Students Conduct Scientific Inquiry In 10-Day Costa Rica Trip

Posted on June 6th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School
By Kelsey Lisi, Aaron Shepard, and the Costa Rica Trip Students

Twelve Allendale Columbia students conducted scientific inquiry while immersed in regional culture and Spanish language during an intensive 10-day trip to Costa Rica during AC’s May Term session in the final weeks of the 2018-2019 school year. The experience took place in the region between San José and the Caribbean coast and was organized by the AC Center for Global Engagement and the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation.

We began our journey at the Ecology Project International (EPI) campus in San José. From there we traveled to the Tirimbina Biological Reserve where we spent two days exploring the rain forest, conducting scientific inquiry, and learning about native species. Our next destination was the Pacuare Reserve, a nearly 2,000 acre tropical forest with six kilometers of beachfront. Pacuare is one of the most important leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in Costa Rica. We were fortunate to take part in three nights of turtle census work, during which we encountered several females that had come up on the beach to dig their nests and lay eggs. Some of the students were able to take measurements and act as “midwives” by collecting the eggs in a plastic bag for relocation to a safer area.

On the return trip to San José, we stayed one night at Casa Calatea, a community–supported neighborhood hostel high up on a forested mountainside. Here we enjoyed delicious food and an amazing view that included howler monkeys and toucans. The next day we traveled to the village of Cahuita, with its eponymous national park, where we went on a snorkeling expedition. We had a tasty lunch at a local diner before continuing our journey back to the EPI campus in San José. Our final full day in Costa Rica included a visit to the active Poás volcano and a tour of the Toucan Rescue Ranch, a rehabilitation facility for numerous wild animals such as toucans, sloths, owls, and monkeys.

As chaperones, we found the experiences we had to be life–changing, and can only imagine the impact it had on the students’ lives. They were an inspirational group who are forever bonded by their unique experiences on this trip. You can read their impressions below.


Blog Post 1

During our trip to the Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica, we excavated a previously relocated leatherback sea turtle nest.  Researchers excavate the nest after sixty days to see if there were any survivors who had hatched but had not been able to reach the surface and to collect the egg remnants to determine hatching success of the nest.  When the nest was relocated, the team dug the nest to a matching depth to the original nest, which is usually about 80 centimeters deep!

The researcher found seven living leatherback sea turtle hatchlings which we were able to exhume and release for the long journey to the ocean.  Although it was tempting to carry the sea turtles to the water, the turtles had to make their own journey to the water so they could pick up chemicals and environmental clues which will help them to return to the beach when they are of breeding age.

Since we couldn’t carry them to water, the group was assigned individual turtles to follow them on the sand to ensure that they make it to water. Along the way, the turtles were met with debris such as sticks and trash, sandy hills, and vicious crabs hoping to make a meal out of them.  The turtles made the approximately 30 meter trek from the nest to the ocean in about 20 minutes. During this time, we were their cheerleaders and their guardians. Some of us chose to take the time to name our turtles; others viewed the journey as a race and started to cheer for their turtle to win.  Marlin Bassett said, “I felt really protective of the baby turtles as they moved toward the water.”

All seven of our turtle hatchlings made it to the ocean and were carried away by the waves after submerging.  This experience gave us hope for the future of sea turtles and the marine environment. Hopefully in twenty years we can see our turtles return to the beach to lay their own eggs and ensure the success of the species.  This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that made our trip so memorable.

Mrs. Lisi collected some responses from our reflections that afternoon.  There were many words and phrases to describe this experience and the trip including magical, powerful, thankful, incredible, and fortunate.


Blog Post 2

During our trip to Costa Rica, we spent nights 4-6 on Pacuare Reserve. We had 4 hour shifts nightly for turtle censuses, at either 8pm or 12pm. Both of us (Marlin and Greg), were given the opportunity to be up close to the Leatherback Sea Turtle while it laid its eggs. At around 1pm on night 4 Marlin saw the massive Sea Turtle, while Greg saw the Sea Turtle on night five around the same time. Even though we both worked with different turtles our experiences were very similar. Only females lay eggs and they come ashore on the beach to do so. She will dig a hole in the sand about 70cm deep with her massive flippers, and lay around 80 eggs. What’s unique about Leatherback Sea Turtles, is that they first lay their fertile eggs, and then on top of the hole infertile eggs. This is done to protect them from predators, and shield them from the elements such as heat. Their eggs unlike any other reptiles are very soft in the beginning, so they don’t break while falling into a 70cm deep hole. If you were to look at the dug hole from the side, it would have a unique shape similar to a boot.

We both had the opportunity to hold this ancient dinosaurs flipper while it laid its eggs into her hole. Before she started to lay her eggs we had to place a large plastic bag under the cloaca so we could collect and relocate the eggs to a safer location, away from poachers. Our main job during this activity was to try and count the eggs that she laid as well as moving the flipper out of the way so other people could observe the amount of eggs that she laid. We both felt how strong she was even by just holding her flipper. Although we tried to move her flipper sometimes it became apart very quickly that once she decided she was moving her flipper, she was moving it and we had no way to stop her. She continued laying eggs for about 10-15 minutes depending on the turtle. When she was done laying, we had to quickly remove the bag before she started filling the hole back up with sand. We then handed over the bag to on-site researchers, so they could relocate it to a safer place which has a higher egg hatch rate. It would then be monitored and checked after 60 days. Data would be collected on the amount of hatched and unhatched eggs.

This made us feel humbled and gave us an overwhelming amount of respect for the Sea Turtles. They have been alive longer than us and have experience far greater than we could ever know. Especially with the problems of pollution and poaching even the effect of global warming it is truly amazing how this animal survives each day and makes this trip to lay its eggs. It makes us hopeful for future generations of life watching the eggs, knowing they will likely hatch and go on to become adults. Thus changing the lives of people like us.


Blog Post 3

On our second day at Tirimbina, we had a midday snack led by our trip guides, Katherine and Catalina. It consisted of the sampling of eight tropical fruits. These were Cocoa beans, Guava, Sour Guava, Passionfruit, Granadilla, Starfruit, Pejivalles, and Mamey Sapote. We ate the pejivalles with mayonnaise, which tasted similar to very dry squash. Starfruit and sour guava were dipped in salt to enhance the flavor. Overall, our favorite fruit was the granadilla (4 orange masses), which had a similar feel to the passionfruit. It was quite sweet with a tang, and its innards were protected by a styrofoam-like barrier. The granadillas were simple and fun to crack open, as we pushed our thumbs into its side and ripped it in half.

For the duration of the trip, we ate rice and beans for practically every meal. However, it was prepared differently each time and even through our various locations, we never repeated a meal. It altered between the separation and combination of these two dishes. There was also consistently a variety of sides, such as plantain chips, shredded cabbage, chicken, fish, beef, mashed potatoes, diced vegetables with corn, mango, watermelon, pineapple, and papaya. We also had many different fruit juices each day, including Passionfruit, Hibiscus, Watermelon, and Cas.

Our favorite meal was at our stay in Casa Calatea. We stayed here for one night after our three days at Pacuare, which was similar to a giant tree house. The staff made us an incredible dinner, which was made up of very tender chicken, mashed potatoes, diced vegetables with corn, plantain chips, and a very good, sweet coconut dessert. It was in a dark brown bar shape and combined coconut pieces with sugar and butter.

 

Kelsey Lisi

Kelsey Lisi

At Allendale Columbia, Kelsey teaches AP biology, biology, and chemistry. Prior to coming to Allendale Columbia, Kelsey taught at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, Maryland. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree at St. John Fisher College and her Master of Science Degree in Biology at Towson University.

Aaron Shepard

Aaron Shepard

Aaron has 16 years of experience as an educator and has been teaching at Allendale Columbia for ten of those years. He began working at AC as a long-term substitute teacher for fifth grade and began teaching in the Middle School full-time shortly after. Prior to joining AC, Aaron was a special education teacher at BOCES and in the Bradford Central School District in Bradford, New York. He earned a Specialized Technology Degree from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary and Special Education, with a focus on English, from the State University of New York College at Geneseo, and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, specializing in gifted and talented education, from the University of Connecticut.

 

Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Invent, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

AC Mexico Trip Builds Connections and Global Mindset

Posted on May 31st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Rodrigo Gutierrez and Maiyen Sulera Frere 

There’s nothing like traveling to a different part of the world to develop a new perspective. Through the Allendale Columbia Center for Global Engagement, a group of 11 students and two teachers traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on a cultural immersion trip during AC’s 2019 May Term.

The following notes and photos are taken from a series of emails sent to parents of the students on our AC Mexico trip. (Check back for updates.) (more…)

Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Global Scholars Lead Workshops on Empathy, Compassion at Naz

Posted on March 21st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia Global Engagement Scholars participated in the 9th Annual Global Citizenship Conference: The Next Generation Living in a Pluralistic World held at Nazareth College on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019.

This conference for high school students is designed to give the future leaders of our world the tools to respond to intolerance, improve religious literacy, and show the etiquette required to work in a pluralistic world. Participants become more aware of cultural and religious diversity, gain understanding and dispel stereotypes about various religions, and learn effective skills of discourse based on respect, plurality, and conflict resolution. (more…)

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

AC’s Younger Students Becoming Global Citizens, Too

Posted on March 1st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Students throughout Allendale Columbia School don’t just learn about other parts of the world, they become global citizens, learning alongside their peers in other parts of the world. That’s just as true in Lower School.

Last year, AC first-graders explored the Amazon rainforest and ran a successful fundraising campaign to become stewards of a section of the rainforest equal to the size of AC’s campus. Building on that experience, AC’s Head of Lower School, Michelle Feiss, brought in Paul Hurteau, Executive Director of OneWorld Classrooms and a former Upstate New York teacher, who thrilled current first- and second-graders with stories of his experiences teaching students in Ecuador, complete with photos of the people and wildlife, poems, and artifacts from that rainforest community.

(more…)

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Practicing What I Teach: Challenges and Rewards in Ecuador

Posted on March 1st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

What do a school psychologist from New York, a boy named Ken from the Dominican Republic, a girl named Jazmin, and a boy named Jared all have in common? During the summer of 2018, they all found themselves at Fundación Niños de María in Quito, Ecuador.

Fundación Niños de María is a private Catholic school in Ecuador. Students who attend come from public schools where they used to experience academic failure and where the ratio was often one teacher to 45 students. Niños provided a safe and often year-round educational experience for some of Quito’s most vulnerable students. For a student like Ken, whose family had recently relocated from the Dominican Republic, much about Niños, and Ecuador in general, was new. Jazmin had gone unnoticed at her last school and was quite shy, and Jared’s teacher shared that, while domestic violence was a part of his home life, he was usually upbeat and talkative.

(more…)

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Posted in: Global Engagement, Highlights

Change Provides Car for Afghan Hero

Posted on January 15th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School
Ellen Smith (NOLB Rochester Chapter Head) and Abdul Wali Akrami receive a ceremonial check from Change We Can Believe In leader Elina Natarajan '22.

Ellen Smith (NOLB Rochester Chapter Head) and Abdul Wali Akrami receive a ceremonial check from Change We Can Believe In leader Elina Natarajan ’22.

Abdul Wali Akrami, a humble hero who helped U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan, received a car and insurance to help him resettle in Rochester as a result of AC ninth-grader, Elina Natarajan’s inspired “Change You Can Count On” fundraiser at Allendale Columbia School.

Natarajan rallied the Community Service Club to help with the project, in which students in each grade and faculty sought to fill 2-liter bottles with loose change. All those coins added up to $743.00 to support No One Left Behind (NOLB), an organization that helps resettle the Afghan and Iraqi heroes who assisted the U.S. as drivers, interpreters, and special assistants.

“I was inspired when I met Matt Zeller and Janis Shinwari after a discussion at school,” Natarajan explained. AC alumnus and 2018 CNN Hero, Matt Zeller ’00, is a co-founder of NOLB with his Afghan translator Janis Shinwari. “I heard Ellen Smith (the Rochester Chapter Head) talk in the evening forum about raising money to help provide vehicles to these relocated helpers, and I thought, we can do that!”

“Wali” and his family fled his home country of Afghanistan to go to Pakistan when it became too dangerous under the Taliban. He returned when U.S. forces arrived to, as he put it, “help restore our country”. He became the trusted driver and special assistant to Fulton Jones, DynCorp International’s Deputy Program Manager for the Ministry of Interior’s Mentoring Program working with the Afghan National Police. Jones is the one who sponsored Wali’s visa. “On two occasions while we were traveling in my vehicle around Kabul, nearby coalition military bases or Afghan governmental institutions were attacked by Taliban insurgents. Wali quickly assessed the situation and realized that we were in danger of being hit,” Jones wrote in his letter of recommendation, and related how Wali got them to safety. “Wali risks his life daily just coming to work…but firmly believes what he is doing is right and worth the risk.”

Wali’s son, Aleem, related some of his father’s story to the packed Curtis Performance Center at AC, while tears of gratitude streamed down Wali’s face. A family friend, Jawad Tawakali, who moved here as a child, translated Wali’s thanks to the group. “It feels good to know we could help,” said Natarajan, who also noticed the tears. “It was a very emotional moment.”

 

Interested in supporting No One Left Behind? Send donations to:

No One Left Behind, Inc.
888 Pittsford Mendon Center Road
Pittsford, NY 14534

You can also email Irwin Solomon at irsolnolb@gmail.com.

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Posted in: Alumni News, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Nicaraguan Partners Visit AC Spanish Classes

Posted on December 20th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

by Kate Western

On Tuesday, visitors from Rochester’s sister city of El Sauce, Nicaragua, met with Middle and Upper School Spanish classes to raise awareness of the existing needs of Nicaraguan children. Marta Rojas and Ashley Sullivan, a Hilton native, both live in El Sauce, and they have dedicated their lives to making an impact on children of need in their community through the Ciudad Hermana (Sister City) Scholarship Project. (more…)

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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Global Engagement, Highlights, Middle School, Upper School

AC Alum Recognized as 2018 CNN Hero

Posted on November 9th, 2018 by cnickels

Veterans Day celebrates our soldiers and marines who served this country or, in some cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But what about all those people who help our troops? The people who live in the country that is being torn apart by war. The people who risk their lives to help our soldiers communicate, navigate, and survive. What about them?

Matt Zeller, an AC Class of 2000 alum, left our campus with ideas of being a lawyer or a politician and went on to earn degrees from Hamilton College and Syracuse University before joining the U.S. Army.

In 2008 his life, and his future, changed forever. (more…)

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Posted in: AC in the News, Alumni News, Authentic Learning, Entrepreneurship, Global Engagement, Highlights