Friday
Apr242015

Dolphin Spotting at Puerto Jimenez!

This weekend, a big group of us headed to the tiny pier at Puerto Jimenez to go on a Dolphin and Mangrove tour in the Golfo Dulce. Golfo Dulce means ‘sweet gulf’, apparently so named because the huge amount of fresh water streaming into the sea from the surrounding areas has turned the water sweet. After testing this story, I can confirm that the water is still actually really salty, but at least the time we had was super sweet!

We got up early, slapped on copious amounts of sun cream (not enough), and were soon zooming through the waves, eyes peeled for dolphins. Heading towards the Piedras Blancas national park on the opposite side of the gulf, we spotted in the distance some dolphins leaping out of the water. They were jumping incredibly high, what seemed like five metres into the air, and flopped back into the sea.

Our guide, Josh, told us that these were the smaller kind of dolphin found here, Tropical Spotted Dolphins, and they can be found in super-pods of up to 100. We drove towards them, and were lucky enough to spot a huge group of maybe 50. Although it’s illegal to swim with dolphins here, we got to see them really close because they aren’t afraid of humans. They swam all around the boat, racing the stern, and surfing through the waves created at the bow. It was an amazing experience!

Once the dolphins left us, we snorkelled along the Piedras Blancas shelf, amongst a reef of Brain Coral. Pelicans flapped above us, and feeding off the fish that swam around us. We ate up a load of snacks – fruit, biscuits, and crisps – while crossing the bay to reach the mangroves. Inside the mangrove forest, we saw a tree full of beautiful, pink Roseated Spoonbills which decided to poo just as we drove beneath them… lovely! Fortunately, we were spared.

Eventually, sunburnt and tired, it was time to head back to the pier. We were all looking forward to our next tour, as Josh told us that we are approaching the season for spotting breeding Humpback whales. Then, just as we were all nodding off, we spotted some even larger fins by the port. It was a couple of Bottlenose Dolphins: Flipper and a friend! They didn’t stay for long, but it was a perfect way to round off a fantastic day.

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

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Monday
Apr202015

I'm getting lots of vital teaching experience here!

Hey! My name is Jack and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of my time here in Costa Rica, getting some valuable teaching experience on the teaching project.  When I return to the UK in September I will start my postgraduate teacher training course (PGCE), and I thought coming out here would be a great way to combine something practical with something fun!

A school day typically lasts from 8:00am to 3:30pm. Each day starts with a whole-school assembly, which showcases a ‘Value of the Week’ such as Health, or Respect. At the end of the assembly, the teachers like to engage the kids with something fun, such as a cha-cha dance or an interactive game. I was a bit hesitant at first, but Mauricio (the Art and Music teacher) who conducts assembly makes sure that all the staff are involved too, and that included me!

All the members of staff were absolutely lovely and the school was really flexible so I was able to construct my own timetable, where I split my time evenly amongst all the age groups at the school, from Kindergarten to Grades 5 and 6. I am particularly interested in Maths (being a Maths Graduate), and Katherine, the English and Maths teacher for the older year groups, allowed me lead lessons on my own. It was a lot of responsibility, but I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it. Katherine was always on hand to make sure that I felt comfortable, and chip in whenever I needed help.

As well as teaching Maths, I’ve also assisting in English lessons. The standard of English is incredibly variable, with some children being fully bilingual, and others with almost no knowledge. So, I was assured that having someone who is a native English speaker would be hugely beneficial for the kids. However, seeing as most of the staff are Ticos or American, the kids sometimes had a bit of trouble understanding my accent. One time in particular, I was told off by a six year old girl for pronouncing the word ‘ze-bra’ not ‘zee-bra’; the older kids also had a laugh at my expense when I told them we’d be learning some ‘maths’ and not ‘math’!

Overall, I’ve been made to feel most welcome at the school, not only by the teachers but also by the children, who are cheeky, eager to learn, energetic, but fundamentally just really lovely kids. I’ve enjoyed being here in Puerto Jimenez, and am looking forward to spending the rest of my time in Costa Rica in the jungle.

Jack Hickman, Volunteer

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Friday
Apr172015

A Teacher’s Timetable: Grade 1 & 2

6.45: RING… RING… RING… The alarm goes off and it’s time to begin another day’s work at one of the local schools in Puerto Jimenez.

6.50-7.20: Get your things together and get dressed. Chuck some eggs in a pan or grab a bowl of cereal and eat up, school’s about to start!

7.30: Walk around the corner school, grab a coffee with the other teachers, and prep for the day ahead.

8.00: It’s assembly time! The whole school gathers together, all the kids gather together and relax, dance, and answer questions. Time to get the brain activated!

8.20-9.40: Spanish lessons. If your Spanish is good, you can get stuck in! Otherwise, nip into Kindergarten and give the kids a hand with their work. You might be moulding words with playdough, guiding them through some worksheets, or reading with them in Spanish.

9.40-10.00: Snack time! Lead the kids outside and supervise them as they eat and play, make sure they don’t use the monkey bars straight after they’ve eaten!

10.00-11.20: It’s time for science or music! Conduct experiments and learn about global warming, the environment and living green. When you’ve got music, head off to Mauricio’s room for fun with drums and drama.

11.20-12.05: Lunchtime! Play with the kids while they kick around the football, sometimes the cheekier children tag you, make sure you chase them! Eat your lunch as quick as you can and get back there.

12.05-1.25: This is where you come into your own, it’s the English lesson. You’ll be held up as a model of correct speech, and will probably take some of the children for individual reading time.

1.25-1.40: Another break, make sure the children don’t wear themselves out too much so they can concentrate for their last lesson.

1.40-3.00: Maths, you either love it or you hate it. Guide the children through simple sums, multiplications, subtractions. They’re used to you now, so tell them to stop hugging you and concentrate for the last stretch!

3.00: School is over! The day is yours, congratulations. Head to the Frontier house or to a café in town to wind down. Go for a walk on the beach, have a drink in the bar, eat a good meal, the world is yours. Get ready to repeat the whole process tomorrow!

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

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Monday
Apr132015

Volunteer Stories: Jessie’s Top 5 Teaching Experiences

We asked Jessie, our new teaching volunteer, about her best experiences over her first few days here in Puerto Jimenez. Here are her top five!


1.    First off, I have enjoyed spending time getting to know the students and their personalities in the classroom and at recess.

2.    I enjoy working with the amazing staff at the school and learning some of their great teaching techniques.

3.    It is awesome to see the kids’ free and happy spirits while at school for such a substantial amount of time and on the other side to be able to witness how well the teacher manages them.

4.    My experience in the Frontier house is awesome because it truly gives you a taste of how most people live here on a day to day basis.  For example: showering in cold water, using fans to help with the heat; also you will see most people walk from place to place here for their means of transportation.  Not many people drive, which is pretty cool and everyone is quite polite.

5.    I enjoyed jumping in the refreshing pool after a long day of work with the kids, while observing an abundance of nature and wildlife.  It is simply beautiful.

Thanks Jessie, have a great week at Corcovado Primary School!

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Monday
Apr132015

A Taste of Life in Puerto Jimenez

All of our teaching volunteers stay in the Frontier house in Puerto Jimenez, one of the largest towns on the Osa Peninsula. Despite boasting this label, it is still only home to around 2000 people, so you’ll get to know lots of the friendly and generous locals while you’re here.

The Frontier house has room for six volunteers, and comes complete with the luxuries of a cool shower, fridge, hob, several (greatly-needed) fans, and even a washing machine. Plus, from time to time, our neighbour fills her pool – we like to chill out here after a hard day’s work at one of the local schools.

School usually kicks off at about 8, so we like to arrive at 7.30 to prepare for work in the day ahead. Lessons include Spanish, Music, English, Maths and Social Studies, so, depending on interest and experience, we try to accommodate for the personal skills and preferences of our volunteers. You can teach as much or as little as you like, but we find that engaging with the kids on a topic of mutual interest is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have out here.

When school’s out, the town is yours to explore! There are opportunities to visit sites famous for spotting caiman and crocodiles, we can help organise dolphin-spotting boat trips in the bay, or even longer trips to Corcovado National Park.

Teaching here is fulfilling but tiring, so we like to relax together in one of the many local cafés, sipping on a freshly-pressed smoothie or milkshake. There’s lots to do and see right on your doorstep here in PJ, just walking down the street you’ll see iguanas scampering along the pavements and hear scarlet macaws squawking overhead.

The evenings are a time for socialising, cooking and eating together. Your time in the Frontier house is a great opportunity to build bonds with fellow volunteers that could last a lifetime, and make memories that you’ll never forget.

By George Shankar, Field Communications Officer

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