What Makes A Place Meaningful?


What makes a place meaningful? The meaning and importance of place is a foundation of many indigenous cultures throughout the world, including the indigenous communities in Peru and Bolivia where we work.

Recently, the students in our projects in Beni, Bolivia finished their Informative Cultural Maps for Visitors project activity, and over the last two weeks had the chance to show off the murals of their maps in our Achievement Day mid-term evaluations. Students were tasked with demarcating their communities’ borders using important landmarks, locating and properly distributing areas of the community (public spaces, houses, roads/paths, habitats for domesticated and wild plants and animals, etc.) according to the scale they developed, effectively implementing and communicating census information, and including anecdotes and traditional stories relevant to different places identified on their maps.

They learned and practiced proportions, translated non-standard to standardized measurements, developed their creative writing skills, historical writing skills, graphed numerical data, designed effective symbolism, created habitat descriptions for domestic and wild plants and animals, and much more. But most importantly, our students shined a spotlight on what their respective communities had to offer, what happens there, and why they are meaningful to the people who live there and valuable to those who don’t. In a region where rural indigenous peoples still tend to be isolated and marginalized, it is beautiful to see the students speak of their place- their home- and demonstrate its importance and cultural value.

Despite the focus on the students’ different indigenous cultures in the project activity, this is something we all should, and often do, do. “What makes a house a home?” Dig in. Analyze. Evaluate. Get to know your place, share it with the world, and take care of it.