Though the Brazilian carnaval and its samba have attracted more attention, Argentina has its own celebratory dance: the murga. Over the last several years, Acción Educativa, an organization in the small Argentine city of Santa Fe, has begun to use the murga to ground the education of boys and girls living in shantytowns and slums.
In 2004, Shine a Light researchers worked in Santa Fe, Argentina for more than three months, trying to understand why the murga has been so successful in getting poor kids excited about learning. We found that the process of learning dance and drums turned these kids on to education, making them curious and showing that they were capable of things they had never imagined. Equally important, because the murga is a social dance, where people in the crowd come and follow the parade, these poor children came to see themselves as role models for other kids and as leaders in the city.
In 2005, Shine a Light published and distributed a CD-ROM curriculum based on the experience of Acción Educativa. In addition to showing the power of local culture for education, the CD-ROM also provides a philosophical basis for re-thinking both formal and alternative education.