be the fourth trip I have taken with students. The first trip was to Costa Rica, then to Spain and Puerto Rico, and now back to Costa Rica again.”
“This is the biggest group I have ever taken, my first group only had two girls, but his year we are a group of 21 total. They are all Peebles students, parents, and teachers. Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia with mountains, rain forests, jungles, and we are going to go to both coasts, starting on the Atlantic coast, where our hope is to see the nesting sea turtles. Then we will eventually work our way over to the Pacific coast. The kids will get to go zip-lining, whitewater rafting, kayak beside a volcano, and hike down the La Fortuna Waterfall to swim and then back up to the hot springs in the evening.”
Costa Rica is a country known for its biodiversity and it is often a destination for scientists and educators who study the country’s rich ecosystems. According to Boling, Costa Rica is one of the most stable countries in South America and it does not have any kind of military, earning it the nickname “The Switzerland of South America. It is just a happy country.”
“Costa Rica is very U.S. friendly,” says Boling. “It’s completely safe and very relaxed, the perfect place for some of these kids to go on their first out of the country trip. The kids will have to use their Spanish, even though there is plenty of English spoken there. The neat part of this trip is that the kids are in charge of taking care of the adults, as far as speaking Spanish. It’s just a practical trip in that manner.”
Boling adds that the meals on the trip will all look very similar- consisting mainly of black beans, rice, and plantains.
“Anything that you can cook with a potato, you can find it-mashed, fried, everything. We will go to fruit stands and get ice cream so the kids can see what the different tastes are.”
The group will be traveling on a tour bus and meeting students from three other schools, all schools smaller than PHS, according to Boling.
“When it comes to speaking the language, most of these kids are still like toddlers, so they can ask me for help, but I want them to do as much as they can on their own. They have to start somewhere.”
“I can’t teach them every single word and I can’t teach them every single culture,” Boling continued. “But I think that we need a lot more open-mindedness and I think when our kids come back, they will see that people are just like us. For the majority of our kids, it is their first time out of the country so it’s a whole new experience for them that I can’t teach in a classroom.”
“Taking students abroad is an extension of the goals I have as a Spanish teacher. I want my students to develop a curiosity and sense of respect toward differences in the world, instead of being afraid of the unknown.”