The realization of this documentary comes at a defining moment in the history of Escuela Caracol. Joshua and Courtney Wilson, after founding and directing this project for seven years, left on sabbatical back to the United States. A new organizational structure with solid leadership in pedagogy, administration and development was implemented in 2014 and Escuela Caracol began the next phase of functional autonomy. Like an adolescent child stepping out on their own. To reflect on the past seven years and identify the extent of impact that has been made Neah Bay Douglas, Director of Development approached one of our teachers, Karla Olmedo, about beginning a project of social and educational research at Escuela Caracol. A systematization of experiences, with the opportunity to open the conversation to all members of the educational community to reflect on their own practices, achievements and the challenges they face. Ms. Olmedo accepted and has led a very in-depth research project that enumerates the high impact of the intercultural educational experiences happening among the Escuela Caracol community.
The systematization of experiences
The systematization of experiences is a process of self-knowledge, reflection and critical interpretation from and about the practice, which is based on the reconstruction and management of objective and subjective factors involved in that experience.
The utilities that are found in systematization research are varied and include:
- educators critically observe their own practice;
- formulating lessons that are focused on improving practices;
- contributions of critical dialogue between all participants of the educational process;
- conceptualizing and theorizing;
- a collaborative effort to define educational policies, etc.
An educational institution can build a collective thought that is highly enriched by the contributions of the systematization that are made about their experiences, thereby strengthening the institutional work and boosting the personal work among the team of educators.
In a systematization of experiences, we systematize our own practice
From this perspective, it is considered that social phenomena are historical, changing and contradictory and are a synthesis of multiple structural and cyclical factors and determinations; It is a concept that links theory and practice and does not separate object from subject knowledge.
The teachers are objects and subjects of knowledge and transformation. Our daily practice is replete with rich lessons to be learned and a continual evolution of self if the conditions are right to do so. Of course that runs the risk of making reflections uncritical and even justifying our work, but that is why we need a methodology that allows us to “objectify” and take a critical distance from our own experiences, without trying to override the richness of them.
The systematization of Escuela Caracol
The first systematization exercise consisted in gathering the stories of teachers, staff, and families representing each group. At this early stage a diagram showed us a very enlightening picture about the experience of Escuela Caracol for those who participate in it. Here we find that the central category of this diagram is “Intercultural Waldorf School”, anchored to the community of San Marcos La Laguna, and also the following subcategories emerged: Achievements, Challenges and Future Vision.
This initial exercise also made us aware of the need that the school has to give more weight to the voices of families in order to further understand the meaning of their participation in our educational community. Since one aspect to consider is the strengthening of community networks we had the idea of hosting the ‘Café Caracol’ based on the ‘World Café’ methodology. This community event significantly expanded the participation of the community of mothers and fathers in our process of systematization of experiences, and their voices were felt more deeply in our process of self-knowledge.
Although the systematization of experiences is a process that is continuing to run its course (which will culminate in additional materials that report the research findings), our team identified that at this intermediate point there was a need to create something to illustrate the path we walk collectively. Therefore we decided to create a short documentary, a perfect end to this first stage of research, an authentic presentation of our deepening reflection and impactful practice as an educational community.
For months we worked on developing a screenplay based on the categories and dimensions identified from the stories and interviews and from Café Caracol. During this time we found that we needed to appropriate the concept of interculturalism, one of the key concepts resulting from this methodological observation. Our project focuses on the concept “Intercultural Waldorf School”, and it is these same concepts that give us authenticity and relevance in this community. At Escuela Caracol the implementation of Waldorf pedagogy has a strong foundation with our teachers working towards certification and receiving continuous support from our Waldorf pedagogical director, Gloria Elena Londoño, but we wanted interculturality to be understood more deeply by all. To build a stronger understanding of interculturality in education, Genaro Vásquez came from Mexico to give a workshop aimed at members of our educational community, and open to other professionals in San Marcos La Laguna, Lake Atitlan and Guatemala. In this activity we identified how we approach and integrate this concept into our practice and how we will continue to address this part of our identity with conviction.
Jose Arteaga, a professional documentarian from Mexico, and Karla Olmedo filmed the documentary in November with active participation from school staff and families. It was an immense joy to see the cohesion of all the efforts of many months. During recording, besides being able to speak a common language, we were also able to express it effectively to the international community.
The process of systematization of experiences will continue because we truly believe this project is a seed for the education of children around the world. We believe in our work and the benefits we will provide by modeling the intercultural educational experience. Our dream is that something similar can be replicated in many communities around the world. A better world is possible, and we are the living example of this possibility.
We are so grateful for the support of our teachers, the students and families, our administration, Genero Vásquez, Jose Arteaga, and all of our fiscal sponsors. We are especially thankful for Joshua and Courtney Wilson for having the vision for Escuela Caracol and dedicating themselves so passionately for so many years.
To continue this opportunity in one of the poorest regions of Guatemala where 80% live in poverty we rely on support from sponsors throughout the world. Our fiscal stability depends on the continued support of these generous sponsors. Please consider becoming a sponsor of the Maya Student Fund to ensure that this dream is accessible. Donations can be made easily through our U.S. nonprofit sponsor at this link.
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This post is also available in: Spanish