Seeds of Change Costa Rica Science Research Experience

Minnetonka Community Center Council Chambers

14600 Minnetonka Blvd
Minnetonka, MN 55345

Changing the landscape of secondary science education

Here is a brief article about a recent trip: "Bugging out in Costa Rica," by Amber Kispert-Smith in Woodbury Bulletin, 2014-Aug-20.

Potential tropical rainforest research experience for homeschool high school students. Trip dates still TBD, but may be early January, early March, or late May.

Costa Rica Rainforest Research Experience for High School Science Students brought to you by Seeds of Change, Inc., a Minnesota nonprofit corporation devoted to helping change the landscape of secondary education, in partnership with the Currie Lab at the University of Wisconsin. This project has been underway for the past 5 years and at this point has been offered to high schools in the western suburbs of Minneapolis (Wayzata, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Cooper, Chaska/Chanhassen, Visitation, etc.). Seeds of Change is interested in offering this opportunity to homeschool high school students in the coming summer.

This project inserts Minnesota High School students into real world tropical rainforest research in the Costa Rica Rincon Rainforest. This trip is an experience that typically happens post-grad. It is extremely effective in promoting bioscience learning, for those thinking of a medical career or bioengineering or research or environmental science and for focusing students who do not yet made a career choice.

This is a 10-day trip with 16 students and 2 teachers into the Rincon Rainforest of north central Costa Rica where the students work with scientists on the leaf cutter ants that utilize an antibiotic more effective than anything our pharmaceutical industry can produce. The experience costs $3400 per student, which covers virtually everything except a lab notebook and insect repellent. This experience lends itself to homeschooled high school students who will not only accumulate knowledge beyond high school years but who may utilize reference letters from world famous scientists in their career pursuits.

The purpose of this project is to infuse more students into science careers.

Target grade level: the program is for high school students plus two adult chaperones

Cost per child/student: the cost of the trip is $3450, which may vary depending on airfare costs. SoC has fundraising programs to help students fund their trip.

For more information, contact: inews [at] pressenter [dot] com

A life-changing experience for high school science students!

  • Tropical Biology
  • Rainforest Ecosystems
  • Environmental Science
  • Field Research Experience
  • Cross-Cultural Component
  • Embedded Service Projects

Unique Program For High School Science Students

This Seeds of Change (SoC) science program immerses students in tropical field research in the rain forests and cloud forests of northern Costa Rica. Students will experience the thrill of scientific discovery and the rich biodiversity and culture of this remote spot on our planet.

This program is affiliated with the Leaf Cutter ant research being done by Dr. Cameron Currie, a world famous tropical researcher at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Dr. Adrian Pinto of the University of Costa Rica. Dr. Pinto is a former student of Dr. Currie who now heads the Research Center for Microscopic Structures at the University of Costa Rica.

Students will work in the field researching Leaf Cutter ants under the guidance and direction of Dr. Pinto and his and Dr. Currie’s graduate students. Student groups will be divided into research teams to develop their own projects, protocols and goals. Students will employ the scientific method, creative thinking and collaborate with their peers to complete their experiments. They must learn to cope with the challenges of working in a remote, primitive environment where resources are scarce. At the conclusion of their experiments, students present their results just as scientists do in the real world.

Leaf Cutter ants are known as the ultimate super organism achieving unbelievable accomplishments beyond the human race. They produce antibiotics to protect their colony that remain effective for 50 million years. Our pharmaceutical industry antibiotics remain effective for only three to five generations before pathogens evolve around them and they become ineffective. These ants have proven to be unusually rich in topics fueling new research initiatives ranging from new drug compounds to biofuels.

The research station is located deep in the Rincon Rainforest of northwestern Costa Rica. This is an area of unparalleled biodiversity with almost unlimited possibilities for scientific discovery.

During each day of the 10-day trip, there will be time devoted to research and time allocated to off-site adventures – be it a zip line through the canopy, a hike to a remote waterfall on the slopes of the Rincon volcano, or a service project to help local people.

Trip cost and details

Trip Cost: $3450/student includes airfares, lodging, food, transportation, off-site adventures, airport taxes, and research equipment used and consumed by the students. Trip cost may vary depending on airfare costs.

Spending money is not included, but there are limited recreational shopping opportunities at these remote sites.

SoC has fundraising programs to help students fund their trip. Payments will be due on milestone dates and spread out so funds may be achieved throughout the school year. Smaller payments are due at the beginning of the year, with the higher payments due later in the year when the results of fundraising can be realized.

Each student will be provided with a list of travel items required such as: clothing, insect repellent, toiletries, backpacks, rain gear, footwear, etc.

The first eight days are spent at the research site in tropical rainforest and cloud forest environments.

During the last two days, students will move and experience new adventures in a new micro-climate at a Nicoya Peninsula research station in a dry forest, Pacific Beach environment. The adventures might include a "Jane Goodall" experience living with monkeys and learning the skills of science observation, or it might be an introduction to a Pacific Rim turtle project underway by Drexel University scientists. Here, students might locate, tag, and document incoming nesting turtles in a 7 p.m.-3 a.m. beach patrol. These two days are meant to expose students to a new tropical climate tailored to the zoology aspect of bioscience.

This remote environment has only periodic internet connections. Parents and friends will follow their students adventures through a daily internet blog. There will be no telephone, email, or cell phone contact. However, emergency contact procedures will be communicated.

Why is Seeds of Change doing this for high school students?

The U.S. is falling catastrophically behind in science and math. Students in the U.S. are not choosing careers in science. Half of American Ph.D. degrees are awarded to foreign nationals. Only 4% of the U.S. workforce are scientists or engineers, but that 4% creates the jobs for the other 96%.

We can increase the number of high school graduates focusing on a career in science by providing young students exciting learning experiences that allow them to realize their incredible capacity for creativity. High school is the time to influence students in their career choices and expose them to the thrill of making new discoveries. High school is the time frame when students should gain real world experiences away from classroom learning so they can make informed, long-term career decisions.

This unique immersion of high school level students into real world field research environments is traditionally reserved for graduate level university students. Seeds of Change's goal is to accelerate bioscience learning beyond what is possible in the high school classroom and introduce these students to the level of critical thinking, collaboration and creativity that will give them a unique skill set in a competitive world.

The field of bioscience is poised to create an explosion of high paying jobs for our students, but only if they are trained and motivated to react to this opportunity.

What does this research program do for our students?

  • Research involves collaborative critical thinking with peers. This builds self-confidence and prepares students for the challenge and rigor of university study. Capabilities in critical thinking, creative problem solving and communication poise students for long-term success in academics and careers.
  • According to the College Board, 58% of university students take six years to obtain their undergraduate degree. Students entering a university without an academic focus contributes to this problem. More than half of our program participants enter universities with a career path in science.
  • College education costs are daunting. This experience can help students obtain laboratory jobs during their university years.
  • Students learn that research involves embracing failure and capitalizing on what was learned to advance to a higher level of understanding.

Students undertake a service project to help uplift the lives of the poor subsistence level families living in this remote area.


Information subject to change. Please check with Seeds of Change Costa Rica Science Research Experience for the most current information. Last updated on Sat, Sep 20, 2014.