Economicology Students Share Costa Rica’s pura vida

In April 2011, eight students and two educators from the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ City High/Middle School spent over a week in Costa Rica on a trip that, in the students’ own written words, had a profound impact on their lives.

The eight young men and women from the Center for Economicology, sponsored by The Wege Foundation, chose Costa Rica because it is recognized as the most environmentally progressive country in the world. The theme of the Grand Rapids travelers was “pura vida,” the Costa Rican motto for “pure life.”

The trip leaders, Spanish teacher Patricia Osborn and Assistant Principal Ryan Huppert, defined the trip’s main goals as immersing the students in the Spanish language, exposing them to the Costa Rican culture, teaching them about tropical ecology, and showing them sustainable practices.

The photographs in the attached link to their blog show the breadth of their learning experiences, from sustainable farming to producing geo-thermal energy to spotting howler monkeys to eating dinner with gracious Costa Rican families. The students even found time to meet with Peace Corps volunteers and paint a village school a cheery blue.

To me pura vida means community, family, and happiness, wrote Lindsay Klomparens in her journal. Take nothing for granted. Make the best choices not only for yourself, but also for those around you.

About this Central American country with over 25% of its land in permanent conservation, Nick Maodushpitzer wrote: The Costa Rican people’s…dedication to improving the planet for future generations is shown in the work that is done here, not just what is written on paper. (Costa Ricans) should be a model for how the rest of the world operates.

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In almost poetic terms, Carl Uzarski described his first taste of raw sugar from chewing on a sugar cane to get the juice out. Not an intense sweetness, Carl wrote, but, instead, it was watery with a gentle sweetness.

Grant Kammer saw the “pura vida” in the contrasting levels of consumerism between the Costa Rican people and Americans. I love our culture as a U.S. citizen, Grant wrote, and I am proud to be a part of it, but the need for materials, the need for things is just appallingly unnecessary.

Summarizing for what the Costan Rican experience had taught them, Nick wrote, We, as students eager to learn, are the seeds of change…(we) understand the seeds will not blossom in one day…and slowly we will see that our small ideas can create big dividends for our world.

Leaving Costa Rica and pura vida, Hannah Tripp wrote, We will miss waking up to the sounds of the rainforest, the silly dogs that followed us everywhere, the kind town, Pablo and his machete (used to whack a palm tree and teach students to make a salad using the palm core), the amazing birds, and all the fun we had.


Please check out the economicology students’ blogs and the photos they took on their Costa Rican adventure.