What’s Rome Got to Do with It?

What’s Rome Got to Do with It?

Several years ago, after my class 5/6 had completed their performance of a Roman history themed play, a local indigenous parent at Escuela Caracol asked me, “Why are our children even studying Roman history? It feels so foreign and remote from our Mayan culture, and its legacy of conquest is such an ugly stain on the Americas. What does Rome really have to do with us anyway?” I contended that one could not fully understand our modern globalized world without some knowledge of and feeling for Ancient Rome. I also pointed out that he himself is a member of the (Roman) Catholic Church. It was a healthy interchange that left a lasting impression on me of the critical importance of bringing such historical studies into living conversation with our local Mayan context. At the start of this year, our current sixth grade teacher, Diego Sacach Mendoza, approached me for help in planning his first block of the year: Ancient Rome. He was enthused and energetic to learn more about this subject and bring it to his class of all indigenous students. So we started at the beginning, with the founding myth of Rome: Romulus and Remus. These two boys, fathered by Mars and raised by a she-wolf, eventually decide to lay claim to their respective territories. Romulus builds a wall to keep out uninvited guests, Remus flaunts his disrespect for this wall by jumping over it, Romulus slays his brother Remus, and thus Rome is founded. Diego stopped me there. When he was a child, he said, there were no walls whatsoever in San Marcos. People had lands that...
Turtle Loses His Shell

Turtle Loses His Shell

Guest post by Colleen Donovan, a Kindergarten Teacher at Escuela Caracol: This month, I’d simply like to share a story with you. It is a story I wrote for my class during our first few weeks together, after watching the children come to class day after day tired, cranky, and fussy. Think of how you feel when after a few nights of bad sleep a colleague says something to you that gets under your skin (something that likely wouldn’t have bothered you at all had you been well rested). I’ll bet that you have said things under these circumstances that you later regretted. Now think of 15 children, ages 3 to 6, who feel like this. When one of them is irritated by a classmate, a sarcastic remark is not the only reaction. At that age impulse control is still hard at the best of times; when you have a group of overtired children, impulse control goes out the window. After about two weeks of this situation, I admit that I was nearly at my wit’s end. This clearly wasn’t just a blip on the radar, my students were really struggling to get through the morning. What could I do to help them? Naturally, there isn’t just one solution. Talking to parents individually, having a class meeting on the importance of sleep, and changing our daily rhythm to include rest time have all helped to alleviate the burden these children were carrying. Another way we can help our young ones is through stories. Storytime can be one of the most magical moments of the day. In Waldorf kindergartens we...
A special visit to Escuela Caracol

A special visit to Escuela Caracol

We had a special visit from Sandra Levins of Iowa, one of our sponsors, who came with her husband to visit our school. They met Dulce, the student they have been sponsoring, as well as her family. Sandra shared a recap of her experience below. Thank you for your support and heartfelt words, Sandra! My grandson lives in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala and attends Escuela Caracol, an international Waldorf School. This is the only Waldorf School in Guatemala. Several months ago his mother shared a Facebook post with a link to the school’s website at http://escuelacaracol.org/. After perusing the website we learned that over 85% of the student body at Escuela Caracol comes from indigenous Maya families who cannot afford the cost of tuition. My husband and I decided to sponsor a student. Only $30 a month covers tuition and a nutritious snack for one child. Our child is Dulce. In February of this year, while on our annual trek to see our grandson, we visited Escuela Caracol. We were met by Joshua Wilson, Pedagogical Director, President and Co-founder. We were given a tour of the campus and were surprised to learn that the sixth graders were studying the Norse gods as well as Roman history. The classrooms were airy, bright and inviting. Without a doubt, the highlight of our visit was meeting Dulce and her family. She was very shy. I had brought a few little gifts and she seemed embarrassed by all the attention. As Joshua translated, the family spoke about what our sponsorship means to them, stating that they would not be able to afford to send Dulce...
Welcome to Our Garden

Welcome to Our Garden

By Colleen Donovan, KinderCaracol Teacher A wise woman once told me that it is futile for early childhood educators to look for the results of their work. The care given during early childhood bears its fruit much later in life, when most likely the children have long since passed out of our own lives. Instead, we must be content in the knowledge that by planting good seeds we are helping to ensure a heathy future for the children under our care. Now, of course there are triumphs to be recognized throughout the year: the boy who has trouble sharing one day freely offers his toy to a playmate, the little girl who arrived weepy for the first few weeks of class walks in one morning with a bright smile. But it is true, to a great extent, that our work is the work of gardeners who are only passing through. We try our best to select good, healthy, vital seeds and create the conditions in which they will flourish, and then we leave, never knowing for sure the outcome of our work. Each morning, the little ones and I visit our school’s small flock of layer hens. We bring them greens, make sure they have enough grain and clean water, and spend a few minutes simply enjoying the pleasure of their company. If we are lucky there is an egg or two to collect, though usually none have been laid until we return during outdoor playtime. Our five minutes or so with the chickens each morning is important for many reasons. It is an act of devotion and care...
People of Time, People of Space

People of Time, People of Space

People of Time, People of Space Or How We Came to Study the Popol Wuj at Escuela Caracol According to the Popol Wuj, the sacred book of the Maya, the first four humans had the vision of the gods. They could see through both space and time and understand the vast expanses of the universe. The gods soon decided, however, that this was not such a good thing, so they blurred human vision “like breath upon the face of a mirror.” Some humans were not left totally in the dark though. They were given an ilb’al, a “seeing instrument,” namely, the Popol Wuj. With this “book of the people” and the sacred calendar it implies, they could foresee the movements of the planets, when it would rain, when there would be famine, war, death, etc. It guided their lives through time and effectively became for them a sophisticated system for the navigation of time. It was to them what GPS has become to modern people — they didn’t “go anywhere” without consulting it. It guided them in every aspect of life: when to plant, when to harvest, when to marry, when to conceive, when to build, when to travel. Then came another people from far away who were more concerned with space and had developed extraordinarily sophisticated systems for its navigation. The space people were the people of horses, roads, boats, compasses, maps and wheels. By contrast, the only wheel used by the time people formed a part of their cyclical calendar. These space people used their advanced technology to travel a great distance and conquer the time people, and then...