December 08, 2010 - Parents who are looking for an educational experience this summer for their eighth grade students should talk to Oxford Middle School teacher Jorge Gomez.
Gomez, the eighth-grade Spanish teacher at OMS and Oxford High School science teacher Kelly Bollman will be heading up an educational field trip to Costa Rica from July 20-29, 2011. The trip is associated with EF Educational Tours, who has been conducting guided tours to students for more than 45 years.
Students, and parents who wish to attend as well, will be exposed to Costa Rica's culture, langauge and vast ecosystems.
"It is going to be great exposure for the students, not only culturally with science and language, but they get to experience another country," Gomez said.
Bollman said traveling and experiencing Costa Rica will allow students to have a better understanding of the Spanish language.
"It's not book Spanish, it's how people speak in the real world," she explained. "Having the opportunity to travel and experience a culture, rather than have it brought in via a movie, is so much better."
Costa Rica will also introduce students to six different ecosystems during their trip, which would take upwards of six weeks to accomplish in the United States.
"Because everything is so close in Costa Rica and things do change because of the geography, the kids are going to get the opportunity to see a lot of wonderful and unique science opportunities.
Currently six students, four parents and two advisors are going. Gomez is shooting for at least 14 students and is more than happy to welcome their parents along.
Students have the option of taking the field trip for credit. If students do choose the credit route, the trip will be counted as an elective credit when they enter high school and they will have to do some reading before the trip and some course work when they return home.
Both Gomez and Bollman assured the Board of Education student safety was not going to be an issue when they presented the idea to the board last month.
According to Gomez, students will be using the buddy system and be chaperoned at all times.
"At no time are they to be without their partner...there will be time checks they need to be at and group checks before we go to sleep and before we leave to go anywhere," he said.
"The program that they are going through is very active," Bollman added. "The kids are going to be tired, so once they are tucked in, one of us will be up late and someone will be up early, so there will be little time when an adult is not awake in the vincinity of the rooms."
Hotel staff will keep an eye on students to make sure they are safe and comfortable.
Waivers will be signed to ensure students know the rules and regulations of the trip.
"For me, expectations for being out of the country are a little more strigent," Bollman said.
The board approved the trip by a 6-0 vote at their Nov. 22 meeting.
Activities include seeing volcanoes, hot springs, going kayaking, going to a waterfall, planting a tree, visiting a school, swimming in the Central Pacific coast and visiting Manuel Antonio National Park.
Total cost for the nine-day adventure is $2047, which includes roundtrip airfare, all meals, transportation, a full time tour director, guided sightseeing and entrance fees to all attractions.
A trip to Costa Rica is something Gomez had been planning before he came to Oxford this year. He traveled there in February and liked the country so much that he wanted his students to share his experiences.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.