Saturday, December 20, 2008

Escuela Caracol (Caracol School)

Our Vision:

The vision for Escuela Caracol spans a full primary school, from kindergarten up to 6th grade (or age 12). Our plan for growth follows an organic model that begins at the beginning – with a kindergarten. Expansion will occur as our students grow, adding primary school classes sequentially in the years that follow. In 2009, we will have a blended first and second grade class. The kindergarten – which we call KinderCaracol – currently meets five days a week for a half-day. Classes take place in an expansive garden filled with fruit trees, winding paths, rocks and trees to climb, and many enchanted areas for play. We have also built a small schoolhouse designed upon the golden rectangle, which is the basis of the golden spiral, found most commonly in the nautilus shell.

Our Community: San Marcos La Laguna lies on the shores of Lake Atitlán with an inspiring view of three volcanoes. This small pueblo of about 3000 people is located in the western highlands of Guatemala – a region predominantly inhabited by indigenous Maya for thousands of years. Within the past twenty years, however, a significant number of internationals and non-indigenous Guatemalans have relocated to the area around the lake. Many of these newcomers now have children and are discovering a sense of solidarity with indigenous people and their vital need for quality education. This is no slight dilemma in a country still recovering from a 36 yearlong civil war where hundreds of schools were burned and many educational workers “disappeared.” Though interest in education is increasing, public schools are in no way equipped to handle the need due to overcrowded classrooms, absent teachers,chronic mismanagement of resources, and school climates that exhibit residual tones of oppression and often violence. Viewed in this light, it is somewhat less surprising – though no less disturbing – that only 35% of Guatemalan children are enrolled beyond the third grade (UNESCO). An intense development of educational efforts is required if San Marcos and the other growing villages around the lake are to meet the many environmental, social, and economic challenges that lie ahead. What is needed is not just more education, but a different kind of education.

Holistic Education for an Intercultural Community


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Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.