Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Westfield State students transformed by Costa Rican cultural experience


Twelve Westfield State University students traveled to Costa Rica this summer as part of the short-term study abroad course “A Costa Rican Intercultural and Tropical Ecology Experience” led by Professor Kathleen Itterly and Professor Trudy Knowles, both from the Westfield State Department of Education.

The course was designed to allow future teachers to immerse themselves in another culture both by participating in service learning as they observe and assist with instruction at local schools and exploring the Costa Rican environment by visiting different ecological sites.

Itterly said that understanding different cultures is an essential tool for educators.

Students visited four Costa Rican elementary schools. The first was Escuela San Jorge, a small school with five students ages 6-14. Students then visited two private bi-lingual schools in the Monteverde area (Cloud Forest School and Monteverde Friends School) to focus on bilingual education, and then concluded with the Santa Elena Public School in Santa Elena where they taught a lesson to students in grades K-5. 

In addition to teaching, students visited a number of ecological sites including the Atlantic lowlands, volcanic mountains, the cloud forests of Monteverde, and the Pacific lowlands.

Going along with the ecology aspect of the course, students were able to balance the carbon footprint of their travel by contributing to scientific research. Students measured the growth of secondary forest trees scattered throughout an area near the La Calandria field station. In exchange for their research, trees were planted in their names, three for each student.

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