Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center

Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center

Jun 2, 2015|Holbrook in the Field| by Holbrook Travel

The Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center (SCLC) is a non-profit community learning center located adjacent to Selva Verde Lodge. SCLC focuses its efforts in four areas — environmental education, community development, conservation, and tourism — in order to help form future environmental leaders, raise the organizational capacity of local communities, promote sustainable land use, and connect tourists to the local community. These programs, which are run by international volunteers and community members, serve hundreds of local people and thousands of eco-tourists each year.

Bertha Carter spent many years in the lowland tropical rainforests of Sarapiquí, Costa Rica assisting Giovanna Holbrook in pioneering the creation of Selva Verde Lodge. Bertha had a great deal of understanding about the local culture and was passionate about helping local women gain independence. While managing the lodge, she established a rule requiring each staff member to retrieve their own paychecks, preventing husbands from taking total control of all of the household money, a common practice at the time.

Giovanna Holbrook (left) and Bertha Carter (right); 1988

In addition to empowering the women of Sarapiquí, Bertha made a point of introducing the many scientists, biologists, and conservationists that visited Selva Verde to the local naturalists to encourage learning and exchange between the parties. Bertha’s interest in offering educational opportunities to the youth in the area reached a new level when she had the idea of starting a library in Sarapiquí, as the cost of books was often the deciding factor in whether or not local families could send their children to school.

Thanks to a few generous donations, in 1993 Bertha’s dream was realized, and the library has since grown to become the Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center. Over the years, additional educational programs have been developed to benefit the local community members and teach visitors about the importance of the unique environment of the region.

»» Environmental education
»» Rural tourism activities
»» English classes
»» Community outreach
»» Women’s groups
»» Community library
»» Scholarship funds for high school students

The Center’s ecotourism program immerses visitors in the local culture through community service projects such as reforestation, which combines the help of local students and visitors to plant trees in the community. This program integrates environmental education with conservation and promotes native tree reforestation in the area. By working directly with local people, volunteers can learn about the community and life in Sarapiquí. The Center’s authentic cooking and Latin dance classes also give visitors a taste of the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Although SCLC has evolved into a community center, the original library still remains, with computers and hundreds of books in both English and Spanish. The Center has also established a scholarship program, which has provided more than 250 students with the necessary funds to complete high school. SCLC’s community development program focuses on the importance of a sustainable future and empowering local people to become influential members of the community.

The Center has helped countless children and adults realize their full potential and has educated many about the importance of preserving the unique rainforest environment.

To learn more about SCLC’s programs and activities visit


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