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College of Education Students Participate in Unique Summer Study Abroad Experiences

Instead of sitting in a classroom last summer, several teacher preparation students traveled to Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.

By Michelle Roche

Instead of sitting in a classroom last summer, several teacher preparation students traveled to Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.

Nesting Sea Turtles in Costa Rica


Assistant Professor of Science Education Kathy Fadigan from the Abington campus partnered with Jackie McLaughlin, assistant professor of biology at the Lehigh campus to take four secondary science education students to Costa Rica as part of a biology course. Kelly Hartley from Abington, and Mary Ellen Krivach, Josh Teed, and Aimee Rice from University Park participated in the course. 

As part of the course curriculum, the students and professors spent two weeks studying conservation biology in the field and worked with two sites studying the methods of protecting sea turtle nesting areas. The purpose of the project was to familiarize the class in the biodiversity of certain Costa Rican habitats with an experimental approach. The class also learned about the culture, biogeography, politics, economics, and history of the region. 

Fadigan believes that there is no amount of reading or classroom experience that can substitute for the actual experience of learning about our environment in a field setting. “Students do not just learn about science—they do science, she said. This is one of the best places in the world to study conservation biology.”

Fadigan is planning to hold the course again in summer 2008. Interested students should contact her at kxf24@psu.edu.

Culture and History in Puerto Rico


Two students, Madeline Reyes (senior-world languages-spanish) and Bianca Alomoto (junior-elementary education), traveled to Puerto Rico to participate in the inaugural Puerto Rico Summer Institute.

This two-week seminar has been established to introduce prospective teachers to the culture, language, and education system of Puerto Rico. Participants learn both the history and the modern-day cultural issues and concerns affecting the United States and Puerto Rico. Students also observe the educational system and teaching practices of Puerto Rican schools.

Doctoral student Nancy Vicente led the 2007 institute. She explained the goals of the program, “Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth and because of that, our comings and goings to and from the island are not affected by immigration laws. Due to the continual movement between the mainland and the island, prospective teachers should be familiar with this particular group of Americans who (often times) are overlooked in U.S. history books, but who they will probably encounter during their teaching careers.”

During the first week, students attended workshops in the mornings and then took cultural tours in the afternoons. Some of the tours included visits to the Capitol Building in San Juan, Old San Juan, Downtown Mayaguez, a lighthouse, and the Boqueron Fishing Village in Cabo Rojo. During the second week, students went to local private and public schools to observe classes and students.

One workshop focused on Bomba, a folkloric form of artistic expression that is unique to Puerto Rico and to diasporic Puerto Rican communities in the United States. Bomba dates back to the painful legacy of the Middle Passage and slavery in Puerto Rico, but has evolved to tell the important history of protest, resistance, survival and resiliency among the island's Afro-Boricua populations.

The five-hour workshop included a panel presentation on the history of Bomba in Puerto Rico and the United States, a workshop in which students were able to bodily engage in the practice of Bomba, and a performance where they were able to put their learning into practice.

This program has been established as an annual program of the College of Education. For information about the 2008 program, contact Maria Schmidt at mjs125@psu.edu, or call (814) 865-0904.