Teaching the Wisdom of Our Elders Preschool
Xnaq'tz Nab'l Q'chman
Building a better Cajola through quality education
Inspired by the world renowned preschools of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, our preschool is rooted in the Maya Mam culture and emphasizes the development of critical thinking and collaborative work based on the children's interests and provocations set by the teachers. Children learn through investigation and experimentation with each other as well as with the teachers.
The school grew out of the need to care for the children of the women working in our women's businesses and our work to recuperate the Mam culture. We opened in May 2012 with 2 teachers, 1 cook, and 8 students between the ages of 2 and 6.
In May, 2022 we celebrated 10 years of our preschool! In 2023 we will have 33 students, four teachers, 1 documentalist, and 1 cook.
The teachers were very innovative during the pandemic and the children continued having activities. Initially the teachers visited the children in their homes, then the children arrived for individual sessions at the school. They were then able to take advantage of the new but not yet inaugurated primary school in our neighborhood. This allowed the teachers to work with the children respecting social distancing. During 2021 we rented space down the road for one age group and divided them into two groups to maintain social distancing. The other group returned to our own building but also stayed divided into two separate groups to respect social distancing. At the end of 2022 the classes recombined, and for 2023 all the children will be in our own building.
It is the success of this school that has lead us to launch a project to build a new community school that will one day provide excellent learning to 410 students from preschool through middle school.
Education is the responsibility of the school, the parents, and the community. Developing strong parent relationships and a presence in the community is important to us. We see that the biggest impact we have is on the parents!
During the required regular meetings with the parents the teachers help them understand their role in education, how to play with their children at home, good nutrition and health habits. The parents have developed confidence in the teachers and bring their questions and doubts on nearly any subject to them!
Children are the Protagonists of their Own Learning
By observing and documenting the children’s interests the teachers can provide activities and stimulation that uses those interests to construct the competencies the children need to develop. The teachers and children collaborate with each other in developing these competencies.
Nutritious food, vitamins, and de worming are a part our strategies to address Cajola's daunting 66% chronic malnutrition. The children have a nutritious snack and hot lunch each day, and vitamins each morning. They are weighed and measured regularly to track their progress, and given de worming medication as appropriate. In addition, the teachers work with the parents to educate them about good nutrition so that they can do their best with their resources to provide nutritious meals to their families.
Being rooted in the Mam culture means that the children are learning in their maternal language, and are practicing Mam spirituality. This has been eye-opening to many of their parents, who have begun to re engage with their own identities. The children also learn Spanish, important for living in a multilingual country.
We've published children's books in the Mam language to fill the gap we found in the world! Check them out here!
Watch if you want to smile.