Enjoy the tropical white sand beaches of the Pacific coast and immerse yourself in the local culture while volunteering on this summer program in Costa Rica for middle school students.
- June 30, 2013 - July 21, 2013
- Students completing grades 6-8
- Foundations Middle School
- Typical Group:
- 30 Students, 6 Leaders
- 3 week(s)
The Foundations Costa Rica program for middle school students offers you the chance to be part of an active, engaged Putney community while living and learning in Costa Rica. We divide our time between a quiet beach-side town and our community service village high in the hills above Lake Arenal. While specifically tailored to students completing 6th through 8th grade, this middle school summer travel program combines many diverse elements of the high school summer programs abroad we have run for more than 60 years..
While stationed in a quiet beach town on the Pacific coast, we take day trips to explore the national parks and coastlines for which Costa Rica is famous. Through staff-led enrichment seminars, we learn and practice Spanish, bond as a team, and explore Costa Rican culture from the perspective of travelers, not tourists. We stay in a quaint, family-run villa located just 100 meters from a quiet beach at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Rooms are doubles, and all have private bathrooms, refrigerators, and air conditioning. Meals are prepared by the friendly Costa Rican cooks at the villa’s open air restaurant, and are served cafeteria style, with many options available.
We split into two smaller groups for the community service portion of the program to create a small group experience. We work on our projects during the day and spend afternoons and evenings getting to know our new friends in the community. Among our planned projects this summer are improvements to the elementary school and town soccer field as well as English lessons with the local children. After fulfilling days of work on our projects, we practice Spanish with new Tico friends, learn to salsa dance, and take a dip in a nearby swimming hole. Students who complete the Foundations program receive a volunteer certificate from Putney recognizing between 25 to 30 hours of community service.
While at the community service village, we live in a community center with separate areas for the boys and girls. Living conditions are basic but comfortable. We sleep in sleeping bags on camping pads on the floor. Our leaders stay with the group. We take turns helping local cooks prepare our meals; it’s a great way to learn how to cook some Costa Rican specialties!
After our split time at the beach and in the community service village, the groups join again to head to a beautiful lodge at the base of Arenal Volcano, one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. We stay in bungalows at a sustainable eco-lodge tucked into a forested valley, a safe distance from the lava flows of Arenal. Spend an afternoon kayaking on Lake Arenal, ride horseback through the rainforest, and take a night hike to see the lava flows before returning to soak in the thermal hot springs. On a zip-line adventure, we sail high over the rainforest canopy on a series of secure cables.
After our weekend together at Arenal, we trade places so that each group can experience both the village and the beach experience. The group reunites at the beach for the final days of the program to relax, pack up, and prepare for the journey home.
“We chose the Foundations program for Sophia as we were very drawn to the amazing and unique combination of service, adventure and cultural exploration. We had always heard very positive things about Putney and we know several families whose children have gone on Putney trips. The Putney Foundations program met and truly exceeded all expectations we had. What an incredibly thoughtful, well organized and meaningful three weeks! Absolutely everything that Putney advertised – “passionate engagement with the world in the company of carefully selected peers”, “careful, thorough planning and attention to detail” we found to be true. Putney absolutely lives up to its stellar reputation!”
-Laura and Raj Keswani, New York, NY
- Improve your Spanish skills while learning to prepare traditional Costa Rican food.
- Volunteer and complete meaningful community service projects in our host village.
- Join a game of pick-up soccer with your new Tico friends.
- Surf, fish, snorkel, and kayak on a tropical Costa Rican beach.
- Fly high above the rainforest canopy on a zip-line adventure.
- Spend a weekend exploring the Arenal Volcano and relaxing in hot springs.
What to Expect
This is a physically active program! You should expect to spend most of each day outside. At the community service village, everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Since we live in the community service village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple, with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities. You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.
At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs abroad are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.
Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.
Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2012 Middle School Costa Rica Blog.
Departure • Join your group and begin a three-week adventure in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
“Before I attended the Putney program I was not quite sure what to expect. I had been to sleep-away camp so I expected a similar sort of environment, but I still wasn’t really sure what it would be like. The program definitely exceeded my expectations as far as the accommodations are concerned. Our lodging arrangements as well as the meals were simply superb. I ended up developing much tighter and stronger relationships with the other kids than I expected. Throughout the great experiences and travels, many memories were formed that will surely last a lifetime.”
-Jack Goldburg, Helen Keller Middle School, Easton, CT
Settling In • Upon arrival in Liberia, travel thirty minutes by chartered bus to our home base on the northwest Pacific coast. Spend the first few days practicing important Spanish phrases and getting acquainted with Costa Rican culture. Sail and snorkel in the bay, take salsa dancing lessons in the evening, and get ready for your week in the community service village.
The Villa • From our home base on the Pacific coast we explore the beaches, National Parks and villages of Guanacaste. Take surfing lessons at one of the best surf beaches in Costa Rica, play a game of pick-up soccer with local kids, and practice your Spanish during afternoon cooking lessons. Venture into the forest in search of monkeys, and lend a hand in reforestation projects. Continue exploring Costa Rican culture and practicing your Spanish during a series of staff-led enrichment seminars.
The Community Service Village • Transfer by charter bus to a small village in the rolling green hills overlooking Lake Arenal. Spend a week getting to know the people in these small, rural towns as you work alongside them on projects chosen by the community. Construct a playground, paint a mural in the kindergarten, teach English to local kids, or try your hand at milking at the town dairy farm.
Arenal Volcano • Spend three days exploring the rainforest of the Arenal Volcano region. Soar through the forest canopy on a zip-line adventure, ride horseback to a remote waterfall, pay a night visit to a glowing lava flow, and soak in thermal hot springs.
Return Home • With your flight escort, depart Liberia and home.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Background • In 1949, declaring itself a peaceful nation, Costa Rica disbanded its army, and has since enjoyed six decades of democracy and peace. It is well known for its astounding biodiversity, innovative approaches to ecotourism, warm and inviting people, and miles of tropical beaches. Although it is a tiny country, Costa Rica has incredible geographic diversity. Within its borders you can travel from tropical rainforest to deserted beaches and active volcanoes, all within the span of a day. Because nearly 30% of Costa Rica’s land is protected, it is an ideal destination for recreation, and also for learning about ecology, biology, conservation, sustainable development, and other environmental issues. Despite its commitment to environmental conservation and its reputation as Central America’s most stable democracy, Costa Rica suffers from widespread poverty, particularly in its more remote regions.
Population • Costa Rica has a total population of 4.7 million, with 1.5 million living in the capital city of San Jose. The province of Guanacaste, where the Foundations program is located, is the most sparsely populated of all the Costa Rican provinces, with a population of over 300,000. The seaside village where we are based and the community service village we visit are both small towns, with populations of less than 500.
Language • Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica.
Climate • A tropical country, Costa Rica has only two seasons: wet and dry. We are there during the wet season during which rain is common but intermittent and not necessarily a daily occurrence. It is quite warm–in the 80s most days–so occasional rain is welcome!
Cuisine • Costa Rican cuisine is hearty fare with rice, beans and fruit offered at almost every meal. A typical lunch consists of gallo pinto (rice and beans), fish or chicken, vegetables, tortillas, and fruit.
Currency • The Costa Rican currency is known as the colón. An ATM card is the best way to access cash.
Voltage • Electrical outlets are identical to those used in the United States: 120 V/60 Hz. We have regular access to electricity.
“I think what gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment was looking back on the trip and thinking ‘Wow. I actually did that.’ Every single thing I did from cementing and shoveling in Silencio to actually doing the Tarzan Swing at the zip lining course made me wonderstruck. Personally I gained the ability not to be afraid to try new things and to appreciate every second of that new experience.”
-Ali Zamsky, Welsh Valley Middle School, Wayne, PA
The Foundations Costa Rica program is directed by Kelsey Burns. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch
Kelsey Burns: St. Lawrence University, B.A., Spanish. A Vermont native, Kelsey has led programs in Spain, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana, and has co-directed Putney’s Global Action programs at Yale University. Kelsey has worked as an associate director at Putney Student Travel for the last nine years. She currently coordinates outreach efforts and directs various programs in Latin America and Africa. Kelsey loves to travel, ski, dance, and eat good food.
How To Apply
STEP 1: LOG ON.
STEP 2: HOLD A SPACE IN THE PROGRAM.
You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.
After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete. In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:
- Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
- Two Teacher Reference Forms
These documents are available as part of our Online Application. We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.