Here at Planet Conservation, we started the week off with an excursion to Bribri, a nearby indigenous reserve. We decided to do another take on environmental education with the kids by doing a medicinal plant and cacao tour in Bribri, all in hopes of emphasizing the importance of conserving the plant species we’d be learning about.

At the reserve, our tour guide took us through his small property showing us various medicinal plants and ways we can utilize different natural resources in our everyday lives. Some ways he demonstrated to use the natural environment were more practical than others in this day and age, but that’s not to say that they weren’t all remarkably informative (the kids seemed to find all of them fascinating!).

Turmeric, something I was already familiar with for cooking, I learned can also be used for beauty purposes like painting nails or makeup. Achiote, another plant used for its intense and staining color, can also be used as lipstick and face paint. I can attest to their staining strength in after having been used for a natural make-up demonstration; my lips were stained bright red and my eyebrows were yellow the rest of the day (not sure that those would be my preferential colors in the future, ha!). Other than natural beautifying purposes, they both can be used for dying cloth or rope, which the indigenous still do to this day.

We also learned how to strip big leaves for their strong, natural string; which can be used for weaving, rope, or making hammocks that are so common here in Costa Rica. The guide also pointed out to us the natural sources for cinnamon and nutmeg, which our noses could not get enough of! The shells for the nutmeg could also be used to make charms for necklaces, which our tour guide created a dolphin out of and later gifted it to one of the kids.

The rest of the tour was filled with other interesting activities such as trying out our hand at shooting one of their handmade (and extremely large) bow and arrows, spotting poisonous frogs, trying to make animal noises with folded leaves (We weren’t so successful!) and blowing horn sounds with the conch shell (Not so successful either!).

But I think the most favored part of the tour, was the part where we learned how to make chocolate from raw cacao. The group was taken through the whole process; spotting the tree that produces cacao, seeing how the cacao beans are dried, roasted, and ground, then melted into a pot. Which, in the end, we were all delighted to be able to drink our raw cacao product from our handmade cups in the hut of the indigenous.

By the end of the excursion, it was easy to see that the trip was a hit among the kids, that they all really enjoyed learning about the ways and customs of the Bribri. The tour was the most perfect way to combine environmental education and fun, the way that we think learning should always be!

Also, big thanks and great appreciation to Le Cameleon Hotel here in Puerto Viejo, for donating lunch for the day. We wouldn’t be able to achieve the things we do without donors like them!

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