What Happens on the Principal Trip?

two boys reading, and one girl smiling


 DAY ONE  Check into lodgings; make contact with local specialists; confirm in-country travel arrangements. A ‘settling in’ day.

 DAY TWO  Introduce the team and the participating class to one another. Explain to the children how a trunk works. Show them a sample trunk. Begin photographing. (Still photography happens non-stop for the entire trip. On our first week in Oaxaca, Denisse Benitez took over 10,000 shots.)

 DAYS THREE AND FOUR  Team Leader, Translator, and Videographer begin taping groups of four or five children, talking about their lives in general: families, homes, pets, siblings, school, playtime, holidays, sports, religious observances, and hobbies. Each hour-long conversation will be guided by whatever subjects excite the children. Subjects already identified for mini documentaries (particular festivals, ceremonies, national dishes, traditional dances, arts and crafts) are introduced for the children to discuss. The most talkative, lively students are identified, and then discretely asked to participate in extended interviews.

Simultaneously, the Curator tours the area and begins identifying and collecting artifacts, guided by both what the children are saying in the interviews, and what the team is learning in the field. Collection continues throughout the next week. (Much of the artifact collection is guided by a local cultural anthropologist. Many artifacts will have been pre-selected.)

 DAYS FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, AND EIGHT   Extensive one-on-one interviews, run by the Videographer and Interviewer. The interviews last a couple of hours each. A variety of subjects are covered in the interviews, grouped in three categories:

Home Life
What do the children eat and who prepares it? Where do they sleep? Do they have their own bedroom? Do they have siblings? Are there extended family members living with them, or nearby? What are their chores and responsibilities? What do they wear? Where do their clothes come from? Where does their food come from? Who does the cooking? Shopping? Do they have TV? Books? A computer? What games do they play? What is their morning routine? Do they have pets or keep livestock?

School Life
How do they get to school? What subjects do they study and how? What would a typical school day be like? Do they have homework? Do they play sports? Do they get recess? What games do they play? How are students disciplined? Rewarded? Do the boys and girls study and play together?

Village/City Life
Do they go to church/mosque/synagogue/temple? What are their favorite holiday and cultural celebrations? What are their sporting events? Where do the children play? Do the children work? What are the chores? Do they get spending money? What do they spend money on? Where do their parents shop? Is there a zoo? Library? Museums? Theater? Do the children have freedom to travel/explore or are they always accompanied by adults? How does the surrounding geography affect their life?

In between the interviews, the Videographer is shooting the mini-docs and tutorials with teachers, local historians, artists, crafts people, and musicians.

The mini-docs cover a huge variety of areas, including:

  • Learning about the history and cultural significance of festivals and religious ceremonies.
  • Exploring important national and local historical events.
  • Discovering how the local agriculture works.
  • Examining the local architecture, both residential and otherwise.

Most of the objects in the trunk will have their own mini-docs, with a narrative something like this:

  • Where did the object come from? We will see a child selecting the object, then taking it home.
  • Who made the object? If it’s a craft, we’ll see it being made.
  • How is the object used? We’ll see the object in action.
    Why is the object important? We’ll interview children talking about it. Along with historians or local educators, who might have a deeper understanding of the object’s cultural significance.
  • For crafts specific to the location, the craftsperson will talk about how the skills are being passed along to future generations, so the traditions continue.

The tutorial videos will cover things like:

  • Learn how to speak some key words and phrases.
  • Make a typical dish, using spices included in the trunk.
  • Play a song, using a musical instrument included in the trunk, or a similar, available instrument.
  • Play a game, using a toy or game included in the trunk.
  • Write a phrase, using a non-Latin/English alphabet.
  • Replicate a child’s experience helping around the house or with the family business.


More shooting material for mini-docs. More artifact collecting. Also photographing and filming b-roll of whatever is mentioned in the extended interviews — as many of the many people, places, events, and items as feasible. Students are photographed and/or filmed engaged in extracurricular activities mentioned during their interviews, including in their homes where possible.

The students are given cameras so they can take a couple of days to shoot images that are important to them. Whatever they think is important in their lives.


Final collection and sourcing of any remaining artifacts. A farewell party for all the students, parents, teachers, administrators and anyone else connected.

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it’s easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.

– Pablo Coelho

Brazilian Novelist.