Island Ometepe

Island Ometepe in Nicaragua

Hawthorne Valley alumna Lailah Amstutz (’07) found inspiration while volunteering in Nicaragua, and has created two educational initiatives there. “I’m working on the creation of two educational initiatives that have their roots in experiential, hands on learning – a combination of my background of Waldorf, art and holistic health education,” she says. With the help of her co-hosts at Sandbox Effect Collaborative, Amstutz is running a Retreat for Creativity this October, and a Waldorf-inspired parent-child class this fall. “Though very different in nature, both initiatives are fueled by my passion for learning experiences that are transformative – that deeply engage the participants on multiple levels inspiring creative and caring responses.”

children of NicaraguaAfter studying art in New York City, Amstutz found herself falling in love on a remote and beautiful island in the great “sweet water ocean” of Nicaragua, Lake Cocibolca. She says, “I fell, not only for my present partner and father of my one year old, but for this magical place, the children I had the privilege to teach, and the language and culture on this forgotten island. My heart cracked open and my anchor dropped.” That was in 2013, when Amstutz was volunteering as an improvisational art teacher at a tiny public school on Island Ometepe. “These children had never had art in their curriculum before, and we had no resources besides the natural world beyond the class room. I learned more about creativity ‘teaching’ them, than in 4 years of art school.” She now calls Nicaragua home.

Having been among children who have close to nothing and a dismal education system, forced Amstutz to have the stark realization of how privileged she is, “One of the things I appreciate most about my education at Hawthorne Valley is the profound enthusiasm some teachers were able to ignite in me. This is true learning and continues to influence the way I teach, and now how I aspire to parent as well.”

“Purpose is where your deepest longing meets the world’s lack.” These wise words by Sophie Sabbage beautifully express how Amstutz feels about finding herself in Nicaragua. “Both of these projects are very small steps toward the work I wish to create here. There is great need and therefore also ample opportunity to manifest work I deeply care about. I see this health-promoting work with the creative experience as a kind of social activism and especially relevant for the ‘development’ of third world countries like Nicaragua.”

Creativity Retreat artworkThe Creativity Retreat Oct 22-28 2017: Taking place on the incredible Island Ometepe, Nicaragua, the retreat is an immersive 7-day experience designed to cultivate creativity and dive into the senses through art, yoga and nature observation. This multi-sensory learning journey was carefully designed to open body, mind and heart. It explores the mysterious phenomenon of creative energy, how to access it and how it directly influences our well-being. The retreat is centered on the power of immediate, qualitative experience and its ability to stir up personal insight. Please visit for more information.

Waldorf-Inspired Parent-Child Class at Apapachoa: Together with the Eco-Cultural Center Apapachoa, located in a sub-tropical forest surrounding the capital city of Managua, Amstutz is forming a Waldorf-inspired Parent-Child class, the first of its kind in Nicaragua. Though these beginnings are very small, the long term goal is to create a Kindergarten and potentially even a Waldorf School.

Many generous people of the Hawthorne Valley School community have already donated resources to Amstutz’s efforts, and she is immensely grateful. Please visit for more information.