Welcome Guardians & Parents!

Thank you for considering enrolling your student in a Seeds of Change research immersion program in Costa Rica. Our goal is nothing short of providing a transformational experience in your child’s life. Our programs challenge students intellectually, nurture their nascent interests in science, and reveal a path forward rich with discovery and promise.

We are proud to say that our research immersion programs are unique. They offer students the opportunity to develop their own original research experience. We mentor them throughout the research process. Yet, a key component is to empower them to envision, design, and implement their own work in collaborative groups. Our Seeds of Change instructors are well equipped to provide the background information students need to trigger their curious natures and engage them in meaningful research endeavors.


We are deliberate and experienced in creating a learning environment that is safe for students to learn how to use and enhance their critical thinking skills. Our pedagogical refrain is: “Give students time to delve deeply, run into dead ends (fail), uncover ways to recover (grit and resilience) and use the power of multiple minds (collaborate) to put together a coherent and logical presentation of their work (communicate).”

- FAQs - Tropical Field Research

How will science research immersion in Costa Rica improve my child’s university prospects?

From first-hand experience, we can say that graduates of our programs that have experience conducting original research claim a distinctive competitive edge over their competition. Not only will they have practiced cross-cultural communication skills and demonstrated independence, cultural awareness, maturity and flexibility, but they will have proven they have the grit and resilience to handle the complexities of true research. This gives them a leg up when applying for university, scholarships, and coveted university internships and lab jobs.

What is included in the program cost?

Airline ticket, program tuition, accommodations, in-country ground transportation, three meals per day, excursion fees, and other program-related expenses.

What is not included in the cost?

Passport application fee (~$145), insect repellant, sunscreen, spending money (think airport and gifts). For personal expenses, such as souvenirs, snacks, we recommend that students bring around $100.00 USD in cash (in $10 or $20 bills). In addition, we strongly recommend that students also travel with a credit card (Visa or Master Card) to cover any unexpected expenses such as a medical emergency. Do not bring traveler’s checks and remember to call your bank and credit card company to inform them of travel plans.

Are scholarships available? Are their fundraising opportunities?

While Seeds of Change does not offer scholarships, we do have an effective fundraising program that students are readily able to raise $500-700 towards their tuition or much, much more if they spend focused time getting orders from family and friends that work in medium to large office situations. For each program a parent volunteer coordinates the coffee fundraiser for students. Seeds of Change provides the inventory at a cost for $6/bag of superior quality coffee grown at elevation in Costa Rica. Students sell each bag for $12. For every bag sold, we deduct $6 from the program cost. Students are provided a brochure that explains the fundraiser, so students can effectively market to neighbors and friends.

We also encourage students to submit grant applications to civic organizations in their area. These might include your family’s religious organization, Lions, Rotary or Kiwanis clubs or foundations that provide funds for STEM or extracurricular activities. GoFundME and Facebook Fundraising are examples of ways to rally financial support from family and friends.

Is there an application fee or program deposit required?

The application fee is $100. This covers the group flight reservation fee ($100) that must be purchased by Dec. 1st to ensure cost-effective flights. These deposits are non-refundable.

In the event of late application, the cost for the program may increase as a direct result of airline ticket price increases. Seeds of Change will communicate the additional charge, if any, for the airline ticket price difference.

How can students communicate with their family while in Costa Rica?

Part of the immersion experience is to unplug from minute by minute cell phone connectedness; therefore, students communicate with parents through a daily blog that two different students author each day. We do this to encourage student group bonding during down-time with old-fashioned games (cards, spot-it, set, boggle - are good, easy to bring group game options) and to avoid interruptions that disrupt the program. It is best to share potentially upsetting news with a teacher/chaperone, so they can deliver the news at an appropriate and private moment and/or arrange for a private call home. We provide digital video/photo cameras for use by groups during times that teachers collect phones to encourage the immersion experience.

SOC on-site coordinators and teacher chaperones always have access to WIFI locations for internet calling services and email use when cell service is poor. In addition, our hosts have 24/7 phone service for emergency situations.

Will my student need any specific immunizations? How do we handle individual medical issues?

All student international travelers are strongly encouraged to discuss this program and destination with their doctor to obtain professional guidance that is specific to your child including updating any routine immunizations which may have lapsed. Although immunization for Hepatitis A is not required by Seeds of Change for admission, it is recommended for all international travelers regardless of your destination. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler website www.cdc.gov which lists recommended and required vaccines for US travelers, as well as other health risk information.

You will fill in and sign a medical form and waiver that requires disclosure of any medical conditions your child is being treated for or require special emergency procedures, e.g. allergies, diabetes, mental health, or seizure issue.

How do I get reimbursed for medical treatments received while on my program?

SOC will advise teacher chaperones to ensure all medically-related receipts are retained. Many choose to take photos of the receipts and insurance reimbursement forms to guard against loss of paperwork.

Seeds of Change carries emergency evacuation and general liability insurance. Our policies are secondary to student medical insurance policies.

What is SOC’s behavior policy?

All participants and guardians/parents sign the Seeds of Change Code of Conduct Agreement to ensure that all participants can have a safe and memorable trip. Specific travel-related expectations of students are outlined in that document, but the overarching expectation is that participants will behave in a manner that is most conducive to the greatest possible development, growth, and well-being of the individual, other participants in the group, host and off-site staff, and the surrounding community. Actions detrimental to the mission of the program and to the activities of the program may result in early dismissal. In that event the participant is returned to the U.S.A., there is a Seeds of Change travel change fee of $50 plus the airline charge for changing the return flight.

In addition, school policies are typically in effect during Seeds of Change school programs. Seeds of Change defers to teacher and school administrator decisions on early dismissal when their school policy is more stringent than Seeds of Change policy.

How do you handle COVID-19 related issues?

SOC did not run any programs in 2020 due to the pandemic, but did run the Tropical Field Research program in the summer of 2021 after vaccinations became widely available to all high school aged students and adults. All participants must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to be eligible for 2022 programming. SOC gained valuable experience monitoring students, staff, and host employees daily and administering COVID-19 rapid antigen screening tests in real-time to ensure all tested negative for COVID-19 before coming into contact with our students. SOC runs its programs in dedicated host locations that ensure we can create our own COVID-19 free "pod" while traveling. SOC provided all participants with N-95 masks for use during airline and van/bus transportation to and from our host site in Costa Rica. The primary host site eating, and classroom areas have at least one open wall and cross ventilation to the outside. The sleeping quarters are screened (windows in sleeping quarters do not have glass, a feature designed to ensure all are listening to the natural rainforest sounds!). In the event a participant were to contract COVID-19, SOC and our host site arrange for isolation quarters, medical assistance, and open communication and shared decision making with family back home.

- FAQs - Bioinformatics Research

What is bioinformatics and why should my child learn it now?

Bioinformatics is the analysis and comparison of microbial genetic material by species (genome) and microbial organisms in particular environments (microbiome). Students study microbial bioinformatics because microbes are central to all environments on the planet, drive Earth's biogeochemical cycles, colonize and inhabite all environments on the planet, and perform vital functions for all life forms through symbiotic relationships. As such, your child will be at the forefront of future research areas if they learn how to connect genetics to scientific inquiry early in their education.

Why study bioinformatics in Costa Rica?

Bioinformatics is typically not taught or used for scientific inquiry until postgraduate education. This is too late for students to truly take advantage of their education and understand how future scientific discovery will be structured. To teach bioinformatics successfully to this age group, we need high school students to be able to focus and not be distracted by life's typical logistics and complexities. We also need to pique their interest in the environment - the immense biodiversity and obvious connections between wildlife and the planet's ecosystem in Costa Rica help fuel their brainstorming efforts and sense of purpose.

How does this program differ from the Tropical Field Research program?

This unique program takes place in a different part of Costa Rica for the first 7 days (Monteverde). Here the activities your child will take part in will all be unique because of the change in biome (cloud forest) as well as the activities available to them. Monteverde is a coffee and dairy capital of Costa Rica and is located at high elevation so temperatures are cooler (highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s). The program takes advantage of excellent internet speeds possible due to direct line of site to this mountain region. Most of the research is done on computers instead of in the field. The research takes on the next level of analysis now possible due to the explosion of microbial genetic data now available in centralized databases. The last 3 days include a homestay along the northwest coast of Costa Rica. This program ensures students are exposed to local families and their culture. Students who take Spanish in school become translators and help bridge the gap between cultures. In this location, students take part in hands on marine research with two marine species: rays and turtles.

Can my child use their research in a science fair competition back home?

Students can absolutely use the posters that Seeds of Change professionally prints for them at the end of the program for use in presentations back home and for science fairs. Seeds of Change is happy to work with students to prepare the forms needed to show their research meets science fair guidelines and has been mentored appropriately.

What bioinformatics analytical tools will my child learn how to use?

The primary analytical tools students will learn how to use include: 1. The integrated Microbial Genomes & Microbiome database, known as IMG. 2. The Kyoto Encyclopedia o f Genes and Genomes, known as KEGG pathways. 3. The Basic Local Alignment Search Tool, known as BLAST. 4. Principal Component Analysis, known as PCA correlations. 5. Phylogenetic taxonomy, through radial and pathway trees.