It’s sports day at the Friends School run by the local Quaker community in Monteverde Costa Rica and we’re invited. The woman who is in charge of the house we are renting in Montverde is a third and fourth grade teacher at a Quaker School in this community situated high up in the hills at the end of a long winding thirty kilometre rocky gravel road .
Risë, our landlord invited us to her Friends School sports day on Saturday which was more like a school picnic and she also invited us to tour the school on Tuesday morning with Ric, her principal. Both were great experiences for former educators like us always interested in what education looks like in different places.
Eleven Quaker families came to Monteverde in 1951 from Alabama after four young men from their community had been jailed for refusing to serve in the Korean War. They were looking for a peaceful place to live. The isolated community of Monteverde in Costa Rica, a country which had abolished its army, seemed perfect.
The Quaker families set up dairy farms which led to the opening of the Monteverde Cheese Factory which is still in business today.
They opened the Friends School in 1957 as a place where their own children and local Costa Rican children could receive an education in both Spanish and English. Today the school has 120 students. The majority are local Costa Rican children whose tuition is subsidised.
Classes are capped at 16 and while the school has written its own curriculum it meets all Costa Rican standards and affords children the kind of education that allows them to enter North American universities. For the lower grades classes are billingual while older students take core subjects in English and others in Spanish.
The Sports Day on Saturday was a real community event more like a school picnic with a non-stop schedule of activities including yoga class in the school auditorium which doubles as the Quaker Community Church on Sunday.
There was a trampoline, face painting, crafts and stories for younger children. There were fun volleyball, soccer, ultimate and basketball games. There was yoga class, zumba class and massage.
Parents and other volunteers had prepared all kinds of great food for the sports day.
Our payment for the meal went to support the school’s scholarship program which makes it possible for local kids whose families may not be able to afford the school’s tuition which is several thousand dollars a year.
On our tour of the school on Monday we attended a school assembly which involved games and cooperative activities. Then Ric one of the school’s co-directors took us around the school. He told us the school is very aware of leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible. They want to teach their students to care for the environment. At the end of the school day kids help with clean up and sort and weigh all trash.There is a greenhouse where plants are started for landscaping the grounds. Lunches are heated in the solar oven. A volunteer will arrive shortly to do a transportation survey looking at ways that the school can reduce its carbon footprint by coordinating travel arrangements for students. The plants on the school grounds are labeled for teaching purposes. There is a large library open to the public and maintained by a committee of volunteers. The interior of the library was full of light and we saw several volunteers working with individual children. The school warmly welcomes volunteers, especially former teachers. They have many who come to the school regularly often for several weeks or months at a time. We had a chance to chat with several of the teachers on our tour about the possibility of volunteering and it is certainly something that would be very appealing in the future.