The cooks at Escuela Caracol strive to bring fresh, local produce to our students. Ingredients often come from our very own garden, such as avocado, bananas, pitaya, papaya, squash, lettuce greens, carrots, radishes, camote (like sweet potato) and güisquil (also known as chayote). The menu also strives to reflect local culture and traditional Guatemalan dishes, like Guatemalan chilaquiles, which we ate just last week. And the teachers also enjoy the coffee from the Caracol harvest! Below are some recent images from the kitchen.
The 4th and 5th grade class heard the stories from the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya. The stories really resonated with them, so their teacher Karin felt inspired to write a script based on a modern version of the book. The Class Play allowed the children to really take on the personalities of the characters, and have a personal experience with the mythology. The first half of the play takes us from the Creation Myth to the adventures of the Hero Twins. The second half takes place in Xibalbá, the Underworld of Mayan Cosmology, and ends with the Creation of the Human Beings of Corn.
The performance was a great success, an experience which we will always remember, and a shining moment for Escuela Caracol.
Thanks to everybody who helped and supported this undertaking!
As part of our studies of the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, we took a field trip to Sololá, the department’s capital. The class, accompanied by several parents and a visiting Waldorf teacher from Germany, took a boat and a bus up the mountain to get there. We were invited to see a private rehearsal of the Sotz’il Jay group, amidst the corn fields on the slopes of Lake Atitlan.
Sotz’il Jay means the House of the Bats, and is a renowned group of Maya Kaq’chikel artists and performers. They keep their traditions alive by deeply exploring Mayan Cosmology, talking to elders of the community, making masks and musical instruments using natural materials, and choreographing dances which convey the essence of their cultural heritage.
Watching the rehearsal and getting a tour of the House of the Bats, was an unforgettable experience for the children who were deeply moved and inspired by what they saw.
As part of our preparation for the Class Play and our studies on Mayan Mythology, we had the privilege of having special guests visit our school. They were two players from the team of Mayan ballgame from the neighbouring village of San Juan. Their team is actually second place nationally and they were kind enough to put together a presentation for our 4th and 5th grade class.
The Mayan (or Mesoamerican) ballgame is an important part of Mayan history and mythology, with important ritual aspects. Seeing it come to life in our own school was really something special. The players brought the heavy rubber ball, the scoring rings and the traditional attire, and gave us a demonstration along with drumming and chanting. They talked to us about the rules of the game, the history and mythology of which it is part, and the symbolism of duality of night and day, represented by the rising and falling of the ball.
To finish this deep immersion into the sacred Popol Vuh, teacher and students used their imagination to created beautiful pieces of art.
The Escuela Caracol has in its academic program classes in Spanish, English and Kaqchikel, the local Mayan language.
The videos we share below are two beautiful songs in Kaqchikel, where the teacher Diego guides the children of second and third grade.
The first song is a show of gratitude to the Creator of All Life while the second is a celebration of joy of living in such a beautiful place like San Marcos La Laguna.
You can find more videos on our YouTube channel!
Since the beginning of the creation of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner said that the main objective of this type of education would be to contribute to the overall healthy development of each child’s individuality, encouraging the development of all the forces and powers of the child in their growth: interest in the world, creativity, healthy morality, sensitivity to art, craft skills, own thinking, social virtues and willpower.
Waldorf Education is based on a true knowledge of the human being and the developmental stages described above. Steiner himself in his lectures advised teachers that hey should know the child, they should create the curriculum to accompany their class to help and support them in this process of developing their individuality.
“I cannot condition the child that I teach from me, but I rather must take what for me is totally unknown from his/her enigmatic interiority.” – R. Steiner
We must create the right environment for the child to be educated with us according to his/her destiny.
Stories of Heroes and Saints are special to nourish the soul of the children between 8 and 9 years, which is why I chose to narrate these stories. In these ages, more than give speeches about morality, many times the message is given through these stories, where children are identified with people who existed and whose lives were filled with exemplary qualities such as courage, love, calm, respect, humility.
Stories of Saints (Saint Francis, for example) are stories of people who have fought for their ideals, even against their family. It is a struggle with the world. These are stories that inspire the listener. When the child hears the stories he/she feels “identification, admiration and reverence”. We look for qualities that lead to these ideals. By narrating we can describe the village where this exemplary person lived, how were the people, the family, how he was when he was a child; children will love it.
One of the characteristics of children between 8 and 9 years is their desire to learn, yet without forming their own judgments. Memory, imagination, rhythmic repetition, satisfaction and desire for universal concepts presented in image form are part of this stage. The neccesity of adults acceptance is still strong, but now changes from being a matter of imitation of his senses to a matter of focusing on a model that affects the child, not only by words, but also in the way in which the teacher acts in life. Of the 9 onwards, children start to move away, and they question the authorities that are given to them.
Steiner recommended the use of parables to approach the soul of the child; by the spiritual content of the parables, the child can feel the inherent laws of existence, rather than merely grasp concepts . “All the transitory things are just a parable”, this is the permanent slogan of all education in this period. It is very important that the child receive as parables secrets of existence, before his soul face them in the form of “natural laws” (The Education of the Child, R. Steiner).
Current education, and this world of materialistic thinking, believes that the only path to knowledge is abstract; for that world it is difficult to admit that other psychic powers are as necessary as the intellect. Today’s education is often dry and dead, filled only with abstract concepts. For the cultivation of memory, the child has to learn things, like words, that only later will capture intellectually. The more your child´s memory capture, the better for him. In this period we must not exhaust the child’s mind with intellectual concepts. The Waldorf curriculum is designed so that the child is identified and reflected in the stories he/she hear.
In our mixed class of 2nd and 3rd grade, where all children are between 8 and 9 years old, has been a beautiful experience to see the reactions of each of them. The emphasis on grammar during the block of Heroes and Saints has been the use of punctuation and the class is learning calligraphy. They are writing their books with summaries of the stories they hear.
This time Giulio´s mom, Marinella, is accompanying us and teaching us each week, the song “Laudeato Si, Oh Mi Signore”, classical choir piece in the Italic language (old Italian), that has been sung in many languages and countries around the world, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
- Andrea Arrivillaga Hurtado
Help Escuela Caracol keep costs down by donating goods from our Wish List.
To make a donation of any of the following items (can be second-hand), or to help in any other way, please contact us. We appreciate donations at all times.
Right now we are in need of the following:
- Water filtration system (click here to see the technical proposal received)
- Computer (laptop if possible)
Since the beginning of this school year, kindergarten students basically made short-term projects, just one or two weeks per project. Children needed a long-term project, a challenge where they could develop their will, their concentration and their skills. This project was the perfect one at this stage of their learning process.
As can be seen in the photos, the little ones (3-5 years old) were devoted to weave according to their age and capabilities, while students ages 5 and 6 produced beautiful looms that require a little more dedication.
One thing is certain: our children enjoyed learning!
With this video we want to show our sincere appreciation to our friends Cristina Meillon and the Freie Waldorfschule Mainz.
Gracias – Thank you – Matyox – Danke for your support!
What inspires you to teach Escuela Caracol’s students?
Karin Pogharian: Escuela Caracol is located in a small village whose Maya Kaq’chikel inhabitants maintain their traditional language, customs and colourful attire. Students come to Caracol from San Marcos as well as from several villages around the lake. The school is multicultural and trilingual, with many students coming from expat families who come from a wide array of cultural backgrounds.
San Marcos is a unique place, at a crossroads between tradition and modernity. The need for education which is flexible and forward-thinking seems to be even more important in a community such as this one. We’re not stuck in old ways but new ways shouldn’t be accepted blindly. Integrating local Mayan stories and customs into our curriculum is an integral part of our philosophy. On the other hand, we want to prepare these children to be a voice fortomorrow and to take the development of their community into their hands.
I am inspired by Escuela Caracol – by the idealism with which it was born, by the love that permeates it and by its bright future which lies ahead.
How has Escuela Caracol reached its goal of providing “not just more education, but a different kind of education”?
Karin Pogharian: We want students to have a feeling of who they are and not just what they know. By adhering to the Waldorf approach, we closely study child development so that what we present to students really meets them where they are. We start and end each day with a handshake and the lighting of a candle with the students standing around in a circle. The beginning and end of each class as well as meal time is marked by a verse. These rituals foment a sense of respect in the children – respect for their education, for their teachers, for themselves.
The education we provide aims to form youth who can think outside the box and find creative solutions to problems. We don’t want children to memorize facts which they can easily forget. We teach them using stories or narratives which contain the teachings, the facts or the history which we want to get across. In the primary grades, these stories reach the children in their feeling, and we believe that what is received with a strong sense of feeling will stay with the children and really nurture them in their growth.
In our classrooms, we maintain a “nature table” where we bring elements from nature, or special objects which children have collected from outside. This foments a respect for nature and a connection to its rhythms. The Kindergarten is characterized by a softness. This ambience – created with the help of natural materials and toys, gentle singing and activities which resemble those in a household – helps the children stay in their world of innocent imagination which is appropriate for their age.
What do you love most about your work with Escuela Caracol?
Karin Pogharian: Working at Escuela Caracol has been a great challenge – a challenge that I was looking for when I moved here from Bogota, Colombia. We are constantly pushed to find creative solutions and to create a new road. We take decisions as a group. Working with the other teachers and staff at the school and fostering an environment based on honesty and building a strong ties tells me I’m in the right place and I am happy to show up to work each day.
On a personal level, what does empowerment mean to you?
Karin Pogharian: Empowerment to me means having the tools to face the world we live in. One feels empowered when one has the ability to DO, in all senses of the word. When one can speak, act and live in a way that is sincere with oneself, we feel empowered.
What are the biggest challenges to improving access to education in San Marcos La Laguna?
Karin Pogharian: In the recent history of San Marcos, formal schooling has not been prioritized in the general culture. In 1975 no resident of San Marcos (Marquense) had progressed beyond the 5th grade. Of course this has changed, but the reality is that the parental population is in its majority uneducated and illiterate, and fosters a low appreciation or value of education.
San Marcos residents speak the Mayan language of Kaq’chikel. Compared to other dialects of Kaq’chikel, the San Marcos dialect is unique to the village, and so written texts or teaching resources in the Marquense’s native language are virtually non-existent.
Spanish is the official educational language, yet most locals speak Kaqchikel at home and in their daily dealings. Due to economic need, families have children working instead of attending school. Sadly, alcoholism affects many families, leaving children virtually abandoned or in worse cases, abused.
There is a lack of qualified teachers in the town. Secondary education does not exist in San Marcos and is costly (and meager) around the lake. It involves travel, and is therefore limited. Most of the teenagers who do complete middle school, usually go on to seek work instead of pursuing secondary education.
Five years from now, where do you envision Escuela Caracol?
Karin Pogharian: In five years Escuela Caracol should have over 100 students and a strong, trained core of teachers. We want to continue with up to 80% indigenous students. We want to be financially stable with an endowment. It should develop a strong reputation regionally and nationally as a model of creative, child-centered (Waldorf) education. We should be developing plans for middle-high school. We should have more sports facilities. Caracol dreams of a curative education program and a stronger music program with a chorus and instrumental music instruction.
What advice would you give to prospective teachers?
Karin Pogharian: A teacher is somebody who is prepared to face surprises each day. We have to be firm but flexible. We have to come to class prepared but open to changing our plans. We have to have imagination to create, but as much as we have an image of the children and what we expect them to do, we have to look deeper inside them and recognize their potential and who they are as individuals. When we believe in the children, they come to life and your classroom comes to life. In the Waldorf pedagogy, we say “meet the children where they are”. Our curriculum is based on the development of the child and where they are in their thinking, feeling and doing.
Based on my experiences teaching in the primary school, I know that when the children are interested and challenged in what they’re doing, they are motivated by an insatiable curiosity and a seemingly endless source of energy, which then in turn inspires and motivates us as teachers. Take a step back sometimes and question what you’re bringing to the children and what you could bring them. Try not to limit yourself to one book or one way, and ask for help – other people can be your most valuable resource.
In preparation for the town fair of San Marcos La Laguna, the sixth grade class discussed what they love about life in San Marcos (the trees, the mountain, the view of three volcanoes, the jocotes!) as well as what they would improve. The problem with trash in our town was their main concern, and at the end of the town fair there was a lot of it around.
So as a precursor to their upcoming study of economics, the students began a short study of trash — its history, its sources, and its treatment. The municipality of San Marcos recently finished the construction of a trash and recycling center, so we thought it a good time to visit and see how it is operating.
The students were surprised to see the relative order of its operations and how much recycling was actually happening. The center separates glass by color, plastic by its type, paper by color, cardboard, aluminum and other metals, and then sells those materials to recycling factories elsewhere. What remains is buried in a landfill on site. The job of sorting the trash is so big and made such an impression on the students that several of them later asked if the class could come and volunteer one day a week. They especially enjoyed the job of breaking glass bottles against the cement storage containers!
Below are some pictures from our visit to the trash dump with the best view in the world.
On the morning of April 24, all schools in San Marcos La Laguna participated in the parade which takes place during the Feria in our town. Our local fair is a joyous time that almost says goodbye to the dry season. San Marcos streets become full of music, games and activities, and thousands of people celebrate this occasion as it deserves.
The parade go across the streets of San Marcos La Laguna and ends with a common event in the football field , where local authorities celebrate the celebration with students , teachers, families and local residents .
Our parade began at Escuela Caracol, where teachers, students and parents met . Our delegation was led by the Kinder students. They carried the flag with the image of our school and a beautiful craft that they made in their classes, a paper and wool lion (see photos below). After the smaller children , the other courses were also carrying flags with the colors of our town and banners of their own making.
From our school we headed to the meeting point where we met with the other schools, and from there we started walking through the streets to get to our destination in the football field.
It was definitely a very special occasion and a time to enjoy together in a celebration where all schools come together to fill the streets with laughter and joy.