Christie Pickeral Expands Service Learning Opportunities and Brings Literacy to Mountain Village
This spring, Christie Pickeral, professor of English as a second language, headed south to Central America and the Caribbean as part of her sabbatical.
She started out in Costa Rica where she spent a month exploring service learning opportunities that students might be able to benefit from in the coming years. While she was there, she connected with three organizations focused on providing environmental services.
Watch a video recap of Christie’s Trip to Costa Rica
Through the first organization, United Planet, she volunteered for one week in a biological center. “I worked in the butterfly garden collecting eggs, releasing caterpillars, and feeding butterflies,” Christie said. She even got her hands dirty by clearing trails, doing weeding, and helping maintain a sensorial garden – efforts that were duly rewarded with a kiss from a butterfly.
Partnering with Proyecto Asis, a small non-profit organization that works with the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals, Christie cared for the animals by cleaning their enclosures and making the daily feeding rounds. While she was there, she interacted with several species, ranging from spider monkeys to iguanas.
“I learned so much about animal care, animal conservation, and our role as citizens to protect these animals,” she said.
The last organization Christie partnered with was Earthwatch, where she worked with the Leatherback Trust to research Leatherback sea turtles. Here, she was exposed to the plight of these turtles and the extensive efforts taken to ensure their existence.
Her duties involved night patrols to count eggs and identify turtles, excavating hatched nests to determine success, releasing rescued hatchlings, and guarding hatcheries from predators.
On the next leg of her trip, Christie spent February, March and April traveling back and forth from Orlando to a remote mountain village in the Dominican Republic. Her goal was to set up a library at the village middle school and to host family literacy workshops for parents.
Watch a video recap of Christie’s Trip to the Dominican Republic
“Setting up the library was comprised of shelving books, training students and teachers, and monitoring the library usage in order to make improvements,” Christie explained. “The family literacy program entailed hosting workshops for the parents to model critical thinking and comprehension techniques that can be used when reading with their families.”
Citing the trip as successful, Christie reports that the library is up and running and being used by students and teachers, and that more families are reading together as a result of the family literacy program.
For the last five years, Christie has led study abroad trips to this same village so students can share in the joy of educational service in “such a wonderful community.” She now looks forward to potentially being able to take students to Costa Rica to experience the wonders of environmental service.
Read about other sabbatical experiences: