Our school consists of three educational centers:
Ages 4, 5, 6
At our Hanley Denning Preschool, we make sure that our youngest students start their education off strong. We provide engaging, interactive activities that foster self-esteem and confidence, prioritizing experiential learning and allowing students to develop life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork.
Preschool students learn through play, internalizing knowledge through active, hands-on experiences, such as:
Each day starts and ends with circle time, when students and teachers gather together, read, sing, and share stories. Our preschool students also eat breakfast, lunch, and two snacks at Safe Passage every day, helping them grow and thrive during their crucial developmental years.
Primary School: Grades 1-6
Our full-day primary school, accredited by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, uses a hands-on, immersive methodology based on Expeditionary Learning. At the helm of our school are our teachers: highly trained, motivated educators who care about our students and who understand the value of innovative, full-day education.
Expeditionary Learning (EL) asks students to move beyond the classroom and work together on relevant, engaging projects that involve investigating issues in their community and beyond. “Expeditions” weave together science, social studies, reading, math, technology, and the arts, and show the students how their new skills and knowledge can be applied in the real world.
Our primary school students eat breakfast, lunch and two snacks every day at Safe Passage, so their bodies and minds are always ready to learn.
Our full-day school expanded to middle school in 2019, starting with 7th grade. In 2021, we opened our first full-day 9th grade, which was the culmination of a long-time vision.
We will continue using our Expeditionary Learning methodology at our Middle School, incorporating the real world into our students’ educational experience to show them the relevance of what they’re learning in school.
We chose a hands-on, experiential methodology based on Expeditionary Learning for our full-day school, aiming to provide students with the education and critical life skills they need to move beyond the garbage dump.
Expeditionary Learning is an interactive methodology, combining on-site and off-site activities to create an immersive, interdisciplinary learning experience that engages our students and motivates them to stay in school. Outings away from the garbage dump community give our students the opportunity to encounter a part of their world otherwise unavailable to them, and show them how their knowledge can be applied to the real world.
We know that our students need more than just academic knowledge to become successful, productive members of their community in the future. Expeditionary Learning places a strong emphasis on values, helping students become well-rounded citizens by learning to practice responsibility, teamwork, honesty, respect, and trust every day.
Expeditionary Learning was chosen at the guiding methodology for our full-day school as it best fits the needs of our student population. Expeditionary Learning promotes a positive learning setting, which gives children the motivation and confidence to learn despite difficult environments outside of school. Furthermore, a 2013 study revealed that Expeditionary Learning education has a greater positive impact on low-income students.
In Expeditionary Learning, an “expedition” is a unit of study that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a full semester, incorporating multiple academic subjects into an overarching theme. Expeditions include group work in the classroom, independent research, outings, and a final presentation.
Our teachers plan community-based expeditions in which students visit locations related to their units of study. Students become active investigators on these outings, interviewing experts in the field, researching their topic in person, and learning through activities.
In Expeditionary Learning, all community members are encouraged to think of themselves as crew members, not passengers, so that students learn early on that they have an active role in their own education. Each of our students is part of an advisory group called a “Crew” that meets every day. A Crew is made up of one teacher and about 10-15 students.
During Crew meetings, students check in with their teachers, track academic goals, and participate in interactive activities that teach how values can guide their everyday lives. Students typically stay in the same Crew with the same teacher every year, so Crew is also a place where students develop a sense of belonging and where they can build lasting, supportive relationships.
Public libraries are a scarce commodity in the Guatemala City garbage dump community and students are unlikely to have books in their homes, which is important for better literacy outcomes. We supplement this need by connecting our students with literature at an early age.
In collaboration with donors, staff, and volunteers, our library in our primary school received a complete renovation in 2015. Our updated library space, new books, and fresh curriculum help us further our goal to give the cherished gift of reading to every student.
Students in grades 3 and up are allowed to bring home a book for one week. If a student needs more time after a week, they can renew the book for another week. Once a borrowed book is returned, students may borrow another. Our system of trust gives students the opportunity to become dependable library users.
In the spring of 2018, we opened a new library for students in grades 8 and above, where students have access to books in both Spanish and English. This new library gives our half-day students the same opportunities as the students in our full-day school. In total, our students now have access to over 5,000 books at Safe Passage.
We connect students to stories to promote self-awareness and social development. Reading opens opportunities for thoughtful discussion, increased vocabulary, and improved writing skills. The more students understand what they read, the easier it is for them to continue to learn.
Reading is active, engaging, and collaborative, and our weekly library classes provide students with ample time for independent reading and creative writing. Once per month, students participate in group reading and poetry writing activities that support reading comprehension, strengthen analytical skills, and foster critical thinking capabilities
The Safe Passage English program created a language-learning lab where students develop critical thinking skills and proficiency in the English language.
At all levels, students and teachers work together to develop strategies to stimulate language comprehension. This cooperative learning effort strengthens student public speaking skills, social awareness and a stronger sense of group responsibility. Interactive lessons and peer teaching encourage students to recognize and respect individual and group strengths and weaknesses while supporting autonomous learning.
Students can participate in voluntary tutoring for 30 minutes twice per week. English tutoring is especially effective for new students to Safe Passage and for recent graduates preparing for job interviews and a successful life in a bilingual society. Supplemental, individual tutoring provides focused attention to learning obstacles, and self-study tools support home learning and encourage parents to participate.
Books, DVDs, table games, mp3 audio files, and computer-based language-learning software are available for students to use. Verb and vocabulary flashcards are shared between students and families to foster educational opportunities throughout the community.
Students and graduates can enhance their English for employment, advanced education, or both through the Safe Passage Next Step Graduate program (Próximo Paso), part of our Professional & Work Development Program. Next Step students have access to resources such as individual tutoring and online learning tools. Recent Safe Passage graduates with bilingual experience frequently participate as peer teachers.
When students are ready to take the next step in their English studies, Safe Passage is there.
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