Cover Photo Image


Matapalo , San Jose, Costa Rica

Program Description

This four-week trip will begin with an intensive immersion in the Escuela Primero Juan Bautista (Juan Bautista Primary School,) serving grades K-5 in Matopalo, Costa Rica.

Each student will be paired with a cooperating teacher they will work with for the duration of the trip. Depending upon their level of Spanish fluency, students will engage as observers, tutors, or co-teachers for the full academic day. During this time, students will also meet face-face as a class twice a week.

The second and third weeks of the trip coincide with a two-week national holiday, allowing students and their host families to spend time engaged in community service activities, short excursions, and other cultural immersion experiences. During this time, students will also begin work on their place-based education projects and Visual Reflection Digital Stories, and travel as a group to Quepos, Costa Rica to visit Manuel Antonio National Park. In Quepos, students will spend a day immersed in the bio-diversity, and global cosmopolitanism of a Costa Rican World Heritage site.

During the second and third week of the trip students will collaborate with community members to support community service projects such as a beach clean-up project, protecting local sea turtle habitats, refurbishing school grounds and refinishing desks that need mending after two years of inaction during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The final week of the trip, students will return to their school placements and face-to-face class sessions in Matapalo.

Location Description

After a brief stay in San Josè, Costa Rica's capitol city, the remainder of this four-week immersive experience will occur in Matapalo, Costa Rica. Matapalo is a small community situated on the extreme southwest corner of Costa Rica on the Pacific coast. Matapalo has a thriving fishing industry. The community is situated around multiple nationally-protected rainforests, natural beaches, and cultural attractions.


Donica Hadley | | Early, Elementary, and Reading Education


Students will be placed in pairs who will live with host-families for the duration of their stay in Costa Rica. Host families will speak Spanish as their first language, though some host families are bilingual or multilingual. Housing accommodations are centrally located and public transportation is easily accessible to and from the school, the director's apartment, and the city of Matapalo.

During the time we spend in Matapalo, students' breakfast and dinner will be provided by host families. On school days, lunch will be provided at school. Weekly meal stipends will be provided for students to cover any meals that may occur outside of time with host families or the school day.

Additional Items to Consider

Though knowledge of Spanish is not required, it is suggested that students work on conversational basics prior to the trip.

All students must provide proof of current COVID-19 vaccinations to enter Costa Rica.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

Some Spanish is helpful, but not required.

Students are required to have finished their first year at JMU in good academic standing.

Students must be an accepted College of Education major to participate.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short essay
  • Interview with Director may be required 

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 


Space Available. Apply Now for Priority!

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


EDUC 490: Critical Approaches to Place-Based Education in Costa Rica (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


Back to Top