Girls’ Leadership Club in Costa Rica

I recently returned from an inspiring week in Costa Rica with 17 students and another teacher Lisa Schiavenza from the middle school Girls’ Leadership Club at Menlo School where I teach in Atherton, CA.

Menlo School Girls' Leadership Club final dinner in San Jose, Costa Rica, 6.25.13

Menlo School Girls’ Leadership Club final dinner in San Jose, Costa Rica, 6.25.13

The Girls’ Leadership Club was established four years ago by Lisa Schiavenza, and she turned it over to me back in September 2012. Since then, the girls have been engaged in a number of activities that seek to empower women and children, combat injustice and help the underserved. You can click here to see the club’s mission statement.

The year’s efforts of fundraising for Roshni Academy, along with arranging movie nights and visiting an elderly care center all finally culminated at the end of June with the “leadership camp” trip to Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways. As the girls have only 25 minutes per week to meet as a club at school, they voiced back in the fall the desire to have a big trip dedicated to developing their leadership skills.

Rustic Pathways guide Emily Sanders helps the girls brainstorm the leadership skills they will need to embody during the preparation time leading up to the summer camp.

Rustic Pathways guide Emily Sanders helps the girls brainstorm the leadership skills they will need to embody during the preparation time leading up to the summer camp.

For eight days, the club members developed their leadership skill-set during an overnight whitewater rafting trip on the Pacuare River (one of the world’s best and most beautiful rivers for rafting), zip-lining at Sky Trek on the longest and highest cables in Costa Rica (the world mecca of zip-lining!), and designed a three-day summer day camp for local Costa Rican children living at the base of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna.

Students brought along glitter, string for bracelets, construction paper, markers, tie-dye kits and a myriad of other supplies to stock the crafts for the day camp

Students brought along glitter, string for bracelets, construction paper, markers, tie-dye kits and a myriad of other supplies to stock the crafts for the day camp

I was immensely impressed by my 7th and 8th grade students. Not only did they bring abundant arts and crafts supplies all the way from home in California to stock the camp, they also independently planned the three days’ worth of camp activities and decorated Rancho Margot in a water-adventure theme “Agua Aventuras” before the children’s arrival. Then, during the three days of the camp, the adults (Lisa Schiavenza, Eduardo Aguilar, Emily Sanders, and I) were totally hands-off while our girls served as camp counselors and stepped up to the plate to create an fun, new, and safe experience for the campers.

Here are some of my favorite highlights from the trip:

Experiencing the mind-bending joys of the Costa Rican rainforest while having the privilege of spending five nights at organic eco yoga lodge Rancho Margot:

The girls are amazed at the "sensitive" plants that retract at our touch during the 2-hour tour of the delights at Rancho Margot.

The girls are amazed at the “sensitive” plants that retract at our touch during the 2-hour tour of the delights at Rancho Margot.

Getting to meet the children living in Costa Rica:

Taking a break between pitching during the kickball game.

Taking a break between pitching during the kickball game.

Witnessing my students make connections with children in another country from another culture:

Posing with the cartoon monster they drew together during bilingual Spanish / English class

Posing with the cartoon monster they drew together during bilingual Spanish / English class

Naturally I advised the girls to write their own blog posts during the trip in order to document the great memories. Please enjoy the blog posts written by the 7th and 8th grade girls here on their Costa Rica blog.

Please enjoy all of my own photos from the trip using the Google+ red box link at the top of the right-hand column of this blog.

I’m so glad that this trip finally took place after a long year of planning and lots of excitement looking forward. The girls’ club plans on arranging a similar trip next summer to continue on with the team building and leadership growth. The trip was fulfilling for all involved, students, campers, teachers, and Rustic Pathways guides alike.

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2 Comments on “Girls’ Leadership Club in Costa Rica”

  1. Martha LaValette July 8, 2013 at 16:23 #

    How wonderful!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Girl Rising (PG-13): An Impetus for Social Entrepreneurship | SavvyCitiZen - March 29, 2014

    […] with their presentation of Girl Rising. I am always so proud of these girls, whether they’re hosting a summer children’s camp in rural Costa Rica or spending their Friday night at school with their families and me in order to learn more about […]

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