Escuela Caracol Documentary

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.

Please consider sharing this documentary with friends and family through email and facebook.

A glimpse into grades 2 and 3 classroom

Escuela Carcol, Guatemala

Here is a glimpse into Andrea Arrivillaga Hurtado’s Grades 2, 3 classroom, where most of the students rely on help from sponsors:

The 2014 school year was wonderful! We started the year with 19 children, a group that was very happy to see each other again, eager to learn, work, sing and play. Our first block of study was a language arts block using classic fables and form drawing. At the end of the first block we performed a class play “The Wake of Uncle Tiger”, from the oral tradition of South America. While the children memorized the play we also worked with the written language. The children enjoyed a lot throughout the creation of this play, it was very fun and rewarding!

Over the summer we had another exciting block we worked hard on: money. We took a field trip to the Nature Reserve across the lake in Panajachel (for some students it was their first time ever leaving their home village) where we brought math problems to life in our experiences and worked with real money. The last week of classes before the “mid-year break” we had a very enriching visit with volunteers from the Emerson Waldorf School in North Carolina, U.S.. These high school students led our children in numerous fun and artistic workshops and they also spent time painting and building new infrastructure at the school. It was a very big year with much learned in language arts, math, music and art.

2014 School Year Closing Ceremony


Another school year has passed, and as is tradition, our whole educational community came to Escuela Caracol to celebrate the closing ceremony. This year we had some surprises that resulted in the best closure of these past 7 years.

The event began with an exhibition of the work of students that served as a reception for the families. After this time of delight and socializing we joined together at our beautiful palapa.

Children from every grade level, from the youngest in kindergarten through our seniors in sixth, showed some of the skills they have learned during the school year. As you would expect in a Waldorf school, the event was clearly marked by the presence of art, rhythm and creativity.

Following the presentation of each grade we premiered a recently shot documentary of Escuela Caracol, directed by Jose Arteaga, colleague of teacher Karla Olmedo. A much-anticipated work of art illustrating the findings of an intercultural research project that Ms. Olmedo has been leading over the last half of this year in the Escuela Caracol community. This systematization of experiences among our community, in addition to identifying our collective voice (through events like Cafe Caracol), has resulted in this documentary that is of impeccable quality and faithfully reflects our social impact in this kaqchikel community of Lake Atitlan. Soon we will share the final edition on our YouTube channel.

In closing to our end of the year ceremony, the magician D’Mond offered a fun show of magic and humor that delighted our children. Our ceremony, full of life, magic, art and fun, was the reflection of a memorable year for us all. Now comes the deserved vacation time, which will provide a time for renewal and preparation for a collective success in the next seven-year cycle beginning in January 2015. Thanks for supporting us throughout 2014!

The Theatre Group of Escuela Caracol presents Ropa de Teatro


On Sunday the 16th of November the Theatre Group of Escuela Caracol, composed of mothers, fathers and members of the school team, and directed by teacher Andrea Arrivillaga, represented Escuela Caracol in the comedy Ropa de Teatro (Theater Clothing), written by Laureate Guatemalan playwright Manuel Galich.

After two months of rehearsals and preparations of scenery and clothing, the actors and actresses treated us to a fun Sunday afternoon. The event, in addition to promoting art and culture in our community, served to raise funds for our school.

Given the success of community participation and the quality of the play, we are confident that we will soon be announcing a new production by our theater group. 2015 will certainly be a school year full of cultural events in Escuela Caracol!

Intercultural Education Workshop with Genaro Vásquez


Genaro Vasquez, a speaker and workshop leader on issues including intercultural education, agro-ecological sustainability and indigenous movements recently led a workshop at Escuela Caracol on Intercultural Education. This event was led in a participatory style and attracted teachers from other local schools to learn along with Escuela Caracol’s teachers, parents and guests from our community. Our time together allowed for a strengthening of our foundation to ensure continued impact in intercultural equity.

Originally from the rural community of Tlahuitoltepec Mixe, Oaxaca, Mexico, Mr. Vasquez graduated in Agro-ecology Engineering from the Universidad Autónoma of Chapingo in 2009 and subsequently completed a Masters degree in Agro-ecology and Sustainability at the University of Cordoba Spain. He recently completed an MA in Research and Development of Education at the Universidad Iberoamericana Mexico. He is co-founder and partner of the Higher Institute Intercultural Ayuuk, Oaxaca Mixe area where activities have focused on the accompanying processes of intercultural education and agro-ecological farming.

Thanks to Genaro Vasquez for his support and for moving us towards a real, consistent and efficient intercultural education for our entire educational community. We hope that he will honor us with a visit again!

Donor Profile: DeVoe-Talluto family


Our school relies on the generous support of many caring donors living throughout the world. Some donors make a financial gift once a year, our annual fund campaign is coming up again this November, and others give monthly to support the continued education of our beautiful students. We are blessed to have such a strong and loyal network of support. Today we are profiling one of our longstanding donors, the DeVoe-Talluto family from Vermont who had a life-changing experience in 2008 when they moved to San Marcos for a sabbatical.

You’ve said that while Vermont is your home, a piece of your heart has remained in Guatemala since your first visit to Escuela Caracol in 2008.  Tell us about your connection to the school.

Kristin DeVoe-Talluto: My husband and I travelled extensively before we had kids and we met some amazing families who were on the road with their children.  We told ourselves that when we had children, we would do some sort of overseas adventure with them.

Ten years and three kids later, we were ready to set off, but weren’t sure where we wanted to go.  By happenstance we discovered Escuela Caracol, and even though our children were not enrolled at a Waldorf school at the time and we had never been to Central America and didn’t speak Spanish, we knew that this was the meaningful adventure that we wanted for our family.

Escuela Caracol was only two years old when we arrived in 2008; there were two open-air classrooms, a small team of local and international staff, and 26 students (including my three!) in grades K-2. We were warmly welcomed into the Caracol community, and we loved the school so much that we kept on extending our sabbatical.  We originally planned to stay for six months, but we ended up living in San Marcos for nearly a year.

What was that year like for your family?

It was truly a gift. To experience the power of Escuela Caracol and the beauty of Lake Atitlan on a daily basis was inspiring.  Because of our time at Escuela Caracol, we developed a deep appreciation of Waldorf education and enrolled all three kids in the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Vermont when we returned to the States.

For years, we dreamed of going back to Caracol, and finally last February we were able to return to volunteer and visit.  We were in awe at how much Caracol has grown and matured, and yet it was also clear from watching the students and the teachers, staff and parents that the commitment, joy and vision that defined school community in its infancy remain the same.

You’ve been a donor since you first connected with the school in 2008. Why do you give consistently to Escuela Caracol?

My family decided five years ago to make Escuela Caracol our highest giving priority.  We intentionally donate to the operating fund because we have the utmost confidence that our gifts will be used thoughtfully and strategically. We also know that our contributions will have an enormous impact on individual lives and by extension the whole community.  In addition to our family’s donation, my daughters fundraise for Caracol each holiday season. Giving to Caracol is our way of affirming what is good and beautiful and whole in the world.  It is my favorite check to write!

Why are you so passionately committed to Escuela Caracol?

I see Escuela Caracol as a beacon of peace and unity in a town that experiences intense poverty and vast divisions among the indigenous, ex-pat and tourist communities. Caracol’s ability to integrate education in a in way that honors the indigenous Maya as well as the children whose parents have North American, European and Latin American backgrounds speaks to the creativity of the staff and the wholeness and universality of Waldorf education.

If you have ever been to Escuela Caracol or seen pictures, you’ll know that it is simply a stunningly beautiful place, and yet eight years ago it was only an idea and a piece of rocky land.  For me, Caracol is an exquisite reminder of the potential in each of us, no matter our background, our language, or our economic means. I truly believe that the school serves not just the children and families of San Marcos, but also those of us around the world who yearn for models of vision, hope and love in action.

May we learn to transform our own communities by practicing what Escuela Caracol does so beautifully: seeing each person for who they are and who they can become.

Biodynamics Course with Ferdinand Vondruska


Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.

In this course you will learn:

• Scientific and Philosophical Foundations of BDA
• The Rhythms of Nature and the Cosmos
• Soil Revitalization
• Seeds
• Composting and Biodynamic Preparations
• Medicine for Men and Animals
• Artistic Activities and Field Practice

Ferdinand Vondruska

752798I am a trained Waldorf teacher with 20 years of teaching experience. I’ve started the now big Vancouver Waldorf School in Canada. I was involved in the start of the Biodynamic Society in British Columbia, Canada. I am making all Bio-Dynamic Preparations and I am trying to understand the world of the Devas, Nature Spirits, Gnomes, Undines, Sylphs and Salamanders, entities beyond the mere physical that need to be nourished. I’m running my own farm and community.

Date: November 7 and 8
Location: Escuela Caracol, San Marcos La Laguna, Lake Atitlan

Festival of Light and Courage

The celebration of Archangel Saint Michael is traditionally celebrated as a religious holiday. In Waldorf schools it is also a time to consider reconnecting with the cosmic-divine. The same consideration occurs with all four festivals that make up the annual cycle: Saint Michael, Advent, Easter, Saint John, all linked to the seasons respectively: autumn, winter, spring, summer.

The Feast of St. Michael is preceded by the celebration of the autumn equinox, when the two ground poles are the same distance from the sun and light is perceived equally in both hemispheres. We can say it is a time of equilibrium for the earth. It is a time when day equals night.

In our atmosphere during this time of year meteoric iron falls to earth as rain of stars, it is a powerful healing force. In our blood iron is needed for strength. A person or small child with insufficient iron in their blood is anemic and lacking energy.

As teachers we help the children develop greater strength in many ways. Our students are encouraged to face challenges and enabled to overcome their own difficulties, overcome their fears, gain courage and confidence in themselves.

For us as teachers and parents this is a time that invites us to know our own limitations and fears, to find our own light and strength, to find our balance in life, to accompany our children with increasing success in this task that we have together to make them loving persons of good despite all the difficulties of the time.

Golden light is turning grey,
Mists begin to rule the day.
Bare the trees, their branches lift;
Clouds of dead leaves earthward drift.

Through the field the farmer goes,
Seeds of ripened corn he sows;
Trusts the earth will hold it warm,
Shelter it from cold and harm.

For he knows, that warmth and light
Live there, hidden from our sight;
And beneath a sheltering wing,
Deep below, new life will spring!

Deep below, deep below, new life will spring!

Fall Equinox Celebration


Saint Michael is celebrated near the autumnal equinox in Waldorf schools. We call the festival ‘Michaelmas’ and we celebrate the strong will and courage of the human being. In many parts of the world it is a time to prepare for the coming darkness which is a reminder for us to seek the light from within ourselves. At our school assembly there was singing and flute playing from both the teachers and the students.


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!