what to expect


Expect to be challenged intellectually and professionally: This course has been approved for two graduate credits and 96 contact hours of PD/CE credit – for good reason. It delivers training in field research, coaching in using research to teach the nature and process of science, instruction in tropical ecology and conservation, and tutoring in educational video production. This agenda requires participants to absorb and utilize information and techniques more rapidly than many have since college.

Expect to be challenged creatively: This course requires more concentrated creative effort than most professional development courses, because teaching the process of science and producing videos are both intensely creative endeavors.  Course staff offers assistance and suggestions … and the creativity must be supplied by participants.

Expect to be challenged socially: Field research and video production are social undertakings, so participants face the same challenges that their students face when assigned to work with peers. Independent thinkers are welcomed with open arms … and must be able to work in groups. Field experiments and video projects require collaboration among 3-5 participants, so effective communication and mutual respect are vital.

Expect to be challenged physically: This course is NOT an “outward bound” course, but is not a luxury eco-tour either. Our daily routine is full (see schedule). We start early and continue late into most evenings. Participants will be in the field for several hours most days, and should be sufficiently physically fit to walk two - three miles on dirt/mud trails in tropical heat and humidity. (We can usually avoid being out in the sun during the middle of the day, and classrooms are air-conditioned.) If you have questions or concerns, contact Joe, and check with your physician.

Expect some rousing good times! The beauty and wonder of tropical nature are awe-inspiring, both field experimentation and video production can be great fun, and there will be “chill time” during scheduled “R&R” periods. During breaks from work, we will enjoy casual wildlife-watching during a river trip, walking on a recent lava flow on an active volcano, looking down at the forest canopy from elevated suspension bridges, some pure relaxation (and fine dining) during an afternoon/evening at a thermal hot springs … and the company of stimulating and enthusiastic peers.

Honestly, I came away from this course amazed at how much was accomplished professionally and personally. During the course we were given the opportunity to do REAL science inquiry using REAL data, which was my professional goal for the course.   And in the “doing” I realized that I would now be much better able to MODEL this process for my students.  My teaching experience has proven that when I use MODELING the students are best able to achieve the learning outcomes.  I also experienced, as a “student”, that I can make errors and revise hypotheses.  By performing multiple field problems I am now able to modify rainforest inquiry for use in the temperate deciduous forest.  And finally, I now realize that ending an investigation with MORE questions than I started with is really a good thing! -- Lisa Stefanucci, Northwestern HS, Albion, Pennsylvania


Clockwise from upper left: Observing Arenal volcano; stream fauna field project at La Selva; a close encounter with a member of the local fauna.

Expect to be challenged: What you get out of this course will depend on what you put into it!


... one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in 18 years of teaching.

- Martin Perlaky, Springfield HS, Holland, Ohio

... an amazing opportunity to learn new facts, new pedagogy, and most of all, to be overwhelmed by the diversity and concentration of life in the rainforest. 

  1. -William Hodges, Holt HS, Holt, Michigan