La Puerta Abierta Learning Center, Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

by DEY

La Puerta Abierta Learning Center, Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

Thus far, we have hosted 3 teacher trainings and one parent workshop focusing on the importance of play.  In each learning experience we have encouraged parents and teachers to play and feel the joy connected to unstructured creative play.  We also identified with families and teachers the many skills that children gain via play.  We will host our last teacher training tomorrow and our second parent workshop in mid July.  In addition to delving deeper into the importance of play in our second parent workshop, we will also explore the harms of using screens with young children, a very real challenge we are now facing, even in rural Guatemala.

The trainings and workshops have been fun, delightful and enlightening for the participants and the trainers.  Soon I will piece together the documents of the workshops and weave them into a manual, which DEY can use in any way that is helpful.

Here is some background information: La Puerta Abierta Learning Center began in one small room on the second story of a building in the heart of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.  Recognizing the importance of having access to books and literature for children and teens, founders Karen Hedrick, a retired teacher and Amanda Flayer, a former Peace Corps volunteer started La Puerta Abierta in 2007.

The project opened with one part time librarian, a few tables and chairs and a large collection of books. A sign was hung from the roof of the building and not long after, children began to flow into the center.

Four years later, La Puerta Abierta grew into a true learning center, one that hosted both library and early childhood education programs. While working with literacy programs in the community, we recognized the need to expose young children to the excitement of learning at a young age.

Simultaneously, families who were participating in our Mommy & Me classes at our library were soliciting a similar philosophy of educating their children in a more formal setting, one that would incorporate hands-on teaching practices into the classroom.

In 2011, La Puerta Abierta opened the first creative, non-conventional preschool in Santiago Atitlan. Within our center, we have created an environment for our young learners that is inviting, fun, educational, and stimulating. Our staff has designed a creative curriculum that embraces art and exploration.  We strive to educate the whole child by offering a variety of learning opportunities via music, body movement, out-door education, sports, theater, art, hygiene and food preparation.  La Escuelita Puerta Abierta currently offers seven academic grades, preschool through grade five.

Our mission is to empower children to use creativity, critical thinking, play and literacy to become innovative problem solvers.  Through developing their individual talents and confidence, we prepare our students to become future agents of change and leaders in our community.

We open doors to:

  • CREATIVITY – Exposure to art, painting, music, drama and meaningful play allows children to be the creators and producers of their own activities.
  • CRITICAL THINKING – Integrating interactive learning opportunities into our curriculum inspires curiosity in our students and enhances problem-solving skills.
  • LITERACY – Early access to books and story telling is crucial to developing a child’s imagination and literacy skills.  Our center hosts a large collection of books and exposes students to storytelling at young age.  In addition, the Traveling Library reaches out to local community schools sharing story hours, book kits and creative activities to participating schools.