Case Studies

  • Group:Ackworth School
    Costa Rica 2019
  • Age:16-18 years old
  • Group Size:8 students & 1 staff member
  • Project:Conservation
  • Destination:Costa Rica (Barra Honda National Park)
The whole group together at the Barra Honda camp
The whole group together at the Barra Honda camp


This was the fourth Ackworth School trip with Projects Abroad, but our first time heading to Central America and the first time completing a conservation based project. Following our previous trips to Ghana and Tanzania, we were very excited to try something new and to see what lay ahead! But first, we had to prepare and get ready.

Planning and Fundraising

In order to raise money for our trip, we worked on many different group events which contributed to all of our funding. Our main fundraising activities as a group were completed in school, with events such as ‘wear the flag day’ when students could come in in their own clothes as long as they were red, white or blue, to represent the Costa Rican flag. We also organised a Christmas fair with face painting, stalls selling cards and small gifts, and a range of games such as ‘pin the nose on the reindeer’. Some students also raised money individually by organising events such as concerts and a cyclathon where two members of the group cycled the equivalent distance from one side of Costa Rica to the other.

Travelling, Arriving and Settling in

Ackworth camp arrival
Ackworth camp arrival

When the day finally came for our trip to begin we flew from the UK to Newark in the USA and then on to San Jose, it was a long day so when we arrived we were very much looking forward to a sleep in the hostel in Heredia. The next morning, we set off for Barra Honda, traveling through the beautiful Costa Rican countryside and getting glimpses of the differences between there and home. We had a short stop at a large river to see if we could spot some crocodiles but no such luck… When we arrived in Barra Honda, Daniel greeted us off the bus and showed us around camp before our first delicious meal.

Project Work - Volunteering

The team working together on various activities
The team working together on various activities

We did a range of activities throughout our two weeks in Barra Honda This included data collection on butterflies, monkeys and bats but also trail maintenance, litter picking, reforestation and mural painting. All of these were based in and around the national park, many involving climbing the hill to the top of the park before we began! Each day Daniel, Oscar, Juan and Andrea took us on our different activities and were invaluable in encouraging us to work as hard as we could on each task.

Two groups were created for the working activities, each working on all projects but at different times:

Group one enjoyed working on the butterfly project as the day they did this they saw a wide range of the different butterfly species found in the park, and even glimpsed a glass wing butterfly which is very rare now. The project involved setting up fruit traps in five different locations at three different heights, to allow the maximum range of butterflies to be caught. We then went round every hour to record the species trapped and released them. This is contributing to a wider project which is recording types of butterfly and how they are changing over time, to investigate the impact of climate change on butterfly species. From discussion with the staff it was clear that change has already begun which was sad to think about.

Every one working together to protect the environment
Every one working together to protect the environment

Group two particularly enjoyed the two mornings spent planting trees. This reforestation project was helping local land owners to reduce evaporation from water courses and to link the Barra Honda park to other local wildlife areas. At the reforestation sites the locations had already been picked out and our job was to dig holes and plant a variety of trees along the stretch of river. We planted over 275 trees in two mornings! Although getting to the area we were reforesting was tough, and involved the crossing of two rivers carrying the many saplings, it was very rewarding to know that we were helping local farmers improve the land they own.

We were also lucky enough to experience a number of cultural activities during our trip. This included a visit to El Toledo, a nearby community who are working towards being more sustainable through reforestation and better farming practices. We also took part in a dance lesson, learning a range of Latin dances, and a cookery lesson from Oscar’s mum!

Weekend Trip Activities

Enjoying the various, fun weekend activities
Enjoying the various, fun weekend activities

We were lucky enough to be in Costa Rica over two weekends which meant we had plenty of opportunity to explore the local area and find out more about Costa Rica. Our first weekend was an enjoyable, fun-filled affair for all! On the Saturday we travelled to El Rincon and took part in four activities, zip-lining, horseback riding, tubing and finally a relaxing time in some hot springs. We all enjoyed the tubing the most which involved cruising down a river in rubber rings.

On the Sunday we went on an excursion to Samara Beach to see whales and dolphins on a boat trip. We had a great lunch that day of local food such as ceviche and some of us even had a whole fish!

Our second weekend was also a great experience; it started off sadly, as we had to leave the camp and our newly made friends behind, but as we headed towards Monteverde we were also excited. Monteverde was much cooler and less humid than Barra Honda which was a welcome relief, especially as our first activity was a nature hike around the cloud forest with an eagle-eyed guide who spotted snakes, birds and a tarantula for us all to see! We then were lucky enough to get to zip-line again! On our last day we met up with local Quakers in the morning. Firstly, we learnt about how Quakers had come to Monteverde to set up the area and then we went to Quaker meeting. This was an excellent chance for us to spend a bit of time reflecting on our experience and to attend a meeting a little different to ours, and very far away from home!

On Reflection

Dancing and cooking is all part of the fun
Dancing and cooking is all part of the fun

Overall each of us had an amazing time, we all learnt things about ourselves and others, and our impact on the planet. We have definitely returned to the UK with new ideas and new friends from all over the world. Hopefully Ackworth will be able to return to Barra Honda in the future to continue to contribute to the project!

Thoughts from the group

  • Martha preparing the ingredients for the cooking class
    Martha preparing the ingredients for the cooking class

    “This experience was more than I ever imagined. There’s nowhere else I could have learnt so much about culture and conservation and had as much fun as we did in Costa Rica. Thank you to all the staff for encouraging us and especially helping me improve my Spanish!”

    Martha Hathaway
  • Lauren working on the reforestation activities
    Lauren working on the reforestation activities

    “This trip taught us all so much about Costa Rica, how to protect the environment we live in, and ourselves. We saw what we could achieve and how we could have a positive impact on our world. The amazing staff at the park made our experience even more enjoyable, THANK YOU!”

    Lauren Nixon
  • Frazer enjoying his traditional cooking lesson
    Frazer enjoying his traditional cooking lesson

    “Overall, the whole Project Abroad experience in Costa Rica was life changing and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to visit and experience volunteering in an environment very different from home. Costa Rica taught me a lot about Rainforest conservation as well as its importance to the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks I spent in Costa Rica and I would definitely recommend the experience to anyone that is considering it.”

    Frazer Kirkland
  • Henry enjoying the views from the lookout point
    Henry enjoying the views from the lookout point

    “On this trip, the things that made it so memorable were the people. Yes, the activities were rewarding and we can be proud of our achievements but the real memories lie in the amazing people that were there. It is often said that travel broadens the mind and this was epitomised in this trip. I strongly believe we have come back more rounded and open minded people and this is partly due to the staff in Barra Honda (Oscar, Juan, Daniel, Andrea, the cooks, everyone!) who talked to us about the tasks we were working on and helped us to understand the impact we were having, but also being able to share the experience with the team I travelled with.”

    Henry Hackwell
  • Amelie putting fruit out for the butterfly traps
    Amelie putting fruit out for the butterfly traps

    “I went to Costa Rica with the goal of volunteering in a place I’d never experienced before, to maybe expand on knowledge I was gaining from my Geography A-Level and help with future applications. Instead, I got to meet incredible people and make great friends. Costa Rica has become one of my favourite places; I have fallen in love with the culture and the environment there.”

    Amelie Harper
  • Elliot working on maintaining the various trails around Barra Honda
    Elliot working on maintaining the various trails around Barra Honda

    “The wildlife and scenery around Costa Rica is just astounding. Everywhere you look you seem to find a new insect or animal you've never seen before and there's never a dull second when you're out there.”

    Elliott Leslie

If you would like to learn more about our projects in Costa Rica then please click here

If you would like to learn more about our Conservation projects and how we can tailor them to fit your group’s educational needs, please click here.

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