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Education Week brings the Maya Forest garden to Santa Familia Students Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 22 May 2014 00:00

Our motto: No Child Left Indoors!
Principal Donicio Escobar was enthusiastic about the annual Forest Garden presentation bringing the school teachers and students closer to their valuable asset in the school forest garden, making Monday May 12th a special day for all the primary school students from Infant 1 to Std 6.  They had a chance to spend a class period with traditional Maya forest gardeners at their school garden Känan K’aax, “well tended garden” in Mayan.

Initiated in 2008 with the vision of the late Alcario Cano who cherished the Maya forest garden, the acre plot is in the northeast corner of the school property. Only a short five minute walk from the school classrooms. There, children find a new world of plants useful for food and medicine, providing shade to cool the earth, and resources for the animals. This is their garden, the Känan K’aax.

Greeted in Mayan by well-known local historian and Master Gardener Alfonso Tzul and translated by local Master Gardener Narciso Torres, each class was introduced to their garden, spent time with each forest gardener to focus on three of the 130 plants that flourish in the Känan K’aax garden.

Calling out the names of Cohune in English. Corozo in Spanish, and Tutz in Mayan, the children all talked with Mr. Tzul about its uses.  Some students had seen their parents make Cohune oil, others recalled that the husks provided fuel for cooking, and they learned that the palm frond could be used for thatching.

The versatility of hardwoods was demonstrated by Mr. Torres who featured the Ciricote tree.  Highly valued for its beautiful grain for cabinetry, it also annually provides a delicious fruit that can be, as with most fruits, conserved by canning. Everyone was surprised by the rough feel of the leaves, and learned that they were good for cleaning dishes! All this in a young tree that in 20 years will have not only born fruits to eat, but will yield a beautiful hardwood for wood working projects.

All convened before departing to look at the chaya, a perennial tree spinach. Delicious, nutritious and easy to grow, chaya was the culmination of  the featured tour for the students of Santa Familia Primary School.  Each were presented with a stick of chaya to plant at their home and given a postcard of El Pilar where the forest is a garden. 

It was a long day for our team and we could tell that the children were stimulated.  Arriving energetic and leaving with new knowledge native to their community. We know that the garden model of Känan K’aax promises many learning experiences about growing plants, about tending and caring for them, of observation of changes when leaves grow, how height is gained, and what new plants can be added.