Costa Rica trip exceeds students’ expectations

October 8, 2015 — by Frederick Kim

Gaining far more knowledge and experience than they had expected, 10 AP Environmental Science students, along with their teacher, Kristen Thomson, and Biology teacher Kristofer Orre, returned from a five-day turtle observing excursion to Tortuguero, Costa Rica, on Sept. 28.

Gaining far more knowledge and experience than they had expected, 10 AP Environmental Science students, along with their teacher, Kristen Thomson, and Biology teacher Kristofer Orre, returned from a five-day turtle observing excursion to Tortuguero, Costa Rica, on Sept. 28.

The group received hands-on experience with the endangered green sea turtles inhabiting the beaches in that area, learning more about field work and data collection along the way.

“At night, we went on these night patrols and we would count the eggs the turtles had laid,” senior Michelle Shen said. “Basically, the data we collected will be used for research.”

Although the students knew how to work in theoretical situations, they found that the seemingly easy tasks were harder than they looked.

“The time slot that we measured [the turtles] was when they were camouflaging or covering their nests that they had built, so they used their flippers to send up massive torrents of sand,” Shen said. “I got sand in my eyes and my mouth and under my shirt.”

Costa Rican-born sisters, juniors Daviana Berkowitz Sklar  and Danielle Berkowitz Sklar, said they originally decided to help Thomson plan the trip because they had previously worked with the organization before moving to California.

“[Daviana and I] had done many similar projects while we were living there, so we already had a good connection with the reserves and all of the field assistants,” Danielle said.

In the months leading up to the trip, Thomson handled trip logistics such as insurance, first aid, housing and recruiting interested students. Orre was the other chaperone.

Danielle said that the trip went better than she had hoped.

They not only learned more about turtle conservation and field work, but they also bonded more and taught their classmates about the culture in Costa Rica by exploring the town of Tortuguero.

“We learned something new every time and we gained new perspective on the behind the scene work that goes into getting data for the endangered species,” Daviana said.

They also visited a local school in Tortuguero.

Shen also said that she got to try new foods and desserts. Her favorite activity was the group’s visit to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

“[Mr. Orre] was kind of like our tour guide,” Shen said. “He pointed out cool creatures and showed us around and shared a ton of stories.”

Thomson also felt the trip went well.

“We collected data that goes to everybody in the world,” Thomson said. “I think the connection the kids made with each other was more than I could ask for.”

Orre and Thomson said they are hopeful that they will continue these types of trips in the future.

 
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