Originally Published in the Temple Daily Telegram
Spring Break in Costa Rica: Temple students sign up for ecology program
A group of Temple High School students are leaving today for a spring break adventure in Costa Rica.
They will be traveling with THS teachers Jodi Bollinger and Michael Marek to study in a nine-day Sea Turtle Ecology Program with Ecology Project International.
Last year, Bollinger decided to take a group of students to the Galapagos Islands, also to study with EPI.
“I’d never taken students out of the country, (but) we decided to ‘go big or go home,’” Bollinger said. “It was an amazing experience; none of us came back unchanged.”
The Galapagos trip inspired Bollinger to find other ways to expand her students’ horizons.
“It was a very transformative experience and so positive we decided we wanted to try to make it an annual event,” she said. “Last year I think we took 18 students; this year we’re taking a dozen.”
Senior Ajani Rogers said that he is excited about the trip. He said he is particularly looking forward to learning more about the Costa Rican culture from other teens, since the project will also involve participants from local high schools.
“I’d just like to experience what it’s like to go outside the country and also what it’s like to study animals,” Rogers said.
Rogers and fellow traveler Garrett Mathesen are both planning on studying computers in college. Mathesen said he hopes the trip will help him understand scientific research better.
“I’m planning on going into engineering, computer engineering, but I really kind of like all sciences,” Mathesen said. “(I hope) to better prepare myself for when I get out into the science world.”
But Mathesen is also drawn to the overall novelty of the trip.
“Really (I want to) just experience something that I haven’t done before,” Mathesen said. “The research component was a really big part of it.”
The work the students will be doing will involve conducting a “census” of nesting sea turtles on the beach in Pacuare Reserve and taking nature hikes in the rainforest. To help offset the cost of the trip the group has had fundraisers, although the students’ parents are primarily responsible for paying for their expenses.
“We had several individuals in the community who sponsored individual students,” Bollinger said. “They were educators, retired educators, family, friends, who thought it was a worthwhile endeavor.” Marek said that in addition to the scientific and cultural learning, these trips are a good opportunity for students’ personal growth.
“When we went to the Galapagos the students came back not only with a better understanding of the environment, they gained leadership skills,” Marek said. Bollinger agreed.
“I think they learned a lot about themselves,” she said.