Arts-Based Environmental Education Internship in Costa Rica

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April 26, 2017

Roseangela Hartford, a student of Ursinus College, describes her internship with the Monteverde Conservation League and the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Throughout the past month, I have been working with art educator and community leader Carla Willoughby to increase youth environmental education through the history of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and artistic expression. The time spent achieving these goals was split between the Monteverde Conservation League (ACM) and the Cloud Forest School (CEC). First, the efforts with the ACM involved improving and renovating the Children’s House at the local station site of the Bajo del Tigre Reserve. These improvements directly involved the participation of the seventh grade art class at the Cloud Forest School. The purpose of working with both organizations was to engage CEC students in arts-based environmental education activities on site at the Bajo del Tigre Reserve with the aim of expanding student awareness of the community resource and the surrounding ecology.

My interest in the internship stemmed from my commitment to pursuing a career in the field of education. Currently, I am completing my Peace Corps Preparatory Certification within the Education sector with the intention of working with diverse international communities. While the internship was based in an art classroom, my skills in artistic expression and creativity were quite limited. With time and intentional practice, I was able to overcome these challenges and develop an artistic eye within the scope of conservation. The knowledge acquired through researching instructional techniques of educational philosophy incited the development of lesson planning techniques. Moreover, articulating and simplifying complicated terminology within the realm of environmental studies advanced my analytical and public speaking skills. Throughout the internship, I thoughtfully adapted my presentations to meet the expectations of a bilingual school by instructing and answering questions in both Spanish and English. During this process, I progressed my active listening abilities and adapted my rhetoric to meet the comprehension level of a seventh grade classroom.

Throughout my time working with the Monteverde Conservation League and the Cloud Forest School, I acquired an incredible amount of knowledge about the transformative history of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and applied this knowledge to my instruction. By covering the simplified nuances of topics such as biodiversity, conservation, life zones, sustainability, and topography within the scope of Monteverde, I created analogies, hands on activities, and informal evaluations to challenge students to apply and identify these topics in their daily lives.

My tangible contributions to the Children’s House at Bajo del Tigre included assisting students in painting the updated Children’s Eternal Rainforest logo, creating an interactive topographical puzzle map of the surrounding nature reserves, and renovated parts of the mural inside the Children’s House. While these physical contributions will improve the aesthetic of the Children’s House, I believe my greatest accomplishment was encouraging creative exploration and examination of conservationist issues for the rising generation of students in the Monteverde community. Also, I introduced practical terminology into my lessons including the purpose of nonprofits, market economies, and the land form uses so that the students could understand the holistic picture of conservationist efforts. Above all, this internship evoked adaptability, intentional goal setting, bilingual comprehension, creativity, lesson planning, and presentation skills for a general audience.

Want to hear more? Visit the Monteverde Sustainability and the Environment blog for more student stories.