It was our final evening as we gathered around a small table in our lodge. The students took turns talking about their favorite memories, locations, and activities, as we passed around the bandana one final time before cutting and dividing it. I looked around and couldn’t believe the changes I saw in these young adults. Their features, still engraved in my memory, were exactly the same as 3 weeks ago, yet their mannerisms and conversations had drastically matured. Each student had become an individual in just 3 short weeks, something that takes teens years to accomplish.
Growth and maturity are just two outcomes of student educational tours with Chill Expeditions. EarthConnect, our summer service learning opportunity for teens, is a dynamic summer abroad experience that goes beyond camp or your typical student tour. Each program dives into the intricate layers of history, geography, politics, agriculture, culinary traditions and natural environments that create such a unique culture in each country. The expansive knowledge gained, rich connections made with both peers and locals, and the incredible adventures experienced turns teens from mundane experiences to enriching their childhood and beyond.
Tours that focus on Eco-immersion give pupils the opportunity to truly explore. In Costa Rica our program visits one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, while working hand in hand with a local biologist researching dolphins and frogs. We hear his stories of how he became fascinated by his back yard, the Gulfo Dulce and primary rainforests, his neighbors, and the dolphins and frogs that surround him. We become an active participant in his research project while soaking in the extreme beauty that surrounds us. We leverage the relationships that our team, along with Costa Rican communities, has worked hard to create, to build an experience of teaching, listening and giving that builds a foundation for students to maintain in the future.
In Spain, stay with local Andalucian families as we become a part of their families. We walk to school with our brothers and sisters and cook with the moms, while learning about the importance of food in the Spanish culture. We take advantage of being outdoors in the mountains and rivers, which is a large part of the Spanish lifestyle, and getting behind the scenes of important cultural components such as cuisine and music.
In Ecuador, we connect with a group of local teens while exploring the country side by side. Discover the meaning of teamwork as we travel six days without stepping foot in a car. Our feet, bikes and canoes will be our modes of transportation! Breathe in the fresh air of the mystical cloud forests and share stories with our peers on what life is like as an Ecuadorian versus American teen.
Student educational tours and summer programs are the best ways for teens and young adults to step into a different reality, later reflecting on their own situation at home. Three years have passed since my first summer experience with teens. Through staying in touch with the students that traveled on EarthConnect, the impact the experience had still stands strong. One student traveled to a school in the Bahamas to pursue his deep interest in biology and conservation, which was sparked during his time in the Gulfo Dulce. Another student is leading community service projects in his hometown using the sustainable model and procedures he picked up in Costa Rica. It is these experiences that make Chill Expeditions team members so passionate on what we do.
Crawford Hill is the owner and director of Chill Expeditions, an educational travel company focused on cultural immersion. An expedition leader, former biology teacher, and educational innovator, Hill has been guiding students and adults on wilderness adventures since 1974. Over the years, Hill has led thousands of students and families on experiential learning trips to Costa Rica, Belize, the Galapagos Islands, Peru and Spain. Hill revels in the opportunity to be able to work with students and families across the country with the world as his classroom.