Elm Street School kids receive Costa Rican experience

Students from Elm Street and River Heights schools were given an Indigenous cultural experience on Tuesday by a group of Medicine Hat College forth-year education students who recently returned from an Indigenous studies trip to Costa Rica.

Guest speakers from Costa Rica joined the event by Zoom, and following the presentations, students were able to engage in various cultural activities at several ‘stations’.

Matthew Wass and Tanisha Preston from MHC started off the presentation. Preston talked about uses of a Metis sash and had all the students stand up to do a jig. Wass talked about some of the photos taken on the trip. The first was of a carving Wass made from a Jicrao fruit, followed by a few showing chocolate making over an outdoor fire.

Two guests from Costa Rica joined in for a question-and-answer period. Interesting facts emerged about the Central American nation, such as its eight Indigenous peoples, separated into 24 communities, or that Costa Rica supplies 40 per cent of the world’s pineapple but its top export is medical instruments.

A typical dish is Casado, which means married man, and is called this because, historically, when men would go to work the married men’s food tended to be more varied compared to those who were single. Casado has rice, beans, salad, fried plantains, chopped vegetables and meat.

Another question was about landforms and this turned into a discussion on the country’s six active volcanos. None produce lava, only gases and ash. Infrequently there will be an ash day, as compared to a snow day here. One student asked if they were able to make ‘ashmen’ from it, which isn’t possible as it easily disintegrates when touched and is harmful to breathe in.

To a question about schools, the kids found out there were more than 8,000 educational centres in the country. Many are small, one-room rural schools. Education is free and mandatory in Costa Rica, resulting in the highest literacy rate (98 per cent) of Central America. A school will be established once there are four or more children of school age (four to 18) in an area.

The only question from a Kindergarten student was about animals in the country. One of the guests told the kids about a sloth which had wandered into downtown San Jose, the nation’s capital, leading to a discussion about the difference between a two- and three-toed sloth.

Even after the last question was answered and it was time to move on to the cultural experience stations, lots of the kids still had their hands in the air.

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News