The Schoolchildren

This morning we visited the children of Sillacancha School. There school has 120 students, from first grade through sixth. School runs from 8:30 to 1:30 each weekly. Many of these children started school late. Most live in high mountain communities, two to three hours from the school. Some board with family members who live close by. Sach’a Munay also runs a dorm in the valley for children that children can live in from Monday through Friday. They provide good healthy food, health care and activities.

During the van ride on the way over, I pulled out my bag of strings and retaught Kim how to do Cat’s Cradle so I’d have a partner to demonstrate to the children. I retaught Juliana Jacob’s Ladder and she showed me how to do the teacup. I still wasn’t sure how to teach the kids the string games, but with a willing partner, I hoped I’d have a chance to try. (Remember to read the captions under the pictures. The story continues there).

On the way in the van, I retaught Kim to play Cat’s Cradle.

It took a while but she got it. I needed a partner to demonstrate to the kids.

I retaught Juliana Jacob’s Ladder. She showed me teacup which I’d forgotten.

This was our first look at the playground.

The first thing we did was lay out all the gifts we’d collectively brought for the children—mostly a big pile of art supplies. We laid these out on the ground and divvied them up by grade. Then members of our group delivered them to each classroom. Here’s one of the first classrooms we visited.

Los libres.

Like any other classroom.

This boy was happy to see us.

Then the children sang us a song.

Nancy, retired from a long career teaching preschool and training preschool teachers, sang a song in Spanish to the 2nd graders.

These kids were happy with their gifts.

They were as curious about us as we were about them.

After we visited the classrooms, we walked out back to see the garden. This is what the back of the school looked like.

This was our first glance at the garden.

At first this was all raw land.

Then on a work day, hundreds of parents and members of the Commonweal note came to help till the soil.

And then each class full of children began working their special plots.

Tools of the trade.

Aren’t these cute?

This greenhouse was warm and steamy.



Baby zucchini, just like Karyn’s garden back home.


Painted rocks.

Brenda doing her writing homework.

Kim doing her homework.

Nancy doing hers.

Two writers comparing notes.

When School broke for recess, lots of kids came out to the garden to check out the visitors. Joyce’s stickers were incredibly popular.

I found some older girls to teach Cat’s Cradle to. Soon I had a little cluster of them around me.

I may be able to teach writing, but string figures—not so easy. Still they caught on the general idea and one girl in particular seemed to be a quick learner. Soon they were doing it or something like it. I gave them my whole bag of strings and have someone in Spanish tell them to teach the younger ones.

I’m going send a YouTube video demonstration to our contact there, Adam, when I get home. Hopefully he can spread the word.

The principal did his own trick with one of our strings.

Can you imagine this view from your playground?

These mothers, working on their own textiles, had come down from the mountains to see their children.

Goodbye, Sillacancha School!

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