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.

Our visit to Reserva Natural Atitlán and Mariposario in Panajachel

Recently students of grade two and three made a visit to the Atitlán Natural Reserve and Mariposario (butterfly sanctuary). Our day began with a short walk from the school down to the lake. We had the good fortune to be accompanied by some of the student’s mothers. We took a boat 20 minutes across lake Atitlán to an idyllic enclave in the town Panajachel. The boat trip itself it was a unique and unforgettable experience for some of the children who had never taken a boat before.

The Reserva Natural Atitlán has nature trails surrounded by breathtakingly beauty. The roads have hanging bridges over ravines and waterfalls. One such path runs along the area where spider monkeys and coatis (members of the raccoon family) live in freedom. We had the great fortune to visit them during lunch, their caregivers provided us with bananas to feed them. This moment was very special for everyone, we had lots of fun and learned about the nature and behavior of these animals.

Everyone was captivated while visiting the beautiful dome full of water, plants and flowers where butterflies live and reproduce. The students learned about the species living in the dome, especially about the Pan Ajachel butterfly, native of this geographic area and amazingly beautiful.

Before returning to school, everyone enjoyed a snack in the playground area. The mothers enjoyed playing and laughing with the children. As you can see in the pictures, beauty, learning and fun were at every moment part of the activity! Opportunities like this reinforce the value of experiential education, and the memories will certainly enliven their minds and hearts as they journey further into their education and development. We are looking forward to finding our next destination!


Students go to horseback riding

The 4th and 5th grade class recently completed the block on Zoology, the study of animals. After studying a variety of animals such as the octopus, the elephant and the beaver, the students had a first-hand experience with an animal they all love: the horse.

We took the boat to the neighbouring village of San Pedro, where each student had the unforgettable experience of riding a horse. The students anticipated the trip for weeks, and when they finally faced the horses for the first time, some commented “We didn’t think they’d be so big!”. The two girls were the first to get on! After a little bit of hesitation and nervousness from the boys, they also got on their saddles. Before long, they wanted to know how to get the horse to really gallop!

We steered through the narrow streets of San Pedro and got out to a more rural road on the shore of the lake. When it was time to turn around, one student exclaimed, “Time is up? It can’t be! We need to do this every week!

Horseback riding has been noted to have a therapeutic effect on children, helping them with self-confidence, trust and learning boundaries, among other things. The teacher agrees with her students…. We should go horseback riding more often! We were thrilled to have three mothers from the class accompany us, and we hope to see them on the saddles next time!

Celebrating our 7th Anniversary

The 20th of June was a very special day for Escuela Caracol, It was our 7th anniversary! Celebrating another birthday is truly magical for us. Escuela Caracol is a dream come true for our entire school community, seeing it fulfilled every new year reflects the enormous effort and devotion in our daily work. Offering San Marcos La Laguna this excellent educational opportunity fulfills a community need for nurturing, arts-integrated, multi-sensory, intercultural education. It is with great joy and satisfaction that we continue to work towards increasing access to this education.

Our celebration brought together students, teachers, members of the school team, families and many other people who accompanied us on this fantastic celebration. We started the day with a meeting in our palapa, where students delighted the audience with their art. The palapa was filled with music and dance, as you can see in the gallery we share at the end of this article.

After that we held a raffle. Members of our community donated prizes, and this year they really surprised us! A few of the prizes were accommodations in some of Lake Atitlán’s most beautiful hotels, breakfasts and lunches in local restaurants, handicraft materials, honey, clothing, cakes, hours of internet, massages. The money raised through the raffle will support our important daily work. The continued success of Escuela Caracol depends almost entirely on the contributions of our donors and sponsors. We deeply thank all of the people who contributed, for they made possible this amazing activity.

Students in grade six participated in an exercise of courage and valor by jumping over the bonfire, a symbolic annual tradition offered to the graduating class. As they jump they ask for desires to be fulfilled in their future. This moment is a very special one and marks a farewell to our grade six students.

Students and their families also shared game time in front of our new classroom building, newly built with the support of donors and sponsors who strongly believe in our educational project. The students especially loved seeing their families and teachers laugh and play with them enjoying the party as if they had themselves returned to childhood.

Following game time everyone enjoyed a feast that was made possible through the contributions of all of the families. Each family brought food and helped serve and clean. Escuela Caracol is a team that involves families in the educational process of their children and conveys values ​​that enrich the development of the students, the families and the San Marcos community.

Many thanks to all who joined us, which made it possible to enjoy together as a community!

Happy Father´s Day!

This week we had the celebration of Father’s Day in Guatemela, and our students worked enthusiastically with their hands creating gifts for their dads.

From Escuela Caracol we also want to congratulate all the dads and share some of the work that children did with all their love. Felicidades!

A Glimpse into the Caracol Kitchen

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.

Living the stories of the Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Maya

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.

Learning through music (videos)

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!