Mastery Academy for Future Ecology | Costa Rica

Avenues Mastery Academy

for Future Ecology

Grades 6–8 ▪︎ Monteverde, Costa Rica

The Avenues Mastery Academy for Future Ecology is a highly selective summer program where conservation-minded middle grades students share an intensive, two-week-long boarding experience to dive deeply into environmental science in a worldwide biodiversity hotspot: Monteverde. The Academy introduces students to an academic apprentice-learning model in which participants live and work side-by-side with master teachers and scientists.

No place in the world is more unique and ecologically profound, and Academy students will learn and work to mitigate the greatest threats to its endangered species. The program begins one month before departure, as participants from around the world join together online to examine their local biodiversity and prepare for their time in the field. On the ground in Costa Rica, students will work with like-minded peers from around the world as part of Monteverde’s world-class ecology community, forging lifelong friendships and lasting social and professional networks.

Becoming an Ecological Detective

In 1966, ecologists first documented the stunning Golden Toad in Monteverde, but they vanished as the climate dried out—the last one was spotted in 1989. Toucans are beginning to migrate to higher elevations where they never lived before, creating new ecological interactions with species that call the area home. The great mission of today’s environmental scientists is figuring out how species are affected by climate change and how we can prepare for the future. In Monteverde, students will create a conservation plan for a selected species. This plan will take into account decisions and scenarios introduced by climate change, and culminate in a proposal to local conservationists.

In their development as ecological detectives, students will transcend scientific and technical mastery to explore the big picture. Guided by master teachers and field biologists, they will reflect on the larger implications of their work, developing strong positions on conservation and ecosystems to grow as confident leaders in environmental science.

Setting the Scene

A light beam breaks through the rainforest canopy.

Imagine having hundreds of different species of flora and fauna right outside your window and thousands more in the misty forests beyond. Named by National Geographic as “the jewel in the crown of cloud forest reserves,” the mountaintop town of Monteverde, Costa Rica is a world-famous hub of ecological research, conservation, education, and sustainability efforts. Home to unique species of tropical birds, butterflies, frogs, and plants that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet, Monteverde’s 100,000 acres of preserved forest are some of the most biologically rich and mysterious on Earth. It’s no wonder that ecologists and conservationists come from around the world—there is nowhere else quite like it.

The canopies and waterfalls of the cloud forest host a treasure trove of creatures of whose existence we are barely aware, but which will nonetheless be severely impacted by climate change. A warming climate does not mean all species will immediately suffer—some species will begin to thrive while others struggle to survive. To discover why climate change affects certain species differently, students must become ecological detectives, investigating population shifts and evolutionary adaptations in the changing ecosystem.

red-eyed tree frog on a leaf


AMA for Future Ecology Faculty: Emily Hollenbeck, Kate Scarborough, Jamie Tuttle, Austin VolzThe faculty team provides students access to expert educators and ecologists. Dr. Emily Hollenbeck, based in Monteverde, Costa Rica, has been conducting classes and research in ecology for nearly a decade. Kate Scarborough, a science teacher at Avenues New York, has a wealth of interdisciplinary education experience both at schools and at places like the New York Botanical Garden. Jamie Tuttle, a dean at Avenues São Paulo, brings nearly 20 years of experience in education and is passionate about bringing together students from around the world to form a new community. Austin Volz, Avenues R&D Director of Learner Experience Design, supports with the team with a broad international background in creating transformational experiences.


Students will stay in the rustic and sustainable accommodations offered by a research campus that regularly hosts student groups. The campus includes 4-student dorm rooms, classrooms, science labs, community rooms, campus security, and gorgeous grounds at the base of the cloud forest. Students’ physical and social-emotional well-being is a top priority during this challenging experience. Regular check-ins provide a space for students to raise concerns and share their experience with the residential life staff. Professional residential supervision ensures that students act safely and responsibly while at their home away from home.

Program Details


Monteverde, Costa Rica


Arrive in Costa Rica July 5, 2020.
Depart Costa Rica July 18, 2020.


A select group of students currently in grades 6–8.

How Much

USD $5,200 for all meals, lodging, lab and technology supplies, in-country transportation, instruction, activities, and insurance. Financial aid is available to qualified applicants.


Depending on enrollment, we will arrange for a chaperone to accompany and guide the group on their flight. If possible, we encourage students to travel this way. Flight cost with chaperone is approximately $600-$1,200. Exact dates and cost depend on location and flight availability, with up to two additional days before and one day after the program for travel.
Students cross a bridge in the forest.

Apply for July 2020

The selection process is competitive and spaces are limited. A non-refundable deposit will be required to secure your spot in the program.

Application Deadline
March 8, 2020

To apply:

  1. Submit the application form below.
  2. Interview with us (we will contact you to make arrangements).
  3. Submit any requested additional information.