Every parent knows that there is much more to a child's education than the time he or she spends in the classroom. Research has shown that real world experiences are the key to learning. As a parent, to enrich your child's education, you must take advantage of "teachable moments".
Costa Rica is the perfect vacation destination for families. It is also the perfect place for parents to find teachable moments in which to enrich their children's educations. There is no place on the planet that compares to the biodiversity of the little country of Costa Rica. There are opportunities to discuss ecology, biology, geology, climate change, oceanography and countless other -ologies at every turn. In addition, this small Spanish speaking country is rich in culture provide the chance to expose your children to cultural and language differences.
You don't need to be an expert in ecology to embrace the teachable moments in a Costa Rica vacation. The guides on various excursions in Costa Rica are some of the most knowledgeable people of I ever met. Ticos are very proud of their country and very knowledgeable about the plants and animals that they share it with. Many of the guides in the national parks have grown up in the area in which they now work. They have been educated about the ecology, survival skills, history and geology of the area and they are happy to share this information with visitors.
I would recommend a trip planned around visits to one or more of the national parks. The national park system of Costa Rica provides you an opportunity to expose your children to what National Geographic called "the most biologically intense place on earth. In 1970, the government of Costa Rica recognized that agriculture, and development were threatening the biodiversity of the country. In order to preserve this resource, the government began setting aside land for national parks, wildlife preserves and buffer zones. Today more than 25% of Costa Rica is protected from development.
Popular National Parks in Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano National Park - The home to the most active volcano in Costa Rica is a short distance from the Capital city San Jose.
Braulio Carrillo National Park - home to volcanoes, rainforest, cloud forest, water falls, and a variety of flora and fauna.
Corcovado National Park - Not to be missed, this park is home to threatened plant and animal species. This park is an incredibly diverse home to bats, birds, crocodiles, sea turtles, monkey, sloths, jaguar, ocelots, and otters just to name a few.
Guanacaste National Park - Protected tropical dry forest, water research facilities, and artifacts from indigenous civilizations.
Manuel Antonio National Park - home to beautiful beaches, varied wildlife, hiking, snorkeling, and guided park tours. A tour of Costa Rica is not complete without a trip to Manuel Antonio.
Poas Volcano National Park - the most visited park in Costa Rica is for good reason. With active geysers and a well developed visitor center, this is a must see for a fantastic lesson in geology.
Cultural Activities and Museums
Panaca is a park that celebrates the agrarian culture of Costa Rica. With over 2000 domesticated animals and a variety of shows and exhibits this park provides a full day of educational fun.
Children's Museum of Costa Rica located in San Jose is home to 32 permanent exhibits including an earthquake simulation.
The National Museum and Costa Rican Art Museum are also located in San Jose.
Below you will find some tips on turning your family vacation in Costa Rica into the educational experience of a lifetime for yourself and your children.
Planning your Trip:
Determine how long your vacation will be. Do not attempt to travel too great a distance in a short time. For shorter vacations a visit to a volcano and several days in the area around Manuel Antonio may be all that you can fit in. Check out the distance between locations and decide and choose which sites are most interesting to you. Remember that a distance that can be traveled in a few hours on a U.S. highway may take all day in Costa Rica. No one will want to spend 5 of 10 days traveling from one area of the country to the next without stopping to enjoy what each region has to offer.
Involve your children in the planning of the itinerary and the activities. If they love the beach, then plan to spend a few days in Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo. If they are fascinated by volcanoes then plan an excursion to Paos.
Before you Go:
o Visit your local library for
o guide books
o nature guides
o picture books
o fiction books
o Purchase a journal to begin recording information about Costa Rica and to be used for journaling throughout the trip.
o Visit Kids Saving the Rainforest Online http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org/main.html for great educational resources.
o Get out the globe and maps of Costa Rica and decide together where you want to go and what you want to do.
o Discuss the metric system (distances in Costa Rica are measured in kilometers) and the average driving speed while making a trip in Costa Rica is about 40 km/hour.
o Discuss exchange rates as a math lesson.
During Your Trip
o Take lots of pictures
o Encourage your kids to journal
o Listen carefully to tour guides. Costa Rica tour operators are known for extensive knowledge of the ecology of their country.
o Don't forget to schedule downtime
After Your Trip
o Scrapbook together
o Help your children to create digital presentations, dioramas or blog entries to share what they have learned with friends, families, and classmates.
Step out of your comfort zone a little bit and enjoy the culture of Costa Rica while visiting. Don't be afraid to try new foods, stop at a roadside fruit stand, or follow the signs to a place a bit off the beaten path.
Renting a villa or staying in a cabina can be much less stressful and oftentimes more affordable when traveling with kids of any age. With a little more personal space everyone seems to get along better. Many vacation houses offer daily maid service, private pools, and all the amenities of hotels.