Columbia Middle school teacher returns from Costa Rica

Monday, June 8, 2009 | 11:00 a.m. CDT
While at "Finca La Virgen," a cacao farm in Costa Rica, Galve, left, planted a cacao plant next to cacao trees, while Dan Greene, right, watched. Cacao is the fruit which produces the seeds that make chocolate.

COLUMBIA — Katrina Galve, who for 25 years has been a Spanish teacher at West and Oakland junior high schools, wants to make sure her students learn about the environment and their connection to it.

"I really want the kids to be aware of the importance of the environment and the impact we have on this," said Galve, who was among 25 teachers nationwide selected to visit Costa Rica for Toyota's International Teacher Program for Environmental Conservation and International Education. This is the 11th year for the program and about 400 teachers applied.


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During her trip from late April to early May, Galve visited four schools and shot three to four hours of video. With the help of Todd Hildahl of the Columbia Public Schools' television channel (CPS-TV), Galve has since assembled a video to use in class. It includes exotic animals and trees as well as how cocoa is made.

She hopes that by seeing these images, students will realize how interconnected the world is. "I want to make the kids aware everything is together,"said Galve, who will switch to Lange Middle School in the fall.

Galve has used the video once already. As a hands-on experience to accompany it, she had her students create decorative wagons much like the ones she saw made by the locals in Costa Rica.

In the fall, Galve plans to teach her students more about the Central American country's flowers by planting exotic annuals in the classroom. She will invite educators to come speak about Costa Rica specifically and the environment generally.

Galve has traveled to other places on sponsored educational trips, including to Japan on a Fulbright scholarship and to Portugal for an International Conference on Automata, Languages and Programming Fellowship. As one of two Missouri teachers who went on the Toyota trip, Galve found that environmentally friendly practices being used in Costa Rica could be applied in Columbia. For example, schools she visited try to recycle as much as possible, even the water, in hopes of cleaning up the environment.

Over the two-week visit, Galve learned about Costa Rica's climate, population, economy, culture and various plants and animals. She also learned about reforestation and the difference between primary and secondary rain forests — the former being those that haven't been cut down and reforested, the latter being those that grow after the original forest has been disturbed in some way. The educators attended 19 lectures on how to better the environment, waking up at 6 a.m. every day to visit as much as possible.

"It made us much more conscious about the environment," Galve said.

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