During the 1960’s, I lived in a small town called Puerto Ayora, in the island of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is part of the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador, South America). It was Darwin that gave the islands their fame. It was here that Darwin understood his theories about evolution & the survival of the species.
While growing up in Galapagos, I attended a small schoolhouse during my fifth & sixth grade. It was a one room schoolhouse set away from the town. There was one big classroom for all the grades, about a dozen students of all ages, one teacher, a blackboard & a map. Dusty books that had been used for generations so worn & ripped, it was a wonder we could read them.
I remember walking along a path made of coral that branched out from the main road above the town. The school stood in a sandy plain with lots of sharp rocks. There were small iguanas & lizards that darted about like chipmunks & squirrels dart in New England. The school was made of rough planks & a zinc roof that sang to us during rainstorms. We started school at 7am, broke for lunch & finished at 3pm. I usually went home for lunch as I lived about 5 minutes’ walk from school. In a small town, all children can walk to school & home.
We would start the day with the National Anthem and the older kids would help the younger ones as the single teacher could only give attention to each of us some of the time. My teacher was a young man who was educated in Ecuador and he made sure that we enjoyed each day. Everyone wore shorts & tee-shirts. No shoes & no long pants. We all had chores in the school & we rotated: blackboard cleaning, floor sweeping, raking the sand outside, straightening the playground, picking up garbage, etc. The teacher emphasized the 3 R’s, geography & Ecuadorean history so that to this day I remember continents, countries, rivers, oceans, etc. I also know a lot about the history of Ecuador.
During spring, the teacher would take the 6th graders out to the field & we would have class under the sun. I remember these as if it was yesterday. We would recite poems or read aloud from our books while enjoying the fresh air. At the end of the year, we had oral exams in front of a panel of adults and had to know our subjects. This was a requirement for passing to the next grade.
Finally, the summer was here and we could go home & look forward to swims in the ocean, playing, exploring & summer jobs.