Experiential Education leads to Healthier, More Sustainable Planet

As many of us learn throughout our lives, it is one thing to understand a concept, and quite another to experience that concept with a level of depth that it alters who you are and how you live.

This is precisely why I do what I do, as I know first-hand how eco-immersion plays a significant role in moving us in the direction of a healthier, more sustainable planet.  You can read article after article about commercial agriculture and how it is detrimental to the earth and your health, but until you are face to face with that pesticide plane, drenching people, playgrounds, rivers, and what used to be one of the most biodiverse rainforests on the planet with extremely toxic chemicals, you’re probably still going to buy those non-organic bananas at the store week after week.

Primary forest on southern Caribbean coast

Primary forest on the southern Caribbean coast. Most of this zone is now covered in miles of banana plantations.

Ripening rack of organic bananas at Finca Don Juan

Ripening rack of organic bananas at Finca Don Juan, on of our Costa Rican collaborators.

In my family, we eat only organically-grown foods, most of which we grow ourselves or buy from local farmers so that we feel confident they do not contain toxins that will detrimentally affect our health and that of our local watershed and soils.  Many people wonder why we choose to go through this extra effort, or choose not to eat bananas unless we are growing them ourselves, or even how we can afford it on a small family income.  The answer is easy—we can’t afford not to.  In my years of traveling and guiding eco-tours, I have seen enough farms and met enough farmers to understand the true costs of commercial agriculture, and the very real, positive and accessible alternatives that are being implemented around the world. Many of the foods we eat and products we use in our daily lives are imported from other countries.  In order for things to be grown or created on a large enough scale to justify export and still sell for a desirable price, there are typically compromises that most of us would not support… if we knew any better.

Harvesting a rack of bananas

Harvesting a rack of bananas with my 6-month-old in Costa Rica

You see, it’s not a choice.  It’s the truth we live, based on our experiences.  If I didn’t change my actions after driving adjacent the plantations during pesticide applications and having my throat nearly close up, or after making friends with banana plantation workers and learning personally about their severe health issues, I would be lying to myself.

Papi, banana plantation worker turn organic farmer

My friend Papi, who became sterile after years of working on the banana plantations– he then became of the best organic farmers I have ever known.



Learning some of the world’s realities may seem hard initially, as who wants face these things and the feelings they provoke within us?   But we must challenge ourselves to see the larger picture:  Experiential education is an opportunity to make the world a better place.  It’s a win-win, as living a life in line with your knowledge and ideals provides fulfillment far beyond what can be found elsewhere.  Believing in your actions to the core of your being is empowering, and there’s no better way to do that than to experience it with your own eyes, your own hands, your own heart.

Seelye Family organic cheese & jams

Organic cheeses and jams made by our Costa Rican collaborators, the Seelye Family.

Petronila makes chocolate, one of our collaborators

Petronila shows us the traditional way of making chocolate (organic, of course). Another amazing collaborator of ours in Costa Rica.

Don Juan, organic farmer, one of our collaborators

Don Juan’s incredible 2 acre organic farm. This ex-schoolteacher now invests all of his time and energy into teaching locals and foreigners alike how easy it is to grow an abundance of healthy food in a small area.

Healthy Chickens on Seelye Family Farm

Healthy chickens on the Seelye Family Farm. They also have cows, horses, trout, and are the protectorates of a vast cloud forest preserve.

One by one our world becomes smaller, our hearts become bigger, and our actions more intentional.  The future is bright!


One thought on “Experiential Education leads to Healthier, More Sustainable Planet

  1. Thanks for writing, Gretchen and thanks for reposting, Kelly. I ditto the idea that experience alters our perceptions so that our truths, upon which we base our daily lives, are deeply felt and acted upon. Traveling to Costa Rica with Gretchen certainly altered my perceptions and changed my life, I like to think for the better:) And thanks for the glorious pictures, a special reminder…

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