Visiting a Quaker School in Costa Rica

Our house in the foreground is Fig House. Our host Risë who teaches at the Quaker School lives in the blue house behind us.

Our house in the foreground is Fig House. Our host Risë who teaches at the Quaker School lives in the blue house behind us.

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 .    

Dave watches soccer at the Friends School Sports Day

Dave watches soccer at the Friends School Sports Day

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.  sports day quaker schoolBoth were great experiences for former educators like us always interested in what education looks like in different places. 

The sign over the door of the Friends School in Monteverde makes their peace position clear

The sign’ War is Not the Answer’ over the door of the Friends School in Monteverde makes their peace position clear

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.  

Monteverde Cheese Factory founded by the Quakers. We stopped there to buy cheese and icecream.

Monteverde Cheese Factory founded by the Quakers. We stopped there to buy cheese and ice cream.

The Quaker families set up dairy farms which led to the opening of the Monteverde Cheese Factory which is still in business today.  

Main building of the Friends School

Main building of the Friends School

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.

Typical classroom at the school with lots of windows open to the forest surrounding the school. Bird cutouts on the windows prevent the many birds in the surrounding woods from being injured.

Typical classroom at the school with lots of windows open to the forested setting. Bird cutouts on the windows prevent the many birds in the surrounding woods from being injured.

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.

Sports day participants doing yoga

Sports day participants doing yoga

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.

Kids on the trampoline at Sports Day.

Kids on the trampoline at Sports Day.

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. 

Dave chooses his lunch items prepared by parents.

Dave chooses his lunch items.

Parents and other volunteers had prepared all kinds of great food for the sports day.

meal quaker school 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.

Solar panels on the classroom roof.

Solar panels on the school roof.

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.solar oven garden quaker schoolThere 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. labeled plants at quaker schoolThe plants on the school grounds are labeled for teaching purposes. library quaker school monteverdeThere is a large library open to the public and maintained by a committee of volunteers.   inside library monteverdeThe 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. classrooms at quaker schoolWe 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. 

Other posts…..

The Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Kornelson School

Visiting Hopi Mission School

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Filed under Costa Rica, Education

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