The DREAM Project

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The DREAM Project: Providing all children an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential.

Cabarete, Dominican RepublicCabarete, Dominican Republic
Year Founded:
2002
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Young children (3-8) from high poverty communities grow and develop at their own pace as they engage in collaborative, child-centered play. A hands-on learning environment is facilitated by local teaching guides who use Montessori methodology to support children in exploring their own interests.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

pressing social issues could be solved by helping thousands of young children gain the cooperative skills and self-discipline necessary to lead a better world?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Early childhood education leads to significant benefits, yet children in poverty—those who stand to benefit most—are least likely to participate. This project addresses a critical need for at-risk youth in the Dominican Republic. Only 16% of students who receive early childhood education are from low-income families (UNICEF, 2012) and the country’s enrollment rate for pre-primary education is the second lowest in Latin America (UNESCO, 2010).

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Montessori Early Childhood Education Program provides high quality cognitive, social, and emotional development opportunities to at-risk children ages 3-8 years old. The methodology encourages cooperative play, discovery-based learning, self-discipline, and independence. Classrooms are outfitted with materials that are used purposefully for different learning activities as students progress through the curriculum. Classroom guides track the developmental progress of each individual student, assessing their needs and providing differentiated instruction. The program improves school readiness and increases opportunities for future academic success; As a result, students living in poverty arrive at primary school ready to learn.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Early childhood education sets the stage for young children to become lifelong learners. Take the hypothetical story of Yamaira. She lives in a single family home with three older siblings. Her brother dropped out of school in 4th grade to sell seashells to make money for the family. Yamaira’s mother initially enrolled her in the DREAM school because it allows her to work a part-time job. The program benefits were soon evident when Yamaira began using new words and putting her shoes on by herself. She brought books home and asked to read each night before bed. Through workshops at the school, Yamaira’s mom learned how to use items found in the home to help practice counting. Yamaira’s older siblings now visit the school’s library every day.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The Montessori Early Childhood Education Program reaches nearly 500 children 3-7 years old per year in 5 different communities on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Each child participates in more than 120 hours of quality learning activity. Nearly 1,000 family members are reached through volunteer hours, parent education workshops, and community events. Learning evaluations conducted three times per year show steady growth in key developmental areas. For example, our site located in Cabarete showed an average of 33% mastery of basic skills on the diagnostic at the beginning of the year, as compared to an average of 77% mastery of basic skills on the summative evaluation at the end of the year. As a result of the program students have increased confidence, self-discipline, creativity, cooperation and respect for others. In addition, they show increased skills in reading and math.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The Montessori Early Childhood Education Program plans to work with the Ministry of Education to introduce the program into new classrooms in high-need public schools. Currently there is significant momentum to expand early childhood education and development programs throughout the country. DREAM will take advantage of this momentum by also expanding its new School for Parents, which targets 2-3 year olds and their parents, providing interactive activities so that young children receive the early stimulation and development they deserve at an even earlier age.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The DREAM Project has sustainably financed 5 early childhood education programs for several years, and will continue to do so in the future. We are looking for partners to help expand the reach of our programs. Ideally, classrooms located in public schools would share costs with local government and/or new schools would be financed in collaboration with other partners, whether from the public, private, or nonprofit sector.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Dominican Republic is expanding access to early childhood care through the national program Quisqueya Empieza Contigo, targeting children 0-5 years old in centers placed strategically throughout the country. However, a coverage gap still remains. Our project differs from the national approach as it uses the innovative Montessori methodology, an approach that is often only accessible to high-income families across the country. This project is uniquely suited to address the needs of children living in poverty, as the methodology allows children to flourish at their own pace.
Team

Founding Story

The DREAM Project became a formally recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2002, but the groundwork was laid in 1995 when a group of Dartmouth students came down for a semester to volunteer in the two Cabarete public schools. With the help of local and foreign supporters, DREAM began building classrooms, libraries, computer labs and modern bathrooms in the local schools. Tourists began to bring down books and school supplies and contributed computers and funds to operate our then small programs. The word got out and increasing numbers of student volunteers began coming down for a year at a time. DREAM then moved on to building entire new schools, greatly expanding our reach.

Team

The DREAM Project is staffed by more than 40 Dominican teachers, administrators, and support staff, five expatriates, and more than 100 volunteers per year. The Montessori early childhood program is run by 1 full-time director, 23 full-time teachers, and several support staff. As the program grows, DREAM will seek additional Dominican staff to become teachers and role models in new classrooms and schools.
About You
About You
First Name

Molly

Last Name

Hamm

About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

, Cabarete

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Cabarete

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, NGOs, Businesses.

Supplemental
Awards
Primary Target Age Group

3 - 5, 6 - 12.

Your role in Education

Administrator.

Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Other.

Intervention Focus

Childcare, Curricular, Community, Parenting.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Actively Designing Space & Culture as Essential Elements for Learning: Creating cost-effective methods to infuse a school with habits, language, and materials needed for learning through play.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Whole child development is undervalued: Essential parts of development get left behind as children get older, such as healthy habits, executive function, and social and emotional learning.

Need

Support in developing a long-term professional development program for Montessori teachers.

Offer

Support in designing a parent education and engagement program.

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

Children aged 3-7 years old will become more independent and self-disciplined, show initiative, develop a love for work, demonstrate that social relationships are based on respect, and communicate with appropriate language according to their age and maturity level.

- Children work and use the Montessori materials properly.
- Children enjoy full freedom to perform their duties.
- Children know, accept and respect the rules of conduct of the environment.
- Children respect the material, their peers, and adults.
- Children can communicate with respect while using appropriate language.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.
LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?
SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.
MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?
FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?
PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.
COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.
VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?
IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time
IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?

Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:

Number of Volunteers:

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Other (please specify)
AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.