Written by: Stéphanie Keller-Busque
How time flies! Last month’s highlight for my team at FUNARTE was, without a shade of a doubt, the Nicaragua-Guatemala Exchange which brought together Nicaraguan teachers and psychologists from Estelí and Pearl Lagoon and fellow primary school educators from Sololá, Guatemala respectively working in collaboration with Pueblito Canada through partnerships with FUNARTE, FADCANIC, and SOCODE (El Triunfo Community Development Association). The exchange was designed and facilitated by FUNARTE to give the 14 participants a 5-day course on the arts-based educational strategies and practices FUNARTE uses to promote psychosocial development in children and youth through artistic and creative expression.
Following FUNARTE’s methodology, the exchange was vivencial (delivered through the active involvement of all participants), so knowledge and skills were first gained practically by educators through artistic and reflexive activities and then reinforced with theory and didactical materials. All participants had the opportunity to express their opinions and sentiments on topics such as interculturality, their dreams for an ideal education, and the state of education in their communities through the different artistic techniques explored: painting, drawing, and mosaics. Experimenting with the colours and feeling free to express what they felt through art allowed the educators to gain hands-on experience of the importance that these moments have for the affective and educational development of children. The art activities were wonderful moments to witness; educators would sit or lie on the floor, and, just like their students, get lost in their thoughts or conversations as they created their different artistic pieces. They reflected that the art activities stimulated their sense of confidence, passion in their work, happiness, and imagination, and that their creativity, self-esteem, and sociability, the three pillars of psychosocial development, were each developed through creative expression.
Although the exchange brought together educators from three distinct communities and cultural backgrounds (and for some of the participants from Guatemala, this was their first time leaving their country to know another culture and fellow educators of other nationalities), one main characteristic brought together all participants in the group: they all shared the same goal to better the level of education in their communities. When talking about their dreams for an ideal education, all teachers from Nicaragua and Guatemala had unanimous visions that included non-discrimination, gender equality, tolerance of those with learning difficulties, and unity between all cultures of the world. There was barely any mention of having the best materials available or the nicest schools for their students—everything was based on building educational environments for children with strong values and vocation. Each participant said that they were committed to bringing back the knowledge and skills they had gained during the exchange to share them with their students, colleagues, students’ parents, and their entire community to promote psychosocial development—notably, developing creativity, self-esteem, and sociability—through artistic expression.
It was an unbelievable experience to assist in the facilitation of the Nicaragua-Guatemala Exchange. I recognize how lucky I am to have been a part of the exchange of ideas, hopes, doubts, and feelings that happened between the educators from Estelí, Pearl Lagoon, and Sololá. Each one impacted me in a different way, and it was amazing to see how FUNARTE’s use of free art allowed them to come closer and create both professional and personal bonds with one another. I created a video of the exchange in which participants of the exchange share some of their impressions of their time with FUNARTE, and want to shared some of my favourite quotes from the interviews that appear in the video:
“Well, FUNARTE’s work is excellent, because it arrives to the classroom in a way that is very simple, very creative, and very affective where spaces are created so that we, as educators, and especially the children may project ourselves artistically as agents of our own learning and our own creativity. It’s developed in a space of affectivity and sociability, where they’ve united all different spaces: the school, the home, the community. So, to me, FUNARTE’s work is excellent.”
“Bueno, el trabajo de FUNARTE: excelente. Por que llega a la aula de clase de una manera muy sencilla, muy creativa, muy atendedora donde ha dado espacio para que nosotros docentes y los niños en especial se proyecten como artistas, como asedores de su propio aprendizaje, de su propia creatividad. Ha llegado en un espacio de afectividad, de sociabilidad, donde se han relacionado todos los ámbitos: escolar, la casa, la comunidad. Entonces, para mi, el trabajo de FUNARTE: excelente.”
“The methodology that FUNARTE uses as to the use of art in education is an innovative strategy because it doesn’t only make a student think but it also surfaces all of the skills and abilities each child has. For me, this is a novelty in the way we can transform education for our students and I believe that FUNARTE is doing it very, very well.”
“La metodología que FUNARTE esta empleando ahora en cuanto a la utilización del arte yo creo que es una novedad porque no solo le pone el niño a pensar sino también a demostrar las destrezas, las habilidades que cada niño tiene. Yo creo que para mi, es una novedad para transformar la educación de los niños y pienso que FUNARTE lo esta haciendo muy, muy bien.”
“Many times we are used to other people telling us what to do, but we the liberty of painting what we want gives us the opportunity to think. All of the things I want to sort in my life came out in the colours I used. I painted what I felt and what I want to do with my life.”
“Muchas veces estamos acostumbrado de que otras personas nos dicen que hacer, pero la libertad de pintar lo que queríamos nos hace pensar. En los colores salio que quiero es que todas las cosas se puedan arreglar en la vida. Yo pinté lo que yo siento y lo que yo quiero hacer en la vida.”