July is perhaps our most exciting month at New Summit Academy as the summer brings our annual International Aventura to Peru! This year’s trip was especially meaningful as students engaged with a curriculum created by our Aventura teachers, therapists and Experiential Education mentors with a view toward building a greater sense of community among students and staff to bring back to our NSA campus.
After arriving in Peru, students began their journey with a tour of the colonial town of Cuzco before traveling by train to Machu Picchu, which is always a highlight of the trip.
Next, students split into two groups and, with their staff group leaders, followed the same itinerary, but in reverse order. One group began a high-altitude trek in the Auzangate region of the Andes, learning about the sacred gods – or Apus – of the mountains. The hikes were demanding, but the views made them worth the effort!
The second group began their trip with a 3-day whitewater rafting adventure, navigating class III and IV rapids (plus portaging around the class V’s), and camping along the spectacular river banks. Our English teacher, Brooke, was impressed with the way students cooperated in navigating the challenging portages.
The two groups reunited in the middle of their journeys in the indigenous village of the Amaru people, who welcomed them with a traditional ceremony complete with flutes and drums. Both groups spent the day working side-by-side with the Amaru helping them prepare fields for planting. The day culminated in a celebratory lunch prepared by the villagers.
NSA’s summer International Aventura has always been an unforgettable experience for those who participate. The students, now back on campus with stronger bonds within their community and ready to begin the school year, will be telling stories of their trip for weeks to come.
After a rigorous school semester, students and staff are ready for some fun and relaxation, and the recreational Aventura delivered!
Students traveled to Manuel Antonio National Park and spent their days swimming in the ocean, hiking to spectacular waterfalls, playing soccer on the wide beaches, and exploring the park, one of the most beautiful in Costa Rica. Students returned to campus ready for their next adventure: Peru!
New Summit Academy is fortunate to have many of our students return to “give back” to the program and to serve as interns and valuable mentors for our current students. This summer, we proudly welcomed a 2016 graduate, Zach, who has joined our team during a college break. Zach, who is double majoring in Physics and the Classics, was generous enough to share some of his experiences with us
This month, each student participated in one of our experiential, hands-on Aventura experiences, based on their progress within the program. This round of Aventuras was particularly effective in building student-staff relationships, developing leadership with emerging seniors, and enhancing our community’s supportive, positive milieu.
Community Service with Osa Conservation
Students, staff and volunteers from around the world teamed up to work side-by-side with the professionals from Osa Conservation in their preservation and protection efforts of the habitats and species of the area.
Everyone pitched in without hesitation to create a nursery for balsa trees, which are very important for native animal species including monkeys and scarlet macaws.
Students also built a new turtle hatchery, learned about reforestation, big cats, sea turtle conservation, and were rewarded with the opportunity to release baby turtles on the beach!
Kayak Explorations on the Golfo Dulce
Students in their second full quarter at NSA joined a seasoned group of staff – including our Director of Personal Growth, Director of Experiential Education and Director of Program Integrity – in a 5-day kayaking expedition around the spectacular Golfo Dulce.
Students said that they were initially nervous about going on Aventura with so many “administrators," but at the end of the trip expressed that they had an amazing time and were pleased to have spent time with the staff.
Highlights of the trip included:
- Learning about mangrove ecosystems while swimming in an estuary
- Student success at catching fish, including some first-time fishermen
- Sighting dolphin, sea turtles, monkeys and stingrays
- Spotting bioluminescence, watching the sunrise and catching tuna on the night crossing
Corcovado National Park Highlights
The setting of our Corcovado Aventura – surrounded by primary rainforest teeming with animals – made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students in their third full quarter.
Students learned about biological relationships and forest succession while spotting wildlife that included multiple anteaters (two with babies in tow), three tapir that walked through a rainforest class, and an impressive boa constrictor seen moving along the forest floor next to a poison dart frog!
Cloud Forest Adventures
Our more senior students spent the week exploring Costa Rica's cool cloud forest on foot and raft, on a trip where they take charge of their growth and logistics, including menu planning (this trip actually had one student try peanut butter and jelly for the first time!)
Students braved hanging bridges, technical trails, and the frigid waters of the high-altitude streams, even taking some time to be kids and build a waterfall dam. Classes focused on ecological communities and how these relate to students’ relationships within their communities.
Our English teacher, Brooke, even channeled Mary Shelley and inspired a scary story session in the evening. Check out the Cloud Forest video she shared with us!
NSA’s signature Aventura program consists of five integrated adventures exploring the diverse and beautiful ecosystems of Costa Rica while providing students a chance to reflect on their growth and return to campus recharged.
The Aventuras are intentionally designed to begin at sea level and progress to the students’ final experience: summiting the highest peak in Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripo.
Each student makes the climb alone, beginning before dawn, silently contemplating his process. After climbing nearly 10,000 feet, graduating students meet at the summit to celebrate their efforts – both on the mountain and in their time at New Summit Academy.
As a reminder that this moment is the beginning of their journeys, students are reminded of the Zen proverb “When you reach the top of a mountain, keep climbing!”
The next two weeks are exciting ones for our students, families and staff of NSA! Newer students will be off adventuring and relaxing in the untouched forests of Sarapiqui and on the shores of Lake Arenal. They will be spending the week zip-lining, playing soccer, stand-up paddle boarding and horseback riding in some of the most beautiful areas of the country.
Another group of students will be traveling to South Africa for two weeks of impactful cultural immersion and community building.
Next week, our students and staff will be hard at work studying and applying their learning hands-on in their efforts to earn their Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) and CPR certifications. Stay tuned for stories and photos from these upcoming activities!
Students spent last week on one of our signature Integrated Aventuras -- expeditions throughout Costa Rica where students engage in experiential learning and personal growth alongside our dedicated therapists, teachers and Experiential Education mentors.
The Aventura program begins at sea level with students “giving back” to the Costa Rican community through volunteer work with Osa Conservation. Students plant trees, build trails, and patrol the beaches for nesting sea turtles.
A few high points from the community service Aventura:
-Nightly presentations from working scientists about research on canopy animals, hermit crabs, big cat tracking and water quality testing
-Safely relocating over 70 sea turtle eggs & releasing 70 baby hatchlings
-Encountering anteaters, coatimundi and a beautiful (and rare) puma!
Students then participate in the Kayak Aventura, circumnavigating the Golfo Dulce while camping along its undeveloped shores.
Memorable moments from this journey include:
-Watching turtles and dolphin swim alongside students’ kayaks
-Fishing with hand lines for snapper, mackerel and tuna
-Snorkeling in the coral reef at Los Mogos, two islands whose name means “the specks”
-Being surrounded by natural beauty and seeing rainbows nearly every day
After the Kayak Aventura, students spend a week hiking in the protected jungles of Corcovado National Park, learning about biological relationships and rainforest succession.
Students and staff reported some of their fondest memories:
-The teamwork and support shown by the group members during the challenging hike
-Impressive focus on the group’s goals
-Being blown away by the diversity of animal and plant life
The final Integrated Aventura before students climb Chirripo Mountain is a trekking and rafting expedition in Costa Rica’s cloud forests.
Highlights of this trip included:
-Student engagement with absolutely zero complaining!
-Students pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones while navigating whitewater rapids
-The valuable peer feedback given and received within the group
This month, our community of New Summit Academy proudly celebrated 13 YEARS of working together to fulfill our mission of nurturing students to become more relationship-based, goal-driven, resourceful global citizens.
To commemorate this exciting milestone, we would like to share some student testimonials from these amazing times. We hope you enjoy!
NSA is continually working to innovate and provide the best possible experiences for all of our students, parents, staff and educational partners. Each year, the Academic, Experiential Education, and Personal Growth departments all set goals for improving our program and offering a unique learning and growth opportunity for students.
2018 is looking to be even more exciting, and as we develop our goals – guided by our organizational values – we would like to thank our students, families, educational consultants, faculty and staff, homestay families and the community of Atenas for the support and dedication they have provided to make New Summit Academy the amazing program it is today.
Keep an eye out in future issues for our 2018 goals and objectives!
Many of NSA’s students returned home to celebrate the winter holidays with family and friends. Those who remained in Costa Rica celebrated with their New Summit Academy family and friends, enjoying the natural beauty of the country while having loads of fun participating in recreational activities.
These are just some of outdoor adventures our students engaged in over the holiday break:
- Hiking among the geysers and mud pots of Rincon de la Vieja National Park
- Horseback riding in the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste Province
- Spending time surfing and relaxing at the beach
- Swimming in the spectacular blue waters of the Rio Celeste
Happy Holidays and Feliz Año Nuevo to our entire New Summit Academy Community!
Blog authors may be students, staff, parents or colleagues. We're all-inclusive! Just enjoy!