This program offers a group of twelve students the opportunity to travel and do research in three different ecological zones within Costa Rica. Additionally, the course offers a minimum of one week of travel and fieldwork in Nicaragua. This full semester course is truly interdisciplinary and is open to social science as well as natural science students. Students travel with two faculty members; a natural scientist and a social scientist. Major goals include: the study of tropical ecological diversity and its role in defining natural ecosystem dynamics; the examination of social and economic relations between First and Third world societies; exploration of the dynamics of class, gender, and race with respect to current political, economic, and agricultural policies; and collaboration with local communities to identify needs and to assist in the development of new strategies for effective and sustainable management of human and natural resources.
The first four weeks of the course students live in San Jose, the country's principal population center. The remainder of the program takes place in various locations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Block I: STUDY IN SAN JOSE & THE CENTRAL VALLEY (4 weeks)
During the first four weeks of the course students live and study in San José . Students study Spanish for four hours daily and learn essential principles of tropical ecology, agroecology, development theory, Latin American political economy, and Costa Rican history (both social and natural). While living in San José, students are provided with the opportunity to conduct fieldwork on urban issues such as waste management, marketing structure, social services, and water quality. During this period there are visits around the Central Valley - the primary location of the country's early agricultural development - to study such topics as coffee production, urban development, soil conservation, organic farming, and national park management.
Block II: FIELD WORK (5 weeks)
The second block of the course emphasizes fieldwork. Students carry out brief social and ecological research projects while living and traveling together primarily in rural communities. A short stop over in San José is included in this block to allow students to conduct research for their independent study projects, prepare written reports and lead group discussions.
During Block II, the Field Course visits 3 to 4 different areas within Costa Rica where they learn about a diversity of ecological zones and systems of regional development. Some Costa Rican destinations may include the Atlantic Lowlands, Talamanca Mountain Ranges, Guanacaste Province, Northern Zone, and Osa Peninsula. Block II concludes with fieldwork in Nicaragua.
Block III: INDEPENDENT STUDY PROJECTS (5 weeks)
During the final portion of the course, students return to one of the previously visited Costa Rican field sites to conduct in-depth research on a topic of their choice. They independently develop research proposals, collect data, and analyze their results. Projects may only be conducted in Costa Rica, and topics may emphasize either the social or natural sciences. Students are encouraged to develop projects that have practical value for their host communities or organizations. During the course's final week, students prepare written reports and give oral presentations of their research findings.
Students live with Costa Rican families while in San José and in rural communities while conducting their independent study projects. Family placements are supervised by an experienced ICADS housing coordinator who makes every effort to match the needs of each student with those of her/his host family. As an integral part of the program, the homestay experience facilitates language learning and greater integration into Costa Rican culture and society. While traveling during Block II, students and professors stay either with families or in small hotels, hostels and biological stations with dorm style housing. In Block III while conducting their independent study projects, students stay with host families in rural communities.