MARLBORO—“We believe pretty strongly that learning happens in the real world,” says Tim Hayes, who, along with Rachel Boyden, co-teaches junior high at the Marlboro School.
This spring, the small public school will send every one of its 22 junior high students to the cloud forest and coffee farms of Monteverde, Costa Rica, to research and explore this thesis: “To Monteverde, How are we connected? Is ours a symbiotic or parasitic relationship (and what does that mean anyway?)” notes the “Rationale,” a document that Hayes supplied via email.
To prepare for this trip, the seventh- and eighth-graders “have been studying international trade — focusing on coffee and tourism— and the influence of human behavior on local and global ecologies,” says the school’s fundraising campaign.
In addition, the “Rationale” mentions Practice of Democracy, Social Studies, Economics, Ecology, Cultural Literacy, Fundraising, and Spanish Language as other components of the students’ curriculum preparing them for the trip and for their emergence as global citizens.
Hayes made special mention of Marlboro School’s Spanish language teacher, Gail Greenleaf, who has been working hard to prepare her students to better communicate with their hosts in Costa Rica and will also travel with them.
Hayes said that during a recent snack-time, Greenleaf used a special incentive to encourage the students to practice their language skills: she wrote the signs displaying the treats in Spanish, and the students “used Spanish to ask for things."
Students also have been studying the ecological implications of traveling from Vermont to Costa Rica.
“We’re flying there,” Hayes says, and “part of our decision-making process” is a focus on global warming, because “global learning is a huge thing for us."
“We’re involved, as Costa Rica in a carbon-offset program, facilitated by a big tree-growing project,” Hayes reports, explaining that they are mitigating the environmental cost of their travel with a financial donation to the tree-planting program, as well as their labor to actually plant the trees.
The Marlboro School recently implemented an Indiegogo campaign [www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-little-school-that-could] to help fund the trip.
As Hayes explains, “because we’re a public school, all our students go on the trip, regardless of parents’ ability to pay,” adding, “parents pay what they can.” He notes the school has yet to meet its fundraising goals for this trip.
The campaign’s introduction reports: “The overall cost of the journey is approximately $38,000, which includes airfare, ground transportation, lodging, meals, and activities."
“The students and their families have raised over $25,000 via personal contributions and fundraising. The Marlboro School Board and the Marlboro School Association (a local nonprofit) have contributed another $3,000 toward the trip,” it says.
The remaining $10,000 will come from the Indiegogo campaign and other fundraising activities, including a yearly two-day cider sale where students press fresh apples donated by Putney’s Green Mountain Orchards, a raffle of a rustic bench made by Hayes and his students, and the “rent-a-kid” program.
Hayes says that in keeping with the school’s philosophy of fostering global citizens, students perform age-appropriate tasks to help the community in exchange for donations to the school.
Popular jobs the middle-schoolers complete are shoveling snow, and babysitting when adults attend conferences and other events at the school with young children in-tow.
“The kids were out this past weekend stacking wood,” Hayes reports, noting, “they made a lot of money."
Although he says there are “logistical difficulties” in scheduling and transporting the youngsters to their tasks, “we manage to get the job done."
As the “Rationale” asserts: “What we hope to make clear is that our actions here in Vermont affect others throughout the world, for better or for worse.”