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Habla: The Center for Culture and Language

SmART Schools has launched a bold and innovative pilot program as part of an exciting international partnership with Habla: The Center for Culture and Language, a lab school and an international center based in Merida, Mexico. A group of individuals in the US, Mexico, and Brazil joined together to begin to create an international network of artists, educators, and organizational leaders with the idea that policy, research, and best teaching practices in the field of arts education need to be shared across borders. This international partnership has resulted in Habla, the lab school and an international center based in Merida. The architects of Habla—including arts leaders such as Richard Deasy, Nick Rabkin, Arnie Aprill, and Doris Sommer believe that cultural immersion is one of the most powerful possibilities for transforming both educators and youth.

Merida, the capital city of the state of Yucatan serves as the ideal lens for teachers and artists to experience the complex mix of cultures that exists in many Latin American countries and communities. The fusion of ancient, colonial, and modern culture is evident in the architecture and works of art present both in and around the city. Ancient Mayan ruins—including the famous Chichin Itza and Uxmal—are a short drive from the city and Mayan towns surround the city of Merida. Haciendas, churches, and state buildings located both in the center of the city are examples of the Spanish colonial influence. The people of the Yucatan are a unique mix with influences from the Mayan, Spanish, and more recent international cultures from around the globe. Merida is the perfect place to introduce visitors to the complexity of Mexican and Hispanic culture and to challenge the often homogenizing use of these terms. In the Mexico-based institute, teachers/artists leaders will experience, the complexity of the arts and culture in the Yucatan, and have conversations about how students from all cultural backgrounds bring a vast set of cultural and artistic resources to the classroom. The institute will challenge educators' cultural assumptions and supportively help them to reflect on their own cultures as well as the cultures they are experiencing.

The SmART Schools and Habla partnership will conduct ongoing professional development, designed and facilitated by Habla's co-founders and co-directors Kurt Wootton and Maria del Mar Patron-Vazquez, and SmART Schools founder and director, Eileen Mackin. This professional development will be offered to participating SmART Schools arts educators, classroom teachers, administrators, and program master teaching artists, from both the East and West Coasts of the United States.

(article from 2007)


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