by Rajeev Atha
Casa Pueblo, a community in the town of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico acquired 150 acres of land which established “Bosque Escuela La Olimpia” (La Olimpia Forest School). With an initiative to preserve the sanctity of the forest and Río Grande de Arecibo, a river originating in the forest of Olimpia. This stream of water is essential to the citizens of Adjuntas, Arecibo and other metropolitan areas of San Juan as their primary source of potable water.
As an extension for this preservation, Casa Pueblo’s Ariel Massol Deyá and Julián Chiví had an inspiration and vision to create a forest school in this forest. An education system of classrooms without walls, forest grounds as the floor and the infinity of the sky was established in the cradle of nature. Ricardo, a student and active community member of Casa Pueblo, provided us with the school philosophy, inspiration and curriculum. Contrary to an orthodox school, Bosque Escuela La Olimpia is an experiential based program. Students learn about temperature, water and air quality, respecting and valuing the forests by observation of the elements in nature such as fungi, endangered species, water flow and more.
After learning about the methods and curriculum of the institute, Ricardo provided us with an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a student studying in this environment. We walked from class to class, crossing rivers, ducking under the shade of trees and hiking mountains to reach ‘classrooms’ set in different natural contexts. On this course we stumbled upon a cabin in the woods, which was the solar energy class that was powered with resilient solar panels to produce energy.
Visiting Bosque Escuela La Olimpia, getting the gist of the education with Ricardo as our instructor was quite revealing for the students who’ve been through an orthodox education systems. Throughout the trip in Puerto Rico, we have been talking about focusing on the big picture but weren’t able to experience it. But Ricardo took us on a hike to the second highest peak on the main island and on reaching the top, there it was “the big picture,” the context in which we were working for. Overlooking the city of Adjuntas, made us realise the magnitude of the strategies we were formulating for the betterment of the island.
Bosque Escuela La Olimpia. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://casapueblo.org/index.php/proyectos/bosque-escuela-la-olimpia/