- Calle Nueva - A Rural School Gets Some Long Overdue
- Training for Preschool and Early Primary Grade
Teachers in Villa El Carmen
- Congress for English Teachers
at UNAN, Leon
CHESS is now One Year Old and
growing! This project has been up and running and impacting the
lives of thousands of people in the community of Villa El Carmen
since March, 2007. We do have much to be grateful for and many
accomplishments to celebrate. In this Welcome Message of our April
issue of the CHESS Nicaragua newsletter I would like to focus
on three key questions of the exciting, dynamic, partnership-based
community development work in several schools and health posts
in the rural areas of Nicaragua. What have we done? Why have we
done it? Where are we going?
What have we done?
We invite you to read through the previous CHESS newsletters
to review “what we have done” from English training
for elementary teachers, to water filters for all classrooms,
to archeological training programs for teachers and community
members, to the building of libraries within several of our CHESS
schools, just to mention a few of our project objective areas.
The photos on our web site and within our newsletters will tell
the stories of the children, families, schools, health posts,
and CHESS staff and volunteers at work.
Why have we done it?
The CHESS Nicaragua innerCHANGE (iCHai) project is not about deciding
for others what they need. It is about reaching out and offering
to sit together, to ask and listen to those in the most need,
to learn by working, to start by acting and to learn by doing.
Our way forward is through small steps along side those with whom
we are working. By putting those who are usually last in the first
place not once but in every service project we offer throughout
the world we develop, adapt, and extend our unique approach to
creating sustainable community development. Our work will result
in a worldwide partnership with a purpose and with a goal for
building friendships and relationships through “working
together across cultures” service.
Our mission is:
To provide strategic, tactical, and program management services
to international social enterprise and community service initiatives
to help ensure their sustainability.
Our vision is:
To focus on the basic human needs of health, education, and economic
opportunity through a network of service programs, small businesses
and committed international development partners. The expertise
of iCHai will be leveraged in the implementation of initiatives
that result in lasting and culturally appropriate improvements
in the lives of people in both domestic and international communities.
Where are we going?
Our next steps are to begin the process of performance evaluation
of the CHESS staff, the project effectiveness, and the financial
contributions from the funding partners. Through an iCHai trademarked
three-step process of evaluation, adaptation, and replication
(EAR), we will be able to prepare mid-term and project completion
reports for the partners and to prepare for research-supported
applications to present to future funding partners for CHESS projects
in other communities in Nicaragua and other parts of the world.
Thank you for your interest in our work in Nicaragua! Please
let us know, through our “Contact Us” page of this
web site, if we can connect with you in any way to further our
work in Central America. iCHai and CHESS invite you to join our
work together across cultures to make a difference one step, one
person, and one partner at a time. Through creating global partnerships
we can change the world. Happy Birthday CHESS!!
Janet J. Foerster, M.Ed.
CHESS Project Director
innerCHANGE associates international, LLC top
Calle Nueva - A Rural School Gets Some Long Overdue Attention!By Ligia Diaz, CHESS Nicaragua Project Coordinator
The CHESS project is committed to fostering a love for reading
in students. CHESS personnel, Gran Pacifica shareholders and property
owners, and other supporters are working closely with the community
of Villa El Carmen to renovate available spaces into clean, welcoming
areas for children to read independently and for reading aloud
to groups. On Sunday, January 13th, all concerned parties gathered
at the Calle Nueva school; Calle Nueva serves approximately 60
CHESS personnel teamed up with GP supporters to make the repairs
necessary to turn an abandoned classroom into a mini-library for
The team worked together to paint tables, chairs
The shelves were then stocked with 250 books; these
books were donated by the Gran Pacifica team. In addition to the
work done inside the school, the playground equipment was also
repaired and painted.
The GP contingent included Franco Harris, a Hall
of Fame football player known best for his career with the Pittsburgh
Steelers. Franco has taken a special interest in the children
of Villa El Carmen; he was especially involved in teaching students
how to paint their own furniture.
The students of Calle Nueva rewarded the CHESS/GP team with
wonderful performances. A folklore dance was performed.
Songs were sung and Ruben Dario read a poem that he wrote. These
performances highlighted the fact that these students are learning
Capping off the celebration, the children enjoyed batting at
a Piñata; they also received gifts from the Las Perlas
staff member, Fred Ulrich Jr.
Thanks to the contributions of so many Gran Pacifica friends
and the CHESS project working with, Pittsburgh Rotary Club and
Gran Pacifica, the first of five planned mini-libraries was inaugurated
and is now ready for enjoyment.
On January 28th and 29th of 2008, Manuel Marenco
and Aracely Sequeira, CHESS facilitators since the beginning of
the project, delivered the program entitled “Use of Art
as a Tool for Teaching” for all Villa El Carmen preschool
and early primary grade teachers. Back in July of 2007, 15 teachers
within the Villa El Carmen school system were lucky enough to
attend the formal training at the La Ceiba school; this training
was delivered by Maricela Gonzalez and Ana Fredes of Colegio Caminos,
Managua. The Ministry of Education Delegate in Villa El Carmen,
Mr. Denis Espinoza, greatly assisted in the preparation for this
session. Without his support our desire to reproduce this training
across the 12 schools would not have been possible.
Most VEC preschool and early primary grade teachers
lack formal training in the discipline of Education; many are
still in high school themselves. This being the case, they have
not attended Escuelas Normales (Schools for Teachers), and, therefore,
lack the preparation and experience of the more advanced grade
teachers. Mr. Espinoza wants very much to change this so he organized
an entire week of training for all municipality teaches including
those at the preschool and early primary grade levels. He felt
that they, in particular, would benefit from exposure to the topic
of “Art as a Tool for Teaching”.
Teachers were to taught how to encourage their students
to “give color to your story.” The
objective of this exercise being the development of creative thinking
skills and increasing memory capacity.
Visual Arts Techniques, which help
young children to develop fine motor skills, were demonstrated.
In order to demonstrate non-verbal means
of communication and self awareness, Manuel and Aracely,
taught the teachers how to be more dramatic – using theatrical
expressions and telling stories without words. The teachers found
it refreshing to put themselves in the children’s shoes
by actively participating in such as painting with their eyes
closed. They were very receptive to and motivated by the idea
of using readily available materials to make musical instruments
and “works of art.”
Following the training, the teachers talked about
how they could incorporate the techniques and strategies they
learned into what they already do in the classroom. They feel
strongly that doing so will make their classes more enjoyable
and motivating for all children. When asked for a one word description
of the workshop, the teachers used adjectives such as: “motivating,”“excellent,”
“enriching,” “dynamic,” “fun,”
“creative,” “unforgettable,” and “high
For us, the CHESS staff, these words mean a lot;
they mean we are doing our job very well and that the effort and
love we put into what we do is felt and rewarded on the ground.
We thank the Ministry of Education Delegate, the donors, the schools
and the teachers that support the CHESS mission to better
the quality of education and health in Villa El Carmen.
Congress for English Teachers at UNAN, Leon top
By Helio Alfaro
It took several weeks and extensive planning to get a group of
7 teachers from the municipality of Villa El Carmen, led by Helio
Alfaro, to the Congress for English Teachers at the Universidad
Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua (UNAN) in Leon. CHESS funds were
used to cover expenses such as registration and transportation
for the attendees while room and board was made available through
the National Association of English Teachers.
In the early morning hours of January 31st , before
the sun was even up, we embarked on our new and exciting adventure!
The Congress location had been carefully chosen so that all sessions
would be held in the same building; our dormitories, however,
were not close to this building. We enjoyed having the opportunity
to explore the university and observe the other teachers on campus.
Everyone was reporting just as early for registration as we were;
this was most definitely a punctual group and the presenters appreciated
There was one unwritten rule for all presentations; we were to
share of our knowledge, ideas, techniques and experiences in the
classrooms. Those topics that we believe will be the most relevant
back in our classrooms at Villa El Carmen are:
• How to create something from nothing – developing
activities from scratch;
• New methodologies and techniques for teaching;
• Preparing speaking and listening activities;
• How to eliminate “boring” grammar classes;
• How to encourage students in a large classroom to speak
• Be a beginner once again.
“Be a beginner once again” touched us all; we could
imagine that this is how our students feel whenever we introduce
a new topic. The presenter started the class by speaking in a
language that none of us recognized. We were VERY confused and
misunderstood every direction. But, in the end, the method used
by the teacher had us all laughing which made us very comfortable.
So comfortable, in fact, that we could participate and ultimately
learned a bit of Dutch.
At the end of the training sessions, a closing
ceremony was held and diplomas were distributed.
Two of our Villa El Carmen teachers were lucky
enough to win items in the raffles. Manuel Marenco, CHESS facilitator
and English teacher in Osneida and Calle Nueva, won a set of text
books; Luis Felipe Reyes, who teaches English in San Miguel and
Buenos Aires, won a flash memory card for the computer.
Having the ability to attend this training was a truly awesome
experience. The more exposure our teachers have to the importance
of the English language as it relates to the development of the
municipality of Villa El Carmen, the better they grasp the task
at hand. Advanced training such as that provided at UNAN Leon,
motivates everyone to improve the quality of teaching and the
for Education from Universidad Centroamericana (IDEUCA) Offers
a Course Organized and Financed by CHESS for 39 Primary School
Teachers in VEC top
By Ligia Diaz, CHESS Nicaragua Project Coordinator
In June of 2007, the CHESS team was dealt what could have been
a staggering blow if not for the resilient nature of Ligia Diaz,
CHESS Project Coordinator. The Minister of Education released
a document advocating a change from the traditional methods for
delivering workshops and trainings. MINED feared that teachers
were spending too much time outside of the classroom and were
becoming confused by the wide variety of material on which they
were receiving instruction; they were also concerned that the
trainings, in general, provided no method for measurement of success.
The original CHESS proposal, although including components for
performance measurement and appraisal, was created and approved
on the basis of several small trainings for the VEC teachers over
a two year period. In order to receive MINED approval, the CHESS
team, led by Ligia and with the support of Alianzas, began stepping
through the process required to create an IDEUCA sponsored course
that would total 210 hours of classroom training, research and
tutoring for primary grade school teachers over a four month period.
The ultimate goal of the CHESS/UCA program is to improve the student’s
ability to read and write using the English language. Creative
methods such as developing the leadership skills of teachers and
demonstrating innovative ways to share information were critical
to the success of the program. All teachers would be required
to complete a final project and, upon completion of the project
and course attendance, the teachers would receive a diploma from
the office of the Ministry of Education.
The logistics of creating a program of this scale were challenging.
Working closely with the Ministry of Education Delegate in Villa
El Carmen, CHESS personnel coordinated the business logistics.
Permits were required to run the course out of one of the CHESS
public schools and for the teachers to attend the course, after
assuring that there would not be conflict with other MINED activities.
Each participating facilitator signed an academic contract with
each student/teacher to make sure each one of them understood
they were making a serious commitment. Budgetary constraints had
to be realized and funds reappropriated to cover fees for UCA
professors and tutors, materials, meals during the course, transportation,
gasoline and reproduction of written materials required by the
course. CHESS staff worked with Programa Alianzas para la Educacion
y la Salud, Gran Pacifica and the Pittsburgh Rotary Club to assure
that the realignment of funds required to consolidate several
training sessions into a large scale program was acceptable to
CHESS personnel also worked with the UCA staff to assure that
the course material was relevant to the students and within the
guidelines established by the CHESS grant. Training was carefully
scheduled to avoid taking the teachers out of the classroom; all
modules are delivered on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. The
Santa Rita School in VEC was chosen as the training site to minimize
After months of planning, the first training module was delivered
to 39 eager pupils on February 8th and 9th, 2008. The professor,
Guiomar Talavera, Master of Science in Education, was in charge.
Dr. Talavera provided an overview of the program to students.
She worked with them to explore their hopes and anxieties in the
classroom and their expectations of the UCA training program.
Most primary school teachers begged her to come back because they
enjoyed her class very much and were afraid they would not like
the other UCA professors as much. This showed a little bit of
the insecurity to the unknown that teachers -now in the role of
First Module, February 8th and 9th
The second module was delivered by Dr. Juan Bautista
Arrien, director of IDEUCA, former UCA Director and representative
of UNESCO in Nicaragua. The title of his module was “Educación,
Globalización y Política Educativa” (Education,
globalization and education policy) and he concentrated his conversation
with teachers on “La realidad educativa del país
y la nueva política educativa” (The reality of Education
in the country and new educative policy). Despite his years of
experience and high level of accreditation, Dr. Bautista Arrien’s
exchanges with local teachers –very few who held so much
as a bachelor degree- were warm and smooth. He listened to their
perspectives and helped them open their minds to new alternatives.
He encouraged them reflect on the importance of their role as
teachers in charge of new generations. They also opened voiced
their concerns regarding making changes in their teaching methods;
this is fear is directed toward the administration of the schools
and also the technicians from MINED who supervise them.
Second Module, February 29th – March 1st
The third module was characterized for its energy
and enthusiasm. The teachers were involved in many different hands
on activities. Professor Juan Alamo, MEd., emphasized the importance
of defining such intangible traits such as “self-esteem”
and “leadership”. He introduced creative methods of
communication and self expression. Professor Talavera, who led
the first module, returned to focus the importance of gender perspective
in teaching. This topic was eye opening for all teachers; they
repeatedly expressed how much work there needs to be done in their
own classrooms. She also taught through several activities.
Third Module: Students making music and crafts out of old
Professor Talavera who taught again in this third
module focused on teaching with a gender perspective. All teachers
expressed how necessary this topic was and how much work there
needs to be done in their own classrooms. She also taught through
Third module: activity discussing gender issues
In the fourth module, Dr. Rafael Lucio Gil, discussed metacognition,
including self-regulation, as a strategy for learning and change.
Metacognition refers to a high level of thinking that involves
active control over the process of thinking used in learning situations.
Planning the way to approach a learning task, monitoring comprehension,
and evaluating the progress towards the completion of a task:
these are skills that are metacognitive in their nature. Similarly,
maintaining motivation to see a task to completion is also a metacognitive
skill. These abilities cannot be taught one day and learned the
next. Metacognition is an active and conscious process that teachers
have to perform in the classroom each and every day. It becomes
ingrained in the way they teach students to analyze their strengths
and weaknesses, to analyze the demands of a task, to select the
right strategy to perform the task, to observe the efficiency
performing the task, to search for more effective strategies if
necessary and then to judge and test the solution and results
The metacognitive process is the one by which teachers should
use in their final research project for this course and the process
they are supposed to use on their every day classes.
Dr. Gil exchanging ideas with a group of students
The IDEUCA program contains three more modules to explore. They
are focused on the actual strategies to improve reading and learning
in primary school classrooms. All three classroom activities will
be facilitated by the two tutors who have worked with the teachers
throughout the course. These tutors guide the research projects
the teachers are responsible for completing.
In general, the teachers are very satisfied with this course.
They know that they are learning a lot but recognizing that there
is still a lot of hard work left to do.
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