Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica

"We don't learn to love the earth by reading books on the subject, nor books on integral ecology. Our own experience is what counts. To plant and live through the growth of a tree or a plant, walking the city streets, or venturing into a forest, feeling the birds’ chirping on sunny days, or who knows, watching how the wind sways the plants, feeling the warm sand on the beaches, gazing at the stars on a dark night.”
-Pedagogy of the Earth and Culture of Sustainability by Moacir Gadotti

On Friday we visited the Cloud Forest School, which was by far my favorite of our field visits. The mission of the school is "to encourage a new generation of ecologically aware, bilingual individuals with the skills and motivation to make environmentally and socially conscious decisions on a local, national, and global scale." The school is located in the cloud forest of Monteverde:

The playground built by volunteers:

The school strives to be sustainable in various areas. These are their school buses next to the shed that is home to their bio diesel laboratory.
They also have a green house where students bring in species of plants that have fallen over after heavy rain.

They have a vegetable garden, which is enriched by the school's compost pile, where students bring in scraps of food from home to add to the mix.
The school has a tree nursery as a part of their reforestation project. Every person that visits the campus gets to plant a tree.
All twenty people from our class planted trees at the campus, including me:

Planting a tree on a school campus in Costa Rica was a spiritual experience for me and many others. All week we have been discussing the interconnectedness of humanity in addition to our relationship with the environment, and participating in and walking around the Cloud Forest School exemplified this. As I planted my tree, I thought about how I would forever have a relationship to this school, how I could further my personal practices of sustainability, and how I could try to further their mission by inspiring my future students in these same areas of sustainability.

The finished product:

The Justice League (AKA my fellow master's students):

The visit to the Cloud Forest School provided a stark contrast to the public school, Escuela El Rodeo, that we visited earlier in the week. First, it is a private school. The budget of the Cloud Forest School is about $300,000 per year, excluding salaries. The budget of the public school is $1,000 per year, excluding salaries. Most students are on partial financial aid, but it still costs money to attend the Cloud Forest School, which provides a challenge for some families.

Public schools are becoming less and less prominent in Costa Rica, as families are opting to use their money to send their kids to better schools. This is creating an interesting dynamic and provides less opportunities to the children who do attend public school. Because tourism is the number one industry in Costa Rica, those who go to public school are at a disadvantage upon graduation due to their lack of English skills.

While the discrepancy in education was discouraging to witness, it was inspiring to see a school as innovative and unique as the Cloud Forest School. It was one of the most impressive schools I have seen anywhere in the world. The average class size is 16 students, with a maximum of 22 students in high school. Students interact constantly with nature and the environment, taking ownership over the activities that I have mentioned here. If only this school could become a model that is duplicated throughout Costa Rica and the world.


  1. Brooke, this is the most inspirational thing i have seen. WOW! What an incredible experience. I love the school name too!!! and you. mom

  2. La sexta foto es la de mi hijo Daniel, ya ahora el tiene 8 aƱos. Que buen recuerdo.