San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica summer camp big on environment

From the print edition

Summer camp is an all-American experience that can define a childhood. Lake swimming, camping, hiking, cooking over a fire and craft-making often fill a few weeks of summer break. This isn’t a common Costa Rican pastime, but an adventure traveling company is giving young Ticos a taste.

Adventures Under the Sun hosts two camp sessions each summer on the grounds of the University for Peace. This campus is located 30 kilometers southwest of San José, within a nature preserve. For five days, kids play outdoor games, sing songs, take fieldtrips and make friends. Each camp has a theme on which the activities are based, and this July’s theme was “Earth Friendliness: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”

“We wanted to bring the camp experience to Costa Rica,” said Amie Parson, camp director. “My two kids are here for their first camp experiences, and it’s a time for them to learn and grow.”

The Tico Times caught up with the campers on one of their outings to tour the Bridgestone tire factory. At the factory, the kids learned about how tires are made, as well as Bridgestone’s extensive efforts toward environmental responsibility. 

“Who can tell me what the environment is?” asked Sylvia Alfaro, Bridgestone environment education manager.

Hands shot up all around the room. “Flowers!” “Trees!” “Horses!” “Where we live!” 

“That’s right!” Alfaro said. “Bridgestone wants to help take care of where we live.”

She talked briefly to the kids about how discarded tires and leftover material are recycled, and how tires can be used to build playgrounds. As soon as the lecture was over, Bridgestone employees started outfitting the campers with earplugs for the factory tour.

Plugging up the small ears was Jake Grech, 17, a camp counselor.

“Basically, I’m in charge of making sure the kids have fun,” he said. “This camp is cool because we are learning about the environment and how to better take care of it.” 

He said the kids can get a little out of control when they’re excited, but it’s a fun summer job.

Other camp activities have included relay racing to sort materials, building musical instruments with garbage, making trash art and planting trees. Adventures Under the Sun also offers the staple camp games, like scavenger hunts, tie-dying T-shirts and sing-alongs. The camp concludes with a day on the beach at surf camp.

This year, the kids have gotten really into Jack Johnson’s “Reduce, reuse and recycle,” said camp administrator Melida Barbee. “Camp is all about creating values in an experience outside and with other kids,” she said. “It puts kids out of their comfort zones, where they can really learn.”

As Niklas Polanco, 8, was getting fitted with ear plugs, he said he is enjoying his first camp experience because he and his brother have new friends. Also, capture-the-flag is really fun, he said, even though his team lost. When asked why it’s important to learn about the environment, Polanco had a ready answer. 

“So we can save the world,” he said. “It’s our job now.”

For more information about next year’s camps, visit

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