Learning by doing: how teachers provide support and inspiration

Meet Yasmin, one of our 6th-grade teachers. We sat down with Yasmin to get her take on how Expeditionary Learning is going at Safe Passage.

Yasmin was one of the first four teachers hired in 2015 to pioneer the implementation of Expeditionary Learning in our full-day school. These four teachers bonded over their interest in alternative teaching techniques. While the traditional teaching style in Guatemala is rote memorization, Yasmin and her Safe Passage colleagues recognize that in order to engage and excite students, lessons must be interactive, hands-on, and purposeful.

In Guatemala, finishing 6th grade and moving on to junior high is a huge accomplishment, as many children that age must search for work. With the expansion of our full day school to include 6th grade, students have greater odds of achieving success. Yasmin is able to address one of the biggest challenges, which is helping her students understand the importance of staying in school, despite pressures from family or peers.

While many of her students’ parents value education, the need for income is also difficult to overcome. Yasmin must build a strong case that the children will benefit from staying in school – they will be safer, more resourceful and better equipped to find work.

Yasmin finds the Expeditionary Learning methodology instrumental in achieving these goals because it is effective, rigorous and creative, and the students enjoy it. They are motivated on expeditions because they get to learn while they’re doing something new, different, and fun.

She heard one student say that because of EL, “I’ve discovered I’m capable of things I never dreamed I could do!”

Yasmin is committed to Crew as a crucial part of the EL methodology. A Crew is a small community and its meetings are an essential tool for academic and social development. During Crew, Yasmin gives her students the opportunity to lead their own learning through dynamic problem-solving activities. Students learn how to communicate with each other and take turns being leaders and team players, subsequently building trust and mutual respect.

Of her experience, she shared, “I had 10 of the most difficult fifth graders in my Crew but they really came together … We talked about things together that happen in their families or in the school. It is a safe place for them.”