Primary school is attended by nearly every child in the Maya region though many will not graduate and far fewer will move ahead to secondary school. With these odds, there is a very finite period of time in which students receive the formal education that will stay with them for a lifetime. As things currently stand, the historical and social science requirements of primary school curriculum focus on European conquest and western development. Students are taught very little, if anything, about the pre-Colonial past or the indigenous communities which in some regions make up a majority of the living population.
InHerit aims to transform this injustice, one region at a time. Working with our counterpart Fundación ProPetén and under agreement with the Ministry of Education in the department of El Petén, Guatemala, InHerit has developed a new school curriculum which approaches all of the subjects students are required to learn by using examples and concepts from archaeology and Maya heritage. By increasing understanding about the Maya past and living Maya people, we hope to have a positive impact on the deep-seated problem of ethnic and cultural discrimination in Guatemala. We also hope that the curriculum will provide indigenous children with a catalyst to learn more about their community’s traditions and take greater pride in their identity.
Workshops offered to children in class are a great way to break up a monotonous school day and get kids thinking on a different level. All the InHerit workshops feature art, games and a level of participation rarely available in the regular school day.
Short video of art and educational workshops sponsored by Machi (InHerit’s predecessor) and Arte Accion!
ADIPES, A.C. was a winner of InHerit’s 2010 Community Heritage Conservation Grant with their original idea to create local heritage-rich versions of popular children’s games. Their program began with a workshop for children in Motul, Yucatán, Mexico. ADIPES’ team of young professionals and university students in socio-cultural and literary subjects worked with the group to introduce them to local literature, medicinal plants and animals and to introduce them to wider subjects such as conservation and global connectedness.
The workshop ended in July 2011 and now the ADIPES team is on to the creation of their games. The first, a Snakes and Ladders board game, will take players through the cenotes of Yucatán written in Mayan and Spanish. The second, a Memory card game, will include images of medicinal plants and local animals drawn by students in the workshop!
InHerit LOVES The Maya Project. This is not only our longest running program but the only one that has moved from its original home at the NGO Arte Acción Copán Ruinas to being run directly by local Ch’orti’ and mestizo youth.
The Maya Project is run on the principle that learning is fun. It uses creativity – including art, drama, story telling, games and more – to introduce children in the 4th through 6th grades to themes of the ancient Maya past and living Maya people. Even though these children live almost on top of the famous Classic-period Mayan site of Copán, few have ever visited. The Maya Project gives these rural kids the opportunity to see the site and learn about the history of their area.
The program also focuses on building pride in ethnic identity. Ch’orti’ identity has long been stigmatized in Copán and, because of this, many of its overt markers have been nearly erased.
By introducing children to the incredible achievements of Maya people over time, the project has helped to build self-confidence in Ch’orti’ children participating in the program.
In southern Belize we hoped to emulate the successful workshop format used in Copán, Honduras. Working in collaboration with the Julian Cho Society, the Toledo Workshops visited primary schools in eight villages every other week. The visits included talks, simple art projects and games. Over 200 students from grades four through six participated in the program, which took place during their regularly scheduled school day.The program ended in 2009 when our friends at the Julian Cho Society closed down the organization.