Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Visiting the Panticalle school

Today was the day to visit Panticalle, a school deep in the Andes Mountains! We began our journey at 5 am with backpacks full of blankets, school supplies, and UofL shirts that we were going to give to the teachers and students of the school. After a 3 hour (beautiful) bus ride through the Andes we arrived at our destination. Except a slight twist...to get to Panticalle we would need to hike down the mountain. The school lies in a valley in between mountains that stand 4,316 meters (14,160 feet) tall. So our hike began and an hour later we were welcomed to Panticalle! As a warm welcome we were given oca and añu, a potato like agricultural product farmed at the school. We were also given cups of coco tea, a widely suggested remedy to help with the altitude. After enjoying our welcoming gift, we were greeted by the principal, Olga Valverde, as well as by the 2 teachers that teach there and the 12 students that attend Panticalle. Elizabeth Paredes, one of the teachers, told us all that she has been teaching at Panticalle for 25 years! As a present to us, we were given Quechua workbooks by one of the teachers, Mr. Rufino Chuqui Mamani for us to take back to the US. He wanted us to use these workbooks to share a part of their culture in our classroom, which I think was an absolutely amazing gift. 

After the greetings, we sat in on one of the lessons for the day. The lesson was taught outside, something that I would love to incorporate in my classroom one day. The lesson for the day was having students read through a recipe on how to prepare trout, potatoes, and a mixed salad (which we would be having for lunch). The curriculum behind this was reading, comprehension, and application. Students read ingredients followed by the steps for the meal. Then students completed the steps as they read through them. This idea of this lesson is something that I feel needs to be incorporated more in US education. These lessons not only get students out of their seats, but also teach by doing which is a strategy of teaching that I have seen to be more effective in the classroom. These students were very involved in the lesson as they all were reading, went to get the ingredients, and even helped gut the trout! After the lesson, we had a bit of free time. Some of us played soccer with the students. While lunch was being prepared, we got to sit in on a lesson in the classroom. The school has 2 classrooms. This is a multi grade level school, however the classrooms are divided into grades. In one classroom are students grades 1-3, and in the other are students grades 4-6. Although this school allows students to stay up to 6th grade, it was said that most go to another school nearby for grades 3-6. Then if they choose to go to secondary school, the closest school to attend is in Ollantaytambo which is about an hour car ride away. Just some brief details about Panticalle, now back to our experience in the classroom. The teacher was teaching students about the different types of potatoes in Peru. Students first went to the board and drew the types of potatoes then wrote the name of the potatoes. After this activity, students turned the types of potatoes and words learned from the recipe into sentences. I really enjoyed watching this lesson and seeing how engaged students were. I was also surprised that the style of teaching here is similar to teaching in the US. After the lesson, it was time for lunch! The teachers, parents (and students) prepared for us a meal consisting of trout, potatoes, and a mixed green salad made of fresh vegetables farmed at the school. We enjoyed lunch with teachers, students, and visitors to the school that day. Then we took pictures, said our goodbyes, and started our journey up the mountain that we had previously hiked down to get to the school. After about an hour and a half, we had made it back to the bus! Our day at Panticalle was complete! 

Our day was such a wonderful, eye opening cultural experience. Now that you've heard about our day I would like to share some background information about Panticalle. As I said earlier, Panticalle is located in the bottom of the valley of the Andes Mountains, so the only way there is hiking. Not only do the teachers and students hike down and up the mountain everyday to get to school, but all the students have an additional walk from home. It was said that most students walk an hour or two before even getting to the top of the mountain that leads to Panticalle. The dedication teachers and students have for education is truly amazing. I know that in the US if just to get to school consisted of a straight uphill walk up and down a mountain, most would never come to school. Panticalle is also unique because it is a school that is part of the Intercultural Bilingual Education system. The bilingual part of that means that the school teaches two languages to students which are Quechua and Spanish. It was very neat seeing this put to use in the lesson. The first half of the recipe was in Quechua and the second half was in Spanish. It amazes me how many of the students could read in both languages at a young age. I don't even know two languages at 20! The intercultural part of that system means that their curriculum combines language and culture. An example of this is that Quechua is a native language so it is taught because it is part of their culture rather than English that is not widely spoken in this region of Peru. The US education system does incorporate intercultural curriculum into education, however they are lacking the bilingual part. I personally think Spanish should be a part of US education. There is an increased amount of diversity in the US with Hispanic becoming a large portion of our country's population. Additionally, when traveling abroad Spanish is widely spoken in many countries. I wish that I would have been taught Spanish during my primary grades of my education. If there was something that I think is truly amazing about education in Peru it is their feel of community in the classroom as well as their bilingual education. 

Our day was finished with a group dinner at Papacho's. Then it was time to get some much needed rest after a busy 3 days! Tomorrow is our last day in beautiful Cusco! 

~ Taylor Hanna

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