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20 posts categorized "Monteverde Global"

Global Navigators in Costa Rica - Journey to the Green Mountain

After learning the importance of biodiversity on the Osa Peninsula, sustainable living on Isla Chira, and renewable energy in volcano country, the Global Navigators set off for the town of Monteverde--a best-case-scenario for conservation--to learn about steps they could take to help preserve the wild places that are so vital to our collective survival. After settling in to the beautiful hotel, the explorers set off into the Monteverde Reserve to learn about the history of this protected land and see if they could find any cool critters while they were at it. 

IMG_7733Their local guide was super knowledgable and told them all about the unique cloud forest ecology 

IMG_7714Almost immediately, their guides spotted this green viper from a distance and the exporers got to check it out with the spotting scope. 

IMG_7762Expert guide Andres teaches about epiphytes


... and points out cool spiders to Aidan  


The explorers climbed to the continental divide to look at the difference between the protected atlantic slope and the unprotected pacific slope 

IMG_7832Taylor finds these leaves pretty intriguing; you can tell because of her expression

IMG_7843Travelers in wind and fog 


A visit to the reserve wouldn't be complete without a trip across the bridge 

IMG_7862Katie's setting off into the unknown 

After their visit to the reserve, the global navigators said, "That was really cool, but boy would it be neat to see what the forest is like at night!" In reply, their instructors said, "It's convenient that you think that, because at this very moment we are going on a night hike." That was a great coincidence, wasn't it? So they headed out to Bajo del Tigre, a part of the Children's Eternal Rainforest, to hear about the history of the conservation of this area and go out on a night hike in the cool forest. 

IMG_7891Evening holds all the promise 

IMG_7904Corey might have found himself a little tarantula... 

IMG_7906"Nobody's home!" "Hm... Somebody must be home... because somebody must have said... 'nobody.'"


Old Mr. Owl was just watching everyone pass by 

 But there was more to do in Monteverde than just wander around in the forests. The students also heard from local conservation initiatives like Nai Conservation (for Tapirs) and from instructor Priscilla's wildlife passages project. The students were super energized to get some ideas about what they could do in their own homestates to work with local conservation projects, and maybe even start a few of their own...

IMG_7958Instructor Priscilla teaches about wildlife passages that help animals avoid becoming roadkill

 On their last morning in Monteverde, the students got to explore some of the trails around their hotel, and they just happened to find a few pretty cool things in their own backyard. The owner of the hotel told them all about the permaculture projects he had running around the property, and the navigators were excited to take some of these lessons back home with them. 

IMG_7960Camden and Katie found a fig tree 

IMG_7962Camden won't come out 


A little glasswing butterfly 


Look at that, that's not a bad view 


Near the end of their hike, the navigators got all sentimental and decided they needed a group hug... 


... but Aidan thought it looked a little too sweaty in there for him. 

IMG_7981And Chris got distracted posing for the camera 

On their final morning the students calculated their ecological footprint and then compared it to the footprint of local Costa Rican kids by interviewing them about their daily lives and consumption. 


Professional interviewers 


 Just to stay energized, the students decided they needed some smoothies while they worked. 

And just like that, it was over. From cultural dancing to polyculture coffee tours, Monteverde had taught the Global navigators a lot. They were sad that they were leaving Costa Rica, but they were excited to take the lessons that they had learned here back home to apply them to the USA. Thanks for an awesome three weeks, Global Navigators!

IMG_8001Adios, Monteverde, adios 


Trevor Ritland. 

Costa Rican Global Navigators in the Land of the Volcanoes

On a warm and sunny morning, the Navigators left Isla Chira behind them; they bid farewell to the island which had hosted them and loaded the boats one last time for the mainland. They had spent the last few days studying the island's sustainable practices, and were now ready to take this new understanding and apply it to a larger scale. What happens-- they wondered-- when we apply the same sustainable mindset to meet the needs of the entire country? To answer this question, they would spend the next module of their course studying Costa Rica's sustainable energy practices from their new launching point of Guayabo.


The Navigators toured this Geothermal plant in preparation for their lessons on the pros and cons of the energy source.


 They also stopped at the nearby solar plant-- and witnessed one of the drawbacks of this energy source... Costa Rica is somewhat cloudy.

The next day, the Navigators realized they needed to better understand the main types of renewable energy used by Costa Rica. The instructors said "Hey, why don't you make some posters about them?" and the Navigators said "Golly gee that's a great idea!" And so they split into groups, each researching either solar, geothermal, wind, or hydro power. When they were done, they presented these posters to their classmates, so that they could all share in the awesome knowledge of the new experts.


Who said making posters wasn't stressful stuff? 


Teamwork makes the dream succeed.


Angela and her awesome team explain the pros and cons of wind power with awesome facts and diagrams. And that triangle.  IMG_7402

Hydro power is complicated. Good thing these experts stopped by to explain it to us. 


David looks like he knows a secret about Geothermal power that he isn't planning on sharing.

Now that they were all experts, it was time to apply their new knowledge. Yep, you guessed it-- s'mores and legos! The Navigators broke into new groups and set to work constructing their own solar ovens (which they would test with s'mores) and wind turbines (which they would test with... well, wind).


Is Chris doing the 1960s Batman dance? I think he is. 


Once you eat a solar oven s'more, you never want the mainstream kind again. 


Mmm... tastes renewable. 


You're certainly doing your job today, mister sun.


Not even Corey knew Corey liked s'mores this much until it was time to eat it.


Chris may have found his career as a wind turbine engineer... so long as they find a way to greatly increase his size so he can assemble them as a giant. 

Once they had finished building their wind turbines, the Navigators did the only sensible thing-- took them to where their bigger brothers lived in order to test them out.


 Instructor Gisella teaches about wind and all the wonderful things it does.

Can you tell which are the real wind turbines and which are the ones the Navigators built??? 


Whoa, I knew Naija was strong, but geez.

If we ever run out of wind turbine sites, we can just get Daniel and Angela to hold them. 

The next day, the Navigators took a field trip down the road to Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Along the way, they got to see a beautiful landscape pocketed with mudpots and hot springs, stretching across the sprawling forest.


A beautiful group in a beautiful place.


They're all thinking, "...if only it were a few degrees cooler..."


 "I have detailed files."


Chris has had enough sulfur for one day.


Waterfalls on volcanoes?! Now I've seen everything! 

As they left the National Park, their instructors explained to them the controversial question of which the park is caught in the middle: as the area is obviously rich in geothermal potential, it would be an ideal location for a geothermal plant-- but this would mean disturbing much of the area the Navigators had just explored. And beyond the loss of this particular ecosystem, it would also set a dangerous precedent for energy projects within the borders of supposedly protected areas-- if geothermal can build a plant there, what's to stop the drilling for oil? The Navigators were now coming to see that even the best alternatives for renewable energy have their drawbacks as well.

They would return to questions like these the next day-- but for now it was time to wash the stress away with some good old fashioned waterfall swimming!


Someday they'll tell their kids about the ol' Costa Rican swimmin' hole. 


If you're not swimming in a waterfall, you're just not swimming. 


They kept getting pushed away by the current. It took four tries to get this picture. 


Katie also found out she's a butterfly whisperer...


...while Sal practices his high fashion.

Now that the Navigators had learned about solar, wind, and geothermal power, they had only one stop left on this module-- the Arenal reservoir, to learn about hydropower. During the catamaran tour of the lake, their instructors explained how this area had once been a farming community, but was cleared and flooded to create the reservoir, a move that many of those displaced are still bitter about. Hydro, as well, had its drawbacks.


We all float down here! 


This happened in less than three minutes after leaving shore. He's king of the world. 


Oh boring, we have to have class on a boat... 

The Navigators now had a firm understanding of the range of sustainable energy practices operating in Costa Rica, and the respective pros and cons of each type. This meant that now they were ready to move on to their final location-- Monteverde, in the Cloud Forests. Here, they would learn about conservation practices to pair with the sustainability module they had spent the last weeks studying. What else would they find in the Forest in the Clouds? Owls? Rain? Only time would tell! 


She's king of the world.

More soon,


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland

Sustainability on Isla Chira: Global Navigating through Costa Rica

Remember in The Arrival when the aliens arrived on Earth? That's basically what happened next for the Navigators, except this time they were the aliens, and instead of landing on Earth, they were landing on Isla Chira! They had come, much like the aliens in The Arrival, to learn about the sustainability practices of the small island community. I'm pretty sure that's what the movie was about, right? Well, like any good aliens, the Navigators now prepared themselves to closely observe this new land and soak up all the knowledge it had to offer.


Captain Chloe charts the course to Isla Chira. 


She's a humble captain, but a good one.

For their first full day on Isla Chira, the Navigators set off to explore the mangrove habitats which play such an important role in the island ecosystem. In their shady classroom, the Navigators learned how the mangroves served as a nursery for vital sea species, as a buffer against storms and tsunamis, and as a filtration system for the water itself. Now that they knew how important this ecosystem was, they teamed up and began investigating the habitat for themselves, to see how many different species they could find within the maze of roots and water.


 Instructor Gisella shows how mangroves are more than just funny-looking trees.


The race for species is on! Juliet has her eye on some slippery water creature.


 Even Program Leaders get wet sometimes... you think I had a choice??


Angelique had the real job-- translating "brown scary spider!" into an actual species. 


You know what they say... once you've crawled around the mangroves together, you're friends for life. 


 Chris found his natural habitat in the mangroves. He was more at home here than on dry land.

Now that the Navigators had a greater understanding of and appreciation for the mangrove habitats of Isla Chira, they decided to contribute to the reforestation efforts of the island. They teamed up with a local women's project to help rehabilitate the fragile ecosystem. When the Navigators heard they were planting mangroves, they quickly decided that it was a competition.


Who knew you could be so photogenic while filling bags with mud? 


It's too bad that professional shoveler isn't a career, cuz Aiden would be great at it. I mean he's great at lots of things, but really that shoveling was outstanding. 


Nathan was one of the first to carry two bags at a time. He paid a muddy price for it.


 This is what hard work looks like.


These little baby mangroves sure are lucky to have such good mamas.

Family portrait.


 Angela looks like she was born and raised in the mangroves.

The next day, the Navigators set off to learn more about the island community through a visit with the local women artisans. Here, they crafted unique bracelets from island seeds, and carved beautiful pictures on Jicaro fruits. If you're lucky enough to get a souvenir from one of these kids, maybe it could be one of these creations!

Corey and Juliet work on their Jicaros while Corey makes a Corey face.


 Naija and Elizabeth will probably go back home to be expert jewelry makers.

Naija finished making her bracelet, and let out a victorious yell. Victory.


 Katie carved her Jicaro so fast that she looked like a hummingbird.

All pumped up from their craft time, the Navigators decided that they wanted to learn even more about life on the island. To accomplish this, they met up with a women's clamming program to learn about their methods of sustainability, before getting back in the mud to try their hands at the task themselves. 


 Terra, David, Mene, and Clamden look for some clams.


I've clammed in some less beautiful places. 


A few of the clammers got a little distracted by the nice and squishy mud

"So," the Navigators said, "now that we know about mangroves and clamming, isn't it time to learn about the main source of income for Chira's inhabitants? Isn't it time to learn about fishing?" Their instructors replied, "Well yes, Navigators, if you look at your itineraries, that's exactly what it's time for." After interviewing a member of the local fishing co-op, the Navigators took to the water themselves to try their hands at this profession.IMG_6793

Sunny skies called for umbrellas, which also served as surprise sails for the boats. 


 The Navigators took a break for some swimming; they wanted to meet the fish before they caught them.


This was actually pretty darn impressive to watch. 


The Navigators try sustainable fishing like they do it on Chira-- one fish at a time, with a hand-line.


 Taylor caught this little fish. But don't worry, she didn't eat him-- all fish were released safely back to their homes.


Tyler caught a fish THIS big!!! 


Chris the Master Fisher decided that he'd catch a little something too. 

 After lunch, the Navigators decided that there was one aspect of the island they still hadn't seen-- its youth. So they struck off down the road to a local elementary school, armed with some U.S. children's songs they hoped to teach the youngsters, in exchange for some Costa Rican tunes.


Chloe, Taylor, Chris, Aiden, and Angela are hard at work as music teachers.


 Whether we speak Spanish or English, we all clap the same.

But that wasn't enough! Now that the Navigators had made all these new and awesome friends, they weren't ready to give them up. So before they said goodbye, they agreed to meet up later that evening for a friendly game of futbol...


 The Navigators were moving so quickly that all you could see were blurs.


 Coach Chris kept running onto the field to encourage his players, so we built him this Coach's Box to stay in.


 Coach Chris gives a red card to a dog who wandered onto the field.


It doesn't matter if you win or lose; it's how sweaty you get. 

Unfortunately, this all-star soccer match also marked the end of their time on Chira-- in the morning the Navigators loaded the boats and struck off for Guayabo. Here, they would embark upon the Sustainable Energy portion of their course, learning about wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro power produced in the region, and weighing each of these practices for their pros and cons. Maybe they'd even take with them a few ideas for back home... Tune in soon to find out!!!


They were the champions.

More soon,


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland 

Global Navigators in Costa Rica-- We're Back, Baby!

Hello from the other side! Adele was probably coming out of Corcovado when she wrote that song, because that's what it felt like for 20 brave and adventurous Global Navigators as they motored out of the Osa Peninsula Sunday morning, carrying with them their soaking boots and their stories from the past week. What stories, you ask? Lucky you! Here they are!

 On their way out of San Jose, way back on Tuesday, the Navigators stopped first in Cartago to visit an historic and beautiful church, where they sampled holy water and gazed upon the relics left behind by the faithful.

It kind of looks like they're having fun, doesn't it? 

After Cartago, the Navigators pushed on to the mountains of Cerro de la Muerte, where they stopped for a lovely lunch followed by an even lovelier hike in search of rare mountain salamanders. Once prevalent throughout the area, salamander populations have been steadily declining due in part to the worsening effects of climate change. Despite their efforts, the Navigators were unable to locate any of these slippery devils. But on the plus side, they still got to get their hands all dirty digging through the leaves.

A perfect day for salamamas.

 After a restful and air-conditioned sleep that night, the Navigators loaded boats and headed down the Sierpe toward Corcovado National Park-- their first extended stay, and the launching point for all the biodiversity module of the program. But before even reaching the park, the Navigators were lucky enough to experience several stunning samples of the rich biodiversity found on the Osa Peninsula-- including three-toed sloths, pantropical spotted dolphins, and even a pair of humpback whales.

Boats are essentially floating wildlife-viewing-platforms. 


Slothy McSlothface in all his glory.   IMG_5159

 This dolphin was worried we were lost, and was showing us the way.


 Hahaha there was this one dolphin who hit the water with his tail every time he did a leap, he was the greatest.


 That's no moon...


 IT'S A SPACE STATION!!! I mean, it's a humpback whale.

 Once they arrived at Campanario Biological Station, the Navigators wasted no time in assembling for a hike into the surrounding rainforest. With the help of their wonderful guide Freiner, the Navigators learned to differentiate between Primary and Secondary forest, and observed the natural rainforest in all its glory.


We told the kids to take a hike, and they took it literally. 


 Here, the Navigators learn how to travel quietly in the forest-- to best observe the wildlife, and to sneak up on their family back home.


Mene snags a glance through the looking glass at one of the many weird looking creatures hidden in the jungle. 


 It was already raining, so they figured getting a little closer to the waterfall couldn't hurt.

The next morning, the Navigators all said, "That's not enough! We demand more rainforest! More rainforest! More rainforest!" It quickly became an annoying little chant, so their instructors said, "Lucky for you, there's plenty more where that came from," and took them on another short boat ride to San Pedrillo, properly within the boundaries Corcovado National Park, for another biodiversity hike. Here, the Navigators saw many amazing creatures like the Boat-billed Heron, Green Kingfishers, Basilisk Lizards, and Spider Monkeys. On the way back, they even decided to cool off with a lil' swimmin' in the local swimmin' hole.


 Hey hey they're the Monkeys.


 Now THAT'S a waterfall.


 If there's a better classroom on the planet, I haven't found it yet.


They swim in waterfalls, don't they? 

 After San Pedrillo, the instructors said "You guys give up yet? Or are ya thirsty for more?" (like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone), to which the Navigators all replied "Never!!" (like Marv in Home Alone), so they set out once more into the rainforest surrounding Campanario. This time, the Navigators learned about Leaf-Cutter Ants and rejuvenating mud, and afterwards quenched their thirst with fresh coconut water.


 No hike is complete without a massage-train break.


Freiner applies the magic mud to Katie, who already feels ten years younger.


After this fresh coconut water, you just know they're all gonna go home and be snobs about the canned stuff... "Ho ho, no thank you, I only drink it fresh." 

The next day, it was time for a visit to Isla Del Caño, where the Navigators learned all about island biodiversity through a cool hike, where they learned that while islands have less total species than the mainland, the species that they do have become more numerous. To experience the intricacies of island biodiversity in person, they spent some time on the beach playing entirely professional and formal games in which they pretended they were sharks. Later, they dove into the ocean for some snorkeling, and came face to face with the island's beautiful biodiversity.


Beach Day! Not only everyone's favorite episode of The Office, but a pretty good way to have class, too. 

I'm glad that Aiden isn't a shark in real life, because we'd all be toast. 

After resting up from their snorkeling, the Navigators returned to Campanario for some lunch and some snacks, and then spent some time in groups studying Ecosystem Services, and then presenting their new knowledge to the group in the form of weird little skits that they all seemed to enjoy way too much.


 Camden played a student who was caught outside after curfew. The girls are decomposers, feeding on his corpse.


Zeya's either pretending to be a tree, or she forgot her line. It's really impossible to be certain.

What to do, oh what to do with the last day in Corcovado? Oh, I know! How about a canoe trip up Rio Claro?? Well that worked out perfectly, because that's exactly what was on the itinerary. On Saturday morning, the Navigators set off together up the magical river, carrying only their life-jackets and water bottles for company. And each other, I guess.


 It's important to always test the water before a canoe trip, to make sure it's liquid enough for your preferences.


Look at that, that's not a bad view!


Fall in the water, don't let the waterfall on you. 

But that wasn't the end of their day! The Navigators spent the afternoon learning about the steps of the scientific method, before splitting into groups and conducting their own observations and experiments on the beach of Campanario. We definitely have some young scientists in this group... though it's too early to tell whether they'll be mad scientists or the regular kind.


 It's always hard to resist burying your feet in the sand during class, but I'd say these students are doing admirably.


 Angela's coconut experiment seems to be right on track

Hermit pictureGlobal Navigator Corey Jacob got up close and personal with a hermit crab during his experiment and was able to capture this photo; don't worry, he was perfectly safe-- it wasn't as big as it looks. 

Corey was also able to capture a video of the beast:

 Whew. All that learning felt like a lifetime, but somehow it had only been four days! On Sunday morning, the Navigators loaded the boats at Campanario and motored their way back toward Sierpe. But on the way, the river proved that biodiversity didn't end in Corcovado-- the Navigators spotted a troop of adorable Squirrel Monkeys from the boats!


Is is a squirrel? Is it a monkey? To this day, these questions still stump even the brightest of scientists.

 Now, the Navigators rest for a night at the beautiful Hotel Pelicanos; in the morning, they'll continue their journey through Costa Rica as they head toward Isla Chira, and begin their module of study on the sustainable practices of the island community. They'll be off the grid in terms of wi-fi once more for four nights, but they'll be back in touch as soon as possible to tell you more about their crazy and educational adventures!


 The view from Campanario. I've seen worse.

More soon.


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland


Costa Rica, Oh Costa Rica!

 Welcome to Costa Rica! That's how the Taylor Swift song would go if she went to Costa Rica instead of New York. But it wasn't Taylor Swift who arrived in Costa Rica on Sunday-- it was 20 brave and adventurous high school students, who were now taking their first steps as Global Navigators, ready to explore a new land and learn all it had to teach them.


The Navigators enjoy some rest in their new temporary home at the Autentico Hotel in San Jose. 


 The Navigators get ready to prove how well they know each other in this get-to-know-you game.

The Navigators spent their first day in the city of San Jose. To prepare them for their studies in Biodiversity, Sustainability, and Conservation, their instructors first provided them with a lesson on Urbanization-- the growth of cities-- and its pros and cons. To see the effects of Urbanization in action, the Navigators set out into the wilds of San Jose. They examined a varying range of neighborhoods, comparing a suburban city park to the constrictive streets of La Carpio, located directly adjacent a city dump. Here, the Navigators learned that every beneficial element of Urbanization comes with a corresponding cost. 


Instructor Gisella discusses with the Navigators their observations of the suburban area.  


 All business all day keeps Chris up a level.


 Note-taking in nature's classroom.


The rumble of dump-trucks fills the air. Every day, the overflowing dump encroaches further upon the town.

 In their visit to La Carpio, the Navigators also had a chance to practice their Spanish with local children, and help them practice their English. Here, they learned about the lives of those who were born here, and who would grow up among the dump trucks.


Taylor made a friend already. 


 Wisdom comes in many forms.


 Who's helping who with her homework here?


 These girls are asking Terra if they can borrow her sunglasses.


Terra said yes. 

After La Carpio, the Navigators continued their exploration of the city, traveling now to the Jade Museum to learn how Costa Rica grew from small villages to the city in which they now stood.


Outside the national museum, the Navigators learn about the city's past.

Whew... all that history makes a Navigator hungry! To refuel the Navigators after their city tour, their instructors provided a native fruit sampling! Almost all of these fruits were new to the Navigators, which made for some interesting experiences, for those brave enough to try.


 Gisella asked the Navigators if they wanted some fruit, and they said "Abso-fruitly!"


 Zeya wasn't so sure about this one.


 Taylor actually liked this fruit a lot, she just thought it would be funny to pretend she didn't.


This is the face Corey makes when he eats anything, whether it's weird fruit or not. He's just naturally suspicious. 


 Daniel wasn't actually eating fruit-- he was trying to read some really really small print.


 Naija watched everyone else try this fruit, and said "it can't be that bad!" She was wrong.


It was almost more fun to watch people eat the fruit than it was to eat it.

With bellies full of fruit, the Navigators were now prepared for what was coming next-- a journey into the wild lands of Corcovado on the shores of the the Pacific. A national park in the tropical lowlands, Corcovado will be the perfect place for the Navigators to begin their hands-on study of Costa Rican biodiversity.

The Navigators will be out of touch until Sunday, but will be back soon to share stories of their adventures among the rainforest!

More soon!


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland

Misty Monteverde: The Last Stop of the Global Navigators in Costa Rica

After nearly three weeks in Costa Rica, the Global Navigators finally made their way up to their final stop in the country - up, up, up into the mountains to a town called Monteverde, which just happens to be one of the world's hotspots of biodiversity and a best-case-scenario for conservation. Here, the Global Navigators learned about the history and culture of the town, as well as methods that they might apply in order to protect the biodiversity that they learned the value of in Corcovado. 

Once they got up to Monteverde, they all said to themselves, "Hey, what better way to start our time in Monteverde than with a hike into the famous, beautiful cloud forest."

Well said, Global Navigators; that is exactly what they did. 


A local expert guide points out endemic plants and animals to the students 

IMG_4395Into the cloud forest 


A family photo at the hanging bridge 


The Navigators perch on the continental divide between the Pacific and Atlantic slopes 

IMG_4590Deep inside the cloud forest 

After they emerged from the cloud forest, it was time for the Navigators to embark on their final survival Spanish lesson; but this was no ordinary Spanish class - it was a cooking class! The Navigators worked with the cooks to prepare their dinner, and worked on their Spanish skills while they were at it.


Joe was really excited about getting to wear this sweet hair net 

IMG_4634Jennie was even more excited than Joe 


But I think Cajmir was the most excited of them all 

IMG_4648Julie didn't want her photo taken with the hair net, but luckily Grace was there to help the photographer out 

IMG_4670Hannah, Christine, and Hailey work hard at the veggie station 

IMG_4687Callie, Grace, Jennie, and Luke made a delicious dinner  

The Navigators had a blast in Monteverde - from zip-lining and talks from local conservation organizations to polyculture farm tours and night hikes in the cloud forest,  it was the perfect final stop on the Costa Rica trip. On their last morning in town, they even got to interview local teenagers to compare their environmental footprints with their Costa Rican peers.


I guess Kayla and Grace thought the local boys were pretty dreamy 

IMG_4716Instructors Gisella and Priscilla are teaching how to reduce your impact on the planet 

IMG_4722Michael has discovered the best way to learn; ask good questions 

 And that was it. That evening, the Global Navigators drove back down to San Jose for their final dinner, discussed their favorite moments of their trip and everything that they learned, enjoyed Callie's paper plate awards, and settled in for their last night in Central America. The next morning, one by one, they journeyed back to the United States. 

They had learned a lot about biodiversity, sustainability, and conservation; they had also learned the importance of the individual in the broader scheme of things. They had learned that they possessed the power to change the world; all they needed to do was to keep exploring, to keep learning and asking questions, and to continue navigating the globe.

Big thanks to all of our awesome students and incredible staff - it was a summer none of us will soon forget!

Check back here for news from Session 2!


Trevor Ritland



Sustainable Energy in Costa Rica

Guayabo! What a welcoming sight as the Global Navigators navigated their way from Isla Chira toward the realm of wind and sun and volcanoes! They were continuing their study of sustainability, but were now transitioning from the sustainable practices of the island community to the complicated and controversial world of sustainable energy. While they had spent the last week exploring how Chira Island structures its practices to provide for its small population, now the Navigators faced a bigger question: What happens when we extend these same questions to an entire country of people?

Their first stop came on their way into Guayabo, as they met with ICE (the institute of Costa Rican energy) officials to learn about two of the three major forms of Costa Rican energy production: solar and geothermal. 

IMG_3581Instructor Priscilla is teaching the students about Geothermal energy; she and Jennie must shop at the same shirt store...  

IMG_3595Anna and Hailey really like their sweet new hats 


A group photo in front of the solar panels in front of the volcano 

IMG_3661Learning is pretty okay when you get to do it right beside a volcano

 The next morning, the Navigators delved more deeply into the four types of Costa Rican energy they would study in Guayabo: Solar, Geothermal, Wind, and Hydro. They split into groups, and each designed a poster about one of these forms, which they then presented to their classmates. By the end of poster-time, everyone was an expert in renewable energy, ready to test ICE with some real tricky questions.

IMG_3687Julie, Cajmir, and Edward are working hard on their poster  

IMG_3712Edward does his best not to be distracted by some sort of weird dance that Julie and Grace have come up with 

IMG_3755Posters are the best way to learn about geothermal energy 

 Now that they were experts, the Navigators decided to put their new knowledge to the test by constructing their own solar ovens. In order to be certain whether or not they worked, the Navigators decided that they had better put S'more materials inside. It was for learning.

IMG_3808Anna is waiting for the exact right moment to try to steal the s'more from Michael's solar oven

IMG_3824This is the problem with solar cookers: birds love s'mores

"But that's not enough!" the students cried. "We demand to test more forms of renewable energy!" Hoping to avoid a mutiny, their instructors quickly handed over the Wind Turbine Construction Sets they had luckily brought along. The Navigators worked together again, to construct models of the turbines they would visit later in the day, in order to better understand their inner workings.


Joe was an expert at miniature wind turbine building; the group discussed how to make him gigantic-sized so that he could build the full-sized ones 


Joe and Dennis test their wind turbines at the wind farm while Callie, Kayla, and Cindy offer moral support  

IMG_3937Wind turbines take teamwork 

IMG_3955Dennis took one for the team and sacrificed the top of his head as a wind turbine site

IMG_3958Grace and Julie are pretty proud of their awesome work 

"What's the big deal about renewable energy?" the Navigators asked. "Our turbines work great! Our solar ovens worked great!" (Well, the solar ovens were kind of a wash because it was cloudy and there were birds around who also liked s'mores... but the theory was the important part.) "Not so fast," their instructors said. "Now let's talk about the problems with these energy forms."

Their instructors explained the difficulties with each form of sustainable energy-- how solar has a storage issue, and doesn't work as well when it's overcast; how wind turbines are accused of being unsightly and loud, and are difficult to transport and assemble.

"Well okay," the Navigators said. "But how about geothermal? Surely there are no controversies there!"

Oh, you silly Navigators. To help them understand the issues with geothermal power, their instructors took the Navigators to Rincon de la Vieja national park, on the slopes of the powerful volcano, an area bubbling with the earth's geothermal power.


The Program Leaders kept saying, "Remember everyone, it's not a hot tub, it's not a hot tub..."


Joe took a break from all the global navigating to make friends with this butterfly

A quick reflection break in nature's classroom 

  IMG_4108The global navigators navigated their way to a waterfall

 Only after they had explored the beauty of the park did their instructors reveal the reason for their visit-- that a proposed geothermal plant could significantly alter the incredible natural beauty and biodiversity that they had just explored. Energy-- even sustainable energy-- comes at a cost, the Navigators were learning.

"Okay okay," the Navigators said. "So geothermal means some tough decisions. Hydro must be better, right?"

Oh you'll see, Global Navigators. But first, let's wash away the perplexing choices of energy in a secret swimming hole.

IMG_4138This secret swimming hole may have been the fountain of youth... only time will tell...

 The next day, the Navigators set off for Lake Arenal, at the foot of the Arenal volcano. Arenal was once an entire community, but was evacuated and flooded in order to create the Arenal reservoir to feed the hydroelectric dam. As they enjoyed their surprisingly fun ride on a catamaran across the lake, the Navigators pondered the cost of hydro power.

 Cajmir was saying, "Come at me, crocodiles!" 


The Titanic thing was inevitable 

IMG_4231Luke and Dennis refused to be left out of the fun

The Navigators had now explored the four major types of sustainable energy used to power Costa Rica-- and had pondered the costs that accompany each. Sustainable energy is a question of balance-- what are you willing to sacrifice in order to escape fossil fuels? Your view of the horizon? An area full of so much biodiversity that it was deemed a national park? Your own community? There are no easy answers, the Navigators learned-- they would have to wrestle with these questions over the remaining week of their program, and likely for years afterward.

Now, the Navigators turn to Monteverde, the Mountain in the Clouds, to learn about the conservation work being done to preserve its vitally important ecosystems and to complete the third module of their course. What gems will they find hidden in the thick forests? Will they be visited by the Resplendent visage of the Quetzal? Will the water in the showers finally be warm? 

Tune in again soon to learn about the final days of the journey of the Global Navigators.

More soon,


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland


A postcard from the volcano



Global Navigating through Costa Rica: Sustainability on Isla de Chira

Hello from Guayabo! Yesterday, the Navigators departed from their stay on Isla Chira, where they spent five days learning about sustainability in the island community. They started off this new module with an introduction to their new ecosystem, by conducting a study of the mangrove habitats which infiltrate the island. These mangroves are a vital part of Isla Chira's ecosystem, acting as a barrier against storms and rising tides, filtering the incoming water, and serving as a breeding ground and nursery for many of the species the Islanders rely on for their livelihood. To better understand the life found within these habitats, the Navigators conducted their own species sampling activities, splitting into groups and keeping count of the number of different species they could find. In less than half an hour, each group counted nearly sixty individual species.


Class in the mangroves. Here, the Navigators learn about this important ecosystem as the tide encroaches. 



 We said "water sampling activity" but Edward heard "Photoshoot".


Julie searches for many fish-like creatures in the brackish water of the mangroves.


 Cindy looks like she's considering snacking on whatever she's found.


Kayla shows off her prize. Grace found it a little fishy. 

Now that the Navigators understood how important these mangrove habitats are, they were ready to get their hands dirty and help out. They teamed up with a local women's organization on the island to help with mangrove reforestation-- the Navigators filled bags with sand from the beach, collected mangrove shoots, and then helped to plant young mangroves in a sparse section of the habitat. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. The Navigators didn't seem to mind.

 Cajmir is digging a hole for some fresh sand, and Cindy finds this amazing.


Look at all those hard-working Navigators. This fresh, wet sand will be great for young mangroves, and also for playing in. 


 Luke, featuring a bag of wet sand.


Callie knew that the best way to make the young mangroves feel at home was to disguise herself as a beach.


Grace looks like this bag of sand just told her a really good secret as she's carrying it back for planting.


Hannah and Kayla pose with their new child, Rooty Woodgrowth, who they just planted in his new home.

 The next day, the Navigators dove further into life on the island, exploring how the residents make a living. They knew that many fished or clammed for their living, but they'd also seen how women's groups were incredibly active on the island in their own pursuits. Now, they were going to visit a group of women Artisans, to learn about their craft and the amount of work it takes to create these pieces of jewelry and handiwork.


Callie, Anna, and Heidi work on engraving their Jicaro (Crescentia alata) fruits. Usually Heidi catches the photographer and makes a face, but she was too focused this time.


The Navigators pose with their bracelets and fruits. They also bought a few souvenirs from the Artisans, maybe to try to trick their parents when they get home.

The next day, the Navigators all said "We want to know more about what it's like to be a fisherman on Chira!" Luckily for them, this was already the plan for the day. They loaded boats and headed into one of Chira's best fishing spots to try their hand at the craft themselves. After an hour of fishing, the Navigators had caught a grand total of 12 fish (all of which they returned to the sea)-- a great day for them, displaying how well the sustainability restrictions imposed by the fishermen themselves are helping to restore the vital fish populations to the island. But once they did their calculations, they found that overall, this was still a stretch for a living. The shores of Chira still have a long road to full recovery.


 For a brief period as the tide comes in, there exists this little underwater sand bridge through the water. The Navigators liked to pretend that they were water-wizards (not to be confused with water-lizards, who they were really hoping they wouldn't run into).


Julie caught the biggest fish of the day. She threw it back, but for a minute it looked like she really wanted to eat it. 

After fishing day, the Navigators walked a short ways down the road to the little elementary school to practice their Spanish. They worked in groups to teach the little Ticos some songs in English. Eventually, the Navigators started to learn from the kids as well, playing games like "Simon Says" and "Can You Figure Out What I Am Saying to You?". 


This kid looks like he's taken over running things, and now he's teaching the song to Christine. 


The Navigators pose with their new friends. If they hadn't had a date with their dinner, they might have stayed forever.

Because they hadn't quite gotten enough of the kids in Survival Spanish, the Navigators reconvened after dinner for a friendly futbol match with the Chira youth. The Navigators were prepared to go easy on the kids, but quickly found themselves down 10-5. The final score doesn't matter, because everyone had fun. 


Joe's like that dude from X-Men; he moves so fast that he's basically a blur.

When not on the field, the Navigators took turns cheering on their teammates. Some of these Navigators definitely have a future as major league coaches.

The next morning, the Navigators packed up their things, thanked their island hosts, and loaded up the boats. They were heading now for Guayabo, to continue their Sustainability module with a focus now on renewable energy-- they would sleep at the foot of a volcano, and spent the days learning about wind, solar, and geothermal power which serve the country of Costa Rica, and which will be vital to the future of our species.

We'll be back with more updates soon, but for now, rest assured that the Navigators are working hard in their lessons, and spending their evening watching Ant Man on TV and playing on the waterslides of this rad hotel.

More soon!


Words by Kyle Ritland

Photos by Trevor Ritland

The Rich Coast: Studying Biodiversity in Costa Rica's South Pacific

Hello from the far side of adventure! After nearly a week in the rough wilds of Corcovado National Park, our Navigators rest peacefully tonight in the comfortable embrace of Hotel Pelicano, midway through their journey to the next stop: Isla Chira. Seated within the radiating warmth of wi-fi, this seems like the perfect place to recap our adventures thus far.

As they left San Jose for Sierpe, the gateway to Corcovado, our Navigators stopped first at La Basilica de Los Angeles catholic church to learn about the national church of the country, study the beautiful architecture, and learn about the culture that surrounds the church’s foundation and its current existence.


The students discovered holy water and relics as they explored the beautiful church

After this, the navigators turned their eyes toward the jungle, and left civilization behind. On the way to Sierpe, they made a stop for lunch and a quick excursion into the forests of Cerro de la Muerte, a high point of their journey so far, and a chance to look for rare mountain salamanders. As a portent for the luck that would continue to bless them throughout their trip, the Navigators discovered two salamanders among the damp leaves and moss of the high forest.

IMG_1425Class in the clouds 

IMG_1452Instructor Gisella shows off a rare mountain salamander 

IMG_1489Hello little friend 

Buoyed by this good fortune, the Navigators continued toward the coast. They stayed that night at a small inn on the bank of the Sierpe river, and the next morning they loaded the boats and began in earnest toward Corcovado—but not without a few stops along the way. On the river, they spotted from their boats Squirrel Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, and a Three-toed sloth in the trees along the river bank. Before long, they had reached Campanario, the biological research station which would serve as their temporary home on the beach outside Corcovado, and their launching point into the National Park itself.


Out of the clouds and into paradise 


The students enjoyed numerous hikes around the biological station and learned about the local flora and fauna from their experienced instructors Priscilla and Gisella 

IMG_1772They even discovered a few hidden waterfalls 

The next morning, the intrepid and fearless Navigators reloaded the boats and set off for San Pedrillo, a few minutes ride down the coast, for a hike to a tropical waterfall and swimming hole among rich primary forest. This journey, too, was met with early faunal success—from their boats, the Navigators spotted dolphins, and during their hike they observed the aptly named Jesus Christ Lizards (so-called for their ability to sprint across the surface of the water) and two American Crocodiles, half-submerged in the brackish and muddy water. At the trail’s end, they took in the tranquil beauty of the waterfall before spending some time in the pools at its base.

  IMG_1815Hiking in toward the San Pedrillo waterfall

IMG_1830Further up and further in 


The waterfall really wanted a photo with the students 

 The Global Navigators are living up to their name

 Kayla decided she was going to be Simba on Pride Rock

The Navigators expanded their scientific knowledge through their classes as well—after San Pedrillo, they learned about the processes of the Scientific Method, and then spent a few hours making observations of their own on the beach of Campanario, posing a question, conducting an experiment, and testing their hypothesis. By the end of the day, each and every Navigator could rightfully call themselves scientists.


As far as classrooms go, this has got to be one of the better ones 

Michael is working with Callie and Hannah on their crab race... or... "experiment"

Michael, Hannah, Callie, and Jennie are demonstrating important ecosystem services during their presentation to the group 

That night, a rustling beneath the Water Apple trees awakened the Navigators. Was it the sound of angry Capuchins? No! It was the sound of a pair of hungry Tapirs, a rare an endangered species come for their morning meal (Tapirs are nocturnal). The students watched as the Tapirs crossed the beach to find their favorite snacks, probably wondering why all these weird animals found them so fascinating.


Old Missus Tapir was enjoying a lovely snack 

All the energy granted by that late night Tapir visit encouraged the Navigators to pursue a new adventure. “We should all go to Isla del Caño!” they happily exclaimed the next morning—which was a lucky thing, because this was exactly what their itinerary proclaimed as the day’s plan. After another boat ride across gentle seas, the Navigators learned about island biodiversity, tested the theories themselves with a beach-front experiment, and then observed the evidence in person, as they snorkeled among the rocky shores of the island.

IMG_2330Here is Priscilla teaching about island biogeography and biodiversity with a fun beach activity  

"Survival Spanish" at the Biological Station

Apparently this wasn’t enough water for the Navigators yet, because they spent the next day in canoes and kayaks, working their way steadily upstream at Rio Claro in search of more tropical life, before slipping out of their boats to drift serenely back down the river. Before they left, they found another secret waterfall, this time covering themselves in exfoliating mud for its regenerative properties (… or because it was fun to play with mud… either way…).
  IMG_2585Kayaking up the Rio Claro to study the biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula 


A secret waterfall gem hidden in the jungle 

IMG_2646You take your eyes off these guys for a few seconds and they cover themselves in mud... 

The next morning, the Navigators bid goodbye to Corcovado and Campanario—they are heading now toward Isla Chira, to learn about sustainability. They stayed one night at the beautiful Hotel Pelicano, enjoyed the wifi and the burgers and the pool, before setting off again for the wild lands beyond the border of civilization. They’ll be back in touch with their loved ones as soon as they can, however, to regale them with all the stories of what they’ve learned!

We’ll see you on the other side of Isla Chira for an update on all the Navigators have seen and all they have learned!

More soon! XOXO,

Photos by Trevor Ritland

Words by Kyle Ritland




Costa What-A?

 Hola from Costa Rica! On Monday morning, 18 bold and adventurous high schoolers awoke at the Autentico Hotel in San Jose. They had spent the previous day in transit, leaving behind for three weeks their familiar lives in order to become Global Navigators with CIEE Study Abroad. Now, their bodies rested and their bellies full, they were ready to begin their journey in earnest.


The Navigators share their hopes and dreams with their new friends at the Autentico.

Their first day would be spent in San Jose— the capitol city of Costa Rica—and in order to prepare them for this, their Instructors began the day with a lesson on Urbanization. Here, the students learned about the growth of cities and the effects that come from this expansion, and discussed the pros and cons of urban growth. These new perspectives would prepare the students for later explorations of Costa Rica’s vastly differing ecosystems, as they continued on their journey through the country.

To further explore these concepts, the Navigators took part in an exploration of the city itself, examining a range of areas from an upper class suburban park to the more constrictive streets of lower class La Carpio. At La Carpio, the Navigators stopped for a visit at the local elementary school, to practice their Spanish with the local children, and to help the children practice their English. The Navigators and the children became instant friends. They probably would have stayed forever if it hadn’t been lunch time.


The children and the Navigators cross the language barrier and share their lives.


 Kayla's new amigo.

 After lunch, the Navigators continued their city tour—this time stopping at the Museo de Jade, where the Navigators examined archaeological artifacts from Costa Rica’s past, and studied the growth of the country from small villages to the city in which they now stood.


 This room looked like it was the night-time when actually it was the day-time.


What treasures will they find buried in the sand???

After the museum and city tour, the Navigators felt themselves in drastic need of some fruit—which was quite lucky indeed because it just so happened that their instructors had arranged for them a sampling of local fruit! Some of it was delicious—some of it was perplexing—but all of it was interesting.


 Instructor Gisella teaches about Costa Rican fruit to the curious but suspicious students.


 Christine, Grace, and Julie are trying to make you think they picked this fruit themselves.


Either Luke didn't love the Cas, or else he's practicing his rock and roll sneer.


Anna looks like this fruit just started screaming.


 Christine loves this fruit so much, she's making sure none of it escapes her mouth.


 Dennis and Joe thought we said "make-up contest," not "fruit-tasting".

Even with all the quick energy from their fruit, the Navigators felt themselves growing tired—it had been a long and action-packed day, and they needed to rest up for their coming adventures. After an authentic dinner at a San Jose restaurant, the Navigators turned in for the night and dreamed (I’m sure) of their coming journey—a trip to Corcovado National Park, to learn about the rich biodiversity offered by Costa Rica.

What will happen next? What will the Navigators find on the way to their destination? What kind of sweet snack will they eat? Will there be more fruit?

Tune in again to find out!


Kyle Ritland, Program Leader.