Where Cultural Heritage meets Community Impact  at Colegio Interamericano in Guatemala

March, 2023

In a time when students are overly connected to modern technology and pop culture, we were in need of finding a bridge between the present and what our predecessors did in order to learn from and explain the world around them. So Colegio Interamericano students dug deep into the Mayan world and uncovered the sounds of our ancestors.

The mission of our school is to prepare global citizens with the knowledge, skills, and values to lead and improve a rapidly changing world. But how rapidly is the world changing? We want to use technology to connect with culture beyond pop culture. We want them to connect and interact with the world around them, before them. How do we connect modern civilization to the civilizations before them?

Using a PBL approach in addition to our modern day tools of LiDAR scanning, 3D printing, laser cutting, programming and design we provided students with the opportunity to craft and design their own learning experiences while interacting with the artifacts of Mayan Civilization, as well as its secrets. 

In partnership with La Ruta Maya Foundation, the “Sonidos Ancestrales” (Ancestral Sounds) project was born. “Sonidos Ancestrales” consists of the dissemination of cultural heritage with the goal of contributing to the development and comprehensive training of the educational community as well as society in general through integrated projects in all their expressions and possibilities. In this project students learn and create through manifestations of art, science, the humanities and values.

The exhibit of more than 70 mayan instruments that have been stored by the Foundation for safety, will be open for visitation and exploration on our campus from March to May 2023. The objective is to present each artifact, show its characteristics to the public and play the instrument so that the tonal variety can be heard. During the exposition months, students from various organizations and backgrounds in the wider Guatemala community will engage with the artifacts and teachers will tie into their content areas throughout the campus. A vital element for both the virtual and face-to-face exhibition is the authentic audio and video documentation played by local experts, especially when it comes to wind instruments (such as ocarinas, flutes, whistles, shells) and other noise makers (bells).

QR codes and braille signs (created by our vision impaired students) will sit beside the artifact, and student created 3D models of the artifacts will be available so that the visitor has the opportunity to feel and listen to the sound of some selected instruments, with headphones.  Other elements of “Sonidos Ancestrales” include the creation of an artisanal kiln for clay and ceramic, as well as a mechanical pottery wheel, powered by a bike mechanism. Students have the opportunity to connect with stakeholders and mentors, in order to innovate and solve problems, as they engage in this hands-on experience. 

In return, Fundación La Ruta Maya will gain the opportunity to share their artifacts with the broader community inside and outside of the country. Bringing the resources, created by kids for kids, and making them accessible to children and youth that for various reasons, don’t have access to these learning opportunities. According to a student involved “One group we are especially excited about bringing to the exhibition are the local schools that educate visually impaired students”. Future plans already include the Expo traveling around Guatemala to Antigua, Quetzaltenango, Quiriguá, Jalapa and so on.  

“We have two minds. One thinks, the other knows. The mind that knows goes back many lifetimes. This is the mind of the one heart, of all things: the trees, the plants, the clouds, the rivers, the mountains. The more time you spend with this mind, the more you will see Spirit around you."

Forrest Hayes (2012-02-23). Na Bolom: House of the Jaguar (Kindle Locations 1865-1866). Musa Publishing. Kindle Edition.” ― Forrest Hayes, Na Bolom: House of the Jaguar