Field trips are often a part of children’s scholastic experience. One Madawaska High School science teacher is about to take the field trip of her professional lifetime.
Gisele Faucher, who teaches chemistry, biology and anatomy at the St. John Valley school, is one of 25 teachers from 22 states who won grants to participate in a study tour to Costa Rica through the Toyota International Teacher Program.
The Grand Isle native had to apply for her spot in the program, which begins April 18 at Everglades National Park in Florida. The group will have an orientation there before leaving for Costa Rica.
Faucher had long been interested in traveling to Costa Rica but intended to apply for a grant that sent teachers to Japan. When she learned the Japan program had been canceled for the year, she applied for the Costa Rica trip.
“I think it’s an opportunity as a teacher to see another culture,” said Faucher, who has been teaching at Madawaska for almost 20 years. “Study tours like this offer a very significant professional development opportunity. I’m also interested in environmental initiatives and conservation efforts, and Costa Rica has been known to [have a lot of] ecotours and sustainability studies.”
Faucher isn’t sure of the total amount of the grant, which covers her expenses and includes $500 for Madawaska High to hire a substitute teacher for the week of school Faucher will miss. The other portion of the trip falls during spring vacation.
Nearly 500 applied to the program this year. Winners were selected based on professional qualifications, evidence of interest in international education, and the feasibility of incorporating the Costa Rica experience into the curriculum.
Faucher plans to take video and photos which she can post to the Internet during her trip. She hopes to set up a relationship with a school to exchange photos and trade information about agricultural practices and so Madawaska students can learn aspects of how their peers live.
“I’m hoping to bring back a lot of information about Costa Rica to extend [students’] knowledge,” she said.
The group’s Costa Rica itinerary includes visits to the country’s national museum, the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Peace University, which focuses on peace issues, and Guayabo National Monument, the largest archaeological site yet discovered in Costa Rica. The group also will tour a banana paper processing plant, a model dairy farm, a biogas generator and a tree nursery. The teachers also plan to hike Arenal volcano.
The beaches, volcanic terrain, forests and people of Costa Rica present a significant research and study opportunity, Faucher said.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to go,” she said. “It’s one of these countries I’ve heard about for a while. So I’m excited about it.”
The group leader will be Thomas Dunne, a professor of geomorphology and hydrology at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, which is part of the University of California-Santa Barbara.