My name is Isabella, and I am fourteen years old. I was born in 2107. I live with my parents in our village just outside the small town of Siquirres, in Limón Province, central Costa Rica. My abuela, my grandmother, has told me about the crisis that swept the world when she was young – how the forests were burning, how whole villages were swept away in floods, how the crops would fail because of the drought and the scorching heat. Refugees from Nicaragua and Panama would come knocking on her door, their children in arms, begging for help. How she used to love to go to the beach to swim in the sea, and watch the sea turtles - but now they’re all gone.

But then she would pause, and pat me on the knee. “But it’s your world now, mi cielo. Tu nueva civilización ecológica. So tell me about it. What are you doing at school? Do you enjoy it?”

So let me tell you about my school. My teachers are my heroes. We study the history of our country, and the role my grandmother’s generation played in the political revolutions that changed Central America. We study Gran Historia – the incredible story of how our Universe came to be. We have learnt how every living thing has a shared family origin. We really are one. I share 93% of my genes with the spider monkeys, 50% with my cousins the bananas.

We start every morning with a circle where we talk about what’s on our minds and in our hearts. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s hard. Last week my friend Luciana told how her parents were splitting up, and how sad she felt, and how angry she was at her father. We held her in a circle. Most of us were crying. I love our morning circles. We talk about everything, including bullying, anger, hurt, resentment, jealousy, and the different kinds of love. Sometimes I leave the circle feeling confused, but mostly, my heart is singing. I feel loved. I love the students in my class.

In these circles, our teacher often reminds us about the North American Indigenous story about the two wolves who live within each of us, the one who wants to dominate and often gets angry, and the one who wants to be kind, and not hurt people. We share our stories of when we have behaved like one of the two wolves, and she tells us stories from history, encouraging us to learn about all the wars and brutalities and atrocities that have been caused by the wolf who wanted to dominate, and the incredible progress that has been achieved for ordinary people and for Nature by the wolf who wanted to be kind and cooperate. It makes me proud to be a human, to be part of the Circle of Life, and excited to be at the beginning of my great adventure.

Once a week we hold a different kind of circle - a Spirit Circle. We spend time sitting in silence, and then we share what we are sensing or feeling. We learn about the world’s many religions, how much they have in common, and why they too caused people to fight and kill each other. We talk about our dreams, and the shape of our inner worlds, as our teacher Cora likes to call them. Last year my class went on a field trip to the Talamanca region where we got to sit with an elder from the Bribri people. Her people have lived in Costa Rica since time immemorial. She told us some of their stories, and their belief that all of Nature is sacred, the waters are sacred, the mountains are sacred, the birds are sacred. I think this is something I believe, as well.

So let me tell you more about our school. It’s a fifteen minute walk away, in Siquirres. It has ten circular buildings, each with a solar roof, arranged in a circle around a plaza where we gather and play. We’ve got a forest with trails, and tree platforms where we hold some of our classes. We have our own small farm where we grow vegetables and raise chickens, and we look after two elderly horses, who let us ride them. We have a big pond where we are supposed to be very quiet, because there are so many animals, birds and insects who live there. We have an amazing play zone that’s totally wild, full of bits of wood and scrap things that we use to build things, and to hold mock battles. My father says it’s dangerous, but my teacher tells him not to worry, for how can we learn about life if we are not exposed to danger, and risk?

Nature is a big part of our schooling. We have learnt how bad things were in the time of our grandparents, and how ignorant most people were about the climate, the forest, the ocean, and all the creatures we share life with. If you don’t pass the exam in Ecology you can’t go to university, and people frown on you. My sister had to take it three times before she passed. I think it’s because she spent so much time on her computer, and not enough in the forest.

As well as the things we study following our natural curiosity, helped by our teachers, we are learning all sorts of practical skills. Earlier this year I spent five afternoons helping in the animal shelter in Siquirres, where they bring animals who are hurt or who have lost their mothers. I have learnt how to cut hair, how to cook, how to fix an electric bicycle, how to write code, how to plant trees, how to help install a solar panel, and how to tell a story to my gran in a way that will make her smile.

I must tell you about our art, and our music! We have a choir that I sing in, and a school orchestra. I play the oboe. Once a month we do a bus trip when we visit the Parc Nacional Barbilla, or go to San José, where we visit an art gallery, or the Museum of Civilization, or go to a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra. And once a year our choir gets together with choirs from all the other local schools and we give a concert to our parents and all their friends. Last year there were more than a thousand of us, all singing together in harmony, accompanied by an incredible band with drums, guitars, violins, everything. It was absolutely wild. I couldn’t sleep all night afterwards, because the music was pouring through my head.

What else? There’s so much. We have an annual school election for various positions of leadership, and when I’m 16 I’ll be able to vote in our local and national elections. We learn all about democracy, and the ways rich people have tried to take it away so that they can rule without bothering about ordinary people, farmers and workers like my family, and the people in our village.

This term I’ve chosen to study economics, because my abuela says it’s important. I have been studying the economics of our local cooperatives. I spent a day helping at the Siquirres Community Bank, making coffee and cleaning dishes but also being allowed to sit in on meetings when people came in to discuss a loan. I have learnt how our country’s trade laws changed when we ended the old colonialism, how we now favor trade that is fair by charging tariffs on imports from countries that have weak labor laws, or that don’t do enough to protect Nature. I may be only 14, but I have been able to watch as one of our trade delegates negotiated a deal. Afterwards she came online, and she allowed us – children from all over Costa Rica - to ask her questions.

Do I have any complaints? Why would I have complaints? If I do, I can take them to our morning circle, or our democratic assembly. There are some students I’d like to complain about, but they’d probably like to complain about me. When I grow up, I want to be an economist, to help towns like Siquirres build their community wealth. Do I have a wish? Yes – I wish that every child in the world could have a school as good as ours.

Guy Dauncey is an ex Totnesian who now lives on the coast of Vancouver Island in Canada.