Pari Pancholy, an eighth grade student at Abington Heights Middle School, interviewed Mike Friedlin, AHMS seventh grade teacher, about the adventures he shares with students exploring the rainforests of Panama and Costa Rica. In her own words, here is what she learned:
Mr. Friedlin took 500 Abington Heights students and many parent chaperones to the rainforests of Panama and Costa Rica over the past 24 years. Of all the amazing teachers at Abington Heights Middle School, this makes him the most adventurous of them all. Mr. Friedlin is a seventh grade teacher. Every year the students go and they come back with a newer, better perspective.
Mr. Friedlin went on his first trip to Costa Rica, alone, in 1991. As a child,he was fascinated with natural living and rainforests. So he decided to go and fell in love with the place. In 1998, he went with his students to Panama for the first time. When asked about the trips’ objectives for the students, he laughed at the thought of even attempting to trim it down to just a few words.
After some quick thought,he said, “So much happens on these trips! I guess, on a broad scale, the trips consist of tropical biology, cultural exchanges, learning to speak Spanish, and learning the importance of cultural preservation and other ecosystems.”
When asked what was his most memorable trip, he said, “It is impossible to pick just one memorable event. Each one is so different from the next but I can tell you one event that I will never forget. I will always remember when I met Miguel, the medicine man, in 2000.
“It was really a life changing experience. Although, the story didn’t start on my trip to the rainforest. His mother was infertile and had heard about a plant that could change that if she drank its tea. She didn’t try this tea until she was 70 years old. Soon after, Miguel was born. His mother lived to be 110 years old and when she died Miguel took over the ‘family business.’
“I met Miguel when a couple of my students were repelling a waterfall with me. One of my students got a spider bite as we were nearing the bottom. When we got to the bottom it had created a large, red circle around the source. She was in a lot of pain and Miguel pointed and said ‘I can help.’ He took a specific plant nearby and flattened on her wounded area, leaving it for 10 minutes. When he took it off, the spider bite’s reaction was completely nonexistent. I made it a goal to get to know Miguel from (that) moment on.”
Mr. Friedlin emphasized this advice for those wanting to go on an adventure:
Go. Seek. Explore. Exchange culturally. There is a big, beautiful world out there waiting to be explored by you.