By Linda Braun, Pedagogical Director
On October 10th, Grade 7 teacher Irene Richardson and I flew to Cancun and made our way down to the Playa del Carmen area for our fall regional delegates meeting. Our meetings and adventures ran through Saturday the 13th, and we traveled back to Tucson very early the next day. Irene brought along her wife and baby, so we were actually a congenial group of four on this grand adventure.
Our region of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (known as TexMexCanSoRock, or TMCSR) is actually the only region in AWSNA with all three North American countries represented. It extends from Alberta, Canada in the north, down through the Rocky Mountain and Plains regions, veers to the desert Southwest, then extends broadly south to include all of Mexico.
Currently, the Waldorf movement is expanding rapidly in Mexico; there are now around 45 schools. Some are well established, such as Escuela Waldorf de Cuernavaca, Colegio Inlakesh in Mexico City, and the Ak Lu’um Waldorf School in Playa del Carmen. Other schools are fairly young but growing fast, and there are many new initiatives.
Our time in Mexico was primarily spent in meetings held at the beautiful Ak Lu’um Waldorf School. We heard reports from the assembled TMSCR delegates and liaisons, and also reviewed information sent by schools that could not send someone. We created recommendations for our region’s associate schools regarding their self-study processes, and gave input on proposals coming from the AWSNA leadership, including topics like a diversity statement for the associaton, the creation of an alumni network, and support of ongoing teacher development for experienced faculty. Of particular interest in our meetings were the conversations with our Mexican colleagues about how things are going with their schools. We began to explore the possibility of increasing faculty visits between schools in Mexico with other schools in our region. Parallel to our TMCSR meeting, the Board of Directors of AWSNA also gathered for a meeting; on the final day, Saturday October 13th, we met jointly. Throughout the whole visit we had many chances to hobnob informally with the board members, the executive team of AWSNA, and our fellow school delegates and liaisons.
On the Friday, October 12, we caravanned between five additional school campuses in the area: the new campus that is being developed by Ak Lu’um outside of town in the jungle; the Del Mar Waldorf Initiative right in the city of Cancun; the split campuses of Ximbal School (Iniciativa Waldorf Cancún) southwest of the city; and the Baxaal school near Puerto Morales, part way between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. What an adventure that day was, and how inspiring to see the various forms of Waldorf education organically growing in an authentic way in this region—true to the landscape and local culture. Many school buildings have thatched roofs, and some are at least partly open to the fresh air through permanent openings in walls and windows. The native trees and their wood become curving stair railings, steps, playground equipment, and more, lending special beauty and character to these schools. The campuses are full of lush vegetation including amazing trees that the children are free to climb—no government regulations or insurance worries stop them from climbing as high as they feel safe! (Of course the ground is a lot softer there.)
We were welcomed with extraordinary hospitality at all of these schools, with cool drinks and delicious treats and meals. We are particularly grateful to our primary host school, Ak Lu’um. The snacks and lunches we ate there were amazing—including delicious corn tortillas made by the Ak Lu’um students themselves. Imagine how many tortillas they had to make for 25 or so guests that week!
When the meetings finished on Saturday afternoon, our little group from Tucson had a few hours to journey to a wonderful Mayan archeological site, Cobá. We saw a big pyramid, a ball court, and even a few monkeys in the high tree tops.
Although the trip did have some figurative and literal bumps along the way (especially on the dirt road to the Baxaal school!) we came back with new inspirations and wonderful impressions to share—and a strong desire to continue to build the connections to our sister schools to the south!