Arenal Volcano to Sarapiqui

We were up early this morning for our hike along through the Arenal National Park. We walked along a lava flow from 1992. The secondary forest was beautiful. We were lucky that it was overcast and there was a bit of rain. This kept us cool and relatively bug-free on our walk. We saw so many different types of plants, birds, and insects.

Our amazing driver, Mauricio, spotted a sloth! We were so excited to see this critter who sleeps 18 hours a day!

 After our hike, we were taken to Casona Rio Fortuna Cultural Center. We were greeted by the founder, Eli Herrera. She told us the history of the casona. Built by President Rafael Yglesius Castro at the end of the 1800s, the home is now a cultural center that provides education and outreach. Visitors are warmly welcomed to come learn, cook, and enjoy delicious food and music. The proceeds from tourism are used to support local schools. Currently over 230 students are being educated using funds raised.

Soon we were off to Sarapiqui. We made a pit stop at Las Iguanas, aptly named for the dozens of iguanas that call the trees home. We fueled up on delicious ice cream and continued on our way.

We are staying at the Sarapiquis Rainforest Lodge along the Tirimbina River. The Tirimbina Biological Reserve is an educational, ecotourism, research site. Students, visitors, and scientists come from around the world to study the incredible biodiversity found here. Upon arrival, we were taken to the conference center and we met Michael who taught us about the diversity of bats and the research being done on bats right now. We set traps to collect bat guano so that we can analyze the seeds in the droppings. Scientists want to find out about the relationship between bats and seed dispersal in the rainforest.

setting guano traps

these traps will collect bat droppings

we hope to get lucky so we can investigate the seeds in the droppings in the morning

We had some time to relax before dinner and heading back to meet Michael to set up the mist nets in the hopes of catching bats. We learned even more amazing facts about bats and had the chance to see the Honduran White Tent Making Bat! This is a very rare bat species. It was absolutely adorable and is smaller than your thumb!


Ziplining, Bungee Jumping, and Hot Springs, OH MY!

Talk about a day filled with adventure and adrenalin! We awoke to a beautiful morning in Monteverde. Our guide, Mariela, tells us that 70% of the time, it is raining here, but today it is sunny and bright. Fabulous weather for ziplining, which will be our first adventure of the day. After another gourmet breakfast buffet, we load into the van for a short drive up the mountain to Sky Trek. Soon we are dressed in our gear and ready to fly through the clouds.

Mr. Dan
Mrs. Nguyen zipping above the forest.
Anxiously awaiting their next turn
Keira and Nancy
Emma and Shreya
Yep, we were that high and flew far…there were 8 ziplines!
At the end, some of us decided to take a quicker way down instead of the last zipline…a bungee jump!

Adrenalin sure makes you hungry and we made it back to the hotel for another feast before heading off to La Fortuna, a town 4 hours away that sits in the shadow of Arenal Volcano.

Costa Rica gets 98% of it’s power from renewable resources!

We had a chance to walk around La Fortuna for a bit. There were many shops surrounding a central square with a fountain centerpiece. Then we headed to Baldi Hot Springs. This hot tub theme park was an amazing way to relax after a long day of adventures and driving.

We checked into the Magic Mountain Hotel, complete with Mexican dinner buffett, wifi in our rooms, and another gourmet breakfast in the morning.

Service Learning in the Cloud Forest

We have enjoyed two days packed with adventures. Let’s start with Monday. We had a chance to sleep in a bit and eat a delicious buffet breakfast before boarding the bus for a 3.5 hour drive to Monteverde. We stopped at a restaurant that was decorated with beautiful paintings and murals and enjoyed pizza for lunch. We have been eating and eating and eating so far!

Then it was time to head to the reserve. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a self-sustaining, non-profit that relies on visitors who pay to come visit and volunteers who help maintain the trails, which is just what we did. We helped clear 3/4ths of a mile of trail from leaf litter. It is important that they keep the sides of the paths clear because when it rains the water needs to run off the path to maintain the trails. The work we did in 1 hour was equivalent to what 2 workers could do in a week. Go Team!

Keira and Liz lead the way

Our reward…a beautiful waterfall!

Within the reserve is a hummingbird sanctuary. We couldn’t take our eyes of these amazing fliers who were coming to feast on the feeders hung around the building. We snapped so many pictures you will have to wait to see more when we get home.

 We arrived at our home for the evening, El Establo Hotel, which was built up the mountain. This provided incredible views and on clear days you can see the ocean! We had a chance to enjoy the surroundings for a bit before heading to the Snake Garden and Frog Pond. We learned many new facts about the indigenous snakes, frogs, and toads, including how to distinguish venomous snakes and poisonous frogs. These amazing creatures come in many sizes and colors!

Ready to see Las Ranas…frogs!

Our Costa Rican Adventure Begins…

Training between terminals in Dallas

15 intrepid #NDBTigers have headed off to Costa Rica for a week of adventure. The trip began at 6am on Valentine’s Day, the perfect way to start a journey on which we are sure to fall in love with the beauty and biodiversity of this incredible Central American country.

We met at SFO, sort of bright-eyed, but definitely ready to go. Our layover in Dallas gave us time to take a few trains around the airport and grab some food.

Excited to expand our horizons this week

The flights were easy and we even arrived 25 mins early into San Jose, Costa Rica. WorldStrides was there to pick us up and take us to our hotel where we have a 3 course dinner. Everyone was full and ready for bed by 11pm.

The Dawn of Learning

My inspiring associate principal, Anne Schaefer-Salinas, posted this video and asked our faculty for a response. This video encapsulates so many of the thoughts and ideas I have been discussing with colleagues at school and in my PLN. Hard to believe this video was posted to YouTube 7 years ago! It reminds me that changing our educational system is a long and slow process. 

Teaching can no longer be focused only on standards. Students do not need to memorize facts the way I did when I was in school. Now we have information and answers at our fingertips, 24/7. We must all learn how to explore, ask the right questions, evaluate the results, digest the information, synthesize meaning, and communicate new ideas, often while collaborating with others. This requires a focus on learning. Often, there is not one right answer, which is a change from my “learning” experience when I listened to the teacher and regurgitated the content on a paper or test. That game of school is a disservice to our students. That format will not prepare them for college and beyond.  After 22 years as an educator, I can say that I am more excited and passionate about my job now than ever. This is an incredible time to be in education. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to design an experience that ignites a desire to learn. “The death of education, but the dawn of learning!”

Striving for Skills Based Learning

The school year is in full swing. I begin each year with culture building in my classes. Here’s what my Honors Bio students said about their ideal class culture. I used a tool called Answer Garden.

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Together, we work to develop a sense of community and support. In a comfortable environment, students are more able to take risks. I love teaching at an all girls high school because we can be silly and have fun without added peer pressure. Daily we work to build a class culture that will provide opportunities to develop communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative skills. Even more important than the biology content are the skills that our students will need to be successful. I don’t have to worry about my students getting into a college. All of our students will have opportunities to attend higher education. My main focus is to prepare them to be successful in college so that they can continue to develop skills and deepen content knowledge for a successful career.

I am constantly connecting with colleagues and reading reports on what employers are looking for, what types of experiences they want their employees to have. Now that we have the ability to Google or ask Siri for bits of information, the skill to confidently and efficiently sift through the query results and find ways to clearly present what is learned is paramount to success. I was impressed how this infographic clearly states the skills needed and what students can do to prepare themselves for the workforce. This definitely gives insight into the interdisciplinary, skills based, team driven style of the courses I develop. In an ideal culture, students will feel challenged and supported as they strive for success!

Better Together California Teachers Summit 2015

I am honored to be hosting the EdCamp portion of this amazing event tomorrow, Friday July 31st, at San Francisco State University. 400 educators have signed up to spend the day learning together! My job as the EdCamp Specialist is to facilitate a 2 hour EdCamp in the middle of the day. For many this will be the first time they have experienced an EdCamp Unconference.

This is going to be an incredible day.