Signature Programs at The Storm King School are designed to enhance the experiential, interdisciplinary nature of the School’s academic curriculum and community service program while they add yet another dimension to Storm King’s already vibrant student life. Growing in popularity each year is the School’s roster of international and domestic travel opportunities. In past years, students have broadened their horizons, experienced different cultures, and learned about the natural world on trips to Peru, Fiji, Cuba, the Galapagos Islands, New York City, Boston, the Adirondacks, and many others.
This year, over Thanksgiving Break, a group of 18 students and two faculty members traveled to explore the untouched natural beauty and culture of Costa Rica. Their eight-day excursion took the group to interesting locations including lush rainforests, national parks filled with native wildlife, beautiful beaches, a river inhabited by crocodiles, and the city of San Jose. During their adventure, students stepped outside their comfort zones as they tried new and exciting activities like climbing a giant rain forest tree, zip-lining through the jungle, surfing, snorkeling, and sailing on a catamaran, helping a local school build furniture, and making of chocolate, tortillas, and drinks from sugar cane and local fruits.
Other highlights of the trip included a visit to one of Costa Rica’s eco-neighborhoods, learning about medicinal plants and foraging for edible ingredients for their meals, and experiencing local customs including a “sweat lodge ceremony” designed to cleanse the body, mind, and spirit. In between activities, the group also enjoyed downtime on Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches, sampled delicious local cuisine, and enjoyed the colorful sunsets the country is known for.
“The trip to Costa Rica was amazing,” explained sophomore Alex Neighbors upon the group’s return. “We were immediately immersed in the culture which helped me appreciate Costa Rica’s motto, ‘Pura Vida,’ which means ‘Pure Life.’ Within the first few days, I was forced out of my comfort zone and participated in some really awesome activities like zip-lining over the rainforest canopy and surfing at the beautiful beach in the town of Quepos. It felt great to give back through the two community service projects; planting trees in the forest at San Isidro and building a large table for a local school. Costa Rica was beautiful and unique. I enjoyed touring the rainforest, hanging out at the beach, and seeing a variety of wildlife like the howler monkeys and sloths. SKS’s trip to Costa Rica was an unforgettable experience.” Sam Dersch, also a sophomore, described the trip as “life-changing.” “My highlight was building the garden box for the school children. The ability for my group (Jan, Elena, Joy, and Charlotte) to come together to complete the full box with teamwork and passion left a mark on me,” he explained.
According to SKS’ Director of Service Learning Ben Harnick, the trip featured activities that appealed to a wide range of interests and had “something for everyone” to enjoy. “I was pleased to see several students step up and participate, and the work they did at a local school made me proud,” he explained. The trip’s coordinator, faculty member Angelica Centeno echoed similar sentiments. “I was very pleased with the outcome of the trip and I’m very proud of the students who made an effort to adapt to many different situations, engage themselves in the activities we had planned, and get the most out of this wonderful experience,” she explained. “I was also happy to see the students getting to know one another better and make new friends. With all that we learned on this trip, I have already begun to plan for next year.”