Greene Street Friends seventh graders sent off to Costa Rica with advice (and hugs)

“Don’t lock people out of cabins when monkeys are chasing them.”

That was one valuable nugget in the list of advice the eighth-grade class offered peers in the class below them in Greene Street Friends School’s meetinghouse Tuesday morning.

There, students from kindergarten to the eighth grade gathered to send 21 seventh graders off on a 10-day educational trip to Costa Rica.

Advice, support offered

The travelers sat in the front of the room, sporting their turquoise 2013 trip T-shirts and listening to advice from schoolmates who went on the same adventure last year.

Included in the list of what to do (and not to do) were “Try all of the food, go with the flow, try to speak Spanish and wear sunscreen.”

Following that presentation, each class presented a personalized card to each trip goer.

Nat Hilton was lucky enough to receive two cards, one from each of his siblings. Each card arrived along with a big hug.

How the trip came to be

The trip was made possible by a year-long fundraising effort to ensure the entire class could go, regardless of students’ financial need.

“Greene Street Friends is committed to equality,” said Sandra Rodriguez, a former GSFS Spanish teacher. “This trip is a testament to that commitment.”

Rodriguez, a Costa Rican native, first proposed the trip 11 years ago.

People were hesitant and didn’t believe the trip could be done, said Rodriguez, a chaperone on the voyage. Despite that initial doubt, the school has now sent more than 400 on the trip over the past decade.

Chaperones include Kathie Bowes — a pre-kindergarten teacher who taught the seventh graders years ago — along with science teacher Josh Goodstein, fourth-grade teaching assistant Yvette Griggs and Ara Perez, the school’s new Spanish teacher.

What they’ll do

During the trip, which has both an educational and environmental focus, the children will write daily journals, complete math projects involving conversion rates and focus on environmental studies.

The itinerary includes an overnight trip to Monte Verde where the seventh graders will meet their Costa Rican pen pals, attending school with them and meeting their families.

“It’s really wonderful to remove the kids from their way of life here, put them in a completely new place and watch them get out of their comfort zones and explore new horizons,” said Rodriguez. “I especially love to look at my country through their eyes and discover new things about Costa Rica.”

Students excited

Dylan Lewis said she’s been looking forward to the trip for many years.

“We’ve been told about this trip since pre-kindergarten, and I used to tell my parents ‘I cant leave until eighth grade!'” she exclaimed.

For his part, Paul Force is most excited to meet his pen pal and travel farther than he ever has before.

“I’ve never been out of the country besides Canada,” he said. “I’m pretty nervous about the plane ride since it’s my first.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.