What better way to continue keeping you up-to-date than through the eyes of the people we work with!
Name: Flor G. – Escuela Nueva teacher
Location: somewhere in the Colombian mountains
Why Flor?: She is an inspired teacher who empowers students and helps them to develop entrepreneurial skills. “I want my students to value what they have – que vean con amor lo que tienen”. Flor G.
How does Flor represent the Escuela Nueva model? She represents a value promoted by Escuela Nueva in Colombia: empowerment of children to make changes in their lives. “I have been teaching for the last 20 years. I used to implement the principles of the Unitary School before I started working with the Escuela Nueva model”. Flor G.
-Story telling content and photos by James R., Ambassador, Cotopaxi, e-commerce B Corp commitment to FEN’s cause since 2016-
“Surrounded by thick jungle vegetation, the school looks just like the numerous other simple rural Colombian schools I’ve visited recently - one classroom, a cafeteria, and a large playground. But by the end of my visit, I’d learn that this school is anything but simple.
Upon seeing us, a big smile lights up across Flor’s face. Flor, the mastermind behind the school’s ingenuity, is eager to show us what she and her students are up to.
The tour starts at a booth where students knit clothes, make jewelry, and use recycled materials to create art pieces. Afterwards, I watch as the group of students enter a large fenced in area and then scatter. Some begin feeding chickens while the others hunt for laid eggs. The tour continues to a hog pen. Then a man made fish pond. Then a huge garden full of beets, onions, and other greens. All the while, the students tend to the projects enthusiastically.
So do these students ever actually go to school, I ask myself half serious. The answer is a resounding yes, as Flor explains the rhyme and reason.
Like many other rural regions throughout the world, urban migration has had a big impact on Flor’s community. Located in the coffee growing region of Colombia, large corporations are buying up land to produce their coffee and in essence, squeezing out the locals. Families are flocking to urban areas in hopes of better jobs and opportunities, and in Flor’s opinion, leaving their culture and heritage back in the countryside.
But she doesn’t think it has to be this way.
So with flexibility inherent to the Escuela Nueva model and an impressive amount of energy, creativity and passion, Flor has chosen her school to be one of a kind - providing students with both a classroom education and a healthy dose of experiential learning. Activities like planting red beans, harvesting coffee, and making recipe books gives the students practical skills, enables them to appreciate their culture, and feel inspired to stay and find economic opportunities in the region.
That is all nice but I can’t help but wonder if the students are losing valuable school time to learn skills they may never need to know?
As if she’s been asked this countless times before, Flor responds with a slew of succinct connections. She has carefully designed each project to correspond to an educational lesson. The gardens are an obvious hands-on science experiment learning about plant life, soil selection, growing variables, etc. And those eggs the students were collecting are a continual math lesson - counting eggs, weighing them, categorizing them, selling them at a local farmers market, etc. Writing a recipe book requires creative writing skills. Working together requires a variety of social skills such as team work, patience, communication, and ethics - all key values promoted by the FEN.
To top it all off, any goods sold to the public generate a revenue, albeit modest, for each student. So far it’s not enough to drastically impact their lives, but it’s enough for a new pair of shoes or a fun activity that they may not otherwise afford.
So will Flor’s efforts result in a decrease in urban migration? It’s hard to say for certain at this point but what is clear, is the quality of education the students are receiving thanks to her passion and adaptability of FEN’s educational model.
As I leave for the day, I notice some turkeys taking shelter under the playground’s slide. Clearly, they’re part of yet another project I didn’t have time to ask Flor about”.
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