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Sagan courses take OWU students’ learning to new heights in Costa Rica

Staff March 30, 2012 News No Comments

Sagan courses in 2011 and 2012 provided opportunities for students to engage in travel learning in Costa Rica, through two different courses of study.
Students from a course in Tropical Biology traveled to Costa Rica over spring break to study “the biology and ecology of tropical organisms and complete independent research projects,” Linda O’Horo wrote on the Ohio Wesleyan website. This course was co-listed as botany-microbiology and zoology.
Junior Aubrey Alamshah was one student who took the course and traveled to Costa Rica.
“It’s one thing to talk about the high tree diversity or the low amount of light that hits the forest floor, it’s another to actually be in the middle of it,” Alamshah said.
“We visited three different places, all at different elevations. Tirimbina was in the lowland rainforest, Poca Sol was in the mid-elevation, and Monteverde was at high elevation,” she said.
“I did most of my research at Monteverde on hummingbirds, and they were really amazing”
She said that in Ohio, only two types of hummingbirds can be seen and they are very small.
In Monteverde, she was able to see seven different species that differed greatly in size, shape and color.
“You had everything from the tiny Green Hermit with a bill that was so long and bent that he couldn’t land on the hummingbird feeder, to the giant Violet Sabrewings which were about as long as my hand and bright purple,” she said.
Alamshah also loved the country itself.
“Costa Rica is a really laid back country,” she said.
“They just don’t stress out about everything like we do in the United States, it was really nice. I know that I could definitely learn a lot from them,” she said.
This was Alamshah’s second travel learning experience.
“(Travel learning) not only makes it so much more interesting (to learn), but easier to remember and understand,” she said.
“I honestly think that this is the best way to learn any subject.”
Senior John Riverso was also in the course.
“Pocosol probably had the most impact on me due to its isolation from civilization; it was the most pristine site, and really opened my eyes to what needs to be saved,” Riverso said.
“Seeing things for yourself is an altogether more enriching experience. I wish I had taken advantage of other travel learning courses in my time at OWU.”
Economics Professor Andrew Meyer taught last year’s course that traveled to Costa Rica titled Sustainability, Ecotourism, and Eco Certification.
According to O’Horo on the OWU website, the point of this course was “to examine issues including climate change, natural resource degradation, economic development, environmental quality and tourism—all through the lens of sustainability.”
Meyer said his goal in teaching the course was to help students “formulate what they think the important factors are in determining whether an ecotourism project succeeds or fails, both environmentally and economically.”
Economics Professor Alice Simon also went on the Costa Rica trip last year. She said the biggest impact that the trip had on her came from the rain forests which were amazing to see and from the coffee plantation where values of family pride and doing work by hand were visible.
Junior Andrea MacVay was one of the students on the Economics Costa Rico trip.
“During our trip to Costa Rica we learned about specific policies the country was enacting to promote ecotourism and to protect the environment,” she said.
“We took guided tours through the Cloud Forest, learning of the great biodiversity there, and were able to experience first-hand the principles of ecotourism and the beauty of Costa Rica. Aside from learning a great deal of the biology and history of the country and its environmental practices, we also learned of different efforts to protect endangered species there.”
MacVay said that hiking in the rainforest and up to a waterfall were her most memorable experiences from the trip.
She also said courses that come with a travel experience are important because they help to re-enforce ideas learned in the classroom.
She also said there were benefits of traveling to other cultures for personal reasons.
“Experiencing new and different cultures helps broaden your perspective on life – you get to see how other people live, and what they view as important,” MacVay said.

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