Originally published at Museum Institute for Teaching Science.
San Rafael and Heredia, Costa Rica – Out of hundreds of applications and a rigorous application process, Brianna Wilkinson, Assistant Director of Education at the Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS), was selected by Ecology Project International (EPI) to participate in an 8-day Teacher Fellowship in Costa Rica from April 20-27, 2018. During the Fellowship, Brianna learned about bringing field research into classroom education by exploring diverse ecosystems and assisting with a sea turtle study.
At MITS, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that promotes and enables high quality, inquiry-based, hands-on STEM education by catalyzing collaborations of informal and formal education institutions, Brianna is the Assistant Director of Education.In this role, she furthers MITS’s mission by coordinating and implementing professional development programs for educators.
No stranger to field research, or to Costa Rica, Brianna spent 3 months designing and implementing miniature research projects at stations like Palo Verde, La Selva, and Cuerici as part of Dartmouth College’s Biology Foreign Study Program. After experiencing Costa Rica through the lens of a student and a scientist, she was eager to return and see it from the perspective of an educator.
Brianna was intrigued by the EPI program because of its emphasis on field experiences; the program has taken more than 10,500 students (both Costa Rican and international) to field sites in Costa Rica since 2000. EPI is a non-profit field science and conservation organization that partners scientists with local and international students and educators in ecologically critical environments like Costa Rica, the Galapagos, and Yellowstone.
During the Fellowship, Brianna and a select group of U.S. and international teachers traveled to the Caribbean coast to experience a modified version of EPI’s Sea Turtle Ecology Program. Through cultural exchange at a Costa Rican school and immersion in the country’s biodiversity, Brianna learned about education in the field and how it can be used to enrich the classroom. Her EPI experience included four days at Pacuare Reserve, a leatherback sea turtle reserve, and three days at Tirimbina, a rainforest research station.
Back in Massachusetts, Brianna reflected on her experience, stating that she hopes to incorporate resources, tools, and strategies that will be useful to the educators with whom she works. Extending her experience, Brianna is making connections between topics discussed on the trip, like ocean science and climate change, with her local environment. Her goal is to inspire other educators by sharing information, ideas and stories from her Costa Rican adventure.