The Estación Tolten School in Chile Celebrates Birds!

October 8th – October 9th, 2018
Toltén, Araucanía Chile

The Estación Toltén School celebrated its birds and ancestral wisdom at a community event that included children, teachers, and wise elders of the Mapuche territory called the Trawün NEWEN MEW TAÑI FOLIL. Many people in the community came together and listened to the ancestral messages that birds from the Toltén area in La Araucanía, Chile, bring. They also met for two days to exchange knowledge about the fascinating local birds and their trips from the perspective and understanding of the Mapuche worldview.

First Day:

This Trawün (community meeting) had two parts. The first day consisted of talks and an exchange of ideas between Professor Ruth Alonso Pichun, along with Millaray, Mariely, Aylyn, Lizette, Miguel, Marco, Dylan Coyan, Aukin and Andrea Avendano and the community. After the brainstorming session, the leaders and the participants went on a bird walk in their community.

Later in the day, the helpers made a list of the birds that they watched every day and drew them. In order to share the list with the community, they made a small bird theater, where each child could talk about how they interacted with the birds mentioned in the theater show. In addition, they examined the flora near the school and were able to distinguish some bushes and medicinal trees that the birds frequented, which was wonderful!

First Day Pictures:

Second Day:
On the second day, teachers Andrea Avendaño and Ruth Alonso were prepared to receive the guests. Among them, we want to highlight Don Florencio Manguilef— kimche (wise of the territory) and teachers Margarita Alonso, Jorge Ancan and Luis Curilaf, all of whom helped in preparing for the event.

The Trawün allowed ancestral wisdom to join the arts and natural sciences and contribute significantly and collaboratively to the teaching of 80 children in this rural area. The kimche Florencio Manguilef gave a beautiful anecdote about the importance of nature in the community. He said: “Nature speaks, and when it speaks it emits sound. Nature and its living beings, we all emit sounds. For more than 15 thousand years we, the Mapuche people have always heard how nature speaks to us, and that sound that She emits, we made it a word, and that is the birth of our Mapudungun (Mapuche language).”

With these striking words, the Trawün began! Even before beginning their walk, the children understood that the environment delivers important messages that help build knowledge and make people grow.

The Treile Dance, Txegül purun

The activities ended with the Txegül purun (the Treile dance). The term Treile (Vanellus chilensis) refers to a bird known in the central zone of Chile as Queltehue and in English as Southern Lapwing. The Txegül purun dance is a cultural manifestation that the teachers of this area wanted to highlight and recover because in the most mountainous area of the Walmapu (Mapuche territory) only the Choike is danced in many celebrations. In this dance, participants simulate the movements of the choike, an ostrich-like bird from the region. In the coastal area, where the Estación Toltén School is located, the Txegül purun was danced many years ago.

For this activity, the children of the School of Llalican (also on the coast) helped to bring back this dance from the area by teaching some steps of the Txegül purun to the students. When teaching and learning the steps of this dance, a lot of attention was also paid to the movements of the Treile to imitate characteristics of the bird. It was very exciting to see the children enjoying their dance and recognizing the movements of the Treile!

Day 2 Pictures:

The activities carried out during the two days were very important for the whole community. It was a perfect mix of the natural sciences, the arts, and the Mapuche Kimün (ancestral wisdom). The wise men of the community were again recognized as bearers of the ancestral wisdom of the region. They awakened the learning as well as the previous knowledge of the children. The power of listening as an invisible medium for change was emphasized as it holds immense importance in the Mapuche culture. Specifically, listening allows for dialogue between living beings, speakers and non-speakers. The activities in the Estación Toltén school were thus very significant since they helped younger members of the community learn about the role that birds have long since played in the Mapuche culture. Additionally, through the Trawün, the youth were able to connect this learning to the environment and ancestral knowledge.

The Toltén Estación School thanks to the mini-grants of Celebrate Urban Birds, a citizen science project based on equity, diversity and inclusion from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for supporting these activities with all the educational material that was needed and respect for the culture. The school would specifically like to thank Marta del Campo, who has understood in depth the importance of educational freedom in native communities.

Professor Andrea Avendaño, an important member in helping create fun, educational activities for students has created a template of one of her activities. She hopes that it might be used to help children get excited about nature! To download click here!

Article by Ashley Calderon and Sanjna Das.

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