Cycle 1: Preserving Our Past

The Context - Caves of Peru

The context of this first cycle is the rich history of Peru spanning thousands of years.  We have thousands of archaeological sites, most of them are neglected.  There are people that looted the sites searching for gold objects, or taking some objects for selling destroying any evidence of our past history. The province in which the school is located has around 745 archaeological sites but only four of them are guarded. One of these sites is called Quillarumi which is a cave where there are cave paintings and that has been severely damaged by people. Some people complained that authorities didn't do anything to care for our heritage, and they use to respond that they didn't have a budget for taking action. Meanwhile, the art of the past was being destroyed by the graffiti of today.  

                     Research Question

                If we present the students with a challenging problem situation which concerns all of them,
                will they be willing to engage in fixing the situation?


The first action was to take the students for hiking to the Quillarumi caves and show them the paintings and ask them to study the cave drawings and the surroundings. We use the situation of the archaeological site as a pretext to challenge the students by asking them questions such as: To whom does this cultural heritage belong? Are you proud of how it looks? Would you bring foreign visitors to show the cave in these conditions?

Student Reflections

The students reflected on the value of the cave paintings but they also acknowledged that they were damaged from the graffiti and actions made by some people who sliced part of the rocks containing the paintings. They also noticed that there was a lot of litter around. The first idea was to go to the people who are in charge of cultural heritage and convince them to solve the problem, but they knew they would do nothing, so they had to decide what to do.


The students, inspired by the quote from U. S. President John Kennedy " Ask not what your country can do for you-- ask what you can do for your country” , took on the task of preserving their history. They decided to go there and do some cleaning. They found that they were not allowed to go and work on the walls unless they received some instruction of what would and would not be effective methods for preserving the art and the cave walls. That meant they would need to receive some training in conservation.

The school organized this training and students volunteers received this training. While this activity was voluntary and participating did not directly affect their school grades, it did provide extensive experience in the sciences, art, and handicraft. Students who participated learned chemistry, geology, art, scale, archaeology, history and government.  The project was to be extensive and difficult. Students developed values some of them tied specifically to citizenship. For example, using the motto: “Your fatherland was built by volunteers, not by mercenaries” students came to understand that doing voluntary work with no money or grade credits was contributing to the “social good” of all.  They also developed character traits such as grit, determination, and fitness, as learning conservation skills is painstaking and hiking to the caves was strenuous.

Student Action

The student took action to restore the site.   They reflected on their progress which was visible and finally they reported their outcomes in this video presentation.


Analysis of the project

Only secondary students were allowed to participate, as the hiking to the caves is strenuous. Around 60% of the students took part in the project and they spend around 40 hours attending some seminars and conferences given by experts, and also learning and practicing the techniques for cleaning rocks. The preparation took around two months and they meet on sessions between one and three hours. The day of the climbing around 40% of the secondary students participated.



Cycle 1: Restoration

Cycle 2 Perservation


A second tour to the caves was made by the teachers and students involved in this project.  They wanted to further study the cave paintings.  They were disappointed when they saw the condition of the cave and its surroundings. They observed that people had already painted new graffiti and the surrounding area was again covered with litter. This time the students were prepared to do some work with the cave painting, they started to take pictures of the paintings and make drawings on a scale 1 to 1 of the pictures. They also recorded ambient conditions like temperature and humidity. After the work they did, they cleaned up the litter and returned to the city.

The main conclusion of the students could be stated as “ What good is it to clean up the garbage, remove the graffiti, and  inform the authorities when nothing is done to protect and maintain the site?.” In talks with an archaeologist from the Ministry of Culture, they came to the idea that some kind of protective barrier needs to be built without damaging the archaeological ensemble.


It was planned to make a design of a fence which would encircle the archaeological ensemble without harming the value of the f archaeological site. For that task, they would need permission to build the fence and they would need to work with an archaeologist from the Ministerium of Culture to help decide where the fencing should be placed not to cause any danger to the site.

At a planned date the students, teachers and the archaeologist climbed the way to Quillarumi and the students took the measure, made a topographic map of the site.
With the help of the teachers, a fence project was developed which included calculating costs, designing timeline, and obtaining the approval of the Ministry that a barrier was technically feasible without damage to the archaeological site.

Students made a presentation requesting permission from the Ministry to permit them to acquire organizational funding to finance the project and to allow them to work in this protected area. The German Embassy in Peru promised to fund it but only if the students got official permission from the Ministry to allow working in the archeological site.

Cycle 3 Measuring the Earth


Months were passed and the permission never came. All kind of excuses were by the people in charge of the Ministry.  The possibility of getting financing through the German Embassy was lost

The students start to learn how the system works in our country and that in order to make things that make good to the society, it is necessary to have grit and resilient and try many times to get something. They also learn that in order to make evil you don't need permission, but to do good the road is full of obstacles.

There was planned to make another tour of cleaning the archaeological sites and take new students who never made the hiking tour, but it was combined with an Iearn Project which measured the earth circumference of the Earth using the Eratosthenes method.


The action can be seen in the following video.