Founded in 2013, Magical Classroom (Aula Mágica in Spanish) is a stand-alone extension of Let’s Be Ready adapted to cater the needs and challenges of rural Guatemala. Unlike Let’s Be Ready, Magical Classroom’s partner communities lack locally-available graduated preschool teachers and thus have been perpetually unattended or significantly underserved by the Guatemalan government for years on end.
Instead of waiting for the system to change and allow rural children to remain at a perpetual disadvantage when entering the first grade, Magical Classroom was designed to overcome the barriers that traditionally have kept these rural communities from having access to quality preschool. Flexible, affordable and still high in quality, Magical Classroom has the potential to be replicated across rural communities nation-wide.
As of 2017, Magical Classroom has 22 classrooms operating in the departments of Retalhuleu, Huehuetenango and Sololá.
To prepare the young children living in underserved rural Guatemalan communities both mentally and physically for success in the first grade.
That all children have the same opportunities to succeed in the first grade as their peers, regardless of where they live.
Children ages 4-6 years old living in rural communities lacking access to regular preschool programming.
Due to its mountainous terrain and troubled history, Guatemala is an incredibly fragmented country full of rural communities that are several hours from the nearest urban and government hub. With the nearest high schools and universities located hours away, these remote communities struggle to field graduated and federally-sanctioned preschool teachers to field their classrooms. These communities are our priority.
In additional to communities that lack preschool programming altogether, our program also operates in communities where there are a great number of preschool-aged children currently not attending the local government school. Oftentimes parents choose to not enroll their children in the local government school due to a myriad of reasons such as the high cost of preschool school supplies required by the school, large class sizes and impersonal education, the long distance from their homes to the schoolhouse, or sometimes just due to a lack of awareness of the importance of early childhood stimulation.
By working together with local families and community leaders, Magical Classroom is able to effectively work in communities with this type of profile.
“Natural” teachers and entrepreneurial youth: With the help of our local partners, we identify local youth (typically ages 16-24) living in the community itself, whom possess both a spirit for community development and a passion for working with children. After an intensive training session, these facilitators go on to lead daily preschool classes in their own community using our original guided curriculum that has been specially adapted for rural use.
Easy-to-follow and dynamic, our curriculum leans heavily on participatory activities and crafts that spark our children’s imagination in ways not typically seen in Guatemalan schools. Having an easily-understood guided curriculum, capable facilitators and small class sizes (10-15 kids) allows us to do all of this in just two hours’ classroom time – allowing our facilitators to work, study or tend to their families after finishing class.
While each facilitator sets off to work in their own community following our bi-annual trainings where the entire team comes together, they are never entirely on their own throughout the year. Now more than ever, we strive to accompany rather than supervise our facilitators. Be it monthly get-togethers with their closest peers, hosting occasional parent workshops in their communities, and the various scheduled visits from our administrative team, our facilitators are given the right amount of tools to feel empowered and be successful not only in their classrooms, but in other areas of their lives as well.
Each facilitator receives a modest monthly stipend, which for many has served as a push toward pursuing their own educational and professional goals. We get a great amount of satisfaction from knowing that we are helping serve two different generations at once: our students whom are the future and our youth facilitators who are the present.
We felt that in order to have success in the rural communities in which we work, we needed to design a curriculum that was simple enough for non-teachers to understand and follow while also being robust enough to assure that we’re still getting high-quality results. Modeled after the ideas and principles of the Creative Curriculum employed by our sister program, Let’s Be Ready, the Magical Classroom curriculum has now been deployed to rural communities for three years. Three years of feedback, tweaking and polishing have given us something pretty solid and that more importantly, is actually being used by rural facilitators.
Entertaining daily reading, creative participatory activities linked to both the children’s book or educational subject of that given day, activity stations designed to promote creativity and independent thinking, and listening to entertaining and imagination-provoking educational audio capsules all help create the magic of a Magical Classroom.
Our program also encourages the use of recycled and natural materials in all of our classroom activities, helping create a generation of environmentally-conscious children while also keeping costs down. Soliciting and incorporating feedback from our facilitators is a program priority, as such we are constantly reviewing and improving our curriculum to better suit the needs of our partner communities.
Our facilitators are each equipped with a tablet and portable Bluetooth speaker to be used in the classroom. All program materials (activity guides, educational audio capsules and any additional supporting materials) are all housed on the tablet, while the speaker is used to play the audio capsules for the class. The shift to modern technological solutions has allowed us to make improvements to our program more quickly and therefore improve the overall classroom experience.
In an effort to boost our academic program while also make a larger impact in the homes of our students and their families we have added a nutritious snack component to our daily operations. By working with The Mathile Institute and forming local mothers groups whom will be engaged throughout the year with different activities delivered by our Community Coordinators, we will provide all of our students with a serving size of Chispuditos, a micronutrient-infused and culturally palatable atole drink that has shown to significantly reduce chronic malnutrition and other chronic illnesses across children ages 0-6 years old in rural Guatemala in previous applications.
The opportunity to combine a proven deterrent for child malnutrition with engaging academic preparation has both our team and partners brimming with excitement moving forward. In both Let’s Be Ready and Magical Classroom, we will be performing before-and-after assessments of all of our beneficiary children measuring their height, weight and in some cases hemoglobin levels to help measure the impact of this new and exciting intervention.
Additionally, we will continue to measure the first grade promotion rate of past students and an end of the year school readiness assessment at different intervals throughout the year to capture the academic impact of our program.
Let’s Be Ready just learned that their students have gone on to have a 92% success rate in the first grade, compared to the national average of 77.2%. How and will those numbers improve with the addition of Chispuditos? We’re hoping that this new combined method approach will bring us greater results across all areas of our program.
In order to have a program and a successful learning environment, a minimum of 10 children and a maximum of 15 children, with a duration of two hours a day, from Monday to Friday, the age of the children is from 4, 5 and 6 years. In advance we give the facilitators a 40-week schedule, compared to the education of a traditional school year.
In exchange for the service provided to their community, the facilitators receive an economic incentive of 125 quetzales per week to be used for the follow-up of their personal education, to give these young people the opportunity to continue their professional and educational development, we have the possibility Of positively influencing the forecast of both the current and future generations.
Important to mention, in our program we work a very high percentage with recyclable material, for our work in the class. With this we help parents to spend financially and collaborate with the environment.
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