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Students from Meridian Academy Connect with Indigenous Costa Rican Community

27 May 2013

Meridian Academy

The Bri Bri community teaches a Meridian Academy student how to fold a Palma leaf to make a "dish" to hold food.

Sara McDonald teaches Spanish at Meridian Academy in Brookline, Massachusetts. She has taken many courses with Primary Source, including Social Movements in Modern Latin America during the 2011-2012 school year. She recently organized a 10-day class trip to Costa Rica, during which students worked on a biodiversity project with sea turtles on the Caribbean Coast and connected with an indigenous community, the Bri Bri, in the Rio Frio area.

Students spent three days living with local host families and engaging in some of their daily routines, from milking cows to learning how to cook traditional cuisine. During the home-stays, dance and movement played an important role in forming cross-cultural connections. "Although this is only the second trip I've taken with students to Latin America, this [dance and movement] seems to be a recurring theme in helping break down barriers in a short amount of time."

Sara mentioned that one particular afternoon made an impression on the group. In order to reach the Bri Bri community, she and her students traveled by bus, by boat, and then walked for 45 minutes fording a number of rivers—a commute that many of the children and young adults in the community make on a regular basis to attend school.

"I personally feel that it's important for folks to look outside themselves, to understand that your norm may not be and probably isn't someone else's norm," said Sara about the experience. "These differences allow for dialogue, and often times these dialogues, if we're open to their invitation, can challenge us to question, to look at something from a different lens, which is what we asked our students to do periodically throughout the trip."

Primary Source programs support teachers making these kind of cross-cultural and global connections in many ways — from showing students a location on Google Earth and providing background information, to taking students there to meet the people and experience the culture firsthand.

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