South Orangetown Central School District

Over Spring Recess, science teacher Dr. Steve Cohn, with art teachers Donna Grasso and Ms. Leigh LaBrake, traveled with 30 Tappan Zee High School students to Costa Rica to learn about the culture, geology, biodiversity, and ecosystems of the Central American country.

In the Arenal region, the group toured a coffee plantation to learn about this important part of the country’s history, kayaked on Lake Arenal, hiked in Arenal Volcano National Park to lava flows, took a night walk in the woods to see the nocturnal life and visited La Fortuna waterfall. The students also had time to explore and relax in the world’s largest hot springs.

Moving on to Monteverde, students zip-lined, hiked through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest, and planted trees to support Costa Rica’s sustainability efforts. They also took part in a cultural exchange activity at a park typically just for “locals,” where they played volleyball and soccer, roasted marshmallows, and learned to dance the salsa with community members. One night, Ms. LaBrake led the group in a yoga class (she’s an instructor!).

Next up was the Central Pacific Coast, which included a visit to a rainforest adventure park. In the park, students trekked through a butterfly sanctuary, learned how different plants are used during a nature hike, and rode an aerial tram above the tree canopy. At Manuel Antonio National Park, students swam in the Pacific Ocean and relaxed on the beach while their tour guide guarded luggage from being ransacked by curious capuchin monkeys.

The group had a chance to observe different birds and explore mangroves on a crocodile jungle safari boat ride, go white-water rafting on the Sarapiqui River and attend a folklore evening featuring performances of local dances at a restaurant high in the mountains above San Jose.

This is the third time that Dr. Cohn has led the biennial tour. “Students enjoyed seeing sloths throughout the trip, eating local cuisine, and swimming. Almost every student on this trip made a new friend, pushed themselves out of their comfort zone, and tried something new for the first time,” he reports.

“It was an amazing and fun learning experience and I took so much from it,” says junior Tess B. View photos on Facebook.

Students hiking in rainforest