Magical Classroom

by Lets Be Ready
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Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Magical Classroom
Demand for preschool is high in rural communities
Demand for preschool is high in rural communities

This month our project was featured in the latest edition of the popular Que Pasa magazine. Here's what we had to say about our mission in Guatemala...

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Did you know that more than half of Guatemalan children don’t begin school until the ripe old age of seven? By that point, children are already at the tail-end of their formative years for cognitive growth, making their ability to integrate into an educational environment and quickly process information a daunting task. In 2015, 27% of Guatemalan children either failed or gave up schooling entirely after the first grade. We know that children are far more likely to have success in the first grade (and later grades) if they have access to preschool education, so why aren’t there more kids enrolled?

For one, there simply aren’t that many graduated preschool teachers living in rural communities. Without locally sourced teachers or salaries that can justify traveling long-distances to reach rural children, too many communities find themselves at a perpetual educational and developmental disadvantage.

After years of curriculum development and on-the-ground experience, the twin non-profits of Let’s Be Ready and Magical Classroom have created a model designed to overcome these issues and ensure access to quality preschool education in even the most rural and inaccessible communities throughout the country. Through cooperation with partners both local and international, Magical Classroom and Let’s Be Ready will provide free, quality preschool education to 600+ students whom otherwise would have had to wait until first grade to begin school, in 40+ classrooms spread throughout five departments. The goal is to lead a movement towards eradicating the preschool deficit in Guatemala in hopes of forming brighter minds capable of leading towards an even brighter future. With a model that has proven to be both effective and affordable, our mission is to partner with NGOs, foundations and other concerned stakeholders to improve and replicate our program in as many underserved communities as possible. The movement towards universal preschool coverage in Guatemala is already happening, the question is: will you be a part of it?

If you or your organization is interested in supporting or partnering to eradicate the preschool deficit in Guatemala, please write MagicalClassroomGT@gmail.com today.

Meeting with parents in Huehuetenango
Meeting with parents in Huehuetenango
Lucy Diaz sharing with some sharp alumni in Huehue
Lucy Diaz sharing with some sharp alumni in Huehue
Mothers in Reu jostling to enroll their children
Mothers in Reu jostling to enroll their children

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A very successful component of the program this year has been our parent training to use books as well as recycled and natural materials such as sticks stones and bottle caps. The parents learn how to reinforce the skills and concepts being taught by the teachers.

In November we completed our 2nd year of operation with 27 teachers who have gathered 12-15 children each day to implement our mission of preparing them for success when they arrive at primary school.

The teachers in this year’s program ranged in age from 16 to 31. Most were trained to be teachers in the last 2 years of their Guatemalan high school education, but could not find jobs. Some have never been trained as teachers. They all had a desire and ability to use the curriculum that we provide on Android tablets. We also provided them materials and books and taught them how to use them.

We experienced a 85% failure rate with the tablets. They were covered under warranty, but because of difficulties getting them to and from rural areas, we are looking for a reliable tablet producer to partner with us and provide tablets for next year.

We were able to expand from just 5 teachers to 27 in two years because of partnering. Our thanks goes out to Tillotson Foundation, Miracles in Action, and Starfish One By One. The continuing support of these non-profit partners along with the addition of Go Philanthropic will allow us to expand to another 6-10 teachers in a total of 5 rural community centers in 2017.

More detailed plans strategic planning done this winter will lay out plans to replicate the program in more rural areas of Guatemala and other Spanish speaking countries.

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Everybody is all smiles in Chonita's classroom
Everybody is all smiles in Chonita's classroom

Last June, I had the opportunity to check up on and visit with all of our facilitators in their respective hometowns and was blown away with their collective progress. Even though many of these exceptional youth had just a few months of teaching experience under their belts, each and every one of them has made tremendous strides that exceeded even my wildest expectations. While the group as a whole shone brightly, there is one particular facilitator whose experience I’d like to share with you all this month.

Concepción or as we affectionately call her around here, Chonita, is a new addition to the program by way of our recent partnership with the outstanding organization of Starfish One by One, based out of the Sololá department near Lake Atitlán. Our partnership with Starfish was something that had our whole staff excited due to the fact that Starfish provides outstanding and comprehensive programs to help empower young women and give them the tools and confidence necessary to lead transformational change in their communities. Starfish found itself churning out amazingly perseverant and intelligent graduates, but needed help finding reputable internship and employment opportunities to help bolster their graduates’ résumés. After having crossed paths in the past and remained in contact, the leadership teams of both organizations came up with the idea of giving these young women the chance to serve as program facilitators for Magical Classroom to help satisfy their internship requirement. This is all one long explanation as to how Chonita came to join our team.

I had a limited number of interactions with Chonita back in our training in March, but from what I can recall, she was quite reserved yet still exuded a certain sense of confidence that put me at ease at the time. She is one of a handful of our facilitators that with teaching certificate, which has likely helped her find her voice in the classroom. And after my recent visit to her community of Tzancháj 2 in Santiago Atitlán, I can confidently say that she has definitely found her voice!

With 19 regularly-attending students, Chonita’s classroom could easily devolve into chaos if she were not such a prepared and diligent teacher. She has improbably managed to strike the perfect balance between maintaining order amongst her rambunctious students without stifling their creativity or excitement; she manages to follow our guided program to a tee, yet is more than content with improvising and letting her students spend a little bit longer on a particular activity. Chonita has done such a great job with her group of students that the principal of the school has lent her additional supplies and learning materials to help beef up her classes, and perhaps most impressively, has asked her to extend her classes from our program-mandated two hours to four hours a day. Given that she has long dreamed of having her own classroom and feels good about being able to be part of a positive change in her very own community, Chonita happily agreed to help the principal on a voluntary basis. During this particular visit, I was accompanied by Dolores, a fellow Starfish graduate from a nearby town in Santiago hoping to join Magical Classroom in the next few days. That afternoon we both walked away floored by Chonita’s growth and more than appreciative that Dolores would have such a great example to learn from in the coming months.

Please consider making a donation today to help us find support Chonita, Dolores and the other young women out there hoping to make an impact in their communities through Magical Classroom.
To learn more about Starfish One by One, check out their website here: http://starfish-impact.org/

Some more students happy at work
Some more students happy at work
Sharing with Dolores what her experience has meant
Sharing with Dolores what her experience has meant
Chonita has incredible patience with her kids
Chonita has incredible patience with her kids
Two Starfish setting out to make a difference
Two Starfish setting out to make a difference

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Our home for the week
Our home for the week

This past month 29 aspiring preschool educators traveled from all across the country to the foothills of the sweltering Pacific Coast to attend Magic Classroom’s week-long Annual Teacher Training held on the beautiful grounds of a historical and still-functioning coastal plantation. Thanks to the help of both our program sponsors from the Tillotson Fund for Guatemala and our local partners from the Catholic parish of San Felipe Retalhuleu, we were able to host our intensive week-long training at the incredibly inviting and unique grounds of the Proyecto de San Dionisio located just outside the town Nuevo Palmar, giving the week a certain summer camp feel to it.

Whether working together to cook dinner or wash dishes, in next to no time we saw our once timid recruits from the cold highlands were chumming it up with some of the more rambunctious facilitators from the newly-formed coastal group. Most of the group started off as feeling like strangers to one another, but by the time that the first scorching afternoon hit and we all began to feel as if we were swimming in a collective pool of sweat, the ice had been effectively melted. Between a variety of teambuilding games and activities (each regional group was asked to present a skit representative of their hometowns for example), sleeping dorm style with as many as 15 to a room on woven floor mats, working into the wee-hours of the evening making recycled classroom materials, or just talking cultural differences, sharing music and refining dance moves, the seeds of friendship were being planted all around us.

In many ways this year’s training was as big of a challenge as we’ve ever faced. We had never before played host to so many people before, let alone on a sprawling country farm at least 15 minutes away from the nearest town. Despite the logistical challenges and odds and ends, we relished the opportunity to gather such a diverse group of truly special individuals all eager to learn and create change in their communities. As such we made sure to squeeze every last ounce of the time afforded to us to prepare the group to be effective Magic Classroom facilitators. Despite the routine 14 hour workdays, the week flew by in no time, and like just as quickly as it had all come together, it was all over. Phone numbers, Facebook info and some tearful hugs were all exchanged as our fleet of vans and pickup trucks slowly filled with people, marking the end of an incredible week and the beginning of a new era in our growing program. Just like that, 29 previously unconnected individuals began their slow march back to their communities, carrying with them not only boxes of supplies and books, but also full hearts and a palpable sense of mission that will surely help them this school year and beyond.

We play games to break the ice!
We play games to break the ice!
Teaching the Magic Classroom way in a local school
Teaching the Magic Classroom way in a local school
Groups presented skits on hometown traditions
Groups presented skits on hometown traditions
Recycled materials make for happy teachers
Recycled materials make for happy teachers
Saying goodbye is never easy
Saying goodbye is never easy
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Nancy and Sandra and the hills that raised them
Nancy and Sandra and the hills that raised them

And then there were two...

Only two more days until our big teacher training kicks off where Sandra and Nancy will be in attendance for the second consecutive year. This time around they'll be coming all the way the frigid mountain town of San Antonio La Capellania to join us in the tropical coast for an unforgettable week of learning and fun.

Seeing as how we're big believers of the importance of story time in Magic Classroom, how about you sit around the rug (legs criss-cross applesauce) and let us tell you a little bit more about these two special young ladies.

Sandra and Nancy were two of our very first recruits from high up in the mountains of Chiantla, where we literally plucked them from the hillside where they were herding their family's sheep for our first meeting. During that first meeting both girls were incredibly shy, muttering just a few words and mostly looking at the ground as we we probed to get to know them and tried to see as to whether or not our program belonged in their town. However, they both perked up once we started talking about the dozens of 5-6 year-old children in the community without much anything productive to do and simply waiting their turn to begin first grade. Ultimately they both were adamant in expressing the need for a program like ours in San Antonio and provided that they could work together, they decided to take on the challenge of wrangling the 30-odd preschoolers in the area.

While they still can be occasionally spotted on that same hillside with their sheep in tow just as we found them, this time around Nancy and Sandra are no longer those same timid and deferential girls that we met last year.

And as such this time around we're counting on them both to help us lead our upcoming training session and to continue to serve as ambassadors for our program and positive examples for other youth leaders in the entire region. This time around there is not a single doubt in our minds (nor Sandra and Nancys' for that matter) as to whether they'll rise to the occasion.

To help support Sandra and Nancy and others like her, please make a donation today.

Unsure of what to make of us in that first meeting
Unsure of what to make of us in that first meeting
Nancy and Sandra now thrive in the classroom
Nancy and Sandra now thrive in the classroom
Seen here spreading the word to community leaders
Seen here spreading the word to community leaders
Now forever changed and empowered young women
Now forever changed and empowered young women
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Organization Information

Lets Be Ready

Location: Longmont, CO - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Fred Zambroski
Longmont, CO United States
$66,804 raised of $1,000,000 goal
 
358 donations
$933,196 to go
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