Montessori Work in Colombia, South America – Fall 2019

1 colombia on globe

September 29, Bogotá, Colombia

The picture above shows Colombia on the map of South America, and the view from the top of a hill in Bogota. I had been at the Bogota airport many times since 1978, but this was my first time seeing the city and it is a beautiful as one hears.


Journal Notes, several places in Colombia over the weeks

September 30. Arranged by FEMCO, the AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) affiliate in Colombia, on the first day I gave two PowerPoint presentations based on the book “The Universal Child, Guided by Nature” which has been translated into Spanish (See links below). In the audience were the government heads of the early childhood departments from all of the areas of Colombia. There was much excitement as Montessori practices are new to the government of Colombia and it was clear that they are logical and kind and successful.

October 1. During the second morning several of us met with the Vice-minister of education who is very concerned for the many children who are homeless and without parents because of poverty and drug wars. As the result of this meeting there are already plans for further contact with AMI Montessori and Colombia.

2 bog gim us montessori

In the afternoon we visited a very famous school, Gimnasio Moderno. On the left side of this picture you can see Coral Ruiz (AMI teacher trainer from Puebla, Mexico) yours truly, Juan Sebastián Hoyos who is the Vice Director of the school, Don Camilo Morales (artist, philosopher and husband of Lyda Franky), and Lyda who is the head of FEMCO.

On the right side of the picture is Maria Montessori with Don Augustin Nieto Caballero who founded the school in 1914. The two of them met at one of the colleges of Oxford University (possibly, Balliol College) sometime between 1926 and 1930. This is where their friendship began. Later, as WWII was imminent Don Augustin invited Maria and her son Mario to come to Colombia but as they were working in India when the war broke out they had to stay there for several years. Later Mario and his new wife spent their honeymoon here in Colombia. Montessori was one of the main influences for this, the first “new” school in South America.

3a armenia truck and stairs


October 2. Next a flight from Bogota to Armenia, a city near the Venezuela border, to do a consultation with a Montessori school. Armenia is beautiful. There was not much time to explore but there is a tradition of decorating vehicles for an annual parade. They look more like giant versions of the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Mexico, decorated by pictures and belongings of the family.

One of the most rewarding things I observed at the school was a young girl with severe physical handicaps who can barely walk and found it painful to try. After watching the other students free to move around the classroom and choose work she took it upon herself, with the help of a woman always with her to help her walk, to build the “brown stair”, carrying one block at a time all the way across the room, from shelf to the balcony, then back across the room to get the next block. She worked on this the whole morning with great physical effort and deep concentration, and was so very pleased with herself at the end.

3b armenia singing and coffee

Since there was a guitar in the school I was delighted to play and sing with the children. As there were only 5 strings on the guitar it was a bit difficult to play so I shared some of the rhythm and pitch activities in the book “The Red Corolla, Montessori Cosmic Education” (See link below). Armenia is the coffee central of Colombia and world famous for quality. We visited the coffee plantation next to the school talked about how the children could use this for their botany studies, both primary and elementary.

4 opening and queso

Santa Rosa de Cabal

October 4. An all day drive took us to Santa Rosa de Cabal for our main work. Coral Ruiz, AMI primary trainer in Puebla, Mexico delivered a 3-6 Montessori introduction, called “Assistants Certificate Course”. This is an intensive internationally recognized AMI introduction for parents and professionals requiring 60 hours of lectures and material making, 8 hours of observation, and written papers. 140 students attended.

On the second day I gave a presentation for Coral’s course on the child from birth to three, and then prepared for a three day workshop where I would lecture in the morning and the 45 students would hold discussions based on the different stages of development, from birth to age 18. The students were from Colombia, Morocco, Peru, Mexico, USA, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, and Panama.

The second picture above is a favorite treat in Colombia, “Chocolate con Queso”! One is brought a steaming cup of rich hot chocolate and several pieces of fresh cheese. The cheese is dropped into the cup and spooned out as it has begun to melt. I like to drop one piece at a time but some people but the whole serving in at once and then eat it like a thick soup. Delicious.

Here is just one of the dances I have seen in 5 weeks in South America. It is so enjoyable to be working in places where music, singing, and dance, is alive and well, to open conferences (like this one) and on the street.

6 SR hotel and orchids

This is the place where we speakers stayed during these 10 days. An old Hacienda surrounded by coffee fields, bamboo, farms, and hundreds and hundreds of orchids, with typical Colombian breakfasts and dinner, and a quiet place for us to prepare for each days work. I understand there are over 4,000 – four thousand! different varieties in Colombia. One morning as I was looking at the orchids growing next to the patio where we had meals I noticed some movement. Looking closely I could see tiny spiders pollinating the orchids. Here is a little video I took to share.


For more, Click here: Santa Rosa de Cabal

8 us and final dinner

Oct 12. Both of the courses ended on the same day and so we were able to celebrate together. Here is a picture of me with Coral Ruiz, and Eder Cuevas of the AMI Affiliate society in Mexico standing in front of the pink tower celebration cake. It was a treat to be able to share breakfasts and dinners with these two dedicated Montessorians. The second picture shows many of us sharing our last meal together back at the hacienda.

Oct 13. We traveled by car to Cali, Colombia, and then Lyda and I flew to Ecuador, returning on October 20.

To explore Cali, Click here: Cali


From October 15 to 20 Lyda Franky and I were in Ecuador.
To see this blog post Click here: ECUADOR

9 Cali school tower and goat


This is my third time to visit the Montessori school in Cali, and each time it is more beautiful and more aligned with authentic Montessori principles. Above is a picture of the entrance to the school. The little boy holding the school goat is the grandson of the Montessori teacher of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. When Gabo died in 2014, the President of Colombia called him “the greatest Colombian who ever lived.” To get a taste of his works, and of old—and rural today—Colombia, have a look at “One Hundred Years of Solitude” which I read during my first trip to Colombia in 1977.

Click here: Gabo

10 cali orphanage sign and us

Colegio Bilingue Montessori has for years been involved with many humanitarian projects, such as feeding the homeless and working with the staff at a nearby orphanage. As part of my school consultation Lyda Franky, the head of the school, and I visited the orphanage. They were as hungry for as much Montessori infant and early childhood information as we could share in one visit. As a result Lyda, and other volunteers in Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Morocco, and Paraguay have done the translation into Spanish of The Joyful Child (See link below).

11 Cali school timeline

Lyda’s husband Don Camilo contributes his talents to the school often. Above are just two of his paintings used to create the Montessori Evolution timeline for the 6-12 class. There are many people in third world countries such as Colombia who could never afford approved materials, or to receive AMI training in a first world country, or even to bring an AMI trainer to a place where the average teacher salary is $150 a month. So I do what I can to help and applaud their passion and hard work bringing the best of Montessori they can provide for  the children.

There are two iguanas, and many other animals living at the school but the closest I got to one on this trip was in a garden down the road. Above is a little video of this creature.

13 cali birthday dinner

October 22. On the last day Lyda, her sister Ana Franky who lives in Morocco, and I celebrated our birthdays and the end of our work together this year at Restaurante Hacienda del Bosque – in just the kind of old home where these two ladies spent their childhoods. The restaurant was opened in 1911 and is famous for the beauty of the building and the gardens, for the Pacific seafood, and typical Colombian favorites. It was adios for a while as tomorrow I return to Bogota.

If you are an ethnic foodie, Click here; Hacienda del Bosque

14 bog pablo school food

Back to Bogota

Oct 24. On this last day in Colombia I visited two schools.

The first is Colegio Ekiraya (the Guayu indigenous word for “sharing”), a Montessori school high in the hills overlooking Bogota. Pablo and Adelaida Lipnizky, both of whom attended the events in Santa Rosa above and the meetings and workshops with the Colombian government, began it many years ago. On this day the cooks were trying out some new recipes so samples were laid out in the dining hall and the older students brought the young ones to taste, and then to vote on what should be added to the menu.

15 bog pablo school work

It is difficult to convince people who are not familiar with Montessori of the value of having mixed ages, but finally the approval has been given here and one can begin to see the kind of advanced work we are used to experiencing in Montessori classes.

16 w boys and mindfulness

A Presentation at a Private Boys School in Bogota LInked to Maria Montessori and her son Mario

Expecting to give one of the presentations from work in other places in South America, I was happy when the vice-director, Juan Sebastian, asked me to speak from the book “Montessori and Mindfulness.” I should not have been surprised because he is a fellow Vegetarian Buddhist which is one of the reasons he wanted us to meet in the first place.

There are many stories connected with this school. One is about the reason Don Augustin began the school. He was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, and one day observed a crowd gathering on a bridge in the middle of the city. Upon questioning the reason he learned that a fellow student had jumped to her death. He looked further and learned that the reason she committed suicide was because of the stress and pressure of university. He vowed that when he returned to Colombia he would create a school that would above all foster happiness and kindness. Just as in many Montessori school, it has created a relaxed and healthy atmosphere that naturally results in high academic accomplishment because the student enjoy what and how they are learning.

There is a life mask of that girl who died in Paris to remind everyone about what is the most important in life, and in education, happiness and kindness.

If you would like to see the Peru post, about the days before coming to Colombia see the following blog post.

Click here: PERU


At the request of many people met in this work I wrote down some of the main points from talks and consultations. These notes are quickly pulled together so please excuse imperfection. Thank you for Perla Aurora Britez Larrosa, AMI 0-3 teacher from Paraguay who is working in Cali, Colombia for the translation.

Click here (PDF in SPANISH): Spanish version

Click here (PDF in ENGLISH): English version


The orphanage project in Morocco shared in Cali. Click here: Orphanage

Click here: JC Translations (Links to translations, including Spanish, of “The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three”)

Click here: BOOK The Universal Child Guided by Nature

Click here: BOOK El Nino Universal Guiado por la Naturaleza

Click here: BOOK The Red Corolla (Cosmic education for 3-6)

Click here: BOOK Montessori and Mindfulness

Click here: ALL 8 “FIRST MONTESSORI BOOKS” (with link to wholesale terms for training centers, schools, book clubs, etc)

Link to AMI International Montessori Introductions/Assistants Certificate
Click here: AMI

Stay tuned for a blog post on Ecuador and the Galapagos islands soon. Sharing these pictures and stories brings back wonderful memories for me. So I think you for being there and being interested.



Home page, Click here: HOME



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