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By Fran Yellen, Middle Division Administrator and Afterschool Coordinator
In early February, with snow falling and the temperatures plummeting in Brooklyn, our 8th grade made its annual pilgrimage to Costa Rica to participate in a Spanish language immersion program. This trip marked the ninth year MMFS has participated in this wonderful program. Here is a peak at the week.
Students and parents arrive at the airport bright and early on Saturday morning with looks of fear, excitement, and joyfulness. Imagine a week in the sun, taking Spanish classes and enjoying daily excursions with your good friends and familiar chaperones? It is an amazing experience for our students.
As the jet nears Liberia Airport, you can feel the buzz of excitement and the peeling of layers of winter clothes. Shorts come out of bags, socks get removed, and sweatshirts are stowed. Our guide meets us as we exit customs and we are off on a journey that always ends with the students and chaperones returning to New York as different people, but more on that later.
Students attend Spanish Immersion classes each day from 8:00 am to noon. After a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, we take a two mile walk along a pristine sandy beach to school. The surf hits our feet and the sun hits our backs. Spanish classes are a mixture of games, activities, and traditional classroom work. The students “Get it.” They begin to speak Spanish with more confidence and fluidity. The teachers love our students; many of the teachers have been working with our group for years, so there are lots of smiles and expectations greeting us when we arrive. Halfway through the morning classes, the cook at the school prepares a wonderful snack and the students come out to dip their feet in the pool, play basketball, or challenge each other to a game of ping-pong. They are glowing! The camaraderie grows. It is a bond that grows and will forever link these students and chaperones. The school bell rings at noon, we help the students do homework, and take off for our daily excursion.
One day it is a riverboat cruise where we challenge each other to find the most monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas, and birds. Another day it is a snorkel cruise aboard a catamaran, the next, surfing lessons on Tamarindo Beach, or flying through
the treetops on a zip line. The students grow closer and they change. They feel more confident and form a stronger group.
The evenings are just as much fun. We have wonderful dinners at typical Costa Rican restaurants. They are all open air and you can feel the lovely tropical breeze. Sometimes, there is an evening swim at the hotel pool or a quick ride to the Italian piazza to enjoy our favorite gelato. On our final night, we have a “fancy” dinner (which basically means clean shirts and flowy dresses) and end the night with a talent show. And oh what talent our students possess. Whether it is singing an Adele song accompanied by strumming guitar, giving an improvisational tribute to a dead bug, or a group of six boys dancing to Justin Timberlake, it’s a blast!!!!
We end our week with a Silence in our hotel garden. It’s amazing to hear the birds chirping and feel the final bit of Costa Rican sun beating on our warm skin before heading out to buy souvenirs and have our final lunch. We board the plane tired, but oh so happy. We arrive back at JFK to a cheering group of parents and families waiting to see the arrival of their “new” 8th grade students. We are all tired but it is an exhaustion that comes from lots of fun and learning. Our memories will be talked about for the rest of the year. This year’s group lived up to every expectation we had of them. They were all inclusive, full of joy, and cared so much about each other. It was a week we will never forget. As they say in Costa Rica … Pura Vida!
For photos, please click here.