A student science exchange program has been developed over the past several years between Estes Park and our Sister City Monteverde, Costa Rica. A primary focus of the exchange is on the relationship between Rocky Mountain National Park and our sister park the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve.
Through this exchange, high school students from Estes Park spend 10 days in the Cloud Forest and take on the role of citizen scientists while conducting a variety of research protocols. Following their return, a student group from Costa Rica spend 10 days in Rocky Mountain National Park conducting research specific to our area. The goal of our exchange program is for students to learn about vastly different environments while noticing subtle similarities and gaining a “big picture” perspective to identify environmental issues.
Upon first inspection Rocky Mountain National Park and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve seem to be polar opposites however the two share many similarities. The two areas share a total of over 150 migratory bird species as well as several mammal species and the Continental Divide, providing great learning opportunities though comparative studies.
The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve was created thanks to the determination of the Monteverde community to share the benefits of eco-tourism and use them as a learning tool. Entrance fees to the park are used for the protection and management of the Reserve and to promote a better quality of education in the high school and primary schools of the area. This is one of the first reserves in Costa Rica to be administered by a community directly for their benefit.
While the primary focus of the exchange is science, the cultural aspect plays a key role. During their time in Costa Rica, students get to experience the warm hospitality of the local Costa Rican people through dinners in the homes of locals as well as spending time in the field with the students
of the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve School.