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How the First Classroom Was Built

In 2017, Escuela Caracol celebrates its 10th year. In honor of this anniversary we are recounting our history and remembering how this happy sanctuary came to be, with a campaign called “10 Years of Stories.” To begin, here’s our origin story, from Dr. Allen Wilson, father of co-founder Joshua Wilson: When my wife, Suzanne and I, first visited the property on which the school exists, the only building existing was what is now the office and area outside the office (plus a small bodega). This building was the home of Joshua and Courtney, the founders, for many months.  The first classroom to be built is the classroom which is adjacent and just down the steps from the the kitchen.  At that time there was only a couple of trees and lots of boulders and rocks on that site.  Josh’s vision for the classroom was that it be built as a Golden Rectangle, whose dimensions are based on the Golden Ratio, also known as the Divine Proportion.  What exists today is the result of this vision, and the hard work done by the first Guardian of the school, Nicolás Sacach Mendoza.  Nicolás had been working on the property where the school is located since 2001, and continued to do so when the school was founded in 2007.  The memory I want to share is of the groundbreaking for the new classroom in July of 2007.  From the moment the first shovel full of dirt was lifted, we realized that building a classroom on the existing property would be a huge task.  Every thrust of a shovel seem to hit rock.  The more we dug,... read more

The First Annual Jocote Festival

On October 30, 2016, Escuela Caracol held its first formal Jocote Festival, inviting vendors, musicians and visitors from around Lake Atitlán. This festival was held with a threefold purpose: to help raise money for Escuela Caracol, to invite the regional community to get to know the school, and to celebrate the harvest season and local traditions of this time of year. The Jocote Festival was a great success, with over 300 people attending. Chief among the harvest in San Marcos is the jocote (see below about jocotes), but other important harvests include corn and many types of squash. This time of year is also when the Day of the Dead is celebrated and loved ones who have passed are remembered. Associated with this holiday in Guatemala are two important traditions: flying kites and making coronas, which are colorful wreaths of cypress branches and flowers which are taken to adorn grave sites. At the Jocote Festival the Caracol first grade class hosted a corona-making workshop while the sixth graders offered a kite-making workshop. In addition to the workshops, harvest foods, musicians and vendors, games were offered with special local themes, like a jocote seed spitting contest and races carrying baskets on top the head.       Rounding off the event toward the end of the day was a special guitar performance by Caracol’s sixth graders, now calling themselves Flor de Jocote. (“Jocote Flower”). Watch their performance below! It was a beautiful day with a warm and lively atmosphere, and we look forward to developing it further in the years to come. WHAT IS A JOCOTE? The jocote ( is a special fruit in... read more

Master Waldorf Teachers from Switzerland Visit Caracol

At the end of August, Escuela Caracol was blessed once again by the visit of master Waldorf teachers who wanted to volunteer their time with us. This time, we were fortunate to receive Felix and Beatrice Zimmermann from the Rudolf Steiner School of Wetzikon, Switzerland. Felix specializes in the primary and secondary grades, and Beatrice is a kindergarten teacher, so they make an excellent pair. They spent a total of three weeks at Caracol, observing classes, mentoring teachers, and giving talks and workshops on Waldorf education. One of Felix’s talks was on the “Musical Moods and their Significance in Education.” Here is a short video of him playing the flute. Another very special contribution they made was the addition of a beautiful spinning wheel to our handwork equipment. Beatrice spent considerable time showing our kindergarten teachers and handwork teacher how to use it. The children are at once intrigued and comforted by its use in the classroom. Thank you, Felix and Beatrice! The Zimmermann’s visit was made possible in part by the generosity of Caracol neighbors, Ron and Kim Wilhelm, who donated the use of their gorgeous house for the Zimmermanns. Many thanks, Ron and Kim!... read more

Vermont Meets Guatemala

In February, Escuela Caracol was fortunate to host a group of Waldorf students and parents from the state of Vermont in the US. The family who organized the visit is a Caracol alumna family, the Devoe Tallutos. Their family of five spent a year at Caracol in 2009, and since then they have returned to visit us many times. This year they decided to invite members of their community at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Vermont come along with them. In total, they were a group of 14 students and parents who were interested in both Guatemala and Waldorf education. While at Escuela Caracol, the group worked tirelessly on a number of projects: they built a new coop for our chickens and a small pond for turtles, they designed and made costumes for our class 4/5 play, and they refinished the doors on the primary grades classrooms (which were in a sad state from the extremities of sun and rain here). They even took their break times to play with our students and show them how to make jump ropes. During their weeklong visit, they also found time to pour the foundation of a local home, climb a moutain peak to watch the sunrise over the lake, attend a dance class at La Cambalacha, learn how to make tortillas, kayak on the lake, take in many sights, and of course go swimming. Their work was a huge help to Escuela Caracol, and the visit was equally meaningful to the group. Many of the students are already talking about their next visit to Guatemala. Escuela Caracol sends its thanks to this... read more

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... read more

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... read more

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... read more

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... read more

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... read more

A New School Year!

                            Last week, on 25 January 2016, Escuela Caracol began its 9th school year with 80 children between kindergarten and sixth grade. The campus is buzzing with lively activity once again! This is a special year because all of our teachers and teaching assistants have been at Escuela Caracol for at least three years, which brings an important sense of stability to school life. This year we want to celebrate the loving and dedicated team of teachers and staff at Escuela Caracol that continues to bless our community. Keep an eye out for special profiles on these wonderful people. Below are a few images taken during the first day of classes by Eric Mencher, professional photographer, supporter and friend of Escuela Caracol. Included among these photos are images from the first grade induction ceremony, where the first graders with their parents pass through a “rainbow tunnel” made by the rest of the primary school to receive a rose from their new teacher, who guides them to the classroom. Thanks, Eric, for accompanying us on this special day! Please check out Eric’s site to see some of his amazing photos from around the world: www.ericmencher.com... read more

2015 School Year Closing Ceremonies

Another year has passed! A year full of life lessons, smiles, tears and magic. Many challenges life presents, and how wonderful this inner light is, helping us move forward! One year more, our strong will and our unconditional love has kept us together. Thank you very much to everyone who make possible to keep this living alive. See you in... read more

Caracol Intercultural Movement

On November 13th, in the central park of San Marcos La Laguna, our entire educational community created the Caracol Movement (“Movimiento Caracol”), an intercultural event with over 7 hours of music, dance, magic, juggling, art and gastronomy with the purpose of raising funds for Escuela Caracol. This event was the inspired and organized by two of our Caracol teachers, Ervin Quiacain and Diego Sacach. The two of them took on the work of planning the event and organizing many different commissions of parents and teachers to handle the various parts of the event. Many parents came together to sell a variety of food options as well as handmade crafts. The Pyramids Meditation Center in San Marcos volunteered a team from its community to MC the event, and many local businesses offered items for an enormous raffle (meals, massages, hotel rooms, even items like dog food and buckets!). It was a tremendous encouragement to feel the wide-ranging support of local institutions and businesses. The entertainment of the night was a beautiful exposition of the cultural variety that exists at Lake Atitlán. The “headliner” was Sotz’il, an extraordinary performance group that works with ancient Mayan music and art in a way that powerfully speaks to contemporary times. Their performance was a high energy yet sacred and moving experience, during which a local artist composed a painting inspired by their music (which he then donated in an auction). In addition to the ancient Maya inspired music and art, the night featured more modern elements, like a magician, juggling, clowning, fire dancing, and even a Maya rap and breakdance group from the neighboring town of San Pablo. It was sugh a joy... read more

Festival of Kites and Jocotes

The first and second of November are days of special significance for the people of Guatemala. At this time we celebrate ‘All Saints Day’, also called the ‘Day of the Dead’ (El dia de los muertos), a celebration with ancient roots that go back to the native people. In all cemeteries and streets of Guatemala, the sky is filled with joy and movement. Kites, symbols of communication between living beings and spirits of the dead, are flown carrying messages, hugs and greetings to the spirits of the loved ones. The kitesare  deeply rooted in local families, and they’re built with a very light rod plant called paja (straw), tissue paper (chinese paper in Guatemala) and thread. As every year, Escuela Caracol honored this tradition celebrating the Festival of Jocotes and Kites. In addition to developing our own handmade kites (barriletes) and flying them, we also celebrated and welcomed the harvest, symbolized here by the Jocote, the representative tree of San Marcos La Laguna. Our festival began with an offering of flowers and candles to give thanks for the harvest. The celebration of the festival was subsequently attended by the families in the school, and after the opening ceremony we all went out of school to fly our kites. After that, we share a delicious homemade lunch while listening to a beautiful marimba concert. The parents also had the chance to visit an exposition of the works of the students in our palapa. Such a perfect... read more

Class Play: Oh, Great Quijote!

The fifth and sixth grades played in Escuela Caracol “Oh, Great Quixote! Stories of a knight”, an adaptation of Cervantes’ work full of humor, values and adventures. In Waldorf education, theater is part of the curriculum of studies. Through theater the human being develops and improves diverse cognitive, motor and communication skills. The student creates a deep contact with the body, feelings and emotions, learns to assimilate the beauty of creation and to artistically participate in group activities. The staging process also requires an extra effort of memorization, dramatization, deepening the characters, rhythm, improvisation, stage assembly, execution… Our students, led by teacher Karin, and supported by two wonderful local musicians that played the guitar during the plass play, did a wonderful job, and all participants greatly enjoyed a fun and beautiful night of theater, art and... read more

Wendalyn von Meyenfeldt brings Eurythmy to Escuela Caracol

Escuela Caracol has had the great honor of receiving for several weeks Eurythmy teacher Wendalyn von Meyenfeldt, who is visiting us from the Vancouver Waldorf School. During this time, teacher Wendalyn has worked directly with school staff, families and children. It is with great joy and excitement that we share this letter that she wrote for us. Thank you very much for blessing us with your presence, teacher! There are many beautiful flowers growing on the shores and hillsides of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. I don’t know the names of many of them, but I do know one beautiful ‘flower‘, and that is Escuela Caracol. I am a Eurythmy (movement) teacher at the Vancouver Waldorf School in Vancouver, Canada, and I have just spent three weeks as a ‘guest teacher’ at this unique and wonderful school. The teachers and administrators at Escuela Caracol are all dedicated and loving gardeners, helping the school to flourish and grow. They have planted and cultivated seeds of learning, healing, nourishment and hope in the hearts of their young charges and in the community. I am very impressed by the school’s vision and achievements, and the fine quality of the teaching here. It takes much effort and commitment, consciousness and care to ‘grow‘ an intercultural school in Guatemala. Escuela Caracol is a rare and unique ‘flower’ indeed! In my weeks at the school, I perceived much love and intention in the carrying of the school. I know that the children at Escuela Caracol can blossom here like flowers. One day, the winds of life will carry them to bring seeds of vision, healing and hope to the... read more

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