Thank you for your support!

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!


Teacher Appreciation Interview with Karin Pogharian of Escuela Caracol

Escuela Carcol, Guatemala
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. 

6th Graders Visit the Dump

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.

Tuesday gardening in Kindergarten

Tuesday is the day when our kindergarten little students learn gardening, and according to our philosophy, they do it in the best possible: experiencing it.

The gardening class is a very important time of the week . Besides being part of the learning process, small live and feel Mother Earth. Under the guidance of their teachers and assisted by Shad Qudsi, from Atitlan Organics, the children discover that their hands are a valuable tool; they have fun while they learn and above all they create a deep connection with the planet.

Kinder students live all stages of gardening. They clean and prepare the soil, plant, water the plants, place the mulch, observe the growth, harvest, use the compost to keep creating fertilizer from organic waste …

Static images, at this age, do not help much. Young children need to experience things for themselves. Also, a very important part of this process is learning to take care of lives growing and developing before their eyes, for they themselves are growing and developing as planetary beings.

The photos below show the process of soil preparation and planting of peppermint, comfrey, yarrow and sweet mint, plants that our little ones use to make delicious herbal teas.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today is Mother’s Day here in Guatemala, and we want to congratulate our mothers in this special day.

The little children from Kinder want to congratulate their moms as well! They’ve been working on something little, simple, but beautiful. A small gift that shows the effort they have devoted to congratulate their mothers, and here is the result. ¡Brilliant!

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.

Experiencing time


Recently our students of second and third grade of Escuela Caracol lived firsthand the training package of time. And beyond theorizing, the children had the wonderful opportunity to experience for themselves the true meaning and influence that time has on our lives.

The teacher Andrea enthused her pupils going back to the origins of the oldest systems of measurement (sun and moon), then they discovered the classic sand and water clocks to finally reach the understanding of analog and modern digital clocks.

The students learned by observing their own shadow under the sun, they investigated the moon phases, conducted their own crafts, created watches , manipulated an hourglass and even had the opportunity to build their own water clock. And these classes also served to review the Roman and Mayan numeric systems. Fantastic !

Our parade for the local fair of San Marcos La Laguna


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.

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!

Chalkboard Drawings with Jana Senchan


Escuela Caracol has had the good fortune to host a mentor teacher from Germany. Jana Senchan just finished taking a class from grades 1-8 at the Berlin Waldorf School, and during her sabbatical year she chose to dedicate several months at Escuela Caracol. She has spent her time observing all our classes and meeting with teachers, especially in the primary grades, as well as leading an art activity for all the faculty. Since she has considerable expertise as an artist, we asked her to work with us on chalkboard drawings. Below you can see the results.

Many thanks Jana, as well as to Svenja Büntjen, who put us into contact with Jana, and to the Freunde der Erziehungskunst, who helped to fund her travel expenses.