23 Mar 2011, Posted by admin in Stories, No Comments.
by Ariel Cheung
Gary Morgan is an addict. His drug is not tobacco or alcohol, but rather, the intoxicating experience of giving someone the adventure of a lifetime. Showing them a world unlike any other. Exposing them to a culture so rich, it rivals the imagination. And — best of all — sparking an interest in eco-sensitivity that, Morgan hopes, will change the world.
Morgan instills in others this passion for nature in several ways. As a co-owner of Morgan’s Outdoor Adventures, he offers canoeing, kayaking and rafting tours at various locations in the Tri-state area. He sponsors weekly cleanups of the Ohio River.
And, beginning March 25, he’ll be taking a group of Walnut Hills High School students to Morgan’s Jungle Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. There, the students will study the ecosystem and experience the culture.
“What I personally love the most is taking somebody down [to Costa Rica] — especially someone who’s never been out of Cincinnati — and I like to see them evolve,” said Morgan, 55. “The way that they look at the monkeys and the foliage and the ocean — that’s the good stuff in life. You can’t pay for that.”
Morgan first experienced Costa Rica in 1985, when Costa Rica Expeditions invited a representative of Morgan’s Outdoor Adventures to see the country. After the two-week tour, Morgan stayed on and trained to be a guide for nine months. But when the tourism season died down, Morgan left his San Jose apartment to see the rest of the country. That’s when he fell in love with Costa Rica.
Soon, his parents and three brothers were traveling to Costa Rica, and eventually the family purchased 25 acres of land outside of Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula on the Golfo Dulce, which means “sweet water.”
The land included building foundation that was originally intended for a church in the 60s, but the Morgans turned it into a tourist lodge. For 15 years, Morgan’s Jungle Lodge has hosted student groups who collect data and learn about sustainability and Costa Rican culture.
The most recent student group hails from Walnut Hills High School. Biology teacher William Schnure led another trip to the Osa Peninsula in March 2010. This year will be his second experimental trip, but he hopes by 2012, Walnut Hills will be able to offer the trip as part of an online credit course.
“This group is my guinea pigs,” Schnure said. “[Principal Jeff Brokamp] says the wave of the future is online coursework, so he asked several of us to design courses online. It’s a lot harder than I thought.”
Schnure and the 22 students will be blogging during their 10-day trip from the Morgan’s Jungle Lodge blog. Morgan wants students from other schools to send in questions and comments that the Walnut Hills students can answer the following day.
“It becomes more of a personal story,” Morgan said.
The blogging is the beginning of what Morgan hopes to be a multi-faceted experiential learning experience that could expand to include live blogging, college credit and an educational foundation.
“If we could do a high school program that does everything we want it to by introducing people to the issues to create the spark, but then they also get a college credit out of it, that’s the catalyst that people in high school want,” Morgan said. “Getting a college biology credit — that makes sense. That’s what we need to be doing.”
There’s no doubt that Morgan dreams big. He sees opportunity around every corner; he turned a two-week trip to Costa Rica into a lifetime investment in eco-sensitivity education. And if he can do that in 15 years, there’s no telling what the future will hold.
Follow the Walnut Hill’s High School students while they are in Costa Rica on the Morgan’s web site blog at: www.morganscanoe.com/costarica/. Be sure to check the “most recent blog” on the right of the page.