Members of Women With Children Program Prepare to Study in Costa Rica

Byline: Laura B. Hans

Posted: December 12, 2010

This summer, thanks to a grant from the Heinz Foundation, Wilson students and their children can participate in a study abroad opportunity in Costa Rica. The study abroad curriculum is currently in the pilot program stage. Two courses are planned for the occasion. The first is an intermediate level Spanish course titled "In Other Words, In Other Worlds: ‘Languages and Culture in Costa Rica.'" The second is an environmental studies course titled "Costa Rica: Perspectives on Sustainability." According to the New Economics Foundation, "Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the ‘greenest' country in the world." Therefore, it is an extremely appropriate place to study sustainability practices.

The Goals of the Project

Assistant Prof. of Spanish, Amanda Eaton McMenamin, as well as the Women with Children Program, initially envisioned the idea. Their intention was to provide an engaging experience for an underserved population. This study abroad program is for both traditional students and students and children from the Women with Children program. This study abroad program provides students and their children with an immersive global learning experience. The four primary project goals include: to establish a model global studies program, promote the cross cultural learning experience, promote the children's exposure to cross-cultural experiences and provide a service learning experience for participants.

Pulling the Program Together

The tentative itinerary includes spending a few days in San José for an urban experience. They then travel to the Pacific Coast and stay in Sierpe for two weeks. Sierpe is a small town at the base of the Osa Peninsula in South Costa Rica. Here, students gain perspective on the Costa Rican rural experience. Afterwards, the group travels back to San José. While staying in Sierpe, the children attend an English-speaking school. Christine Maxwell, hired as the children's program coordinator, provides for the children's needs. Next semester, several predeparture meetings will be held for the children to meet Maxwell. During these meetings, travel plans will be established.

New Course Offering: Perspectives on Sustainability

In conjunction with the travel between rural and urban areas, the Perspectives on Sustainability course provides a comparative experience between urban and rural environmental practices. Adjunct Professor and Program Manager of the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living, Christine Mayer will teach this course. Mayer says, "I'm very excited about the biodiversity. Kids often read about the rainforest, but they may not know what's going on in their back yard. This is a great opportunity for them to experience the rainforest first hand." Mayer also looks forward to comparing small and large farm models as well as community gardening practices.

Culminating the Experience

Mayer says, "The program speaks to the global citizenship initiative. It is a great thing for Wilson to be so heavily invested. It's amazing when students get to step out of their comfort zone. It is a wonderful opportunity; and wonderful to see the Heinz foundation thinks so too."

Mayer anticipates that students will produce a capstone project highlighting their experience. As described in the Wilson College website, each student completes a capstone project or culminating experience in accordance with their department's learning goals and the outcomes of the Institutional Learning Goals document. Mayer hopes to film the experience.

For Further Information

Several students expressed interest and attended the informational session on Tues, Nov. 9. The final application deadline was Dec. 3. For further information contact

Last Updated: September 21, 2011

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