Experiential Education

Experiential education is a key part of NSA's growth experiences for our students. Our signature Aventura curriculum guides students through 5 amazing week-long trips throughout Costa Rica to broaden their minds, bodies, friendships, and spirits. Our homestay program brings the Costa Rican culture front and center as students learn the "pura vida" way of life. Community service projects and Global Citizenship class help students realize how they can contribute to their local communities in a unique way. Finally, weekend recreation shows students how to have fun and take healthy risks to build strong friendships and a sense of self-confidence.


Experiential Education is an integral component of learning at New Summit Academy. Each Aventura has specific academic and therapeutic objectives, which support each student’s personal growth.

aventuras costa rica schoolWho?
All students participate in multiple Aventuras throughout their career at NSA. Staff members are chosen to participate in the expeditions based on the academic and therapeutic goals designated for each journey.

Aventuras may be integrated, recreational or academic, and may each offer a variety of personal growth, healthy risk taking and academic study opportunities.

rafting costa ricaAventuras take place during the middle and end of each quarter. Students participate in Integrated Aventuras during the fifth week of every quarter, and these are generally scheduled in February, May, August and November. Recreational and Academic Aventuras fall at the completion of each quarter, and occur in March, July, September and December.


From lowland jungles to cool mountain cloud forest, Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes and rich biodiversity create the perfect backdrop for experiential education. Aventuras travel to the far corners of this fascinating country – to national parks, wildlife reserves, indigenous communities and many other interesting places that encourage growth and learning.

By challenging students to take healthy risks by doing things they’ve never before attempted, students learn to support one another, empathize, and become a unified team to help each other through difficult times.  Students return to campus with a new-found sense of self-esteem, improved camaraderie, and a realization that they are stronger.

outdoor school costa rica

Integrated Aventuras
Students trek their way through five core Integrated Aventuras: exciting adventures that incorporate specific academic and therapeutic objectives.

  • Golfo Dulce Kayak: On a five-day sea kayak adventure through the Golfo Dulce, students examine the environmental impacts on mangrove and coral reef habitats while enhancing their personal awareness and setting goals for the upcoming quarter.
  • Cloud Forest & Rafting: Students study the inter-connectivity of cloud forest biomes and their importance to global health on a three-day backpacking journey; the final two days are spent rafting the Pacuare River’s whitewater rapids.  The trip’s therapeutic focus is on community dynamics and means of action.
  • Corcovado National Park: A five-day hiking and camping expedition with studies in rainforest ecology, and a therapeutic focus in family diversity and dynamics. 
  • Community Service: Students benefit from a service learning project that is meaningful to them. Projects are diverse and include everything from sea turtle conservation to school beautification in rural communities.
  • Chirripo Mountain: Chirripo is the final Aventura in the integrated series required to graduate NSA. The three-day backpacking trek to the summit of Chirripo highlights natural resource conservation and focuses on the successful application of skills developed at NSA to transition.

Recreational Aventuras
Several Recreational Aventuras offer a fun and safe opportunity for students to engage in healthy risk taking, which helps build confidence while teaching new skills. Some examples include:

  • Scuba diving in Bocas del Toro, Panama
  • Exploring Granada and Ometepe Island in Nicaragua
  • Hiking and ecotourism in Boquete, Panama
  • Touring Arenal Volcano and its thermal hot springs
  • Tubing and hot springs in Rincon de la Vieja

Academic Aventuras
An opportunity for true experiential learning that takes advantage of the cultural and geographic diversity of Central and South America.

  • Panama - Each Spring, NSA travels to Panama City to visit the Panama Canal, as well as the port city of Colon.  Students study the history, physics and biological diversity on site with their teachers while conducting interviews and competing in a city-wide scavenger hunt.
  • July International Aventura – Every Summer, students examine the history, flora and fauna, language and people of a different international destination before immersing themselves in the rich cultures of Peru or Belize.  Students also study the art of documentary film making and write, shoot, edit and premiere a film based on their travels.
The Homestay Program

costa rica homestayBeginning in their second or third quarter, all students participate in a weekly homestay program on Sundays that offers a first-hand glimpse into Costa Rican family life.  Not only do these experiences facilitate learning and practicing Spanish, they provide students invaluable interactions and a deeper appreciation of the local culture.

Various families throughout the Atenas community welcome students into their homes to share a few hours every Sunday.  Students enjoy a meal, play with the children, walk through town, go grocery shopping, and participate in other daily activities typical of a Costa Rican family.

These caring families make our students feel more like sons rather than guests, and for many, the homestays are one of the most meaningful cultural experiences at NSA. Our homestay families are not compensated financially for their participation―they do it out of their desire to share their homes, their families, and their culture with our students. Homestay families are also an integral part of our quarterly picnics, our dances, and our holiday parties on campus.

Community Service

The value of service learning is paramount at NSA, where students engage in various projects that they see through to completion. Examples of recent community service ventures include:

  • Teaching English to local children
  • Recycling programs
  • Beach and river clean-ups
  • Preparing meals for the needy in local soup kitchens
  • Sea turtle preservation
  • Painting local schools and clinics
  • Building playgrounds
  • Hosting weekly movie nights at the library
  • Environmental conservation projects

Weekend Activities / Recreation

weekend activitesOn the weekends, students organize and sign up for recreational and cultural activities, working within their activities budget. These frequently include:

  • Local sports events
  • Excursions to nearby beaches
  • Basketball or soccer tournaments
  • Trips into town for movies or shopping
  • Activities such as paintball, go-kart racing and rock-climbing
  • Surf trips
  • Local festivities and parades
  • Community service projects
weekend activitespool table nsa costa rica
aventuras costa rica school

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