Pitzer in Costa Rica Academics
Culture, Environment and Ecology Track (CEE)

NEW - FALL 2013 - Tropical Marine Biology

Location

Costa Rica

Students spend the first month in San José studying at the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS), then move four hours southwest of San José and two kilometers from the Pacific Ocean to land Pitzer College owns in the tropical rainforest. The  150-acre reserve, known as the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, is home to pre-Columbian petroglyphs, a harvestable bamboo forest, a riparian zone with waterfalls and streams, secondary growth forest in former pasture, intentionally replanted hardwood forest, original rainforest, a four-pond water catchment system, a seedling nursery, and an Ecology Center with science and classroom facilities. With adjacent Hacienda Barú, a wildlife refuge of 800 acres to the west; the ecologically significant Osa Peninsula to the south; and Manuel Antonio National Park to the north, students have ready access to a variety of tropical ecosystems and rich biodiversity. For pictures of the Firestone Center, click here.

To learn more about the Firestone Center, read the 2013 Report.

Courses

Intensive Spanish
This 80-hour course in intermediate or advanced Spanish is taught in San José at the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS), where students will stay for the first month of the program. As part of an integrated approach to the teaching of language and culture, students will also participate in a homestay with a Costa Rican family, receive lectures on Costa Rican culture, and take study trips in San José.

Core Course - Costa Rican Studies
During the first five weeks of the program, students will participate in the first half of the Pitzer Core Course: a seminar offered through ICADS entitled Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development. The course includes lectures, study trips in and around San José, discussion sessions, a variety of oral, interactive and written assignments and a longer study trip to Nicaragua.

The second half of the Pitzer Core Course focuses on developing oral proficiency in Spanish while deepening students’ understanding of Costa Rican culture. This half of the core course facilitates students’ integration into surrounding communities through ongoing interviews and ethnographic work with local host families and community organizations. Students also complete a series of field book exercises designed to help students integrate personal experience with readings and lectures, as they reflect upon important issues and critically examine aspects of their own culture learning process. Finally, this half of the core course provides support for both conducting the Directed Independent Study project (DISP) research in Spanish as well as writing up the final project report and conducting an oral presentation to fellow students, program staff and local community. (1 Course Credit = 4 Semester Units)

Tropical Restoration Ecology
Using the Firestone Center as a biological field station, the course provides a field-intensive exploration of the terrestrial and marine ecology of the neotropical region, with an emphasis on Costa Rica and tropical restoration ecology. The course covers physical geography, biodiversity theory, and practical methods of data collection and analysis. Field and laboratory work focuses on the terrestrial, estuarine and marine ecosystems of southwestern Costa Rica, with additional visits to contrasting ecosystems. Special emphasis is given to the theory of restoration and its practice on the property of the Firestone Center. The course is taught on site by faculty from the Joint Science Department of The Claremont Colleges and a Costa Rican specialist in restoration of the biological corridor of the Path of the Tapir. This course satisfies the natural science graduation requirement at Pitzer College.

Environment, People and Restoration
Taught on site by faculty of The Claremont Colleges along with guest lectures from local experts, this course is designed to explore special topics in relation to the rich cultural and ecological resources available at the Firestone Center, its neighboring communities, and local protected areas. Topics change from year to year but may include conservation policy and governance, agroecology, and protected areas. Each course segment is taught as an intensive seminar that combines theoretical considerations, case studies, methodologies, and fieldwork.

Directed Independent Study Project
Students may focus on one aspect of human or tropical restoration ecology to study in greater depth through an independent research project or internship. Students may also participate in one of the longitudinal research projects set up by scholars from the US and Costa Rica that contribute to the biological baseline assessment for the property. Some topics may have prerequisites. All projects require a final written report with a significant analytical component as well as other appropriate documentation of learning.

 

Courses: Culture, Environment, and Ecology Track
Course Credits
Course Units
Intensive Spanish
1.0
4
Core Course - Costa Rican Studies
1.0
4
Tropical Restoration Ecology
1.0
4
Environment, People, and Restoration
1.0
4
Directed Independent Study Project
1.0
4
TOTALS
5.0
20
Prerequisites
One semester of Spanish language or its equivalent is strongly recommended.
Eligibility
Students must be in good academic standing.
Program Dates
Fall: End of August to mid-December
Spring: End of January to mid-May
Homestay
Students live with families for the entire program except on study trips.