Aula Mágica

Founded in 2014, 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.

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 2014, Magical Classroom has classrooms operating in the departments of Retalhuleu, Huehuetenango , Sololá and Quiché.

Mission

To provide high-quality and innovative pre-primary education, tailored to their needs and designed for the underserved rural communities of Guatemala.

Vision

To have successful children in their first year of primary school and beyond, with knowledge that will enable them to have a successful educational development, knowing that educational learning in early childhood is crucial.

Objective

  • To be a sustainable organization and to be able to reach more rural communities in need of preschool education.
  • To be capable to be in constant educational updating to continue providing high-quality teaching.

Who we serve

Children ages 4-6 years old living in rural communities lacking access to regular preschool programming.

Where we work

Due to its mountainous terrain and turbulent history, Guatemala is an incredibly fragmented country, full of rural communities that are located several hours away from the urban center and the city. The fact that these communities are so remote and abandoned means that their inhabitants live at a continual educational disadvantage, with high schools and universities situated many hours away. Aula Mágica helps overcome geographic isolation and lack of educational resources by providing youth leaders with the necessary tools to ensure that children receive a decent preschool education in their communities. This is critical to their success in first grade and their future.

Rural and remote communities are our priority. By working together with local families, community leaders, and local authorities, Magical Classroom is able to work effectively in communities with this type of profile.

How it works

Committed 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.

Committed 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 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.

Our educational methodology

Magical Classroom uses the Active Learning Methodology which consists of a combination of methods, techniques, and strategies that put the child at the center of learning, thus giving them more freedom, control over their education, and for them to be more participative.

The Active Learning Methodology looks to create an education that offers children an enjoyable working environment that is innovative, participative, dynamic, fun, and active. This is through the implementation of different methods inside and outside of classroom, which are adapted to the subjects taught, as well as adapted to the child’s age and their rhythm of learning. The methods that we use are:

Montessori: the child has the opportunity to explore freely and discover through their curiosity and their own experiences with different teaching activities including numbers and letters. Waldorf: we promote artistic and creative skills, contact with nature, and good values.

Thought-based learning: we develop the critical thinking of the child.

Project methods: This is carried out through spaces known as learning corners, such as reading corners, block corners, art corners, numbers and letters corners, and music corners. In these corners, different activities are carried out and children can experiment with different recycled and natural materials.

Alphabetical & phonetical method: we use the alphabet so that children learn vowels, consonants, with their related sounds, imagery, and movement.

Newark Method or Story method: A story is read in each class, taking advantage of the curiosity and imagination of the child, awakening a love of reading in which they use rhymes, games, tongue-twisters, plays and reading comprehension.

Little Star method: Children learn sounds and trace the letters.

The Base National Curriculum & Creative Curriculum: both curricula are combined so that the facilitators have teaching tools, offering the necessary content to encourage and support the students, helping them achieve success, to be creative thinkers, and offering practical opportunities to explore and discover new things.

Amongst the strategies which they’ve involved in the program are: small experiments, magic words, learning through games, educational audio activities, using technology, and developing fine and gross motor skills.

The benefits of the Active Methodology for children at Magical Classroom are a greater motivation for the learning of new knowledge, the acquisition of new cognitive, social, emotional abilities, greater curiosity and imagination, motor skills, language skills, and benefits to the development of autonomy. Through this, we help the children to be successful, thoughtful, creative, and confident children.

The method is implemented and adapted to the social context and the culture of each community in the different departments where we are currently working. Our facilitators become people who can guide the learning of our children, basing the learning on concrete experiences to achieve learning that is appropriate and effective.

aula magica

Harnessing Technology

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.

Nutrition

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 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.

Class schedule

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 45-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 mensual incentive from January to December to be used for the follow-up of their personal education and give these young people the opportunity to continue their professional and educational development. Thus, we have the possibility of influencing the forecast of both the current and future generations.

Get Involved

Help and continuous monitoring

Magical Classroom provides the following per facilitator:

  • Intense training
  • 12 books for teacher
  • 1 electronic tablet
  • 1 wireless Bluetooth speaker
  • Essential didactic material (scissors, crayons, rubber, etc.)
  • Economic incentive

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.

To achieve a successful program in the communities where we work, we do the following:

  • 3 field visits, minimum
  • Continuous telephone support
  • During the first and last field visit, our program coordinator analyzes the children’s knowledge to make a “before and after” comparison to measure the impact of the program.
  • Monitoring and final evaluation

Donate

If you would like to help this program, please check the following link.




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