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September 14, 2017
Comfort Zones Expanded
Jungles, volcanos, cloud forests and turtle walks – these are just some of the rare and remarkable sights eight Branksome students enjoyed while volunteering in Costa Rica over the summer.

The Grade 10 and 11 students, accompanied by their teachers, Ms Hamilton and Mr. Carty, spent 18 days on an environmental Service Learning trip. The group began their trip in Junquillal, where they worked with a turtle conservation for four days and learned about the impact of global warming and how to protect turtles from climate change.

View their baby turtle video

"We spent our morning planting trees on the beach to create shade so that the turtle eggs would be safe, and learning about all the different types of trees in Junquillal," said Sam, a student on the trip.

The next 12 days were spent in the small community of Canitas, where students were paired up with local families who welcomed them into their homes, and, in many cases, onto their farms. While there, they learned about Costa Rican culture and customs like playing soccer, dancing the salsa and cooking. They also practised Spanish and experienced daily life, all while challenging themselves to adapt to the new and unfamiliar environment.

Watch them learn to dance

"Many of us enjoyed traditional Costa Rican breakfast dishes like fried plantains, tortillas, and Pinto—pinto beans mixed with rice. It was all really yummy and I know we are all looking forward to learning more about Costa Rican food and our families' culture through our homestays," said student Emma.

During their homestay, the students spent their days completing a service project to revitalize Canitas's Town Hall by painting it inside and out, gardening, and painting a mural. "Each day of community work has brought with it new challenges as we work together as a team and continue to push each other outside of our comfort zones," said Ms Hamilton.

The group also went on many day trips, including one to a coffee plantation. "The whole process of producing coffee beans, sugar and chocolate was so fascinating and we all learned a lot," said Kathy, a student on the trip.

The girls also experienced the country's biodiversity by hiking through a cloud forest at the Santa Elena Rainforest Reserve. "We learned about the incredible diversity of flora and fauna in the park, and some of the differences between primary and secondary forests," said Ms Hamilton.

Branksome has offered this Service Learning trip to Costa Rica for over a decade and is thrilled students will have the opportunity to participate again next summer.

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