Astor Collegiate students explore Costa Rica

Students from Astor Collegiate High School recently went on a trip to Costa Rica where they learned not only about ecology in the rain forest, but also about the native culture of the country. (L-r) Ronaire Morris, Beverly Galvan, George Palacios, Catherine Diaz, Isalina Sanchez, Joshual Lopez, Michael Genao, and Ilir Ukaj went to Costa Rica. Not pictured is Michelle Benitz. Photo by Patrick Rocchio

One Bronx high school is taking an innovative approach to having students learn about science and the environment: they are sending their students off to South America to learn about the eco-system in a real rain forest.

Nine students from Astor Collegiate High School at the Christopher Columbus High School campus at 925 Astor Avenue headed to Costa Rica for a learning expedition from April 2 to April 11 with two faculty members.

They came away with much more than first hand knowledge of the rainforest. They also took away ideas about a culture much different from their experiences in the Bronx.

“They explored the culture, diversity, and customs of Costa Rica, and we are just thrilled to provide this educational opportunity for our students,” said principal Rose LoBianco. ìOur faculty and staff recognize the impact that this kind of trip can have on learning because it expands knowledge across different subjects.î

While in Costa Rica, the students experienced all of the different things the Costa Rica has to offer, and what life is like for those who live deep in the countryside.

“One of the things that made a lasting impression on the students was a visit to a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher for eight grades,î said assistant principal Joseph Calusi, one of the chaperons. ìWe were able to expose kids who are from the Bronx to things that they wouldnít normally experience. We stood at the foot of a waterfall. We went kayaking.”

Calusi added: “We crossed from mountaintop to mountaintop on a zip line with a harness tied around each person. Below us were 100-foot drops. When you are sliding across the zip line, it feels like you are in an airplane.”

The nine students, four girls and five boys who are juniors and seniors, and maintained a higher than 80 average to qualify for the trip, said that it certainly was an eye-opening experience both in terms of the rain forest and the culture of the country.

“When we were going to Costa Rica, we didnít expect the people to be so poor,” said student Joshual Lopez. “We came there with the mentality of people here [in the United States]. “

For the students, the trip had them come to rely on one another and become close in a short period of time.

“During the trip, we bonded and became a family in a very short period of time,” Isalina Sanchez said. “We are close with classmates we didnít even know before. It felt as though we were together for a few years instead of just a few weeks.”

Chaperon and Spanish teacher Linda German-Alvarez added: ìAstor definitely left its mark in Costa Rica.”

More from Around NYC