Posted by: lboudreau | November 8, 2009


Two weeks gone and now a week back– been a while.  Very interesting trip to South America.

We flew from Atlanta to Miami, then to Quito.  Took all day, but the trip was uneventful, always a good thing.  We arrived in Quito with enough time to get to the Hotel Quito for a fine dinner on the fully-windowed 7th floor, also a good thing.  The next day, we took a bus to Otavalo, at which point we forsook paved roads and traveled to the Intag region, where Siempre Verde perches on the side of an Andean slope.

Siempre Verde is Lovett’s 550-acre cloud forest research station.  Purchased back when land was affordable, this station has hosted scores of students, alums, faculty, researchers, and residents for years.  No electricity, but lots of running water, some of which is really hot, so showers are a pleasure.  It is surrounded by other protected forests, which means there is A LOT of nature all over the place: small mammals (we saw a kinkajoo), hundreds of birds (I witnessed a pair of toucans training their offspring in the fine art of picking fruit), and exotic bugs (including a perpetual dance of butterflies).  Steep hikes at altitude (7500 ft.?) reminded me I’m not the young woman I once was (I did utter the f— word under my breath a couple of times, as I considered what the h— I was doing there).  All in all, a world away from Atlanta and asphalt.

We spent six days at Siempre Verde.  On one of those days, we took a truckload of school supplies, shipped in our luggage, to the elementary school in Santa Rosa.  This town didn’t appear to be much beyond a few houses and the school.  The school was not much more than two class rooms, a chapel, a storage room, and a very large concrete pad to play soccer on.  (Soccer between Ecuadorean kids and the Lovett students towering over them was a bit mis-matched, but everybody had a wonderful time.)  I stepped into the class rooms and stood amazed.

We discuss the 21st century class room and the web applications to support it.  We debate the levels of student involvement and constructive learning.  We lament the fact that not all students have their own laptops or graphing calculators.  For the small school in Santa Rosa, a generous supply of pens and pencils is a blessing.  They have electricity, but no technology to speak of.  They have old school flip charts and chalk boards.  They have dedicated teachers and decent facilities.  They have a bunch of lively, curious (at least curious about us) students.  I came away from the school with lots of questions.

I have no idea what teachers actually do in those rooms– my Spanish is limited, enough to converse in a general way, but not nearly enough to discuss pedagogy or even a daily schedule.  So, I have only a vague impression of education there.  Compared to what I’ve experienced with education in the US, this is only a very basic, very rough education.  But, is it?  And what role does it play within the context of the lives of these students?  The area is largely agricultural, and perhaps class room learning carries a different set of expectations and services for these children.  Children in the US are expected to go to high school, and probably college, so elementary education needs to prepare them for the next level.  I don’t know what the expectations and hopes are for the children in Santa Rosa– perhaps their education needs to do something different than my understanding.  I do know that adults in the region are looking for ways to develop the local economy so that children can stay in the area rather than go to larger cities in search of jobs.  How does education support that?

I’ll add here that, since all roads are unpaved and towns are several kilometers from each other, transportation is a serious consideration.  Parents work, and there is likely not time or vehicle to take children to school.  For several years now, Lovett has joined with other organizations to provide transportation for students to go to the high school in “nearby” Apuela.  Last year was the second to graduate these students.  This is a big deal.

So, basic amenities, an agricultural economy, developing opportunities, and challenging transportation.  What do parents expect or hope for their children?  What do they want schools to do?  How much education do they want for children, and in what form?  I’m sure there’s a doctoral dissertation or two here.  In the meantime, that experience provides an interesting contrast for what I do in my class room.  I think I’ll start looking for ways to help students to the same sort of exposure I had for a week in a very different place.


  1. Lynnae:

    This is a very fascinating blog post. I was so interested in reading about the trip and the school in Santa Rosa. I know what you mean about the contrast of 21st century classroom conversation in our cohort versus the daily grind of learning in a classroom at Santa Rosa. It is hard to reconcile the contrast in my mind. The disparity between what our students have and what their students have. There is much to be thankful for and much work to be done to understand each other. I wonder how your work could be brought back to the 21st century cohort. What are the lessons to be learned? The 21st century skills movement talks about the importance of connection, relationship, and collaboration. How could those skills be leveraged to make a meaningful lesson for our work.

    Very good post.

    Bob Ryshke

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