Greetings "Life's a Beach" readers. This is an article written for the August newsletter for the regional interest website, SacBe. If you haven't yet signed up for an email subscription to receive this informative publication, you can sign up here. Every month the newsletter is full of informative articles about the Riviera Maya, local events and cultural facts. You can also find information about lodging specials, tours and other travel related services. 

Ak Lu' um International School

By Michele Kinnon

Making a choice about a child’s education is perhaps the most important decision a parent is faced with. All children have different needs and interests and investigating all of the educational options available is crucial to finding the school that is right for each child. Over the past decade, the educational options for families living on the Riviera Maya have increased exponentially. While just a few years ago, parents seeking a quality private learning institution for their children were limited to two or three options, there are now nearly a dozen schools to select from with even more opening their doors every year. All of the schools vary in their methodologies, student demographics and facilities. Several of the newer campuses offer tremendous sports facilities and opportunities for students to participate in a variety of competitive sports. Parents looking for a more holistic learning environment may now look to one of the region’s Montessori or Waldorf inspired schools, the most innovative being the Ak Lu’um International School located in Playa del Carmen.

Fundacion Ak Lu’um A.C., the Riviera Maya’s only not for profit privatized school was created in 2006 by educators Siobhan Bowers and Gabriela Nunez. This Waldorf initiative employs a Heart, Head and Hands approach to education and Learning through the Arts methodology is used to teach curricular subjects such as Math, Science and Social Studies. In addition to the nationally standardized curriculum required by the Mexican Government (SEP), children are taught art, music and environmental studies complimented the facilities of the self sustaining jungle campus established in 2008. Students maintain a garden and raise chickens, harvesting the organic eggs for use in the school's kitchen, and participate in a myriad of activities designed to stimulate not just their minds and bodies but their hearts as well. Ak Lu’um School is completely bilingual welcoming students from all over Mexico and across the globe.

Parents with special needs students will also now find a viable option for their school age children. The Waldorf trained teachers successfully integrate physically and developmentally challenged children into mainstream classroom settings, providing a safe and inclusive learning environment where each child is encouraged to reach his or her potential. Currently, 36 percent of the student population is on full scholarship support, ensuring that qualified families are not excluded simply because of their financial position. Parents whose children are receiving tuition assistance are asked to participate in the daily operations of the school, making a valuable contribution with their time and skills.

Ak Lu’um’s non-profit status allows for financial support from corporate and individual donors. Contributions go to expand and improve the physical campus, increase the curricular and extracurricular activities and allow more local children to be admitted on scholarships. This year Ak Lu’um has been chosen as the recipient of funds raised by Taste of Playa International Food Festival. Funds raised by Taste of Playa, scheduled for September 5, 2009, will provide clean and safe drinking water for the students, teachers and volunteers at Ak Lu’um International School for the 2009/2010 school year.

Each of the area’s private schools employs multilingual administrative staff members who welcome questions and visits from parents and can guide new families smoothly through the admission process. With all of the educational options available to families on the Riviera Maya, there is certain to be a school that is a match for your child, one that will support his or her individual interests while providing a well balanced curriculum. Look for a school where your child will be challenged and stimulated and you will help them pave their own road to success.