Below I have copied excerpts of my field notes from the trip related to the school.
Maria Gabriel showed us a slide show she did on the school she teaches at. The initiative is called Inka-Samana. It is based around liberal learning, compassion, independent learning. At the end of high school students are to write a 70-page thesis on a subject they specialized in, which was chosen by themselves. There are no tests in the school for the students. The school is trilingual; Spanish, Kichwa and English. They learn traditional lessons; clothing making, nature studies, food making. She said a 16-year-old girl who wants to be a doctor is working at a hospital doing autopsies and learning about medicine. She said they allow their students to cry, they simply listen and console, not interrupting in order to allow the person to let out their emotions and heal.
She took us to the school which both her and her husband started, that same one she showed us a slide show on. The downstairs part was an auditorium with chairs, it may be used for a small theatre or large classroom. On the other side were art rooms, a storage room. She said there is a teacher who supervises outside all day so the kids may play there when they please. She then took us up the stairs where there was a large classroom. It is divided into three linguistic stations; English, Kichwa and Spanish. She said that teachers and students who use swears in English are made to eat a spoonful of aji (a type of hot sauce).
The classroom was stacked with resources; language books, numberless math exercises, posters, notebooks, etc. She said there is no homework or tests but that the students are given diagnostic reports on their progress. It seems as if the students do not wear shoes inside, or at least their outdoor shoes inside. We waited for her while she did some things in the upper office. I noticed painted on the wall was a map of the world, which is now also covered in soccer ball marks from the ball being kicked against it so many times. The school itself is painted in pictures of indigenous themes. Saraguro typical dress, a picture of what might have been from a legend of Inti, natives dressed in feather and loincloth. The logo of the school is a tupu (a type of clothes pin) which comes to a point as a pencil. Instead of the rays of sun there are 4 girls and 4 boys dressed in indigenous clothes. The middle is the face of the sun.
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Inka Samana has established their own curriculum. It is my hope that with Alberta curriculum redesign, we may see school have the flexibility to accommodate students in ways similar to Inka-Samana and The Independent Project. As our world changes, knowledge is becoming more and more available. We need to teach students how to access this knowledge, how to apply it, and how to dream. Without the desire to learn, students will not likely take the initiative to find and apply the vast knowledge that is available to them.
Here is a link to a Blogspot (in Spanish) that also speaks about this school http://pedagogiadelaalegria.blogspot.ca/2012/10/unidad-educativa-experimental-activa.html
Here is a link to the slideshow that I mentioned which provides more information on the school and its pedagogy (in Spanish)