Franklin High School students from Joan Willis’ advanced biology class will get a taste of Pura Vida next month, when they take a longawaited trip to Costa Rica. Pura Vida (pronounced poo’ -rah vee’-dah) is a customary saying and national motto meaning “pure life.”
From April 18-24, the students will learn about the preservation of ecosystems and natural resources, biological diversity, geography and many other things, said Willis.
The excited teacher explained that the plans for the trip had begun about two years ago when she received a brochure in the mail from student travel organization World Strides, the organization offering the educational experience of a lifetime in the Central American nation. She placed it on her desk, for passing students to see.
“At the time I had an exceptional group of students in my class,” said Willis. “They saw the brochure and were interested.” The students asked Willis if they could go to the country for a field trip, with no shortage of enthusiasm. At first, Willis said that she wasn’t sure if it would be possible. “Those students are now juniors and seniors in my Advanced Placement Biology class,” she said.
After some time, the idea of a Costa Rican class trip continued to entice the teacher and her pupils. “We decided in May of last year, that this was something that we wanted to do,” explained Willis. Since that time, she said her class has held 14 fundraisers for the trip, including bake sales, spaghetti dinners, car washes and other activities. The Rotary Club and the Academic Foundation have even donated funds for the trip.
Willis said that her 20 students, along with six chaperones, will travel around the country, observing the geography and biological life of Costa Rica. “We’re going to be in three different areas,” she said. “We’ll be in a rainforest, a cloud forest and an area near an active volcano. We will go to every site throughout the five days.”
The students are scheduled to visit the presently active Arenal volcano in the northwestern part of the country. They will also visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a region just south of the volcano, with a completely different ecology.
“They get to zip line through the canopy, we will get to hike up to the volcano, and we’ll actually get to stay the night in an area adjacent to the active volcano,” Willis continued. “They will even get to explore the lava fields. The last day will be for cultural activities. Food, dancing with the people, that sort of thing.”
“What we’ve had mostly is really good community support,” Willis remarked. “People in the community have really stepped up and helped us a lot. We’ve made about $12,000 toward the trip through fundraisers and donations.” The trip will cost approximately $2,100 per student, Willis said, noting that about $2,500 is still needed for bus travel expenses.
Willis, who has never been outside of the country herself, said that the class has earned the Costa Rican adventure. “They have worked very hard and we’ve been working on this for a long, long time. I think this level of enrichment for them will open their eyes to careers, to what goes on outside of Macon County. I just think it’s a great opportunity for them and it will make a difference in their lives.”