Grades 6-12; Boarding 8-12


Puerto Rico Offers Rich, Environmentally-Focused Experiential Learning Opportunities for Pennington Students

Greetings from Puerto Rico! When we first arrived, we had some time before sunset to explore the beach, which was just a short walk from our house! We made sure to get a good night’s sleep, though, because the next day, we headed to the rainforest. 

In case you were wondering how much it rains in the rainforest, we can tell you: it's a LOT! We spent a muddy and amazing day in the rainforest learning about the island’s history, ecology, and long-term research efforts. We also met volunteers with Corredor Ecológico del Noreste and learned about the local marine environment, including the sand, sea turtles, mangroves, and more. We made sure to stay hydrated in the heat with some fresh coconut water!

The following day, the sun came out as we explored Old San Juan and paid a visit to the El Morro fortress. We had lunch (and ice cream, of course!), went shopping, and even managed to squeeze in a late afternoon trip to the beach. We scrambled over rocks, swam with the most amazing fish, sea urchins, and crabs, and played some soccer in the sand. That night, we traveled to a great indoor venue that had loads of restaurants, live music, and tons of other fun stuff. 

The next morning, we left San Juan and started our drive to the central mountains in Utuado. Our new house had the most spectacular views of the mountain and Lago Dos Bocas, and we could enjoy the view while swinging in colorful hamacas. Some of us explored a hiking trail nearby and discovered magical waterfalls hidden in the forest. Afterwards, everyone pitched in to make dinner with the groceries we picked up on our drive, and pasta and salad never tasted so good! We even made some brownies for dessert, and spent the rest of the night talking and journaling about all we have seen and experienced so far on our trip. As we all climbed into our beds, we could hear the coqui, the little frog that is the symbol of Puerto Rico, singing us to sleep.

The next day we hit the trails and hiked Cañón Blanco in Utuado with our guide Ricardo, who liked to sing to us! We had a blast exploring the mountains, discovering many waterfalls, and even taking a dip in the swimming holes. That night, after dinner, we reflected on all the things we saw and talked about different topics we each might want to explore some more after our trip.  

We left our beautiful mountain home the next day to travel to the ocean in La Parguera, a fishing village in the town of Lajas. On the way, we visited the town square in Utado for a quick bite, then scaled the mountains to Adjuntas and the Sandra Farms Coffee Plantation. The plantation was amazing, especially for the coffee lovers in our group. We learned so much about coffee growing, the history of the product and of the landscape, the economics of the industry, and more. Israel, our host, was passionate and knowledgeable and, after our tasting, he filled our arms with coffee and chocolate!

We woke up super early the next day to meet with some scientists on Isla Magueyes. Hector taught us about the coral reefs and various organisms and their environments. Then we spent time snorkeling in the ocean. We also visited a small island in the cay where we learned about mangroves and other aspects of the environment. The ocean was so beautiful, we snorkeled some more! That night, we took a boat ride to Bio Bay for some lessons on the bioluminescent dinoflagellates. We had the whole bay to ourselves, and had so much fun swimming and waving our arms around to stimulate the light. 

On our last full day together, we slept-in a bit and then spent the morning walking, swimming, and playing on the beach. We headed back out to Isla Magueyes Marine Laboratories to talk some more with the scientists and see more than 1,000 huge iguanas! We learned all about the different projects on the island, including research on bio-optical oceanography, sargassum, sea urchins, and coral reefs. 

This trip was truly the opportunity of a lifetime! We learned so much and met so many amazing people. It really helped expand our understanding of the environmental education and sustainability studies we have participated in at Pennington. Muchos gracias, Puerto Rico. We will carry this experience with us long after we have returned home to New Jersey. 


Click here to read more about Pennington’s sustainability efforts, led by Teacher of Environmental Science Margo Andrews, PhD.