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Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies (SFS)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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This School for Fields Studies (SFS) program enables you to spend a semester in Costa Rica, home to rainforests, volcanoes, rushing waterfalls, and a laid-back culture that reflects the national motto: “Pura Vida.” Explore the country’s many diverse parks, farms, and reserves to learn how Costa Ricans have balanced conservation and development issues. Wrap up the semester in the field, collecting data for a research project that will help inform future sustainability efforts.

  • Explore the cloud forests of Monteverde, home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity, to study hummingbird ecology and sustainable land management
  • Take an expedition to Panama: Explore Panama City and the canal before heading to the cloud forests and coffee plantations of the Chiriqui Highlands
  • Tour a local coffee farm and a sustainable permaculture homestead to learn how Costa Ricans have successfully combined agriculture and conservation

This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Costa Rica.

Major academic themes include:

  • Agroforestry and permaculture
  • Climate change and tropical ecosystems
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Sustainable ecotourism
  • Hummingbird ecology and behavior
  • Urban ecology
  • National park management

On the Sustainable Development Studies program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.

You will practice valuable skills in the field which may include: GIS use and applications, habitat and biodiversity assessment, research design and implementation, forest soundscape techniques, songbird mist-netting, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, tourism impact assessment methods, research presentation, and Spanish language skills.

The Center is an active organic farm overlooking the vibrant Central Valley, where green is the predominant color as far as the eye can see. Dorms and classrooms intermingle with orchards and gardens, while Center dog Hera keeps watch over it all. The friendly town of Atenas is a 10-minute cab ride away, offering restaurants, shops, parks, and cultural events.

  • Dorm living with 4-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom, library, computer lab, and laundry next to dorms
  • Porch with hammocks and chairs for lounging
  • Dining hall with scenic valley views, on-site cooking staff
  • Farm with chickens, pigs, greenhouse, and gardens
  • Swimming pool, soccer field, and outdoor pizza oven

Learn more about the SFS Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies program.

Credits: 4.5 Knox credits for successful completion of the fall or spring semester.

Advisor: Professor Katherine Adelsberger

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Wednesday, June 29, 2022