Any time I travel, I like to visit the Waldorf schools in the area, to get a peek into what Waldorf Education looks like in other places. Escuela Caracol in San Marcos was the second Waldorf school on our Central America trip, and the teachers and children were so warm and welcoming.
What struck me most about Escuela Caracol was how much it reminded me of my Waldorf school back home. One of the school’s founders, Joshua, gave us a tour of the school and as we talked shop along the way, I could hear that in many ways our schools are similar.
The classroom spaces are lovingly cared for.
Connection with the natural world is reinforced everywhere.
And the children are sweet and joyful.
And though our schools face some similar challenges, like finding qualified teachers, ensuring teachers have enough preparation time and working with students with learning challenges, there are many other challenges that the community of Escuela Caracol faces that their American counterparts do not.
You see, part of Escuela Caracol’s mission is to create a multicultural community that serves the diverse population of San Marcos. This means that in the classroom children from local non-indigenous families sit next to friends from indigenous Maya families.
As they learn and grow together, there is no doubt that these children find that they have much in common with one another. The benefits of keeping a balance of diversity in the community is key for expanding the students’ capacity for global understanding. In this way, I see Escuela Caracol as truly cultivating an education for peace.
Over the school’s history, the balance of the population has shifted and currently about 75% of the population is indigenous.
Serving this population presents its own set of challenges. First of all, these families are unable to financially support their child’s education. This means that 75% of the students attend Escuela Caracol on scholarship. The school also subsidizes school snacks and lunches.
Additionally, Joshua pointed out that many of the children in the school are first generation literate, and while parents are grateful and supportive of the school, they are limited in how they can support their children’s education.
The gifts that this community does bring, though, can be seen all over the school. The Maya are incredibly hard-working people whose life forces are very strong in their will. The fact that in 10 years the school has grown to serve 90 children and the grounds have been cultivated in the midst of the Guatemalan jungle is testament to the community’s strength of will.
Many of the teachers, too, come from the indigenous population and Escuela Caracol has faced the challenge of finding qualified teachers by growing their own. Each year the school closes in July to allow the teachers to attend the teacher training institute in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In addition to this training, the teachers at Escuela Caracol strive to expand their own knowledge as they learn the subjects they will teach their students. In this way, they model for the children the principle that “All education is self-education.” They demonstrate that learning is truly a life-long endeavor.
Serving this unique population means that the school depends upon the support of sponsors and individual donations. The school has found support from The Friends of Waldorf Education, as well as individual donors from all over the globe. The Friends of Waldorf Education helped them to find sufficient funding to build a new building to house additional classrooms.
The school is facing a unique crossroads at the moment, the school’s founders, Joshua Wilson and his family are moving to the United States, after 11 years of pioneering effort to get the school up and running and thriving. He leaves the school in incredibly capable hands that are currently fundraising to meet the operating expenses of the coming school year.
Individuals can support the school by sponsoring a student, donating items from their wish list, or simply making a cash donation. If your organization would like to partner with Escuela Caracol, I can let you know who to get in touch with.
I hope you will join me in donating to support the incredible work happening at Escuela Caracol.