Biodiversity, Science, and Sustainability:
An authentic field experience in Costa Rica
Friends of the Rainforest offers an authentic study-abroad and field research experience that incorporates tropical ecology, scientific study, international travel, and the opportunity for students to become engaged in taking action on important conservation issues.
The Costa Rica experience is designed to build upon the uniquely adolescent ability to construct their own worldview and to maximize their exposure to meaningful scientific research. This practice requires moving outside the comfort of their home community and is designed to be a peak learning experience for adolescents and engage students in meaningful scientific study.
The 55,000-acre Children's Eternal Rainforest represents the maximum expression of life on Earth in terms of biodiversity. It is a forest created by children for children, and a forest that needs study and support. In this way, it provides an opportunity for schools to take a leading role in generating original research and taking stewardship of this global student-driven treasure.
The Children's Eternal Rainforest provides limitless potential for uncovering new knowledge, which not only offers endless possibilities for research but also perspective and appreciation for local biodiversity back home. Integrating the Costa Rica experience across the curriculum pre-and post-trip make the work most impactful by building upon the local study of biodiversity and giving relevance to the real work being done, locally and globally.
Friends of the Rainforest’s customizable curriculum (adaptable to grades 4-12) will be shared with schools desiring to participate and will help teachers across the disciplines incorporate the Costa Rican abroad experience into pre-trip preparation, post-trip reflection, and, if desired, action on behalf of the Forest.
"I can't believe the trip has already passed! I want to thank all of you for your outstanding cooperation, your patience, your detailed information, and offered alternatives to make this trip a reality, and for opening this opportunity for our students.
On behalf of our school, and most of all on behalf of our group of young people, I want to say thank you, this was definitely a worthwhile experience!
The students have learned and experienced unique aspects that are far from understanding through a book or video, and they are sharing all the good, the funny and challenging “camping” surprises, and first-hand new knowledge as well. Therefore, we definitely consider Costa Rica biodiversity and peace for our future school trips."
- Elena Sierra : Madre Montessori
DAY 1: Fly to Costa Rica and arrive in San Jose. Here you will be met by your bilingual naturalist guide for the trip and your driver. Once everyone is accounted for and bags stored in the vehicle then it’s off to San Jose where we’ll check you in at the Don Carlos Hotel, located in Barrio Amon, San Jose’s most historic district. Time permitting, we’ll take you to our favorite typical restaurant for lunch and a cruise around San Jose for a brief tour of the capital city. Before dinner there at Don Carlos, we’ll have a brief orientation about the upcoming week to cover any questions that still remain for the marvelous experiences that lay ahead.
DAY 2: The day will begin with breakfast at Hotel Don Carlos. Afterward, we will take a short drive to the National Museum, a small but important museum whose building has great historical context and offers a brief, but detailed cross-section that cuts through Costa Rica’s natural and cultural riches. We’ll leave in time for lunch on the road, traveling northwest along the Pan American Highway into the Tilaran Mountains. We pass sugar cane fields and coffee plantations as we ascend the ridge above the San Luis Valley with views of the Pacific Ocean below us. Early in the afternoon, we’ll check into Cala Lodge a small, locally-owned hotel situated next to the Bajo de Tigre section of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Your hosts Franciso and Raquel are truly special people who will make your stay in Monteverde memorable. In the afternoon we should head into “downtown” Monteverde for some historical perspective, shopping at CASEM (a crafts/souvenirs cooperative), strolling through some of the local shops, and a must-stop visit to the famous Cheese Factory for the best milkshakes in the world! At some point during our stay in the Monteverde area, we’ll hear a presentation from the Costa Rican Conservation Foundation (FCC) about local efforts to save one of the area’s most iconic species the Three-wattled bellbird. You’ll see how the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and FOTR relate to the greater conservation movements in Monteverde and Costa Rica. Cala Lodge will have a dinner prepared for you that evening and maybe later even show a video afterward about Monteverde and why it is at the center of conservation in CR.
DAY 3: Pre-breakfast bird walks offer plenty of opportunities to spot and hear the bellbirds, as they loudly announce their location. This morning we’ll try to get you in for a morning visit to a local school, where we can deliver donated school supplies and participate in some cross-cultural activities and presentations. Afterward, we’ll have the whole day to explore Monteverde and some of its cultural, historical, and biological sites. At a very minimum we’ll probably include a hike at the Bajo del Tigre section of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (which is quite different from where we’ll be tomorrow), and any other of a half-a-dozen other options. We’ll carry a box lunch with us in order to maximize our time exploring the community and this could include another hike to look for quetzals or bellbirds. We may try to meet up with our friends from the FCC to see about helping them save the Bellbird by working in their tree nursery or by planting some key tree species. In the evening we’ll return to Cala or may hit one of our favorite local restaurants for dinner.
DAY 4: After breakfast, we’ll hike down from the continental divide through the cloud forest into El Bosque Eterno de Los Niños (BEN) as it’s known in Spanish, or the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (CER, in English) – over 56,000 acres of protected forest. We’ll settle in at San Gerardo Biological Field Station with an extraordinary view of Arenal Volcano. You’ll be joined another local biologist to accompany you on your rainforest adventure. The goal is to immerse yourself in the great biodiversity of this region and help us collect vital information about the distribution of the flora and fauna around the station and in this part of the CER. Today after lunch we’ll get out onto the trails for unique, individual experiences in this amazing habitat. Never a guarantee - but always a possibility… coming face to face with a variety of organisms large and small that call this place home: howler monkeys, coatis, morpho butterflies, swallowtail kites, leafcutter ants, crested curassow, or the endemic orange-bellied trogon. After dark, we’ll take a hike with our guides and specialists to see bioluminescent fungus, stick insects, katydids, rain frogs, stream frogs, and other denizens of the night.
DAYS 5 - 7: Early morning bird walks are always an option, for those so inclined! Clay-colored Thrush, Masked Tityra, Emerald Toucanet, and Silver-throated and Scarlet-rumped tanagers are among the frequently spotted birds. Plus, we may have the people and equipment available for mist-netting some of the feathered creatures around the station. After breakfast, your guides and ecological specialists will lead you on a full morning hike, sharing with us the local lore of many plants, along with the natural history of the many animals we will see. The afternoon will be yours to assist on one of the research projects or work on your own. You may want to grab a book, spend
some time drawing, or just sit and reflect upon the beauty and magic of the CER. After dark, we may use the mist-nets again, but this time for bats! Lunch and dinner will be served there at the station for these few days, and we may get a treat by having Ivannia show us how to make tortillas and to try making our own.
DAY 8: Today, after breakfast we’ll hike back uphill to the area of the Santa Elena Reserve where you will have the opportunity to walk through the canopy at your own pace on a series of suspension bridges at Selvatura by late morning we’ll get back to Cala to pick up our box lunch (and the rest of our luggage). Time permitting on the drive back we can maybe stop at the coast to at least dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean. Nonetheless, we hope to be back at our hotel, Adventure Inn, by early afternoon or evening for our farewell dinner, and probably have the opportunity for a quick dip in their pool.
DAY 9: Sadly this day would arrive - the day we part ways. After breakfast, we’ll plan on an early morning transfer to the airport so everyone can make their flight back to the US on time.
We sincerely hope you enjoy your first-hand experience of the beauty and magic of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest in Costa Rica. For over 20 years Friends of the Rainforest has been helping support the Monteverde Conservation League which for the past 30+ years has protected this block of rainforest, a fundamental link in Costa Rica’s conservation network. By joining us on our trips you help us ensure that future generations of children will always have this rainforest to return to, and count on to anchor their own conservation programs. Please contact us or look for more information about our organizations and programs.
“San Gerardo (field station in the BEN) is a wonderful facility for studying conservation biology in practice. The setting is incomparable. In our six-week program each summer, it is always one of the places which students give their highest evaluations.”
-Prof. Barry Allen, Rollins College, Florida
"This trip far exceeded our expectations for educational value and experience. We knew the trip would provide a glimpse of the flora, fauna and ecosystems of the tropics, but what we received will touch our lives forever. To be immersed in the cloud forest seemed part dream and part ecological Mecca."
-Dr. Mark Highland, University of Delaware
Hands-On Learning in the Field
Plan Your Visit to Costa Rica
Friends of the Rainforest offers 7-8 night learning adventures to Costa Rica that maximize meaningful scientific research and immersion abroad. With prior approval, our trips are customizable to fit your group's needs.
Costs start at $1195 per person for a minimum of 15 travelers and include Costa Rican ground travel, lodging, and food (airfare additional).
Following orientation, students plan and carry out individual or group field research projects with the support of a degreed naturalist. They collect and analyze data and present their findings to the group. Night hikes, solo walks, and service projects are all integrated into the itinerary to create a varied and rewarding experience. After leaving the field station, schools may choose to allow students to participate in activities such as ziplining, rafting, canopy walkway, or hot springs visits.
Optional Extension (additional costs apply)
The group can visit the University for Peace (UPEACE) in San Jose for a tour, seminars, or classes. A homestay for a night or two can also be arranged.
Trips are available from January through September, but custom dates can be arranged, depending on the availability of lodging and guides in Costa Rica.
Please contact our Education/Travel Coordinator, Maggie Eisenberger, at email@example.com as soon as possible to guarantee your participation in this unique opportunity.