In December, nine members of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Teen Program traveled to Costa Rica. In line with CMZoo’s mission to inspire people to protect wild animals and wild places, this trip helped the teens experience the impact these protected wild places can have on people – and how people can impact wild places.
“We’ve seen how our Teen Program’s international trips refuel our teens’ conservation fire,” said Stacey Graham, director of CMZoo’s EdVenture Programs. “We always talk about thinking globally and acting locally. Trips, like this one to Costa Rica, really allow them to think globally because they can visualize it, smell it and feel it. They come home understanding better how their local environmental stewardship impacts these important wild places, which now mean even more to them.”
Lindsey Mitchell, a Junior Zookeeper, has been in the CMZoo Teen Program for seven years. She and eight other teens went to Costa Rica on this most recent trip.
“This experience has influenced my life and increased my love and care for the natural world and the animals and people who live in it,” Mitchell said. “Throughout the trip, we had so many amazing opportunities to see wildlife and experience the country to its fullest.”
The teens stayed in Costa Rica for ten days, contributing to rainforest conservation and exploring the natural places and native animals of the Central American country.
“Looking back on this experience, there are a few key moments that highlighted the trip for me,” Mitchell said. “One of those was on a hanging bridge above a fast-flowing river that contained caiman, in a rainforest that had howler monkeys, macaws and even aye-ayes. It was almost surreal. We also embraced the term ‘Pura Vida!’ which translates to ‘Pure Life’ in English. Costa Ricans used that phrase a lot, and I think it helped me immerse myself in every experience.”
The teens also participated in a reforestation project, which Mitchell says was the highlight of her trip.
“We were sweaty and covered in dirt, but we were all able to say that we helped migratory birds in Costa Rica by planting trees to create a corridor for them to travel,” she said. “This trip has influenced me in many different ways. Looking back, I think I am able to look at conservation through a new lens. I have been lucky enough to see and talk to people in Costa Rica whose lives revolve around the protection of animals and the environment. Now I can share my experience and the love for the natural world that was projected on me during my time there. The trip was a life-changing experience for me and all of the other teens on the trip. Pura Vida!”
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Teen Program is accepting applications for their summer program, beginning February 1. More information and applications are available at cmzoo.org/teenprograms.