Democratic Citizenship Curriculum
After 10 years of work together in Pueblo Nuevo, Nicaragua we felt a deep desire to start using the power inherent in ABREN’s wealth of experience and strong reputation to work towards systemic change. With the creation of our Teacher Resource Center in 2010, we have a program in place that can guide us towards this goal.
Our Teacher Resource Center
After our first year piloting the Teacher Resource Center we quickly came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to support all elementary grades in all curricular areas; we would be spread too thin. To create an effective program we needed a specific focus. We pored over the educational goals set forth by the Ministry of Education and compared them to ABREN’s goals and found that these goals intersect around the concept of preparing students throughout their education for Democratic Citizenship. This focus is particularly urgent at the elementary levels in rural Nicaragua because the 6th grade will mark the end of most students’ education.
Skills for Democratic Citizenship
We identified 8 general strands of knowledge and skills that are essential for rural youth in Nicaragua to learn in order to take on positive roles in their families, communities and country. These are: character education, critical thinking, health and nutrition, human development, respecting diversity, environmental sustainability, administration of the family economy, and citizens’ rights and responsibilities in a democratic society.
The Components of Each Unit
Guided by Nicaragua’s curriculum plan for each grade level, Irma and Kristina Mundera divided each strand into 3 or 4 specific goals and outlined by grade level the units that we will create for the Teacher Resource Center. Realizing that our work in the schools would be much more effective if we created materials specific to the reality of life in rural Nicaragua, we brainstormed ideas for books to write to accompany each unit.
Each unit in our Democratic Citizenship Curriculum is organized by grade level and theme and includes:
• A poem or song that introduces the theme to be used as Shared Reading
• A class set of one of ABREN's books to be used as Guided Reading
• One or two trade books to be used during Read-Aloud
• A unit guide, currently being written by Irma, that specifies exactly how teachers can plan and implement each unit of our curriulum given the guidelines and standards of the Nicaraguan Department of Education.
Developing Our Curriculum
The process of creating each unit is exciting, daunting, time consuming and very rewarding. So far we have photographed and published most of the 25 or so guided reading books for our units aimed at first and second grade. We are now working with a local musician to compose simple songs that reinforce the main topic of each unit while highlighting traditional Nicaraguan music that teacher will be able to use as Shared Reading at the beginning of each lesson. And Irma has been busy writing up clear unit guides. So far the response from teachers has been very enthusiastic! In 2012 we will be focusing on starting to develop our curriculum for grades 2nd and 3rd.