In the present social climate which Argentina is going through where such topics as housing and work are being undermined and there exists a certain vulnerability in bond relationships, schools are supposed to develop strategies in order to give answers to the many needs. However, it is these same schools, that carry out expelling practices as if unaware of these urgencies. It is at this point when it becomes imperative to not only change the perspective but also concrete actions so that items like team work, inclusion, and equity stop belonging solely to the theoretical area and become a tangible reality.
It is with that idea that in 2012 I gathered different actors (members of the community, parents, teachers, and students from different academic fields) and we developed this project which we called UN JARDIN DE PUERTAS ABIERTAS, UNA ESCUELA VIVA (An Opendoors Kindergarten, A Living School). The purpose of this article is to show what we have done, how we have given an innovative connotation to the way of teaching, and the achievements we have made.
The Beginning of the Project
In the present social climate which Argentina is going through where such topics as housing and work are being undermined and there exists a certain vulnerability in bond relationships, school are supposed to develop strategies in order to give answers to the many needs. However, it is these same school that carry out expelling practices as if unaware of these urgencies. It is at this point where it becomes imperative not only to change perspectives but also concrete actions so that items like team work, inclusion, and equity stop belonging solely to the theoretical area and become a tangible reality.
It is with that idea that in 2012 I gathered different actors (members of the community, parents, teachers, students from different academic fields) and we developed this project which we called UN JARDIN DE PUERTAS ABIERTAS, UNA ESCUELA VIVA (AN OPENDOORS KINDERGARTEN, A LIVING SCHOOL). The purpose of this article is to show what we have done, how we have given an innovative connotation to the way of teaching and the achievements we have made.
The starting point was to use diverse artistic languages as a meeting point to make every project articulate with different working areas belonging to the curricular design and to let every participant make a transition from one experience to the other fluently and without interruptions. Thus, the following ideas were developed:
This project was developed in cooperation with a group of film students of the Facultad de Bellas Artes (Faculty of Fine Arts) dependent on the Universidad Nacional de La Plata ( La Plata University). A similar view on education was shared among the members of this team which was clearly reflected in the making of a film where fiction, the testimony of those involved, and a backstory really matched. The whole experience in the classroom can be perceived along the film, from the choosing of a literary genre to the creation of the story itself, going through exercises like the recognition of one’s own body, the action over the other, the complete and reduced space, the different elements to be used during the shooting, and the meeting with the film makers.
At the same time, the families played out the costumes design, the scenography, the make-up, and the preparation of the different settings. And on the filming day, they acted as sound, light, and director assistants. The presentation of this project was made at the Centro Cultural Pasaje Dardo Rocha in the city of La Plata in the presence of distinguished education and political authorities from the region.
The enthusiasm generated among the kindergarten community, and when a new academic year started, the parents themselves came to ask for information about what activities would be offered and how this would be fulfilled taking their involvement for granted. It is important to highlight the change of attitude in contrast with the previous year.
At different meetings it was decided to work with the subject of Music. With this purpose, four artists from the region were summoned who, in front of the proposal, decided to work on different styles (blues, folklore andino, and folklore centro sur argentino1 with different kinds of participants: children and teacher, children and parents, and children and students from a high school. The product, this time, was the composition of two songs per group which, together with others, belong to a CD recorded in a studio and a DVD where the experience in the kindergarten room plus the teachers’ accounts can also be observed.
This former idea provoked greater enthusiasm so we thought of developing another project related to the Natural Sciences. Analyzing the natural elements, we are surrounded by, water was chosen. First of all, the parents made concrete experiences of contact with different elements (states of matter, properties) and then, the children made up a story which was musicalized and finally performed by relatives in the form of “dance theatre.”
The experience was finished with a giant print of the story, an intervention of the space telling the story in four moments, and finally the staging where the children, this time, were members of the audience thus taking the burden off them from always being protagonists so that they could live the experience of watching and listening to what was proposed from an outside perspective.
The next step was to use the Natural Sciences as a means of enhancement of the uses and customs of each community. People were really moved by this activity and they not only brought out their memories through spoken word and concrete objects but they also made possible a connection with emotion. Once emotion came out, they were asked to take a photograph of the place, an element, an important event. The only requirement was neither to pose for the picture nor take a selfie photograph. In other words, faces could not be seen.
The final product was an exposition with pictures that told a story. This caused different reactions in the audience present at the Centro Cultural Islas Malvinas where it was released. Previous to it, the parents presented a murga2 and traditional dances from Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina.
After meeting the biologist Mariana Sanmartino from the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, CONICET (National Board of Scientific and Technical Investigations), we decided to create group work. That is, being offered the possibility of a presentation related to Chagas disease, I decided to go further and suggest a new project called “Formadores de Formadores” (Trainers´ Trainers). The idea consisted of preparing any member of the families of the Institution so that later they could give talks in schools, city hall houses, rural work places, etc.
Even though we are used to finding a doctor or any other health specialist at the center of these meetings held in the places provided by the school, who supply information, awareness, prevention, etc., it seemed like a good idea to us that ordinary people, some of them even suffering with the disease, would be in charge of training and giving information to their fellow beings. Simultaneously, much work was done with the students who took part in the close of the Chagas month at the Natural Science Museum of La Plata which even included a prepared advertising spot broadcast at local radio stations.
Finally, it is clear to see how the different artistic areas articulated with the subjects of the School curriculum to make the going through the learning process an enjoyable time where creativity and participation stimulated generating new proposals, emotions, and activities through the use of its protagonists.
At present, the following results can be shown:
- To take out of anonymity a Kindergarten located in a rural area (Paraje Los Porteños, La Plata, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina) which lodges not only children between three and six years old belonging to low-resource families, but also their immediate family members are included as direct participants to create shared experience.
- To motivate public and private institutions to join in our project.
- To build parents confidence after getting to know the place and the work of each teacher.
- To enhance the number of enrolled students whose parents chose our Institution after getting to know this way of working.
- To arouse public interest in other areas experts who requested their inclusion in future works.
Ultimately, in view of the above, it is important to highlight that teaching is, above all, a meeting another; it is to give a space to those who has naturally want it for self-expression. That is why I vindicate the OPEN DOORS KINDERGARTEN, A LIVING SCHOOL as a way of encouraging the full development of the students in an integrated manner with concrete activities without blurring the role of each one of the actors present in these spaces.
1Folklore andino, Folklore sur centro argentino: regional argentinian dances.
2Murga: very popular music band which specially plays at Carnival celebration.
Mabel Lezica, Principal, Kindergarten No. 946 Paraje Los Porteños
Primary School Teacher
Teacher specialized in Pre-Primary Education
Dancing and Acting Training Teacher