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Day 13: Exploring on ATV's, studying static electricity and an epic ninos vs. ninas futbol match

Our day started with 26 different birthday greetings to our dear Ella Rose. It was sweet to witness as I sat on the stoop to my room and Ella Rose was sitting nearby, that the first thing every child did as they exited their room was greet and wish Ella Rose a happy birthday. It was almost shocking that all (boys and all) remembered.

After gathering in the courtyard, we all left for an early breakfast at Dona Rosa's and then were off to Las Piedrotas. There is a beautiful and very interesting rock cropping just outside of the town of Tapalpa. We, the teachers, decided to rent three ATVs to take some of the group out to the Piedrotas and then give the children chances to ride a little in the country. There are some great stories to tell from this adventure, but I am to save these for the children to share with you.

After Las Piedrotas, we went to doña Rosa's for a wonderful large lunch with carne asada, pollo, grilled vegetables and some AWESOME salsas.

We then had a great day at school and it is obvious that the town is getting used to us and that the children are looking forward to seeing one another. Each class reported a nice day of studies and laughter with new friends.

And yes, we had a futbol game. This time, it was ninos verse ninas with the maestros on the ninas team. The match ended 1-1 as our very own Arthur scored a much needed goal with one minute to spare to rescue the boys from what appeared to be a defeat by the girls. There were great celebrations for an awesome game.

In the above photo, the birthday girl participates in a demonstration of static electricity.

Mr. Cohen

Day 12: Learning a lot and doing it all in Spanish!

We spent the morning here at the hotel doing homework.

One group had a project about minerals to present today, another group is studying forms of energy and the different methods of producing electricity. This group is also working on "cool math questions" with fractions and geometry.

The third group has been doing science projects about electricity (generators, conductors and displays) and they also have been studying grammar and Mexican history from around the turbulent time of the 1917 constitution.

The children are learning a lot and they are doing it all in Spanish.

In the above photo, Ronan explains how batteries work.

Mr. Cohen

Day 11: 5th and 6th graders are making great progress in school and joined Save the Water Day parade

By all accounts, today was the best day of school yet. Our children are doing amazingly well and are often praised by the teachers and even the director of the school. A few of our students were asked to participate in the Tapalpa Save the Water Day parade!

Day 10: Supporting one another on a challenging hike after a refreshing swim

Our day began at Dona Rosa's house for breakfast and then at about 10 o'clock, a fleet of RTV's showed up. The children were so excited, they had been wanting to ride in those "cool things" since we arrived.

With one adult and 5 children per RVT, we made our way through Tapalpa, through Attaco on our way to a 30 minute ride to the trailhead.

We hiked about 2 miles down to a fabulous waterfall and enjoyed an early afternoon relaxing in and around the water. Some brave ones even swam with me in the cold, cold water to the waterfall.

Then, our two mile (or so) hike back UP.  This group rocks! A few of us made the ascent quite quickly and we waited up at the top. Once the children realized that some others were struggling, 4 or 5 went racing back down to carry their friends packs and encourage their classmates. The ringing of "keep going, you are almost there" could be heard echoing through the canyon.

Mr. Cohen

Day 9: Fishing for lunch

We left for Attaco and Ojo de Agua shortly after breakfast. The dirt roads leading out to our location were so poor and with enormous pot holes that the bus had to pull over and we walked the last 3/4 mile.

Once there, the children spread out around a sweet pond and most began fishing. The rule was, "you catch it, you eat it." Right next to the pond is a beautiful waterfall and a wall-less restaurant. If you catch fish, you can have them prepare the fish to your liking and you eat what you caught.

Well, we caught about 11 fish and there was breaded fish, garlic fish, fish tacos, butter fish, BBQ fish and chili fish served today. Those who didn't catch anything or wanted something different, either shared with others or ordered off the menu. It was a delicious meal.

Mr. Cohen

Day 8: Making adobe bricks requires getting dirty

Our day started with a nice walk to a part of town we had not yet seen. Once we crossed a small creek, we were on a particular family's property. We were greeted by three men who were making adobe bricks. Their family has been making bricks on this property for over 50 years.

We were all dressed in shorts and we quickly took off our shoes and we spent the next 3 hours making adobe bricks. So much fun!

The children were asked to walk through the mud/straw pile, mixing the material with their feet.

Of course, mud and children spelled "hilarious awesomeness" as Silvio would say.

But besides the humor of seeing one another completely covered with mud, we also got to make real adobe bricks.

Señora and I are already planning how we can bring this to the school!!!

Mr. Cohen

Day 7: A futbol revolution in Tapalpa

One of the things that our group realized was that when the recess bell sounded, all the boys went to play games (soccer or basketball) and all the girls did different activities. It is common here that girls do not play in the sports games. Well, this just did not fly with our group from NVS.

Yesterday a few of our girls joined the basketball game and within a few minutes, 4 or 5 girls from Tapalpa also joined. What an exciting moment for all. It really was a social revolution. The girls did not know if it was ok and the boys were not sure if they still wanted to play. Milton and I joined in and encouraged everyone. Within a few minutes the game was huge and everyone was having fun. When it was time to go up for classes, there were American high fives all around.

Last night we all determined that today we were going to play soccer. We went and bought a soccer ball (that we plan on donating at the end of our trip) and we brought our whole group, girls and all, out to play. At first their was a pretty big rumbling about our girls playing soccer. Many of the boys did not think they would be able to play. Many boys came to me and asked "ellas pueden jugar futbol?" Can they really play? I just told them to watch out because those girls are as fast as the wind and have very strong legs to kick with. The boys laughed, but once the game began and our group began to play, it was futbol!

Mr. Cohen

Day 6: Collaborative art projects at a "colorful" school and becoming fast friends with new classmates

Today we spent the morning at CITAC. CITAC, is a small alternative school in Tapalpa. CITAC was started by an artist named Marco Carrizales. Marco believed that colors and art provide people the "avenue" into their emotions and to a place where they can recognize the beauty in another and the value of all. Marco created a fantasy land of Ocho Soles where the colors of the sun were synonymous with wonderful traits like love, honesty, respect, etc.

CITAC provides a service for children and adults to benefit from the ability to work with their hands and their hearts. People of all ages and abilities (including many disabled people) come to CITAC daily. The teachers then sell some of the art, which is made of all recycled materials, to help fund their school. Our children were working with Papel Malecho in the morning and were doing a collaborative art project with painting afterwards.

After CITAC, we had lunch and then off to school.

The 3 groups are all doing homework now. One group is working on a presentation on minerals, another is working on fractions and using paper and geometrical shapes to represent fractions, and the third group is studying science and specifically energy and how energy is used and measured in a variety of different circumstances with a variety of different sources.

It will be an early (earlier) bed time tonight.

Mr. Cohen

Day 5: Important lessons from a native farmer and then off to class with local children

We spent this morning at a an amazing ranch where a wonderful man and his two sons have been working for 25 years. They have an amazing philosophy about life and working with the earth and animals. We helped them with their chickens and their geese. They had a huge outdoor building dedicated to worms, which supplies their ranch and many others with endless liters of compost tea.

These gentleman were so calm and the ranch so tranquil, it was incredible. Their philosophies of gardening and stewardship of the earth comes from their ancestors and has been practiced for generations. They spoke about being aware of where the birds nested to know what the future weather would be like. They spoke about planting and pruning according to the phases of the moon. They spoke about how the energy of the animals, people and plants all interact and affect the earth. They spoke about relationships (this is when I said I was moving in) and that the plants and the people grow together and feed off one another. We saw a wind mill that operated a pump (solely on wind power) that drew water up from 240 feet below the surface. This fresh water filled ponds and irrigated acres of trees.

In the afternoon, it was time to go to class. The children were divided into three groups, 8 children per group and introduced into three separate classrooms. We have a teacher from our school with each group. From 2-6:30 the children were immersed in studies and meeting many new people and some extremely excited local children. They studied things from perspective, alternative energy, photosynthesis, grammar (adjectives), fractions, percentages and Spanish. A lot is covered in four hours.

The school really welcomed our group and it seems like it is going to be a great two weeks of school. All three classes have homework tonight for tomorrow's classes. This evening the groups went about town getting supplies, information, sketching, and then returned to the hotel  to work together to get the assignments done.

A great day. We did a lot and the children loved all of it!!

Day 4: Students learn old basketry customs, make tortillas on an outdoor oven

Well, we did not go to school today because it is a national holiday in Mexico celebrating Benito Juarez. The town celebrated and the shops, banks, and schools all were closed to honor Juarez's birth.

We did however walk to a nearby town, Attaco, where the children were instructed by some elderly women of the village in the art of basketry using pine needles. The children were great students and they crafted some amazing baskets in just a few hours.

After basket making, we walked to a neighboring home and were taught how to make tortillas on an outdoor oven. We are already adjusting our pizza oven design back home to incorporate tortillas.

At lunch, there was a man from the University of Guadalajara. This man has a radio station and he was in Attaco to document this lunch. He is especially interested in how to preserve ancient cultures and how to bring traditional customs and experiences to today's youth. He was so excited to hear about us and our school and programs that he photographed the event. Picture 6 wise women of a village teaching 24 American ten to twelve year olds how to make tortillas by hand.

We ate arroz, frijoles, tortillas, pollo, nopales, chiles and celebrated one another. It was a another great meal. And yes, we have pictures.

We then spent a few hours resting (although no one rested) at the hotel prior to going downtown. We gave the children 45 minutes in the square to shop and of course get ice cream and then once again off to doña Rosa's for a light dinner.

This evening we spent some time practicing the presentations that the children will be making at school tomorrow. They are all a bit nervous but also very excited.

Off to bed now, for we have a ranch to visit tomorrow in the morning and school in the afternoon.

Mr. Cohen