K’iyb’äl Caracol: Wednesday markets at Escuela Caracol

On September 10 we celebrated in Escuela Caracol our first K’iyb’äl (market) Caracol, which from now on will be held every Wednesday from 12:30 to 3:00 pm. The idea of this market is not only the purchase and sale of local products and services, it is also a way to create a space for social interaction for families and visitors in our school community.

Since we proposed this idea to the families, all were excited and began looking for ways to participate. When the day came, our school was full of products to the delight of the audience and the pupils and students, who also came to participate during recess and after school. Among the products, we saw food from different cultural backgrounds (focaccia, tamales, tiramisu, beans, quiche, pastries, breads, crackers, kombucha …) as well as crafts, natural products and other handmade items, some with clear Waldorf orientation.

The activity was a success of participation and marked the beginning of a new form of support for schools and families. Many thanks to all the families who have made this market possible. And please do not forget to participate every Wednesday!

Guatemalan Independence Day Celebration

Like every year, Escuela Caracol participated in the parade of September 15th, Guatemala’s national day.

Our group met at the meeting point with other local schools and from there we began the parade. The event ended on the sports field where each school participated in various events and our children sang the beautiful song Lake Atitlan.

Check out the pictures. As you can see, they really enjoyed!

Getting Into Writing

The 4th/5th grade students were thrilled to trade in their crayons and pencils for ink. In Waldorf education, we make an effort to present new concepts within a context. As such, before the students received their fountain pens, we talked about the history of writing. Students were asked to think about how it all began: from making cave paintings using fingers and natural pigment, to selecting specific feathers for quills. This exercise tied into our current Ancient History block where we have been looking at the development of human civilization and the different advances which accompanied each period.

We first experimented with feathers which the students collected from outside. As it coincided with our studies on Ancient India, we wrote our names in the Hindi script with the feathers and ink.

Then, with some help from our handwork teacher, we selected bamboo from the school grounds, took knives and sandpaper, and created our own pens from bamboo. During the process, the children were asking, “Are we actually going to be able to write with this?” They were surprised when they saw how the ink first flowed up the tip and then how smoothly it went down on the paper. They couldn’t wait to take their work home to show it to their families.

Finally, the parents were invited to come into our class to take part in handing out each student his or her fountain pen. Students were reminded of the importance of caring for their pens and using a proper grip when using them. The students couldn’t wait to start writing!!

  • Written by Karin Pogharian,  4th/5th grade class teacher

Announcement from Joshua Wilson, founder of Escuela Caracol


The past seven years have been a remarkable time of growth for Escuela Caracol. In this time Escuela Caracol has grown from a small playgroup to a full Waldorf primary school with two kindergartens — the first Waldorf school in Guatemala and the most established in Central America. The dream of bringing renewal to education in a region that has long suffered from violence lives and continues to grow and inspire others, bringing hope, confidence and capability to a new generation.

Escuela Caracol now has a strong team of 11 dedicated teachers. The first Guatemalan Waldorf class teacher, Andrea Arrivillaga, completed her training last year, and the first indigenous Maya kindergarten teacher, Marilily Mendoza, is finishing her training this year. Six other teachers are currently working on their Waldorf training. We have beautiful new classrooms, a base of over 50 sponsors, and a strong administration.

After seven years of intensive work, I am excited to announce that I am taking a sabbatical. For the next year, I will be living in Sacramento, California with my family. During this time I will be completing teacher training coursework at Rudolf Steiner College, taking care of my health, and dedicating myself to my family. We are expecting a baby in December, so this is an important time for us. This is also an important time for Escuela Caracol. The school is transitioning from the early pioneering phase into a period of organizational stabilizing. Like a 7 year old who begins first grade and breaks away a bit more from her parents, so too Escuela Caracol needs to walk on her own without her “parents” holding her hand.

This is a critical moment for Escuela Caracol, and your support is more important than ever. Stability is crucial in transitions like this. If you’re already donating, please continue your support. If you can give more, even better. If you are not currently participating in our community of support, please consider how you can help. It has been three years since Escuela Caracol raised the price of tuition, and our costs continue to grow along with inflation. The school still needs $50,000 to complete the academic year in November 2014. Plans for ensuring long-term financial stability are in the works, and details will be announced in the months to come.

The faculty and staff of Escuela Caracol fully support my decision to take a sabbatical year, and they are excited about what this new phase of development holds in store. Escuela Caracol continues to be a magical place that inspires people in both Guatemala and around the world. The work of our educational community is planting a small seed of hope for the children of Guatemala. Thank you for being a part of it.

In gratitude,

Joshua Wilson

August 2014

Meet Neah Bay Douglas, our new Development Director


Escuela Caracol´s Development Director Neah Bay Douglas has been a supporter of the Waldorf movement for more than ten years beginning with the enrollment in parent-child classes (at Chicago Waldorf school) with her oldest son Jackson who is now 13. Recently her experience culminated in the founding and directing of a Waldorf-methods charter school in Colorado. She joined the Caracol community this past June and works most of the year from the United States but travels to San Marcos intermittently. Currently she is spending three weeks here with her two children, Jackson (13) and Artic (10). See more from their recent explorations in Guatemala on their travel blog:

Neah, what job did you have before coming to Escuela Caracol?

I have worked in nonprofit leadership for many years with a focus on serving children at risk. Most recently I founded and directed a school in the United States (Colorado), a K-8 Waldorf-methods public charter school called Mountain Song Community School.

Why did you choose to work for Escuela Caracol?

Waldorf education is a powerful social movement that facilitates the development of communities fully in areas of the intellect, the heart and the body. It engenders from a full capacity the ability to authentically know and respect oneself and others. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, said that “love is the greatest power of knowledge” and true education is formed through this power. The intention at Escuela Caracol comes from love and compassion. This is felt fully from the staff who have come from all over the world and are working together with local people who are both indigenous Maya and non-indigenous. Creative expression, practical work, the natural environment and social harmony are part of each day at Caracol. Also, there is an honest intention to celebrate and honor the traditional Maya culture while recognizing ways to integrate and emerge together as a new culture. It is a place of renewal, a place of beauty and a genuine representation of Waldorf education. There was also a lovely synchronicity in this opportunity for me because before I was born my father, who was a professor for a Native American college in the United States, spent a summer teaching an indigenous native american tribe, the Makah. This was in Neah Bay, Washington and that is where my name is from.

Can you share some of the highlights of your work on Escuela Caracol?

When I am able to work in San Marcos at the school there is a continuous expression of joy that is felt in abundance. The melody of the children’s laughter and singing drifts continuously through the buildings and gardens, and the beauty of each child is seen in their smiles, their art and handwork. A cherished moment that I will always remember is when Andrea, the grade 2-3 teacher was showing examples of her students’ main lesson books during a staff meeting. Her pride and love were fully expressed as she turned the pages of these beautiful hand-made books of language arts and mathematics. There was one particular student who had made extreme progress with his academics and emotional wellbeing. As everyone looked at his accomplishments it felt like the whole staff had one giant heart beating in perfect rhythm. The success of this student can largely be attributed to Andrea’s care and intention and to that of the entire staff. My experiences with all of the staff confirm their deep love and commitment to this wonderful school.

You have a lot of experience in Waldorf education. How do you think this pedagogy would benefit the community and Guatemala?

The pedagogy provides and maintains a pulse for regeneration and Escuela Caracol can be a model for Guatemala, a country still recovering from a 36 yearlong civil war. This comprehensive educational community can serve as a model of how to remove the residue of conflict, build intercultural solidarity and empower people to move out of a cycle of poverty. Three fundamental principles of Waldorf education provide strength for this community: freedom, equality and solidarity.

How do you imagine Escuela Caracol in the future?

I imagine Escuela Caracol flourishing and continuing to engage many students in multiple capacities preparing them for great opportunities in their lives. I see a thriving school that is fully enrolled and has equal representation of girl and boy students. I would also like to see the efforts of the school widening out through Guatemala through the offering of teacher training to many Guatemalan educators. And lastly I am hoping for ways to engage in social-impact initiatives that will put the needs and challenges of the community at its center and benefit not only the school but the whole Lake Atitlán region economically.

School Games 2014

For the first time, the Escuela Caracol had the honor of participating in the School Games 2014 organized in San Marcos La Laguna. Hundreds of students from different schools in our village and other neighboring villages filled the courts with sports, emotion and joy.

Our students participated in different categories of soccer 5, chess and athletics. The result of these competitions was very positive for the children, but certainly the most notable was the joy that participants squandered during the games. The victory, in this case, was for all students, faculty and parents. We all enjoyed a lot and are looking forward to participate again next year!

Congratulations to all and our sincere thanks to all who made possible these School Games 2014.

The first Holy Week carpet of Escuela Caracol

The elaboration of sawdust, flower and fruit carpets is one of the most important aspects of the Guatemalan Semana Santa. The long and stunning carpets are a very significant part of the popular art and they are deeply rooted in the collective memory of Guatemalan people as a part of their cultural and religious syncretism.

Their functionality is also linked to the prayer. The faithful elaborate carpets not only as a form of decoration, but also to thank the divinity or to ask for some favor during the process.

We are lucky that in San Marcos La Laguna many people share their creativity in the form of amazing carpets. Different families and groups gather in the streets and combine their abilities to create beautiful pieces worthy of our admiration.

This year, the Escuela Caracol decided to create its first carpet, and the result was quite impressive! Without any previous design, and basically using only plants and flowers, all the people involved (students, parents, teachers, friends…) were able to create a lovely, improvised carpet.

This was our first experience elaborating carpets, but for sure that next year we will be filling the streets with colors again!

Below we share some pictures of other carpets made here in San Marcos La Laguna. Brilliant!

Alumna Family Returns to Help with Class Play

The Devoe-Talluto Family — Kristin, Jim, Sienna, Willow & Kai — came from Vermont to Escuela Caracol in 2009 as a part of their family sabbatical. They stayed the entire year and took with them memories for a lifetime. In February 2014, the whole family decided to come back for a visit using “pay-it-forward” money that they received. They were impressed by how much the school has grown, and were eager to find ways of helping out while they were in town.

One of their contributions while visiting was to design and help make the costumes for the 2nd-3rd grades class play. It was a short play based on the fable, El Velorio de Tio Tigre (“The Wake of Uncle Tiger”) by Venezuelan writer, Antonio Arraíz.

Click here to read more about and see some pictures of the play.

Thanks Devoe-Tallutos!

Big Brothers & Sisters

This year we have paired up our 6th graders with the entering 1st graders as “big brothers” and “big sisters.” The 6th graders have written decorated notes to their little brothers and sisters (which their teacher read for them), and each Monday afternoon they visit the 1st grade class to help with handwork projects. Their first project of the year was making fabric holders for their crayons. As you can see in the photos, it has been a success. At an age characterized by increasing hardness — in both bones and attitude — it is a joy to see these students being so tender and connecting with their own lingering childhood.

Sculpting Rocks in 6th Grade

The sixth grade students at Escuela Caracol are not only learning about rocks in their Mineralogy block in main lesson, but in their handwork class they are also learning how to sculpt rocks. What better way to connect with stones than by learning how to bring a form to birth from them? Working in the tradition of local Maya stone carvers, our handwork teacher, Ignacio Porón, is immersing the sixth grade in this ancient art.