SSHS biology students planning ‘eco-education’ trip to Costa Rica
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Nov. 16, 2006 - While most of us are busy making holiday plans, a group of Sulphur Springs High School students and their parents are looking a bit further into the future — July 17, to be exact.

While summer seems a long way off, Chrystal Reneau and 18 of her advanced placement biology students know their deadline will be here before they know it. 

The students, who must raise $2,300 each, have signed up to accompany Reneau to Costa Rica, where they will embark on an environmentally educational expedition, with their ultimate goal being to observe and to help preserve endangered sea turtles and their environment during crucial nesting periods. The group, which is twice as large as the one that made the trek last year, will begin the 10-day trip getting to know their tour guides in the comfortable country setting of the Atenas and Central Valley. During the remainder of the trip, Reneau's students will be at the mercy of local tour guides who are responsible for the group's travel and accommodations.

"Accommodations at the turtle projects are very simple — there may not be electricity, and while there is running water, hot water is not likely to be available," Eco Teach's website notes in the itinerary for the group's three nights on the Caribbean coast.

The students will also stop in a cloud forest, eat a typical Costa Rican farm meal and visit a butterfly garden.

During their two nights with the turtle project, Reneau and her students will patrol the beach in search of nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. They will conduct population studies, tag turtles, transplant eggs to a protected area and release hatchlings into the ocean — provided the turtles choose those two nights for nesting, as endangered species nesting does not follow a set schedule.

During their two days in Parismina, the students and their teacher will explore canals for wildlife, hike in the forest and play soccer or volleyball. They may also have opportunities to build a hatchery or clean the beach of debris, making it safe for the turtles to nest and then return to the sea.

Then, it's on to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the southern coast where the group will spend the next two days taking in the beaches, rain forests and a cultural heritage with "Afro-Caribbean and indigenous influences." They'll spend a day in the Bribri community located in the Talamanca mountains and soak up the "local flavor" found on the streets of a small Caribbean town.

Nights six and seven will be spent in the northern lowlands of Arenal Canal. The travelers will stop for lunch and white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River en route to Fortuna, located at the base of the Arenal Volcano.

They'll begin a hike from the base of a waterfall in Fortuna, swim in fresh pools, visit an organic farm and maybe even see red-hot lava that runs down the sides of the volcano, which erupts several times a day.

Nights eight and nine will be spent on the Monteverde Cloud Forest. During the days, the visitors will hike the trails of Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, take ziplines between trees and explore the biological diversity on the continental divide.

This year's group includes Brittney Bell, Emily Bouyear, Jentri Broumley, Kassie Carroll, Jacob Cooper, Allison Hefner, Chaz Hinkeldey, Aly Jackson, Lauren Longino, Morgan McCormick, Olga Martinez, Danielle Morgan, Maci Murray, Elise Rascoe, Brant Small, Jenna Davis, Price Orwosky, Rachel Riley and Trenton Kennety.

Since the group can consist of 20 members, there are two spots left open by students who have notified instructor Reneau that they will not be joining the group after all.

In order to ensure students are properly outfitted and provided for, each one is responsible for raising $2,300, which covers all transportation, lodging and food needs for the trip. Each student is responsible for organizing and implementing their own fund raisers. In addition to individual fund-raisers, students have been asked to provide three items for a Bake Sale to be held outside Community National Bank on Fridays, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15. The bake sale will provide yummy treats just in time for the holidays. Ideally, the attractively wrapped and labeled confections will be priced at $20-$25 each. The sales will begin at approximately 8 a.m. and will last through the afternoon, or until items are gone. If the bake sales go as planned, the two events would each raise about $1,200, giving the students a good starting place for their personal fund raising efforts.

The students have also planned a Turtle Race, fashioned after the popular duck race held during the city's annual fall festival. The eco-group's parents have obtained permission from city and county officials to release small plastic turtles in the civic center creek Saturday, April 28, to coincide with Kids Safe Saturday at the high school. Turtles will be sold at a small cost and the turtle that crosses under the bridge first will be declared the winner. A small portion of the proceeds from the Turtle Race will be used to cover race-related expenses, with the remainder benefiting the SSHS students who sold them. 

Currently, the 18 members of the SSHS Eco Teach Environmental Education Expedition crew are selling Sunset Candles for $20. For each candle sold, $7.50 is donated to their trip expenses. Candles are available from any of the students or by contacting the school or Jennifer Caudle, Britney Bowen's mother, through Nov. 21, the last school day prior to Thanksgiving. Candles will be delivered on Dec. 11.

While other ideas such as car washes, selling sundaes at school lunches, school bake sales one day a week, concession stands at certain ball games, auctioning a group of kids for work projects, raffles, candy sales, turtle "nesting yards" are being tossed around, only the Holiday Bake Sale, the Turtle Race and the candle sales have been confirmed.

Community members and businesses are encouraged to help support the AP biology students and their educational development through these fund raisers. Donations are also welcome. Contact the students, their parents or Chrystal Reneau at SSHS for more information.

Students can still sign up for the trip by contacting the Reneau at 903-348-1175. Donations to assist the students may also be made by calling Reneau, or checks payable to "Costa Rica Fund" may be mailed to Chrystal Reneau, Sulphur Springs High School, 1200 Connally St., Sulphur Springs, TX 75482.

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