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The Arts in Education
Several years ago I met some remarkable teachers. Although Ricardo and Jahuira had never met each other, I was fortunate enough to meet them both. Independently of each other, they developed very similar programs. When I saw how similar they were, the idea of a documentary, The Arts in Education: A Colombian Alternative, was born.

What makes these teachers and their schools unique is that they use the arts exclusively to teach their entire curriculum. The Colegio Idea, in the large city of Cali, has bright students from lower to middle class backgrounds. FEDAR, in Popayan, is dedicated to mentally retarded students. With both groups of students, the arts approach works equally well.
It took about a year to gather the financial resources and make the necessary arrangements. Companeros de las Americas contributed the largest sum towards financing the project. A local arts council kicked in some more money. The US Army agreed to loan me a media specialist as a public servce.Permission was obtained from the schools and the parents of each student. A camera was leased, the film was purchased, insurance was secured, a translator and still photographer were hired. Finally everything was ready to go. With a limited budget and a three month shooting schedule, my camerman, Sgt. Joseph Sessions, and I took off for Southwest Colombia and the first school, the Colegio Idea, in the large city of Cali.
The Colegio Idea in Cali, Colombia
One of the things we did was take the children to a local marketplace. They spoke with the merchants and looked at everything that went on. When we returned to the school, the children created a marketplace of their own. Some were merchants with shops and wares to sell; others were consumers. They did a lot of adding and subtracting that day and never knew that they were learning math. They thought they were simply having fun.

Jahuira, the director
of the Colegio Idea
Music was an important aspect of their learning experience. Everything from history to geography to math was written as lyrics and set to music. The voices of the children would fill the grounds with song as they learned about Colombia history.
Mauricio was hired as a translator for the movie and ended up being
both a friend and a jack of all trades. He was amazing as a translator.
One language would go into his ear, and the other would immediately
spill from his mouth.
The children all loved to perform. One of their creations was a hero named "Super Ricardo." Whenever they had a presentation day, the school was dressed in bunting and banners. Parents came to watch with great anticipation.
We spent about three weeks shooting at the Colegio Idea. Then it was time to travel to Popayan for phase two of the documentary. We hired a taxi, loaded all the equipment, and set off much higher into the Andes Mountains.
FEDAR is amazing place. I fell in love with the students. You would never find a happier, warmer, more accepting groups of teachers, parents, and kids.
The school was founded by Ricardo Cobo. His unique vision was to create a safe, creative environment where these special students could reach their fullest potential.If a parent was unable to afford tution, it could be worked out. Some parents cooked, others cleaned and did yard work. Everyone was involved. I never heard an unkind or impatient word during the nearly six weeks we worked there.
Ricardo Cobo Diaz, founder and director of FEDAR
One of the activities the children loved best was art class. They were undressed to their underwear and placed on huge pieces of paper that were placed out in the courtyard. Pots of brightly colored paint were placed near the children.They were encouraged to use their entire bodies to create and express themselves. When they were finsihed, the teachers would take them to the outdoor shower and clean them up.
After they were dressed, they were ready for the next class.
Students at FEDAR dancing
Gustavo is a professional dancer, the director of La Casa de la Cultura, and a part-time teacher at FEDAR.  He and the older students selected a song they liked and wrote a dance interpretation to it. On the day we filmed it, we went to La Casa de la Cultura. It was the only time I needed to hire a second camerman. I wanted one to cover long shots and the other to do medium and close ups. Everyone who went past the room had to stop and admire the student's abilities.
Emmy winner Edward James Olmos
agreed to act as the host/narrator of the documentary. He is a warm, giving man who is very generous with his time for causes in which he believes.
Making this documentary was an amazing experience and one for which I will always be grateful. Wonderful people graced my life and added greatly to its joy.
MaryAnn T. Beverly


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