By means of the methodology that stems from our philosophy, we summarize the different tools we work with:
Assembly. The main tool with which we organize ourselves. To decide what activities we carry out, how we carry them out, to resolve conflicts that arise and to share any interest or doubt that may arise with the rest of the colleagues.
Sculpture. In Los Solares the soil is mainly clay and that is why we have a lot of raw material to shape it. To prepare it, we dissolve the clay in water and pass it through a fine sieve. As the water evaporates, a perfect clay to manipulate remains as sediment. We also work with plasticine.
Music. At the moment we have a pair of tambourines, three guitars, a keyboard, two güiros, five flutes, an amplifier and a microphone, and we intend to build a marimba as a mini joint project. Bachata, like palm trees, is part of the landscape.
Drawing and painting. We have the basics in any school: chalk, coloured pencils, pens, watercolours, crayons and often sticks in the dirt or sand. Sometimes we draw for the sake of drawing, sometimes to tell a story, to make a gift for someone… And, as usual, there is no better motivation for a child than imitating an adult.
Chess. Much has already been written about the benefits of chess. It is a very entertaining game, it encourages concentration and patience, it helps developing abstract thinking, it leaves no room for cheating and it is quite easy to learn. The logo of ELE didn’t come out of the blue.
Jenga and Tangram. The first time we used the Tangram we set up a child’s and adults’ game, where each one showed their skills. The different ways of facing the game allowed us to know a part of the personality of each one. Some are more intuitive, others more methodical, some are more confident, more impatient, some displayed spatial vision skills, etc. The resolution of the puzzle gave us to coin the concept of “the Chinese Triangle”, in honour of the first to face the solution of this complicated dilemma, to whom we will dedicate a notebook. On the other hand, the Jenga is another game which we take a lot of advantage. Apart from its use according to the rules, it usually acts as a “Lego” of pieces to build many forms, explore imagination and creativity.
Domino. In the Caribbean, playing domino is must, and here we still have a lot to learn. There is the double one, the double two, the double three, the double four, the double five, the double six…and the little box. For the moment, when it’s our turn, we’ve already learned to put the pieces together in the Dominican style, that is, as if you wanted to break the table, with energy.
Botanical and Fauna Encyclopedia. Los Solares is totally integrated into nature and its enormous diversity. Since we ignore the totality of the Dominican flora and fauna, we make the most of our walks and have the names of each species, written down in a notebook, pointing out characteristics, adding drawings…
Astronomy. Many times at Los Solares the electricity goes out and when it gets dark, we have a VIP box to see the sky, Milky Way included. As everything sticks together, when a gaze is fixed on the sky it is only time before the curious ones join in. What is the solar system like? What planets do we see at that moment and how do they move in front of the stars, motionless, in the background? How does the Earth rotate? Who are we, where do we come from…?
Fishing. Going fishing is always a winning option as a chilled activity, taking advantage of the fact that the Cuarón River crosses Los Solares. Fishing does not require much: a line rolled up in a bottle and a hook. We take warms just on the riverside and the “pilapias“ – as they are called here – bite very quickly. Few things compare to a group of children arguing endlessly among themselves all morning. Ehm…sorry, we meant by cooperating kindly with their partners and friends.
Walks. There is something special about walking. While walking, children are concentrated on their things, paying attention to where they put their feet, talking to each other as if nobody listened… Walking has this “mantra effect” of unconsciously paying attention as they normally wouldn’t if sitting on a chair in an enclosed space. It is also very healthy.
Reading and writing. This is one of the points where most work remains to be done. Many children can’t read or struggle reading. Furthermore, some children show signs of trauma for fear of making a mistake when writing. We are working on it slowly but surely, on a daily basis, progressing as they gain confidence and work on self-esteem. We have notebooks, pencils, pens, a large blackboard and some small slates. We still lack a lot of reading material for children, as buying children’s books in and around Los Solares is practically impossible. In the short term, we want to buy a printer so that we can print the material we consider appropriate.
Cinema. We have a projector for our open air cinema. At the moment the audience is mostly made of children but we want to expand it to adults as well and with luck, even build a small cinema. The films we show are picked collectively.
Theatre. Playing at being a dinosaur, superman or anything else imaginable comes spontaneously to any child. Sometimes we go a bit further and put together a little script to act it out. Theatrical improvisation exercises are always very interesting.
Computer. As with musical instruments, the computer is an object with a special magnetism and it is an excellent tool for working on several fronts starting with partnership and the shared use of resources. That is why, assuming the risks inherent in a screen, we use it. Despite our efforts to promote fun educational games – which we have – to work on the development of logical reasoning, for some strange reason they still prefer Youtube. Anyway… we are extremely patient.
Snack. Preparing a mango salad or “golden apples” topped with vinegar and salt is a constant in the lives of the children in Los Solares. The food-preparing rituals usually begin our pantry being raided in search of milk and oatmeal. As this generated quite a lot of chaos, little by little, we established a balance: fruit is shared, hands are washed, pots and pans are scrubbed, the food is cleaned, 5 kilos of sugar is not thrown away, organic waste is composted, etc. Without knowing very well how, each one is becoming more responsible for herself and the rest, there is a lot of gratitude and care for each other.