Costa Rica trip provides ASU students with invaluable education experience

group of students standing on bridge in costa rica

Hilary Goodine and 10 other Arizona State University students will step off campus and into the heart of Costa Rica’s tropical rainforests this summer, where they will discover the importance of learning outside classroom walls.

Organizers of the two-week trip through the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College hope the students will take back experiences that they can one day use to inspire their own students.

“I want to share my experiences with my students and inspire them to travel because I believe everyone should travel and have as many experiences as they can,” said Goodine, who is training to become a middle school science teacher.

This particular study-abroad trip, which begins May 23, is different from many others: It is a three-credit science course, and it has a strong science focus that is combined with new cultural experiences.

Students will perform service projects at a handful of public, private and rural schools; work with scientists and other professors; interact with children and families; and study ecology of the tropical rainforest.

Traveling with the 11 ASU students is Molina Walters, ASU faculty director and clinical associate professor.

It will be Walters’ fifth time taking students to Costa Rica through ASU since taking over the study-abroad program.

“When I came back after that first year, I thought I could do so much more with it,” Walters said. “There were all of these opportunities for students to come home with background knowledge to what they could be teaching, and it wasn’t being tapped.”

Walters changed the trip to add a strong science focus, stating how the rainforests in Costa Rica are built for learning about science on a global scale.

“Instead of just reading about tropical ecology from a textbook, why buy the book when I can take them and they can see it and experience it and I can teach the main content?” Walters said.

Getting that experience for the first time will be Goodine, a junior getting her degree in elementary education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and a certificate in environmental education.

“I kind of always wanted to be a teacher,” Goodine said. “I love helping and teaching people, and seeing the light bulb go off is a huge reward to any educator.”

Goodine said after she graduates she plans to go back to school and get her master’s in science education. She hopes in the future to teach abroad for a portion of her career.

Junior Abby Greb, also majoring in elementary education, went on the Costa Rica trip two summers ago and is going again this summer as an undergraduate teaching assistant.

She said she wants to enjoy the culture of Costa Rica again, but also she also hopes to learn new teaching techniques.

“For me, because next fall I begin student-teaching, I hope to come away with more of a leadership role since I’m going as a TA,” Greb said. “I want to know more about management and leadership.”

Greb said one adventure she is excited for is seeing the sea turtles.

“When we went on my trip a couple summers ago we did a sea turtle excursion where we helped out leatherback sea turtles, but this year they are doing something with the sea turtles on the other side of Costa Rica so I’m really looking forward to that because that will be a new experience for me,” Gelb said.

Walters said the most rewarding thing about the trip is seeing students change and start to learn more about the world around them.

“You get down there and everybody has an expectation of what life will be elsewhere because they only have the experience of the United States, and watching my students grow on a global scale, I can’t tell you – that’s why I take anybody traveling. There’s no way you can go anywhere and not have a personal growth experience,” Walters said.

Written by Samantha Pell, ASU News