This summer we were very fortunate to receive training from a group of Montessori teachers from Washington D.C. Laura Fleming and her colleagues, Yasmin, and Alison visited classrooms to determine the needs of the teachers to develop the training. The teachers were given fresh ideas, activities, and techniques using the educational materials in their current learning centers. The emphasis of the training was to use the centers to teach and reinforce basic concepts such as numbers, colors and shapes. The training also stressed the importance of effective daily planning and offered helpful strategies for the teachers.I am happy to say that I see teachers applying the teachings of the training in both planning and instruction.
I believe one of our main achievements this year is the new way we are including parents. We developed a program where parents were involved in setting goals and objectives for their children. Teachers shared various activities and methods with parents creating a team approach to insure student success.
Teachers reported many successes in their individual programs. One area of success was using the body and the hands to develop vocabulary. They developed new approaches to counting, playing outdoors, dancing, which supported learning. Teachers used the block area to teach shapes, colors, sequencing, and patterns. Teachers saw the value of using circles rather than traditional lines. Meeting in small groups and daily circle sharing groups is a large departure from traditional public school in Guatemala.
As the school year comes to a close, we are proud of what we have accomplished over the past 7 years, from Nora opening the first classroom in 2008.
This year we had 25 teachers teaching 25 sessions a day in 23 communities using our “traditional” model. These classrooms are part of our Pequenos pero Listos, Small but Ready, classroom program using graduated Guatemalan teachers, methods and materials similar to the head start program in the USA.
Every year these teachers have been given at least 2 weeks of additional training, in 2014 provided by 3 preschool teachers from a Montessori school in Washington DC.
Based on dated we have collected over the past 5 years, over 87%of the children who have entered into the first grade have been successful, not dropping out or having to repeat.
All of the mothers participated in a nutritional improvement program with grants providing fortified drinks and the mothers preparing fresh food for a meal, some of it from gardens we helped them start at their homes and the schools.
We started a new program this year called Aula Magica, the Magic Classroom, in more rural areas using informal classrooms (that is, a dry place where the kids can gather) sometimes without tables and chairs and just a few purchased materials to augment the use of recycled and natural materials from the community. We are giving recorded curriculum on mp3 players, and written guides and training to a literate person in the community to use. We are also beginning to translate from Spanish into the Mayan languages as well as broadcasting them over community radio stations. This method of preparing the kids for success when they arrive at the first grade can be spread faster and cheaper to more rural areas.
18 teachers used the materials in a trial program in 5 communities this year. We are making modifications and adding programs based on their feedback.
If you have any interest in partnering on the roll out of this program into 20 communities next year, let me know and I will give you a more formal presentation and budget. I again am paying for administration, but will need about $10,000 for direct stipend and materials expenses for 2015. More on this program at the Global giving site.
Aula Magica Guatemala: Preparing Kids to Learn
The programs have continued under the leadership of Guatemalans.
Nora Tun Bacajol (our first teacher and now director) has moved 3 classrooms from urban to more rural communities, and has added a teacher and community as well for a total of 24 teachers leading 25 sessions a day.
Jhonathon Gomez, who I hired just before my episode is leading the implementation of the new Aula Magica program which is designed to be used in communities that do not as yet have trained teachers. Over 30 facilitators have been trained and are using the recorded curriculum this year already.
Jose Tun Bacajol is continuing to manage the nutrition program, training mothers to prepare fresh nutritional foods for the kids each day, starting school gardens, and distributing the fortified dry foods to supplement their menu. He is not only impacting the preschool classroom, but the food available nearby the schools, and the family homes.
Atached pictures from the report this past month from Oscar at Chuisac Verituc. Oscar has been teaching for 4 years. He has 12 kids in the morning and afternoon using a public building in the community. He has shown activities in several areas: Atitistic Expresion, Mathermatics, Dexterity for learning, Communication and Language, and Physical. There are some captions in Spanish, but the pictures tell the story.
The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to Let's Be Ready.
About 45 minutes outside the lovely city of Antigua, in the municipality of Patzicia, is the small community of Las Parcelas. As one of the town elders himself told us, the town was created in the 1950s when the former landowners deeded four families the land in gratitude for their years of service. Today there are about 80 children ages five to sixteen in the town, and twelve lucky three and four year olds who attend the Las Parcelas Preschool started by Lets Be Ready. Before the preschool was created last year there was nothing for them in the area—they entered into first grade directly at the age of six. Most likely as a result of the failure to be prepared for school, an alarming number of Guatemalan children leave school after failing the first grade (30% of Central American children fail first grade). By introducing children to school in a fun atmosphere, Let’s be Ready is committed to getting more children through school. According to Nora Mehida Tun Bacajol (the director of Let’s Be Ready) they have been overwhelmingly successful: of the 335 children they have worked with, 300 have completed first grade and seven were even in the top of their class.
Here in Las Parcelas the preschool is run by energetic and cheerful Heidi, a young woman who graduated in 2012 from teaching school without a job. She walks thirty minutes each way in order to get to the preschool, but she says she loves her work. Heidi proudly shares a story about how recently she visited one of her former students who is currently in elementary school and discovered he had taught his mother (who was previously illiterate) how to write her name. One of the mothers tells us that having the preschool and Heidi has been a blessing, and now she has hope her two children will get to have a better future.
Dressed in their best, the children shyly show off what they have rehearsed in preparation for our visit: a song, a dance called “We are Proud of Guatemala”, and even a short poem about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Shortly however they break off, darting into the cozy classroom to play in the “kitchen corner”, page through a picture book in the “reading corner”, or build a tower in the “play corner”. They even include me—bringing me a delicious piece of plastic cake and a lapful of small toys. Leaving Las Parcelas in our van, some of the kids put down their toys to wave goodbye with their parents, and like their mothers I am filled with hope that they will succeed in school next year.
Thanks to you, we are moving more rural every day.
As we have planned and done before, we are closing classrooms in the urban areas just as soon as the government supplies teachers to the community, and our enrolment declines from the 15 kids we expect. We are puting the furniture and supplies to better use in areas with more needs, still with trained teachers for preschool classrooms using the Creative Curriculum.
We are also begining to go into even more rural areas this year by training litereate young people to teach with the Aula Magica (Magical Classroom) curriculum. These are not formally trained teachers, but with love in their hearts and a desire to teach children.
As soon as 8 teachers finish training in February, they will begin meeting with groups of children daily, using a curriculum that is recorded and broadcast over radio or mp3 player. The teachers lead the them in activities by following guides that were developed, tested in our classrooms, and taught to them by Lucy, one of our first teachers. Further, the teachers are reading preschool books to them based on the Po Pul Vuh, the creation stories of the Maya, published in Guatemala. They meet daily for 2 hours and the receive minimum wage.
We also completed a sucessful one week traiing session in January for all our existing classroom teachers and those "volunteers" who wanted to have classrooms in thier comunities this year. Six volunteers came and I have found positions for 4 of them. Three will be sponsored by people who had sponsored more urban schools that we closed and relocated materials and furniture to more rural areas, and the fourh is being sponsored by an new donor who visited Antigua from the USA.
We continue to need donations for teaching materials and books for the exixting classrooms and for Aula Magica for the 2014 school year. There are also other teachers wanting to open classrooms.
Thanks to those of you who have donated,
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