All posts by cloudforestschool

Our new logo! / Nuestro nuevo logo!

New Logo/Nuevo Logo

 

You may have noticed our new logo on our website and our Facebook page. We are excited to debut our updated look. Additionally, we now have an Instagram account and you can follow us @cec.cloudforestschool or visit us here: http://instagram.com/cec.cloudforestschool

Thank you for following us!

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Usted puede haber notado el nuevo logo en nuestra página web y nuestra página de Facebook. Estamos muy emocionados de debutar nuestra mirada actualizada. Además, ahora tenemos una cuenta de Instagram y usted puede seguir us@cec.cloudforestschool o visítenos en: http://instagram.com/cec.cloudforestschool

Gracias por seguirnos!

Mural Painting Mini-Course

Written by José Daniel (9th grade) and Kai (7th grade)

The main purpose in redoing the monkey mural on the third-fourth grade building is to restore the mural to its previous glory so that it will last another twenty years. Our instructor/advisor Carla Willoughby started the renovation on the mural because she wanted to see it restored to the previous beauty that she witnessed in her two years of teaching at the C.E.C. from 1999 to 2001, and because of her son who attends the first grade at the C.EC. . The original design was based on the ecosystem of the cloud forest that surrounds the C.E.C. School.  The mural pictured monkeys in the canopy and trees at a sunset scenery. As a group, we are restoring the original picture with better color and some additions.

We are a small group of five high school students that wanted to make the school look better by restoring this beautiful mural. Our main goal is to add better vivid colors to this piece. The leader of our group invited us to join in this inspiring project for the school.

Luis- is an eighth grade student who wanted to help with this project because he wanted his school to look better for the remaining three years he’ll spend here.  His mother is a professional painter, and has taught him some of the basic skills.

Maricel-is a seventh grader who wanted to help with this renovation because she wanted to improve her existing artistic talent and to make her school look better than it did before. Her mother is a professional painter and has also taught her some basic skills.

Fabiana-is a seventh grader who was interested in helping because she thought that the wall should be revamped to help the school look better. Fabiana has done some painting and took a detailed drawing lesson with Dinia the Spanish teacher.

José Daniel-is a ninth grader who wanted to try painting on a surface big enough to help the school improve on its look. He has done some abstract art in the past but not too much painting, but he would like to extend his abilities for art.

Kai-is a seventh grader who wanted to help the school in her short stay and to improve her skill set in art. She has done art lessons in the past and has helped her mom paint rooms in similar designs, she also enjoys painting.

Carla- Carla is the group leader and the person who wanted to restore the mural. She wanted to do this project because she used to teach at the C.E.C. for 2 years (1999-2001). She also taught in the same classroom where the mural is painted. She loves to paint and she wanted to contribute something to the school.

The Process

Written by Carla Willoughby with contributions from Luis Antonio (8th grade)

Day 1/Día 1:

We introduced ourselves to each other.

We started to paint the primer on the new fiberboard.

Nosotros nos presentamos.

Nosotros comenzamos a pintar la base de pintura en el nuevo fibrolit.

Day 2/Día 2:

We started to write up the blog and helped Edgar, Carla’s husband, to finish building the scaffolding.

Comenzamos a escribir el blog y ayudamos a Edgar, el esposo de Carla, a terminar de armar los andamios.

Day 3/Día 3:

We sanded down the part of the mural where the paint was chipping off.   We finished painting the primer on the new fiberboard.  Luis tried to create a new way of sanding the wall.

Nosotros lijamos la parte del mural donde la pintura se estaba descarapelando.  Terminamos de pintar la base de pintura en el nuevo fibrolit.  Luis intentó crear una nueva forma de lijar la pared.

Day 4/Día 4:

We painted primer over the top part of the mural where the fiberboard was showing through the original painting.

Nosotros pintamos la base de pintura encima de la parte superior del mural donde se podía ver el fibrolit por la pintura original.

Day 5/Día 5:

We chose a part of the mural that interested us.  We practiced drawing it.

Nosotros elegimos una parte del mural que nos interesaba.  Practicamos dibujándola.

Day 6/Día 6:

We practiced transferring a drawing by using a grid, just in case we could not transfer the original mural image using a projector.

Nosotros practicamos transferir un dibujo usando cuadros, por si acaso no podíamos transferir el imagen original del mural usando un proyector.

Day 7/Día 7:

We went over the color wheel and finished drawing the section of the mural that we are interested in painting.  We updated the blog.  At night, Jose Daniel, Carla, Luis, Maricel and Natalia and Eduardo(former CEC students, and children of our teacher Esperanza) worked with a projector to transfer the original mural drawing.  We worked until 8 p.m.

Nosotros repasamos la rueda de color y terminamos de dibujar la parte del mural que nos interesaba pintar.  Actualizamos el blog.  En la noche, José Daniel, Carla, Luis, Maricel, y Natalia y Eduardo (estudiantes anteriores del CEC, e hijos de nuestra maestra Esperanza) trabajamos con un proyector para transferir el dibujo del mural original.  Trabajamos hasta las 8 de la noche.

Day 8/Día 8:

Orange Day!  We painted all of the red, orange and yellow tones of color.

¡Día Anaranjado! Pintamos todos los tonos de color rojo, anaranjado y amarillo.

Day 9/Día 9:

Blue and White Day!  We painted all of the blue and white tones of color.

¡Día Azul y Blanco! Pintamos todos los tonos de color azul y blanco.

Day 10/Día 10:

Green Day!  We painted all of the green tones of color.

¡Día Verde!  Pintamos todos los tonos de color verde.

Day 11/Día 11:

We edited our blog entries and chose the pictures that we wanted to share.  We also enjoyed some chocolate chip banana muffins!

Nosotros editamos nuestras entradas de blog y escogimos las fotos que queríamos compartir.  ¡También disfrutamos de algunos pancitos de banano con pedacitos de chocolate!


Fifth Graders Share Their Poetry

Fifth graders present their poetry to an audience of peers and parents during February Open House

The Elementary School Open House last Friday, February 17th, featured songs, artwork, dioramas, presentations and classroom tours. Parents and school community members travelled from classroom to classroom to witness and learn about what our students have accomplished during the past theme cycle. In Prepa (kindergarten) students demonstrated their knowledge of water and the different kinds of plants and animals that live in water. Fourth graders displayed their mastery of the various ecosystems present in Costa Rica. Kinder (pre-school) proudly sang songs in both Spanish and English to a group of adoring parents and older siblings.

In fifth grade, where students have recently begun to analyze poems and write their own verses, teacher Steve Venable guided his class through a poetry reading of original student work. Students shared poems written in English, proudly  reading them aloud to an audience of classmates and parents. Many of them chose themes relating to the outdoors, nature, or other important places and spaces in their lives. When asked whether they would like to have their work displayed on the school website, nobody hesitated–all were eager to share their work with the world. With pride, we happily share these poems with you–may they brighten your day and bring a little poetry into your life!

"I was walking in the green grass, The yellow shining of the sun, reflected the beautiful flowers on the water. The war of the wind came to peace, and the rain drops of the gray cloud, became a beautiful rainbow. I knew my tree was there, because I created my tree in a magical place."
"Beach Walks" by Alina
Brilliant Ocean by Tiffany

"Family" by Mitzy Vanessa
"Camping" by Luis
"Kiosk" by Javier
"Lonely" by Maria Jose
"The Beach" by Daniela
"The Beautiful View" by Mirena
"The Forest" by Justin
"The Hike" by Carlos Andres
"The Sound of the Bird" by Yuniher
"The Waterfall" by Carlos Enrique
"Trees" by Jose Gabriel

A New Soccer Field for the CFS

If you have visited Monteverde, you already know a few things that are constant aspects of life for CFS students and staff members. Rain might be the first thing that comes to your mind—but even then, we have a dry season (thank goodness!). Fresh, hot coffee is another, followed by heaping plates of gallo pinto. Competing for a top spot on the list is fútbol. Soccer is a ubiquitous aspect of Monteverde life, the constant go-to pastime for CFS students and staff of all ages and backgrounds.  Soccer games start up on the Meadow every day during morning recess, lunch recess, and during any available free time. At the drop of a hat, suddenly someone has a ball, teams are divvied up, and the game is on.

The fact that our “official” playing field continued to be known as “the Meadow” has always been a bit of a joke, considering that it’s alternately been a mud or dust pit (depending on the weather) for years, and never a field of soft green grass as the name implies. A combination of cloud forest shade and twice-daily pick-up games proved that plant growth never really stood much of a chance on the Meadow. Like an over-loved teddy bear with the fur rubbed off, the Meadow was ugly, dirty, bald and unconditionally loved.

The old Meadow

And so for years, the fútbol-fanatics of the Cloud Forest School community have done what we perhaps do best—made do with what’s available, and had a great time regardless of logistical hiccups, a lack of supplies, language barriers or inclimate weather. I’ve seen our kids playing soccer during recess on a mud field, in the rain, with a half-inflated basketball—and I know I’m not the only one to have seen this. Our kids will have a 5 v 5 game in that tiny space between the see-saw and fence on the playground, on the concrete basketball court, in classrooms, or on practically any other moderately flat surface with a suggestion of being somewhat rectangular.

Until now, that is. Thanks to the generous donation of a used astro-turf from Don Jorge Donato and the hard work and donations of many volunteers and community members, our circumstances have drastically changed. Miracle of all miracles, our little mountaintop school finally has a legitimate soccer field for the first time in its twenty-year history. So eager were we to put this donation to good use that the construction for the new field was completed within a week and is already being enjoyed by students and staff daily. All are ecstatic at this vast improvement to our campus as a place to come together and enjoy a daily mejenga (pick-up game). This vast improvement to the Meadow—a place cherished by all—has put a new spring in the step of our die-hard futbolistas and their fans, that is to say—all of us!

Now, an astro-turf field!
Our Director, Laura Grenholm, playing with high school students and staff in the first pick-up game.

CFS Memories–Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

In our last E-Newsletter (viewable here) we asked readers to take a moment to send us their favorite CFS memories. The results, compiled below, are an astounding mix of emotionally and descriptively poignant moments that truly encompass the heart and soul of the CFS as we experience it. A variety of parents, students, visitors, volunteers, and teachers all responded, and we invite you to take a moment to browse through them and enjoy the trip down memory lane. If reading this prompts you to take trip in the way-back machine yourself, leave us a comment with your own memory–it’s not too late!

“My favorite CFS memory…that’s hard because there are so many! However, one is working and speaking with Eduardo in Spanish and listening to his bromas (jokes).  What a special man.  The other was playing games in Spanish with the young camp group.  They are precious.”

–Summer Programs Participant 2011

“The kids’ favorite memories were the Art classes, climbing the trees and the friendships they made!  Our favorite memory as parents was watching our children open up to the experience of learning a new language, new friendships, the beautiful landscape, loving environment and just being a kid!”

–Summer Programs Participant 2011

“It was fun to hear what my daughter had to say about her favorite memories at the CFS. Here’s her response: ‘Dressing up in that tree house inside with my friend Maggie.  Making a book with Fabiana. Putting my hands in paint then putting my hands on paper then folding it in half with Esperanza. Going in the forest with all the kids.’ She has these memories from nearly 2 years ago!”

–CFS International Preschool Student, 2010

“My favorite memory is waking to the voices of third graders calling out my name in wonder and amazement as they ran outside in their pajamas to find Arenal Volcano flowing and glowing in front of us and the grunting of howler monkey surrounding us in the pre-dawn dark at San Gerardo during an overnight trip.”

–Former CFS 3rd Grade Teacher

“My favorite memory from CFS is probably just working with eduardo, milton, y victor julio because they managed to make all the hard work simple and fun. they really made the experience memorable.”
–CFS Volunteer, 2011

My favorite memory was 6th grade class trip to San Gerardo. No phones (out of order), no electricity (forgot the key), no 4-track (broken, used a horse instead). We walked with our guide at night into the forest where we sat for half an hour in the dark, watching flashes of lightning and the bioluminescent arthropods come trundling past. The moulding leaves glowed, as did decaying branches. A light we rarely see in our world of electricity. A student looked at me when we were back at the station, talking over our adventure in the candlelight, her eyes large and dark. “Oh my God, it is alive! The forest is alive. The trees are alive. When I sit in their branches, they are alive!!”

–6th Grade Teacher, 2000-2001

“One of my many great memories is stumbling across the 3rd grade class in the forest behind the 3rd and 4th grade classrooms sitting on logs, up in trees, and peppered in random places in the forest attentively listening to their teacher reading them a story.

–Former Development Coordinator, 2010

“I visited CFS with 11 high school girls in 2007. We brought donated school supplies and had a tour of the beautiful grounds. The folks from the foundation in Sewanee and Boston helped us to hand deliver other donations, with visitors from across the USA. I remember hiking on a nature trail. We “hugged” a huge tree, that took six of us with outstretched arms to fit around. I have framed and hung the poster in our family room. I still keep up on the news from CFS and feel a connection to students in Costa Rica. I hope to visit again one day!”

–CFS Visitor and Volunteer, 2007

“Opening circle, rainbows, and seeing Milton working so well with the kids – always smiles all around!”

–Former Land Management Volunteer, 2006

“I have two powerful memories to share.  I planted a tree at CFS in 2009 and I thought it was cool.  But I didn’t really fully understand what an important act it was to plant that tree until I traveled to other areas of Costa Rica that had been cleared – there I saw whole sides of mountains collapsing as they eroded without any protective cover of plants and trees.  The beauty and incredible diversity of your country depend on you watching over your land and using its resources wisely.  I am so glad that you are there, protecting and enjoying the natural treasure that you have!

My other memory was of the hospitality of your wonderful teacher, Milton Brenes.  He encouraged me to keep trying to use the Spanish that I learned long ago and that I studied again before I came to Costa Rica.  We had a great conversation for nearly 30 minutes about environmental education.  I was inspired by your teacher to be more passionate about my teaching and I felt most welcome and valued by him as a fellow educator!”

–Visitor, 2009

“I Can’t really think of just one memory because I have so many, but one of the last things we did at school which was really emotional and meaningful for me was the last whole-school peace circle in which we, the eleventh graders, went to the middle and other students and staff members told us their good memories and best wishes for us all! It made me realize how the school really engages with everything that happens within it and how each and every student is neither more nor less important than any other. It made me see how everybody that works at or attends the Cloud Forest School is respectful and cares for each other!”

–CFS Graduate, 2011

“I was a student of the CFC all my life, from kindergarden up through 11th grade. I love the school. A memory from my time there… I had so many great memories. I think one of those was when I was in high school, at the “mini-feria” fundraiser. The entire school was involved, there were many different activities organized by different grades. I remember the “jail” game that consisted of paying a ticket to put a specific person “jail” (a classroom), and that person or someone else had to pay 2 tickets to free them, the fun part was that the “police” had to catch the person first. There were other activities like ball games, face painting, cake contests, etc… there was food that parents brought to be sold, “cachivaches” (a grarage sale) and families from all grades were present. It was a very happy day. At the end all the high school students had a water balloon fight, we all got wet, and then we changed and went home. The next day we all shared our stories on what we did the day before, it was great.”

–CFS Graduate 2009

“I taught there from 1993-95, and one of my favorite memories is from my first year with the prepa (kindergarten) kids. At the time, our classes were taught in a barn. During recess, we’d all clamber down the slope to this great group of guayaba trees, and the kids would climb like monkeys to get the fruit. I don’t think the fruit ever got a chance to ripen because they’d pick the trees clean before that. But I’ll never forget the sweet, tart smell of green guayabas on the breath of all those little ones after we’d come back in and sit to read stories together. Too cute!”

–Former Kindergarten Teacher, 1993-1995

Cloud Forest School’s New Medicinal Plant Garden

by: Chiara Cabiglio, CFS Volunteer

Cloud Forest School has a new addition to its already plant- and forest-abundant grounds: a useful and beautiful medicinal garden! How did it all start? One day I came to work sick and with a sore throat. Milton immediately left for the green house and came back with a handful of the medicinal plants, lemongrass (Zacate Limon) and lemon verbena (Juanilama). He gave me detailed instructions in Spanish of how to make an herbal tea with the two plants. I was better in a couple of days.

Milton (aka the Medicine Man), some of the children, and I have been working on this garden that is situated behind the green house for a couple of weeks, off and on, and it is almost finished! The natural, mini pharmacy features the following plants: Zacate Limon/Lemongrass, Ruda/Rue, Romero/Rosemary, Sábila/Aloe Vera, Curcuma/Turmeric, Tilo/Water-Willow, Genjibre/Ginger, Juanilama/Lemon Verbena, and Menta/Mint. There are paths weaving in between the rows of plants for the children and staff to walk on and identify each medicinal herb, with the help of signs.

Chiara with Eduardo (left) and Milton (right)

The idea behind this project primarily is to provide the school with accessible, healing medicinal plants. Therefore, if you are sick and have a sore throat, a sunburn, an ear infection or something else, come on up to CEC’s medicinal garden, ask Milton to pick the plants you need, and you will be better in no time! Isn’t nature simply wonderful?!

To read more about my experience volunteering with Cloud Forest School, read my “We Are Children of Mother Earth, Mother Earth is Our Child” blog post.

Non Sibi Day with Phillips Academy

9th Grader Maileth Solis helps to sort donated clothing

Thanks to the connections built by former CFS volunteer and current Phillips Academy student Lauren Howard, Cloud Forest School student ambassadors joined the tradition of Non Sibi, or “Non-Self” day this past October 1st. This day of community service in Andover, Massachusetts has now been embraced by our students here in Monteverde, who conducted a community clothing and food drive to benefit families in the local community with high financial need. While we all eagerly anticipated the prospect of engaging our high school students in a community service project, few foresaw the impact we would achieve.

Lauren brought Non Sibi Day to the attention of CFS admin and staff last August during her second visit to the Cloud Forest School as a volunteer through the Renbrook School’s Summer Adventure group visit. Lauren presented the history of Non Sibi Day, a traditional day of service sponsored by Phillips Academy and held yearly on October 1st. As the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. grant provide by Phillips Academy, Lauren proposed to use some of these funds to support another chapter of Non Sibi Day, thus branching out in an international effort of student service by incorporating the Cloud Forest School.

CFS Student Ambassadors set up a collection booth at the local farmer's market

The CFS Student Ambassadors (high school grade representatives) came together to organize and execute a food and clothing drive to benefit needy families in the greater Monteverde community. They first publicized the drive through local list serves, community announcements, flyers and word-of-mouth. They then helped to collect items from classrooms and set up a collection booth at the local weekly farmer’s market. We then used the funds donated by Lauren to purchase additional food and household products to add to the already-donated items. Finally, the donations were sorted and distributed.

While it was always anticipated that we would collect a fair amount of donations and be able to purchase even more with the funds donated by Lauren, our staff and student ambassadors were all surprised and thrilled with the final results. In the end, we had collected a monumental amount of clothing, shoes, hygiene products and non-perishable food—so much that we were able to divide the donations into thirds and still deliver very sizable care packages to three families who had been identified as ideal recipients.

Monteverde community members came together to support the food and clothing drive

Thanks to Lauren’s beautiful idea, the motivation of staff and students, and the charitable spirits of Monteverde community members, a great difference was made in the lives of three families who were desperately in need of these donations. We all agree that the tradition of Non Sibi Day will continue here at the CFS, and hope that this spirit of selfless giving and service will continue to spread around the world.

A Powerful Volunteer Experience

We Are Children of Mother Earth, Mother Earth is Our Child

by: Chiara Cabiglio

One year ago, I made the decision to come to Monteverde, Costa Rica and volunteer with Cloud Forest School for a couple of months. For the past six years, I have been engaged in human rights and anti-genocide activism. I hoped that volunteering with the Cloud Forest School/Centro de Educacion Creativa, a bilingual and environmental education school, would provide me with the additional knowledge and experience in order to become a more effective environmental activist. At the time this decision was made, I was unaware of just how invaluable and powerful my experience as a CEC volunteer would be.

From the beginning, I worked closely with Milton, the kind man in charge of the school’s gardening and reforestation projects. Before working with CEC, Milton worked with the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL – http://www.acmcr.org/) for 12 years. During his time with MCL, he spearheaded a reforestation project and planted 36,000 trees every year, for five years. Since then, Milton has worked with CEC for 11 years, and the positive impact he has made upon the entire school and its surrounding ecosystem is clearly visible.

Although Milton doesn’t consider himself one, he truly is the school’s medicine man. One day I came to work sick and with a sore throat. Milton immediately left for the green house and came back with a handful of the medicinal plants, lemongrass (Sacate Limon) and lemon verbena (Juanilama). He gave me detailed instructions in Spanish of how to make an herbal tea with the two plants. I was better in a couple of days. The medicine man and I, with the help of the CEC students, also recently created a small garden of medicinal plants behind the green house.You can read more about this project in our next blog post (coming soon!).

Milton even has tried to help rid me of my intense arachnophobia and small fear of other bugs. He explains to me every day how important it is for me to have confidence whenever I encounter insects. On the occasions when we are walking on a forest trail behind the school and we encounter a particularly interesting insect or spider, he will encourage me to pick it up, and usually, I do. And at least once or twice each day, he sneeks up behind me and brushes a twig or leaf on my neck. I freak out and scream, and he laughs. This is one of his many bromas, or jokes.

Yet, the most noticeable characteristic of Milton is his passion, commitment and compassion for Mother Earth. If I had one colon for every time Milton emphasized the importance of environmental conservation, I would be rich. To this empathetic medicine man, the little seedlings he plants are his babies. Just like a human baby, he cares for and nurtures the baby trees until they are magnificent and tall, full grown trees.

One of the most profound things I have realized during my experience as a CEC volunteer is that I actually am making a tangible, direct, positive change hands-on. Whether I am collecting acorns with the children, crouching in the dirt planting trees, or raking leaves away from the seedlings in the reforestation area, I am helping the environment. Milton, the CEC students, and I are reducing global climate change, one tree at a time. We are healing Mother Earth with every individual and collective action we take.

However, even more significant than this is the observation I made one day. On this particular day, Milton had asked the kids from one of the classes to take one or two trees each to the reforestation area, plant the trees, and then return to deliver more trees to the reforestation area. As I watched the children walk by me with three or four baby trees overflowing in their hands and huge smiles on their faces, I thought of how special this is. These kids are interacting with nature on the most personal level – they are cradling the baby trees, touching them, unwrapping the recycled cartons around them, digging holes, and then carefully placing the trees in the holes. Subsequently, they compress and move the earth into the holes and around the baby trees, making the trees comfortable in their new homes. In the process, these young students are discovering and picking up spiders, other insects, and newts. They let the spiders and ants crawl all over their hands, they place the newts on one another’s heads, and they gaze at ant nests with wonder and amazement.

Shortly thereafter, the trees with the tasty, sweet and tiny blueberries distract them and they begin picking the fruit from the trees. And then the same trees distract them even more and they begin to climb them. Worried, I start telling the kids that maybe they should get down from the trees because they could get hurt. One boy looks up at me with a pained and bewildered expression on his face. He looked like a kid who had just been told that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It upset him that I was trying to tell the kids to stop climbing trees. According to him, tree-climbing is their favorite hobby. Oops, my bad. I should have known that telling CEC students to stop climbing trees is like taking candy away from a toddler. For these children, the pure amusement they derive from nature’s playground and the precious hour working with Milton is equivalent to the amusement most kids receive inside playing video games or during a trip to Disneyland.

As I walked next to a young girl on the forest trail, I asked her if she thinks environmental education and learning about the forest and its animals is important. She responded with a firm and unwavering yes. Milton and the CEC students understand the importance of environmental education and conservation. They also have respect and compassion for the environment. Imagine if all of mankind felt as Milton does that a baby tree is another one of his children who deserves love and care. Or if all humans everywhere marveled at a seemingly inconsequential spider or ant with wonder and admiration, rather than killed the usually harmless insect.

If this healthy mind-set existed among more humans, then we would not have today’s major environmental crises, such as global climate change or the deforestation of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Africa. Virunga National Park in the DRC and the surrounding parks are home to half of the world’s remaining 720 mountain gorillas. The park is being deforested at an unprecedented rate for the production of charcoal as a tragic consequence of the region’s illegal, yet lucrative, charcoal trade. Due to the DRC’s “conflict-charcoal,” the rare mountain gorilla faces extinction. For more information about this complex issue, read the following National Geographic article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/070816-gorillas-congo.html

Especially in today’s world where environmental catastrophes are real and widespread, it is more crucial than ever that we as a society cultivate a notion of respect and compassion for Mother Earth among the younger generations. The solutions to these problems first and foremost lie in a shift in global consciousness. It is the present and future generations whose actions determine not just the state of our planet, but also our ability to live on it.

Thank you Cloud Forest School for instilling respect and compassion for Mother Nature in the young minds of your students. Your work is an inspiration to all of us humans who wish to live in a peaceful, just and sustainable world. My experience volunteering with CEC has made me think, most of all, of the quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “The Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion:” “We put a lot of energy into advancing technology in order to serve our lives better, and we exploit the non-human elements, such as the forests, rivers, and oceans, in order to do so. But as we pollute and destroy nature, we pollute and destroy ourselves as well. The results of discriminating between human and non-human are global warming, pollution, and the emergence of many strange diseases. In order to protect ourselves, we must protect the non-human elements. This fundamental understanding is needed if we want to protect our planet and ourselves.”

CFS Students do Community Service in Conjunction with Phillips Academy

In October 2011 students will participate in a Non Sibi Day – Costa Rica community service project in Monteverde.  The project was initiated, developed and funded by Lauren Howard, a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA (USA). It is based on Non Sibi Day – Phillips Academy, a day long service opportunity for all 1100 students at the school.  Lauren is using a $1200 grant provided to her by Phillips Academy to fund at least three years of Non Sibi Days at the Cloud Forest School.  Lauren has volunteered at the CFS over the past two summers through the Renbrook School Summer Adventure group visit, and saw an opportunity to use the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grant she received to begin a program which will enable young people to support their community.

Lauren Howard (2nd from the left) and other Renbrook Students during their August 2011 Service Trip at the Cloud Forest School

Lauren worked with Laura, the Director of the CFS and a group of CFS high school student ambassadors to select a project. CFS students will be conducting a drive of non-perishable food and clothing for both children and adults. These items will be distributed to needy families in the Monteverde community. It is our hope that through participation in Non Sibi Day we will build on a tradition of giving through community service and establish a relationship between two great educational institutions — the CFS and Phillips Academy.

Start Your Week with Peace

This morning at 8am, all of the students and staff joined hands to celebrate a moment of peace and a return to the rhythm of school. As all those who have passed through our gates well know,  the student body begins every Monday morning with the simplest of traditions–Peace Circle. Although it generally lasts no more than a few minutes, Peace Circle is arguably one of the backbone traditions of the Cloud Forest School.

On this particular Monday morning, Director Laura Grenholm led the group in some morning stretches, anouncements, the “Creativa Wave,” and a moment of silence. Students juggled backpacks and band equipment–one of the anouncements, of course, was that September 15th band and bastonera practice will begin this afternoon. At last it was time for all to hold hands and share a quiet moment together. There was a light breeze and lots of August-morning sun, and the thump-thump-thump of public school band practice sounded softly in the background–a sound that quickly becomes the soundtrack, or maybe the heartbeat of all Costa Rican towns at this time of year. I then took a moment to contemplate the view of our main office completely dwarfed by towering trees in the background. Remembering what this building once looked like and seeing how far we’ve come after just twenty years is simply astounding.

Just as kinder and high school kids alike began to fidget, we were all thanked for our time and sent off to begin our days. Students picked up their bags and ran happily to class together, ushered by their teachers and at least 2 stray dogs. The great thing about Peace Circle is that it invites all members of our school community to be present and together, a way for all of us to return to a common center before going ahead and diving headfirst into our weeks. Have a great school year, everyone!