1998: Jan. - Feb. The window bars were installed, improperly, with poor construction. This project was to be finished by the end of November and in February it is still undone. In order to get paid the man from Pto. Jiménez will have to take them to town in order to rework them. WHEN?
The 30 new desks were delivered just days before school began in February. (The school year has been increased 3 weeks so the children were in classes by mid-February, the hottest time of this year. And with the heat of El Niño concentration is difficult!) The children appeared proud to be sitting in their varnished desks. In Costa Rica "one size fits all". If you are 6 years old and can't reach to write on your desk top you have to stand! And if you are too big for the desk, "salado!"
In February a bulldozer cut some large drain channels along 2 sides of the school to eliminate future rain water running through the classroom. When the parents had arranged to have the field cleared and leveled for soccer it appears no one noticed that the field was slanting towards the buildings. But, now we have an attractive play area and the ditches will soon fill in unless we get concrete or something growing in them. It's too dry to plant and no one says anything about concrete...
March-April: It appears that the windowbars are at a stand off. No one knows how to get some actionon the project. Problem solving has lost its appeal. The juntais now asking to put a fence along the road to keep out theanimals which wander and come into the school yard to eatthe plants and shrubs. Our new teacher, Geovany, wants toplant several fruit trees. Playing in the school with barbwire fence strewn around has not been very safe for the children.Guests who visit the school continually comment on its dangeras they step around broken pieces. An English speaking neighborwoman has volunteered to teach English 2 times per week. Thechildren really like her and she has been responsible in herattendance. Let's hope this will last for a long time andEnglish learning can happen. When I visit the class thereis always curiosity with English words.
May: Books and school supplies continue to be donatedto the classes. We even had a Frisbee maker demonstrate andgift the children with their own "mini" Frisbee.Our guests at Lapa Rios are so generous. The donation of primarylevel reading books is phenomenal. If only I had more timeto create a proper lending library system so the books couldgo home. The children and families could have a "handson" experience with a quality book... Good news for ourneighbors. Geovany is teaching late afternoon classes to theadults. He has 5 who come daily for an hour, none having learnedmore than writing their names. They are proud. Additionally,he has other adults who are at various levels and want tocomplete the graduation requirements from grade 6. Now, ifonly we had some electricity to run some light bulbs. Thegray afternoons are becoming difficult on eyes and slow downenthusiasm to learn.
11 May: Our teacher uses creative thinking, conversation,promotes listening skills, etc. in his teaching method. Becausehe doesn't write the day's lesson on the chalk board to havethe children transfer the words into their copy books he isbeing called to task by the parents. What is education? Thissame question bounces all around the world in classrooms andboard rooms... why should it be different in the Osa? Repetitionversus critical thinking. Are we ready?
12 June: The junta has asked me to help them designthe chain link fence and gates that need to be put along themain road. In this way the neighbor's horses will not be ableto come into the school grounds and nibble at the newly plantedtrees plus the school will finally gain a defined border.Supporting the teacher-childrens' tree planting and commitmentto their environment is a move in the right direction. Manyparents are beginning to talk about the need to keep the treesof the Osa in the ground. Wow, demonstration and conversationcan be powerful forces for change.
26 July: The chain link fence was constructed (withoutelectricity for soldering) with the gates built in San Isidro.After successfully finishing the fence and before the contractorleft to return to San Isidro the junta requested the drainageditches to be covered with concrete. A move in the right directionbecause already the children had been finding the little hillsa tempting place to slide and play, to the destruction ofthe ditch. The improved concrete ditches channel water awayfrom the school. With this improvement some of the parentscame to assist in the clean up of the school yard. Amazingly,we're still finding construction materials in the tall grasses.Patience...
2 August: And there was light... We now can seein the classrooms, in the activity building and the teacher'shouse, everywhere in the Carbonera School there is light!!"Solar Bill", a fellow Minnesotan, finished installingthe solar panels and turned on the power (having given detailedinstructions to the teacher regarding maintenance). How thoseof us from other places in the world take electricity forgranted. The adults class will grow as the word spreads.
22 August: What a marvelous celebration! Our teacherand the junta organized a fiesta where John and I were thankedby the community for the continued help in building the school.The day brought me a warm feeling; especially after 7+ yearsand the many times I've shed tears over the stumbles "developmentaland community education" has gone. At the party we talkedabout future dreams: fresh paint for the buildings, a storageshed, maybe a computer for the children (who was that guestfrom the Apple Computer Company promising a computer for theclassroom?), grass for the playing field, a tape deck, etc.How refreshing to see the future in the eyes of the parents.
8 Sept.: Tomorrow is "The Day of the Child".Danilo, one of our guides and our "resident artist",has constructed a 4 foot scarlet macaw pi–ata for theschool party. Sharing. We're proud of him.
4 Nov.: Geovany and I talked about teaching responsibilitythrough school supplies. We concluded that future gifts ofpersonal school supplies could be purchased rather than givento the children. (Money gained will buy more classroom supplies.)Education leads to independence, not dependency on donations.Grass chopped along the fence, the classroom swept, variouschores around the school can have a value in exchange fora pencil. Or, parents can send money with the childÕseraser. Becaue of the difficulty getting supplies the giftshave been welcomed. However Geovany feels it is time to begina new direction in teaching.
The continues rains have shown the roof to be in direneed of repair and new paint. LetÕs wish for more giftsof money to hire this project done during the upcoming monthsof vacation. Also, the junta wishes for the walls to be paintedand a bodega built to store building supplies, wood, block,etc. How wonderful to consider we could gain the 2nd classroomif the storeroom were built.
The National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. hasa fourth grade class creating a project entitled, ÒYoutou-can make a difference.Ó As a service and learningproject for their next 8 years they wish to work with theCarbonera School. I can only imagine where possibilities are-forboth schools to learn.