Spanish Learning Scenario:
Conserva bien la ecologia de Costa Rica

Author: Renée Wooten
Level: Novice/Intermediate

Students perform the following activities to explore the importance of environmental conservation in Costa Rica. As a final product, student groups develop a slogan and a poster to promote awareness of the continued need for preservation of the country.

ACTIVITY SET 1: La lluvia, el clima, y la temperatura
In this activity, students examine the average yearly rainfall, climates, and temperatures associated with the various regions of Costa Rica. To begin, students are divided into one of seven regional groups used throughout the unit. Regions include: Northwestern Costa Rica, Northern Lowlands, Central Valley, Central Pacific Coast, Península de Nicoya, Caribbean Lowlands, and Southern Costa Rica. The students use library and Internet resources to research the topics and to create a chart or graph that demonstrates their findings. Afterwards, groups share their information with the class using learned words and phrases that relate to weather.

ACTIVITY SET 2: Los animales de la selva
In the previous activity, students became familiar with the variety of landscapes of Costa Rica, including the tropical rain forest. In this activity, the students focus their attention on the diversity of animals to be found in the rain forests. Again using available resources, each student chooses a different animal found in the forests to use in a presentation to the class. Students draw, paint, or otherwise creatively fashion the animal to be presented to the class and write a paragraph describing the animal and its habitat in the “first person,” e.g., Soy muy grande; Soy gris; Tengo una trompa. Books from art supply stores such as Animales de la selva (see Resources) teach students to draw animals in the tropical rain forest step by step. Additionally, the instructions are written in Spanish using familiar commands. Before the animals are displayed, students read their descriptions, and classmates try to guess what the animal is based on the oral description. Once the presentations are complete, the animals are displayed around the classroom.

ACTIVITY SET 3: Los volcanes
To begin, students gather information on the types of volcanoes found in Costa Rica, where they are located, which are active and which are dormant, and what causes a volcano to erupt. Groups share the information they have found using a graphic organizer such as a word web. Afterwards, they make their volcanoes by molding papier-maché around open-ended cylinders in the shape of a volcano. These are left to dry in trays so as not to stick to anything. Once the volcanoes are completely dry, students place a heaping tablespoon of baking soda in the bottom of the cylinder, a couple of drops of food coloring, and some dishwashing liquid. To create a volcanic eruption, add two tablespoons of vinegar to mixture in the bottom of the volcano. This is a fun activity and an opportunity to teach novice-level learners authentic exclamatory expressions that use “Qué” (¡Qué calor!, ¡Qué impresionante!, ¡Qué fantástico!, etc.).

ACTIVITY SET 4: La agricultura de Costa Rica
To complete this activity, the student groups work with their assigned area of Costa Rica chosen in Activity Set 1. Each group researches what agricultural products come from its region, and learns the importance of these products to the people of Costa Rica. Of special interest are the various tropical fruits and plants that are not found in the United States. Afterwards, each group prepares a menu using the agricultural products it discovered from the region. If desired, each group brings a product sample to be shared during a typical tico, a Costa Rican meal.

ACTIVITY SET 5: La conservación de los ríos
Costa Rica boasts many beautiful rivers that are important to the people as well as the ecosystem of the country. Students continue to research their region and look for the rivers that can be found there, drawing a map of the region that highlights them. These are hung around the classroom. Next, student groups brainstorm the common causes of contamination to the rivers around the world, including those of their own area. A list of causes and suggestions for improving water quality is created. Students prioritize their five favorite suggestions and categorize those ideas, e.g., most easily corrected to the most difficult, most common to the least common, etc. Afterwards, groups share their suggestions with the class.

ACTIVITY SET 6: La ecología empieza en casa
Throughout the activities, students should have developed an understanding of and appreciation for the various natural resources available to Costa Rica. Point out that even though there seems to be an abundance of riches, in fact there are problems maintaining the fragile ecosystem of the country. There are many endangered species, both animal and plant. In addition, foreign development of the once pristine beaches and forests threatens to interfere with the wildlife of the country. Since about one third of the population of Costa Rica resides in and around the area of the capital city, San José, such factors as growth and car exhaust endanger the surrounding rain forests. Students try to think of any areas in the United States that might share the environmental concerns of Costa Rica. In their groups, students list factors they believe might be applicable to a large city in the United States and/or compare Costa Rica’s problems to their own city. As a class, students brainstorm ways that they could eliminate each problem. For example, if they feel that air pollution is a problem, they might conclude that riding bicycles instead of driving cars would reduce the amount of pollution to the air. Ask them to share these with the class. They can be used to complete the final project in which they create a slogan and poster to promote awareness of the continued need for the preservation of the national resources of Costa Rica.

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Targeted Standards

  • Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretative, & Presentational Modes
  • Cultures: Practices & Perspectives, Products & Perspectives
  • Connections: Access to Information, Other Subject Areas
  • Comparisons: Concept of Culture
  • Communities: Personal Enrichment & Career Development

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  • Computer with Internet access
  • Library books, encyclopedias, etc
  • Creative art supplies for creating rain forest animals
  • Supplies for making papier-maché volcanos: newspaper, water, flour, baking soda, vinegar, food coloring, dish washing liquid, open-ended cylinder to form the volcano

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Reflections on How the Standards Are Met


Communication: The interpersonal mode is used in group work. The interpretive mode is used in the reading/viewing of authentic texts and in Internet research. The presentational mode may be used in many of the activities and in the final product where student groups share their slogans and posters.

: Students learn about the practices (conservation), products (animals, agriculture) and perspectives (environmental concerns) of Costa Rica.

: Students use a variety of resources including Internet technology to access information for their research. They connect to other disciplines including science, the fine arts, agriculture, and math.

: Students compare the cultural perspectives regarding conservation through observations of those in the United States and in Costa Rica.

: Students show evidence of becoming lifelong learners as they continue to develop ideas about the importance of conservation throughout the world.

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Expansion Ideas

  • Short texts in Spanish on Costa Rica and conservation as well as newspaper articles are used to improve reading skills. In addition, students can practice summarizing in Spanish.
  • Students create a historical timeline demonstrating important decisions that were made concerning conservation in Costa Rica.
  • Intermediate or advanced-level students use advanced weather expressions to create a forecast in Spanish. They make comparisons between the regions of Costa Rica and the United States.
  • Intermediate- or advanced-level students create a mini-play or puppet show using their animals. Material concerned with endangered species among the animals is introduced, and students discuss how to protect these animals.
  • As an extension of the river conservation activity, intermediate- or advanced-level students draft sample letters to imaginary or real public officials to request that these concerns be addressed.
  • Intermediate- or advanced-level students can create an entire campaign regarding the importance of environmental conservation and demonstrate these in the school or throughout the community. Students prepare a debate on the advantages and disadvantages of some of their solutions.
  • If available, an expert on environmental conservation is invited to the classroom to speak with the students. Students prepare questions in Spanish. (If the speaker does not speak Spanish, intermediate- or advanced-level students can write summaries of the answers in Spanish.)
  • As an intermediate or advanced extension, students use expressions that are followed by the subjunctive to express their opinion (e.g., Es importante que…, Es mejor que…, Es una lástima que… )
  • Students write final paragraphs stating what they have learned about conservation. Intermediate- and advanced-level students write a 3-paragraph essay.
  • To practice commands, intermediate- or advanced-level students create conservation “laws.” Commands are also practiced when preparing the recipe for erupting the volcano.
  • Prepare an interdisciplinary unit with the science department.

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Banks, K. (1999). El pájaro, el mono y la serpiente en la selva [Original English title: The bird, the monkey, and the snake in the jungle]. New York: Straus & Giroux, LLC.

Carrera-Hanley, T., Valette, J.-P., & Valette, R.(1998). Ventanas uno: Lecturas fáciles. IL: McDougal Littell and Co.
This book contains a short reading on a related topic: “La ecología empieza en casa.”

Dubosque, D. (1994). Animales de la selva [Original English title: Draw rainforest animals]. Korea: Peel Productions.

Dunlop, F. (1999). Fodor’s exploring Costa Rica. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications.

High, J. (1993). Second language learning through cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Cooperative Learning.

Schmitt, Conrad, & Wood, P.E. (2000). Nosotros y nuestro mundo: Spanish for Spanish speakers [levels 1 and 2]. New York: Glencoe/MacMillan, McGraw-Hill.

Zweifach, D.A, Surti, H.S., & Lindholm J.A. (Eds.). (2001). Let’s go: Central America. New York: St. Martin’s Press.


NOTE: These Internet resources may have changed since publication or no longer be available. Active links should be carefully screened before recommending to students.

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