Friday, June 3, 2011

My adventure is coming to an end...

The seeds we collected to plant

Leaving our mark...
      This week has gone by so fast! We visited a coffee plantation and planted trees to aide in reforestation. It's neat to think about the fact that years from now, our little trees will be standing tall and we will have left a piece of ourselves in Costa Rica. The owner of the plantation stressed the importance of education in Costa Rica. This was great to hear for my research project. Also, after visiting the Cloud Forest school I learned a lot about how the Ticos (people of Costa Rica) view education. It seems to be extremely important to everyone. I am excited to get back all of my survey questions. I have also seen many things in the schools and the community that I would like to bring to my own classrooms to promote environmental education.

  I can't believe my trip is coming to an end! This has been such a great experience. Yesterday we had the opportunity to zip line of above the top of the cloud forest. It was an amazing experience! After that, I feel like I can do anything!
Our view from above the trees: The top of the Arenal Volcano

     Even though I have only been here for three weeks, my Spanish has really improved. Since I am immersed in the the culture here, in the schools, community, and homes, I am able to apply the things I've been learning. I can communicate with my family and the locals much better now! I wish someone could have heard me speaking Spanish in the pharmacy yesterday. I was able to ask questions and understand the answers. I was so proud of myself!

     After all I've seen and done here, I am going to miss my family here in Monteverde the most. They have been absolutely wonderful! They welcomed me right away and immediately felt like my own family. Over the past two weeks I have noticed so many similarities between their family and my own. My Mama Tica has been learning English so we've been helping each other with our languages. I have learned so much from them. I also love the fact that my 11 year old hermana tica (sister) has been helping me with my Spanish homework! Everything here has been wonderful and I almost don't want to leave...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Necesito descansar ( I need to rest)...

     After two full weeks of taking Spanish classes and living with a Spanish speaking family, I am ready for a break! I am not sure how much more my brain can take. I am physically and mentally exhausted. It takes a lot of energy to think and speak in a new language. It takes energy to come up with the words to use to be able to communicate with my familia tica. Sometimes I try to form complete sentences, but I often find myself resorting to two word fraises. For example, “Need shower,” and “Paper here.”
      When we were at the hotel this past weekend in La Fortuna, I turned on the T.V and began to flip through the channels. It was a wonderful feeling when I found a familiar movie on that was in English! It was so easy to watch. I didn’t have to work hard to understand it. Sometimes when we’re at school or in town at a store, it is a relief to hear people speaking English. It is extra tiring to come home after four hours of Spanish class and have to speak in Spanish some more. I am ready for a break from this new language at least to rest my brain for a little while.
      I am positive this is how English Language Learners feel. They must be exhausted after school each day just from trying to understand. This is something I will definitely keep in mind when I have ELLs in my classroom. Another thing to keep in mind is that it is helpful when I am able to work on an assignment with a peer that speaks English. We can discuss the Spanish words in English to make sure we understand what we’re doing. 

Mi Familia Tica

Monday, May 30, 2011

Arenal Volcano

     This weekend we visited the city of La Fortuna to see the Arenal Volcano. This volcano is the most active volcano in Costa Rica. The last major eruption was in 1968. The best view of the volcano is between 5 and 6 in the morning when there are no clouds. We had a perfect view of the volcano from our hotel rooms. We had the opportunity to enjoy soaking up the minerals in the waters of the hot springs. The springs are naturally heated from the volcano and the temperatures range from 93 to 104 degrees F. The waters are rich in mineral salts and ions which are very good for the skin. We also took a hike around the base of the volcano and in a nearby forest. There, we had to opportunity to see a variety of birds, insects, and we even spotted some howler monkeys! Adventures like these make learning about animals and their environment very interesting. As a future teacher, I would love to be able to take my students on hikes to help engage them in learning rather than just teaching straight from the books.

Can you spot the insect?


CPI in Monteverde--The dogs follow us everywhere!

     We arrived in Monteverde last Monday and we will be here for two weeks. I absolutely love my familia tica. There is a mom, dad, and two little girls, Yendry (11) and Sophie (2). My house in Monteverde is very different from my home in Heredia. Things are very open and there is little privacy. My room and the bathroom are the only rooms with doors. I also noticed that there are no gates or bars on the windows of houses here. There were bars and locks on everything in Heredia. There are very few paved roads here in Monteverde and I have a hike to the closest meeting point. Every morning I have to walk up a massive mountain of mud and rocks. I am sweating and completely out of breath each time I reach the top! People around here also walk everywhere, which is probably why I have yet to see someone over weight.
My home in Monteverde

     My mama tica takes English classes at night Monday through Wednesday. She tries to speak to me in English at home but it is only a few broken words. Which I’m sure is exactly how my Spanish sounds to them! The daughter, Yendry is in 5th grade and is also learning English through school. Last week I helped her study for a test on the body parts. While I was helping her learn body parts in English, she helped me learn the body parts in Spanish. My mama tica is very involved with Yendry’s education. She makes sure she does her homework every night and she often motivates her to study. This directly ties into my research project. I want to find out more about parent involvement in the children’s education here in Costa Rica. The first week we were here, I made up a survey with questions about the importance of education and involvement for people to fill out. Of course it is in Spanish. I used a scale for most of the questions to make it easier to analyze my data. There are however, two open ended questions that I will need to translate later on. I sent surveys home with my peers to have their families fill out, in both Heredia and Monteverde. I also gave out some surveys at the hotel this weekend in La Fortuna. I think I will have a good sample of people to pull from throughout the rest of the trip.

Mama Tica, Yendry, & Sophie
     My mama tica is one of twelve children. Most of her brothers and sisters and their families live nearby. There are people always coming over and running in and out of the house. It is very exciting all of the time! Everyone is very close here. I don’t get much privacy or much rest, but it doesn’t bother me much. Every morning the two year old, Sophie comes in my room and sits on my bed. She just watches me brush my hair and put on my makeup. In the evenings when I return from a long day of hiking and four hours of Spanish class, I am ready to nap or at least sit down. Not likely. My mama tica’s sister who is 16 and the daughter Yendry come in my room and say, “Vamos! Bailar!” Let’s go dance. We do Zumba in the living room. It’s a lot of fun! I am learning many different dances: Cumbia, Salsa, Samba, Flamingo, and the Marenge. Needless to say, I have slept well every single night! It’s hard to believe that we only have one more week left!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Learning about learning…

It sounds a little complicated, but I am learning a lot about learning while here in Costa Rica. A major component of learning is engagement. After visiting multiple classrooms at various schools in Costa Rica, I have noticed that almost all of the students are engaged in their lessons; with their teacher or the ones that we taught. Each afternoon when I am in Spanish class (for four hours) I am also fully engaged the entire time.
                This past week we met as a group to discuss our observations and field notes. Together, we came to a few conclusions about why learners are engaged. Introducing things that are novel or new are a great way to get students engaged. When we went into the classrooms and began teaching lessons in English, we changed the students’ routines. New people, new activities, and a new language, all helped the students remain engaged in the lessons and hopefully resulted in them learning something new. Each week we get a new Spanish teacher and a new classroom. For me, this new teaching style and new environment keeps things interesting and therefore I am reengaged each week.
                Relationships are also a factor of engagement. While working in the classrooms we were with groups ranging from one to four students. Teaching small groups allows for closer interaction between the teacher and the student(s), therefore the students are more engaged in the lesson and able to get more out of it. It is similar with our Spanish classes each week. We are in groups no larger than four people. The teacher is able to answer more of our questions because there are fewer students. I am also able to talk about what we’re learning with my peers. Sometimes they are able to explain things differently than the teacher and in a way that I can understand. Working with partners or in small groups allows for close relationships resulting in engagement and students working and learning together.

Yes this is real! We saw it on a hike. It was paralyzed after being stung by a wasp.
                Competition is another major factor of engagement. Using games throughout the learning process creates the sense of competition. With competition, students are engaged and motivated to learn the material. Another way of engaging students in learning is creating a need to know. Since I am living with a family that only speaks Spanish I need to know how to speak and understand the language. While at the store or asking for directions on the street, I need to know how to use the language to communicate. Making learning meaningful is another important part of engagement. Making it real to students and even making it enjoyable is also part of creating engagement. All of the hikes that we’ve been going on these past two weeks have been wonderful learning opportunities. Spotting different plants and animals and learning how they work and live together is much more engaging than if we were to just read about them in books. 

Sloth or Perezoso-Translation: Lazy Bear

Learning what it’s like to be an ELL or English Language Learner…

1st grade English class in the primary school
       I have four hours of Spanish class each day, Monday through Friday. I am beginning to see what it is like to be a second language learner. It is very interesting and exciting yet, challenging, overwhelming and sometimes extremely frustrating. The teacher explains things to us in Spanish, such as giving directions or just asking questions. I know many words in Spanish, but when she speaks in full sentences at a quick pace, it goes right over my head. When my peers all seem to understand, it makes me feel stupid and I get very discouraged. I imagine children learning a second language experience similar feelings. As an adult however, I feel like I am able to handle much more than a child could going through this situation.
      This past week I was sick. I could not pay attention or focus on anything in Spanish class. It was all I could do to keep my head up so I wasn’t being disrespectful. I had to leave class early to go to the doctor (that’s a whole other experience). After a couple of days of being sick, I was finally able to focus in class again. I soon realized how far behind I was. I struggled to catch up, keep up, and understand everything. I became very frustrated and I was almost to the point of completely shutting down. What happens when my students that are English Language Learners (ELLs) miss school due to illness or otherwise? How far behind will they get? How can I help catch them up or make sure that they don’t get behind at all? How far can I push them without reaching their breaking point resulting in them shutting down and no longer trying?  
After teaching a lesson on leafs in English (4th Grade)
       It really helps me when the teacher slows down, even though she is still speaking in Spanish, it is much easier to hear each word and understand what she is saying. I have a different Spanish teacher each week. My teacher this week, rarely speaks in English. I’m not even sure if she knows more than a few words in English. If I don’t understand something, she often slows down and explains further in Spanish, using other words, hand gestures, and sometimes drawings on the board. So while I’m learning what she began to explain, I am also learning other Spanish words throughout the explanation process. When learning new vocabulary, it is extremely helpful to hear the word alone, see it written, and also hear how the word is used in conversation. At the end of each lesson, we play a game of some sort, using the vocabulary that we just learned. Games create a sense of friendly competition which motivates me to practice and study more so I can succeed. All of these things are strategies that I could use in my own classroom to help my students better understand, especially my ELLs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Animal Planet wasn´t lying!

     This past weekend on our way to Manuel Antonio, we had a surprise stop. We went for a walk across the Tarcoles river. Down below the bridge I saw for the first time, a real, live, living, breathing, wild, crocodile. It was so neat! Shortly after our walk across the bridge, we arrived at a place that offered river safaris. We took a tour boat down the river with our guide Javier and our driver Manuel. Within just a few minutes on the river we saw at least four or five crocodiles less than one hundred yards away from our boat! 
     Then, the unthinkable happened... Manuel climbed off of the boat and onto the muddy bank of the river. In his hand he held two raw fish. He proceeded to smack the fish on the surface of the water. Within seconds, a very large crocodile swam up to the bank for a snack! Once the croc got closer, Manuel put the fish in his mouth and waited for the crocodile to eat it! What was he thinking? As this was all happening, all I could think was: Am I really here? Is this really happening? I saw this on Animal Planet just the other day! Oh please don´t get eaten right in front of me!!!! See what happened in the video below... Was Manuel the crocodile´s snack?

To see the video click on the YouTube link below.