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.


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.

Emerson Waldorf School students visit Escuela Caracol

Last week we had  the honor of welcoming a group of high school students from the Emerson Waldorf School, located in North Carolina. A group of 17 students came accompanied by three group leaders and volunteered all week, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with the whole community of Escuela Caracol.

In addition to teaching daily workshops on juggling, clay modeling, and charcoal drawings, the visiting students taught our students to make their own balls and stilts. The students from Emerson donated many useful materials so that our students can continue with the dynamic practices that began during this visit.

To the delight of all at Escuela Caracol the Emerson students also made a garden of culinary plants for use in our kitchen, built a wall cane area in Kindergarten and repaired and painted the walls of three classrooms.

On their last day they offered a small show for our parents and extended educational community to share the results of their visit. Emerson Waldof School students showed they are experts (some of them are geniuses!) in such diverse areas as chiaroscuro drawing, writing stories, illustration, juggling, singing, skipping (one of the students competes nationally in the United States)… and our children of Escuela Caracol also showed ​​they acquired knowledge and skills from this week. In addition, Kim, the teacher who accompanied this great group, explained in perfect Spanish all the advantages that these activities offer the children and the reasons why these activities are part of the Waldorf pedagogy. Valuable lessons such as overcoming fear through facing it, how knowledge and coordination are acquired through games, and most importantly that we all carry within us everything we need to successfully develop our gifts and natural abilities.

The students and Emerson Waldorf School served as models for our school. They are the representation of the true potential that every human being harbors within himself/herself and that Waldorf education encourages them creatively by promoting their full development. Students, through this rewarding week, learned that they carry a gem inside of them and our educational community will do everything possible to make it shine. Thank you very, very much to each and everyone for your visit, we are immensely grateful for your efforts and dedication. See you next year!