Las Palmeras was founded in 2014 by 42 young families from various regions including Potosí, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz who moved into the jungle searching for land to cultivate. Being comprised of both indigenous and campesino peoples, the community is registered as “intercultural” and, due to its recent founding, still does not have access to running water, electricity, or any schools.
Nevertheless, the community members are organized and active, and in their short time as a community have pressured their local government, the District Municipality of San Andres, to build a road to the community and dig a communal well. They have also been demanding a school, a request which was passed onto Alma when we began visiting the area. In 2016, Alma provided the first pre-school for the community.
In 2017, Alma is continuing with pre-school and opening full primary school in Las Palmeras and both schools will be fully registered and recognized by the Ministry of Education by the end of the year. In order to do so, however, there is a lot of work to be done!
The community and Municipality once again are responsible for materials and infrastructure. For a school to be legally recognized, there are many physical requirements including classrooms, play areas, bathrooms, teacher housing, etc. Alma is responsible for the other part: curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation.
Under the educational reform law, Ley 070, all schools must develop an Annual Bimester Plan (PAB: year-long curriculums per grade), a Curricular Development Plan (PDC: academic lesson plans per grade), an Annual Operation Plan (POA: school budget), and a Socio-productive Project (PSP). Alma is already developing all of these, integrating our core values and innovative teaching strategies in all of them.
One of the most interesting components is the PSP. Because Las Palmeras is a community on the front line of jungle deforestation, we have wanted to delve deep into environmental conservation while maintaining an understanding that in the case of communities like Las Palmeras, families cut down forest in order to build homes and plant their food. It is not capitalism, but survival. Therefore, our PSP this year will be the implementation of an agro-forestry garden system. Students and community members will learn how to manage over 25 varieties of crops, with short, medium, and long-term yields, on one plot of land. The plants work symbiotically to provide nutrients amongst themselves and keep the soil healthy, ensuring the long-term viability of the garden and negating the need to cut down more forest. All course content will be linked with the garden activities to maximize the academic potential for critical thinking, creativity, and harmonious values. On a separate plot of land, we will plant sugarcane and compare the state of the land at the beginning and end of each year.
There are 23 students registered between both schools in 2017, and Alma has hired two teachers, and agronomist, and is helping with school supplies along with the Municipality of San Andres.