Thursday, February 16, 2012

Democratic Education in Oaxaca

Our school, Taller Colibri, has had some fascinating developments in the past few months.

First and foremost, our great teacher, Suzanna, has just been invited to present with a panel on the practice of democratic education. Her work will be part of the International Democratic Education Conference in Puerto Rico.

The core values of democratic education concern communication and respect. In essence, teachers, parents, students, and community members associated with the school listen to each others' input to collaborate and contribute to the school. On a day to day basis, it is as simple as designing curriculum that reflects children's interests or resolving conflicts by listening to one another and brainstorming solutions.

Our current unit shows these core values in action. The children expressed an interest in international cooking. They conducted research, asking each other as well as adults about favorite recipes, family recipes, and cooking. They read through cookbooks to figure out how to create, change, record, and use recipes. Now they are signing up for days of the week to bring in ingredients so they can cook and eat together. They will track their recipes and their general cooking experiences by writing and compiling a cookbook.

There's room for so many divergent projects at democratic schools as well! The children have been planting seeds in the garden, hiking up the river, doing bicycle tricks on dirt paths and in the village zocalo, meeting neighbors, birdwatching with a local expert, and making valentines. They have been welcoming new students and visitors to the school, some of whom speak English and others of whom speak Spanish.

The whole school has just been invited to a village on the other side of the mountains. The home where we will be staying is on a farm where the villagers practice organic and sustainable agriculture. What great adventures are in store for Taller Colibri?