From the Classroom to the Real World

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By Alex S.
Feb. 21, 2020

JumpStart is an intensive four-week long English Camp designed to empower students with the knowledge, academic skills and confidence to make a successful transition to high school. In 2020, PCVs hosted 20 camps throughout Costa Rica. Check out Alex's story.

Prior to hosting JumpStart, I had never led a summer camp before and was nervous just thinking about how I were going to reach out to younger students let alone make class relevant to them. I had participated in various summer camps when I was younger, but one thing is being part of a camp and another thing is organizing, planning and implementing a summer camp for students. I had always preached that hard effort and a positive attitude would open doors for students, I just never imagined that students would start applying it two weeks into the camp.

I had always preached that hard effort and a positive attitude would open doors for students, I just never imagined that students would start applying it two weeks into the camp.

My village of service is known as “La Ciudad Folclórica” or the city of folklore, due to its rich culture, history and mix of indigenous (Chorotega), African and Spanish traditions. It is is home to traditional dances characterized by the big colorful dresses dancers wear, handcrafted musical instruments (marimba), unique food stands and bull riding arenas during the month of January. The typical festivities or “fiestas tipícas” are usually during the second week of January and are preceded by “La Semana Cultural” which is a weeklong of cultural events in the town plaza. All the organizations and committees plan out events throughout the day, reaching out to every kind of audience in the community. Whether it’s art events, carousel rides or bull riding, the town is completely absorbed in the energy the “fiestas” provide. In short, it is two weeks of festivities and celebrations in which the town comes together to showcase, value and recognize the traditions that shaped their history and culture.

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Students writing their responses on a whiteboard during a lesson. The whiteboard provides flexibility in assessing students’ understanding while encouraging student participation and collaboration.

It’s a little past 10:30 am and the deafening fireworks going off outside signal that the family events will commence at noon. As each firework echoes inside the classroom, I notice students grabbing the edge of their seats in anticipation. A casual “Profe, ¿qué hora es?” lets me know that students were already counting down the clock internally. I couldn’t help but think that the “fiestas típicas” would only take away from lessons in the classroom. I would soon discover throughout the week that they would bridge the gap between what I was teaching and what students were experiencing outside the classroom.

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Students participating in "Crab, Frog, Horse", a version of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” mixed with animals and physical movements around the classroom.

As the students rambled away, I couldn’t help but notice the excitement in their eyes, frantic hand movements and small jumps they celebrated when they retold the story. I couldn’t believe it, the “fiestas” had provided the opportunity for students to practice everything they had learned in the classroom. If it wasn’t for the beaming smiles and gleam in their eyes, the conversation alone was enough to show how excited they were to learn English. More importantly, this was a reminder that often the shortest conversations, even those right before entering the classroom can truly showcase the passion and motivation that students have towards learning English. This served as a reminder to always be present in conversations with students and appreciate everything the community has to offer.

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