The Adventures of Peacefull

21 September, International Day of Peace, Clowning in Creativa School

Cloud forst School/ Centro de Educacion Creativa School

In 1991 a group of local parents founded the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica. With 30 students, a milking barn, and a dream. The school now has 230 students from preschool through to 11th grade (no 12th grade). The school is located high in the Tilaran Mountains, it is sutiuated in one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse ecosystems. As part of the Costa Rican Private Reserve Network, the 106 acres that make up the CFS are protected form development by a permanent easement.

The CFS sees itself as a model for 21st century schools in meeting the needs of the local community and preparing students to be global citizens. The programs emphasize hand-on learning, cultural diversity, bilingualism, and ecological consciousness.

The school educates students in tourism and business in their community to develop a sense of environmental responsibility and to become the next generation’s green visionaries. The children learn to monitor local weather, streams, soil, vegetation to track and study changes. They study plant life, greenhouse and forests. They explore their experiences in the forest through creative writing and investigate local environmental issues, implementing action plans to address them. The Cloud Forest School is an open biology book that springs to life. In a setting surrounded by forest, covered by mist, and alive with animals, learning grows beyond the walls of the classroom and inspires every experience on campus (Andres Rodriguez, 2005).

To email the school support@cloudforestschool.org

Peace Clowning at Creativa School

I get up very bleary eyed at 6.30am. For me this is early, so it is a struggle. I do some juggling in front of the unit on the grass surrounded by natures glory. It is really a beautiful place where I am. I see Jenn coming up the road and I say hello, collect up my stuff. Suzie comes out to say hello. Jenn and I walk up the road, it is a glorious day, the sun is shining. We walk down to the Bakery and wait for the bus with kids and adults. It is the school bus we are jumping on. This is the bus that has to climb a steep hill, the school is around 2000 metres above sea level.

It is nice sitting on the bus and looking at all the fresh faces of children. How important it is we create a world worth living in for them. I sit with Jenn and she is a fresh faced young woman from Vancouver, Canada. I think of the beautiful environment there. She told me it is cloudy a lot there. Where there are many trees I would expect clouds and rain. She tells me about the school and how it nearly went belly up. Apparently they found the money hard to get and people didn’t have money. It is a private school, so education is not free. The people who live in this small community would not be earning lots of money. The school is also bilingual. However, they are still around so that must be small miracle in these parts.

We drive up the steep hill, I notice the bus driver is very careful not to take off until children are seated. He is very mindful of their safety. Other bus drivers I’ve come across haven’t shown that sort of care, not even with the elderly. So it was refreshing to see. The buses (three) arrive at similar times and back up to the school. When it is safe the children disembark.

Jenn and I head up to the school and she shows me the different buildings and introduces me to other teachers. I meet with Erica the teacher who initiated my coming. She has an assistant who is allocated to take me around the classrooms. She develops a schedule and I go looking for coffee. I walk into the wrong room and meet Melody, she is a art teacher who finds art very challenging. Apparently she has qualifications in art history I think, but she is more mathematical minded. I find that admirable that she is helping kids as a volunteer given that she is not naturally orientated to creativity. She is trying though and is helping the kids with pottery. She and I have a good conversation, so she takes me to the teachers staff room where we get coffee. They filter the coffee through a sock which is funny. There is no milk or sugar, but the coffee is quite nice.

Melody is living here in Montevarde with her husband and two girls. She nursed her mum for two years as she was sick. She said she doesn’t speak Spanish but found she was pretty housebound and getting older, less inclined to learn. She attempted to home school her children for a time as she is not keen on the education system in the States. She and I talk about the world and she is so amazed that people are so ignorant to the reality of what is happening in the world. The big corporations and massive consumerism, the wars in Iraq and environmental problems. She came here as she fell in love with the place. I told her about my work in peace and my belief in major shifts in the world in the next few years. She was open to that as well. She found people closed minded when she openly questioned things, she came up against resistance. I told her she was probably touching on their insecurity. She could see that. I explained people don’t want to know the reality of what is happening because they are afraid and feel powerless to do anything. People are basically good but they are dependent on the way the world is. I am sure there is deep terror inside when people confront the possibility of the system collapsing. I still remember that woman in Dublin saying she is trying to survive. Doesn’t want to think of those things. Yet those things are connected to her survival in the physical world. No point running, you have to face it at some time. Nature will force us at some point anyway.

Melody invited me to come and meet some people who had been in Australia, apparently they were peace activists and environmentalists. Sounded interesting. So we agreed to meet when school finishes. So she went off to class.

I found out that there is bullying in the school. The tension between north American kids and central American kids. It seems some of the North American kids can have some issues. Also the fact that some of these kids may not stay long at the school they are not accepted. I found out later that there were also divides between the adults as the American community can be transitory. This happens in established communities over the world who feel it is there place. That happened in England, your family have to be there over 100 years to be accepted. Too long too wait for happiness matey.

I then chatted with another teacher, Cybill who was American with a Columbian family background. She speaks fluent Spanish. She grew up in the States and had visited Columbia to see her relatives. She said it was a nice place forests and beaches but there are dangers there. The drug lords are a problem and you can’t walk at night or flash anything of any value. It is likely you will be robbed. She explained she had only been at the school a few months. She was friends with the Principal. They had met in Chicago and she happened to go to dinner with the Principal just before she left for Costa Rica. She said when Monteverde was described to her she saw herself living there. She felt it was fate. She organizes curriculum and is staff support, so when she was invited she decided to pack up and move. She said she loves it there, the people are really nice.

I then got dressed in my clown gear and went to the first class grade 4/6. It was well set out the room and I found myself just go into the flow. I had my laptop but just went from the top of my head, I seem to work better when I just improvise. The kids were all smiling as I pulled out my props and interacted with them. I found across all the classes when I asked what peace means there was silence, this to me reflects how little we speak of real peace and the need for it to be taught. As I encouraged the children more ideas came up.

I told the children that it is the International Day of Peace today and that all nations are asked to stop fighting for one day. I ask the kids do you think that is possible. Most say yes, one said no. I made the connections between happiness and peace and how important it is to live in a positive mindset. I showed them Dr. Emoto’s work ‘messages in water’. Refer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoRDPgMvro4 This shows crystals forming in patterns on the basis of positive or negative feelings. I explained to them that many people are in hospital unwell as they feel unhappy. That it is important to treat people positively for their health. We each have a responsibility how we treat people.

The kids were really excited and they laughed a lot. When I was leaving there were plenty of hugs to go round. I noticed the Central American kids are more open to affection than western kids. The teachers were also really pleased and news got back pretty quickly to the Principal that it went well. She smiled at me as I walked past.

I also worked with kinder kids and was aware they couldn’t speak English, I had the teacher sit next to me and translate and I kept it very simple. I told the kids that smiling is peace and what clowns do. I explained we love to make people happy as it is peace making. I then showed them my puppet and kissed them with it. I pulled out a few of my props juggling balls and my chicken which I squeeze and an egg comes out. They always laugh at that.

I then was sent to the year 11 kids. I walked in and talked with the kids about peace and the International Day of Peace. I asked them what peace was and there was a silence. It was really interesting. Again, how important is this topic, no wonder the world is not at peace we don’t know what it is let alone a vision of what it could look like. Too busy making money and having careers to stop and really think. Anyway I told them about Patch Adams in Russia and it seems many knew who he was. There are quite a few American kids in this school. I expressed to them my background and how I followed my dreams and that we are here to be happy. I also expressed that as Patch said ‘we are all great and that many can give it up by 40’. I told them that every person has talent and that we don’t know each other, we can be quick to judge. We are quick to form groups of in/out yet every person is great. Peace is seeing the greatness. I told them I have traveled the world and clowned in lots of places. I then did some juggling and kept dropping the balls. I always do, I just have really relaxed hands and the ball jump out. I told them it is ok to make mistakes. I also encouraged a kid to come up and have a go with the rings. He tried and he just chucked them up in the air. I said to the kids ‘what was great about what he did’, they were quiet, I said the fact he got up. I then went onto tell them of fear, false evidence appearing real, and it is fear that holds you back. One girl likes singing but is too scared to show her light. I thought later how society does prevent us from shining because of judgement. We are afraid of experience the negativity and then being isolated. I also mentioned bullying and to not allow that to happen but to give a person a hug. I mentioned to the other classes briefly this message as well. I only had 20 minutes with them but I did get more across, less clowning and more of a lecture, but I felt to speak more of peace with an older group. I am more of an educator than a performer.

I visited a class of 1st graders. I showed them the peace symbol and explained that it came from navy signals. I explained the stroke down the middle of the circle stands for D disarmament and the triangle in the circle is N for Nuclear and together they mean Nuclear Disarmament. This symbol is more to stop armaments and destruction of humanity through weapons. The yin/yang symbol is more about understanding the dark/light symbol of opposites that makes up life. We don’t know the good without the bad. We don’t understand day without night. So life is meant to be smooth and then challenging, this is how we grow. Peace is the way we deal with the changes. I asked them about peace and they couldn’t answer, I found them become restless so I pulled out props to bring some joy. I pulled out my bubbles and told them peace is positive thoughts. They got excited to catch the bubbles. I did some quick juggling and then I had to go.

My last class of the day was more kinder kids. I sat on the floor with them. I talked to them about peace and happiness and life as a clown. I threw some of my fluffy rubber balls around the group. A group of little girls showed they were scared of me. So I laughed, ignored them a bit and focused on props. That actually brought them around. They enjoyed the balls. I also had my puppet and went to kiss the kids with the puppet, they laughed and scattered. It was a great day with them.

I then went up to the staff room and talked more about the school, the teacher told me of the challenges of environmental education. My feeling was that we don’t see ourselves as one with the natural world. I explained to her as I travel I see every country as my own country, my world. When I use water or power it is my water and power, it is part of me. I went onto say I looked at an insect and reflected on the fact it appears separate from me on the wall, yet when we think in terms of the oneness (energy flows) the insect is part of my world. I found that perspective interesting as I attempt to break down psychological separation to gain a feeling for the environment. Recycling will not work until we shift our consciousness. I observed the rain pouring down, it was very heavy. Then I went and set up my computer and checked emails on the internet. I talked more to Cybill, the teacher from US/Columbia. She was a very lovely person. I showed her my short movie I made of my trip so far. Then Melody came in and said we have to rush to the bus. The rain outside was torrential and I only had my wrap, so I had to prepare myself for getting soaked. My only concern was my computer which I had wrapped in plastic.

We got on the bus and the kids looked curiously at me without makeup, usually I don’t like them to see me as it is the mystery of the clown I preserve. Anyway they were fine, I just smiled and they smiled back. I spoke with melody who is a passionate woman, filled with a fiery passion about injustice. I saw her truthfulness in her eyes. Apparently her daughter had experienced a hard time at school. I felt it was not easy being a parent as you want to protect them. I know my words may sound unrealistic when I try to convey that their life is their journey and parents really can’t control it. I do understand they are so loving to their children that their child’s pain is their own, particularly mothers.

We got off the bus and walked down towards her friends place… the next blog will discuss the fascinating conversation I had with my new friends.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

Random video from the Gallery

Peace Activist / Poet London

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