Human beings have a tendency to seek out new information. When someone ceases the quest for new information they can no longer grow. We have facilitated this learning process by compiling information into easily accessible areas such as libraries, universities, schools and the Internet. While this is a wonderful thing it is not the most powerful way to learn. Here in Costa Rica I have fully immersed myself in the process of active learning. There is no other type of learning that involves all senses and truly engages the human mind.
Far too often, college students drown out their professor’s lectures and focus their attention on whatever is more interesting on their smart phone. We have become accustomed to turning on auto pilot in the classroom. Often just memorizing key terms instead of truly comprehending what they mean. With active learning this is impossible. It is incredibly hard not to pay attention when you are learning about biodiversity and listening to the various sounds of the rainforest as you walk the path only lit by the moon and small flashlights. You are not just learning about biodiversity you are surrounded by it!
When I came to Costa Rica I came with a focus in environmental sciences. I figured I would spend my classroom time learning about Costa Rica’s ecology and it would be up to me to really put that learning to use. However, I was completely wrong. Between my three classes I had five different weekend field trips in order to fully immerse myself into the learning. We received the background information in the classes weekly but then we got to experience the concepts that we discussed in real life. This was also a very valuable asset in getting to know the real Costa Rica because we were able to get out of San José and explore the whole country.
Active learning doesn’t just happen during your classes here in Costa Rica. It happens every day if you see the opportunities and take advantage of them. What better way to learn about a culture then to dive head first. You don’t learn by observing culture, you learn by experiencing it. I could tell you what it’s like to have a main dish of rice and beans every day and every meal but you won’t appreciate it until you experience it. If your goal is to learn a language there is no better way than to go to a country that only speaks that language. What is it like to travel like a Tico? Well, the only way to learn is to hop on and navigate the public bus system. All of this is active learning at its best.
Whether it is hiking through the jungle or immersing yourself in the local culture, Costa Rica is full of active learning opportunities. In order to get the full experience of being abroad, you must participate in active learning. Get out of your comfort zone and learn by doing. You will value these experiences most out of your trip.
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