The Kalu Yala Blog

Our Growing Relationships

February 23, 2011

by Emily Barry
Posted In: Our Global Community, The Creation of a Culture, Voices of Kalu Yala, Wandering Thoughts

As the weeks fly by I find myself becoming more grateful for the time I get to spend in San Miguel. My life is becoming a traveling circus of packing and unpacking moving from one place to the next. Hispania, our house in Panama City, has now become a place that serves as a middle ground while I move from San Miguel to our weekend adventures. When I am in San Miguel it feels as though I have been picked up and placed in someone else’s life. The stark contrast of city life and rural town living makes for quite the shock. One second I’m listening to jack hammers working on a sky scraper next to Hispania and the next second I’m standing on a dimly lit street watching children run barefoot from the river to their homes.

Classes continue to become more meaningful as we build deeper relationships with the children. Hugs are plentiful as the children filter in throughout the morning with smiles on their faces. This week we focused on numbers and counting along with body and river vocabulary. After completing a few activities we taught the song “head, shoulders, knees and toes,” then took field trips down to the river to practice our number vocabulary and river words. The song invoked a massive amount of laughter and giggles, as even the teachers struggled to keep up with following the prompts in the song. I watched barriers began to dissolve as even the twelve-year-old’s lose themselves in laughter throughout the song.

Throughout my classes in Child Development, we focused a lot on developmentally appropriate practice. This framework provides principles and guidelines based on research in the areas of:

in order to promote children’s optimal learning and development. In this framework, the topic of relationships is proven to be an invaluable context through which children construct their understandings about the world through interactions with members of the community. There are many other pillars that are necessary in order to provide developmentally appropriate curriculum for children, but in my opinion strong relationships built between teacher, child, family and community are absolutely essential to create an optimal learning environment.

This sheds light on the growing feeling of accomplishment as we depart each week. When the time comes to leave our beloved community, we are now sent away with vigorous hand waving and hugs from children, teens and adults alike. Every week we are met with invitations to a different family’s house, with the opportunity to get the know them better and enjoy a very authentic Panamanian meal. These are opportunities that allow us to continue to build relationships and gain contextual information about the children in the community, and in return they enable me to better tailor classes to them.


Working hard on labeling "My Body" worksheet


Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!


Walking to the river for our lesson!


My new friend Mellisa.


Eating dinner at Mirian's!

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