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From the tropics to snow

Costa Rican exchange students visit U.P. region

NEGAUNEE — It doesn’t seem to matter where they’re from — if you expose teenagers to snow, there’s a good chance they’ll make snowballs.

Especially if they’re from a tropical climate.

Marquette Senior High School students and exchange students from Costa Rica — who are being hosted for several weeks by MSHS families — visited the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee Township on Thursday for short outdoor snowshoe treks as well as indoor “history detective” sessions.

MSHS Spanish teacher Katelynn Jensen was at the museum for the day’s activities, which followed a Monday trip to the Marquette Regional History Center in Marquette where they learned about local history.

At the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, they learned about another aspect of the area: mining.

However, the students have been in the area since late December, so they’ve been exposed to the Upper Peninsula winter weather too.

“They’ve had a lot of time outside to experience our really magical outdoors areas,” Jensen said.

In fact, the plan was for the students to visit Rippling River Resort in Marquette on Friday to go sledding.

The Costa Rican group arrived in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Dec. 26, and were brought to Marquette for their 2¢ weeks in town, she said, but not before they toured Green Bay for a bit.

“While we there we toured Lambeau Field, did a little shopping as well,” Jensen said. “Then they got to come up here and see snow. There wasn’t that much snow in Green Bay. They were excited for that.”

The MSHS students will travel to Costa Rica through the exchange program in July.

Abi Schloegel, a sophomore at MSHS, said the experience has been “so much fun.”

She was at the museum on Thursday with her family’s host student, Jazmin Garita, who is in 10th grade.

“We’ve done a lot of things,” Schloegel said, with those activities including bowling.

It was simply the weather, though, that seemed to bring a lot of joy.

“It was so exciting when we saw the first snowfall,” Schloegel said. “We were just looking out the window — like, ‘Oh, my gosh.'”

Schloegel said she and Garita speak both English and Spanish to each other, although the occasional word that neither understands comes up and they work it out.

Before the snowshoe trek, though, language was no barrier as she helped Garita put on her snowshoes.

The students took advantage of the snow in another way: making snowballs.

What does Garita think of the nowhere-near-tropical climate in Marquette?

“It’s incredible,” Garita said. “It’s my first time seeing snow, so it’s like, wow, because in Costa Rica we don’t have snow. It’s totally different. But I like it. It’s real fun.”

She’s also had time to experience local life with her host family.

“I really like the family and everything,” Garita said.

Jensen spoke to the group in English before they embarked on the trek and history activities; those who started with the trek would take part in the history session later, and vice versa for those who began with the lesson.

She then spoke in Spanish, asking them “como esta,” which translates into “how are you?” before going into further instructions.

Leading the snowshoe hike was the museum’s Troy Henderson, historian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which includes the Michigan History Center of which the iron museum is a part.

The hike required rerouting due to tree branches that were bent over because of recent heavy snowfall.

“There was a lot of trees down in December, so we might have to go off the trail a little bit,” Henderson said.

Barry James, historian and archaeologist with the DNR and MHC who also works at the iron museum, talked about the work the museum undertakes with artifacts and collections.

In the museum’s auditorium, students were given “Artifacts Talk to Us” worksheets in which they had to describe an item’s physical qualities, including bone, pottery, metal and other substances; special qualities such as shape, color, texture, size, length, weight, smell, parts and whether it’s hot or cold or solid or clear; possible uses of the artifact; and what the artifact tells people.

After studying the items, James then identified them on stage, with the objects including a biscuit maker, miner’s lamp, thimble, geologist’s pick, rug beater and even a potato chip maker.

Not every ID was obvious, but that was OK.

“There are no right and wrong answers,” James told the audience.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.