Magical Classroom

by Lets Be Ready
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Aula Mágica Guatemala Update, April, 2014

New faces, new possibilities

2014 marks a new chapter for Aula Mágica. There are new faces, more children, new community partnerships and we now have a Facebook page (Aula Magica Guatemala). Most importantly, we are proud that our unique educational model promotes creativity, innovation, language, cognitive development and social skills for children of low income and rural communities in Guatemala.

In the month of February, Aula Mágica welcomed Jhonathan F. Gómez to the team as general coordinator. Jhonathan has many years of experience working with community and non-profit organizations in Guatemala and the United States. He has worked in various projects that promote youth arts education, immigrant and human rights. With the support of the Aula Mágica team, he will help structure the program, design and implement a documentation and evaluation strategy, and move forward a formal six month program that will begin this May. He looks forward to seeing the program grow and is particularly looking forward to the program being translated into Mayan Indigenous languages.

At the end of February, we held a week-long training for new teachers and we are happy to report that eleven people participated. Lucy Días, an experienced and accomplished teacher and longtime collaborator of Let’s Be Ready designed and facilitated the training. It was a wonderful gathering, full of unique experiences where teachers learned new skills, shared their knowledge and their experiences about preschool education. Many more teachers are interested in participating in the program and we are in the process of planning another training at the beginning of May.

San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá

Following our February training, we began a five-week pilot program with the participants. The goal of the trial period was to document and evaluate new educational materials and activities, which complement the Aula Mágica audio recordings that are used to teach preschool children. In addition, we created and implemented a new process of evaluation and documentation through written evaluations and regular meetings with the teachers.

San Pedro La Laguna in Sololá, on the beautiful Lake Atitlán has become our base, due to the fact that the majority of the teachers live there. Five teachers successfully finished the five-week program with an average of seven students per classroom. There has been so much interest in the program, that a teacher from San Antonio Chacayá, a village an hour away from Santiago Atitlán, who was not able to attend the training, joined the program. Zeneida Dolores Ixmatá, one of our star teachers, as well as the other teachers in the program, trained the new teacher so she could become a part of the pilot program.

The month of May is looking to be our most promising and productive month yet, as we prepare for a three-day new teacher training in San Pedro. We are expecting over twenty participants that will come from the areas of Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán, San Juan La Laguna, Santiago Atitlán, as well as San Pedro. Following the training, the participants will start a formal six month program beginning in May and ending in October. Also in May, Zeneida Dolores Ixmatá, or Lola as she likes to be called, will join the Aula Mágica staff as regional coordinator and will work closely with Jhonathan to grow and implement the program in Lake Atitlán and other areas. We are grateful that Lola has accepted the invitation to join the staff and are looking forward to working with her. She will continue to work as a teacher in order to guide the program with first-hand experience, as well as coordinate the teachers in the Lake Atitlán region.

Language translation into Indigenous languages is in its early stages but with the support of the San Pedro teachers, we have begun to evaluate and edit the scripts of the audio recordings. The community library Rijatzuul Naooj in San Juan La Laguna is one of our strongest supporters and collaborators with the translation. We are confident that in the upcoming months and with their support, we will successfully translate our programs and materials into Maya T’zutujil. We believe that once we have a few audio programs recorded, their scripts and the corresponding educational materials translated into an indigenous language, it will help us understand the process and make the translation into other languages easier.

We have many more things planned for 2014 and are delighted to be meeting the goals we have set for ourselves. Our interactive and dynamic program encourages teachers and children to move beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom. Aula Mágica is proud to be an alternative educational program created by people from Guatemala for the people of Guatemala. As we grow, we continue to seek opportunities for collaboration with communities, organizations and individuals who are committed to improving preschool education.

There are many ways you can support the work of Aula Mágica in Guatemala. One very important way is by making a monetary donation through Global Giving. To find out more about the program or to learn about other ways you can support, please contact us at magica.guatemala@gmail.com. Thank you for your support.


Sincerely,

Aula Mágica

 

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The big news is that we are launching the first large-scale trial of the recorded curriculum in rural villages. We plan to have at least four facilitators and groups of 15 kids for 5 days a week for a month.  While raising the necessary funds to allow us to translate programs into native languages, we are training teachers to use the Spanish recordings we created last year. This initial large-scale trial in Spanish-speaking villages will be closely monitored and will provide precious experience for the next phase.

I did some research while in the States and found out that in comparative studies of kids' programs, parents liked Sesame Street but the preschool television series Blue’s Clues was more effective in terms of children’s learning. One major difference was repetition: Blue’s Clues repeated the same program several times a week. The children loved it and learned more. You know how kids love to read the same book. They learn by repetition and anticipation.

Based on these findings, we are going to repeat the programs and books for 5 days, while activities and the questions asked will change each day. The facilitators will adapt as they see what the kids are learning during the week.

I have hired our best preschool classroom teacher Lucy to create all of the activities and to train the facilitators to use them. The training will be in February and the trial in March.

Quirio (whose family recorded the programs in Spanish) has agreed to work on the weekends to push the translation of the programs into the Mayan languages this year. This has to be done face-to-face, which means visiting some pretty remote places by bus.

I will make up the difference to hire Lucy, the facilitators and Quirio (with his wife as a facilitator) from personal funds. In the meantime, we continue to reach out to new donors, with your help, and are also actively pursuing grant opportunities to enable us to complete the trial and expand into other areas.

Thanks to all of you who have helped so far. Your financial and moral support have been most encouraging to us. And special thanks to those who are helping to spread the word about the Aula Magica project.

Have you seen the videos on the Global Giving page? They will give you a more in-depth understanding of what we are doing.

Fred

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Facilitator at Pacamache, Guatemala
Facilitator at Pacamache, Guatemala

October 12,2013

I just returned from Guatemala after a trip to meet with Guatemalan associates to plan for next year. I am happy to report that we have finished the school year with our "traditional" Let's Be Ready Program and fulfilled all of the commitments we made when accepting donations from sponsors of our 29 classroom sessions and the promises we made when we accepted grants for our Nutrition Program. 425 kids have been fed and prepared daily for success in the first grade through our program with regular classrooms and trained teachers. 

But how about the kids in the communities that are too far away for us, or the government, to reach with trained teachers?

The main purpose of the trip was to meet with an association of community radio stations in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, the center of the indigenous population and the poorest and most rural people in the country.  I came seeking Guatemalan partners for the new Aula Magica Program to translate, record and to broadcast preschool curriculum to the most rural villages, not served by Let's Be Ready, nor the Guatemalan government and not likely to be served in this decade.

Over the past 18 months, a group of Guatemalan teachers in Antigua have been writing and recording Aula Magica programs in Spanish to be broadcast into homes or played on strong mp3 players in public spaces in just such rural areas.

As of agreements made on this trip, several rural radio stations in the Highlands have begun broadcasting the first 20 of these programs in Spanish. However the greatest payoff will come when the programs are recorded in the various indigenous languages and presented to groups of 10 to 15 children gathered in a home or public space. Think of it as a group of children listening to Sesame Street like programs and guided in planned activities by a facilitator trained in their use.

The teachers in Antigua are continuing to write and record more of the programs in Spanish, expecting to have at least 30 ready by January. Meanwhile, we are continuing to look for like-minded, bilingual people in the rural areas who are willing to translate and record them into one of the 22 indigenous languages, and for literate facilitators to train in the use the program with small groups of children in 2014.

This next phase, to translate and record 30 programs in one indigenous language, and to train and monitor 6 facilitators and one control group of children, will cost $4750.

Without the preschool program in the communities we now serve in rural areas, we would expect to see a 30% failure rate for the children arriving at the first grade classroom. Instead in our original classroom programs, they have a success rate of 87% .More info at www.let'sbeready.org

Do you or anyone you know want to help us expand the Aula Magica program to the indigenous people of Guatemala using their language and relevant to their culture?

Thank you for your support in 2013.

 


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Lets Be Ready

Location: Longmont, CO - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Fred Zambroski
Longmont, CO United States
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