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The Cloud Forest School, Costa Rica

The School

The Cloud Forest School (el Centro de Educación Creativa) is an independent school located on 106 acres of cloud forest land in storied Monteverde, Costa Rica. Home to some 200 Pre-School through 11th graders, their student body is made up of 85% local Costa Rican students, and 15% international students.  The school’s core curriculum focuses on promoting academic excellence within a framework of environmental education.  Their goal is “to graduate bilingual individuals with strong roots in environmentalism. Armed with the tools to take on today’s complex problems, our graduates will become tomorrow’s botanists, farmers, lawyers, veterinarians, biologists & environmental justice warriors!  The school promotes child-centered, progressive forms of curriculum and instruction that reflect the educational approaches we encourage our students to take here at Vassar College.

Overview

This program will provide students the opportunity to immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture and participate in the daily activities at a unique independent school at the same time.  The program will be organized to encourage students to connect to educational theory and practice in a dynamic learning environment.   Vassar students will participate in a structured intern program that has been running successfully for over a decade.  Working closely with faculty at the Cloud Forest School, Vassar students will observe experienced teachers in the classroom, design and implement lessons, study Spanish and carry out an independent research project.

Beyond mirroring the goals of the Education Department, the Cloud Forest program would also appeal to those coming from the Latin American Studies, Environmental Studies, and International Studies disciplines.

“I cannot believe this is the last day of school here.  Doing everything for the last time this morning felt unreal, and all day long the kids were coming up to me and hugging me and telling me now to leave.  These kids, this school, and the other teachers have become such a solid part of my daily routine that I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like not coming back to school with them in January.

I started the semester hesitant and unsure of my abilities as a teacher/intern, but now standing in front of a room full of students feels natural, and like exactly where I’m supposed to be.

This experience – the children, the people, and the opportunities I had to teach – has changed my life for the better, and I will never forget it.  The Cloud Forest School has a special place in my heart, and I know I will be back.”

— Quote from Cara Chaudron’s journal December 4, 2012

Requirements

  • The program is open to all students who are interested in working with children, have sound knowledge of child development, and have had extensive experience with children in school or recreational settings.
  • It is recommended that students have a cumulative and major GPA of 3.2.  However, the committee evaluates each application on an individual basis. Therefore, students who do not meet the recommended GPA are encouraged to submit their application if there is a compelling academic reason for international study.
  • Careful planning with major program advisers is required so that students continue to meet their course requirements at Vassar College.
  • Personal qualities such as responsibility, independence, and initiative are expected of all students.
  • The program is available to students who have had at least one year of college level Spanish or the equivalent.  Students must have taken either EDUC 162 (Education and Opportunity in the U.S.) or EDUC 235 to receive Education credit for internship.

Application

During the fall term of the sophomore year, students are requested to confer with the chair of the Education Department to discuss their interest in and intent to participate in the program.

Students then confer with their major advisor to plan their Vassar College coursework for their junior and senior year.   

Fees

  • When studying abroad, students pay tuition to Vassar and room and board directly to the program
  • Incidental expenses are the responsibility of the student
  • The comprehensive fee does not include airfare

Housing

  • Homestay placement with Cloud Forest family
  • Private room, 3 meals/day, laundry once per week
  • The town of Monteverde is a very safe and welcoming town with a health clinic
  • Care for any serious health concerns is available in San Jose

Program of Study

The student will complete:

  • a full-time three-month internship at the school.  (2 ungraded fieldwork credits, equivalent to EDUC 290)
  • Independent field work project (1 graded independent work credit equivalent to EDUC 298, ENST 298, IS 298, etc.)
  • All participants are required to take Spanish instruction at the Centro Panamericano de Idiomas in Monteverde. (1 graded Spanish language credit)

Development Opportunities

Every Friday interns participate in a professional development workshop or activity.  Examples may include:

  • Speech Pathology with focus on Bilingualism
  • Positive Discipline and Classroom Management
  • Trip to Spanish language school and biological research station in Nicaragua
  • Trip to Samara Beach
  • Reader's and Writer's Workshop Presentations