We spent the majority of our third day in Costa Rica at the Jacinto Pantiaqua Elementary School. We learned that the education system in Costa Rica is quite different from that in America. The students attend half days in which one age group attends in the morning and the other age group attends in the afternoon. All students wear uniforms that distinguish what grade they are in.
During the first half of the day we worked with the fourth- and fifth-grade classes. We started in the classroom conducting science experiments. The first experiment involved learning about how water and nutrients travel through the veins of plants. We demonstrated this with celery stalks and colored water. The students were fascinated by the way the plants absorbed the colored water through their veins.
Next, we made rain clouds in a cup by dropping food coloring into a cup of shaving cream and water. The shaving cream represented the cloud and the food coloring represented the rain. The students were very knowledgeable of the rain cycle, and this made teaching easy.
The activities helped the students to practice their English, while also testing our Spanish. Being with the children who do not know as much English as the families we have been staying with really forced us to immerse ourselves in the language and learn more words.
After the classroom time, we went to the gymnasium for another educational activity and physical exercise. The students drew and labeled the human body and organs, and we were surprised with how much they knew about the organs. Relay races were a fun way to introduce the importance of physical activity to overall health, which connected to the previous activity in which they learned about their bodies and how to nourish them.
In the afternoon, we worked with students in grades one through three, using the same classroom activities as earlier. They were just as amazed as the previous group with the cloud activity.
In the gymnasium, we painted with the students. Working with the younger students was a bit more difficult as there was a greater language barrier. The younger students were just beginning to learn English, and some did not know any at all. Despite that, we were still able communicate using body language and other context clues.
All of the students we encountered were very welcoming. When we walked in the classroom, they stood to greet us; and as we left, we received an overwhelming number of hugs. It was evident that these students were genuinely excited to spend time with us. They are so positive despite the difficulties they have faced in their lives. Many of the students come from low-income areas, and some have lost family members or have been abandoned by their parents. A couple of the students we met had lost limbs or had a learning disability, but they did not let that keep them from being fully involved in the day.
We take for granted how fortunate we are to have new school buildings with updated materials. This experience was eye-opening because each student we encountered was excited to learn and embrace whatever we had to offer. Back home in America, many students dread going to school and do not realize how much they have.
Natalie Brooks, junior History and Political Science major
Luis Reyes, senior Business Administration major