Day 2: Sophomore Costa Rica Trip

Student Reflection by Courtney Hall

After what felt like the longest day of my life, I had an amazing night sleep at the hotel and was super excited to go horseback riding with the Tortugas group today. We took the buses up to the waterfall and met up with the half that rode the horses there. The water was super refreshing and everyone jumped in, immediately thrilled to have relief from the humidity. We eagerly lined up to take turns jumping from the waterfall and everyone was smiling ear to ear. Post-swim my half of the group got paired with our horses and had fun discussing their names. We galloped through the jungle with our guides and trucked through some deep rivers. The entire experience was amazing and there was never a dull moment. To end the day the Tortugas had an awesome medicinal nature walk where we learned all about different kinds of plants on the property. Carlos was very engaging and Mr. De Santis even brought out his fake, robotic snake for a good laugh. I’ve taken tons of photos and made so many memories and the trip has only begun. I can’t wait to see what else Costa Rica has in store for me and the rest of my classmates. PURA VIDA!!!!!

Student Reflection by Ayden Arcillas

After a very exhausting day of travel, I was so excited to start my journey off with an amazing breakfast. Everything was so new to me, as it was my first time out of the country. We hopped on a bus and traveled to a local school nearby. We were able to give children notebooks and pens so they could continue their educational journey. We also were able to paint walls, plant in the garden and play soccer with the little kids at the school. My favorite part was being able to use my Spanish skills to converse with the local children. After that, we arrived back at the hotel and learned how to salsa dance! Overall, this experience was an amazing opportunity for me to really detach myself from what I am used to and explore the world and fun around me!

Student Reflection by Saybrook Whalen

Today we went ziplining! The day started out amazingly because on the bus ride over there we drove next to the river bank with a view of the beach with lush trees everywhere. When we got to the place we took some photos and hung out for a bit then started the hike and saw a bunch of lizards and monkeys and sloths and such. The first zip line was so nice after the hike because we got some Breeze after being in the humidity for so long. The further into the eco tour we got the higher the zip lines got and the prettier the views got. At the end they gave us all fresh watermelon and we went back and jumped in the pool. Awesome first day!! Pura Vida!!

See the full photo album here.

Day 1: Sophomore Costa Rica Trip

All students have arrived safe and sound to the Villas Rio Mar in Dominical, Costa Rica. Students had dinner, met as a class to discuss ground rules and tomorrow’s activities, and had some extra time for a night swim! They are now exhausted and all in their rooms.

Tomorrow morning will begin our three day rotation of horseback riding, elementary school service & the eco-tour. In the afternoon, students will have the opportunity to take a salsa dance class from one of our local guides Laura, a surf lesson on Playa Dominical or take a medicinal plant walk with our head guide Carlos. 

The blog will be uploaded daily, usually at night. We can’t wait to kick off another adventurous and immersive week in Dominical. 

Pura Vida y Buenas Noches!
Costa Rica Chaperone Team

See the full photo album here.

Day 5: Junior Costa Rica Trip

Tony Farrell Chaperone Blog Post

Each day in the “Ballena” group we discussed the intention of the activity on the bus home and provided context for the work. On our ride back from the school our students learned that, while school is free for Costa Ricans, most students in the rural areas we visited do not have access to school supplies, and the students need school supplies to attend. Our students reflected on the impact of sharing the kinds of supplies that they can readily get at Target. On the way back from Hacienda Baru, we encouraged them to reflect on the story of Dr. Jack Ewing, who came from a family of ranchers and hunters and studied agriculture at Colorado State. He bought land in Costa Rica, cut down the jungle, and raised cattle. Somewhere along the line he felt, each time he was trying to remove the body of a rare animal caught in his barbed wire, that perhaps there was another way he could make a living with the land. Thus was the beginning of one of the first eco-tourism spots in Central America. We encouraged the students to think about that voice they might be hearing to follow their calling, and not just the expectations that they carry. Finally, at the trip to the waterfall on horseback, we talked about the fears that some of the students carried about the day. I asked if any of them knew of the fears of the others, and for the most part, they did not. It was a great opportunity to reiterate that age-old wisdom that “everyone you meet is battling something you know nothing about. Be kind.” It’s been a great week.

See the full photo album here.

Day 4: Junior Costa Rica Trip

Student Reflection by Bailey Parent

My class started the day with a fun game of Hokey Pokey, what a blast! Right after, we were off for the day’s activities. Today my group helped serve the students at La Escuela Balena. I played soccer with the students and colored beautiful pictures with them. Afterwards, I helped paint the school’s cafeteria and then started a garden outside. It was so hot outside, but I was so busy I didn’t even notice it. When all the hard work was done we sat in the shade to have a traditional Costa Rican lunch. Now, for the best part of the day a small group was able to go surfing. I was able to learn to surf while watching the sun set. Today I was able to learn the importance of helping others and trying new things. 

Student Reflection by Natalie Posner

¡Hola from Dominical! This morning my group, Tortuga, took the bus to a local school called La Escuela Balena. After playing soccer and drawing with the kids, we began to paint their school cafeteria and dug a new garden plot. Lunch was a delicious rice and meat dish with salad on the side. We drove back to the hotel and quickly got ready for surfing. After a short walk through town, we made it to the beach! Our surf instructors were super friendly and I was able to stand up after the first few tries. Surfing under the sunset was one of the most special experiences that I have had on this trip! I can’t wait for what tomorrow will bring! ¡Adios! ¡Pura Vida!

See the full photo album here.

Day 3: Junior Costa Rica Trip

Update from the Chaperones

Our students experienced all Costa Rica has to offer today. We supported the local community by working at the local turtle sanctuary, went rafting down the Savegre River and were treated to a ‘cotton-candy’ sunset. At night, Tambito, a local Costa Rican folklore band, played at the Hotel Villas Rio Mar. Tomorrow we’ll return to the 3 group rotation of horseback riding, eco zipline tour & school service. At night, the students will close out the night with a talent show. 

Student Reflection by Audrey Roomian

Hi I’m Audrey Roomian! My trip so far has been amazing. My highlight so far has been the white water rafting. I was with Bella Mercado, Bella Rovetti, Maria Drago, Coco Browning, and Amelia Froyd-Kamrath. We had so much fun with our guide Mao! There were lots of bumps and drops but it was never scary and was always so much fun, especially since I was with my girlfriends and a great guide. Every drop felt like a splash mountain at Disneyland! We also walked to see a waterfall in the middle of the rafting, which looked amazing. We all stood under it (which was a very deafening experience)! The scenery was gorgeous; the jungle was so lush & full and the sunset towards the end made the whole experience one of the best things in my life.

Student Reflection by Ella Woods and Roxy Comerford

Hi Teri, John, Annie, Mr Monty, and all other parents! Today we had a delish breakfast of eggs and gallo pinto. After that, we drove to the Turtle saving project in Hacienda Baru, where they have been building turtle sanctuaries. We cleaned up micro plastics from the beach, and the sand will be used in a future turtle sanctuary. The beach was super hot and very pretty because it was right next to the jungle. After that, we went back to the hotel for lunch and swimming. Then we went to Rio Savegre for white water river rafting. We also stopped for fresh pineapple and banana, Then we hiked over to a huge waterfall and stood under it, this was super fun. Then we went back to the hotel and had dinner, went swimming and learned how to dance merengue from local dancers. Now we’re eating ice cream and writing this blog post. This is our first time on a screen in 75 hours. We’re gonna go to bed at 9:30. We miss you!!! ❤

Student Reflection by Summer Estes

Today we went river rafting in the rain during the sunset which is a special experience. The Costa Rican sunset is one of a kind and I have never seen something so pretty. Before the rafting we went to the beach to clean up a turtle hatching area from plastic and other hazardous materials that might hurt the turtles. We also found fresh coconuts which tasted delicious. On Saturday, my group went horseback riding to a private waterfall. On the property there are two waterfalls, one to view and one to jump off of. The jump was scary but not as scary as the climb up. During the climb the water rushes down on top of you which makes you not able to see or hear. I’ll see y’all on Thursday.

See the full photo album here.

Day 2: Junior Costa Rica Trip

Update from the Chaperones
The students were finally able to get a much needed night of sleep on Friday night. On Saturday morning, they were separated into three groups for morning activities. The first group went to Hacienda Baru, a wildlife refuge. They hiked, were taught about the biodiversity of plants and animals in the surrounding area and ziplined through the canopy. The second group went to La Escuela Platanillo (an elementary school) to dig out & prepare their garden, and pass out school supplies. The students had the pleasure of playing soccer with the elementary school children after their work was completed.  The third group went on horseback through the jungle to Nauyaca Falls and ‘cooled off’ with a swim in the river. 

In the afternoon, students had the option to take a surf lesson, do the medicinal plant walk with our head guide Carlos or take salsa dancing classes. At night, the students were entertained with a local Costa Rican band. The students are exhausted and heading to their rooms. It’s been an absolute pleasure to see the joy on our students’ faces over the last couple days.

We are gearing up for a fun filled Sunday of white water rafting followed by another afternoon of service. We will be working with a turtle rehabilitation sanctuary to reverse the trend of the turtle population in the local area. The students will also participate in a locally organized beach clean-up.

Student Reflection by Sophia Wu

Hi everyone!  I’m Sophia Wu and today my morning activity was horseback riding and swimming which included jumping off a 20 ft waterfall!  I started out the morning getting on the bus with my activity group and we arrived at the site where half the group would ride horses, and the other half would ride in the back of trucks.  I ended up riding in the truck on the way there with friends and after about a 20 minute drive, we arrived at the falls.  I had the opportunity to take some amazing photos and see stunning sites I never could’ve imagined.  

I also had the opportunity to jump off the waterfall which was a complete adrenaline rush and a once in a lifetime experience.  After swimming we headed to a restaurant to eat lunch where we had the lovely company of peacocks and monkeys. I rode a horse named Sancho on the way back and arrived safely back in the bus.  I had some free time later that afternoon to read and hang out by the pool before I went on a medicinal walk with my group where we learned about the different plants used for medicine here in Costa Rica.         

To end off the night, we had live music and danced the night away.  Not only did I realize that this class trip was all about bonding, but it was also a chance to reconnect with nature, be surrounded by a new culture and lifestyle, and become a member of the global community. 

Student Reflection by Spencer Pirie

First day at base camp was one to remember. My group and I had an early wake up call which I wasn’t fond of, though, by the time I finished my waffles, eggs, and bacon, I was ready for the bus ride to Hacienda Beru. There we took a short hike up to a zip line course. We spent two hours flying over the jungle hoping to get a sight of some wildlife. It took some time but eventually we saw a monkey and a lizard. Communication with the instructors was difficult, but forced me to work on my Spanish skills. The whole experience has me pumped for the rest of the week and I feel I’ve grown my mind, body, and spirit. 

Student Reflection by Leo Liao

Our service trip to the school was definitely a memorable one. It was an amazing experience getting to meet some of the kids that went to school here in Costa Rica, including finding out that we actually had fun in many of the same ways! Me, Nichols, Ewan, and Mr. Ferrell spent a long time in the hot and humid air tilling and digging out a few plots for growing some plants for the school. Then, we played some soccer and got smashed at foosball by one of the staff at the school. It was an enlightening experience being in a place like a school and feeling how they would feel (somewhat) in the hot air that we’re completely not used to. It also made me feel like the fries I ate during lunch was fine because I spent the calories working.

Student Reflection by Clara Bonomi 

Today I had the opportunity to visit a local school and spend some time with the students there. We handed out school supplies, played soccer with them, helped repaint some walls, and gardened as well. Overall, there were many great moments for me but one that really stood out was when one of the older girls in the group approached me and asked me for some help with her English pronunciation. Looking back, it wasn’t a super heartfelt moment, but it really gave me a sense of fulfillment. Helping someone figure out how to speak my language was genuinely so amazing and even though it was a small moment, I felt so honored and it is definitely an exchange I will remember and cherish for a long time.

See the full photo album here.

Day 2: Stuart Hall Gr. 8 L.A. Trip

This morning we had a peaceful private tour of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels; while there we found an image of St Philippine Duchesne on one of the large tapestries. We asked the boys to take photos of art or architectural features (with no people in the pictures) to capture memories for their later journal prompts.

We next went to the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), where we broke into small groups to investigate different artifacts connected to the experience of Japanese Americans who were relocated to incarceration camps during World War II. The boys then presented their investigations to each other in ways that were cogent, interesting, and full of insight. One of the journal writing prompts for this portion of the trip asks each student to grapple with a complicated question: “What happened to the Japanese-Americans was the result of directives given in your country, by your government. If such a directive were given today, what do you think you might be able to do about it?”

In addition to helping us with the artifact investigation, museum volunteers led us in two cultural experiences: origami folding and taiko drumming.

Following a “wise freedom” lunch, we returned to the Museum of Tolerance for the Anne Frank exhibit, which culminates in an experience of entering a recreation of the secret annex where you watch an immersive cinematic dramatization of life in Anne’s room. One extraordinary element: the room that leads to the annex entrance is lined with children’s clothing. As you start, the clothes are bright and colorful. As you approach the annex, the clothing displayed becomes darker, and duller, until all of the color is gone at the secret entrance.

Tonight, we will go to the Staples Center for a hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tomorrow, we will return to the Museum of Tolerance for the Holocaust exhibit. In the afternoon, we will visit Oakwood, which is the school in Los Angeles that now has Jaime Dominguez as its new Head of School. Afterward, we will head to LAX for our return flight home.

-Bill Jennings, K–8 Dean of Studies

Day 1: Stuart Hall Gr. 8 L.A. Trip

As we are coming to the end of our first day in Los Angeles, I wanted to send out a brief update. After arriving at LAX and checking into our hotel, we visited the Museum of Tolerance for the “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves” exhibit. As we proceed through our trip, the boys will have various writing prompts. My favorite one from today is: “If you were to design an exhibit around yourself titled ‘Finding My Family, Finding Myself,’ what would you include in it, and why?” 

For the evening, we had a “wise freedom” dining opportunity at the Grove, which ended with a choice of movies. After leaving the Grove, we ended with a group photo in front of a fountain.

Tomorrow, we will go to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Japanese-American National Museum, the Museum of Tolerance and we will end with an evening at the Staples Center for an L.A. Kings hockey game.

-Bill Jennings, K–8 Dean of Studies

Day 7: Discovering the Wonders of Florence

Student Reflection by Adrian Vasquez, Gr. 12
Today our group traveled by train to Florence. We saw the Duomo, went to an outdoor market and visited the Uffizi Museum. The Duomo gave us access to the most stunning sights of the city with a 360-degree view. On the way up we saw a stunning painting on the inside of the dome depicting the last judgement in vivid detail. Following the Duomo, we walked through an outdoor market to a sprawling indoor food market. It was complete with delis, fish marts and restaurants serving everything from artisan vegetarian burgers to sushi. Walking around outside at lunch gave me a full sense of the city of Florence, a large town with a vibrant culture that still manages to feel small and collected. The city was celebrating carnival while we were there, which only added to the vibrancy and life in the city.

The last place we went was the Uffizi Museum, home to some of the most stunning artwork in the world. We saw examples of feudalistic artwork with incredibly intricate gold leaf patterns on them. This surprised me because the skill required to make something so detailed was equivalent to that of the best Renaissance artists, and I had always believed feudalistic art to be inferior. The museum continued through the Renaissance and Baroque periods of art. Although I had to stop for at least a minute on every painting and sculpture I saw, two specifically stood out to me. The first was Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which fully lived up to my expectations. The second was Godfried Schalcken’s The Fame, which depicts a woman in a dark room with a single flame being held behind her. This was the first painting in an entire room of similar ones that create a deeply intense contrast of shadow and light by placing the source of light at the center of the image. Going to Florence put me face to face with some of the most stunning scenes of my life.

View more photos from Day 7 here.