A team of Lewes students travelled to Costa Rica earlier this year to take part in a hands-on conservation project with sea turtle hatchlings.
The project saw 12 students from Lewes Old Grammar School (LOGS) spend three weeks working at the Rio Oro National Wildlife Refuge, which is the most important nesting site for Olive Ridley and Green Sea Turtles on Costa Rica’s South Pacific coast.
They were involved in hands-on work throughout the trip joining night patrols to monitor, measure and tag nesting turtles and collect eggs as they were laid to give the turtles a greater chance of survival, enabling the eggs to incubate away from poachers or predators.
“This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will have a lasting impact on the lives of our students,” said teacher Michelle Fox.
“We travelled to Costa Rica to learn about wildlife conservation, but this project was also about broadening students’ horizons. It was about introducing them to completely different environments and cultures.
“As well as the conservation work, we also visited supermarkets, explored rivers, caves and waterfalls and learned about local crafts and dance.
“Our visit taught our students that the best way to learn is through experience. We took the students to a completely different environment and introduced them to a different social group from their usual circle of friends.
“For the conservation projects to be successful, our students had to work together. Catching, monitoring and tagging the wildlife required all of them to learn a particular role, then work as a team to ensure all these actions happened quickly and in the right order.”
The students’ lessons in Costa Rica were unlike any they had experienced in their Lewes classrooms and included workshops on how to catch, handle, measure and tag a caiman as well as how to set up motion sensor cameras in the jungle.
They also took part in Latin dance classes, made traditional wooden masks and listened to talks by marine biologists.
Student Jack, 16, said: “Costa Rica was a fantastic experience - we balanced fun with learning about the impact of the conservation work we were undertaking. We gained so much from the reserve staff and their amazing knowledge of marine biology, something we hadn’t learned about before the trip.
“Our group learned about the importance of working together. When we spotted a turtle laying her eggs, it was literally ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure the eggs were collected quickly and all the right measurements were taken. It was really important as all of these actions had to be carried out in the dark.
“We left Costa Rica with a better awareness of endangered species and why it’s so important to conserve the environment we live in.”
The trip was organised by Working Abroad, a group founded by LOGS parent Vicky Kornevall-McNeil and her husband Andreas. The group works around the world, providing setting up conservation, education and healthcare volunteering projects.
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