Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to school

I feel such relief. All the gorgeous setting up, Rachel's work in the garden, people brainstorming had added up to something phenomenal. It was the first day of our new alternative school in Oaxaca, Taller Colibri.

It started with us all welcoming one another by the big black rock that stands in the front yard. Then, Rachel took them back to the garden, where they planted corn. They picked lettuce, basil, fennel, and cilantro, added cucumber and carrots, and made a salad for snack time.

I left after that, but Max reported a day packed with adventures. He built marble mazes, strategized gateways by adding modeling clay, rode his bike to the river to study how the current carried natural objects over a waterfall, and prepared deviled eggs for lunch. I picked up a boy a little sunburned, covered with mud, and not ready to leave.

Genevieve also got to ride her bike, read stories with Maestra Suzana, hike to the waterfall, and play in the grassy green field with goats.

I feel joy and hope. My children have a beautiful new school!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Setting up the School

Whenever, wherever I taught in my life, I started with a messy, junk-filled classroom, typically very dirty. I would spend days sorting through used-up workbooks, spilled substances and grimy lost and found items to figure out what I could clean, salvage, donate, recycle or trash.

Our new school is decidedly different. Rachel visited over the summer, clearing the yard and setting up a dramatically beautiful garden, with walkways for the children so they can approach different vignettes of space to take care of the plants, fruits, herbs, and vegetables. In front, she created a rock fence and a gravel pit for playing with trucks and buckets.

Setting up inside was a matter of dusting off furniture, moving it around and envisioning the possible uses of different spaces. We have a drama and dress-up corner with a mirror, a rest area with textiles and cushions, a music and book library area, and a wide open workspace for art projects, math structures and science experiments. The terraced outdoor space has sports equipment and a kitchen area for cooking projects. Then there's outside, the wide open green space where goats and sheep roam, and nearby the burros graze.

So much good, creative energy emanated from the new space, that I knew the students would love it. Indeed, my children who accompanied me started working the minute they entered the space, while I was trying to set it up.

Thus begins the school year for our beautiful project, Taller Colibri. Colibri means hummingbird in Spanish, and reflects the dedication we'll have to ecology and nature as well as our high-flying hopes.