A group of Barstow travelers had one foot on campus and the other in a Central American cloud forest this month—a combination of the school’s commitment to global education, blended learning and innovative technology.
Music teacher Julie Byrne accompanied Oliva Laub, senior, and Zoe Brous, Lucy Hart and Kaelyn Ross, sophomores, on a cultural exchange and service learning trip to the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica, February 10–19.
“We stayed with host families and got to experience a different way of life. It was really about getting out of your comfort zone,” Byrne said.
“Everyone was so welcoming. It was amazing,” Ross said.
“At The Barstow School, we make an intentional plan to make the best use of face-to-face pedagogy as well as online and blended learning opportunities,” Head of Campus Chris English said.
He observed that plan in action as he walked through the school one day during the Costa Rica trip. 
“Julie made videos to provide substitute plans while she was away. I saw her using digital technology with our littlest of little kids to teach them movement and songs. Then I went into a fourth grade classroom, and I got to see photos that she sent of a Valentine’s exchange between our students and theirs. Again, Julie used digital technology from another location to communicate with students and add value to their lesson plan, to show them that there is an immediate and real impact to what they’ve written in class. What’s important to me there is that student work lives outside of the classroom. It has an authentic audience,” English said.
In the upper school assembly, English watched a Skype conference between the students and Gracie Coker, senior, for BTVN.
“They talked about their experience, using what was happening for them on the ground in Monteverde to communicate back to our students,” English said. “Again, it gives them that authentic audience, speaking to a group of their peers about their own learning.”
Those experiences included service and cultural exchange, but also adventures: ziplining, horseback riding and hiking the forest at night. The girls spotted sloths, snakes and tarantulas. They worked, they taught and they learned.
“They raked trails for a school fundraising race, they worked with younger students at recess and they painted a bathroom on campus,” Byrne said. “They spoke Spanish with their host families, and the families practiced their English. We toured a coffee and cacao farm, and got a good sense of the environment. The girls experienced a lot of little differences about life there. It’s neat for our students to realize there’s not just one way to do things.”
At the Cloud Forest School, Byrne observed, the approach to education is very much like Barstow’s mission to develop mind, body and character.
“They seek people from different cultures and countries, they’re very open to new ways of teaching and learning,” she said.
English hopes that bringing those cultural and classroom lessons back to Barstow—in person and via technology—inspires students to consider global education.
“It gives our students a little bit of inspiration, to think, ‘Hey look at this cool experience and opportunity that The Barstow School provides. Maybe I can take advantage and be part of something like that in the future.’”

The Barstow School

11511 State Line Road • Kansas City, MO 64114
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