My name is Susan Schmaltz and I direct the Planting Seeds program used at Safe Passage and beyond. I welcome the opportunity to share a bit about the history and the value of the partnership which has existed between Planting Seeds and Camino Seguro for the past eight years.

Planting Seeds has been establishing quality child-centered preschool programs in both urban and rural Guatemala since 2001. In 2005 Hanley approached Planting Seeds about setting up one of our early childhood education programs in the new facility that was currently under construction. The joint venture turned out to be a resounding success and two years later, Hanley requested that Planting Seeds continue to set up 6 additional classrooms in the new daycare.  Planting Seeds raised the funds, designed the methodology built the pedagogically appropriate furniture, trained the teachers, and has funded and supervised the program since its inception.

Four years ago Planting Seeds presented a proposal to the Board of Directors of Safe Passage, asking them to consider extending the activity based model up to the level of grade three. Planting Seeds programs promote an individualized teaching approach where each child has the opportunity to progress at his/her own developmental rate. The emphasis is on both “cooperative” and “hands on” learning. This year at Camino Seguro, as part of their training, Planting Seeds staff and teachers created over 1000  “hands on” activities made out of recyclables to carry out their classroom plans.

In 2009 Safe Passage opted to use the Planting Seeds approach and adopted it as their official methodology up to the level of Grade 3. At the same time Planting Seeds recognized and began to promote Safe Passage as the model school for their methodology.

Since the beginning this partnership has flourished and both organizations have greatly benefitted from the alliance. Planting Seeds programs in Guatemala, have reduced failure rates to less than half of the national average in grade one. This year, at Safe Passage, only three children out of forty (or just 7.5%) were held back compared to 32-50% nationwide.

The current news is that this month the Planting Seeds methodology became accredited by the Ministry of Education and can officially be taught throughout Guatemala. At this moment in time there are less than 30 accredited programs in Guatemala and most of them are high schools.

Because Safe Passage is among the first programs to implement the Planting Seeds methodology, it is well positioned to gain notoriety for adopting this unique and progressive system of education. The seeds are planted in Hanley’s Garden. Through continued collaborative efforts, these two committed organizations are working together to provide hope and opportunity through education, and enable each child to grow to their full potential.

The photo at the beginning of this blog was taken two weeks after Planting Seeds opened its first early childhood education program at Camino Seguro. The little boy on the left (Dennis) lost his father to gang violence one week before the program started. The only chance for Dennis and other children to escape the horrific circumstances and despair of the barrio is through receiving a quality education. The hope for a new and better life is depicted in the eyes of this child as he joyfully embraces his new opportunities, safe and secure within the walls of Safe Passage. 

-Susan Schmaltz

Planting Seeds Director