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Teacher studies in Costa Rica

Special Photo. Trickum Middle School teacher Aimee Burgamy boards a Nature Air plane. Nature Air is the world's first carbon-neutral airline.

Special Photo. Trickum Middle School teacher Aimee Burgamy boards a Nature Air plane. Nature Air is the world's first carbon-neutral airline.

LILBURN -- A Trickum Middle School teacher recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica, where she participated in a study tour focused on enhancing environmental education through the Toyota International Teacher Program.

Aimee Burgamy, an art teacher and former Gwinnett County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, was one of 26 educators from throughout the United States selected for the trip.

Representing 22 states and selected from nearly 800 applicants -- the highest number of applications ever received for the Costa Rica program -- the 26 participating teachers were chosen through a competitive, merit-based process administered by the Institute of International Education. Selection criteria included professional qualifications, evidence of interest in international education and feasibility of incorporating the environmental study experience into the curriculum.

While in Costa Rica, a country dedicated to protecting its natural resources, Burgamy and the other educators exchanged ideas with area experts about sustainable development, agronomy, ecotourism and other conservation practices, according to a news release. Additionally, the group researched methods in sustainable agriculture at EARTH University.

Burgamy said the adventure inspired her to become more involved with environmental issues.

"Environmental issues are of interest to me, but they're also of interest to the kids," Burgamy said, noting that conservation and nature both have connections to art and science.

Throughout her travels, Burgamy gave the people she met art projects her students had created from recycled materials. (She calls it "upcycled art.")

Burgamy said one of the most memorable experiences was taking a flight on Nature Air, the world's first carbon-neutral airline. The group also visited the Osa Peninsula, the remote Corcovado National Park and the Terraba-Sierpe wetlands and mangroves.

Now that the teachers have returned from the trip, they are developing curriculum projects specific to their schools, which will be shared with teachers from all over the United States in an effort to exchange ideas and lesson plans.

A former Toyota International Teacher Program participant, Bronwyn MacFarlane, an assistant professor of gifted education in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, provided curriculum development guidance by facilitating online discussions, writing articles and giving several lectures throughout the study tour, the news release states.

"Providing educators with this unique opportunity to travel abroad and exchange ideas with Costa Rican educators and environmental experts has expanded global understanding in U.S. classrooms," said Allan E. Goodman, IEE president and CEO. "Thousands of students have benefited from their teachers' experiences, inspiring them to be more aware and involved in environmental and international issues."

The program is open to teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit www.Toyota4Education.com.