One Willow School teacher’s trip to Costa Rica inspired a unique student-led project with lasting implications for an endangered rainforest.
In December, Marissa Mizeski, the Willow School science teacher, visited the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. The Osa Peninsula is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. During her visit, Marissa stayed at the completely sustainable and habitat-friendly Luna Lodge eco-resort. Marissa woke each morning to find toucans, sloths, honeycreepers, hummingbirds, and monkeys moving through the forest all around her porch.
But while she was there, Marissa discovered that much of the land surrounding Luna Lodge is up for sale. Lodge owner Lana Wedmore told Marissa she started the White Hawk Foundation to help protect this vital natural resource in its pristine state.
“The whole idea of the White Hawk Foundation is to purchase unprotected land so that we can preserve this biological corridor,” Lana explains. Lana’s oasis on the peninsula exists within a matrix of unprotected land used for agriculture, urban development, and palm oil plantations. “Palm oil is taking over Costa Rica,” Lana said. “Palm trees are one of the worst things to farm because no animals live there, not even birds.”
“Seeing how hard Lana was working to preserve the land made me want to help,” Marissa said. “It would break my heart if my students and friends couldn’t experience this magical place.”
Upon her return to The Willow School, she showed her students the photographs she’d taken of pumas, sea turtles, monkey birds, and other fantastic flora and fauna. She also explained how they were in danger of losing their habitat, should the rainforest be cut down for development.
“Our whole class was inspired by the story of Miss M’s trip,” fourth grader Juliana Holmes says. “We wanted to help!”
After thinking up dozens of ideas, Willow School fourth graders decided to create a coloring book of original drawings with a dual purpose: to educate other children while raising money to protect the animals they love. They even worked with Willow School teacher Maria Saba to translate the accompanying text into Spanish and sent those copies to Lana.
The first edition of this coloring book was sold to the Willow community. As of April 2017, the students have raised over $450! Now, number of local stores have agreed to sell the book, with all proceeds going to the foundation. We hope more shops will be selling the book soon!
“I’m so thankful for the kids who made the book,” Lana says. “I think it’s so important for kids to take on this responsibility for our world. They are the ones that have to protect this land for the future.”